Garlits, Muldowney green-light 4-wide

April, 15, 2011

CONCORD, N.C. -- Big Daddy wonders: What's the big deal?

NHRA legend Don Garlits loves the four-wide drag racing at zMax Dragway, but it's nothing new to him. For Garlits, he's been there, done that.

"I raced a lot of four-wide," Garlits said. "We put four Top Fuelers on the track at the same time years ago. It was a novelty back in the 1960s. It was exciting, but this is much faster."

Garlits is one of the former NHRA stars attending several events this year as part of the NHRA's 60-year anniversary. Three-time Top Fuel champion Shirley Muldowney also is at zMax this weekend.

Both of them said they wish they could turn back the clock and race in the Four-Wide Nationals this weekend.

"Absolutely, I would," Muldowney said. "I never raced four-wide, so I might have a problem getting used to it. I relied on the feel and the sound of my car. I might have a problem hearing it with four cars out there."

Last year's inaugural Four-Wide Nationals was the first four-wide event since the NHRA went to a national championship points system in 1974.

Garlits, who won three Top Fuel titles between 1975 and 1985, had no problem racing four-wide back in the day when it was done a few times as a special event.

"Only the winner got timed," Garlits said. "But we only had eight cars. It didn't catch on because we didn't have enough cars."

They also didn't have the safety measures the drivers have today.

"We had no walls in the center and no walls on the outside," Garlits said. "We didn't even have guardrails, just grass and hay bales."

The old-school four-wide shows also didn't have any starting lights. The second Four-Wide Nationals this weekend features a new LED lighting system that is easier for the drivers to see when all four cars have staged.

"We just had a flagman out there," Garlits said. "These lights here look a little tricky, but I'd like to try it. It would be a lot of fun."

Garlits, 79, was voted No. 1 of the NHRA's Top 50 Drivers for the first 50 years of the series. Muldowney, 71, was voted No. 5.

Garlits just shakes his head when he looks at the plush zMax Dragway and compares it to drag racing 50 years ago.

"When I started, drag racers were considered just black-leather-jacket hoodlums racing in school zones," Garlits said. "Now look where we are.

"This place just boggles my mind. I've never seen anything like it. It shows how far drag racing has come."

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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