Introducing the panel
The panelists for the Top 50 Drivers selection come from all walks of drag racing life, from journalists and television personalities to historians and former racers who collectively brought hundreds of years of drag racing-related experience to the process. Below, in alphabetical order, are the members of the panel responsible for selecting the elite 50.
Jon Asher has been a motorsports photojournalist for 34 years. From 1966-72 he worked as a contract writer for NHRA, AHRA and IHRA before taking a position with Car Craft Magazine, serving as the editor from 1979-83. He's now a Senior Editor for RACER Magazine, Motorsports Editor of Street & Strip Magazine, American drag racing correspondent for Motorsport News of Australia, and a monthly columnist for Daytona Magazine (Japan). In addition, Asher is the senior drag racing editor for Speedvision.com, and has helped produce the All-Star Drag Racing Team program for Car Craft Magazine since 1973.
Dan Bennett owns Bennett Data and provides training, consulting, and support in a range of specialties from R&D, data acquisition, and computers up to and including crew chief responsibilities. A respected freelance journalist in print and internet media, Bennett also does color/technical commentary for the Pro Stock classes at NHRA national events.
Keith Burgan is one of the sport's finest fabricators, but he's done a whole lot more. An Australian who has lived in the U.S. for the past 10 years, the guy they call "Roo Man" has built, wrenched on, painted, and driven race cars, was the South Australian divisional director of the Australian National Drag Racing Association, and a member of its national rules panel. A year ago he opened his own shop, catering to both pro and sportsman racers, and next year will debut his own race team. Burgan has been covering drag racing since 1968 and currently provides copy for National Speed Sport News, Drag Racing USA, and Dragster Australia, as well as several web sites.
Phil Burgess has been the editor of National DRAGSTER, the official publication of the NHRA, longer than any of his predecessors, having been promoted to the position in1986, four years after joining the staff after a stint as a freelance journalist. He also is the Editorial Director for all NHRA publications, including Jr. Dragster, special publications, and the popular NHRA.com web site, which he helped create in 1995, guiding NHRA into cyberspace long before the World Wide Web reached its current popularity . He attended his first drag race in 1970 and earned a competition license in Frank and Linda Mazi's blown Opel in 1984, spurring a deep and continuing love of the Comp eliminator class.
Jeff Burk has been professionally involved as a racing journalist since 1976 when he was a motorsports stringer for the Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette and later founded Midwest Racer, a weekly newspaper that originated in 1978 and covered drag racing and oval tracks. Burk has been an editor at Petersen's Drag Racing magazine, the editor of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated magazine, and has freelanced stories and photos for numerous automotive performance magazines and newspapers. Burk and wife, Kay, own Autographix Motorsports Communications, an advertising and PR agency and also publish Drag Racing Online, an internet-based drag racing magazine.
Steve Collison, who passed away Dec. 14, 2000, is a 30-year veteran of drag racing journalism. He was a staff writer at Car Craft magazine and National DRAGSTER, and the editor of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated (which became Drag Racing Monthly) and Cars Magazine. Collison most recently was co-editor of Drag Racing USA magazine. A frustrated racer, Collison set an AHRA Formula Stock national record in 1969 driving a big-block Chevelle, and an IHRA Pure Stock standard in 1987 in a 5.0 Mustang.
Cole Coonce is a freelance dragstrip journalist and since 1995 has been the publisher of Nitronic Research (www.nitronic.com), which bills itself as "the definitive drag racing website." Although he tries to find the "om" in all things related to the pursuit of horsepower, he has a romantic appreciation for a variety of "bad ideas" that graced the dragstrip throughout the sports history, as well as a rabid yen for what he considers drag racing's "gunslinger" era, 1962-1971. Coonce has been working on "Infinity Over Zero," a history of the Land Speed Record, which will be available in March of 2001.
