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Drag Racing’s launch pad period in 1959 that set the stage for the greatest year in the sports history


The idea for this story cam from an article in the April 2008 issue of Hot Rod Magazine written by Dave Wallace entitled "Forward March."  It focused on the fact that March 2008 was the 50th running of what is simply referred to now in drag racing circles as the "March Meet."  Included were some wonderful photographs from the very first race, March Meet 1, held in March of 1959, and included pictures of the race's biggest attraction, Don Garlits.  

I happened to be at that race. The memories began flowing as I worked my way through the article and pictures. However, it wasn't until I got to the photo on page 146 showing Don Garlits pushing to the line for a race at Kingdon Drag Strip in Lodi, California that I recalled the events of that March in 1959 and just how significant they were to the history of drag racing. As Dave Wallace so aptly pointed out in the caption, "This day, March 15, 1959, was when California started taking Don Garlits seriously." That picture is included on page 36 thanks to Walt Huff.

It was then that I decided this story had to be written. What started out as a response to Dave's article, ended up as a full blown account, and would include all the incredible events of that year. 1959 is widely considered among drag race fans as the greatest year in drag racing history.

What was so great about that first race was that we all knew (we being Southern California race fans) just how big this event was going to be! Although we had heard about him, none of us had ever laid eyes on this guy. Don Garlits was somehow enticed to come all the way from Tampa, Florida, to compete against the top dogs on the West coast. We later learned that big enticer was money..

We didn't know how March Meet 1 would turn out, why it became the fuel for the transformation of the Garlits' race car, Swamp Rat 1, and all the action that transpired over the next few weeks. That three-week period, March 1 through March 22, caused quite a stir, to put it mildly. It created a string of events among the top fuel drag racers that carried through the year all the way to a much-needed and highly anticipated showdown in December.

Enjoy this most incredible journey which I witnessed and have had the pleasure of writing about. It was a time of drag racing history that can never be duplicated. What a year!

This is a soft-covered book, 8 ½ by 11 inches in size, with 83 pages. The photos in the book are both black and White and in color. Some of the pictures are old and a little grainy but they do tell a unique story. The book is published by Michael Bryant

Contributing Photographers & Fact Finders Include:

Don Garlits
Dave Wallace
Doug Peterson
Don Ewald
Steve Justice
Lee Schelin
Gary Bennett
Bob Van Luven
Steve Gibbs
Dave Beck
Walt Huff
Bill Butler
Ron Johnson
Bud Hammer
Catherine Horne
Terry Wilson
Tom Pietro



Pictures from the Book

Pic 3


Don Garlits powers down the track at March Meet 1 in 1959

Pic 1


Garlits car in his Pit Area at Bakersfield March Meet 1

Pic 2


The Streamliner, car of the famous Jocko Johnson and to this day the most beautiful dragster ever built 

Pic 4


The former world record holder - Chrisman-Cannon Hustler 1

The book can be ordered from

The cost is 20.00 + S&H 

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