race reports

Funny Car Chaos at Havana, Illinois


Chaos in the Cornfield 2.0


Words by Chris Graves

Photos by Scott Bessee, Chris Graves, Russell Brown, Ken Bennett and Bob Snyder

Mike Smith in the “Nor’Easter” 


Central Illinois Dragway in Havana, IL, marked the fifth of seven stops on the 2019 Best of Texas BBQ Sauce Championship Tour presented by Red Line Shirt Club, For the capacity crowd on hand, which set the single day attendance record at the facility on Saturday, July 27, it was a non-stop horsepower shop featuring floppers from across the country and much more as Funny Car Chaos headlined the 50th Anniversary celebration event.


Also included in the lineup were the Midwest Nostalgia Pro Stockers, Nostalgia Super Stock Inc. series, Ozark Mountain Super Shifters, CID Top Eliminator – Quick 16 & Bikes, a nitro match race between Chuck Baird’s Nostalgia Top Fuel Dragster and Jim Hidy’s AA/Fuel Altered.

Event Grand Marshal Wilmer Gale made exhibition runs in his “True Grit” stick shift wheelstanding Camaro. Gale had been running at the track since his drag racing debut in Havana in 1969 and got a well-deserved standing ovation during the opening ceremonies.

Illinois race Chuck Baird 


Weather had plagued track’s season thus far, like many tracks in the area, with only three race weekends completed to this point. The Funny Car gods parted the skies and welcomed sunshine and temps in the low 90’s for both days of Chaos action, a much appreciated forecast for the Chaos staff and track crew who had been working for weeks in preparation for the big birthday weekend.


For teams chasing the inaugural Chaos championship title, this event was a huge opportunity to shuffle the standings and every point was critical in their hopes to be crowned series champs. Many of the southwest-based racers who had been on tour thus far, stomping across Texas and Missouri, made the tow to Havana and were joined by a fresh crop of East Coast and Midwest based teams eager for their first taste of Chaos this year.

Friday night hosted a double shot of qualifying under the lights as Allan Middendorf’s “American Outlaw” clicked off a 3.84 at 161 mph to lead the field of seventeen entries.

Nancy Matter’s Dale Pulde-tuned “Guardian” posted a 4.07 at 163 to earn the number two spot. 


Mark McElwee wheeled the “Buzzy’s Bomber” to a 4.25 at 149 to round out the top three in the quick eight Rodak’s Custom Coffee ‘A’ field.

The AlkyDigger ‘B’ field was led by Joey Haas’ “Nimrod” with a 4.71 at 145 mph as teams returned to the pits to service and prepare for final qualifying and eliminations on Saturday.


Heading into the final qualifier Saturday afternoon, points leader Ken Singleton and team “High Risk” were yet to make it past sixty feet, struggling with a new engine combination and desperate for a full pull that would put them into the ‘A’ field. Yet again, nearly instant tire smoke and even with a wicked pedal job and 190 mph pass, their 5.17 was not enough for an ‘A’ field spot. Their goal would now be earning as many points as possible in the ‘B’ field, which offers equal points earning opportunity.


Many teams did improve in their final qualifying run including Tod Barker who put the Oklahoma-based “Back in Black” alcohol burning Corvette into the number one spot in the ‘B’ field with a 4.48 at 165 mph. Jeff Cameron’s “Magnolia Missile” Firebird stepped up to a 4.57 at 154 to earn a spot in the top half of ‘B’ and Steve Timoszyk’s Michigan-based “Detroit Tiger” moved up to number three in the ‘A’ with a 4.19 at 171 mph.



Rodak’s Custom Coffee ‘A’ Field

1. Allan Middendorf (Columbia, IL) – 3.84 @ 167

2. Nancy Matter (Lewisville, TX) – 4.07 @ 163

3. Steve Timoszyk (Detroit, MI) – 4.19 @ 171

4. Mark McElwee (Vandalia, MI) – 4.21 @ 163

5. Kevin Lennon (Merrillville, IN) – 4.26 @ 150

6. Chuck Loftin (Seguin, TX) – 4.33 @ 169

7. Fred Farndon (Edmond, OK) – 4.42 @ 155

8. Chris Schneider (Jefferson City, MO) – 4.46 @ 156


AlkyDigger ‘B’ Field

1. Tod Barker (Marlow, OK) – 4.48 @ 165

2. Mike Smith (Brockton, MA) – 4.52 @ 118

3. Jeff Cameron (Magnolia, TX) – 4.57 @ 154

4. Joey Haas (Pleasant View, TN) – 4.71 @ 145

5. Jordan Ballew (Bartlesville, OK) – 4.76 @ 146

6. Robert Slaughter (Waco, TX) – 5.08 @ 123

7. Ken Singleton (Chickasha, OK) – 5.17 @ 190

8. Brian Cunningham (Peachland, NC) – 5.42 @ 106

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9. Tim Board (Trivoli, IL) – No Time


