Total Chaos! Nitro Madness -The Biggest Funny Car Race of the Century
64 FUNNY CARS! The last time we saw a field that big was in the mid-’70s. Steve Evans was on the mic, and dry hops and match racing were king. Don Prudhomme, Tom McEwen, Raymond Beadle, Ed McCulloch, Gordie Bonin, Don Schumacher, Jim Dunn, and The Hawaiian were still doing half-track burnouts. The 64-car funny car shows held at Orange County International Raceway (OCIR), Seattle International Raceway, and Irwindale were legendary and will live on forever in the hearts and minds of those who were there.
It’s been nearly 50 years since a 64 Funny Car extravaganza was held, but that all changed when the Funny Car Chaos series invaded Billy Meyer’s Texas Motorplex, March 26-27. Nitro Madness, the Funny Car Chaos season opener, was billed as the biggest Funny Car race of the century and it lived up to all the hype. The excitement leading up to Nitro Madness was off the charts as funny car drivers from around the country wanted to be a part of this historic event.
The entry list kept growing: 40, 50, 60…could we actually see 64 Funny Cars in 2021? They say everything is bigger in Texas and they were right. The action-packed event featured a total of 68 Funny Cars, nearly 20 Outlaw Fuel Altereds, 50 Dirty South Gassers, and a contingent of nostalgia cars from the Texas Drag Racing Association.
Billy Meyer knows a thing or two about Nitro Funny Cars: he started driving them when he was just 16 years old. At 18, he won the prestigious 1972 Manufacturers Meet featuring 64 Funny Cars at OCIR. He went on to win 12 NHRA national events and the 1980 IHRA Funny Car world championship. In 1986, Meyer hung up his fire suit and built drag racing’s first supertrack, the Texas Motorplex, in the city of Ennis. It’s only fitting that the first 64 Funny Car race in five decades would be held at his track.
The Funny Car Chaos “run whatcha brung” format means that anything with a Funny Car body qualifies to run in the Funny Car class. Any body style and engine combination is permitted. In Texas there were nitro, alcohol, injected, even a twin-turbo engine flopper, all competing against one another.
Event promoters Chris and Tera Graves have devised a simple plan that works for racers on every budget. “A racer can build their Funny Car the way they want to build their funny car, not the way the rulebook says they have to build their Funny Car. It’s a more budget-friendly option. That’s why we have a wide range of engine combinations and body styles,” Chris said.
The all-concrete racing surface at the Texas Motorplex has been producing record runs since the day it opened, and the records continued to fall during Nitro Madness. Del Worsham, the 2015 NHRA Funny Car world champion, crushed both ends of the Funny Car Chaos record book with a run of 3.196 seconds at 275.57mph (1/8-mile). The records were previously held by Allan Middendorf (3.387 seconds) and Terry Haddock (234.74mph).
The 32-car qualified field was broken up into four eight-car fields (A, B, C and D) with more than $50,000 in prize money up for grabs. Worsham advanced to the A Field final round but smoked the tires, allowing Kyle Smith to streak by for the win. The other Funny Car champs were Doug Schneider (B Field), Bill Bernard (C Field), and Tom Furches (D Field).
Richard Hartman also etched his name in the drag racing record book, becoming the first Fuel Altered driver to run faster than 300mph and crack the four-second barrier when he drove Tim Wilkerson’s Summit Racing AA/Fuel Altered to a 304.53mph, 4.920-second blast. Not to be outdone, Kebin Kinsley followed with a 304.59mph pass in the War Wagon, leaving Nitro Madness with the official AA/Fuel Altered speed record.
Funny Car Chaos started in 2017 with one event. Now it’s an eight-race series that runs at several tracks in Texas and the Midwest. “This is a grassroots, low drama, big fun, family type atmosphere that is showcasing the most popular drag racing vehicles in history, Funny Cars! “Chris Graves said. “I grew up a kid in the stands at the Motorplex watching Dean Skuza, K.C. Spurlock, and Kenji Okazaki pound the ground in their fuel floppers. Fast forward 25 years, and here we are hosting what will likely become the largest Funny Car race of the century at the place where my drag racing addiction was born. Burnouts, dry hops and backup girls are all part of the show. We put the FUN back in Funny Car!”
The ’70s were the heyday of Funny Car racing with names like the Blue Max, Chi-Town Hustler, Jungle Jim, The Hawaiian, and the Snake and Mongoose barnstorming around the country trying to make a buck. In 2021, the tradition continues with new names like Dragon Slayer, American Outlaw, Obsession, Pandemic, The Cone Hunter, and Man-O-War filling the pits at Funny Car Chaos events. Long live the plastic fantastics!
Funny Car Chaos Nitro Madness Photo Extra!
Photos by Marc Gewertz