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7 Decades of The Big Go: Where It All Began for the NHRA U.S. Nationals, which Turns 70 in 2024

240703 When it comes to Indy, 'Big Daddy' Don Garlits dominated Top Fuel in the 1960s [678]

After historic start in 1955, the U.S. Nationals moved to Indy in 1961; Top Fuel debuted at race in 1964 and “Big Daddy” Don Garlits rolled to 3 wins in the 1960s

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – July 3, 2024 – (Motor Sports NewsWire) – The Big Go turns 70 in 2024, as the world’s biggest drag race, the NHRA U.S. Nationals, takes place Aug. 28-Sept. 2 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, offering one of the most incredible spectacles and celebrations on drag racing’s grandest stage.

It’s a race no fan should miss and it’s also an event rich in legendary history. Moving through seven decades of The Big Go, we’ll first explore the origin of the sport’s biggest race and its move to Indianapolis in 1961.

The first NHRA U.S. Nationals occurred at Great Bend Municipal Airport in 1955, setting the table for 70 years of history. It moved to Kansas City in 1956, the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds in 1957 and 1958, and then Detroit Dragway in 1959 and 1960, finding its permanent home at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1961.

It wasn’t until 1964 that Top Fuel made its first official appearance at The Big Go, with this year’s race celebrating six-plus decades of NHRA Top Fuel racing. Of course, it was one of the biggest legends who took the inaugural Top Fuel win at the U.S. Nationals, with “Big Daddy” Don Garlits getting the victory.

 'Big Daddy' Don Garlits

Garlits added two more Top Fuel victories at Indy in the 1960s, winning in both 1967 and 1968, but it was his ’67 victory that cemented him as an Indy legend. Well before the race, Garlits grew a beard and declared he wouldn’t shave until he made a six-second run in his Swamp Rat 11. But he qualified just 23rd in the 32-car field, going 7.163-seconds, while No. 1 qualified Chuck Kurzawa went a blistering 6.760 as nine drivers made six-second runs.

Before eliminations began, Garlits borrowed tires from competitor James Warren and then went on a spectacular run. After making a series of runs in the 7.00s, Garlits found himself in the finals – against Warren of all people. Garlits kept the tires and then delivered an epic blast in the championship round, going 6.770 to beat Warren, recording his first six-record run and picking up his second U.S. Nationals victory.

Garlits kept his word and shaved his beard on the starting line after an interview with ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” creating one of the NHRA’s first iconic moments at Indy.

“I got to shave the beard in front of the cameras on the…

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