It was on this exact date in 1967 when NHRA Top Fuel great “Big Daddy” Don Garlits suffered a stunning setback at the NHRA Springnationals in Bristol. After already posting a devastating DNQ at the season-opening Winternationals, one of the most successful drivers on the circuit also failed to qualify for the season’s second race.
Garlits made a vow that day. Because many of his peers in the category were already running consistent performances in the six-second zone, the driver of the famed Swamp Rat dragster said he wouldn’t shave his beard until he was able to clock a six-second time himself.
This proclamation set the stage for one of the most memorable moments in the history of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis and will resonate again this year as part of a series of special tributes that will highlight the 60th edition of the Big Go, Aug. 27-Sept. 1.
During the weeks leading up to the running of the world’s most prestigious drag race, NHRA will unveil six of the most iconic moments in the history of the event that will remember the very heroes who made them, including Garlits, whose presentation will conclude with a fitting nod.
In 1967 in Indy, Garlits, with a full beard covering his face by then, unveiled a brand-new race car at the event. Garlits posted low-7.06- and 7.03-second times to win early rounds over Mike Sorokin and Tom McEwen. Paired in the much-anticipated final round against legendary West Coast match racer James Warren, who had already claimed a round-win with a 6.94-second time earlier in the day, Garlits saved his best performance for last when he unleashed an amazing 6.77-second run at more than 220 mph to win the race.
In a triumphant scene, Garlits did his winner’s interview with ABC Wide World of Sports pit reporter Bill Flemming and then climbed atop his tow vehicle and broke out the shaving cream and razor with a mob scene of cheering fans surrounding him.
“It was a magical moment, a magical run,” Garlits has said. “It was way better than winning my first Indy title in 1964. Getting the chance to prove to everybody that I wasn’t washed up made it my biggest win ever.”
One of several legends scheduled to appear at the event, Garlits has made the same vow today, June 11, 2014, and will again begin growing his beard. He will then reenact the special moment and shave his beard in front of the fans Sunday, Aug. 31, along with a special 45-minute presentation that all Sunday ticket holders can be part of.
As part of the celebration of this iconic moment in U.S. Nationals history, NHRA also encourages fans to #GrowLikeGarlits and avoid shaving or cutting their hair until the 60th anniversary Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Fans are encouraged to show their progress and post pictures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #GrowLikeGarlits. At the event, barbers and hairdressers will be on-site to give shaves and haircuts, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to charity.
The most historic and tradition-rich event in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals has been contested annually since 1955.
The milestone 60th installment of the Labor Day weekend drag racing spectacular will feature more than 1,000 competitors in 12 categories. The 18th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is also the final event in the regular season. Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock), and John Hall (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the race that will again be televised by ESPN2 in more than 10 hours of coverage.
On the racetrack, the 60th anniversary Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will feature intense side-by-side racing at more than 320 mph as drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle compete for their share of the $2 million purse and battle for important world championship points. The race is the final regular-season stop for the circuit and will establish the top 10 fields for the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. Perhaps more important, drivers will compete to earn a permanent spot in NHRA history as a Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner.
The race will also showcase the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, in which the top drivers in Top Fuel and Funny Car will race for $100,000 bonuses, as well as the annual Mopar Hemi Challenge for Super Stock cars and thrilling competition in both the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.
In addition, the event will feature fan-favorite Cacklefests, vintage race cars on display in the Hot Rod Junction, autograph sessions with many of the legends of the sport, a Monday edition of the SealMaster NHRA Track Walk, fireworks displays, and much more.
To purchase tickets for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, call NHRA’s Ticket Sales Center, 800-884-NHRA (6472), or log on to NHRATix.com.