Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer, Joe Garrison Passes Away

Joe Garrison was a racing innovator (Heath Lawson photo)

The dirt track racing world said goodbye on Wednesday night to a true innovator. Joe Garrison passed away at the age of 60 years old after a battle with cancer. Garrison recently entered hospice, near his Arkansas home.

Garrison’s storied career in dirt track racing took flight in the 1980’s when he founded GRT Race Cars with his brother Mike. The Greenbrier, Arkansas-based company quickly gained popularity building Dirt Late Models and eventually Modifieds.

The late Joe Garrison with his wife, Katie (rickschwalliephotos.com)

To date GRT Race Cars has built over 4,200 Late Model Chassis. Their house car program is the thing legends are made of. Bill Frye, Skip Arp, Jack Sullivan, Wendell Wallace, Dale McDowell, Freddy Smith, and Terry Phillips are just some of the drivers, who piloted the potent entry.

GRT Race Cars accomplishments in the Dirt Late Model world read like a who’s who of major event titles. The Dirt Late Model Dream, Topless 100, Show-Me 100, Dirt Track World Championship, and Jackson 100 have all been won by the manufacturer.

In the Modified world GRT Race Cars began to noticeably take root in the 1990’s into the 2000’s. Major event wins and championships were rapidly accumulated for the chassis manufacturer.

Joe Garrison was a racing innovator (Heath Lawson photo)

Veteran racer, Terry Phillips, who not only races GRT Race Cars, but also serves as a Missouri dealer for the chassis commented on Garrison’s passing via his team’s Facebook page.

“We are saddened by the passing of long-time friend and owner of GRT, Joe Garrison. Joe was a pioneer and innovator for dirt track racing. Terry has spent 30+ years of his career with Joe and GRT, and his passing is a great devastation to Terry and to the entire dirt track racing community. Joe left an imprint on the sport and his contributions withstand. Please continue to keep Katie, Randa, Jolie, the entire Garrison family, and GRT family in your thoughts and prayers during this time of grief.”

Joe Garrison (left) talks with Terry Phillips

Joe was a 2013 inductee into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. He also was known for working with Skip Arp to develop the movement of the left-rear shock behind the axle of a Dirt Late Model in 1998. In addition, he penned a pair of racing technology publications.

Garrison’s wife, Katie, continues to undergo treatment for a brain tumor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The couple have a four-year-old daughter, Jolie. Joe Garrison is additionally survived by another daughter, Randa.

Thoughts and prayers from the OneDirt staff to all of Joe Garrison’s family and friends.

Godspeed Joe Boy!

About the author

Ben Shelton

Ben got his start at historic Riverside International Speedway. His accomplished motorsports media career includes journalist, race announcer, and on-air personality.
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