An empty seat could not be found and the fence line down both sides of the track was full of elbows as all eyes were fixed on the first pair of ‘A’ field action as Allan Middendorf and Chris Schneider took the stage to open eliminations. Team “Brutus” had plans to terrorize the ‘B’ field, but nearly career best numbers slid them into the elite eight and earned them a date with the number-one qualifier. Unfortunately, reverser issues kept the car from backing up after the burnout and after a safe exit at the top end from Schneider, Middendorf clicked off a stellar 3.78 at 190 mph. How about low elapsed time to make an opening statement!


Kevin Lennon had only made one qualifying run on the weekend in the “Shake and Bake” Indiana-based fueler, but it was good enough for a spot in the ‘A’ field. Lennon’s weekend ended unexpectedly as his crew was unable to fire the car in his match with Mark McElwee as the “Buzzy’s Bomber” nitro-powered Nova posted a clean 4.00 at 188 mph to advance.


Next Chuck Loftin came to the line with authority and took the starting line advantage with a .013 reaction time, earning him the Taylor Motorsports Products quick reaction time bonus. Steve Timoszyk was hot on his heels and the cars were glued together at half-track, but at the stripe, the “Detroit Tiger” had the ponies to drive around with a 4.17 at 172 to Loftin’s close 4.29 at 170 mph.


Nancy Matter and Fred Farndon closed ‘A’ field first round action with a dandy ol’ drag race. Eighty-one-year-old Farndon left first and was trucking right down Broadway in the “Play It Loud” entry, but despite his best elapsed time to date in Chaos competition with a very nice 4.08 at 171 mph, was no match for Nancy Matter’s strong 3.98 at 179 mph.


Qualifying session match race brothers Joey Haas and Jordan Ballew were set to duke it out in the first round of AlkyDigger ‘B’ field competition, but Ballew was an unfortunate no-show with a mechanical issue -- not what the team was hoping for in Havana looking to move up from their number three points position. Haas soloed to a 4.66 at 147 mph to move into the semis.

Tod Barker in the “Back in Black” Corvette. 


Top qualifier Tod Barker and Brian Cunningham came to the line next in a wild match up. Barker took almost a tenth of a second advantage off the line and Cunningham was playing catch up in the nitro burning “Gone Ballistic” entry. At half-track Cunningham started losing traction and made a wild move to the wall, then pedaled it through the lights to a 4.50 at 142 which came up just short to Barker’s winning 4.44 at 164 mph.


Jeff Cameron and Robert Slaughter brought their 90’s style alcohol burners to life as ‘B’ field eliminations continued. Slaughter in “Smokey the Bear” was fresh off career-best qualifying numbers and he stepped it up again in first round with a new career best of 5.01 at 128, but came up short at the stripe to Cameron’s 4.63 at 156 mph.


Closing the round, two cars most expected to see in the ‘A’ field pulled to the beams in a heavyweight bout between points leader Ken Singleton and the Bill Dee owned, Mike Smith tuned and driven “Nor’Easter” nitro burner. Singleton for the fourth straight pass ran into traction issues, pedaled it, shook and shimmied and had the best seat in the house to watch Smith click off a 4.13 at 134 mph, the fourth quickest elapsed time of the entire opening round.


Semi-finals in the ‘A’ field got underway as McElwee and Middendorf inched their ground-pounding, fume-pumping outlaw fuelers to the stage position. Off the line they launched with nearly identical reaction times as Middendorf began to pull ahead. The “American Outlaw” started making a steady drift to the left lane wall and it was hammer down for Middendorf as he drove it through the finish line, but tagged the wall just three feet before the stripe, disqualifying a 3.82 at a booming 198 mph and unfortunately taking a chunk out of the left front fender of the carbon fiber body. McElwee posted a clean 4.07 at 160 mph and after confirmation of the disqualification from Chaos staff, was final round bound in Havana.


