Kent Chatagnier's Worlds-First 200+ mph 1/4 Mile Run

201.78 MPH. June 19, 1960. Gulf Freeway Dragstrip. Houston, Texas.
Supercharged, Fuel Injected, 430 cubic inch Pontiac Engine. 825 Horsepower. 1,325 lbs. 8.43 ET. No Parachute.

Kent, at the age of 26, ran Kent's Speed Shop in Port Arthur, Texas. On July 19th, 1960, Kent made four runs at the Houston International Speedway, also known as the Gulf Freeway Dragstrip. He drove his Supercharged Pontiac engine in his Class A Fuel Dragster, called "Blown Maniac", to 201 miles an hour that day, faster than anyone in the world had ever driven before in the standing quarter mile. Chatagnier built his dragster from the ground up. The engine produced 825 horsepower, measured on a dynomometer. The block and heads were from a Pontiac engine. It used a fuel injector system equal to 22 two-barrel carburetors and teh fuel is blown into the engine by a diesel supercharger, adapted to fit by Kent. He lived at 2600 22nd Street. The previous 1/4 mile record was 190.32 m.p.h.

The official announcer yelled, "A record time of 196.62 m.p.h. was done by Kent." The announcer was wrong, it wasn't a record yet, because it takes two runs within two percentage points of each other to establish a record. Chatagnier pulled up to the line again and teenagers stopped eating hot dogs and looking at girls. This was it. Again the Blown Maniac belched smoke and down the strip it screamed like a wild banshee. Within seconds the announcer yelled to the audience at the dragstrip that a time of 197.62 m.p.h was done and Texas had its first world's dragster champion. Kent jumped from his car and said, "I'm going to race again today. I'm going to go over 200 m.p.h.". The people around him gasped. Who heard of a dragster going 200 m.p.h. It would be suicide.

Later that day, after all the other drag cars in the smaller classes had run, Chatagnier rolled up to the starting line again. He was after the 200 mark. Through his mind he must have had several thoughts. He hadn't changed the bearings in his engine in over 30 races. Some drivers change them every five or six races. His car could blow up right there... he had a wife and a little child, and another baby on the way. Again, there was silence, the flag, and the explosion. Down the strip he went in 201.78 m.p.h.

"The Flying Frenchman" in his famous '1320' record holder at 201.78 MPH with back-ups of 196.92 MPH & 197.36 MPH. 8.42 ET, 1,325 LBS.

"I couldn't see a thing, everything in the world was a complete blur before my eyes and my only thought was could I stop my car before I reached the end of the dragstrip." - Kent, 1960, 200+ mph run.

"Kent Chatagnier was the first person, in the world, to receive a 200 mph time slip. He ran the 'Kent's Speed Shop' fueler out of Port Arthur, Texas, with a supercharged, fuel burning Pontiac motor. Competing at Houston on June 19 1960, Kent made four runs between 197.36 and 201.78 mph. As the speed was backed up, as called for by the Drag News Standard 1320 rules, that were regarded as the bible in those days, it was recognised as the official A/FD speed record for some months. There was no AA/FD at the time. In 1961 Drag News wiped all the records clean and instituted new rules for setting records." (13)

Kent was killed in a light plane crash in Houston on May 12, 2000. He was 67 years old." (13)

BIO: By Deanna Chatagnier, Kent's wife:

Kent started racing in 1953 as a sophmore in High School. He studied mechanical engineering in College, had a black 55 T-bird. He built a Pontiac Dragster in 1956 and had the first covered trailer. His record breaking car, the second dragster, was a 430 cubic inch 825 horsepower fuel injected engine called the Blown Maniac. He designed and built his own intake manifold adapter for the supercharger, after being denied by a large manufacturer that it couldn't be done. He sold them to Mickey Thompson who used them on his 4 engine salt flat car.

Kent started racing in 1953 as a sophomore in High School. Since then no other sport held his interest. He studied mechanical engineering in College, had a black 55 T-bird. (our dating car) He built a Pontiac Dragster in 1956 and had the first covered trailer. I still have blue wool Mickey Thompson jacket that says "170 miles" on the back. I think it was won at Mickey’s Lion’s Drag Strip in California.

His record breaking car; the second dragster, was a 430 cubic inch 825 horsepower fuel injected called the Blown Maniac. I can remember he did not and could not find an adapter for the manifold. He was told it could not be done. So he drew up his own plans, built a wooden mould and went to the local refinery and had the foundry work done, then machined the manifold himself. It worked so well that he sold them to Mickey Thompson who used them on his 4 engine salt flat car. It was a patented item, but could not turn them out to the proportion to be profitable.

