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Motor Racing : Driver of Year: Dale Earnhardt by a Landslide

November 19, 1987|Shav Glick

Stock car champion Dale Earnhardt of Mooresville, N.C., was a nearly unanimous selection as automobile racing's American driver of the year in balloting by racing writers.

Earnhardt, 35, won his second straight NASCAR Winston Cup championship after a remarkable start in which he won 11 of the season's first 22 races. Although Earnhardt has not won since, with one race remaining Sunday in Atlanta, he clinched the championship and its $300,000 bonus last month.

Earnhardt is the 12th NASCAR driver in 21 years to win the award. He succeeds Bobby Rahal, the 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner, who won his second straight Indy car series championship this year. Earnhardt received every vote but one.

Drag racer Bob Glidden of Whiteland, Ind., was the only other driver named in the balloting. Glidden was the fastest qualifier in the pro stock class in all 14 National Hot Rod Assn. championship events and when he won the Winston Finals two weeks ago at Pomona it was a record eighth win in a season.

In a separate vote on performance during the fourth quarter of the racing season, Indy car driver Michael Andretti, who won two of the last three races and was runner-up to Rahal for the championship, was a runaway selection.

Andretti got 70 votes to 51 for Bill Elliott, 38 for Glidden, 34 for Rahal, 18 for Jochen Maas, winner of the International Motor Sports Assn. Grand Prix in Del Mar, and 15 for Trans-Am champion Scott Pruett. Others receiving votes included Earnhardt, drag racers Dick LaHaie, Mark Oswald and Darrell Gwynn and World of Outlaws sprint car champion Steve Kinser.

Logos, decals and patches have become almost as much a part of the motor racing scene as wheels, wings and even drivers.

A couple of decades ago, if a person at a race track was wearing, for instance a Goodyear or Firestone jacket, you could be reasonably sure that person worked for the company. No more. Bill Dredge and Andy Granatelli changed that concept forever when they began handing out STP stickers, decals and even T-shirts and jackets to promote their product in the late 1960s.

Jackets, shirts and carry-all bags with names of sponsors splashed across them became so popular with fans that it spawned a cottage industry within the racing fraternity. Many teams now help finance their racing season by selling everything imaginable--all with the sponsor's logo--at the race track.

Now Don Garlits, drag racing's Big Daddy, is carrying the idea to another plateau.

Garlits, along with marketing man Carl Schiefer and car builder Carroll Shelby, is introducing a 1988 model car--the Garlits Supercharger--which will have corporate logos on both sides, right off the assembly line.

"We believe that the type of person anxious to purchase a high-performance car would also be proud to display the same logos that Garlits has on his dragster," Schiefer said.

The car, unveiled Wednesday at the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Assn. show in Las Vegas, will be based on a Chrysler body chassis and powered by a 2.2 liter engine. It will weigh approximately 2,400 pounds.

"We wanted to develop a high-performance car for the working person," Garlits said. "In this way, I feel it is the best way for me to share my experience of performance with the American public."

The car will be manufactured by Shelby Automobiles Inc. in Santa Fe Springs and is expected to list at around $14,000. The first orders will be taken in January at the National Automobile Dealers Assn. show in San Francisco.

Garlits, 55, has been in semi-retirement since his streamlined top-fuel dragster, Swamp Rat XXXI, was destroyed in a crash Aug. 21 at Spokane, Wash.

"The car was a total loss," Garlits said. "I plan to spend all of 1988 working on my movie, "Big Daddy," and promoting the new car. Then I'll take a look at 1989 and decide if I'll come back to racing. I'm definitely not retired. I just have other interests at the moment."

Garlits' Swamp Rat XXX, in which he won the 1986 NHRA world championship and broke the 270-m.p.h. barrier, was enshrined in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D. C., last month.

The Swamp Rat insignia will also be on the new car, appearing on the hub caps and the head rests.

SPRINT CARS--The 10th annual Don Peabody Classic, final race on the Parnelli Jones Firestone-California Racing Assn. schedule, will be run Saturday night at Ascot Park. Brad Noffsinger and Mike Sweeney will race for the 1987 championship in the 50-lap main event but the race has also attracted a number of prominent outside drivers such as Jac Haudenschild, John Andretti, Ron Shuman, Rick Hood and Brent Kaeding. Four-time Peabody winner Bubby Jones left his brief retirement and will drive the Kazarian Bros. car in an attempt to win his fifth season finale. Noffsinger holds a 75-point lead over Sweeney in defense of his championship. A maximum of 115 points will be available Saturday night.

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