NHRA - National Hot Rod Association


In Memoriam

07 Jun 2023
Posted by NHRA.com staff
In Memoriam

Recent passings of notable figures from within the NHRA world. The NHRA extends its sincere condolences to the family and friends of those we have lost. Notices of passing can be sent to [email protected].

Arnold "Arnie" Kuhns, who dedicated his career to improving the safety and reliability of motorsports parts under the SFI Quality Assurance Standards program, passed away June 1. He was 83.

Kuhns was a pioneer in the development of minimum safety standards for motorsports products to prevent failures and reduce injuries. He became the president of SFI, a non-profit foundation established to issue and administer safety standards for specialty/performance automotive and racing products, in 1984.  At the time SFI had only two employees and four product standards for one race-sanctioning body. 

Product testing to performance standards was an innovative concept in the industry when SFI in the 1980s. SFI testing and certification has grown into a steadfast program affiliated with nearly 40 sanctioning bodies and responsible for scores of specifications that have undoubtedly saved countless lives on the racetrack.

Kuhns, who was inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame in 2002 and SEMA’s Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council (MPMC) Hall of Fame in 2016, most recently was the 2021 recipient of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) John Melvin Award for Motorsports Safety. The award was created by SAE in memory of Dr. John Melvin to recognize those who have initiated positive change in motorsports safety. Kuhns personally worked with Melvin on many safety projects over the years.

Kuhns also previously had been awarded the USAC Jack O’Neal Award for Motorsports Safety and the SCCA George Snively Award for Outstanding Contributions in Motorsports Safety.


Henry Robert “Bob” Stange, founder of Strange Engineering, passed away peacefully in his home in Zionsville, Indiana on May 22. He  84.

Early on his life, Stange developed an eye for innovation, a love of racing, and many friendships to share his life. Before long, local race car enthusiasts from the area were coming to have their parts fixed or modified by Stange. It was at this time, Bob and his then wife Sharron (Rosenberg) decided to take a leap of faith to build what would be known as Strange Engineering. His friends recall him sitting on the floor of his newly created company, creating and modifying parts through all hours of the night. He was a true lover of his craft, and he strived to ensure that every racer who chose to run his parts would not only be faster than their opponent, but also that they would be safe trusting their lives to his products. 

Strange Engineering would grow to become one of the most influential and well known manufacturing companies in the sport of drag racing. Strange Engineering has been named Manufacturer of the Year several times, and Bob was inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2010.

“My father loved this way of life that we chose in the racing community,” said his son, Jeff. “The racing, the industry, the innovation, and most of all the people who make it all come alive.”

Stange is survived by his two sons, Michael (wife Kathy, children Tyler, Samantha, and Jackson) and Jeffrey (wife Crystal, children Lexi, Austin and Wyatt), his loving baby sister Joy (Stange) Jefferson (husband Michael, Bob's treasured nieces and nephews, Scott Jefferson (Chantelle), Julie (Jefferson) Miller, Jill Jefferson and Greg Jefferson.


John Jodauga, a talented motorsports artist and 20-plus-year member of the National Dragster staff, passed away May 11 at age 77. 

Jodauga first worked for National Dragster both as an art director and staff writer from 1969 to 1978, again in 1984-85, and then worked on the editorial staff for 20 years, 1993-2013, before retiring.

His talented artwork, most notably portraits of drivers being profiled, filled National Dragster in the 1970s and his artwork later adorned many front covers in his later years with us. He was a huge Pro Stock fan and expert on the class and authored an encyclopedic book on the topic for National Dragster in 2009.

NHRA.com story: John Jodauga's illustrations, words, and spirit were part of the NHRA for 50 years


Don Bowles, a three-time NHRA national event winner in Modified Eliminator, passed away on April 19, at his residence in Madisonville, Ky. He was 84.

Bowles collected NHRA national event victories in his familiar Ford Fairmont at the 1979 Fallnationals in Seattle and back-to-back at the Springnationals in Columbus, Ohio, in 1980 and ’81. [Read more]

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Betty Jane, and sons, Donnie and Mark, and three grandchildren.


Don Cain, a three-time NHRA national event winner in Top Gas, passed away April 11. He was 84.

Cain — born Robert Donald Cain — was a longtime drag racer and was inducted into the NHRA Division 5 and Bandimere Speedway halls of fame at Don, and also built street rods for many years. Following retirement, he and his wife Nan owned KC Street Rod Parts in Kansas City until 2009. 

During his racing career, Cain won Top Gas with partner John Pusch at the 1967 U.S. Nationals as well as at the 1970 Supernationals and 1971 Le Grandnational. After Top Gas was discontinued in 1971, Pusch & Cain competed in NHRA’s Funny Car class 1972-75.

Cain is survived by his wife Nan; daughters, Brenda, Donna Walker, and Debbie Roe; three grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.


