OCALA, Fla. – The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing has released the names of the individuals that will be inducted into the Museum’s International Drag Racing Hall of Fame next year.
The names include one of the most influential drag racing track operators and marketers of the sport, a pair of brothers who epitomized the blue collar racers of the Southern California top fuel scene in the 1960s and 1970s, an iconic Southern California starter/racer, three racers who became very successful businessmen serving the racing community and a well-known showman that was a very early trend-setter in the “wheelstander” exhibition car category.
Additionally, the Founder’s Award went to a long-time drag racing photographer, auto enthusiast magazine editor and author.
The inductees are:
The late Jeff Byrd (Kingsport, Tenn.) was president and general manager of the famed Bristol Motor Speedway and Bristol Dragway for Speedway Motorsports. Previously, he was the vice president of Business Development for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and oversaw the building the very successful Winston Drag Racing programs with the NHRA and the IHRA. He marketed the mystique of the Bristol race track facilities, and using the resources of Speedway Motorsports, created the state-of-the art racing facilities of today. His visionary ideas, combined with his marketing skills helped lead drag racing to a higher level.
Brothers “Jeep” (Gerald) & Ronnie Hampshire (Colfax and Applegate, Calif., respectively) were San Fernando Valley, California racers, born and raised in Reseda, Calif. They were highly talented racers with blue-collar roots (typical of the many fuel car pilots in the Los Angeles basin) in the heyday of the front engined dragsters. Together, they raced some of the most successful cars of the period, winning major events in southern and northern California. Both were recognized for their driving skills and were often sought to deliver second opinions about cars that were called “difficult” by other drivers.
The late Dean Moon, whose “Mooneyes” logo has become an icon with racers and street performance enthusiasts, was a racer on the Mohave dry lakes and at the Bonneville Salt Flats, as well as the drag strip, who had considerable talent for building parts and components racers needed and wanted. He started the Moon Equipment Company in Santa Fe Springs, Calif. which became a major company in the market. Moon helped transplant drag racing to Great Britain and Europe when his ”Mooneyes” dragster, with Dante Duce at the wheel, competed with the U.S. Drag Racing Team in a series of exhibitions in 1965 in England. Moon was one of the founders, and second president, of the Speed Equipment Manufacturers Ass’n (SEMA), now Specialty Equipment Marketing Ass’n.
Joe & Dellie (Delma) Reath were a highly influential husband-and-wife team, which created and operated engine building/speed shop business – Reath Automotive – in Long Beach and Signal Hill, Calif. Joe was born in Rutledge, Ala., and moved to Washington state, and later to southern California; and Dellie was born in Moore, Okla., and moved with her family to southern California. In his early career, Joe raced on the Mohave dry lakes and at Bonneville Salt Flats, but his skills in building and modifying engines led him to his career path as businessman. Joe and Dellie were married in 1957, and Dellie was an essential part of the operation of Reath Automotive, serving as as office manager, accountant and parts purchaser, which allowed Joe to concentrate upon meeting the needs of the customers. Joe was particularly adept at welding and grinding crankshafts to increase the stroke length (stroker cranks). The Reaths were well-known for employing talented machinists, several of whom went on to become race team crew chiefs or owners of racing parts manufacturing businesses. Reath Automotive also sponsored a number of drag racing and land speed teams, most notably the Dunn & Reath (with Jim Dunn) fuel Funny Car. Joe passed away in January, 2013 at the age of 87.