Back row, from left, Preston Davis, Laurie Force (Pat Garlits award), Steve Earwood (Founders Award), and Dennis Priddle. Front row, Jack Beckman (accepting for Gas Ronda), Mike Miller (accepting for Marvin Miller), Jack Doyle, and Mark Oswald.
The International Drag Racing Hall of Fame inducted eight new members in a ceremony Thursday night in Gainesville.
Among those honored were Preston Davis, Dennis Priddle, Gas Ronda, Marvin Miller, Jack Doyle, and Mark Oswald. Laurie Force was the surprise recipient of the Pat Garlits award while Steve Earwood was presented the Founders Award.
Davis drove the famed Tennessee Bo-Weevil Top Fuel and Funny Cars for Ray Godman (International Drag Racing Hall of Fame member – 1991) out of Godman’s shop in Memphis, and their successes helped build the sport in the Southeastern U.S. and the lower Mississippi Valley. Davis and the Godman-tune up made for a formidable pair, and for years, the team was a threat in both classes, either in NHRA sanctioned events or match racing in the Mid-South.
Doyle was a successful New England racer who fielded gas coupes, comp coupes, and Top Gas dragsters, and competed on the East Coast during the 1950s and ’60s. He was a driving force of the New England Hot Rod Council in the 1950s, which was a major factor in popularizing the sport throughout New England. After he retired from the driver’s seat, he became the track manager, and later, the General Manager of the famed New England Dragway in Epping, N.H.
Miller was one of the three partners of the famed Coburn-Warren-Miller “Ridge Route Terrors” Top Fuel cars with tuner Roger Coburn and driver James Warren, argued by many as the most successful Top Fuel team in the era of the ‘60s. Miller, who owned the Rain for Rent business in Bakersfield, supplied financial backing for the team, and the later rear-engined dragsters which carried his business name on the sides.
Priddle has been referred to as Britain’s Don Garlits, as one of the prolific pioneering legends of British and European drag racing in the 1960s and ’70s, and is a member of the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame. He campaigned a series of Top Fuel and Funny Cars, and was the first driver into the 6-second range outside of North America with a 6.995-second pass at the famed British Santa Pod dragstrip in 1972. This earned him his “Mr. Six” nickname. And, during his career, he and Clive Skilton, another noted British drag racer, engaged in quarter mile battles across Britain and Europe, helping build drag racing across the Atlantic.
Ronda was one of the favorite West Coast Funny Car drivers in the 1960s. His career started with Stock and Super Stock cars, and was a member of the famed Ford “Thunderbolts,” and their factory-backed 427 Ford powered Fairlanes. He partnered with famed engine builder Les Ritchey and moved to the emerging Funny Car class in 1966, with a Mustang sponsored by Russ Davis Ford. His last, and most potent ride was a 1969 Mustang-bodied Logghe chassis car, but a serious fire burned Ronda in 1970, and forced an end to his racing career.
Oswald was one of the sport’s most successful drivers in both top fuel and Funny Cars. He teamed with fellow Cincinnati, Oh. racers Tom Kattleman and Ross Thomas with the Thomas-Oswald-Kattlelman Top Fuel car. His driving successes took him to the famed Candies & Hughes Top Fuel and then Funny Car team, where he won the 1984 Funny Car world championship, and then drove successfully in the In-N-Out Burger Funny Car before retiring from the seat. Today, he is the co-crew chief of Antron Brown’s Matco Tools Top Fuel car at Don Schumacher Racing.
Earwood the recipient of the 2016 Founders Award. While never a racer, he was raised in a motorsports-oriented family. Drag racing attracted him while a student at West Georgia University (Carrollton, Ga.). After working at Gainesville (Fla.) Dragway, the NHRA)hired him as the National Media Relations Director where he teamed with 2015’s Pioneer Award recipient, Dave Densmore, to create a comprehensive program of cultivating the major market media around National events. Earwood and Densmore formed Denswood Sports Marketing after leaving the NHRA, representing major drag racing teams and race tracks. Yearwood also managed the Texas Motorplex, Atlanta Dragway and then purchased “The Rock” – Rockingham Dragway (Rockingham, N.C.), which he operates today.
Force, wife of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, has been a fixture on the drag racing scene for over four decades. The award was presented in recognition of Force’s presence behind a drag racing dynasty whose dedication and passion embodies the spirit of Pat Garlits while also being the ever patient wife of 16-time champion John Force.