‘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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Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series triples to 34 races in 2023

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023
Xtreme Outlaw Series
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After hosting 10 rounds in 2022, the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series 2023 schedule will more than triple to 34 races. The 2022 season featured seven different winners in the first seven races, a female racer in Jade Avedisian as the only repeat winner and Zach Daum as the champion.

“Dirt Midget racing is a growing entity in American motorsports, and the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota is proud to drive further into the growth of the division with both a diverse and lucrative schedule for 2023,” newly appointed Series Director Tyler Bachman said in a press release. “From the kickoff at our first indoor event, to each of the new tracks we’re set to visit next year, it’s a lineup we know both our teams and fans will enjoy.”

The championship purse fund has also more than double with an increase of $42,000 to $80,000 in 2023. The champion will win $25,000. Last year, Daum pocketed $10,000.

In addition, the series will offer tow money to the top 12 in points. Six drivers attempted to qualify for all 10 races in 2022 with 89 drivers attending.

The series will begin on March 10 at Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin, Ill. and end the same place it did in 2022 at I-44 Riverside Speedway in Oklahoma City on October 15.

During the season, they will visit 21 tracks in 10 states.

Some highlights of the season include the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series pairing up with the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars in 2023 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo. in April for the Outlaw Showdown and again in August for the Ironman 55 weekend, as well as the creation of a five-day Midget Speedweek.

The Midget Speedweek will immediately follow the Ironman 55 with a swing through Pennsylvania and New York.

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023 Schedule

Friday, March 10 | Southern Illinois Center | Du Quoin, Ill.
Saturday, March 11 | Southern Illinois Center | Du Quoin, Ill.
Friday, March 31 | Farmer City Raceway | Farmer City, Ill.

Saturday, April 1 | Farmer City Raceway | Farmer City, Ill.
Friday, April 14 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Saturday, April 15 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.

Friday, May 5 | Humboldt Speedway | Humboldt, Kan.
Saturday, May 6 | 81 Speedway | Park City, Kan.
Tuesday, May 23 | Millbridge Speedway | Salisbury, N.C.
Wednesday, May 24 | Millbridge Speedway | Salisbury, N.C.

Thursday, June 1 | Tri-City Speedway | Pontoon Beach, Ill.
Friday, June 2 | Wayne County Speedway | Wayne City, Ill.
Saturday, June 3 | Wayne County Speedway | Wayne City, Ill.

Friday, July 21 | TBA
Saturday, July 22 | Southern Illinois Raceway | Marion, Ill.
Friday, July 28 | TBA
Saturday, July 29 | Atomic Speedway | Chillicothe, Ohio
Sunday, July 30 | Brushcreek Motorsports Complex | Peebles, Ohio

Friday, August 4 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Sat, August 5 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Tuesday, August 8 | Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway | Newmanstown, Pa.
Wednesday, August 9 | Action Track USA | Kutztown, Pa.
Thursday, August 10 | Linda’s Speedway | Jonestown, Pa.
Friday, August 11 | TBA
Saturday, August 12 | Bridgeport Motorsports Park | Swedesboro, N.J.
Friday, August 25 | Davenport Speedway | Davenport, Iowa
Saturday, August 26 | Davenport Speedway | Davenport, Iowa

Friday, September 1 | Paragon Speedway | Paragon, Ind.
Saturday, September 2 | Paragon Speedway | Paragon, Ind.
Friday, September 15 | Jacksonville Speedway | Jacksonville, Ill.
Saturday, September 16 | Red Hill Raceway | Sumner, Ill.

Friday, October 13 | Port City Raceway | Tulsa, Okla.
Saturday, October 14 | I-44 Riverside Speedway | Oklahoma City, Okla.
Sunday, October 15 | I-44 Riverside Speedway | Oklahoma City, Okla.

* Co-sanctioned with POWRi