VOLUME XX, NUMBER 8 - AUGUST, 2018
DRAGRACINGOnline will be published on or around the 8th of each month and will be updated throughout the month.
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Editor & Publisher
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DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
Director: Casey Araiza
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ET DRAG RACING
Words by Todd Silvey
Photos by Don Eckert and Scott Bessee
Mike Kurz in the “Chasin’ My Childhood II” and Nick Poloson driving “Bucket List.”
In a remote corridor of cornfield-filled farmland in Illinois sits Central Illinois Dragway. The small but clean 1/8-mile 'strip may have gravel pits and grandstands for hundreds of spectators, not thousands. So, what was the incentive for Chris Graves to host his growing Funny Car event series titled Funny Car Chaos at the mild-mannered midwestern track?
"The Illinois race was my test to find out if racers located outside of the greater Texas region are interested in our format," Chris Graves, founder of the Chaos series says. "We began with one race at Northstar Dragway in Denton, Texas. We have a good base of funny car racers in the region and it made a great starting point for one race at the end of the 2017 season. Racers from the Midwest and East coast were all contacting me about hosting our Chaos events in their neck of the wood, so we did this leap in locations as a trial."
Graves' experiment turned out to be a tremendous success as 18 entries filled the C.I.D. pits with every shape, size, and combination of Funny Car. The tech/safety rules are eased when it comes to the Chaos series. As their promotional literature says, the events are "a no rules, completely outlaw, run what you brung regulations package." Ten Funny Car entries were on nitromethane and eight on methanol. One could say it's more about the backup girl than the entrant passing a perfect tech card.
Bazz Young gets a little help getting “Down-Under Thunder” backed up in the right spot.
The entrants complete their own safety checklist and they then hand over to the race officials. "We do look at the cars ourselves, inspecting for positive fire bottle charges, diapers, belly pans, licenses and things like that," Graves explains. "If a guy's blower restraints or clutch can are out of date by a year, but look perfectly fine, we are good as long as the track okays it."
The range of Funny Cars was a spread between IHRA championship hitters like John Hale and Mike McIntire (back when IHRA had real nitro-laden events) and more sportsman-level teams. The elimination ladders are designed to accommodate the variety of entrants. Two different elimination groups are created from three general qualifying rounds. The "Funny Car A" ladder is generated from the top eight ETs while a "Funny Car B" category comes from the ranks of the number 9 to 16 qualifiers.
With 18 entrants on the grounds, the qualifying lists were full. It was interesting to note that racers traveled from as far east as Pennsylvania plus North and South Carolina. Some came from the Texas/Oklahoma origins of the Chaos events, while the remainder were from the greater Midwest.
We spoke to John Hale, owner and driver of the "One Bad Texan" Camaro Funny Car. "We had a ton of fun at these events in our home state of Texas,” Hale says. “We decided to bring the team up to Illinois and see what we can do here. I would rather travel to the Chaos events and have fun than go to the West Coast for their rule constrictions and hassles."
The “Excalibur” is a real beauty.
McIntire ran a 3.78 in the finals covering Steve Timoszyk. Though the scoreboard showed a 2.06 ET for Timoszyk, McIntire got the win light by hitting the strip first. It was another example of "odd clocks" throughout the day from the track’s aging timing system.
We had a great conversation with Mike McIntire Sr. about the event. They were happy with their accomplishments during the late night, but he was more somber during the day. "We're not sure about our future with the nitro car,” McIntire says. “We had some great seasons competing on the Nostalgia Funny Car and IHRA competition trails. We will get the car out maybe three times this year including this drive from Pennsylvania to Illinois. I hope something changes in this sport (Nitro Nostalgia Funny Car Racing) or we may sell out the entire operation that we have worked so hard to build and be competitive."
The Funny Car B eliminations were a more regional group. The semi-finals consisted of racers from Illinois (Joey Haas) Missouri (Mike Kurz and Rick Wilson) and the exception from Salisbury, North Carolina, Bill Naves.
Naves, in the "Shooting Star" late model Monte Carlo fell to Rick Wilson competing in his "UFO" Firebird. The other side of the ladder paired Haas in the "Nimrod" nostalgia Mustang Mach 1 over Kurz in his "Chasin' My Childhood II" vintage Duster (lead photo).
Respectable ETs throughout the Funny Car B eliminations were illustrated in the finals as Wilson earned the win with a 4.30 over Haas' 4.50 ET.
Except for some long-distance diehards, the Chaos events are primarily a group of the region’s hardcore Funny Car racers. Graves’ first event in 2017 took place at his home track, North Star Dragway in Denton, Texas. That event hosted 22 entries, primarily from the South Central region. The 2018 version of Funny Car Chaos is presenting three other races at Mo-Kan Dragway and Amarillo Dragway (already run) and repeating later in the year at North Star Dragway.
The one exception of the regionalized attendance is Jordan Ballew. Manhandling the "Ballew Thunder" '69 Nova Funny Car, the Ballew family is the single team that has attended all F.C.C. events. We spoke to Jordan during the Mo-Kan event earlier this year. "We like the open rules and are enjoying ourselves," Ballew said. "Racing on a little nitro with an old school 427 Chevy is a lot of fun for us. We want this to work for Chris and everyone else."
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