Don Garlits has announced the inductees to the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, a component of the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing located in Ocala, Fla.
Comprising Class of 2016 are six of the sport’s most accomplished Top Fuel and/or Funny Car pilots, one of which is Great Britain’s most prolific names, and a successful New England drag racer who became a track manager. The 2016 Founder’s Award goes to a highly successful track operator, who helped create the model for media relations, not only for drag racing, but for motorsports as a whole.
The 2016 inductees are (in alphabetical order): Preston Davis (Bartlett, Tenn.), Jack Doyle (Wakefield, N.H.), the late Marvin Miller (Bakersfield, Calif.), Mark Oswald (Houma, La.), Dennis Priddle (Yeovil, Somerset, U.K.) and Gas Ronda (Palm Desert, Calif.). Steve Earwood (Rockingham, N.C.) has been named to receive the 2016 Founder’s Award.
Preston Davis drove the famed “Tennessee Bo-Weevil” top fuel and funny cars for master tuner Ray Godman (International Drag Racing Hall of Fame member – 1991) out of Godman’s shop in Memphis, and their successes helped build the sport in the Southeastern U.S. and the lower Mississippi Valley. Davis and the Godman-tune up made for a formidable pair, and for years, the team was a threat in both classes, either in NHRA sanctioned events or match racing in the Mid-South.
Jack Doyle was a successful New England racer who fielded gas coupes, comp coupes, and top gas dragsters, and competed on the East Coast during the 1950s and ’60s. He was a driving force of the New England Hot Rod Council in the 1950s, which was a major factor in popularizing the sport throughout New England. After he retired from the driver’s seat, he became the track manager, and later, the General Manager of the famed New England Dragway in Epping, N.H.
The late Marvin Miller was one of the three partners of the famed red and white Coburn-Warren-Miller “Ridge Route Terrors” Top Fuel cars with tuner Roger Coburn and driver James Warren, argued by many as the most successful Top Fuel team in the era of the ‘60s. Miller, who owned the Rain for Rent business in Bakersfield, supplied financial backing for the team, and the later rear-engined dragsters which carried his business name on the sides.
Mark Oswald was one of the sport’s most successful drivers in both top fuel and Funny Cars. He teamed with fellow Cincinnati, Oh. racers Tom Kattleman and Ross Thomas with the Thomas-Oswald-Kattleman Top Fuel car. His driving successes took him to the famed Candies & Hughes Top Fuel and then Funny Car team, where he won the 1984 Funny Car World Championship, and then drove successfully in the In-N-Out Burger Funny Car before retiring from the seat. Today, he is the co-crew chief of Antron Brown’s Matco Tools Top Fuel car at Don Schumacher Racing.
Dennis Priddle has been referred to as Britain’s Don Garlits, as one of the prolific pioneering legends of British and European drag racing in the 1960s and ’70s, and is a member of the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame. He campaigned a series of Top Fuel and Funny Cars, and was the first driver into the 6-second range outside of North America with a 6.995-second pass at the famed British Santa Pod dragstrip in 1972. This earned him his “Mr. Six” nickname. And, during his career, he and Clive Skilton, another noted British drag racer, engaged in quarter mile battles across Britain and Europe, helping build drag racing across the Atlantic.
Gas Ronda (“Gas” is a nickname for his given name, Gaspar) was one of the favorite West Coast Funny Car drivers in the 1960s. His career started with Stock and Super Stock cars, and was a member of the famed Ford “Thunderbolts,” and their factory-backed 427 Ford powered Fairlanes. He partnered with famed engine builder Les Ritchey and moved to the emerging Funny Car class in 1966, with a stretched bodied Mustang sponsored by Russ Davis Ford. His last, and most potent ride was a 1969 Mustang-bodied Logghe chassis car, but a serious fire burned Ronda in 1970, and forced an end to his racing career.
Steve Earwood the recipient of the 2016 Founders Award. While never a racer, he was raised in a motorsports-oriented family. Drag racing attracted him while a student at West Georgia University (Carrollton, Ga.). After working at Gainesville (Fla.) Dragway, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) hired him as the National Media Relations Director where he teamed with 2015’s Pioneer Award recipient, Dave Densmore, to create a comprehensive program of cultivating the major market media around National events. Earwood and Densmore formed Denswood Sports Marketing after leaving the NHRA, representing major drag racing teams and race tracks. Yearwood also managed the Texas Motorplex, Atlanta Dragway and then purchased “The Rock” – Rockingham Dragway (Rockingham, N.C.), which he operates today.
The honorees are selected by a committee of veteran drag racing and performance industry figures. The selection committee consists of: Steve Gibbs (Retired Vice President, NHRA), Harry Hibler (President, UNI-Marketing, LLC), Ted Jones (Masters Entertainment, Retired President, IHRA) and Greg Sharp (Curator, Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum).
The presenters will be named in the future.