For Years, This Was One of Modern Sports' Biggest Secrets

Drag racing legend Bob Muravez raced under a fake name for years, with help from reporters
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2020 12:57 PM CDT
Updated May 3, 2020 1:25 PM CDT
For Years, This Was One of Modern Sports' Biggest Secrets
Stock photo of a drag racing tire.   (Getty/Toa55)

In certain circles, 82-year-old Bob Muravez is a legend. The Californian won more than 600 sanctioned drag-racing events in the 1960s and 1970s and became one of his sport's biggest names. But as a story at SB Nation explains, when Muravez is asked for an autograph these days, he has to sign two names: his own and that of "Floyd Lippencott Jr." The reason is a strange one, and it revolves around "perhaps the most closely guarded mystery in modern sports," writes John M. Glionna. From 1962 to 1967, Muravez raced under the fake name of Lippencott in order to hide his dangerous career from an overbearing father. And he did so with the help of reporters, photographers, and racing officials who guarded his secret. Photographers, for example, never took his photo unless his face was hidden by a helmet and mask.

And it was actually a reporter named Steve Gibbs who came up with the pseudonym. After Muravez won a race in San Gabriel, he asked Gibbs not to use his real name. Gibbs came up with Lippencott, borrowed from the author of one of his college textbooks, and a legend was born. "I had no idea the name would become a major piece of drag racing trivia,” says Gibbs, who went on to be competition director of the National Hot Rod Association. The story explains that Muravez's father ran a successful washing-machine business that he handed over to his two sons, but he gave Bob an ultimatum: Quit racing—the sport was a particularly deadly one in that era—or leave the family business. Muravez found a compromise instead, though his father eventually learned his secret—and things didn't go well. Read the full story here. (More Longform stories.)

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