Denver Post file
Denver drag racer Johnny Caywood Abbott Sr. poses for a picture next to one of his sleek rail racers in this Denver Post file photo.
A celebration of the fast life of Johnny Caywood Abbott Sr., a Denver native and drag racing champion, will be Thursday at Bandimere Speedway.
Abbott, who won 39 top-fuel championships between 1961 in 1984 and was named Colorado’s drag racer of the year in 1970 and 1978, died May 21 in Denver of cancer. He was 79.
“John’s early claim to fame was he was a top-fuel driver,” said John Bandimere III, whose family owns and operates Bandimere Speedway in Morrison.
“He grew up with the sport,” Bandimere said of Abbott. “He came from an era where hot-rod racing and cars going fast was a lifestyle. He never grew out of that. It was a very important part of his life.”
Born on March 10, 1938, Abbott attended Denver South High School. He served in the Navy from 1956 to 1959. Abbott was an early member of the Strippers of Denver, a local hot rod club that promoted drag racing and was instrumental in building the Continental Divide Raceway.
Abbott started racing in 1954, advancing to top fuel in 1964.
“He taught me to drive,” recalled John Abbott Jr., his son. “But he taught me a lot more than that; he taught me about life.”
In 1974, Abbott founded Fire & Safety of Denver Inc., having worked in the fire safety industry since 1959. The business remains with family, as does the sport of racing.
John Abbott Racing Group is a third-generation, professional drag racing entertainment organization run by the family.
“I grew up with the sport and traveled with him everywhere,” Abbott Jr. said. “It’s led to generations of racing. It’s carrying on.”
In 2006, Abbott was inducted into the Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame; a year later, he received the National Hot Rod Association Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2014, Abbott was inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
“He was very serious about what he did. He was really competitive,” Abbott Jr. said. “That’s what I learned from him, the competitive nature of it and how to approach racing.”
Abbott is survived by his son; two daughters, Carrie Fell and Teri Abbott Vanderhoof; his wife, Kristie Lewis-Abbott; his former wife, Elizabeth Abbott; grandchildren; and great-grandchildren.
A celebration will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Top Eliminator Club, Bandimere Speedway, 3051 S. Rooney Road, Morrison.