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Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing
By John Kilroy on October 10, 2011

Just returned last night from Florida for the Kumho Tires Grassroots Motorsports 2011 Challenge Powered by RacingJunk.com, where competitors must build a race car for $2011 and compete in three categories: concours, autocross and drag racing. I had a blast. Truly memorable. Virtually every car had its own unique story, and some were pretty  wild.

I’ll cover the event in another blog this week, because I wanted to preface it with my visit to the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida. I stopped there on the way up to Gainesville for the Challenge.

I highly recommend a visit to the Museum for attendees of the PRI Trade Show. It’s worth arriving a day early and making a run to Ocala…roughly an hour from the Convention Center in Orlando. This is a great place to soak up the grand history of drag racing, as well as automotive history in general.

The word that came first to mind as I surveyed the exhibits was “innovation.” There’s a boldness to the cars, and there’s incredible innovation as you calculate your trip through time from a replica of Garlits’ first dragster in the mid-1950s to the exquisitely sculptured top fuel dragster of the mid-1960s. All that happened in 10 years?! My Lord.

It reminds you of a time when a visit to the race track held surprises as race teams were driven to innovate regularly to see what worked and what didn’t in the great adventure of speed.

You see Garlits’ Don’s Speed Shop dragsters from 1957, 1958 and then, 1959, which has something very different atop the motor compared to the previous version—a supercharger.

It was cool to see an exhibit dedicated to Smokey Yunick, who was a good friend to PRI. It shows a mannequin working the dyno from Smokey’s shop in Daytona.

Add there’s a whole wing devoted to automotive history in general that’s great fun, too.

Too much to cover here, so we’ll just end it with this advice: Go.

About the Author
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John Kilroy is the Publisher of Performance Racing Industry magazine.
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