Another of drag racing’s founding fathers is gone.
Art Chrisman, the man who made the first pass at NHRA’s first national event, died Tuesday. He was 86. Chrisman was also one of the five charter members of the Bonneville 200-mph Club, piloting Chet Herbert’s Beast streamliner past the 200-mph mark in 1952 — three years before that historic NHRA run in Grand Bend, KS.
During its 50th anniversary celebration in 2001, NHRA honored Chrisman as one of its Top 50 drivers of all time. Chrisman was the first drag racer to exceed 140 and 180 mph and was the first winner of the Bakersfield U.S. Fuel & Gas Championships in 1959. In an era where drivers did it all — from metal fabricating to engine and chassis building and tuning — Chrisman made his famed #25 and Hustler I dragsters among the most celebrated cars in drag racing history. His ability to do it all and his passion for hot rodding led Chrisman to start Chrisman Auto Rod Specialties, a hot rod restoration shop in Santa Ana, CA.
Last November, Chrisman was honored with The Petersen Automotive Museum’s 2015 Robert E. Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award. In response to receiving the award, Chrisman said:
“When I got into racing on the dry lakes, I never could have imagined that it would change my life like it did. This is beyond my wildest dreams. I did it because I wanted to do it, not to make money or be a hero. I feel so fortunate to have had the success that I did and to still be here today to appreciate what the younger guys are doing.”
You can learn more about Chrisman’s amazing life reading NHRA’s remembrance.