INDIANAPOLIS – It was on June 11, 1967, when NHRA Top Fuel great “Big Daddy” Don Garlits had suffered a stunning setback at the NHRA Springnationals in Bristol, Tenn.
After already posting a devastating DNQ at the season-opening Winternationals, one of the most successful drivers on the circuit also failed to qualify for the season’s second race.
Garlits made a vow that day. Since many of his peers in the category were already running consistent performances in the six-second zone, the driver of the famed Swamp Rat dragster said he wouldn’t shave his beard until he was able to clock a six-second time himself.
This proclamation set the stage for one of the most memorable moments in the history of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, and will resonate again this year as part of a series of special tributes that will highlight the 60th edition of the “Big Go,” Aug. 27-Sept. 1
During the weeks leading up to the running of the world’s most prestigious drag race, NHRA will unveil six of the most iconic moments in the history of the event that will remember the very heroes who made them, including Garlits, whose presentation will conclude with a fitting nod.
In 1967 at Indy, Garlits, with a full beard covering his face by then, unveiled a brand new race car at the event. Garlits posted low 7.06 and 7.03-second times to win early rounds over Mike Sorokin and Tom McEwen. Paired in the much-anticipated final round against legendary West Coast match racer James Warren, who had already claimed a round-win with a 6.94-second time earlier in the day, Garlits saved his best performance for last when he unleashed an amazing 6.77-second run at more than 220 mph to win the race.
In a triumphant scene, Garlits did his winner’s interview with ABC Wide World of Sports pit reporter Bill Flemming and then climbed atop his tow vehicle and broke out the shaving cream and razor with a mob scene of cheering fans surrounding him.
“It was a magical moment, a magical run,” Garlits has said. “It was way better than winning my first Indy title in 1964. Getting the chance to prove to everybody that I wasn’t washed up made it my biggest win ever.”
One of several legends scheduled to appear at the event, Garlits has made the same vow today, June 11, and will once again begin growing his beard. He will then reenact the special moment and shave his beard in front of the fans on Sunday, Aug. 31st, along with a special 45-minute presentation that all Sunday ticket holders can be part of.
As part of the celebration of this iconic moment in U.S. Nationals history, NHRA also encourages fans to #GrowLikeGarlits and avoid shaving or cutting their hair until the 60th anniversary Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Fans are encouraged to show their progress and post pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #GrowLikeGarlits. At the event, barbers and hairdressers will be on-site to give shaves and haircuts and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to charity.