Don Garlits’ Museum of Drag Racing a Finalist for Automotive Museum of the Year

Drag Racing Museum

Even today, at 83 years of age, drag racing legend Don Garlits can still be seen around his Museum of Drag Racing. After all, it’s pretty much right in his backyard and he works out of a shop on the premises. It’s a pack rat’s paradise, full of cars that Don restored himself and memorabilia that he picked up over his lengthy career. All of that work has appeared to pay off with the museum’s nomination for the International Historic Motoring Awards’s Museum of the Year.

Don founded his museum after seeing Lord Montagu’s museum while on tour in England in 1976. Don’s museum was initially just a collection of his own cars in a building right next to his home in Ocala, Florida. “I didn’t sell many of my cars because I didn’t want the competition to learn my secrets,” Garlits said. “Plus, if one of my experimental cars failed, I’d want to have a backup on hand.”

Today, the museum includes about 300 cars distributed between two buildings, One is for muscle cars and production cars of interest to Garlits. The other building is for dedicated drag racing vehicles, including many of his own Swamp Rats, at least a couple of Connie Kalitta’s Bounty Hunters, a Craig Breedlove-built Spirit of America dragster, and Tommy Ivo’s twin-engine dragster.

Also on display is the Chevrolet ZL1-powered Top Fuel dragster of the late Jim Bucher. Berger Chevrolet was proud to sponsor Jim during the ‘70s as his lone BBC-powered fueler took on all of the Chrysler Hemi-powered competitors.

The finalists for the Museum of the Year category include only one non-American museum, the Haynes International Motoring Museum in Somerset, UK. The other automotive museums up for the award include the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia: the Blackhawk Automotive Museum in Danville, California; and the LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.

The International Historic Motoring Awards dinner will take place November 20 at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London.

Dave Connolly Moves to Top Fuel for 2015

Bob Vandergriff, Jr. has announced that he is stepping out of the driver’s seat at Bob Vandergriff Racing (BVR) for 2015. Pro Stock driving phenom Dave Connolly will join returning driver Larry Dixon, Jr. at BVR in a two-car, full-season team. Dave will be making the jump from Pro Stock where he is currently third in the standings.

Connolly has had a very successful career in drag racing. He has 25 wins in 47 final rounds in Pro Stock and another four wins as a sportsman competitor. He is only the fourth driver in drag racing history to win five consecutive NHRA Pro Stock events. Besides Pro Stock, he also drives the Berger Chevrolet/GMPartsNow.com COPO Camaro in Stock eliminator at selected races.

“It’s kind of crazy. I’ve never really thought about driving Top Fuel, mainly because the opportunity wasn’t there. But, when Bob approached me, it really sparked my interest,” said Connolly. “Top Fuel is the fastest car on the planet. I’ve driven everything else, so I expect to be up to the challenge.”

“I’ve been driving a Pro Stock car or working on one since 2003; it’s what I have lived. It’s going be hard to step aside from all that and the great people that I’ve worked with but at the same time it’s a great opportunity for my future in drag racing.”

Bob Vandergriff Jr. began driving a Top Fuel dragster in 1994 and was voted Rookie of Year in his first season in the NHRA. Despite making the final round several times, Vandergriff’s first NHRA win eluded him until 2011 at the Texas Fall Nationals in Dallas. He now has three wins and 17 final round appearances under his belt.

The two BVR Top Fuel dragsters will be sponsored by C&J Energy Services with Kurt Elliott and Mike Guger returning as crew chiefs for the two vehicles.

“I want to thank Josh Comstock and the entire C&J Energy Services Team for all their support of BVR over the years and for their continued sponsorship as Dave and Larry begin a new era for our racing program,” said Vandergriff in closing.

Chevrolet Previews SEMA Concept Cars

Each November the Speciality Equipment Market Association (SEMA) gathers together in Las Vegas to show off the latest in automotive personalization. For the last few years the Automotive OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) have joined the party with some specialized cars and parts of their own.

With the 2014 SEMA Show drawing close Chevrolet has released photos and drawings of the concept cars that they are going to be displaying this year. Some of the more interesting ones are shown here.

Inspired by Chevrolet’s motorsports heritage, the Chevrolet SS Sport Concept gives the V-8-powered sports sedan a makeover that reflects its performance capability. Unique features include: A “Some Like It Red Hot” exterior with body-color door handles and mirrors, a Chevrolet Accessories grille kit, fog lamp bezels, side fender vents and rear spoiler, and Chevrolet Accessories 20-inch wheels in high-gloss black.

The Chevrolet Impala Blackout Concept builds on the car’s aggressive styling with blacked-out cues that lend it a sinister attitude – all of which are accomplished with paint and accessories available from Chevrolet. The simple yet effective formula includes: Chevrolet Accessories black grille surround, rear spoiler, painted mirror caps, and 19-inch aluminum wheels.

For 2015 the production Chevrolet Cruze receives revised exterior styling, enhanced interior convenience, and greater connectivity – including new Text Message Alerts, Apple Siri integration, and OnStar 4G LTE with an available built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.

The Chevrolet Cruze RS Plus Concept (shown above) builds on those features with unique fascias, rocker moldings, rear spoiler, and fog lamps. The interior is brightened by an uplevel instrument cluster that includes chrome accent rings in place of the standard silver finish. Opaque cluster bezels that allow the instrument cluster’s ice blue backlighting to shine through for a sporty nighttime appearance completes the package.

Celebrating 90 Years of GM’s Milford Proving Ground

GM Parts MilfordWhen the General Motors Milford Proving Ground opened in October, 1924 – 90 years ago this month – engineers lacked advanced tools and technology for safety testing. Some might say the only crash test dummies back then were human.

