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Celebrating Bobby Marriott’s 50th Anniversary in Drag Racing: A Look Back at the Outlaw Fuel Altered Association Hall of Fame Driver’s Career

Bobby Marriott stands in the driver’s meeting at the Funny Car Chaos Classic at Texas Motorplex, expecting a typical weekend of racing. After all, he’s been doing this for five decades now, so there’s not much that surprises him at this point.

Chris Graves – the man in charge of Funny Car Chaos, Nitro Chaos, and the Outlaw Fuel Altered Association – has other plans. During an emotional exchange, Graves presents Marriott with a large, framed photo celebrating his 50th anniversary in drag racing, featuring various cars Marriott has driven through the years in Pro Stock, Funny Car, and Fuel Altereds. It’s but a small token of appreciation for the man who helped shape Graves’ career.     

Deb Poloson photo

“That was a very minimal thing compared to all the things he’s done for me,” says Graves. “To be able to recognize him in front of a crowd of 200 drivers at the biggest Chaos race in history, I felt was more than deserving for him.”

Now 69 years old, Marriott began racing the same way many others have – with a street car. It didn’t take long to move beyond his big-block Camaro, however, and he soon found himself competing in Pro Stock at NHRA and AHRA divisional events against the likes of Warren Johnson and Lee Shepard. He also got his wife, Nancy, hooked on the sport during this time, and the two have been inseparable ever since.  

“The first race I went to was in San Antonio in 1975, I believe,” Nancy says, admitting she’d been more into sports like football before meeting Bobby. “He was running Pro Stock, and he won that race. I was like, ‘Okay, this is pretty cool!’ We’ve been doing it ever since, and I’ve never missed [a race]. I’ve been to every one that he’s raced in.”

Marriott funded his hobby early on by working at his father and uncle’s construction company. He’d moved up to owning an equipment company when he met Nancy, and together they opened three Napa Auto Parts stores from the early 80’s until the mid-90’s. In 1996, Marriott formed the Outlaw Fuel Altered Association (OFAA), a risky move at the time that eventually paid huge dividends. 

Marriott had switched from Pro Stock to running Alcohol Funny Car, but fuel altereds remained a lifelong passion for him. When the funny car circuit he competed in disbanded, he called various track owners about starting a series specifically for fuel altereds. His idea was initially met with resistance, but Marriott was determined to make it work.   

“Everything he does, he plans it out. Nothing is on a whim,” says Nancy. “Watching him start the OFAA, I just thought, ‘I don’t see how this is ever going to work.’ It’s a lot to undertake to make something like that successful. But he thought about and planned it for a long time. We had four cars at the first show in Kennedale. We used to have to beg tracks for races; then suddenly they’re calling us. It just took the perseverance to know that it could work.”

2007 Redline Raceway, Chris Graves photo

In those early days of the OFAA, Marriott was the man to beat, winning numerous races and capturing five championships. But Nancy believes the biggest win for him was on April 21, 2007 in Shreveport, Louisiana shortly after his father passed away. Battling cancer, he’d insisted Bobby go race, and the victory was a perfect way to honor him.

In 2019, Marriott was inducted into the OFAA Hall of Fame, forever enshrining him in the organization that he founded. While Nancy says he never expected any glory from the series, the recognition by his peers still meant a lot to him.  

2023 Xtreme Raaceway Park, Chris Graves photo

More recently, with the competition in the series stiffening, wins have been harder to come by. But Marriott continues to prove he still has what it takes to get the job done, winning the 2023 season finale at Xtreme Raceway Park in Ferris, Texas.    

“It was extremely exciting because it had been a while,” says Nancy. “But we always said we didn’t want the same winner every race. That gets dull after a while. So when you get them, it’s a real treat. That last race was a big deal for us and our crew.”

The determination and perseverance defining Marriott’s racing career has undoubtedly inspired many individuals over the past 50 years; but arguably none more so than Graves. Graves recalls the times as a teenager when his mom would drop him off at a McDonald’s parking lot in Texas, and Bobby would pick him up in their rig and take him to whatever track they happened to be traveling to that weekend. As their relationship grew, Graves became the team photographer and pit reporter, and eventually started the OFAA website.    

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“Those early years really got me hooked on racing,” Graves says. “He gave me my first break and opportunity to travel, see the country, and go to drag races and have a job doing photography and website reporting. It fed my addiction, and a lot of what’s going on today with Funny Car and Nitro Chaos stems from the days of traveling with Bobby and Nancy with the Shockwave fuel altered.”

Chris Graves Warming Up Marriott’s Altered Texas Raceway, 2012

Graves says Marriott is like a father to him, and taught him so much about how to handle one’s business and conduct his lifestyle. Marriott was the Best Man at Graves’ wedding. Their families vacation together. And in 2020, Marriott handed the reins of the OFAA over to Graves, ensuring the series would remain in good hands. 

So as the two stand hugging at the driver’s meeting with a framed photo celebrating Marriott’s 50th anniversary in drag racing, it’s more than just an award. It’s a symbol of the continuation of one man’s legacy in the sport.          

Deb Poloson photo

“It takes a lot of organizing and planning,” says Nancy. “Bobby spent a lot of hours doing that, and Chris does too. I think Chris had a good idea of what to expect by going with us to the track all those years and talking to Bobby constantly. We’re so proud of what he’s done. I guess it was just time for us to pass that torch to someone else, and it’s been amazing.”

This story was originally published on May 17, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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