George Willett built a drag racing career marked by success at the highest ranks of the sport. He first
appeared on the local drag racing scene at age 16 in a 1950 Oldsmobile. His love for the sport turned to
passion as he transitioned from the guy behind the wheel to the guy turning the wrenches for some of
the most accomplished racers this region has known.
He began tuning for John Abbott on a gas-burning dragster that won four races in 1961 and the World
Championship Points Race at Rocky Mountain Dragway the next year. It was the first major award on
George’s resume as he went on to serve as crew chief for a who’s who of drag racing talent.
In 1966, George was the chief mechanic on the Jerry Kading dragster that he called “the most beautiful
car I ever worked on” as it set numerous records. He teamed with Art Ward to win four national Funny
Car championships from 1970 to 72, Bruce Jarrett as he earned the NHRA Division 5 Best Professional
Performance of the Year Award in 1974, and Tommy Kaiser when he was Division 5 Top Professional
Driver in 1976. George went on to form his own Top Fuel drag team with a car named “Mountain
Charger,” driven by Jarrett, and won the NHRA “Best Professional Performance of the Year” award. With
his sterling reputation as a crew chief, George could have become crew chief for almost any NHRA Top
Fuel team and commanded a handsome salary. Instead he chose to continue the teaching career he
began in 1968.
George taught math in Denver Public Schools for 29 years before retiring in 1997. In spite of the
incredible job he did as crew chief for some of the best drivers in the business over two decades, George
was a math teacher first. He saw many weekend sunrises on the road and late nights maintaining a race
car during the week, but George was always back in the classroom when the bell rang.
In 2010 John Abbott wrote of his crew chief: “Quite frankly, I owe my accomplishments to George
Willett. In my opinion, George was among the first to apply serious brain power to a sport better known
for its greasy fingers, scraped knuckles approach. Wherever George lent his cerebral talents, drivers
were soon having their career-best seasons. “Basketball coaching great John Wooden is quoted as
saying, ‘The main ingredient in stardom is the rest of the team.’ George Willett was the rest of my
George Willett passed away in March of 2021, but we now honor his career accomplishments with the
prestigious 2022 Jerry Van Dyke Award for exceptional individual contributions to Colorado Motorsports
and induction into the Colorado motorsport Hall of Fame.