Engineers today keep their distance during crash tests. No more riding the running boards until seconds before impact. Instead, inside the vehicles being tested are heavily instrumented anthropomorphic test devices – dummies – who capture the data for which engineers once risked their lives.

“The technology used today to research vehicles is far superior to the past, but the intention stays the same, put vehicles to the test in the name of safety,” said Jack Jensen, the GM engineering group manager for the dummy lab and a GM Technical Fellow. “We have more sophisticated dummies, computers to monitor crashes, and new facilities to observe different types of potential hazards.

GM has provided customers with many industry-firsts using the Milford Proving Ground to test these developments:

• Patent-pending child restraint seat cushion extension feature: A segment safety first, the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon jump seat headrest can be removed from the back of the seat and inserted into the seat base to give a child seat more area to sit on.

• Belt assurance system: This industry-first, which keeps drivers from shifting from “park” if not buckled up, will be launching later this year on a limited group of fleet vehicles.

• Front center air bag: GM was the first manufacturer to introduce the feature in 2013 on all full size crossovers. It will also be on the all-new 2015 full size utilities.

• Rollover test facility: GM was the first North American auto manufacturer to build a rollover test facility. It opened in 2006.

• Test dummies: In the early 1980s, GM’s safety team developed several dummies, including the Hybrid III, which became the universal standard for frontal crash testing and remains so today across the globe.

2014 GMPartsNow COPO Camaro

New GMPartsNow COPO Camaro

Gray Motorsports Managing Director Victor Cagnazzi debuted his 2014 GMPartsNow COPO Camaro at Maple Grove Raceway this past weekend by competing in Stock Eliminator and the unique Factory Stock Showdown.

Cagnazzi had a successful outing and actually got the best of teammate Dave Connolly in the second round with a near perfect reaction time (.002) en route to the final round in FS/B class eliminations – the semifinals of the Factory Stock Showdown.

Cagnazzi was finally eliminated when he recorded a -.022-second red-light against Dave Barton. His successful debut was a tremendous accomplishment for Cagnazzi, particularly considering the fact that the driver had not raced in many years and the GMPartsNow COPO Camaro is one of the few manually shifted COPO entries in competition.

Cagnazzi will race his black COPO again in just a few weeks at the Factory Stock Showdown during the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals. “It needs a little more work but this GMPartsNow.com COPO Camaro will be a really, really fast car once we’re done,” concluded Victor.

GMPartsNow Boys Win Here, There, Everywhere!

Our teammate Shane Gray was the No. 1 qualifier, just like last week, and Jonathan Gray made it to the finals in Pro Stock for the second week in a row as well. “It’s just great to be a part of this,” concluded Connolly.

Meanwhile, a day earlier and 800 miles to the south, Jeff Strickland won Stock Eliminator in the GMPartsNow.com B/SA 2014 COPO Camaro at the NHRA Lucas Oil Divisional Event in Bristol, Tennessee. In the final he defeated the A/SA 2013 Cobra Jet of Georgia’s Jeff Hairrington.

Strickland was hoping for the rare NHRA double as he also advanced to the final in Top Dragster against Robert Houston. It turned out to be a great final round as both drivers had .009 reaction times with Houston running .018 off his dial for the win and Strickland .020 over for the loss.

GMPartsNow Team Driver Jonathan Gray Reaches First NHRA P/S Final Round

Jonathan Gray will never forget the 14th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. The picturesque racetrack nestled between tree-lined mountains will stand forever as the location of his first trip to the final round of an NHRA national event. The fact that it occurred on both his birthday and on Father’s Day, with his dad and his entire family in attendance, will be extra special memories.

After winning his first round match-up with Chris McGaha, the elimination ladder for the second round was enough to strike a nerve for the usually calm and cool Jonathan. He was paired against his older brother, Shane Gray.

With their team owner and father, veteran drag racer Johnny Gray, standing between the cars piloted by his two sons, the brothers squared off against each other for a win light for the first time. Jonathan, the younger brother, held an advantage at the starting line and traded it in for a victory at the finish line as matching 6.703s appeared on both sides of the scoreboard.

Jonathan had to quickly put the brother vs. brother match behind him and focus all his attention on what was immediately ahead: his first chance to race in the semifinals at an NHRA national event. Former world champion Jason Line awaited him at the starting line and Gray was more than ready when he left the gate. Seizing an advantage with an .033 to .041 reaction time, Jonathan again won a round on a holeshot, 6.730, 206.23 to 6.726, 206.39.

His challenger in the final round was former Berger Chevrolet team driver Erica Enders-Stevens. Both drivers were identical in terms of reaction times, but in the whirlwind of excitement surrounding the first final round of his PRO career, Jonathan had trouble as he left the starting line and could not recover as Erica pulled away for the win.

Through the collective efforts of Jonathan and his Gray/GMPartsNow team the Auto Club Road to the Future Award candidate moved up two positions to the No. 12 slot in the NHRA’s Mello Yello Series Pro Stock standings. He is just five rounds outside of the top 10 – a notable feat as he made his debut at the third race of the season and then did not compete in Las Vegas. In fact, all three of the Gray/GMPartsNow team drivers are now in the top 12 in points.

2014 NHRA MELLO YELLO PRO STOCK STANDINGS

(Unofficial, following Bristol, the 10th of 24 events)

Pro Stock Driver Points:

1. Erica Enders-Stevens, 908
2. Jeg Coughlin, 753
3. Allen Johnson, 704
4. Jason Line, 698
5. SHANE GRAY, 651
6. Vincent Nobile, 617
7. DAVE CONNOLLY, 587
8. V. Gaines, 487
9. Chris McGaha, 459
10. Rodger Brogdon, 390
11. Larry Morgan, 334
12. JONATHAN GRAY, 307
13. Greg Anderson, 301
14. Jimmy Alund, 282
15. Steve Kent, 177