In what is unquestionably one of the greatest losses the sport has ever endured, drag racing legend and 10-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Bob Glidden passed away today at the age of 73 following a brief illness.
I know that I have to hustle to win and that I have to go all out to afford to race. – Bob Glidden
Glidden began his career in the late 1960s behind the wheel of a series of 427 Ford Fairlanes in the Stock and Super Stock ranks and later a 482 Cobra Jet, becoming one of the winningest competitors in the NHRA’s Division 3. In 1972, he turned professional driving a Pro Stock Pinto previously campaigned by Wayne Gapp and Jack Roush. A year later he won his first race as a professional at the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis — his home event, no less. The following season — in just his second full-time campaign — he won three times and set both ends of the national record on the path to his first Winston championship, in come-from-behind fashion over Gapp and Wally Booth.
Glidden won three more titles in the 1970’s before relinquishing his stranglehold on the class to Lee Shepherd — briefly — in the early 80’s. With wife, Etta, and sons Billy and Rusty, by his side, Glidden was dominant in the latter half of the decade, winning five straight titles.
Glidden won eight more times between 1990 and ’93 and captured his 85th and final NHRA Pro Stock victory at Englishtown in 1995 — after having missed the first half of the season following a heart attack in December of 1994. In February of 1997, just two races into the season, Glidden retired citing inadequate sponsorship. He went on to work for Ford on its NASCAR engine development program. In 1998, he returned to drive a Pontiac for friend Steve Schmidt at the U.S. Nationals and climbed behind the wheel again in 2010 for Ford runner Jim Cunningham. Along the way, Bob made occasional appearances behind the wheel of son Billy’s small-tire Ford Mustangs.
[Bob] conceded that many of his competitors knew far more about the internal-combustion engine than he did, but none of them had his will to win. – NHRA
Bob drove Ford’s almost exclusively throughout his career, at times carrying the banner virtually on his own.
Glidden was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2001, the NHRA honored him with the No. 4 ranking on its Top 50 drivers of the sanctioning body’s first 50 years, noting in it’s ode to the quiet Hooser that, “Bob Glidden did not have any special training or a degree in mechanical engineering. He even conceded that many of his competitors knew far more about the internal-combustion engine than he did, but none of them had his will to win.”
Bob Glidden will certainly never be forgotten.