Sad News: “Rapid” Roger Garten Passes Away From Injuries Sustained In Funny Car Crash At Bakersfield

Sad News: “Rapid” Roger Garten Passes Away From Injuries Sustained In Funny Car Crash At Bakersfield

Last night during a “Saturday Night Nitro” event at Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California there was a serious crash involving the driver of the War Horse funny car Roger Garten and his competitor in the other lane Matt Bynum. The two cars collided about 330′ down the drag strip and after getting together both went for violent rides across the track in different directions. Early reports from the track were that the drivers had been deemed “OK” but the rumors were not true. Garten passed away during the night from trauma experienced in the crash. This is a horrible situation and we send our sincere condolences to the Garten family. There is video of the crash out on the internet, but out of respect for the families we are not going to be rebroadcasting it here.

The Tocco and Garten War Horse has one of the most fun and compelling stories in all of the nostalgia funny car world. Garten began his driving career in unblown and then blown gassers before hooking up with Mike Tocco and Harry Harper to field a Jim Kirby constructed AA/FA that simply went by the Tocco-Harper-Garten name. That car was raced with a blown, nitro burning big block Chevrolet engine until the AA/FA scene slowed way down in SoCal. In 1973 Tocco and Garten then turned their attention to the ever exploding funny car scene and fielded the first War Horse Mustang. The effort would prove a successful one with match race wins and even the 1975 NHRA Division 7 funny car championship. The men then decided to step away from the sport in 1976 and live the lives of adults, concentrating on business and family. Their friendship never quit nor did that nagging urge to do something with the sport of drag racing again.

In the 1990s the men found the original Tocco-Harper-Garten AA/FA and restored it, taking it to various cackle events and shows. Along the way they got hooked on the idea of getting back out with a funny car and they finally gave into their desired in 2008 and began the process of building what would become the new War Horse. 35 years after winning a race at Sacremento Raceway in California, the team made their triumphant return to the NHRA Heritage Series a few years back and promptly won again. Talk about coming full circle! Since then the car has traveled all over competing in match race programs, events like the March Meet, IHRA competition, and more. A consistent running machine with the proven crew and dedication to win races, it was always fun to watch them run. Our heart breaks for Roger’s wife Carlene, his kids Rhonda and Dan, the rest of their family, the team and the everyone directly touched by this sad event.

We love the sport of drag racing, we understand its inherent dangers and risks, but that does not make things like this sit any easier with us.

Godspeed, Roger Garten.



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30 thoughts on “Sad News: “Rapid” Roger Garten Passes Away From Injuries Sustained In Funny Car Crash At Bakersfield

  1. Richard

    Always loved seeing them run at Firebird Raceway in Idaho. He was always talking to the kids. Sad to hear. Thoughts and prayers go out to the family.

    1. Tom Pyles

      our deepest and sincere Love and condolences go out to our friend and Brother, Roger Garten, his Family, crew, friends, fans and all that new him.
      I speak for our Safety Team at Rocky Mountain Raceways that we are all heartbroken with the news of his passing.
      May GOD speed, we will always remember you and keep you in our Hearts and Prayers.

  2. Steve Leonard

    My deepest heartfelt condolences to the Garten family and friends, I’m a lifetime racing fan, and I know this is been said before but he died doing what he loved. I know this makes the pain of your tragic loss no less but there are so many ways that we can meet our demise, and if I could, I cannot think of one that I personally would rather take me from this earth.

    1. Jo

      I’m with ya there. Sure would be my choice.

      Just so sudden + at first, traumatic 4 the ones who loved him.

  3. kiwi1

    RIP Roger. Condolences to family and Team. Was an awesome show that he put on every time he went out.

  4. Robinson Racing

    Our thoughts and prayers are with the Garten family and friends.
    RIP and God Speed Roger Garten

  5. Mallory Racing

    Our deepest condolences for family and crew. We r truly sorry for your loss RIP Roger

  6. Chris Coffey

    R.I.P Roger. Thank you for your contributions to drag racing, and thank you for being such a great man.

  7. Shirlee Shelby

    I didn’t know Roger or his family, but having lost my husband also doing what he loved, I know their lives are forever changed. My prayers are with you. May your memories carry you forward.

  8. David Sumek

    In shock. GOD TAKES ANOTHER ONE OF THE GOOD PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. I don’t understand…………. F****!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. 100%NITRO

    We have lost another great one! Condolences to the family. Matt Bynum, we are glad to hear you are O.K.

  10. Chaun Benfield

    Thoughts and prayers to the family, team, friends, sponsors and everyone involved. There are so many that share in your sorrow and feelings of such a loss, but let us not forget all the wonderful memores made and the good times.

  11. crazy canuck

    RIP Roger . Condolences to the family and team . Always loved to see the War Horse team put on a show .

  12. Roger Egan

    Just a Fan at the Race Saturday Night – The car was Awesome on a nice warm night. Everyone was having a good time..

    R.I.P I am sure he was a great Man

  13. Grant Merideth

    I had known Roger since his days in A/GS and he was always a gentle, friendly, helpful, but fierce competitor. My deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Carlene and their family as well as his long time friend and racing partner Mike Tocco.

    R.I.P. “Rapid Roger”. God speed on your journey.

  14. Cecil Reene

    R.I.P. Roger, you will surely be missed buddy. Prayers and thoughts go out to Carlene and the rest of the family, and crew. Godspeed my friend. Always liked competing in the other lane against you and looked forward to seeing you again at another event.

  15. Shumway Racing

    Terrible loss for their racing community. Prayers to his family and team. GODSPEED ROGER.

  16. Zollinger Racing Team of Idaho

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and his children, along with the whole racing team, during this sad time, GOD, must have needed another great man in HEAVEN!!, I had just spoken with Roger a couple of weeks ago, during our racing event here at Firebird Raceway, in Boise Idaho, he was such an amazing man, had a kind heart, always had a smile on his face, you will be missed by many, but will never be forgotten, R.I.P. Roger, till we meet again my friend, GODSPEED.. Pam & Richard Zollinger

  17. The Grape Ape family

    Our deepest condolences to the Garten family and friends. My family grieves to your loss to a well liked, truly respected man. R.I.P. Roger, Show the folks upstairs what leaving on time “REALLY MEANS” God speed my friend.
    The Grape Ape family of days gone by.

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