Pro Stock Icon Glidden Dies At 73

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, December 19 2017

Ten-time Pro Stock champion Bob Glidden passed away on Sunday.

Ten-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Bob Glidden, who singlehandedly carried the Ford banner for most of a 15-year period, died Sunday night. He was 73-years-old.

Glidden had battled heart issues since 1994, when he underwent six-way bypass surgery. His wife, Etta, and sons Billy and Rusty _ who worked on their father’s pit crew as youngsters before launching their own drag racing careers _ were at his bedside when he passed.

A native of Whiteland, Ind., Glidden’s career spanned more than 25 years and featured 85 national event victories capped by his 10 world championships in NHRA’s “Factory Hot Rod” class. Glidden was crowned NHRA’s first Pro Stock point champion in 1974 and dominated the class through the 1980s. After winning back-to-back championships in 1974-1975, he added three titles in a row (1978-80) and a then-record five straight (1985-89).

“Everyone in the NHRA community is saddened to learn the news of Bob’s passing,” NHRA President Peter Clifford said in a statement from the sanctioning body’s headquarters in Glendora, Calif. “He was a true competitor who left a lasting legacy of excellence both on and off the track. Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest condolences are with the Glidden family at this difficult time.”

Glidden was born on Aug. 18, 1944. He began to hone his mechanical skills by fixing the family tractor. A former line mechanic at an Indiana Ford dealership, Glidden’s popularity with fans was reflected by the fact he was voted No. 4 on the list of the Top 50 racers from NHRA’s first 50 years in 2000.

Greg Anderson, a four-time NHRA Pro Stock champ and point-runnerup in 2017, recalled crossing paths with Glidden on many occasions. Anderson realized an accomplishment this season he said he never envisioned when he surpassed the 85 career class victories racked-up by the driver he knew as “Mad Dog.”

“I didn’t just get to watch Bob Glidden race, I got to race against him when I worked for Warren Johnson as a crew chief,” Anderson said in a statement from the Ken Black Racing shop in Mooresville, N.C. “Watching from the sidelines, Bob was about the most impressive thing you ever saw. When I got to race against him with Warren, he was absolutely the toughest racer there’s ever been.

“There were times Warren could run as well as him _ and Bob was winning 80 percent or more of the races _ but Bob would do something on the starting line. I would consider it unfair and get so mad, but now I understand that Bob was the complete racer. If he couldn’t gain an advantage on the racetrack, he could gain an advantage psychologically. He knew how to win, whether he had you covered in ET or not, and he did not like to lose. He really was a ‘Mad Dog.’

“By the time I finally got the chance to drive a car, I had learned by watching Bob Glidden, and of course Warren Johnson, that there is more to it than making your car go fast. It’s the people you surround yourself with, the way you race and being able to have a take-no-prisoners attitude. Just as you do in any sport, you watch the guy who is the best and try to learn from that. Bob taught us all a few lessons about how to get it done, and he’s been a great inspiration to me from before I got to drive and all the way through my career.”

That sentiment of respect and admiration was echoed by John Force, the 16-time NHRA Funny Car world champion.

“We all know what Bob Glidden has accomplished in a lifetime,” Force said. “Feats that will never be broken, accomplishments that will never be broken. We know what he’s accomplished and what he’s done. He was ‘The Man.’ But there’s the other side of Bob Glidden, the personal side of Glidden, him as a person. The love that he had for his family, his boys and Etta. How he always treated everyone with respect, even if it was just in passing. That was the side of the man that I loved the most. He will be missed. I miss him already. But he’ll be with us every day.”

A loyal campaigner of Ford products, Glidden started his drag racing career in the Stock and Super Stock categories driving Fairlanes and Mustangs. He moved to the fledgling Pro Stock class in 1972 and in 1973 scored his first victory during the prestigious U.S. Nationals. Glidden won the U.S. Nationals again the following season in addition to his first Pro Stock championship.

Glidden earned his second consecutive Pro Stock title in 1975 by again out-pointing Michigander Wayne Gapp. Glidden finished sixth in 1976 to champion Larry Lombardo and placed second in 1977 to Don Nicholson before winning his third Pro Stock title in 1978, when he campaigned a new Ford Fairmont that went undefeated for a full calendar year.

Glidden outpointed Frank Iaconio for the 1979 championship while driving a Plymouth Arrow. Glidden won seven national events that season and was undefeated in divisional competition. Glidden prevailed atop the point ladder over native Texan Lee Shepherd in 1980 in dramatic fashion, taking the championship lead for the first and only time on the final day of the season.

Glidden spent the next four seasons chasing Shepherd and the Chevrolet Camaros fielded by the Reher-Morrison Racing Engines shop in Arlington, Texas. Shepherd and business partners David Reher and Buddy Morrison won the championship in 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1984 _ years in which Glidden finished second, fourth, third and third respectively. That Chevy vs. Ford rivalry ended on March 11, 1985, when Shepherd was killed in a crash while testing in Ardmore, Okla.

Glidden returned to championship form in 1985 driving a Ford Thunderbird and backed that title with four more. Glidden’s championship in 1986 saw him overcome a slow start and a horrific crash in April at the Southern Nationals. He closed the year by winning six of the final seven races to seal the championship.

Glidden posted eight wins and qualified No. 1 in all 14 races on the 1987 NHRA schedule en route to the championship. His title run in 1988 was equally dominant, with Glidden winning five of the last seven races and seven overall to clinch despite moving to the new Ford Probe.

Glidden won his 10th and final Pro Stock title in 1989 by posting nine victories, including five of the first seven national events. He would go on to win nine more times, with his last Pro Stock victory coming in 1995 at the Mopar Parts Nationals.

Glidden slumped to 10th-place point finishes in 1994 and 1996 as Johnson _ the “Professor of Pro Stock” _ Darrell Alderman and Jim Yates launched serious championship bids.

Glidden retired in February 1997, opting to concentrate on developing NASCAR engines for Ford Motor Company clients. He initially kept his Ford SVO Probe team going, but shut the program down two races into the 1997 season. At that time, he was the winningest driver in NHRA history and his 23 consecutive years of finishing in the top-10 in points was a record. Glidden did come out of retirement to race occasionally during the 2010 season.

Glidden was elected into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, December 19 2017
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