Kent opened a speed shop "Kent’s Speed and Auto Supply" in 1965 in Groves, Texas a suburb of his home town. He continued in this business for approximately 10 or 12 years. Later he moved the shop to Beaumont, Texas with a new name American High Performance. It was during the "Mag wheel" days and it was a very successful business for several years. He also raced a funny car for a team out of Dallas/Fort Worth area for a short period. The Car was called "The Texas." During this time, he raced a Keith Black drag boat called "Cole Black". He still holds the record in Austin, Texas. He also raced motor cross.

Kent was a very intelligent, methodical, calm, soft-spoken, gentleman. I have never heard him brag about his racing. He won trophies that filled up the whole wall, but they were displayed in the bedroom on shelves.

Kent stopped racing and went on to become a Roofing Consultant, drawing up specifications and details for commercial buildings. He had worked his way through college working in his dad’s roofing business and was putting that knowledge to use in a mechanical, professional way. (His mother said Kent was carrying shingles on the roof at 9 yrs old.) He had great carpentry skills; and great mechanical skills; and was a perfectionist with anything that was a challenge to him. He has specified roofs for over 200 school districts in the state of Texas and surrounding states, for countless commercial state and city buildings. Was called for a special assignment in Washington DC by a firm and over nine months specified roofs for Embassy Buildings, Rockefeller’s ranch buildings, etc. too many to remember. He was known as the little Texas in his cowboy boots. He only wore cowboy boots; he had several pair. His only other shoes were Simpson red racing shoes. Wherever he went, neat as a pin, he left a positive impact on the people around him. He was well respected as a person, and in his field of work. As always, he surrounded himself with a library of books and was self taught. He went after the consulting profession just as he did racing. He made an impact on the roofing industry that was admired by piers, architects, engineers, and manufacturers. The buildings he participated in were awarded many, many awards. The most recent the Palmer Center in Austin. His specifications were flawless; his details explicit, and to perfection. He was admired and sought after by many for his expertise.

His love for flying started when he was a little boy. He got his license at 19. He continued to fly until is death at 64. He loved it as much as he loved racing. Maybe more. We started going to the Winternationals and Indy. Sitting in the Top Eliminator Club. The last race we went to was the Gatornationals about 2 weeks before his death. He had a chance to talk and visit with Don Gartlis there. The last 4 months of his life he had come up with a plan to retire from the Roofing Consultant business, and do the two favorite things in his life. Racing and flying. He was putting a team together for a fuel dragster. And of course flying to the races. Three cars, Eddie Hill was going to join us as the oldest Driver, our granddaughter Brittny 18 as the youngest. The third car he said was for back-up, (HA! HA!).... We had sponsors looking at it, had plans for the large trailers. He and I and Brittny flew in the Baron from Lakeway, Texas to Pomona where Brittny attended and got licensed for driving at Ed Hawley’s school for race drivers in Pomona on April 22, 2000. He was so proud of her; and stood at the end of the Drag Strip with hands clutched waving over his head when she qualified. Quite a show of emotion for Kent Chatagnier. We were all going racing!!! He was so very happy!!!!

A few days later,,,That awful fatal day: He left our house, which has a hangar attached and is on a runway in Lakeway, Texas in his prize twin engine Baron on a Friday morning at 8:30am to take some friends fishing as he had been doing for the last 8 years about 6 or 7 times a year. It was mother’s day weekend (May 12, 2000). He was not a fisherman; but did so for the fellowship and good company. The wife’s were supposed to go, but at the last minute several of the women had backed out because of other commitments. He and Jim Pfluger, a dear friend and well-known architect left and and landed in San Marcus, a 15 min trip, and picked up another friend. They left there and went to the Corpus Christi area to pick up two school officials that Mr. Pfluger had invited at the last minute; since there were seats available by the wife’s absence. They then left and went to Houston Hobby airport to pick up the final passenger. It was about 11:55am. They fueled up, from what I was told; he bought something like 34 and ½ gallons or so. (Typical of Kent, had it figured to the ½ gallon) The plane then taxied out, but when it took off, it went straight up, stalled and fell 300 feet on the left side. There were no survivors. The autopsy report showed a heart attack. At the crash site, they handed me one Red Simpson race shoe. He is greatly remembered and missed by all.

Born March 1936, Died May 12th, 2000/2001.
Beech 55B Baron Plane, N4005A, Kent Chatagnier, Hobby apt, Houston, USA
6 Passengers on Board, 6 Fatalities.
"At take-off from runway 22 the aircraft pitched up steeply, rolled left and crashed. The control lock was found to be engaged."

