Hart's death a blow to NHRA, drag racing
Reprinted from the Dec. 6, 1977 issue of National DRAGSTER
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- The entire staff of the National Hot Rod Association feels a very strong personal and professional loss in the Nov. 24 death of Charles E. "Jack" Hart, who served the organization in a variety of administrative functions for almost two decades.
Hart, Executive Vice President of NHRA and one of the men most closely involved in developing policies which led to drag racing's astronomical growth in the 1960s, died at Doctor's Hospital in Montclair, Calif., following surgery to relieve an arterial blockage.
Son of a career soldier, Hart grew up on the move and never slowed down. Born in Boston, Mass., on March 9, 1922, he grew up in Maryland, Kansas and Texas.
He studied engineering at the University of Colorado and California State University-Fullerton and paid his own way by working as an accountant, surveyor, track mechanic, ship fitter, aircraft assemblyman, buttermaker and musician.
It was while he was operating a Texaco service station in Orange County, Calif., in the early 1950s that Hart became hopelessly addicted to drag racing. He was one of the pioneers at the old Santa Ana dragstrip, constructing and racing some of the more advanced cars of the era.
Among them were a roadster fitted with a stack of barbell weights on the rear bumper -- for traction -- and a Ford V-8 coupe whose body had been slid back a few inches to provide better weight transfer.
From 1950 until 1960, Hart drove everything from stock cars to supercharged dragsters. After joining NHRA in January of 1960 as Advertising Manager of National DRAGSTER, Hart found himself hospitalized with critical injuries only four months later when he crashed is dragster at old Lions Drag Strip at Long Beach, Calif.
A 4 and a half month convalescence convinced him that retirement might be in order and, upon his release from the hospital, he returned to work at NHRA where he assumed additional responsibilities on the executive staff.
He was named NHRA's Executive Director in 1962, became Event Director in 1963 and Executive Vice President in 1967. Many of the procedures and guidelines Hart established as Event Director are still used in producing NHRA's successful national and regional races.
Job functions were many and varied at NHRA. Hart was involved in insurance, safety, track construction, technical and engineering details, field liaison, sanctions supervision and spearheading the formation of SEMA's product evaluation program.
Planning and coordination of national events, emergency and fire protection systems, security, class horsepower factoring and indexes, accumulation and evaluation of statistics all fell under Hart's jurisdiction at some time during his NHRA career.
In recent years, when health problems forced attention on his busy schedule, efforts were made to reduce the number of events at which he was active, but to little avail, Hart was happiest when he was actively involved in every phase of preparation and planning.
He was a man of intelligence, strong conviction and strength of character. Although many -- both inside the organization and out -- may have had occasion to disagree with Jack Hart over the course of the years, no one ever failed to respect him.
He leaves a void which will never be filled.