Bill 'Grumpy' Jenkins dead at 81

Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins, who helped build the NHRA Pro Stock class with his innovations of the internal combustion engine, died Thursday. He was 81.

Despite earning only 13 NHRA victories, Jenkins was voted No. 8 among NHRA greatest racers, in a 2001 experts poll, because of his contributions to the advancement of normally aspirated engines.

"Everyone at NHRA is saddened by the passing of Bill ''Grumpy'' Jenkins," NHRA president Tom Compton said in a press release. "Not only was he a pioneer in the sport, but also an iconic figure in NHRA Pro Stock racing.

"He was there from the beginning, playing an integral role in the formation of Pro Stock, and remained involved in NHRA for decades. His presence and trademark gruff exterior and cigar will be missed but never forgotten at the starting line at NHRA events."

Jenkins developed drag racing's first dry-sump oiling system, the first kick-out oil pans and Pro Stock's strut-style front suspension, gas port pistons, slick-shift manual transmissions and the electric water-pump fan.

Jenkins was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Novi, Mich., in 1996 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2008.