The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing has named the 2018 hall of fame class.
Inductees into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame include two of drag racing’s marquee names in the Top Fuel class in the late 1970s and early 1980s, one of the most enduring Funny Car independent driver-tuners, a multi-faceted driver, team owner and engine builder/tuner, a legendary chassis builder and land speed racer, the man credited with bringing timing electronics into the sport, plus one of the sport’s leading historians and museum curators.
The inductees will be honored at the 28th annual International Drag Racing Hall of Fame Banquet, set for March 15th in Gainesville, Florida at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center Gainesville, which recently completed a multi-million dollar renovation.
The International Drag Racing Hall of Fame inductees are:
- Jeb Allen, Redding, California—Allen at one time was the youngest professional class event winner at age 18, winning the Top Fuel class at the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) Summernationals in Englishtown, New Jersey in 1972. He won the NHRA Top Fuel World Championship in 1981 at age 27, the youngest Top Fuel champion in history. Allen also won Top Fuel Championships in the American Hot Rod Association (AHRA) and the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA). He retired in 1982, and owns Palomar Buildings, a home building business
- Kelly Brown, Gazelle, California—Brown began racing in Top Fuel in the mid-1960s and became one of the sport’s leading drivers. In 1978, he won the NHRA World Championship driving for the legendary Jim Brissette in the Brissette & Drake entry, winning three events. In 1979, he joined the legendary Over the Hill Gang team, winning four events including the prestigious U.S. Nationals. In his off-the-track life, Brown was a highly sought stunt driver for movies and TV commercials, and upon retirement from competition became co-owner of Drivers Inc., a precision driving company, designing and executing complex automotive stunts
- Gary Densham, Menifee, California—Densham has been one of the fan favorites as an underdog independent Funny Car racer since 1971. An automotive shop teacher at Gahr High School in Cerritos, California, Densham built and tuned his own race cars for three decades, then joined John Force Racing in 2001. In five years at the powerhouse Force Racing team, he proved his driving talents, winning eight races. He continues to race on a limited schedule on the NHRA circuit, and is a youth motivational speaker on automotive technology careers
- Roy Fjastad Mission Viejo, California—Fjastad is a legend in the drag racing chassis building community. His Speed Products Engineering (SPE) company perfected the concept of fixture built chassis to assure repeatable performance behavior. The company supplied 225 chassis to racers. Fjastad then turned his attention to the street rod market, and using the same fixture concept, started the Deuce Factory, building precision reproduction frames for 1932 Ford roadsters. His latest company, Full Bore Products produces specialized tools for engine and chassis builders. He also has been a fixture in the Land Speed racing arena with a streamliner car, and a Modified Roadster
- Jim Oddy, Mooresville, North Carolina—Oddy grew up in Elma, New York—near Buffalo—and his driving and engine building talents led him to become one of drag racing’s most respected names. In the mid- to late-1960s, Oddy raced in the Gasser classes, setting records and winning races in the NHRA Northeast Division 1. He retired from the driver’s seat in the 1970s, launching Oddy’s Automotive, building race-winning powerplants. In the late 1980s, he and driver Fred Hahn debuted a revolutionary late model Corvette in the IHRA’s Pro Modified class, winning a dozen races. Today, semi-retired, he races a 1934 Willys concept two-door sedan, known as the “Junkyard Dog” at nostalgia Gasser meets
- Oliver “Ollie” Riley, La Verne, California—Riley, now deceased, revolutionized the methods used to determine drag racing winners, and their elapsed times and speeds. After being approached by the NHRA in 1954 to develop a portable, repeatable drag racing timing system, Riley, who helped design Top Secret timing mechanisms for guided missiles, accepted the challenge. He was also involved with the creation of the Christmas Tree race starter, which integrated with the electronic timing system. Riley’s Chrondeck company built the electronic clocks and Christmas Trees for many years, and his system, with updates, continues to be the bedrock for determining drag racing winners, worldwide
- Greg Sharp, Pomona, California—Sharp is the curator of the Wally Parks/NHRA Motorsports Museum at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona, California, and is regarded as one the sport’s leading historians. A drag racing fan since a teenager, his knowledge and enthusiasm led NHRA Founder Wally Parks to name him as the NHRA Director of Historical Services following his retirement from the Los Angeles Police Department. In that role, he helped create the Wally Parks/NHRA Motorsports Museum, and was named the Curator when it opened in 1998. He has won the Pioneer Award from the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2010, plus several other prestigious awards. Sharp coined the popular term cacklefest to describe the static idling of a group of nitromethane-fueled restored dragsters at nostalgia drag racing events
The Founder’s Award will be presented to Herb Fishel of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Fishel, a career employee of General Motors who started as an engineer in Chevrolet’s infamous Skunk Works—the company’s unofficial racing parts program) under the famed Vince Piggins, and was later named to lead the Chevrolet Racing division in 1983. In 1991, he became the executived Director of the General Motors Racing, which included the GM Performance Parts Division. Fishel expanded upon the foundation created by Piggins, and continued to grow General Motors presence in drag racing, particularly the Chevrolet Division, with race-specific components and support. He retired from General Motors in 2003. In 2005, Fishel was inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame.
The recipient of the annual Patricia Garlits Award will be announced at a later date.