May 15, 2014, 10:55 PM EST
Before John Force became the winningest driver in National Hot Rod Association history, there were other drivers who were the Force of their time.
If you’re a longtime gearhead and drag racing fan, surely you recognize the name Raymond Beadle and his “Blue Max” Plymouth Arrow Funny Car, or Paul Candies and Leonard Hughes’ “Cajun Cuda,” which ruled the quartermile back in the 1970s.
Nearly 40 years later, those iconic cars will once again take to the dragstrip in the International Hot Rod Association Nitro Jam Spring Nationals Saturday and Sunday at Rockingham (N.C.) Dragway, right across the street from legendary NASCAR track, Rockingham Speedway.
The two legendary Funny Cars are part of increasingly popular nostalgia classes in both the IHRA and NHRA (Hot Rod Heritage Series) that have been bringing back memories for longtime drag racing fans and are attracting new fans, as well.
“It’s like stepping back in time,” Dragway owner Steve Earwood said in a media release. “When I was the PR Director at the NHRA, I worked with the Blue Max guys as well as with Paul Candies and his series of drivers.
“Richard Tharp, he drove for both teams at different times, Mark Oswald, Leroy Goldstein, the list goes on. Those cars had personalities and I think that still resonates with our fans.”
The Blue Max and Cajun Cuda were among a crop of Funny Cars that not only put the NHRA and IHRA on the map nationally, they also barnstormed across the U.S. and Canada as the sport exploded to the greatest level of its popularity in more than a half-century of chasing the fastest elapsed time and top speed.
“Between them, the Blue Max and Candies and Hughes won seven IHRA Funny Car championships and four NHRA titles in the late 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s,” according to the media release. “In fact, Candies and Hughes once won both titles, IHRA and NHRA, in a single season (1984).
“Back then, the drivers were Beadle, who this year will be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Novi, Mich., and Mark Oswald. Now, they’re Ronnie Young of Dallas, Texas, and Mike Halstead of Fontana, Calif.
“Nevertheless, while the drivers’ names have changed, the mystique has not, which is why the nostalgia Funny Cars are among the hottest commodities in the sport.”
Beadle went on to parlay his drag racing prowess into a successful career as a NASCAR Winston Cup team owner.
In fact, it was Beadle who owned the car NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace earned his only Winston Cup championship (1989), not Roger Penske as many fans still get wrong even to this day.
Beadle had a special fondness for Rockingham Dragway while still a driver, winning the spring race there four times in seven years from 1975 through 1981, using three of those wins to springboard to the eventual championship that season.
Other legendary Funny Cars expected to compete in this weekend’s event are John Smith of Delray Beach, Fla., in a “Jungle Jim” Liberman tribute car, former IHRA Top Fuel winner and trailer manufacturer Bruce Litton in the U.S. Male Chevy Vega, and rookie Mike McIntire Jr. in the McAttack 1969 Camaro that won earlier this year at Bradenton, Fla.
Over the last few years, there has been a significant renewed interest in legendary dragsters of old, particularly Funny Cars.
Although they won’t be at Rockingham this weekend, legendary Funny Cars like Don “Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “Mongoose” McEwen campaigned their Hot Wheels-sponsored rides not only at NHRA races, but also barnstormed from one end of the country to the other. The special friendship and rivalry between the two was profiled in the recent Hollywood movie, “Snake & Mongoo$e.”
To see how drag racing was back then, check out the promotional trailer of “Snake & Mongoo$e” below:
Follow me @JerryBonkowski
Jan 31, 2015, 12:23 AM EST
Wendell Scott’s induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame completed a long journey for his family.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:44 PM EST
Five NASCAR legends achieve the sport’s highest honor.
Jan 30, 2015, 9:30 PM EST
CLICK HERE for stream links to the special event involving former NFL greats and NASCAR drivers.
Jan 30, 2015, 7:00 PM EST
The son of NASCAR’s first African-American winner of a premier series race talks with NASCAR AMERICA’s Marty Snider about his father’s accomplishments.
Jan 30, 2015, 6:30 PM EST
CLICK HERE for stream links to tonight’s NBCSN coverage of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 Induction Ceremony in Charlotte, N.C.
Jan 30, 2015, 6:15 PM EST
Petty, a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s inaugural class of inductees, speaks with NASCAR AMERICA’s Kelli Stavast before tonight’s Class of 2015 ceremonies.
Jan 30, 2015, 6:00 PM EST
Brasilia cancellation provides the latest chapter in the roller coaster ride that has been IndyCar’s international dalliance.
Jan 30, 2015, 4:05 PM EST
Alex Bowman joins Tommy Baldwin Racing for the 2015 season, replacing Michael Annett, who left for a ride at Scott Motorsports.
Jan 30, 2015, 4:00 PM EST
Coming up today: Live interviews and red carpet arrivals for tonight’s NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony; a closer look at the careers of all five inductees; Gridiron Challenge preview.
Jan 30, 2015, 3:30 PM EST
2015 will be the first year that Hulkenberg has raced in F1 for two straight years with the same team.
Jan 30, 2015, 3:18 PM EST
Luca Filippi gets the opportunity several coveted, and will now have the chance to seize.
Jan 30, 2015, 2:30 PM EST
He is widely touted as being one of the brightest talents on the cusp of F1, but 2015 will be a big year for Raffaele Marciello.
Jan 30, 2015, 1:45 PM EST
With Sauber, the Swede hopes he can continue to develop and make up for a difficult rookie year with Caterham.
Jan 30, 2015, 1:15 PM EST
Marco Andretti set for a new number while Andretti Autosport continues to sort out the rest of its IndyCar lineup.
Jan 30, 2015, 12:30 PM EST
After boldly stating in 1999 that “all that can be achieved has been achieved”, Toyota will return to the WRC upon the next regulation change.
Jan 30, 2015, 12:00 PM EST
A full download of all posts from NASCAR Media Tour on NBCSports.com.
Jan 30, 2015, 11:30 AM EST
Australian driver does not feel under any added pressure in 2015 despite appearing to be the new team leader.
Jan 30, 2015, 11:15 AM EST
First video from Gridiron Challenge now up, in advance of the full event set to air tonight at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:51 AM EST
The No. 10 WTR Corvette DP reclassified to last in P after drive-time violation at Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:45 AM EST
After a miserable 2014, Raikkonen hopes that the new season and a new car will bring better fortunes for Ferrari.
- Long: Journey for Wendell Scott’s family ends with a kiss (VIDEO) 0
- Elliott, Lorenzen, White, Scott, and Weatherly enter NASCAR Hall of Fame (VIDEO) 0
- NASCAR Media Tour Content Recap: All posts, one place 0
- Gridiron Challenge: NASCAR drivers take football stars for a spin (VIDEO) 0
- Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony headlines 6.5 hours of NASCAR on NBCSN 0
- Ferrari reveals SF15-T for 2015 Formula 1 season 4
- Sauber aims to beat the blues of 2014 with C34’s launch 2