‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits heading to Canada to be race grand marshal — and he’s bringing Swamp Rat with him

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It’s a well-known fact that many Canadians like to come to Florida for vacation.

Well, one of Florida’s best-known treasures will be heading north of the border soon.

Octogenarian “Big Daddy” Don Garlits – one of the most legendary names in drag racing history – will serve as Grand Marshal of the International Hot Rod Association Mopar Nitro Jam Nationals, June 20-22 at Grand Bend Motorplex (about 110 miles northeast of Detroit).

Garlits, who owns the Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Fla., has earned 17 world championships across three sanctioning bodies in his six-decade career, including four Top Fuel titles in the IHRA. He also has 144 national event wins and became the first drag racer to break several speed barriers, including 170 mph, 180, 200, 240, 250, 260 and 270 in a dragster.

“I loved racing with the IHRA. They were always really good to me,” Garlits said. “(IHRA founder) Larry Carrier was always one of my favorite guys. In fact, the largest contract I ever signed in drag racing was signed with the IHRA and Larry when I inked a contract worth $100,000. It was a great time with a lot of memories. It is really a wonderful organization and I am looking forward to being back.”

Although he likely won’t race it, Garlits is bringing one of his fabled “Swamp Rat” dragsters — he’ll likely fire it up for fans to hear its earth-pounding power and sound — with him to Grand Bend to be displayed. He’ll also be on hand to sign autographs and pose for pictures, in addition to his other Grand Marshal duties.

“I am really looking forward to the trip to Canada,” Garlits said. “It has been a long time since I have been up there and I think it will be a great event and a great time for everyone involved.”

While other drag racers his age have been long-retired, the 82-year-old Garlits continues to challenge the pavement. He recently set a world record at Bradenton (Fla.) Motorsports Park by taking his battery-powered dragster down the track at 7.258 seconds at 184.01 mph.

Garlits is hoping to break the 200 mph barrier in a lithium battery-powered car in the coming months during more test attempts. If he does smash that mark, it would come on the 50th anniversary of Garlits becoming the first driver in drag racing history to hit 200 mph in a fuel car.

“This barrier is very important to me,” Garlits said in an IHRA media release. “It has been 50 years since I broke the 200 barrier in Top Fuel and I would like to do that again this year, hopefully before the 50-year reunion celebration of that run in August.

“But more importantly, it is important to me to show the world that there is another avenue that drag racing can take that is cleaner and much less expensive allowing more people to get involved.”

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MRTI: Sunday Barber Notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Mother Nature intervened heavily on Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park, and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires both completed their second races of the weekend on a wet track.

Indy Lights saw Andretti Autosport’s Pato O’Ward complete the weekend sweep – he won Race 1 on Saturday – while Pro Mazda had a wet and wild race of survival that saw a pair of leaders go off, giving way to another first-time winner in Pro Mazda at the end of the day.

Reports on both races are below.

Indy Lights: Race 2 Victory Completes Dominant Weekend for O’Ward

Pato O’Ward celebrates his Race 2 victory at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Andretti Autosport’s Pato O’Ward completed a perfect weekend at Barber Motorsports Park by claiming victory in Indy Lights Race 2 on Sunday.

Officials were forced to move the race up to 10:45 a.m. local time (11:45 ET) due to weather, and Race 2 began under a rain shower.

However, it did not deter O’Ward one bit, who rocketed off into the lead from the pole, and was never headed on his way to winning by over five seconds.

In addition to winning both races, O’Ward led every lap in both races, completing a weekend of utter dominance for the 18-year-old native of Mexico.

Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni came home in second, his best finish since moving up to Indy Lights this year, with Andretti Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta rounding out the podium.

The Belardi Auto Racing duo of Aaron Telitz and Santi Urrutia finished fourth and fifth, with Telitz finally finishing a race after only completing a combined four corners in the first three races of the season.

Urrutia, meanwhile struggled somewhat and faded to fifth after starting third.

Andretti’s Dalton Kellett and Ryan Norman and Juncos’ Alfonso Celis Jr. rounded out the field in sixth, seventh, and eighth.

Results are below.

Pro Mazda: Harrison Scott Survives the Rain to Take First Pro Mazda Win

Harrison Scott and RP Motorsports celebrate victory in Pro Mazda Race 2 at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

RP Motorsport’s Harrison Scott managed to survive a track that started out damp, began drying out, and then became very wet during a downpour in the final laps to win in Pro Mazda Race 2 from Barber.

Scott, who started second, was able to pass Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson, the polesitter and Race 1 winner, on the inside entering Turn 5 on Lap 2, with Thompson running slightly off track on corner exit and falling back to third, with Team Pelfrey’s Andres Gutierrez going through into second.

Scott, Gutierrez, and Thompson stayed close the rest of the way, and Gutierrez even managed to make a nifty outside pass on Scott in Turn 5 on Lap 9 to take the lead.

However, rain, which hit the track briefly and stopped about 30 minutes before the race started, returned in the second half of the race, and progressively got heavier.

It all came to a head on Lap 21, when the slick conditions sent Gutierrez off course in Turns 7 and 8. He rejoined the track, but fell back to seventh, allowing Scott back into the lead.

Race Control quickly threw a caution as a result of the conditions, and the race finished under yellow, with Scott taking the checkered flag for his first Pro Mazda win.

Behind Scott, Thompson came home in second, with Juncos Racing’s Carlos Cunhas in third. Cunha’s teammate Rinus VeeKay was fourth, with BN Racing’s David Malukas rounding out the Top 5.

Of note: Cape Motorsports’ Oliver Askew was one of a couple drivers who pitted for rain tires under the late yellow, gambling that the race may go back to green – he was running tenth at the time. However, because the race never went back to green, Askew was relegated to 12th at the end.

Results are below.

Note: Check back later for driver quotes.