Funny Car Chaos! Inaugural Race Rocks Texas
The first annual Funny Car Chaos presented by Red Line Shirt Club rocked North Star Dragway in Denton, Texas as a huge turnout of Funny Cars and fans stormed the scene. The flip-top frenzy attracted racing teams across seven states as well as spectators from around the country. A unique aspect of the race was the open rules package, allowing absolutely any engine and body combination to participate in the “run what ya brung” affair. The event, a vision of Fuel Curve freelancer Chris Graves in partnership with track owner Gene Nicodemus, created a buzz that came to a head September 29 & 30th.
With twenty three funny cars cars on the property, it promised to be a high octane party. A wild assortment of exhibition vehicles including jet dragsters, wheelstanders, nitro fuel altereds, the Dirty South Gasser group and the Beat the Heat program, joined the fuel cars creating stacked staging lanes and quite the racing menu for the 4,000-plus fans on hand.
Two fields of floppers were on tap, an eight-car “A” field and a sixteen car “B” eliminator did battle with over $25,000 up for grabs. Scattered showers Friday did their best to delay the action, but two sessions of qualifying were completed by midnight and Saturday came with spectacular weather as tailgaters found their spots along the fence and a seat in the stands.
The elite eight top qualifiers were slotted into the ‘A’ field, led by “Mr. Explosive” Mark Sanders from Washington who’s 3.68 at 205 topped the qualifying sheets. The pits were a buzz as eliminations got underway, both racers and spectators eager for the action. Sanders showed no mercy as he claimed win lights over Charles Ware and Chris Morel to earn his spot in the final round. His opponent, funny car veteran Keith Jackson who’s “High Heaven” team made the tow from Denver was formidable. Jackson had defeated John Hale and Mark Billington to meet Sanders in the last dance.
Sanders and company, led by his son and crew chief Jake Sanders, thrashed hard after destroying a motor in the semis. True professionalism unfolded as the team went to work to change motors as Jackson and company patiently waited for their opponent before heading to the lanes. At the line, nitro fumes filled the air as the cars came to life and proceeded to their burnouts. After they staged, the tree dropped and they were off, Jackson with a slight advantage off the line. Both drivers had their hands full and the cars were side by side as they neared the stripe. Just before the finish line, Sanders and Jackson both were off the throttle Sanders taking the win light with a 4.12 at 141 mph to Jackson’s close 4.25 at 154 mph. Sanders was last to enter the event, just one week before the race and came out the last man standing by claiming a memorable ‘A’ field win at Funny Car Chaos.
Number nine through twenty-three qualifiers made up a highly competitive ‘B’ field eliminator which welcomed Andy Mears and Jordan Ballew to the final round. Ballew, at the age of twenty-seven, had already enjoyed a career weekend in the “Ballew Thunder” 1969 Nova-bodied Oklahoma based entry. Consistency and a stack of career-best time slips powered Ballew to the final to take on Lubbock, Texas’ Andy Mears and the “Dragon Slayer” 1957 Chevy bodied flopper.
At the flash of amber, Mears ripped off the line with a .011 reaction time to Ballew’s close .046. Side by side they thundered down the eighth mile then at the finish line Mears’ 4.76 at 145 narrowly held off Ballew’s 4.77 at 146. The victory margin of .021 seconds was the closest drag race of the weekend!
It was a stellar race to cap off a truly chaotic weekend of Funny Car action. For Mark Sanders and Andy Mears, history was made as they were crowned 1st Annual Funny Car Chaos Champions all smiles in the winners’ circle as they collected their winning payouts, hardware, and photographs. Feedback from racers and fans could not have been better as it seemed this first edition of Funny Car Chaos couldn’t have shaken out any better. If you missed it, not to worry, two Funny Car Chaos events are confirmed for 2018 as Amarillo Dragway will host the spring race before teams return to North Star Dragway next fall for the second event of next year. Follow along as details come together at www.funnycarchaos.com.
Photos: Chris & Tera Graves, Wes Ramsey, Steve Scott, Russell Brown