No conversation about the history of the NHRA’s fabled U.S. Nationals would be complete without mention of “Big Daddy” Don Garlits — afterall, he won the big show eight times in his illustrious career, beginning with his first triumph in 1964, at the sixth running of “The Nationals”.
Of course, one of the most memorable moments in Indy history came in 1967, when Garlits famously shaved his beard on the starting line after winning the event with his first-ever six-second run in the finale. But that’s only a slice of Garlits’ lore at Indy.
In 1984, after a five-year hiatus from Top Fuel competition at Indy, Garlits teamed with Art Malone and made a popular return to the U.S. Nationals behind the wheel of his four-year-old Swamp Rat 26, known simply as “the Black Car”.
By no means an underdog despite his time away from the sport, the then-52 year old legend set top speed of the meet and marched his way through eliminations to meet Connie Kalitta in the finale. In a matchup of would-be Hall of Famers, Garlits blasted to victory, his sixth at Indy.
Putting a stamp on his return, Garlits came back in 1985 with his Swamp Rat 29 and won again, then added a third straight crown (and his last at Indy) behind the wheel of the iconic Swamp Rat 30 in 1986.