Don "Big Daddy" Garlits, now 82 years old and known as the Godfather of drag racing, has ventured out of retirement. Fifty years ago Garlits set the most notable of his many records – becoming the first drag racer to hit 200 mph. Now he's attempting to replicate that speed, only this time, using a 2,000 hp electric dragster.
On April 30, Garlits broke the record for an electrically powered racer, managing a quarter-mile speed of 184.01 mph at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida, crushing the existing record of 156 mph. Only it came with a scare, as Garlits's chute failed to open at the run's climax, causing him to careen off the end of the strip and into a sandy field. Fortunately the 82-year-old was uninjured, but as you can see from the two videos below, it was a frightening situation.
The Bradenton run was merely a shakedown for Garlits; although you can sense the disappointment among those working on the project. Surpassing 200 mph is the goal, and Garlits and his crew are convinced that barrier will soon be broken.
Powering the sled, nicknamed Swamp Rat 37, are six GE motors and four lithium-polymer battery packs, producing around 1,500 kilowatts. Garlits plans to adjust the car's gearing and electric power controller in his quest for more speed.
While top-fuel dragsters push 8,000 hp and hit over 300 mph, Garlits says that the cost to maintain an electric dragster is more reasonable than its nitro-burning counterpart, and there's minimal service required between runs. Randy Cannon, Garlits's media manger who was on site for the record run, offered this example to Yahoo Autos:
"Big Daddy wanted to try the right lane but it was all tire shake. He straightened it out, wheeled it down the strip, and basically did a 'hot lap' back to the starting line. Then, with no additional burnout or adjustments, he staged and launched down the strip for the record run. That is absolutely unheard of in professional drag racing. Every combustion engine pro-class racer is torn down between runs. Garlits and EV Swamp Rat 37 just circled back and fired off a record run. It was amazing."
Ever pushing new boundaries, we now await Big Daddy's next record – one that will continue his legacy as drag racing's Don Corleone.
Photos: Quest for 200 mph on batteries