Garlits plans to return to competition in 2009
Drag racing legend "Big Daddy" Don Garlits will return to NHRA competition in 2009, but not with one of his iconic Top Fuelers. Garlits, a longtime Mopar devotee and racer, has purchased the first production Dodge Challenger Drag Pak vehicle and plans to race it in NHRA Division 2 competition; he is aiming to make it to the 2009 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals to commemorate his 60th year in drag racing.
Mopar, Chrysler LLC's Global Service and Parts division, will present Garlits with a special certificate recognizing Garlits' purchase of the first production Dodge Challenger Drag Pak vehicle at the 21st annual Performance Racing Industry Trade Show. The ceremony will take place on the Mopar Stage at the PRI show following the presentation of the Economaki Champion of Champions award, scheduled for 3 p.m. ET. The PRI show will be held Dec. 11-13 at Florida's Orlando Convention Center.
SpeedFreaks host Kenny Sargent will emcee the event, which will include remarks by Steve Shugg, director of sales and marketing, Mopar. Garlits will receive the certificate commemorating Dodge Challenger Drag Pak vehicle No. 001. The Mopar drag racing icon will have his new Drag Pak Vehicle on display near the Mopar Stage along with famed package cars from Mopar's past, including Dick Landy's '64 Dodge Dart and a '64 lightweight Dodge. Garlits' Drag Pak vehicle was delivered straight from the factory to the PRI Show, offering prospective Drag Pak owners a glimpse of how the car will look upon delivery.
Garlits piloted one of two Dodge Challenger Drag Pak prototypes (Judy Lilly steered the other) at the 29th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in July. The factory-developed vehicle kit is based on the '08 Dodge Challenger SRT8 and features a weight reduction of 1,000 pounds. Unique additional components include a liftoff hood with functional scoop, Viper-style front seats, polycarbonate door windows, and more. Special engine packages based on the 5.7-liter Hemi, 6.1-liter Hemi, and 5.9-liter Magnum Wedge are offered for the Dodge Challenger Drag Pak vehicle, which will be eligible to run in popular categories (Comp, Super Stock, and Stock) and potentially 40 classes in NHRA and IHRA competition.
This will be "Big Daddy's" third Mopar package car. He received one of the first 13 '62 Dodge Max Wedge drag cars and raced a '63 lightweight Dodge 426 Max Wedge car.
"It's an honor to get the very first Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak," said Garlits, who has claimed 17 world championships and 144 national event wins in different sanctioning bodies during his storied racing career. "I am going to have fun competing in a car my wife will actually let me drive. I'm not allowed to drive a Top Fuel dragster anymore. She said to me after my last 310-mph run at Indy in 2003, 'I would appreciate it if you wouldn't do this anymore,' and I knew I had better comply because I didn't want to come home and find all my stuff piled on the front lawn."