Nancy Matter and Steve Timoszyk came to life next to see who would join McElwee in the last dance of the ‘A’ field. Another great race ensued as Timoszyk used a holeshot and a 4.16 at 171 to defeat Matter’s 4.14 at only 150 after she was forced to lift just shy of the finish line allowing the tiger to nip her at the stripe. So, it was all Michigan in the final round as Timoszyk and McElwee returned to the pits to prepare for the money round.


AlkyDigger ‘B’ field semis kicked off with Haas and Barker taking the line, both steadily improving on their numbers each round to this point. Barker is likely still kicking himself at this point as he reads this report from home in Oklahoma, but his -0.115 reaction time wasted a career best 4.31 at 166 mph pass as Haas also laid down a career best in the “Nimrod” with a 4.53 at 154 mph to move into his second straight Havana final round.


All is not lost, as Barker took home the Littlefield Blowers “Top Speed of Eliminations ‘B’ Field” bonus. Jeff Cameron and Mike Smith were up next. Cameron was a clear underdog on paper and gave it his best shot with a massive starting line advantage, but his 4.63 at 150 mph was no match for the “Nor’Easter” as Smith posted a 4.22 at 134 mph to move into the final round.

Two pairs remained, two winners to be named, two first time winners guaranteed, it was time to conclude an epic evening of drag racing at Central Illinois Dragway’s 50th Anniversary as Joey Haas and Mike Smith pulled to the waterbox as the ‘B’ field final was cleared to fire. Backing up from the burnouts, Haas and Smith guided their floppers into the desired position and pulled forward to stage. At the flash of amber, Haas ripped off the line with a huge gate job courtesy of his .016 reaction time and held the lead to mid-track. Smith was charging hard in the opposing lane and at the stripe had enough to drive around for the win with a 4.18 at 149 mph to Haas’ career best 4.50 at 153 mph. It was all smiles for car owner Bill Dee and company on the starting line as they claimed their first Chaos victory. Haas headed home to Tennessee with back to back ‘B’ field runner-ups in Havana and a pocket full of career best ET slips, not bad at all!


The ‘A’ field final round was underway as the wires were pulled and fumes filled the sky. McElwee was in his first final round appearance, while Timoszyk hoped to claim his first win after an ‘A’ field runner up in Havana last year. It was a win win for these teams, who are not only friends at the track, but family off the track. They pit together, they tune together, they race together and despite the outcome, they’d celebrate together.

At the flash of amber, McElwee struck the tires as the “Detroit Tiger” team erupted in celebration on the starting line and Timoszyk posted his best pass of the weekend with a 4.05 at 171 mph to officially claim the team’s first Chaos victory and a cool $5,000 for their efforts!


That leads us into a story that shows the true family aspect of the sport of drag racing and that resulted in a very touching moment in the winners circle, we’ll let Timoszyk narrate.


“So, as we were leaving for Havana in 2018 one of our crew, Chuck Drath, informed us he was in need of a kidney transplant and had been placed on the donor list and was unable to make the event. At the time Chuck had been with us for 5 years and never missed a race, test session, anything. He is one of the most dedicated guys I’ve ever met. So even though we were runner up, the accomplishment was not the same without Chuck there. Collectively the entire team decided to get tested to see if there were any matches. There ended up being several and Matthew Brehmer, our back up driver/fabricator ended up being the best match and made the decision to donate his kidney to Chuck. Matt’s been with the team for almost 10 years since he was 14 years old. He is the most selfless person I’ve ever met, and am proud to call him a friend,” said Timoszyk.


“In February the transplant took place and was a success. While in the hospital, Matt, Chuck, Buzz McElwee and myself were talking and Buzz called out that our two cars would make a Chaos final this year! It’s been 6 months and both Chuck and Matt are in great health, and we made that final against Buzz and Chuck was there to enjoy the victory this time!” concluded Timoszyk.


For track owner Frank Hutto and manager Jeff Lasecke their 50th Anniversary celebration couldn’t have been better with an absolutely jam-packed crowd, fabulous weather and on track entertainment like never before.


After Havana, the points race tightened up a bit with Singleton still holding the top spot, 26 points ahead of second place Jordan Ballew. Brandon Lewis missed Havana, but remains third with Jeff Cameron and Tod Barker tied for fourth.


The Best of Texas BBQ Sauce Championship Tour continues northward for its debut appearance at US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, MI, presented by Powershield Coatings, September 6-7. The title will be decided at the Funny Car Chaos Championship Finals at North Star Dragway in Denton, TX, on September 27-28. 




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