Dave Densmore was NHRA's Publicity Director from 1975 through 1982. Today, he operates Denswood Sports Marketing in Rhome, Texas, a company that provides public relations and publicity services to racers and racetracks. In addition, he is a freelance contributor to a number of publications and websites including Speedvision.com. He counts among his current and past clients eight NHRA Winston champions, including Kenny Bernstein, Shirley Muldowney, the late Gary Ormsby, Gary Beck, Raymond Beadle, Richard Tharp and Mark Oswald. He presently represents Team Castrol and drivers John Force and Tony Pedregon, as well as Rockingham Dragway and Moroso Motorsports Park.
Bruce Dillashaw has been an Associate Editor at National DRAGSTER for eight years. Dillashaw has been following the sport closely since the late 1960s. He bracket raced an eight-second dragster for four years in the mid-1980s, qualifying for the season-ending E.T. Finals three years. Beginning in 1990 Dillashaw wrote freelance articles for Drag Racing magazine, Super Stock and Drag Illustrated, and National DRAGSTER. In 1991 and 1992 he was the track reporter and technical and staging lanes official at Texas Raceway.
John Drummond attended his first drag race -- the 1972 NHRA Northern Nationals at Fremont Raceway -- at age 6. After a 13-year hiatus, he returned to Fremont in 1984 and hasn't missed many West Coast races since. Last September, Drummond celebrated his 10-year anniversary with Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, where he is acknowledged as a driving force in the surging growth of the Goodguys Vintage Drag Racing Association. As a freelance journalist, Drummond's photography and drag racing articles have been published in National DRAGSTER, Super Stock and Drag Illustrated, Drag Racer, Drag Racing USA, Hot Rod Magazine, the Goodguys Goodtimes Gazette, Full Throttle News, and dozens of others.
Steve Evans, who passed away Nov. 1, 2000, was a familiar face to drag race fans for more than two decades working on NHRA's syndicated TV shows and for 18 years covered NHRA drag racing on TNN, ABC, and NBC. He was the host of the weekly television newsmagazine NHRA Today, which aired more than 500 shows between 1990 and 1998. Evans got started early, announcing drag races at age 19 at the fabled San Gabriel and Fontana tracks in California and later managed all three of Southern California's famed tracks -- Lions Dragstrip, Orange County Int'l Raceway, and Irwindale Raceway. He began announcing national events in 1966 and a year later went to work full time for NHRA as editor of National DRAGSTER and later as public relations director.
Randy Fish is the Editorial Director for Drag Racing USA and Popular Hot Rodding magazines, former Managing Editor of Street Rodder, and former Editor of Popular Hot Rodding. A licensed NHRA Super Comp competitor, Fish was introduced to drag racing at Connecticut Dragway in the early '60s and was a former crewmember for several Alcohol Dragster teams. He was the only kid in his fourth-grade class who knew what a tachometer was, and how to spell it.
Bob Frey attended his first drag race in 1964 and has been announcing drag races for 35 years, beginning in 1966 at Atco Raceway in New Jersey. He announced at the first PRO race in Tulsa in 1972 and worked for years as the Division 1 announcer. Frey, a noted drag racing statistics buff, has been an NHRA national event announcer for the past 16 years and currently is the co-host of NHRA Heat on ESPN2. For nine years, Frey was the co-host on "NHRA Today" show on TNN and hosted NHRA's live telecasts on TNN. Frey is a featured columnist in National DRAGSTER, Drag Racer Magazine, and a contributor to John Force's web site.
