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Monday, December 29
Updated: January 20, 7:50 PM ET
Lingenfelter was racer, builder
By Bill Stephens

He was a man whose entire life was centered on high performance and head-to-head competition. Whether he was on the dragstrip, where he enjoyed the exhilaration of aggressively battling a single opponent, or on a test track taking on a multitude of adversaries in one of his mega-tweaked creations in a Top Speed Shootout, John Lingenfelter loved to go fast. It was his passion.

On Christmas evening last week, the 58-year-old race driver and horsepower guru died at Adams County Memorial Hospital near his home in Decatur, Ind., from complications suffered after a racing accident in Pomona, Calif., in 2002. Tragically, his death was not a direct result of the injuries he suffered in the crash, which occurred during the NHRA's Mazda Sport Compact World Finals at the Fairplex, but from a serious reaction to medication he received prior to surgery.

Lingenfelter was a modern day Merlin in the engine shop, where for much of his adult life he devoted his time to extracting enormous amounts of power from all manner of production engines. Lingenfelter Performance Engineering has been responsible for the birth of some of the most wickedly fast production-based automobiles ever built, many of which competed and usually prevailed in Top Speed Shootouts conducted by various automotive publications including Car & Driver and Road & Track. Late model Chevy Corvettes and Dodge Vipers were a specialty and speeds of well over 200 mph were commonplace in Lingenfelter-modified sports cars.

In NHRA competition, he was a former two-time winner of the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis in the Competition Eliminator category in 1978 and 1986, and in 1998, moved to the then-new Pro Stock Truck class, where he finished second in the championship points.

Among his other career milestones, he won 13 NHRA national events in Competiton Eliminator, was the first driver in that sportsman category to run in the 6-second bracket, and had scored one of the quickest elapsed times ever recorded in a four-cylinder automobile when he charged to a 7.08 timeslip in his Summit Racing Cavalier.

His ready smile and low-key personality made him a popular and familiar figure at the many racing events he attended. The entire drag racing community feels his loss, especially at a time of year when the joy of the holidays and the traditions shared by families and friends take center stage.

John Lingenfelter's energy and enthusiasm for high performance and cars which accelerate our heartbeat will truly be missed. He is survived by his wife, Cynthia, and his two daughters Kerri Ann and Kelly Jo.

Bill Stephens covers the NHRA for ESPN and

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