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NHRA Legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits will headline the weekend’s 60th-themed activities

TOPEKA, Kan. (April 26, 2011) – NHRA’s season-long celebration of its 60th anniversary season will make a very special and important stop May 20-22 when it returns to the state where it all started, Kansas, for the 23rd running of the NHRA Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.

NHRA was founded on March 13, 1951 in Southern California and it hosted its first national event at western Kansas’ Great Bend Municipal Airport in 1955. A lot has changed over the course of the next six decades and much of it has been, and will continue to be, chronicled for fans during this season-long celebration of NHRA’s 60th anniversary.

Throughout the year, NHRA is bringing its rich tradition to fans around the country in the form of many of the sport’s great legends and fans in the Heartland will be treated to none other than “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, the man who was named No. 1 on NHRA’s list of all-time greatest drivers.

In addition to his renowned competitiveness and driving skills, Garlits famously changed the course of the Top Fuel class in 1971 when, after being seriously injured when the engine in his slingshot dragster exploded, he re-engineered the Top Fuel dragster to move the engine from in front of the driver to behind the driver.

His engineering skills were ahead of the game, to be sure, as he developed one incarnation of his popular “Swamp Rat” after another, ending his career with an estimated 50 Swamp Rat dragsters. He was also one of the first to have a nickname, “Big Daddy,” and it preceded an era of racing where nickames like Snake and Mongoose and Cha Cha became synonymous with NHRA drag racing.

The NHRA Summer Nationals, May 20-22 at Heartland Park Topeka, will mark the seventh stop in a year-long celebration that will pay homage to the evolution of the hot rod, the impact of the sport’s legendary racers, and the lifeblood provided by the many millions of loyal and passionate NHRA fans.

“(NHRA Founder) Wally (Parks) created NHRA for the hot rod enthusiasts and the 2011 season, our 60th Anniversary, will be a year-long celebration in their honor,” said NHRA president Tom Compton. “Fans, accustomed to an up close and personal experience with the stars of the sport through our open pit environment, will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the stars and see the cars from throughout the 60-year history of the sport.”

The celebration will continue throughout the year as the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series winds its way from Pomona to Pennsylvania, Dallas to Denver, Seattle to central Florida, and many points in between. NHRA drag racing fans from across the country will be treated to special events designed to give them the chance to personally interact with the men, women and vehicles that have made the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series the great sport that it is today.

Race fans can frequent <> or simply ‘like’ the NHRA Facebook page <>  to receive updated news regarding details of the many 60th-themed ticket promotions being offered, and specific activities planned, at each of the remaining 15 events on the 2011 schedule.

The virtual tour through the first 60 years of NHRA drag racing will extend beyond the track to the desktops, laptops and handheld devices of NHRA fans via the NHRA Facebook page <> . Throughout the 2011 season, NHRA will enlist the expertise of the fans of the NHRA Facebook page <>  to help determine the greatest moments from the first 60 years of NHRA drag racing. Voting – based on ‘likes’ – began March 7 and will continue throughout the season.

Tickets for the 23rd annual NHRA Summer Nationals, May 20-22 at Heartland Park Topeka, are on sale now via <> or by phone at (765) 862-4781.

Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2011.  As the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States, NHRA presents 22 national events featuring the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA.  NHRA also offers the Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 8 to 17.   In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to <> , or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook <> , YouTube <> and Twitter <> .