The drag racing world lost one of its best on Dec. 5 when Dick LaHaie passed away. The world championship driver and crew chief was 76.
LaHaie, a Michigan native, who spent 40 years drag racing, won a world championship driving in Top Fuel in 1987. He then left the driver’s seat and showed his prowess as a crew chief, tuning Scott Kalitta (1994-95) and Larry Dixon (2002-2003) to world championship Top Fuel crowns.
LaHaie began racing on his own in Top Fuel in the early 1970s and he won world championships in 1970, ’73 and ’76 in the United Drag Racers Association.
In the NHRA ranks, LaHaie turned heads initially when he won the 1980 Summernationals. Just two years later, LaHaie captured a Winternationals victory in Pomona, Calif., with his daughter, Kim as his crew chief.
The father-daughter combo began to show it could compete with the best Top Fuel teams in the business. With Dick driving, LaHaie finished fifth in the points in 1984, and was third in ’86.
The success of the LaHaies caught the attention of sponsors – namely Miller Brewing Company who signed on with team owner Larry Minor, who brought on LaHaie as his driver prior to the 1987 season.
Dick LaHaie awarded the big-time sponsor with his lone Top Fuel world championship in ‘87. By 1991, LaHaie retired from driving and in ’93 he made the transition to crew chief for Kalitta Motorsports. Tuning Scott’s Top Fuel dragster, Kalitta was second in the points in ’93 and was first in 1994-95 and second in ’96.
By the early 2000s, LaHaie helped revitalize Don Prudhomme’s Top Fuel team. With LaHaie wrenching the motors, Larry Dixon was the 2002-2003 world championships.
LaHaie retired from his duties as a wrench boss in 2005 and for his stellar career he was enshrined into the Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame and the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
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