Joe Amato had one of the most productive careers in NHRA history, racking up Hall of Fame credentials with 52 national event Top Fuel wins, five NHRA Top Fuel national championships, an incredible 19-year streak of consecutive top-10 finishes, and six specialty-race triumphs. His revolutionary 1984 car, the first to employ a large wing that was higher and farther back than previous versions, enabled him to break the 260-mph barrier. After retiring as a driver in 2000 and as a team owner in 2005, Amato has enjoyed similar success in the business world as a property investment developer, which has enabled him to travel all over the world for about 85 days a year.
In terms of popularity, versatility, and skill, few drivers could match the accomplishments of Hayden Proffitt, who dominated the early heads-up Super Stock competition in the early 1960s and went on to become one of the star attractions of the original Funny Car contingent during the second half of the decade. Proffitt's affable personality made him an instant hit with the fans, and he also ranks as the only major drag racer to have enjoyed factory backing from four of Detroit's major corporations, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, and American Motors.
Frank Bradley earned a reputation as one of the most respected all-around talents in Top Fuel racing. Not only did Bradley drive and tune his way to top-10 points finishes in 10 seasons from 1976 to 1990, but he won four national event titles with final-round wins over the likes of James Warren, Joe Amato (twice), and Don Prudhomme. He was also the only Top Fuel driver to earn membership in both of Cragar's Four- and Five-Second Clubs and later enjoyed an equally successful tenure as a crew chief during which he helped place four drivers in the Slick 50 300-MPH Club.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Hubert Platt was one of drag racing's most successful and most popular campaigners of Ford products. With his '64 Thunderbolt, '65 Falcon, and stretched-wheelbase '66 Mustang Funny Car, Platt was one of the most frequently booked drivers on the match race circuit and became a fixture at NHRA national events with his East Coast Ford Drag Race Team Super Stock and Pro Stock entries.
Mike Fons was one of the founding fathers of Pro Stock; he was one of the 16 qualifiers at the first Pro Stock national event, the 1970 Winternationals, and won the NHRA Pro Stock world championship in 1971. Fons was also a standout competitor in Modified eliminator, where he also won an NHRA crown in 1969.
Bruce Wheeler was an avid drag racing campaigner from the late 1950s through the late 1960s, and he is best known for his three-year stint as a Top Fuel owner when he fielded rides for Al Friedman and Bub Reese during the final days of the front-engine era. Wheeler later became very involved in the music industry, where he worked from the early 1970s through the early 1980s. Since then, he has lived in Maui, Hawaii, where he has worked as a photographer in a wide range of subject matters.
While the early days of Pro Stock were dominated largely by campaigners from the Midwestern and Eastern portions of the country such as Bill Jenkins, Sox & Martin, Don Nicholson, and Bob Glidden, the West had several strong entries as well, including the Yuill brothers, Mark and Brad. The two were especially dominant in the second half of the 1970s, when they ruled Division 6 and Division 7 Pro Stock action. In 1981, they won the NHRA Western Region championship by outrunning every team west of the Mississippi, including Lee Shepherd and the Reher-Morrison Camaro.
The introduction of an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national event and the New England Hot Rod Reunion presented by AAA Insurance in 2013 has generated a much justified high degree of excitement for the hot rodding community in the Northeastern United States. And so it is only fitting to recognize the exploits of one of the most accomplished Funny Car drivers to emerge from that era, Al Segrini, whose many career highlights include five victories in eight national event final-round appearances.
Jess Tyree was one of the most successful drivers of the heads-up Super Stock era of the early 1960s, and he was by far the most dominant campaigner of factory-backed Pontiacs on the West Coast at the time with his series of S/S and Factory Experimental entries. Today, at the age of 78, Tyree remains extremely active by racing a nostalgia version of his '63 B/FX Pontiac Tempest that he drove to consecutive American Racing Nostalgia Association titles in 2005 and 2006.
Gary Cochran’s career took place from the mid-1950s through the mid-1980s, and he made his mark with a wide variety of rides ranging, from his wild AA/Comp roadster and front-engine Top Fueler to rear-engine entries and Funny Cars. Still an avid hot rodding enthusiast, Cochran not only attends such events as the California Hot Rod Reunion on a regular basis, but he also follows the current NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series by watching the televised events.