Steve Gibbs, Vice President-Director of the NHRA Motorsports Museum, has a long background in drag racing. He began working at Southern California dragstrips in 1961, where his chores including freelance reporting. He managed famed Irwindale Raceway (1966-1968) and Fremont Drag Strip (1968-1969) before joining NHRA in September 1969. Gibbs first served as Competition Director and, until July 1997, as Vice President-Competition before accepting his museum post. He is a member of the Museum Board of Directors and of the NHRA Competition Committee. Gibbs was the 1991 recipient of the prestigious Car Craft Magazine "Ollie" award and is a selector for the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Don Gillespie attended his first race at Lions Drag Strip in 1969, and the Southern California-born teen returned a week later on his bicycle, with a camera, and never looked back. Soon, his photos were being published in National DRAGSTER and Drag News. Thirty-two years later, he is not only one of the more longstanding and continuous photo contributors, but also an accomplished writer. Following stints including Car Craft Magazine Photo Editor, director of public relations for the late Mickey Thompson, and Orange Country International Raceway photographer, Gillespie moved to Bristol, Tenn., in 1989, to be "closer to the big events." He continues to cover NHRA, IRL, and select NASCAR events for major motorsports teams and publications.
Jim Hill is a lifelong Florida resident who got his first exposure to drag racing -- and fellow Floridian Don Garlits -- in 1959 at Amelia Earhart Field in Hialeah. In high school, he volunteered at the South Florida Timing Association and soon was writing stories and shooting photos for the sport's top publications. He went to work for Harvey Crane in 1966, creating ads including those that fueled the "Cam Wars" and later worked at Holley before returning to Crane Cams as Advertising and Sales Promotion Manager 1976 and creating the Crane Cams 250 MPH Funny Car Club. In 1985, he opened his own advertising agency, serving several of the industry's top companies, then returned to Crane in 1990 where he currently serves as Director of Marketing and Advertising.
Bill Holland attended the very first NHRA Winternationals in 1961 and hasn't missed one since. An active participant in the sport from 1959 through 1970, Holland was a partner in several Top Fuel cars from 1965-70. A former employee of Drag News in the mid-'60s, Holland served as Editor of National DRAGSTER from 1969-74, then formed Holland Communications, Inc. His articles have been appearing in a variety of publications for more than 25 years.
John Jodauga has been a motorsports journalist and illustrator for 35 years, with his work appearing in Hot Rod, Car Craft, Motor Trend, Drag Racing, and Super Stock magazines. After working at National DRAGSTER in 1969-70 as a staff writer and art director, he started his own business in public relations and advertising; his clients included Bill Jenkins, Don Prudhomme, Raymond Beadle, Don Nicholson, Bob Glidden, Gapp & Roush, Paul Blevins, Gary Gabelich, NHRA, Moroso, Simpson, Dart, Bill Mitchell, and Russell. He rejoined the N.D. staff on a full-time basis in 1993 and currently writes many of the publication's nostalgia and tech articles.
Bret Kepner has attended more than 2,000 drag racing events since his first, the inaugural NHRA Summernationals at York, PA, in 1970. His journalism career began at age 18 with editor Jim Kelly of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated magazine and continued with SS&DI through its demise 22 years later. More than 1,200 of his manuscripts have been published in 57 different publications, including his current stint with Inside Motorsports newspaper. He has announced dozens of NHRA, AHRA, IHRA, and UDRA national events and since 1984 has appeared in more than 700 television shows as a motorsports commentator on ESPN, ESPN2, and Speedvision. Kepner is an accomplished bracket racer and recently became an NHRA National Record Holder in Stock Eliminator. He also operates a free bracket racing school at Gateway International Raceway. A self-professed "incorrigible statistician", Kepner admittedly spends far too much time in front of a computer.
Graham Light, NHRA Senior Vice President-Racing Operations, has been involved in many facets of drag racing. He's driven everything from supercharged gas dragsters to Top Fuel dragsters, the latter of which he campaigned between 1971 and 1978, during which time he also took over management of Edmonton International Speedway and which he ran until 1982. He was Top Fuel runner-up at '77 NHRA World Finals and finished number 9 in NHRA Winston points standings in 1978. In 1984, he was named NHRA's Pacific Division Director and two years later became Competition Director. In 1988, he was promoted to Vice President of Technical Operations and in 1993 was elevated to his current position. He's a member of the ACCUS board of directors and a member of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.
