In what is unquestionably one of the greatest losses the sport has ever endured, drag racing legend and 10-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Bob Glidden passed away today at the age of 73 following a brief illness.
I know that I have to hustle to win and that I have to go all out to afford to race. - Bob Glidden
During a racing career that spanned nearly four decades, Glidden amassed 85 NHRA national event victories — a record at the time of his retirement from full-time competition in 1997 — and 10 NHRA Winston championships in a span of just 16 years. His 85 wins still ranks seventh overall and fourth among professional category competitors. During the 1980’s his name became virtually synonymous with the factory hot rod eliminator, as he garnered five series titles in a row, from 1985-1989. In 1979, he won nine straight NHRA national events and at one point in the late 80’s, qualified atop the Pro Stock field 23 straight times, including all of the 1987 season, in a feat that’s never been rivaled. Glidden attributed his success to “common sense and the will to survive,” adding, “I know that I have to hustle to win and that I have to go all out to afford to race.”
Glidden began his career in the late 1960s behind the wheel of a series of 427 Ford Fairlanes in the Stock and Super Stock ranks and later a 482 Cobra Jet, becoming one of the winningest competitors in the NHRA’s Division 3. In 1972, he turned professional driving a Pro Stock Pinto previously campaigned by Wayne Gapp and Jack Roush. A year later he won his first race as a professional at the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis — his home event, no less. The following season — in just his second full-time campaign — he won three times and set both ends of the national record on the path to his first Winston championship, in come-from-behind fashion over Gapp and Wally Booth.
NHRA/National Dragster photo
Glidden won three more titles in the 1970’s before relinquishing his stranglehold on the class to Lee Shepherd — briefly — in the early 80’s. With wife, Etta, and sons Billy and Rusty, by his side, Glidden was dominant in the latter half of the decade, winning five straight titles.
Glidden won eight more times between 1990 and ’93 and captured his 85th and final NHRA Pro Stock victory at Englishtown in 1995 — after having missed the first half of the season following a heart attack in December of 1994. In February of 1997, just two races into the season, Glidden retired citing inadequate sponsorship. He went on to work for Ford on its NASCAR engine development program. In 1998, he returned to drive a Pontiac for friend Steve Schmidt at the U.S. Nationals and climbed behind the wheel again in 2010 for Ford runner Jim Cunningham. Along the way, Bob made occasional appearances behind the wheel of son Billy’s small-tire Ford Mustangs.
[Bob] conceded that many of his competitors knew far more about the internal-combustion engine than he did, but none of them had his will to win. - NHRA
Glidden served in an advisory and crew chief role for a number of Pro Stock teams during the 2000s and 2010’s, including Cunningham, Gray Motorsports, Knoll-Gas Motorsports, and Don Schumacher Racing’s Mopar effort.
Bob drove Ford’s almost exclusively throughout his career, at times carrying the banner virtually on his own.
Glidden was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2001, the NHRA honored him with the No. 4 ranking on its Top 50 drivers of the sanctioning body’s first 50 years, noting in it’s ode to the quiet Hooser that, “Bob Glidden did not have any special training or a degree in mechanical engineering. He even conceded that many of his competitors knew far more about the internal-combustion engine than he did, but none of them had his will to win.”