“Big Daddy” Don Garlits has been selected as the Grand Marshal for the start of the 2017 Great Race by officials in Jacksonville hosting the event. Garlits, from nearby Ocala, is the legendary drag racer with 17 World Championship Titles to his credit and is one of the biggest names in all of racing. The start of the Great Race will be on Main Street in the Historic Springfield section of downtown Jacksonville from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, June 24. Garlits will have his traveling museum with him that morning and he will send off the racers to Michigan by waving the green flag at 10:30 a.m.
Here is the information about Garlits from the bio on his website:
The name “Big Daddy” Don Garlits is synonymous with Drag Racing. In fact Garlits has been dubbed the “King of the Dragsters,” and could be considered the patriarch of Top Fuel Drag Racing. Don’s High school sweetheart is his wife Pat, however, his first love is the automobile and his passion is winning. His Swamp Rat series of 34 hand fabricated black race cars carried him to 144 national event wins.
Adding to his marvelous racing accomplishments is a Florida tourist complex called Garlits Auto Museums in Ocala, FL. The Drag Racing Museum and Classic Car Collection, 17 World Championship Titles, and numerous racing milestones are all reality because Don first saw them as worthwhile dreams. Garlits’ distinct ability to conceptualize his dreams has allowed him to be master over the end result.
“Big Daddy’s” living legacy and race car design innovations are so significant that his record breaking Swamp Rat XXX is enshrined in the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Don Garlits began racing in 1950 and scored his first major victory in 1955. His first NHRA National event win came in Top Fuel at the 1963 Winter Nationals in Pomona, CA.
Don has won the prestigious NHRA U.S. nationals a record 8 times. His four decades of Drag Racing have filled the pages of seven books.