Chris Martin is the editor-at-large for Drag Racing Online, an internet magazine. From 1975 through 1998, Martin held numerous positions at NHRA's National DRAGSTER, where for years he was "Tricky Tipster's" secret confidant. Martin, an acknowledged drag racing historian, also published the "Top Fuel Handbook," the first history of the Top Fuel class, in 1996. A former editor for R&B Collector, the country's first oldies magazine, and record reviewer for the Los Angeles Times, Martin recently has taken up poetry. His first effort, "Route 66 Sandpainting," was published in the November 2000 Hot Rod magazine
Dave McClelland, the Voice of NHRA Drag Racing, brings a tremendous amount of knowledge, memories and multi-faceted experience to the selector panel. McClelland has been involved with the sport since 1955, including 42-year career in race announcing, 30 years of television play by play anchor, and experiences as a track operator, former NHRA Director of Communications, and founder of Super Chevy Sunday. McClelland also competes in nostalgia and Super Comp events and is the proud father of three-time NHRA national event winner Kevin McClelland.
Ro McGonegal has been involved with hot cars for 44 years and attended his first drag in 1958, at Montgomery Airport in New York. After seeing Don Garlits smoke the tires the length of the track and hearing the sound of uncorked V-8s, his future was cast. McGonegal, who once raced an injected tilt-nose '55 Chevy that held the F/Gas NHRA record, began writing for Super Stock magazine in 1968 and in 1969 was named Technical Editor at Car Craft, followed two years later with a promotion to editor. He also has worked at Hot Rod and Motor Trend and freelanced for a time before rejoining the Hot Rod staff in 1995.
Kevin McKenna has been a member of the National DRAGSTER editorial staff for the last seven years. Prior to that, he served as the editor of NHRA's Southeast DRAGSTER, a regional publication that specialized in Sportsman racing in NHRA's Southeast Division. McKenna got his start in motorsports as a track worker at Sunshine Dragstrip and DeSoto Memorial Dragway, which were operated by Top Fuel pioneer Art Malone. He later worked as the editor of United Racer and Drag Review. An avid motorcycle enthusiast, McKenna has also been an occasional freelance contributor to publications such as Cycle News and Cycle World.
John Miller has been a member of the National DRAGSTER staff since 1993. In addition to being part of the leading drag-racing publication, Miller considers himself a super-class connoisseur and carries a Super Comp license. As a driver, Miller has won a handful of bracket events in an array of street machines. His family is active in racing as his national-event winning younger brother is considered one of the championship contenders in Super Comp. As a graduate of Brigham Young University with a degree in journalism, Miller has worked on the newspaper side of the industry, focusing mainly on sports.
Carl Olson, a former professional Top Fuel driver/owner (winner of the 1972 Winternationals and a member of the Cragar Five-Second club), most recently was NHRA's Vice President Insurance/Risk Management & International Relations and is the President of the FIA Drag Racing Commission. Olson also has driven land-speed cars (member of the Bonneville 200-mph Club), sprint cars, and is a member of the SEMA Hall of Fame.
Bill Pratt is the founder and publisher of www.draglist.com, a web site that lists detailed information on all pro, semipro, exhibition, and quicker sportsman racers throughout history. The site also features a daily drag racing story and photo, more than 5,000 links, and many other features. Pratt also serves as an announcer for East Coast match races and is an occasional freelance photojournalist.
Thomas Pope is the Motorsports Editor of The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer, where he has worked for more than 20 years. He's been a huge drag racing fan for years, once won a charity drag race at the NHRA Winston Invitational, and has been known to race from pit to pit to inhale the exhaust fumes from Alcohol Funny Cars.
Bob Post is professor of history at the University of Maryland and author of High Performance: The Culture and Technology of Drag Racing, due to appear in a revised 50th-anniversary edition in spring 2001. As curator of transportation at the Smithsonian Institution, he was responsible for inducting Don Garlits' Swamp Rat XXX into its hallowed halls, where it has been on display since 1987.
