Published: 5:20 pm, Sun. Jan. 28th, 2018Updated: 5:18 pm
Don Garlits has named the late Terry Chandler of Carlsbad as the 2018 recipient of the Patricia Garlits Memorial Award.
The award, named for Don Garlits’ late wife Pat, is given annually to honor a woman involved with drag racing who has exhibited a selfless devotion to the growth and betterment of the sport.
Chandler brought a new and very unique sponsor concept – the “Giving Car” – to the sport. Through her sponsorship programs, the drag racing world was introduced to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Infinite Hero Foundation, and the goals of the two charitable organizations. Through her passionate endorsement, drag racing’s strong, supportive fan base, coupled with at-the-track visibility, television and media coverage, the two organizations have seen a marked increase in awareness and financial support.
“Terry Chandler made a significant contribution to the overall public impression of the sport in the short time she was with us,” said Don Garlits, in announcing the award. “Her charitable efforts on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Infinite Hero Foundation struck a chord with many, many fans and racers.
“I know Pat would be particularly pleased for this honor to be presented to Terry Chandler, for she would have been very pleased with her passion for the sport and of the awareness and contributions that have been made, and continue to be made, to these worthwhile charities.”
Chandler became enthralled with the sport – its fans, the raw power, the camaraderie of the competition – through her brother, longtime drag racer Johnny C. Gray.
After a successful career in Pro Stock, Gray joined the NHRA powerhouse Don Schumacher Racing, competing in the Funny Car class. Chandler became a fixture in the DSR pit areas and grew close with Gray’s tightknit team. In 2013, Chandler and Gray opted to co-sponsor Gray’s team, campaigning the Pitch Energy Funny Car, in honor of their late father’s company. Gray retired from competition at the end of the 2013 season, but Chandler chose to remain involved with the sport and Don Schumacher Racing.
In her decidedly unique, giving fashion, Chandler elected to back her brother’s former Funny Car, enabling her to banner a charitable organization on the side of a 300-mph billboard. She teamed with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, a national nonprofit which grants wishes for thousands of children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions throughout the country. Chandler personally funded the car, now driven by Tommy Johnson Jr., to raise awareness for the organization.
When the opportunity arose for a new sponsor for former Funny Car World Champion Jack Beckman’s car, Chandler saw another opportunity to give back. She and DSR team owner Don Schumacher opted to sponsor another “giving car,” allowing a national platform of a championship-caliber team to promote another charitable organization. They selected the Infinite Hero Foundation, which benefits injured military personnel.
DSR’s Make-A-Wish and Infinite Hero partnerships continued beyond the 2014 season with Chandler’s backing. She worked tirelessly to integrate the two foundations into the fabric of NHRA events, bringing children and injured veterans, and their families to races. As a result, both organizations saw awareness and contributions increase significantly as a result of Chandler’s program.
At the local level, she also helped promote the famed Riley Children’s Hospital of Indianapolis by running a “Riley’s Kids” car at the NHRA U.S. Nationals races, drag racing’s single biggest and most prestigious event at Indianapolis Raceway Park (Claremont, Ind.).
Chandler’s efforts did not go unnoticed. In 2015, she was featured in an Inland Valley Daily Bulletin article headlined, “Very quietly, Terry Chandler most influential woman in NHRA.” For many, that headline was a fact, for Chandler created an entirely new aspect of motorsports marketing and did so in her own modest fashion.
When she passed away from an aggressive form of brain cancer (Glioblastoma) on July 4, 2017, the drag racing world was stunned and overcome with grief. There was a sobering realization that no longer would a smiling Terry Chandler grace the starting line to watch her sponsored cars race, nor the Gray Motorsports Pro Stock cars driven by her nephew, Shane Gray, and his son, Tanner, compete.
Her surviving husband, Doug Chandler, wishes to honor his wife’s legacy by continuing to financially back the Make-A-Wish and Infinite Hero programs with Schumacher Racing through the 2020 season.
Chandler will be honored during the 28th Annual International Drag Racing Hall of Fame Banquet, to be held Thursday, March 15, in Gainesville, Fla., at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center Gainesville. Gray will be accepting the award on his sister’s behalf.