Bill Mullins, a talented and versatile dragster driver for three decades who scored NHRA national event wins in Top Gas, Top Alcohol Dragster, and Top Fuel, passed away on April 10. He was 88.

Mullins proved a winner no matter what fuel was running through his engines, winning his first title at the 1971 NHRA Springnationals in Dallas, where he defeated Walt Rhoades in the final round.

A decade later, Mullins wheeled his incredible small-block Chevy-powered Top Alcohol Dragster to victory at the NHRA Cajun Nationals, where he defeated future Top Fuel champion Joe Amato in the final.

Mullins’ final win came in Top Fuel, at the 1985 Springnationals in Columbus, Ohio, where he beat four tough drivers -- Dan Pastorini, Don Garlits, Dick LaHaie, and Gary Beck – to put John Carey’s dragster in the winner’s circle.

Mullins, who was the third driver in history to exceed 260 mph –behind only Amato and Garlits – also collected three Top Alcohol Dragster runner-ups and two each in Top Fuel and Top Gas. Mullins, of Pelham, Ala., was inducted into the Division 2 Hall of Fame in 1995.

Mullins is survived by his partner, Barbara Waltz,  brothers Robert (Bob), James (Jim), and sister Mildred Ward; daughters Cindy Lindell, Sandra Tidmore, and Nancy Malcolm, and sons David and Kyle. Preceded in death by daughter Debra Loggins. Mullins also had 12 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren ranging in ages from 1-18. [Read the Dragster Insider tribute to Mullins]


Renowned doorcar chassis builder Melvin “Jerry” Bickel passed away April 5 after a series of medical issues over the last few years. He was 75.

For more than 40 years, Jerry Bickel Race Cars, built chassis for virtually every class of drag racing, from Pro Stock and Pro Mod to Outlaw street cars. Bickel’s first major notoriety came as the builder of Jim Yates’ Pro Stock championship-winning Firebirds in 1996 and ’97. A car on which Bickel also served as crew chief.

Bickel’s roots in drag racing go back to the original AHRA heads-up Pro Stock program in the late 1960s and he also built the Camaro for Ed Hoover, the original Pro Modified national event winner.

Bickel is survived by his wife Jennifer, children Katherine Elizabeth Randolph and Matthew Bickel, and two grandchildren.


Danny White, Research Editor and columnist for www.draglist.com, responsible for gathering all past and present drag racing statistics from newspapers, magazines, books, and the Internet, passed away on March 30, of heart-related issues. White, a former NHRA Stock class and bracket racer, had been a partner on the drag racing history site since 1990. He also was a photojournalist; he and his wife Gena were well known to Mid-South area Pro Mod and Funny Car circuit racers. 

Draglist publisher Bill Pratt remembered White with the following statement: “ I could not publish Draglist.com without Danny White. I met Danny White when he ordered a few products from our original “Race Place” catalog. The printed Race Place didn’t last long, but Danny was a treasured find. Draglist.com was waning fast when he came aboard in the early ’90s. A new family and ever-increasing responsibility at my day job made it impossible for me to do the research I once did. Young and smart, with a voracious passion for drag racing, Danny rekindled my drag racing fever and got Draglist.com back on its feet. He single-handedly caught up on two years of research and got us rolling again. Danny has been our Research Editor ever since. 

White became well known as one of the top historians in drag racing and was selected on the NHRA's expert panel to help decide the top 50 drag racers in NHRA history at the organization's 50th anniversary year. He ran half a dozen Facebook groups featuring different types of drag racing cars, from Chevy-powered Top Fuelers to Texas Top Alcohol cars, to Unique Pro Stocks. White recorded the results of every NHRA National event to the draglist.com database. In fact, on his final day on earth, Danny had entered all the pro results from NHRA Phoenix. His last DragList entry was Cruz Pedregon’s Funny Car results from Phoenix. Despite his many accomplishments, White remained humble and always prioritized the sport and its fans. He was known for his generosity and willingness to help anyone who needed it. 

Danny’s passing is a great loss to the drag racing community. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and fans, but his legacy and statistics will continue to inspire and educate future generations of drag racing enthusiasts.


Five-time NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster world champ Bill Reichert passed away March 26. He was 71. Reichert won five straight world championships, 2006-10, and collected 28 national event wins and 54 divisional/regional victories. [Full story]


Foy Gilmore, of Pensacola, Fla., passed away on March 14,. He was 82. Foy owned and operated Specialty Machine Products, a.k.a. Foy Gilmore Race Cars (S.E.M.A. #55). Foy was influential and instrumental to a variety of people (Whit Bazemore, Gary Evans, Jerry Gwynn) both locally and nationally. Foy held many titles throughout his life such as son, brother, fabricator, driver, crew chief, engine builder, machinist, mentor, storyteller, father figure and friend. He shared his knowledge with everyone and had so many memorable moments such as racing against Don Garlits. 


