NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

In Memoriam

18 Jun 2024
Posted by NHRA.com staff
News
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 nhra@nhra.com.

Les Jackson, who with his late brother Cal, fielded the long string of High Heaven Fuel Altereds and Funny Cars, died June 18. The family continued its nitro legacy for years with Les' son, Keith, at the controls of the family flopper.

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Rick Lorenzen, founder of the Lions Automobilia Foundation, passed away peacefully Sunday, June 16, surrounded by family.

In a statement, the foundation wrote, "Rick's vision was the guiding light in the creation of the Lions Automobilia Foundation. His leadership and steadfast commitment to preserving what he referred to as a simpler time and to share with others. Rick enjoyed telling stories about watching the races at Lions Drag Strip as a young man with his friends and later meeting so many legends as they visited his treasured museum. As we navigate this challenging period, please know that I am committed to continuing Rick’s vision and values. My dedication will ensure that we remain strong and united, honoring Rick’s legacy in every step we take.”

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Longtime Funny Car racer Randy Walls passed away June 13. Walls began racing Funny Cars in Southern California in the late 960s before hitting the match race circuit in his “Super Nova” Funny Car. he left drag racing in 1971 but returned to the sport 26 years later after he tracked down his original Nova-bodied fFunny Car in 1997 and decided to restore it. In 2004, Walls and his “Super Nova” became Nostalgia Funny Car’s first series champion. 

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Former NHRA Top Fuel world champion Ronnie Martin, who won the championship in Robert Anderson's dragster by winning the 1970 World Finals in Dallas, has passed away.

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Popular jet-car racer Mike Evegsens, known to fans across the country for his string of Earthquake jets in which he competed from the 1970s through the 1990s, has died.

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Other recent passings: Division 1 Super Comp racer Lenny Bucher, son of Top Fuel veteran Larry. He was 54; Division 1 Stock racer Bill Drevo; Jetcar racer Tommy O'Brien

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Former NHRA Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon Sr., who won the 1970 Wintrnationals and was a member of the Cragar 5-Second Club, died April 6. He was 84. Dixon is the father of three-time NHRA Top Fuel world champ. [Full story]

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Longtime Pro Stock racer Harold Denton, the only driver to have raced an entry from every major manufacturer (Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, Plymouth, Mercury, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, and American Motors) has passed away. Denton's career, which also includes the class' first non-NHRA six-second pass, spanned 70 years.

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Long-time drag racer Robert Harlukowicz passed away Feb. 24. He started his racing career in the mid-1960s class racing at all the Southern California dragstrips. He considered Lions his home track. He moved to southwestern Oregon in 1981 and continued bracket racing to the end. At 8, he won his last drag race he participated in September. 

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Frank Tiegs, who sponsored John Force Racing entries through his businesses, Flav-R-Pac and Montana Brand Tools, passed away Feb.  8. He was 66. 

A successful entrepreneur who started his business empire with just one farm in Pasco, Wash., Tiegs went on to own more than a dozen businesses that included real estate, farming, processing, finance, development, and marketing.

“Frank Tiegs was one of the most incredible, inspiring, and generous people I’ve ever met,” Force said. “He was so easy-going and easy to like and easy to talk to.”

Force first met Tiegs in 1990, shortly after the legendary drag racer earned his first NHRA Funny Car championship. They reunited more than 2 ½ decades later, and their renewed friendship began with a mutual love and appreciation of racing and muscle cars, and particularly their respective families.

The biggest highlight of the Force-Tiegs friendship came on Aug. 4, 2019, in the Northwest NHRA Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., when Force and Prock performed a drag racing rarity by winning both ends of the two NHRA Nitro classes.
 

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Other notable recent passing: Tom Chastang of the "Wheeler Dealer" AA/FD,; veteran Oklahoma TAD and TAFC racer Ron Morrison; Wayne Del Rio, of the NorCal brothers racing team; Funny Car owner Mike McIntire, Sr.; longtime Division 7Modified standout Jim Stevens, ago  88; Division 2 Super Stock and Comp car owner Glenn Young, age 80.

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Judy Bersgtrom, wife of longtime NHRA Division Director Gene Bergstrom, passed away from kidney and lung complications  Feb. 24. She was 78.

The Bergstroms fit NHRA founder Wally Parks' mold of a husband-wife duo working together to further the NHRA. Gene Bergstrom served as Division 6 Director from 1979 through 1992, when he was promoted to National Field Director. Judy was a constant in the NHRA world and served in many positions throughout that same time.

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Doug Hamilton, a longtime chassis inspector and member of the Division 1 Certification Team, passed away Jan. 30. He was 74.

Hamilton was a 1966 graduate of Olney High School and served for the United States Navy in the Naval Air Reserves. He worked as a purchasing manager for AMTRAK until he retired in 2000.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia. daughter Lisa, and sister Carol Forgeng.

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Longtime NHRA Funny Car racer Mike Van Sant passed away Jan. 6.

Starting almost from the onset of the class in the mid- to late-1960s, "Mighty Mike" had a long list of successful rides in high-profile cars, including driving for Mickey Thompson, Stone, Woods & Cooke, and Roland Leong. He started out partnering with Glen Solano on a Corvette-bodied car called "Invader," a name that Van Sant would use for decades while driving his own race cars, which he began doing in earnest in the mid-1970s after years of being a hired driver, continuing through the id-1980s before retiring.

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J.L. Payne, a well-known and respected Top Fuel driver from the 1960s, has passed away. Payne, who raced in both Top Fuel and Fuel Altered, is probably best remembered as the driver of Vance Hunt's record-setting fuel dragster from 1962-64, but also drove for several other team owners in his native. 

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Pro Gas pioneer and longtime Sportsman racer Donald Barton passed away Jan. 2. 

Barton was a pioneer in the Pro Gas class in thelate 1970s and early 1980s that was would eventually become Super Gas, wheeling his Clownin’ Around ‘55 Chevy from 1971 through the late 1990s. Barton later would drive Undercover dragster beginning in 2000 season and more recently drive the family’s Miller Race Cars dragster before returning to the ‘55 duties during the 2021 season.