There seems to be some controversy as to who ran the first 200 mph pass:

Chris Karamesines was credited with a 8.87 ET at 204.54 MPH at Alton Raceway, Illinois on April 24, 1960. He never ran close to 200 mph for years after that however. The March 1965 issue of the "Drag Racing" magazine published in England had this to say about the run: In May, 1960, a Greek by name of Chris Karamensines (sic), was said to have covered the standing quarter mile in 8.87 secs. with a terminal of 204.546 m.p.h. The strip was at Alton, Illinois and the officials were said to have checked the accuracy of the clocks and remeasured the distance just to make sure all was genuine. At that time Don Garlits was using Giovannoni camshafts and turning times of 8.73 secs. with a terminal speed of 175.78 m.p.h. and few could beat him. As Karamensines was using Iskenderian camshafts, Giovannoni decide to do some investigating and found out that if the timing gear blew a certain fuse, a speed of 204 m.p.h. was recorded irrespective of the actual time of the car. To make sure everybody was aware of this they publicised these facts and added that ". . . when the 200 m.p.h. is finally broken, the driver will receive the credit regardless of the make of cam he is using." By a twist of fate it was Garlits who managed this some four years later, towards the end of 1964. The Giovannoni prediction came true and everybody realised that the Garlits speed was genuine. Unfortunately, Garlits had in the meantime stopped using Giovannoni camshafts and changed over to Crower!

Many sources, including the NHRA, refer to Don Garlits run of 7.78 seconds at 201.34 mph set at Island Dragway, New Jersey on August 2 1964 as being the first 200 pass. It was the first NHRA speed record over 200 mph. Don had run 200.44 mph in July 1964 at Detroit Dragway, but had not backed it up for the record.

Drag Racing Story of the Day!
Drag Racing's "Forgotten" First 200 MPH Run
As Told to Harrison "Wheels" Inglis
by Travis Perrenot
With Comments by Lee Schelin and Tom Ivo

My buddy Travis Perrenot sent me the following story. The most forgotten car of all time must be Kent Chatagnier and the "Kent's Speed Shop" fueler from Beaumont, Texas. Running a fuel burning Pontiac, he totally upset the world of drag racing in 1960 by running the "forgotten" 200 mile per hour runs at Houston. He made four runs that day between 197.36 and 201.78 miles per hour. He did everything that was required at that time to back up the speed, as called for by the Drag News Standard 1320 rules that were in place. 

Drag News published the record for several months as the "official" standard 1320 AA/FD speed record. After a while, Kent no longer was credited as being the first 200 mph run. The argument through the years has been that he never did it again. Chris Karamesines did not back up his 204 at Alton and did not run close to 200 again for years. Ivo didn't back his 200 up. No one did it and backed it up until Garlits did EXCEPT that unknown kid from Beaumont Texas, Kent Chatagnier.

Another forgotten Texas team was that of Burris-Huiett, who ran a Chrysler (392) out of Houston. They didn't travel much due to job commitments, but were heavy hitters on the local scene. They were runners up to Art Malone at the grand opening of Green Valley Raceway in Ft. Worth in 1959. Art made a statement that appeared in Drag News. He said that while he had never heard of these guys, they had put the fear into him. Art stated, "They are dead serious racers." They ran for a few more years then kind of faded away. The cost was just too much for a couple of Chrysler-Plymouth dealership mechanics.


Lee Schelin, Standard 1320 Group founder, comments:

The Greek did not back-up the 204 mph on the same day/same track as required by Drag News, but did run 199 mph the following week in Kansas.

In early 1961, Drag News wiped all The Standard 1320 records clean and started over. The new Standard 1320 requirements for an official record were the following:

2% back-up of the record the same day/same track and another 2% back-up the following week at a different track. Tough duty... Tommy, what about your 200 mph runs?

Lee Schelin

TV Tommy Ivo comments:

In my book, Garlits was the one to run 200. I don't remember any 200 of mine that was crocked about. Do you remember my story about Garlits telling me how to do it (the cam)? [See the 7/03 Story of the Day. bp] In later years, I got a bogus 250 that wagged a few tongues, and rightfully so. It was about the era of my first five-second run that NHRA disputed. And the papers picked up the 250 mph story with too much zeal because of the "5" controversy.

TV Tom


Kent's first car he built, before the 2nd World Record car "Blown Maniac"

Kent campaigned other cars after the Blown Maniac broke the 200 mph barrier. Here is a Star-Telegram clipping of him running 204 mph at an AHRA meeting. He also raced motorcross, dragboats, and funny cars.

Kent's Shop, "Kent's Speed Shop", ~1964