Hall of Fame NHRA Pro Stock Driver Bob Glidden passes away.
It is with heavy hearts that we pass the news of the death of Bob Glidden. The 73 year old Glidden was one of the most dominant forces in NHRA’s Pro Stock eliminator through the 1970’s and 80’s, leaving a legacy that still draws comparison to anybody earning the label of “dominant” to this day. Often racing with only his wife, and later his sons, by his side in the pits, Glidden absolutely thrashed the competition in Pro Stock throughout the two decade span.
Glidden made the move from Stock to Pro Stock in 1972 and won his first season points championship in 1974. He backed that up with another points title in 1975 while winning seven races on the season, four of which were what would be known today as National Event wins, while the other three were at what would be divisional events. In ’76 he had a less-than stellar year, turned things around in ’77 to finish second in the championship, then began a string of three championships from 1978-1980.
In ’78 Glidden earned a record 16,035 points while retiring the Ford Fairmont that he switched to mid-season with an undefeated record through the end of the season. Glidden’s dominance continued through 1979, where he ripped on an insane string of fifty straight round wins, and only lost because he fouled out in the second round of the Mile High Nationals. He won seven national events, earning the most possible points at four of them by qualifying atop the field and setting low ET and top speed of the event while also taking home the win.
In 1980, Lee Shepherd led the points for the entire season except when it counted. After playing catch-up all season long, Glidden managed to just barely slip past Shepherd to win the points title in the final event. Shepherd would reel off a string of titles of his won until 1984, when he debuted the Ford Thunderbirds that would become synonymous with the Glidden name and his ridiculous streak of dominance.
In 1985, Bob wheeled his new T-Bird to 5 national event wins and his sixth season championship. The following season started off slowly with early round exits at the first two events before the car was demolished in a devastating crash after a gust of wind caught the parachute and sent the car spinning across the track and into a series of barrel rolls. Glidden was uninjured and returned to finish the season with six wins in the final seven races to take his seventh season title.
The next two seasons – 1987 and 1988 – would follow similar paths, somewhat slow starts capped by strangling dominance, while his 1989 season would be a show of force from beginning to end with nine wins on the season.
Glidden’s stranglehold on the class relaxed as the 90’s progressed, though he did go on to win his 85th career national event win in 1995. He retired two races into the 1997 season as the winningest professional driver in NHRA history, although his win tally has been surpassed by John Force and Warren Johnson.
Glidden served as crew chief for several programs after stepping out of the driver’s seat, while also helping Ford on it’s stock car engine program. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2005.
For me personally, Glidden showed what happens when you’re willing to out-work your opposition. Though I was just a kid in the 80’s, I always loved Pro Stock and those trademark red-and-white Motorcraft Thunderbirds are scattered often through the memories of the days I fell in love with the class. His presence will most certainly be missed by anybody who was a fan of the sport though those decades. He is survived by his wife Etta and sons Billy and Rusty, all of whom are or have been deeply involved in the sport as well.