Don Garlits' net worth, age, family: Is he the best drag racer ever?

Don Garlits' net worth, age, family: Is he the best drag racer ever?

Kenneth Mwenda
updated at September 10, 2023 at 2:27 PM

Drag racing is an adrenaline-pumping sport that has captivated fans for decades, and few names in the history of drag racing resonate as loudly as that of Don Garlits. Known as "Big Daddy," Garlits has been a dominant force on the track and a pivotal figure in shaping the sport itself.

Don Garlits' age
Don Garlits during a ceremony at Pomona Raceway, November 11, 2001, in Pomona, California. Photo: Bob Riha
Source: Getty Images

His influence extends beyond the roar of the engines and the thrill of speed; it reaches into the fabric of drag racing culture and history. This article scopes into his life and career, answering the question that has been on the minds of drag racing fans for years: Is Don Garlits the best drag racer ever?

Profile summary


Donald Glenn Garlits


Big Daddy




91 years old (as of September 2023)

Date of birth

January 14, 1932

Place of birth

Tampa, Florida, USA

Current residence

Ocala, Florida, USA






Professional Drag Racer, Innovator, Museum Owner

Net worth

$15 Million

Marital status



Lisa Crigar (Married in 2015), Pat Garlits (Deceased; first marriage lasted over 60 years)

Political involvement

1994 Republican Nominee for the 5th Congressional District in Florida

Known for

Revolutionizing drag racing, including inventing the first rear-engine dragster


Inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, among many others


Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida

Is Don Garlits still alive?

Contrary to what you might expect for someone his age, Don Garlits is alive and still a force to reckon with in the drag racing world. In 2019, at 87, he set a new quarter-mile speed record, driving a battery-powered dragster at an astonishing 189.03 mph.

This record is proof that not only is he still alive, but he is also still setting standards in the sport. He shows no signs of slowing down, literally and metaphorically.

How old is Don Garlits?

Born on January 14, 1932, Don Garlits' age is 91 years (as of September 2023), making him one of the oldest living legends in the sport. The longevity of his career is extraordinary, particularly in a physically demanding and dangerous sport.

He kicked off his professional career in the mid-1950s and has not looked back since. His resilience and longevity are not only inspiring but also underline his unmatched skill and dedication to the sport.

Don Garlits' net worth

Is Don Garlits still alive?
Don "Big Daddy" Garlits' AA/Fuel dragster competes in the 14th annual National Hot Rod Association Nationals held on September 2, 1968, at Indianapolis Raceway Park in Clermont, Indiana. Photo: Alvis Upitis
Source: Getty Images

With an eye-popping net worth of $15 million, the former driver is a testament to the financial success that can be achieved in drag racing. This impressive figure is the result of years of triumphs on the track and a knack for innovation in a sport that is forever evolving.

He has made a remarkable fortune from racing and his ventures outside the track, including the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing. His financial stature gives younger racers a benchmark for success in this competitive sport.

Don Garlits' photos

From historical archives to social media, photos of Don Garlits tell the story of a lifetime dedicated to drag racing. These images document his championships, accidents, innovations, and personal moments.

They serve as a testament to his enduring influence and contribution to drag racing. Whether it is photos of him with his self-built cars or standing on the winner's podium, every picture is a piece of history in the world of drag racing.

Don Garlits' family

Don Garlits photos
Don Garlits and his wife Pat attend the Great Sports Legends Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria on September 27, 2005, in New York City. Photo: Brad Barket
Source: Getty Images

Family has always been a big part of Don Garlits' life. His marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Pat, lasted for more than six decades. After Pat's passing, he found love again and married Lisa Crigar in 2015.

This second marriage is also significant because he decided to share the joyous occasion with the public by holding the wedding at his museum. Clearly, family has been his rock and his sanctuary through the highs and lows of his career.

Is Don Garlits still married?

As of the most recent information, Don Garlits is still married to Lisa Crigar. With this second marriage, he seems to have found happiness once again, blending a family with his lifelong passion for drag racing.

Is Don Garlits the best drag racer?

Whether Don Garlits is the best drag racer is subjective, but his records do the talking. With 17 championships and 144 national events won, he is indisputably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, drag racers of all time.

His influence extends beyond just winning races; he has revolutionised car designs and safety measures in drag racing. In summary, his contributions to the sport have made him a legend, worthy of the title of "the best."

Don Garlits' career stats

If numbers could speak, Don Garlits would already be heralded as one of the greatest drag racers ever. Over his long and illustrious career, he has won ten American Hot Rod Association championships, four International Hot Rod Association championships, and three National Hot Rod Association championships.

Remarkably, he won his last championship at the age of 54, showing that age did not diminish his racing prowess. His stats speak volumes about his skill, innovation, and unmatched track record.

Political involvement in 1994

Don Garlits is not just a name that resonates in the world of drag racing; he also ventured into the political arena. In 1994, he was the Republican nominee for Florida's 5th Congressional District. Although he did not win the seat, his involvement in politics showcased his desire to make an impact beyond the racetrack.

This political stint added another layer to his multi-faceted personality, illustrating that Garlits is a man of many talents and interests. It also further solidified his standing as a noteworthy figure not just in sports but in public life as well.

Where does Don Garlits live?

He calls Ocala, Florida, home. He not only resides there but also operates the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in the area.

His home and museum serve as a mecca for drag racing enthusiasts who travel far and wide to glimpse into the life and career of this remarkable individual. Living close to his museum allows him to be intricately involved in the preservation of the sport's history.

Why do they call Don Garlits "Big Daddy" in drag racing?

Don Garlits' career stats
Don "Big Daddy" Garlits in his Wynn's Charger Top Fuel Dragster in the mid-1960s. Photo: ISC Archives
Source: Getty Images

The nickname "Big Daddy" aptly encapsulates who Don Garlits is—a father figure of drag racing. Since his career's inception in the 1950s, he has been a guiding light for the sport.

The invention of the first successful rear-engined dragster was a revolutionary act that solved numerous safety issues. It was not just a nickname; it was a title earned through years of dedication, innovation, and love for the sport.

Don Garlits' storied career has been decorated with numerous accolades and awards, attesting to his immense contribution to the world of drag racing. One of the crowning achievements of his career was his induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. This honour is bestowed upon those who have made significant and lasting contributions to motorsports, encompassing all forms of racing.

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Kenneth Mwenda photo
Kenneth Mwenda
Kenneth Mwenda is a business and sports writer with over five years of experience. At Sportsbrief, he contributes to writing biographies and listicles.