Recent passings of notable figures from within the NHRA world. The NHRA extends its sincere condolences to the family and friends of those we have lost. Notices of passing can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Judy Bersgtrom, wife of longtime NHRA Division Director Gene Bergstrom, passed away from kidney and lung complications Feb. 24. She was 78.
The Bergstroms fit NHRA founder Wally Parks' mold of a husband-wife duo working together to further the NHRA. Gene Bergstrom served as Division 6 Director from 1979 through 1992, when he was promoted to National Field Director. Judy was a constant in the NHRA world and served in many positions throughout that same time.
Doug Hamilton, a longtime chassis inspector and member of the Division 1 Certification Team, passed away Jan. 30. He was 74.
Hamilton was a 1966 graduate of Olney High School and served for the United States Navy in the Naval Air Reserves. He worked as a purchasing manager for AMTRAK until he retired in 2000.
He is survived by his wife, Patricia. daughter Lisa, and sister Carol Forgeng.
Longtime NHRA Funny Car racer Mike Van Sant passed away Jan. 6.
Starting almost from the onset of the class in the mid- to late-1960s, "Mighty Mike" had a long list of successful rides in high-profile cars, including driving for Mickey Thompson, Stone, Woods & Cooke, and Roland Leong. He started out partnering with Glen Solano on a Corvette-bodied car called "Invader," a name that Van Sant would use for decades while driving his own race cars, which he began doing in earnest in the mid-1970s after years of being a hired driver, continuing through the id-1980s before retiring.
J.L. Payne, a well-known and respected Top Fuel driver from the 1960s, has passed away. Payne, who raced in both Top Fuel and Fuel Altered, is probably best remembered as the driver of Vance Hunt's record-setting fuel dragster from 1962-64, but also drove for several other team owners in his native.
Pro Gas pioneer and longtime Sportsman racer Donald Barton passed away Jan. 2.
Barton was a pioneer in the Pro Gas class in thelate 1970s and early 1980s that was would eventually become Super Gas, wheeling his Clownin’ Around ‘55 Chevy from 1971 through the late 1990s. Barton later would drive Undercover dragster beginning in 2000 season and more recently drive the family’s Miller Race Cars dragster before returning to the ‘55 duties during the 2021 season.