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.

Red Bull Air Race: Yoshi Muroya joins Sato as Japanese champs at Indy

Photo: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool
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Takuma Sato isn’t the only major Japanese athlete to take home top honors at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year. Countryman Yoshihide Muroya joined him in that on Sunday after winning Red Bull Air Race at IMS, and the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in the process.

Fittingly, the 101st Indianapolis 500 champion was there on site to join him in the celebration.

Muroya flew with a track-record run in the final and erased the four-point deficit to points leader Martin Sonka. The record run came after a disappointing qualifying effort of 11th in the 14-pilot field in the Master Class.

A day after the win, Muroya joined Sato in heading to Sato’s new Verizon IndyCar Series team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s, Indianapolis-based shop.

A few social posts from Muroya’s victory and the subsequent celebration are below.

CHECKING OUT EACH OTHER’S RIDES

ASTLES BREAKS THOUGH AS WELL

Muroya wasn’t alone among big winners at the Speedway. In the Challenger Class, Melanie Astles of France became the first woman to win a major race at IMS, and is the first female winner in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

Nine women have competed in the Indianapolis 500 (Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz, Katherine Legge) and Mann is the first woman to have been on the pole position at IMS, having done so for the Freedom 100 in 2010 in Indy Lights.

Photo: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool