HomeCar CultureLifestyleDon Garlits, John Morton featured at upcoming race weekends

Don Garlits, John Morton featured at upcoming race weekends


Not only will drag racers make their debut at Laguna Seca during the Nitro Revival portion of track’s Spring Classic vintage car and motorcycle exhibition weekend May 18-20, but the chance to take part in such a historic event will lure Don “Big Daddy” Garlits and his Swamp Rat III from Florida to northern California.

Garlits, a 17-time champion and widely acclaimed as the top drag racer in National Hot Rod Association history, was an innovative pioneer both in speed and safety. When an accident in his Swamp Rat XIII claimed part of one of his feet in 1970, Garlits built the first competitive rear-engine dragster. His Swamp Rat XXX became the first dragster to exceed 270 mph in a quarter-mile, and it went from the drag strip to the permanent collection of The Smithsonian.

Garlits, 86, will take part in a meet-and-greet with fans, and also will “cackle” his famed dragster as part of a “Line of Fire” event.

According to Laguna Seca, other famed drag racers participating include “TV Tommy” Ivo, Marvin Graham, Ed “the Ace” McCulloch, Richard Tharp, and others.

Don Garlits, John Morton featured at upcoming race weekends
John Morton and his Datsun racer | HSR photo

Morton is grand marshal for the Mitty

The Datsun and Nissan brands will be featured at the 41st Mitty vintage races scheduled for April 26-29 at Road Atlanta, so it’s fitting that the grand marshal for the Historic Sportscar Racing-sanctioned, Classic Motorsports magazine-sponsored event is John Morton.

Among the highlights of Morton’s more than 40-year racing career were the 1970-72 seasons when he drove a Datsun 510 to a pair of Sports Car club of America 2.5-liter Trans-Am championships and also claimed two SCCA C-Production national titles in a Datsun 240Z, and all of that done in Brock Racing Enterprises team colors.

More than a dozen years later, Morton was part of the team that dominated IMSA’s GTP class in Nissan ZX-Turbos.

Morton, who raced for Shelby America before joining Nissan, still does vintage racing and has competed several times in HSR competition.

As part of being the featured marque at the Mitty, Nissan will display several vehicles from its heritage collection, including the 510 Morton raced in the ‘70s.

Road America sets 2018 calendar

The Road America racing circuit in Wisconsin has announced its 2018 racing schedule, which includes several vintage racing events.

The SVRA Spring Vintage Festival Weekend is scheduled for May 18-20. The Road America Vintage MotoFest and AHRMA Vintage Motorcycle Classic dates are June 1-3 and the WeatherTech International Challenge with Brian Redman is July 19-22. The year ends September 14-16 with the Ariens Art on Wheels Weekend featuring the VSCDA Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival.

The July event will feature historic Can-Am and Trans Am racers as well as a concours d’elegance in downtown Elkhart Lake.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. In January I had meet Don Garlits at the Mecum auction in Kissimee Flordia. He was moving a little slow but was a pleasure to talk with him. I said to him I was looking forward to him try to set a record again, this time in a electric dragster. At his age and still going and wanting to keep going fast. I wish him a great time in California . He is one of the all time racers.


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