On Saturday afternoon, drag racing legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits reset the world record for electric-powered (non-motorcycle) vehicles before a sizable crowd assembled at the Palm Beach International Raceway in south Florida. The 87-year-old icon did so in 7.22-seconds, clocking a speed of 189.05 mph — short of his goal of 200 mph, but a record nonetheless.
Garlits had, earlier in the day, clocked speeds in the upper 170 and low 180 mph range in his new Swamp Rat 38 electric-powered dragster.
But Garlits’ numbers weren’t, in our estimation, the most noteworthy takeaway of the day.
On Sunday morning, the Palm Beach Post published a video to its YouTube page of a 183 mph run by Garlits on Saturday afternoon, in which three photographers/videographers can be seen filming on the racing surface at points beyond the starting line. Two of those individuals are at/near the 60-foot mark, while one is situated in a slightly safer but nevertheless unacceptable position on the other side of the A-boards near the staging beams.
We must question whose decision it was to permit one — much less three — individuals to be present on the racing surface while a 200 mph-capable racecar was under power?
Imagine the outcry and the ramifications if the most famous drag racer to ever live were to injure or kill one or multiple people at the International Hot Rod Association’s headquarter facility in a completely avoidable incident? And beyond that, if that individual were Garlits’ PR representative to whom he has previously been romantically linked (standing at the 60-foot cone with camera in hand).
If the beleaguered IHRA wants to right its ship or be taken seriously again in the drag racing world, this isn’t a step in the right direction.