PLACENTIA, Calif., Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Drag racing pioneer Gene Mooneyham died recently at a Placentia, Calif., hospital at age 75, The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
Mooneyham, who was a racer, designer, builder, chief mechanic and a businessman, played a major role in the careers of many big-name drag racers, including "Big Daddy" Don Garlits and John Force.
He got his start racing hot rods on dry lakebeds when enthusiasts converged on dusty drag strips in the sport's formative years, the report said. His work with superchargers made him one of the sport's most influential people.
Mooneyham received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 from the National Hot Rod Association, which oversees most drag racing in America.
He retired from racing in the 1950s after a crash in San Diego, but his car continued to win with driver Larry Faust. The last car he owned, the California Cajun, which was driven by his son Fred, won in top-fuel at the Orange County Race of Champions in 1971.
Besides Fred, Mooneyham is survived by his wife, another son, two daughters, 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.