Will be honored at International Drag Racing Hall of Fame Induction Dinner
Ocala, Fla.(January 9, 2017) – Eileen Daniels, one of drag racing’s most beloved individuals – man or woman – has been named by Don Garlits to be the recipient of the Patricia Garlits Memorial Award for 2017. The award – honoring Don Garlits’ late wife Pat – specifically honors a woman involved with drag racing who has exhibited a lifetime of selfless devotion to the growth and betterment of the sport. Ms. Daniels is the fourth woman to be honored with this award, which began in 2013.
MOPAR Performance (Auburn Hills, Mich.), the performance parts arm of MOPAR, Chrysler Group LLC service, parts and customer-care group of Fiat-Chrysler America, is the sponsor of the award. Dale Aldo, MOPAR Performance Motorsports Manager, who oversees implementation of the current motorsports plan at MOPAR and maintaining a connection to the MOPAR Motorsport legacy, will be presenting the award to Ms. Daniels.
Garlits, President of the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing (Ocala, Fla.), one of drag racing’s most prolific racers and recognized names, said, “Eileen Daniels was one of Pat’s closest friends, and she was there for Pat and me during the difficult times at the end of Pat’s life. Her contributions to the sport, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with her late husband Bob, have made the sport better in so many ways. She richly deserves this tribute, and I am pleased to be able to do so.”
“I am so honored, indeed privileged, to be selected to receive this honor,” said Ms. Daniels, from her home in Leesburg, Fla. “Pat Garlits was one of my dearest and closest friends, in the sport and outside of it. I am so very pleased that Don has honored me in such a special way. It is one of my proudest moments.”
Daniels is a native of Marysville, Ohio, and has been an active participant in the growth of drag racing since she married her late husband, Bob at the age of 18. As a pioneer female racer, she raced with Bob in their 1932 Ford, and later a modified Fiat.
Wally Parks, the founder of the National Hot Rod Association liked what he saw in Bob, and hired him as one of the early employees of the NHRA, serving as the first director for the NHRA’s Division 3. Eileen and Bob worked as a team setting up race tracks and operating events across the Division 3 territory, which then encompassed Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin, plus Eastern Canada – Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime Provinces. While Bob was the visible face of the NHRA to the racers, track operators and promoters in the division, Eileen was the solid back up support – handling much of the administrative and clerical duties.
Later, when the NHRA purchased the Indianapolis Raceway Park facility (Claremont, Ind.) in 1979, the Daniels “team” took over the operations of the facility, and expanded their horizons to include working with the United States Auto Club (USAC) with the weekly open wheel (Sprint Cars, Midgets) racing at the 5/8-mile oval, plus NASCAR’s Kroger 200 Busch Grand National race held the night before the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They also worked with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) for road racing events at the track. Again, Eileen’s office management skills made her husband’s job of overall facility management much more effective.
After retiring to Florida in 1997, the Daniels team was asked to help organize a premier event for the growing nostalgia drag racing market. Using the tools that had served them so well in the past, the pair worked with the NHRA and the Wally Parks/NHRA Motorsports Museum to create what is now known as the NHRA “Hot Rod Reunion” events. Eileen also worked on the NASCAR race’s hospitality programs until the race moved to the Speedway.
After Bob’s passing in 2007, Eileen continued her role in the reunion events, and has become anointed with the unofficial title of “Den Mother” to the many racers who participate in the events across the country. Today, she remains actively involved, hosting the “Legends” tents at events, plus organizing the historic drag car displays at the NHRA Gatornationals (Gainesville, Fla.) and the US Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
The NHRA awarded Eileen a “Wally” trophy (the same which National event winners receive) upon her retirement after 40 years in 1997, and she shared several other awards with Bob from the NHRA in honor of their support and dedication. In 2001, she and Bob were inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame. The Indianapolis Raceway Park named the hospitality center as the “Daniels Hospitality Center.” She was named a Kentucky Colonel (the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s highest individual honor) in 2011, and has been inducted into several other Halls of Fame.
In November 2016, Eileen was honored by the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame with the title of “International Ambassador” in honor of her long career on behalf of the sport – helping to propagate it in North America, plus Great Britain, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Ms. Daniels will be honored at the 27th annual International Drag Racing Hall of Fame Banquet presented by Lucas Oil Products, to be held on Thursday, March 16th, 2017 in Gainesville, Fla. at the Wyndham Garden Hotel Gainesville.