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I lost one of my best friends yesterday. My buddy, Dick Rosberg, passed away after a long battle with melanoma cancer.
I met Dick in 1971 when he was campaigning the famed “Fighting Irish” nitro Funny Car with partner Tim Beebe. At the time I was the announcer at New Jersey’s Raceway Park and Dick and I hit it off right away. We were both former Marines and we both had a sick, twisted sense of humor. We became good friends.
Dick was a guy who could drive anything. He started his racing career in 1964 as one of the original weekly racers at the famed Lions Dragstrip running a Top Gas Dragster with moderate success. In 1970 he was picked to pilot a Top Fuel Hydroplane owned by “Mr. Ed” Willis, and at the same time he drove Mike Kuhl’s Top Fuel Dragster.
Realizing that he had to make a decision between water and asphalt he chose the latter and in 1971 he began his long career in professional drag racing behind the wheel of a series of “Fighting Irish” race cars. Dick also drove a Top Fuel Dragster named “Hallucination” for a couple of seasons. In he 1977 formed “Fighting Irish Racing Enterprises” with partners Don Novak and Billy McDaniel. The team raced a nitro Funny Car until 1981 when the cost of nitro racing escalated beyond their means.
The team decided in 1982 to try their hand racing a jet-powered Funny Car and picked up the Stroh’s Beer sponsorship. With the success they had, they built a second car to be able to provide track operators with a pair of jets for match races and they crisscrossed the country racing up to 60 dates a year.
The team disbanded in 1991 and they sold everything. Dick and his family moved to Rockingham, N.C. Dick became a hired driver and raced jet pickups, a jet semi truck and jet dragsters for many owners including Bob Van Sciver, Al Hanna and others until 1994 when he decided to build his own state-of-the-art jet dragster.
Since I lived in nearby Charlotte, I started going to the races with Dick and his son Terry. Those road trips were some of the best times of my life. Endless hours going down the highway, shooting the shit, telling stories and racing just about every weekend made the time fly by.
I remember one trip we made to Nashville to race at Music City Raceway and for the 12-hour ride we never turned the radio on, just Dick and me talking about anything and everything -- laughing and enjoying life.
In his final days as his condition deteriorated he still had his wits and sense of humor. He decided to donate his body to Life Legacy for medical research. That was Dick, always willing to help a fellow racer and maybe his final wishes will help save someone’s life.
I’ve made a lot of friends during my 45 years doing this crazy thing called drag racing, but Dick Rosberg was one of my best friends and I’m going to miss him a lot.