[Congressional Record (Bound Edition), Volume 147 (2001), Part 16]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page 22939]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 22939]]



                           HON. CLIFF STEARNS

                               of florida

                    in the house of representatives

                       Friday, November 16, 2001

  Mr. STEARNS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize an American from 
Marion County, Florida who embodies the competitive spirit. ``Big 
Daddy'' Don Garlits is the undisputed king of World Championship Drag 
Racing. Just four months shy of his 70th birthday, Garlits broke the 
300 mph speed barrier reaffirming his stature as the No. 1 driver in 
National Hot Rod Association history. He is a true testament to the 
indomitable American spirit, and with that said Mr. Speaker, I submit 
to the Congressional Record the highlights of ``Big Daddy'' Don 
Garlits' career as excerpted from the Daily Sun newspaper of November 
12, 2001.

Marion County Legend Voted Top Driver In NHRA's First 50 Years of Drag 

       After a successful career, most men who turn 69 usually 
     take life a little easier, enjoying an occasional afternoon 
     nap, a leisurely round of golf and maybe a cold beer on the 
       But then most men wouldn't dream of strapping into an 8,000 
     horsepower missile and catapulting themselves down a narrow, 
     quarter-mile strip of asphalt in less than five seconds.
       That's because most men are not racers, because racers 
     really never retire. They just wait for the next opportunity 
     to race. Just ask ``Big Daddy'' Don Garlits.
       Garlits, a native of Tampa who now resides in Marion 
     County, is the undisputed king of drag racing. He's won 144 
     national races, 17 world championships and every major honor 
     that exists in the sport. And he's not finished. In his 
     backyard garage, Don built ``Swamp Rat One,'' the first in a 
     series of 34 all black rail style racecars.
       ``Swamp Rat One remains today as my favorite race car of 
     all time. It had 750 horsepower and cost me $1000 to build,'' 
     Garlits said.
       He started racing the car in 1956 and a year later set his 
     first world's record, pushing the car to a top speed of 
     176.40 mph in 8.79 seconds. In 1958, man and machine won 
     their first national championship.
       In 1963, Garlits drove the second generation Swamp Rat to a 
     win at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. This 
     victory established Big Daddy as a major player in 
     professional drag racing.
       With wife Pat and daughters Gay Lyn and Donna by his side, 
     Garlits dominated the sport for nearly three decades, 
     developing innovative technology, setting speed records and 
     enduring several major crashes.
       In the early 1970's, Garlits once again made history. It 
     wasn't another speed record, but rather the design of Swamp 
     Rat 14, the world's first successful rear engined dragster.
       ``I think that's my legacy, I really do,'' Garlits 
     explained. ``I had so much opposition, everybody was against 
     it. I took the car to Long Beach and the promoter didn't want 
     me to run it. He told me every rear-engined car that ever 
     went down his track crashed and he didn't want Don Garlits 
     getting killed at his race track.''
       The car went on to carry Big Daddy to another major 
     championship and the rear-engine concept became the standard 
     of the Top Fuel category.
       Garlits achieved another of his personal goals in 1984, 
     when he and his family opened the Museum of Drag Racing 
     adjacent to his Marion County home. The sprawling complex on 
     County Road 484 has grown to include an impressive display of 
     nearly 17 race cars in addition to a collection of 70 classic 
     and antique cars.
       The complex also includes a race garage where Garlits is 
     painstakingly building the newest and fastest Swamp Rat. He 
     will race in next February at the NHRA Winternationals in 
     Pomona, the site of his first major win.
       ``At the moment of launch, the motor will deliver 8,000 
     horsepower--roughly a thousand horsepower per cylinder,'' 
     Garlits explained. ``It's really amazing, considering Swamp 
     Rat One needed all eight cylinders to produce 750 
       He expects the new state-of-the-art top fuel dragster to 
     reach speeds in excess of 330 miles per hour in about four 
     and a half seconds. Despite the high speeds, Garlits feels 
     this Swamp Rat is the safest ever built.
       ``The first few generations of cars were just big motors, 
     seats and fuel tanks strapped onto a couple of chassis rails. 
     They didn't have near the safety technology used in today's 
     cars,'' he explained.
       Garlits believes new technology will continue to move 
     forward and future race cars will be much faster and much 
     safer than the current models.
       ``We are being limited by new rules, not by technology and 
     I agree with that,'' he said. ``Most current drag strips are 
     too short and too narrow to accommodate the kind of speeds 
     that technology is capable of producing. We're just at the 
     tip of the iceberg in terms of what is technologically 
       Like a scene out of one of the Back to the Future movies, a 
     slight smile crossed Big Daddy's face as he talked about the 
     future. Because he intends to be a part of it. That's how 
     racers think.