Donald Glenn Garlits, better known by his nickname Big Daddy, is an iconic drag car racer known for winning 17 world championships since the mid 1950s.
Garlits spent his formative years in Tampa, Florida tinkering with cars. After dropping out of school to join his father’s garage as an apprentice mechanic, he eventually made a name for himself as an automotive enthusiast and innovator.
Early Life and Education
Don Garlits was born January 14, 1932 in Tampa, Florida to an economically struggling family and developed his mechanical abilities by repairing bicycles and farm equipment. After reading about drag racing in a magazine article he began competing in drag races himself in 1951.
He later constructed his first rear-engine dragster out of a 1927 Ford Model “T” roadster and won his inaugural race – becoming known as the father of drag racing thanks to ten National Hot Rod Association championships and numerous records set.
He currently resides in Ocala, Florida where he operates the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing. Although no longer competing, Don remains active in his sport by regularly providing commentary at racing events and performance expos on television broadcasts.
Donald Glenn Garlits (Big Daddy), is one of the world’s best known and revered race car drivers. Born in Tampa on January 14th 1932, Big Daddy quickly developed an interest in cars and mechanical engineering from an early age; working at his father’s garage as a teenager taught him how to repair vehicles.
He made his mark early in the 1950s, racing his iconic Swamp Rat dragsters that quickly gained him recognition within the sport. Over his long and distinguished career he set thousands of records and claimed 17 championships.
Garlits retired in the 1970s but remains heavily involved with racing today, operating his Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing on his property near Ocala, Florida and providing commentary for ESPN and Speed Vision events and performance expos.
Achievement and Honors
Garlits, popularly known as Big Daddy, is widely considered to be one of the most influential drag racers ever. He is widely renowned for his many innovations within the sport – particularly rear-engine dragsters that enhance safety for drivers by decreasing fire risks.
Don Garlits’ success on the track has translated to lucrative business ventures off it as well. He owns the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing, which draws visitors from around the globe and significantly increased his net worth. Furthermore, sponsorship agreements generated an ample income stream. Garlits maintains an extensive investment portfolio while remaining prudent with his spending decisions, thus maintaining his high net worth even at old age. Currently residing in Ocala, Florida.
Donald Glenn Garlits, commonly known by his nickname ‘Big Daddy,’ was an iconic figure in drag racing history. Throughout his long and distinguished career he won 17 championships while serving as an influential pioneer of this form of motorsport. Additionally he was an esteemed businessman and champion for safety within drag racing.
Don Garlits owns and operates the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing and can often be seen providing commentary at racing events or performance expos. He has written two books chronicling his life experiences.
He has been married twice; Pat Garlits passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in 2014. Lisa Crigar, a former beauty queen who currently manages their museum and real estate assets as well as being a concert pianist, became his second spouse.
Donald Glenn Garlits, popularly known as Big Daddy, is an American automotive engineer and drag racing pioneer with 17 world championship victories to his credit since the mid 1950s. Widely considered the father of modern drag racing, Garlits earned worldwide renown as an innovator during this era of competition.
Garlits pioneered many innovations that improved drag racing vehicles during his long career, including his famous rear-engine dragster with its engine behind the driver’s cockpit to reduce risks associated with fire and explosions.
Garlits has also ventured into politics, advocating libertarian principles and making controversial statements on sensitive subjects. In 1994 he ran for Floridas 5th congressional district as the Republican candidate but his campaign ultimately was unsuccessful. Additionally, Don Garlits operates the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing and regularly appears at racing events and performance expositions as an influential presence.