Garlits has another close call
Reprinted from the Feb. 22, 1985 issue of National DRAGSTER
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Its black paint glistening in the Arizona sun, the needle-nosed projectile bearing Don Garlits' name launched on a run that would leave people talking to themselves for days afterward. The huge rear tires dug in and "Big Daddy" was on the ride of his illustrious career. Just 5.45 seconds later, he tripped the win light at the end of the quarter-mile, once again the winner.
Never mind that Garlits had just beaten Gary Beck for the third straight time here (and sixth in a year) and never mind that he had won the match race, and never mind that he had just run the quickest pass of his life and reset the Firebird Int'l Raceway record by better than a tenth -- Don Garlits was about to crash his race car at almost 260 mph!
The immense pressure exerted upon the main struts at 259.36 mph bent them, and the tall rear wing caved in, failing down on the rear end housing, and folded up on itself as the main struts took on the appearance of limp noodles. The necessary downforce that the wing had been placing on the rear tires was suddenly negated, and the car was no longer glued to the ground.
"I felt the car unload," said Garlits, "and it made some snakey moves, but I was able to control those. The next thing I know I was on my side and heading into the infield."
Not until Garlits and his crew looked at photographs of the incident did they find the reason for the immediate left turn. With the rear end of the car not forced to the ground, the blossoming parachute lifted the car off the ground, as the 'Chute's mounting point on the car was low (under the rear end). The parachute, as most will, spiralled. The car tried to spiral with it.
"The wing had fallen down and to the right, and was pointed upward ... trying to make the car fly. And of course when the parachute came out it turned me right on my side and off I went into the mud."
Garlits was lucky. He was not injured. His car was repaired and he made it to the semifinals at the Winternationals a week later.