Race car driver Terry Nish, known as “Terrible Terry” for his aggressive nature on the track and described as the patriarch of the “World's Fastest Family,” died recently at his home in Salt Lake City. He was 80.
A celebration of Nish's life and racing career will be held Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. at the Nish Motorsports Race Shop, 818 W. South Temple.
In 2007, Nish became only the second auto racing figure inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame, following Bonneville Salt Flats legend Ab Jenkins, a member of the charter class of 1970.
A graduate of West High School, Nish initially made his mark as a driver at the Fairgrounds Speedway. He became a consistent performer at Bonneville Raceways and expanded his racing interests to the Salt Flats as a driver and team owner. Nish set a world record of 338 mph in 1997 and his sons Mike, Jeff and TJ joined him in Bonneville's 200 mph club, leading to the “World's Fastest Family” designation. Nish's Royal Purple streamliner became one of the most renowned Salt Flats vehicles and he later teamed with racer Rick Vesco as one of the primary forces behind the Save the Salt effort.
On the oval track, Nish was proud of his “Terrible Terry” nickname. His family used it this week as the headline for his obituary, which included the explanation that “race fans around the world cheered or booed” for him.
Nish was known as a tenacious competitor, according to former SaltLake Tribune sports columnist Dick Rosetta, who thoroughly covered Nish’s driving exploits in an era when Salt Lake City newspapers treated weekly auto races as major events in the summer.
Nish also was known for helping others in the racing community. In 1999, he created the Utah Motorsports Foundation that has raised $1 million to distribute to racing families in need, Mike Nish said.
Terry Nish once resented the media attention given to driver “Wild Bill” Madsen, Rosetta said, but he enlisted his former rival to help him in his captaincy of the U.S. Sprint Car team that enjoyed considerable success in Durban, South Africa.
Aside from auto racing, Nish founded Servi-Tech in 1969, building a successful food products machinery business.