Pat Garlits, wife of drag racing legend ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits, dies at 79

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The drag racing world is mourning the death of Pat Garlits, wife of “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, who passed away Sunday at the age of 79, according to the Leesburg (Fla.) Daily Commercial.

Often called “drag racing’s first lady,” Pat Garlits was a constant fixture at her husband’s side as he become one of the sport’s all-time greats. She died at the couple’s home in Ocala, Fla., near the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing, following a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease and dementia, the newspaper reported.

“My dear wife of nearly 61 years left this world this afternoon,” Don Garlits wrote in an email to the Daily Commercial on Sunday. “She has been suffering a lot these last few days and it was a blessing to see God take her into his care.”

Don Garlits and the couple’s two daughters, Donna Garlits and GayLyn Capitano, along with Pat Garlits’ sister Sharon Keppel and granddaughter Anna Capitano were all at Pat Garlits’ side when she passed away.

Don Garlits, now 82, met the former Patricia Louise Bieger in 1952 at a lake near Tampa, according to the Daily Commercial.

“I took one look. She was the girl of my dreams,” he said.

The couple would have celebrated their 61st anniversary on Feb. 20.

“She loved her man with all her heart, body and soul and never thought of anyone else but him,” Donna Garlits wrote in a letter. “She was at dad’s side through every win, loss, crash, you name it, she was there.”

Pat Garlits is survived by her husband, daughters and sister, as well as grandchildren Kirsten Capitano Watley, Rodney Donald Garlits, Sarah Lyn Smith, Benjamin Gregory Capitano and Anna Elizabeth Capitano; and great-grandchild Braden Alexander-James Garlits.

A memorial service will be held Saturday afternoon at Grace Presbyterian Church in Ocala.

F1 2017 driver review: Carlos Sainz Jr.

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Carlos Sainz Jr.

Teams: Scuderia Toro Rosso (1-16), Renault (17-20)
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Singapore)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 54
Championship Position: 9th

Carlos Sainz Jr. has always been compared to Max Verstappen given their relative rise and stint together at Toro Rosso, but the Spaniard began to forge his own impressive path through 2017, securing himself a works drive with Renault in the process.

Alongside the struggling Daniil Kvyat for much of the season, Sainz led Toro Rosso’s charge, scoring 48 of its 53 points with a string of impressive drives. His headline moment came in Singapore when he matched Verstappen’s best result in Toro Rosso colors by finishing fourth, capitalizing on the start-line crash and the wet weather with a strong display.

Sainz’s displays led to a call from Renault, who announced just two days before his star display in Singapore he would be joining up for 2018 on loan from Red Bull. However, the deal was accelerated after a deal was brokered to secure Jolyon Palmer’s departure, allowing Sainz to join up from the United States GP onwards.

Sainz made an immediate impression, completing a perfect race en route to seventh on debut for Renault to secure six points that would prove crucial in the final constructors’ championship standings as the French team beat Toro Rosso to P6 in the standings at the last race of the year.

Red Bull retains an option on Sainz’s future beyond 2018, making him a candidate for a seat with its senior team should Daniel Ricciardo opt to leave. Failing that, Renault could offer Sainz the platform he needs to continue his rapid rise in F1 and establish himself at the front of the pack for many years to come.

Season High: Finishing fourth in Singapore after dodging the start-line drama.

Season Low: Crashing out in his final Toro Rosso appearance on the first lap at Suzuka.