Garlits made his first appearance in organized drag racing in six years in NHRA competition, driving his Dodge Challenger Drag Pak by Mopar into the heat of NHRA Stock eliminations at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend. His historic first run in the Drag Pak was on Wednesday, Sept. 2, in A/Stock Automatic qualifying at O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis. Final eliminations are on Monday, Sept. 7.
Garlits retired after Top Fuel qualifying at the U.S. Nationals exactly six years ago in 2003. He last ran a stock class car way back half a decade before Woodstock, in 1963 when he competed in a 1963 Dodge Max Wedge drag package car carrying “Garlits Dodge” graphics. His new Dodge Challenger Drag Pak by Mopar has the same lettering emblazoned on its sides, along with the same Mopar graphics from his historic run last year alongside “Miss Mighty Mopar” Judy Lilly in Drag Pak prototypes at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.
“I like my Dodge Challenger Drag Pak much better than a dragster,” said Garlits, referring to the current way Top Fuel dragsters are campaigned. “It takes 25 people to get a dragster to the line these days. All I have to do with the Dodge Challenger is turn the key and take it there. When the light turns green I have a ten-second ride-which is almost three times what I used to get-and I even have time to look at the tach and shift gears.”
Garlits is starting to make a habit of coming out of retirement. He retired for the first time in 1987, but returned for one race at Atlanta in 1992 and made a 300mph run at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis in 2001. He then ran a limited schedule of four NHRA National events each year in 2002 and 2003 before he stepped out of Top Fuel at the request of his wife, Pat. “I didn’t want to come home and find my clothes all over the front yard,” he said at the time he acquired his new Dodge Challenger, explaining that he had the home-front green light to run a doorslammer in competition, referring to his Drag Pak vehicle.
¢ 17 World Championship Titles and 144 National event wins
¢ Voted #1 Drag Racer for the past 50 years by the NHRA in 2001
¢ Won the prestigious U.S. Nationals eight times
¢ Car Craft Magazine Top Fuel Driver of the Year: 1969-70, 1972-73, 1975-78 & 1986
¢ Car Craft Magazine “Man of the Year”: 1969, 1971-73
¢ American Hot Rod Association “Fuel Driver of the Year”: 1971-74