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:
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Dec 17, 2014, 8:47 PM EST
NASCAR revealed the 2015 schedules for the Whelen Modified Tour and its Southwest Modified Tour, including a first-time visit at the legendary Hickory (NC) Motor Speedway.
Dec 17, 2014, 7:23 PM EST
Do you like watching old racing videos and programs from the past? If so, you’re going to love this BBC video about NHRA drag racing from back in 1990.
Dec 17, 2014, 6:38 PM EST
Kurt Busch got the chance to tell his side in the legal battle with former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll. We break down what Kurt said in court on NASCAR America.
Dec 17, 2014, 5:16 PM EST
Kurt Busch testified Wednesday he asked former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll numerous times to leave his motorcoach on the night she claims the NASCAR driver struck her head several times.
Dec 17, 2014, 3:03 PM EST
The race to the finish line of Phase 1 of Daytona Rising at Daytona International Speedway kicked into high gear Wednesday, with a record 1,002 construction workers on-site.
Dec 17, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup’s status grew in 2014. We caught up with the series manager during Austin F1 weekend.
Dec 17, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
Ferrari mass exodus continues.
Dec 17, 2014, 1:30 PM EST
At least two IndyCar stars will join the Rolex 24 lineup, but teams are TBD.
Dec 17, 2014, 1:23 PM EST
Ben Kennedy, the great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and 2014 Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year, will race for Red Horse Racing in 2015, the team announced Wednesday.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:46 PM EST
As we continue our series on the top 30 drivers of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, next up is series veteran Greg Biffle.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:10 PM EST
James Hinchcliffe tests Tuesday at Sebring with Schmidt Peterson.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
Crafton made history in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this year as its first back-to-back champion.
Dec 17, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
Allmendinger propelled his single-car team into the Chase with a win at Watkins Glen.
Dec 17, 2014, 10:32 AM EST
We’ve all been there, Jimmie. We’ve all been there.
Dec 17, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
No drivers, but DCR’s shock/damper program should be good in 2015.
Dec 16, 2014, 8:04 PM EST
It’s not an ideal situation for NASCAR, but as the NASCAR AMERICA gang explained today, it’s not a hopeless one either.
Dec 16, 2014, 7:14 PM EST
Patricia Driscoll broke down on the stand during the hearing in Dover, Delaware.
Dec 16, 2014, 5:30 PM EST
A two-day website auction on the assets of the former F1 outfit began today.
Dec 16, 2014, 4:44 PM EST
Scott Hargrove to test for 8Star’s Indy Lights team.
Dec 16, 2014, 4:30 PM EST
Coming up: What will Sprint’s departure in 2016 mean for NASCAR’s future?; Steve Letarte revisits his final race as a crew chief; more on the health of Brian Vickers; the inspiring story of the NHRA’s Jay Blake.
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