Don Garlits Joins Nitro Revival Lineup

Monterey, CA — “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, the legendary Top Fuel Dragster driver and builder from Ocala, FL, will make a rare trip to the West Coast to be part of Nitro Revival at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca May 18-20.
Is there a bigger figure in drag racing than Garlits? Photo: Don Garlits

Garlits — who accumulated 144 wins, 17 championships and numerous performance records in a career that dates back to 1950 — will meet and greet fans and cackle his famed Swamp Rat III dragster, completely re-created for Sonny Messner. The third incarnation of the Swamp Rat dragsters built by Garlits was his first dragster built out of chrome moly tubing. It was the first drag car to break the eight-second barrier with a 7.88-second elapsed time with Connie Swingle behind the wheel in 1961.

Many aspects of modern dragsters began as innovations by Garlits in the pursuit of speed and safety. A devastating accident in Swamp Rat XIII in 1970 motivated Garlits to build a competitive rear-engine dragster that changed the Top Fuel category forever. The first dragster to exceed 270mph — the streamlined and canopied Swamp Rat XXX — was enshrined in the National Museum of American History at The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., in 1987. On the National Hot Rod Association’s top 50 drivers list voted on by a panel of experts in 2000, Garlits was ranked number one.
Nitro Revival is showcased during the Spring Classic, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s second annual vintage car racing and motorcycle exhibition event. Cars involved with Nitro Revival will be on display throughout the event with featured activities taking place on May 19. Vintage race cars and Historic Motorcycle Exhibitions will take place on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course during all three days of the event.