OCALA, Fla. – The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing has named the individuals who will make up the class of 2018 in the Museum’s International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, plus the recipient of the Founder’s Award.
The inductees include two of drag racing’s marquee names in the Top Fuel class in the late 1970s-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 Founder’s Award goes to one of the most successful and influential automaker motorsports managers.
The Hall of Fame inductees are:
Jeb Allen (Redding, Calif.) – Allen was the youngest professional class event winner (at the time) at 18, winning the Top Fuel class at the NHRA’s Summernationals in Englishtown, N.J. in 1972. Allen won the NHRA Top Fuel World Championship in 1981 at the age of 27, the youngest Top Fuel champion in history. He also won Top Fuel Championships in the American Hot Rod Ass’n (AHRA) and the International Hot Rod Ass’n (IHRA). He retired in 1982 and owns Palomar Buildings, a home building business.
Kelly Brown (Gazelle, Calif.) – Brown began racing in Top Fuel 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 television 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, Calif.) – 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 (Cerritos, Calif.), 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, Calif) 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, N.C.) – Oddy grew up in Elma, N.Y. (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 (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” 2-door sedan known as the “Junkyard Dog” at nostalgia Gasser meets.
Oliver (Ollie) Riley (La Verne, Calif.) – Riley 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, Calif.) – Sharp is the curator of the Wally Parks/NHRA Motorsports Museum at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds (Pomona, Calif.), 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, a career employee of General Motors, who started as an engineer in Chevrolet’s infamous “Skunk Works” (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 Executive 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 Hall of Fame for SEMA, the performance automotive aftermarket trade association.
The recipient of the annual Patricia Garlits Award will be announced at a later date.