John Raffa has an extensive background in drag racing publishing, having served as Editor/Publisher of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated Magazine, Managing Editor/Editor/Publisher of Car Craft Magazine, and Editor-In-Chief of National DRAGSTER. He currently is Director of Communications for Norwalk Raceway Park and a contributor to Drag Racing Online. Raffa participated in his first drag race 50 years ago in Hagerstown, Md., as a member of D.C. Dragons Hot Rod Club, won the Top Eliminator title at Capitol Raceway Park in August 1964 in the Beavers-Stoinoff Fuel Altered Roadster, and set Top Speed at the 1967 NHRA Winternationals Press Race.
Greg Sharp was called "the rod and custom trivia king" by Rod and Custom magazine and the Goodguys Gazette called him "one of the most knowledgeable hot rod historians on the planet." He's participated in all forms of hot rodding, from racing at Bonneville to judging custom car shows all over the country. He's best know for the hundreds of articles he has written for numerous automotive magazines. His subjects have ranged from a history of "America's Most Beautiful Roadster" to personality profiles for the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame. He has been employed by NHRA since 1995, and serves as Curator of the NHRA Motorsport Museum.
Geoff Stunkard is a full-time freelance photojournalist. Formerly the editor of IHRA's Drag Review magazine, he has been published extensively in the automotive media, particularly in the area of drag racing history. He is currently working with Shirley Muldowney on her autobiography. From 1993 to 1997, he published Quarter Milestones, a quarterly magazine devoted to drag racing history and memorabilia.
Todd Veney has been a drag racing fan for more than 30 years, since he began attending events with his dad, racer Ken Veney. Todd was a full-time NHRA employee and National DRAGSTER writer from the time he graduated college in 1988 until 1999. For the past two years, he has been a freelance writer, contributing mainly to National DRAGSTER. He also is a racer, and will drive a Federal-Mogul Funny Car this season for the Pittsburgh-based J&B Motorsports team.
Rick Voegelin has been a motorsports journalist and public relations professional throughout his career. Born and raised in car-crazy Southern California, he selected colleges based on their proximity to race tracks. Voegelin was feature editor and editor of Car Craft magazine from 1972 through 1979. In 1980 he founded High Performance Communications, a marketing, public relations, and advertising agency specializing in motorsports and automotive accounts. He has authored more than 1,000 articles and books on racing and high-performance engines, and enjoyed a semi-successful career as the owner of a Super Modified Camaro.
Steve Waldron has served in several capacities in his 11 years with National DRAGSTER. He quickly moved from copy editor to assistant editor and became an associate editor in 1991. He was named senior editor in 1994 and has served as specialty publications editor since 1997. A 1979 graduate of Cal Poly Pomona, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications, he worked as sports editor for a large group of community newspapers in Southern California's South Orange County for several years before joining the National DRAGSTER staff in 1989.
Dave Wallace is a second-generation drag racing journalist and one of the sport's most respected historians. The Dave Wallace byline has been appearing for 40 years. His father, Dave Sr., began the streak as San Fernando (Calif.) Raceway's correspondent to Drag News. Dave Jr. succeeded his namesake in 1965, moved to Lions in 1968, became editor of Drag News in 1975, joined Hot Rod in 1977, and launched Petersen's Drag Racing magazine in 1984. Now 51, "Young Dave" covers nostalgia racing for Speedvision Online and Drag Racing Online, publishes the Hot Rod Nostalgia magalog, and presides over Good Communications Inc., a motorsports ad agency. He's still chasing front-engined fuelers.
Danny White is the Research Editor and a columnist for www.draglist.com, responsible for gathering all past and present drag racing statistics from newspapers, magazines, books, and the Internet. White bracket races at Paris Dragstrip in Texas and is building an NHRA Stock class car. He also serves as a freelance photojournalist.