Courtesy Gerdes/Circus Archives
Part 2 of Drag Racer’s thrilltastic trip in the Funny Car Time Machine
By the early 1970s, Funny Car builders from coast to coast had taken cues from each other’s workmanship and began to standardize their approach to crafting the foundations for these ground-shaking, flip-top, crowd pleasers. We’ll pick up the torch where suspensions were no longer needed and where clutches took the place of over-worked (and over-exploded) automatic transmissions.
NHRA vs. the Match Traveling Circus
Little did we know (at the time) that these entertaining drag racers were actually a nitro-burning “traveling circus.” The only difference was they all went in different directions once the show was over. In 1974, there were only seven NHRA national events. The calendar included: The Winternationals, The Gatornationals, The Springnationals, Le Grand National, The Summernationals, The Nationals, and The World Finals.
The striking “Pepsi Challenger” carried Don “The Snake” Prudhomme on a memorable 5.637-second pass on September 4, 1982 at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Once the dust had settled in 1974, Shirl Greer of Warner Robbins, Georgia, was crowned Funny Car champion, following a terrible fire in qualifying and a heroic overnight rebuild (by friends and crew) that saw Greer drive with bandaged hands on race day. That made for an exciting story, and the bucks-down racer proved to be a popular champion, as everyone loves an underdog. Truth be told, the sport is peppered with amazing triumphs such as that.
Referring to one of the old Winston Drag Racing Media Guides, it had a category subtitled, “Milestone Professional Performances,” and the Funny Car section lists: 5.987, Don Prudhomme, October 12, 1975, Ontario, California. “The Snake” also appeared in that same section, thanks to a stellar 5.637 blast on September 4, 1982 at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
It would be impossible to count how many active Funny Cars there were nationwide, though the total would be “a bunch.” That said; most racers could travel as little or as much as they wanted for match race bookings. At the time, track promoters had different deals for different drivers. Some, like “The Snake” and “The Mongoo$e” received appearance money, as well as an escalating purse, that increased by the number of rounds won. Other racers may have attracted only the round money, but other incentives were also common, such as tow money and bonus bucks for wild burnouts or wheelstands. Every crafty promoter seemed to have his own package deal … (more…)