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See, also, Hoyt's son Garry Grimes.
Hoyt Grimes is best known for his drag racing success in the driver's seat of various dragsters, but he has a varied background in automobile racing. The man who would later be called the "granddaddy of drag racing in the South" (in a 1961 Drag Strip News publication) was born December 25, 1922 in Atlanta, Georgia.
He started his racing career by competing as a young man in the 1934 and 1935 Soap Box Derby races in Atlanta. A Navy veteran, he served as a skipper of an Air-Sea Rescue P.T. boat around Pearl Harbor during the years 1942-1946. After his discharge, Hoyt began his career as a machinist and quickly gained a reputation of being a first class machinist and engine builder while racing at the Peach Bowl Speedway.
Word spread about Hoyt's talents and he was soon fabricating high performance parts for the local round track racers and bootleggers. Hoyt even made some runs on the beach at Daytona in 1949 and was clocked at 148 mile per hour in his supercharged, Cadillac powered 1940 Ford.
After tiring of other people crashing into his cars and destroying all of his hard work, Hoyt decided to start drag racing. He competed at the first organized drag race in Georgia (held on the straightaway at Lakewood Speedway in 1954). Later, Hoyt started drag racing his 1940 Ford Coupe with a modified Cadillac engine at the Fairburn, Georgia track soon after it opened in 1954.
Hoyt was usually the man to beat at Fairburn, setting several track speed records of over 100 m.p.h. on the 1,000 ft. dirt track with this car before moving up to dragsters. The Georgia Tech Auto Club had constructed a rail dragster, but didn't have an engine ready for the car. Hoyt and the club reached an agreement to have Hoyt install his Cadillac engine and drive the car. This car was the first dragster in Georgia and Hoyt began setting new track records and winning at Fairburn frequently.
Hoyt's next car was a streamlined dragster that he constructed from a surplus aircraft fuel tank. His Cadillac engine first powered this car that was known as The Bullet, but this engine was soon replaced by a 1957 Chrysler 392 Hemi engine. The Hemi engine was raced with four 2 bbl carbs, two 4 bbl. carbs, and finally with a supercharger and fuel injection. This blown Hemi was another first for Georgia drag racing and featured a chain drive that Mr. Grimes fabricated.
Hoyt was one of the first in the Southeast to successfully race a supercharged dragster and he was setting records wherever he raced this gasoline fueled car. At many races, Hoyt's gasoline powered dragster was faster than the nitromethane-fueled dragsters. The increasing speeds of this new car forced Hoyt to travel around the Southeast because his car was now too fast for most of the short Atlanta area drag strips. Hoyt was still employed full time and he usually took his family with him to the races, so his traveling was usually limited to weekend trips.
Hoyt raced several dragsters powered by his blown and injected Hemi in various configurations over the next few years, but then he began to build lightweight dragsters using blown and injected Pontiac and small block Chevrolet engines. Hoyt won many races, set numerous track records, and won several State Championships during this period (including Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama). Hoyt also won NHRA Division 2 Top Gas Eliminator Championships in 1963 and 1964.
On October 9, 1965, Hoyt suffered the crash that ended his driving career. Hoyt was racing Bill Mullins in the final round of Top Fuel Eliminator at Bristol, TN when he went into a giant wheelie at a speed of over 170 m.p.h. This is now referred to as a blow over wheelstand. Hoyt crashed violently, flipping and rolling the car for approximately another quarter-mile down the track.
Hoyt survived but was severely injured, breaking both arms and badly injuring his right arm with several compound fractures. He also received several other injuries in the crash that many witnesses thought he had perished in. Almost two years of recuperation followed with several bone grafts required to repair his right arm. During this period, Hoyt worked as Pete Robinson's Crew Chief and together they won the NHRA Top Fuel Championship in 1966 with Pete's Ford SOHC powered dragster.
Hoyt's drag racing career continued with his building cars and engines for other drivers and helping his son, Garry, campaign a Pro Stock car from 1971 until 1980.
Hoyt's seemingly tireless work ethic, machinist skills, pioneering drag racing innovations, record setting quarter-mile performances and his 108 career wins have garnered him many awards including his induction into the National Hot Rod Association Southeast Division Hall of Fame in 1993.
Recently inducted into two more drag racing Hall of Fames (the inaugural East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Old Drag Racers Hall of Fame in 2003), Hoyt currently lives near Lake Lanier with his wife of nearly 60 years, Ruth, and still works daily at his son's (Garry) machine shop. Even with all of his racing success, Hoyt considers his family (Ruth, Larry, and Garry) his greatest accomplishment. Mr. Grimes is eighty-one years old and still going strong.
Hoyt Grimes: the granddaddy of Southeastern drag racing!
Mid- to Late -1950s