The Phelps Family

Without any doubt the Phelps family – Bob and his son Roy, along with Santa Pod’s administrator Eileen Cattley – had a huge impact on British drag racing. They were involved from its very early days of the Drag Fests but really only became main players with the opening of Santa Pod Raceway in 1966 which they continued to run into the 1990s. They were personally involved in building many of the facilities at the track including the tower, barriers, and the famous Barn. Bob and Roy also ran their own stable of race cars. Roy also drove theGloworm  Capri Funny Car and the Wheelie Stingray, which is still running today. The number of cars Roy Phelps ran over the years is huge and included the famous Top Fuel cars such asCommuterFireflyAsphalt Alleygator, along with Funny Cars GlowormGladiator and  Cannonball. The Phelps family not only ran their own cars, but helped many other teams with parts, as well as building their engines for them. They were also had a stable of Jet cars as well as the more traditional cars. Most of these cars were built and driven at some point by Allan ‘Bootsie’ Herridge who had a long association with the Phelps family 

Roy Phelps in one of his many guises as crew chief to BDRHoF luminuiry, the late Allan Herridge, driving the ‘Asphalt Alleygator‘ Top Fuel dragster. Photo: Peter Jones & David Hardcastle ‘Drive It’ Collection

Most race fans will remember seeing a string of big name USA drivers coming to the Britain to race at Santa Pod Raceway. All these cars and teams were bought over by the Phelps family, usually with the cars staying here to be raced by British drag racers afterwards. The list of these famous names is huge and included Paula Murphy, Don Garlits, Gene Snow, Raymond Beadle, Don Schumacher, Sammy Miller, Tony Nancy, Al Segrini and Darrell Gywnn. 

Santa Pod was by no means their only interest. They were also involved in organising drag racing shows in Brighton and Milton Keynes, ran events at other tracks such as Snetterton and North Weald. They also signed an agreement with the International Drag Racing Association from the USA to run Santa Pod under the IHRA banner. Santa Pod became the only facility in Europe to be an official IHRA sanctioned track. 

Sadly Bob Phelps died in 1988. Roy Phelps carried on running Santa Pod until 1990. 

1990 was significant for the Phelps family and also for British drag racing as the owner of the land decided to sell. After the sale of the land Roy decided to sell the separate company name of Santa Pod Raceway to the same people buying the land.

That would have ended nearly thirty years of involvement in British Drag Racing by the Phelps family, however as most people are aware it didn’t end there. Roy, and his son Jason, are still actively involved in the sport in a number of ways including the latter driving the Gladiator Funny Car with Roy aiding the tuning duties.

In 2013 at the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame banquet, Keith Bartlett (CEO, Trakbak Racing) presented Roy with the “Ceremonial” keys to Santa Pod Raceway for his continuing work at the track and support for British Drag Racing.

The Phelps family had their critics, as would anyone in their position. Bob and Roy had many frank discussions with organising clubs and administrators over the years as they tried to improve the sport and move it forward in the way they thought was best. They also saw some very tough times financially, but somehow managed to keep the track going until better times arrived. Looking back, you can now see that they had a massive impact on the sport and its growth over many years they were owners of Santa Pod Raceway

Roy Phelps driving the infamous ‘Wheelie Stingray’, always a crowd favourite. Photo: Keith Lee Images