FROM THE GRANDSTANDS: HONORING THE BIG DADDIES

There’s no doubt the most recognizable nick-name in drag racing is “Big Daddy”.
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Case in point, when the NHRA announced their  top 50 drag racers of all time, as voted on by the media,  Don “Big Daddy” Garlits took the top prize largely on the basis of his valuable contributions to the sport and secondly because of his success in winning 144 major drag racing events and a score of world championships.

The name Big Daddy truly fit his reputation.

I was introduced to drag racing by a Big Daddy whose first name ironically was also Don. This Don didn’t race a Top Fuel car and didn’t shave his beard at the 1967 US Nationals. In actuality, I looked up to this Big Daddy Don from San Jacinto, CA more than the iconic drag racer from Ocala, FA.

This Don is Don Charlet, Jr., my father.

My Experience with a different Big Daddy

timglasseup.jpgThere’s no doubt the most recognizable nick-name in drag racing is “Big Daddy”.

Case in point, when the NHRA announced their  top 50 drag racers of all time, as voted on by the media,  Don “Big Daddy” Garlits took the top prize largely on the basis of his valuable contributions to the sport and secondly because of his success in winning 144 major drag racing events and a score of world championships.

The name Big Daddy truly fit his reputation.

I was introduced to drag racing by a Big Daddy whose first name ironically was also Don. This Don didn’t race a Top Fuel car and didn’t shave his beard at the 1967 US Nationals. In actuality, I looked up to this Big Daddy Don from San Jacinto, CA more than the iconic drag racer from Ocala, FA.

This Don is Don Charlet, Jr., my father.

He didn’t teach me to admire drag racing by doing fiery burnouts in a nitro burner or signing an autograph. He taught me to appreciate race cars with a bottle of Simple Green and a terry towel. By the time I was five I could clean a race car like a pro.

From the drag strips of Southern California he taught me values like hard work and sportsmanship. He taught me to embrace the history of our sport and thanks to my Big Daddy- drag racing became my passion at a very young age.

“From the time you were in kindergarten till you graduated from High School, we couldn’t get you up in the morning to go to school,” dad recently reminded me. “But, come race-day, you were up before dawn, showered and ready to go.”

 

 


 

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DadDrewTAFC.jpgI was reminded recently how history can sometimes repeat itself through different generations.

Last month my son, Andrew, woke me up at 5:30 AM, eager to get out to Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, CO for the Night of Fire and Thunder. The event started at 6:00 PM.

Funny how some things never change.

I realized on this day, the torch is lit at a young age. 

I witnessed Joe Douthit, a hero of my youth, handing over the driving duties of the California Smokey Jet Car to his son David. I saw Ed Woolverton and Ray Wilson help their son and son-in-law, Chris reach the final round in the Fineline 16- truly a family effort.  A casual glance throughout the grandstands and I saw countless numbers of fathers explaining the sport to their sons and daughters, just like I was doing with my son and just like my dad had done for me all those years before.

I even saw my son helping those fathers in explaining the sport to their kids.

Yeah, I was proud.

“My Big Daddy, (Bob Beckman) taught me many great lessons in life,” said NHRA Funny Car fan favorite Fast Jack Beckman. “Hard work, determination and self motivation were a few. When we told him we wanted BMX bikes, he bought my brother Ted and I a lawn mower, so we could work for it - that might be the best lesson of all.”

From the Grandstands, we watch our favorite drivers compete at a level most of us can only dream about. We watch Warren Johnson and his son Kurt slug it out for family supremacy in Pro Stock and joke with our Dad’s, “I’d whip you on the tree like K.J. does to ‘The Professor’ pops.”




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TimmahBIG.jpgWe cheer for guys like Larry Dixon Jr, who spent his summer vacations from school, touring with his father- Larry Sr., a former Top Fuel racer. The NHRA used to run the NHRA SuperNationals on Father’s Day and Larry Jr. won it so much it became a traditional gift to his dad. 

From the pits we watch second generation crew members like Troy Allen, the son of 1981 Top Fuel Champion Jeb, behind the scenes of the DSR Valvoline Dodge Charger Funny Car, beginning a new career as a crew member. We are proud when Ed and Jason McCulloch became the first father-son combination Fuel Car crew chiefs to tune their drivers to victory at the same event, last month in Topeka, KS.

 Drag Racing is what it is because of our ‘Big Daddies’.

Garlits may have been selected the number one drag racer in the first 50 years of NHRA, however, our respective Big Daddies create the hundreds of thousands of fans and competitors who support drag racing world-wide today.

As their sons grow up, they become the next generation of “Big Daddies”  passing the legacy of our sport to the next generation of fans and racers for years to come.

 

 

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Thank you to those who took the time to offer their support and suggestions for this column. If you have any ideas for me, please send them here: [email protected]

We will see you next month.....From the Grandstands.

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Tim Charlet, a.k.a. TIMMAH, writes a monthly column discussing life from the grandstands, the not-so-cheap seats in today's drag racing world. He speaks from a race fan's perspective, a side often displaced in many commentaries not to mention investigative articles. Charlet offers ideas as he sees them, from the average race fan's standpoint.

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