Fuel Altered pioneer Dave Hough, who spent more than 40 years in the class, first as a driver then a tuner for his son, Rick, and then grandson Kyle, fielding his iconic Nannook entries, died on March 10. He was 79. [Full story]


Longtime Division 3 announcer Jon Gentry, who called the action for years at Kil-Kare Raceway and Edgewater Sports Park, passed away March 2. 


Former Top Fuel racer Doug Kerhulas, a rising star of the 1980s whose driving career was cut short by a top-end accident at the 1984 Springnationals, died March 1. He was 70. [Full story]


Walt Rhoades, who had a successful NHRA career in nitro-, alcohol-, and gas-burning dragsters, passed away earlier this week, bringing to a close an amazingly diverse career, passed away March 1 at age 79 of brain cancer. [Full story]


Dallas Jones, the longtime owner/operator of historic Beech Bend Raceway and other Division 3 tracks, died Feb. 25. He was 82. [Full story]


Wayne "the Peregine" King, a staple of the SoCal drag racing scene during the 60s up until the mid 70s when he retired from active racing, has died..


Roy "Goob" Tuller, a pre-eminnent dragster driver in the 1960s known most famously for driving the Freight Train Top Gas dragster, has passed.


Frank Aragona Jr., one of the greatest and fiercest NHRA Competition eliminator racers of the modern era, passed away Feb. 10 surrounded by family after a long and brave battle with cancer. He was 53. [Full story]


Nelson Carter, longtime Funny Car owner of the Super Chief entries, died Feb. 9


Veteran NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car racer Dale Van Gundy, who with partner Keith Clark campaigned the Quarter Pounder entries for more than five decades, has died.


Standout Top Fuel racer Tom Raley has passed. Few drivers in drag racing history have displayed more skill and versatility than Raley, who not only was a Top Fuel championship contender from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s but also was a talented racer in NASCAR Grand National competition, competing against such legends as Richard Petty, Freddie Lorenzen, David Pearson, Bobby and Donnie Allison, and Curtis Turner.

Raley actually began his career in oval track racing winning the 1963 Maryland state Modified championship. The following year he competed in the Autolite 250 Sportsman (now Nationwide) race at Daytona the day before the Daytona 500. In 1965 and ’66 he won NASCAR Top Fuel championships when they had their own drag racing program. In 1968 Jim and Allison Lee offered Tom the seat of their first-class Top Fuel operation. He drove for the Lees for six seasons winning 1969 and ’70


Roger Taylor, who tuned Bill Carroll a C/Gas class win at the 1966 Indy Nationals, passed away Feb. 10. In their ‘40 Willys Gas, the duo beat the Stickel & Riffle Anglia in the final. They also set the NHRA record at Myrtle Beach, S.C., but the car broke during the back-up attempt. The duo, who also were runner-ups in B/Gas runner-up at the 1965 Indy event, established themselves as one of the top five C/Gassers in the country.  They returned to Indy in 1967 set low ET in C/Gas but lost to the Russo & Santo Willys in the second round. In 2009 Taylor and Carroll were inducted into the East Coast Drag Time’s Hall of Fame. 

Taylor passed surrounded by his family. He is survived by his wife Brenda, his children Lori Slavin, Roger Taylor Jr., his stepchildren Jody Blanchard, Kriss Miller and each of their spouses, and 11 grandchildren that he loved dearly. 


Jim Logue, owner/driver of the Condor Express BB/FC  has died.


1965 Top Stock world champion Joe Scott, the driver of the Fenner Tubbs Plymotuh, has passed away.


Dan Jesel, founder of Jesel Valvetrain Innovation, passed away Jan. 10. He was 81.

Jesel started Jesel Valvetrain in 1980 with the goal of engineering the finest valvetrain components available, without compromise. He built Jesel Valvetrain into what it is today, a state-of-the-art engineering and manufacturing company. Along the way, he introduced the performance engine world to innovations such as shaft rocker arms, camshaft belt drives, keyway roller lifters and his latest and most innovative project, a designed from scratch engine he named the “Equal Eight."

As per his wishes, Jesel Valvetrain Innovation will continue to operate as a privately held company run to the highest of standards. Through Dan’s wisdom and knowledge and with the dedication of his employees, Jesel Valvetrain will continue to supply the industry with components worthy of his name.


Famed East Coast racecar painted Bob Gerdes died Jan. 8. He was 80.

At his New Jersey-based Circus Custom Paints shop, Gerdes and a relatively small crew cranked out Funny Car after Funny Car with beautiful colors. Just about every major nitro racer on the East Coast chose Gerdes to paint their rolling masterpieces, including the likes of "Jungle Jim" Liberman, the Castronovo brothers, Al Segrini, Swensen & Lani, Joe Amato, Frank Manzo, and many, many others.

For more on Gerdes and Circus Custom Paints (The Entertainment Capital of the World"), see this Dragster Insider column.