54. ROMEO PALAMIDES-BOB SMITH
The best-running of the early jet dragsters was Romeo Palamides’ “Untouchable” with Bob Smith at the wheel. On April 29, 1962, the late Glenn Leasher wheeled Palamides’ jet to the first six-second time in drag racing with a 6.99/207.36 at Fremont Raceway. Bob Smith took over the wheel in January of 1963 and in his first start with Palamides took on Gary Gabelich aboard Bill Frederick’s “Valkyrie” in the first ever jet match race. Gabelich won both heats of their historic Bakersfield get together. Smith set the Drag News Standard 1320 Unlimited dragster mark with a 6.87/240.00 run at Erie, Pa. in July of ’63 after losing earlier on March 31 to “TV Tommy” Ivo at San Gabriel in the first ever jet vs. fuel dragster match. For a few years afterwards, Smith and Palamides match raced fuel dragsters and other jets with about an 80-90 percent win rate.
55. HERB PARKS
The North Jackson, Ohio, tuner made his bones as a crew chief/assistant for Don Garlits, serving in that position for most of the 1980s. He was onboard in all three of Garlits’ mid-1980s Indy wins. As a driver, Parks was a face in the crowd. The only standout efforts came at the 1976 U.S. Nationals where he qualified unexpectedly for Top Fuel with a 5.96/243.90. A month later he set the Quaker City/Salem, Ohio, track record at a 6.21/234.37 while winning an eight-car show.
56. FRANK PEDREGON
Frank Pedregon, popularly known as “the Flaming Mexican,” belongs in the same category with “Wild” Willie Borsch or “Jungle Jim” Liberman -- a wildly, exciting driver that didn’t do much in hot rod associations competition. In fact, “didn’t do much” means no known wins. However, what he did do was become the first drag racer of note to actually set ablaze the rear tires on his “Taco Taster” AA/Modified Fuel Coupe at the beginning of a run. He turned this feat into an act and in 1965 toured the West Coast (Canada to California) with it. After he crashed it, he drove in Top Fuel, most notably Joe Winters’ “Swinger I” and the “Royal Canadian, wrapping up his career at the end of the 1969 season.
57. HERM PETERSEN
Petersen was a better than average driver out of Poulsbo, Washington. Partnered with Sam Fitz, he won the 1972 PDA Meet Top Fuel title, the 1973 NHRA Gatornationals Top Fuel crown, and is the answer to a reasonably tough trivia answer, “Who was runner-up to the record-setting Don Garlits at the 1975 NHRA Supernationals?” Petersen was also the 1974 NHRA Division 6 Top Fuel champion, this coming after his being burned in a serious half-track rollover at Orange County in mid-1973.
58. SETTO POSTOIAN
Michigander Serop “Setto” Postoian will be famous if for nothing else that he was the first racer to refer to Don Garlits as the “Swamp Rat.” Postoian was one of the better drivers in the Midwest, taking back-to-back Cordova World Series of Drag Racing Top Eliminator titles in 1957 and 1958, beating Garlits and John Bradley respectively. He retired in 1958 or 1959 after suffering injuries in a Top Fuel crash.
59. DON PRUDHOMME
Is there anyone who doesn’t know why he’s here? Four NHRA Funny Car World Championships, 49 national event wins (35 in Funny Car, 14 in Top Fuel), first Funny Car driver in the fives, first with a legit 250-mph, four AHRA Funny Car world titles, etc., etc. etc.