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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Hill Among Class of Eight Inducted
into Motorsports Hall Of Fame

By NHRA Communications

Eddie Hill at Gainesville in his most recent NHRA season. Photo by Brian Wood
Eddie Hill at Gainesville in his most recent NHRA season. Photo by Brian Wood

GLENDORA, Calif. - Legendary drag racing icon Eddie Hill, who last fall was named the 14th greatest driver in NHRA's Top 50 drivers list, highlights the 2002 induction class into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Novi, Mich.

The 2002 Motorsports Hall of Fame inductions will take place June 12 at the State Theatre in Detroit. Hill's induction class also includes the late Dale Earnhardt, two-time Indy 500 champion Gordon Johncock, open-wheel pioneer Gaston Chevrolet, race engine designer Fred Offenhauser, sports car champion Brian Redman, motorcycle road racing star Eddie Lawson, and stunt pilot Paul Mantz. The class of eight will join the 122 racers already enshrined in the Motorsports Hall of Fame.

"It's so much more satisfying to get this award now than posthumously," said Hill. "This way I'll be able to enjoy it. Honestly, it was a sobering moment when they called and told me I was being inducted along with some of the people I admired most growing up. It gives you reason to pause for a moment and reflect that maybe some good was accomplished along the way."

Whether on asphalt, water or two wheels, Hill proved to be a success at each phase of motorsports in which he competed, evidenced by his 86 career victories in drag racing on both land and water.

Hill is one of the most personable drivers of all time and is a true fan favorite. Photo by Brian Wood
Hill is one of the most personable drivers of all time and a true fan favorite.
Photo by Brian Wood

Hill tasted success early and often in his career, winning with his home-built Model-T framed dragster powered by an Oldsmobile V-8 in 1956. In 1958, the Texas A&M engineering graduate, set the Texas elapsed time record when he sped his Pontiac-powered dragster to a 9.93 second pass. Two years later, Hill traveled west to match race drag racing pioneer Jack Chrisman at Inyokern, Calif. Hill made four passes in excess of 160 mph and set the B/Gas dragster record at 163.04 mph.

Hill built his first Top Fuel dragster in 1963, and built two more before he took a hiatus from the drag strip in 1966 following a horrifying engine fire at Green Valley Race City in Smithfield, Texas. After walking away from the quarter mile, Hill opened up a motorcycle dealership in Wichita Falls, Texas, which he still manages today, and soon thereafter, he became involved in various forms of motorcycle competition.

In 1971, Hill outran the factory-supported Kawasaki riders in Daytona with his home-built bike and recorded an opening speed of 151 mph. He became the Texas road-racing champion 1972 and continued racing motorcycles until 1974. However, after dominating the circuit and collecting more than 100 trophies from his stint in two-wheeled competition it was time for a new challenge.

From the day he set his eyes on drag-boat racing, Hill quickly developed a passion for speed on water. Success was immediate for Hill, winning his first time out and setting the class speed record in only his third race. In September of 1982, Hill found himself among an elite group as a member of the Guiness Book of World Records after becoming the fastest quarter-mile boat racer when he clocked a speed of 229 mph. The record stood for 10 years. From 1978-84, Hill's all-white boats ruled the liquid drag strip. In seven years, he won 55 of the 103 events in which he competed, including the prestigious NDBA Nationals four times.

Eddie carried the American Eagle with him on his final NHRA tour. Photo by Brian Wood
Eddie carried the American Eagle with him on his final NHRA tour. Photo by Brian Wood

Hill retired from boat racing in October 1984 after a severe crash at Firebird Lake, outside of Phoenix, that left him with seven broken bones, a concussion, injuries to his eyes, and multiple cuts and contusions. It was this that led him back to the asphalt and concrete quarter mile. He debuted in Top Fuel at the 1985 Mile-High Nationals in Denver and struggled for a year before advancing to his first final round in at the 1986 Mile-High Nationals.

It was in 1988 that he was on track to becoming one of the premier names in the sport of drag racing when he signed a major sponsorship deal with Super Shops and Pennzoil and went on to set numerous elapsed time and speed records. He captured the first of his 15 career NHRA national events victories at the 1988 Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. Hill reached the pinnacle of his drag racing career in 1993 when he won six events en route to claiming his first and only NHRA Top Fuel championship. Hill still remains the oldest winner of an NHRA national event, when at 60 he was victorious at the 1996 Mile-High Nationals.

Eligibility for induction into the Hall of Fame is available to anyone who has driven, piloted, ridden, owned, designed, built, supported, maintained, prepared, or promoted organized vehicles in pursuit of speed, distance, endurance, or other records: or in racing, endurance or other competition. To be eligible, an inductee must have been retired for at least three years or must have been engaged at the top of his or her specific field for at least 20 years.

The Motorsports Museum & Hall of Fame is operated by the Motorsports Museum and Hall of Fame of America Foundation Inc., a non-profit corporation. The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is located within the Novi Expo Center, I-96 at Novi Road (Exit 162), in the Detroit suburb of Novi, Mich. The museum spotlights more than 40 racing and high performance vehicles. The constantly changing collection features racers from the world of Indy cars, stock cars, Can Am, Trans Am, sprint cars, powerboats, truck racing, drag racing, motorcycles, air racing and even snowmobiles. Among the highlights are the last-ever Novi Special Indy car, Art Arfons' Green Monster jet car, and Winston Cup cars driven by Dale Jarrett, Darrell Waltrip, and Cale Yarborough.

Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., the NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. It presents 23 national events through its NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. The NHRA has more than 80,000 members nationwide and more than 130 member tracks. The NHRA-sanctioned sportsman and bracket racing series' provide competition opportunities for drivers of all levels. The NHRA develops the stars of tomorrow by offering the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, NHRA Summit Racing Series, NHRA Summit Sport Compact Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Street Legal Program. The NHRA also offers the NHRA Castrol GTX Jr. Drag Racing League for youths ages 8 to 17.

NHRA Communications

 

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