Art Malone, a well respected figure in drag racing and two-time Indianapolis 500 starter, died March 29 from complications stemming from injuries sustained in an airboat accident a few years ago.
Malone, who not only was a successful dragstrip owner and Top Fuel campaigner, also gained fame as a driver in the Indianapolis 500.
Raised in Tampa, Fla., Malone got his first taste of drag racing when he and a group of teenage buddies made the trek to the West Coast to attend the first NHRA event in Pomona in 1953. Upon returning to Florida, he began staging races at Henderson Airfield in Tampa, charging 25 cents a head to cover the cost of trophies for the winners.
After spending time as a match racer in Top Fuel dragsters, Malone soon ventured into the world of oval track racing. He became the first driver to break the 180 mph barrier on an oval at Daytona Int’l Speedway in 1961.
In early 1963, upon the recommendation of NHRA founder Wally Parks, Malone was introduced to Andy Granatelli, who later hired him to drive his beloved V-8-powered Novi in the Indy 500. He qualified for the 1963 and 1964 events and finished 11th in the latter.
He later operated a pair of Florida racetracks under NHRA sanction, Sunshine Dragstrip and DeSoto Memorial Speedway.