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Drag Racing Stories
Aug 24, 2011

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70s Funny Cars: Round 56

Text by Danny White

Allen Karnes was a funny car racer out of the Northwest during the turn of the decade. Karnes raced this full sized Hemi powered Dodge Charger in local match race action like Seattle, Portland, Boise, and other tracks that booked in funny cars. The Charger featured a rather large, ungainly chassis as seen in the photo. It would not be long before all the space frame chassis either would be outdated or outlawed by new SFI requirements that came into place in the early seventies. The full size funny cars like this would also be gone and replaced by the new, aerodynamic “mini” funny cars. (Photo from Draglist files; info from Draglist files)

At the time of this photo, Bill Flynn was a seasoned funny car veteran who had been in the game from the beginning with his famed Yankee Peddler Mopar. Al Hanna, on the other hand, was an up and coming funny car driver who had fielded his own series of injected cars. In 1970, Flynn stepped out of the driver’s seat and let Hanna take over the wheel of this beautiful Charger. Like several teams of this era, they did not race together for long as Hanna  teamed with Joe Mundet on the series of Eastern Raider cars. Bill teamed with Tim Kushi for a short while on the Damn Yankee. Flynn later drove a Pro Stocker before retiring from racing. Hanna raced funny cars into the eighties before becoming one of the premiere jet racers of all time. (Photo by John L Johnson; Info from Draglist files) 

Bob Pickett raced a series of gassers and funny cars in Southern California under the Mr. Pickett banner in the late sixties and early seventies. This Plymouth Cuda was built in 1971 to replace the Javelin that flipped over in the lights, breaking Pickett's back on the landing. The Cuda was raced until 1972 when Bob sold it to the Evans Bros. and then went on to drive for Pete Everett and Mickey Thompson. Pickett would race into the 80s with his own cars. (Photo by Tom West/Replicas West)

Jim Coursey was one of a handful of funny car racers to choose the second generation Nova body. This beautiful AA/Funny Car was the second Excedrin Headache machine, replacing an earlier injected nitro Camaro run by Duncan, Ray, & Schultz. Coursey teamed with Larry Nelson to buy the Texas Bandit from Richard Kiesov. Jim and the Excedrin Headache could be seen in Southwest match race action and local national events. He was one of the last to run the Nova body in AA/FC action. (Photo Courtesy of Quarter Milestones; info from Dennis Doubleday and Richard Kiesov)

Jim Crowe and Bud Kirby joined forces to race this beautiful Corvette funny car in the early seventies. Crowe had previously owned the Code of the West Camaro and Kirby was the driver of the Kirby Bros. and Kocela Camaro. The Don Kirby paint scheme was a reminder of the Master T Corvette of a couple of years prior. The team's success was evident in the photo -- they were unable to break the so-called Corvette curse that haunted the Corvette funny cars of the sixties and early seventies. The car was soon put up for sale in the drag papers by Bud Kirby. (Info and Photo Courtesy of Dennis Doubleday)

Chevy funny car racer Tom Sturm came to fame with his Just 4 Chevy Lovers series of funny cars in the sixties. For a stint in the early part of the seventies, Tom used Dale Armstrong to pilot his aptly named Swapper Dodge Challenger. Sturm returned to the driver’s seat with a new space frame Camaro in 1971. In 1972, Tom replaced that car when he built a new Chevrolet Camaro with rat power. The car featured a winged spoiler seen only on a few funny cars of the era in an attempt  to stick the ill handling car to the track. Another thing that stood out on the funny car was the unique injector. One time, Sturm lost the body off the car at a race at OCIR. This did not deter him -- he built a cowling for the cockpit and ran it as a dragster. This Camaro proved to be Sturm's last race car. (Photo by Auto Imagery; Text from Draglist files)

Here is a forgotten gem of a funny car, the Rapid Reid Vega owned by Al Reid and driven by Ray Stutz. Reid had previously owned the Trip fuel altered and raced a Top Fueler before acquiring this flopper. Al bought the Vega from Gary Hazen and put Top Fuel driver Ray Stutz in the seat. The Rapid Reid Vega was a short lived deal as Reid went Pro Comp racing and raced into the nineties. Stutz continued his Top Fuel career well into the next millennium. (Photo courtesy of Ray Stutz)

The Mighty Monza featured a great duo of owner Bill Leavitt and driver Al Segrini. Leavitt had built the car for himself but did not like the feel of the low slung Monza. Bill went out and got Segrini to drive. Al was fresh from the seat of the Black Magic Vega and the Highland Express Mustang II. The team altered Leavitt's permanent number by adding a duct taped “1” to race in the Northeast! The S&W built, Donovan powered Monza saw action on the East Coast before being sold to Rodalyn Knox, who renamed the car with her familiar  Country Girl moniker. (Photo by Thomas Nagy; Info from Draglist files)

On occasion, Bonneville legend Les Leggitt has made forays into the drag racing wars. One example was the One Way Special Mustang II funny car that he fielded in the late seventies. The name had a couple of origins, one of them biblical and the other in that you have to run two ways in land speed racing. Leggitt hired drivers such as Topper Kramer and Jim West to shoe the low budget funny car. Les fielded the car for a couple of years, all the while remaining a legend on the salt. In the 2010s, Leggitt returned to drag racing with a nostalgia funny car. (Photo Courtesy of Auto Imagery; Info from Draglist files)

This is a rare action shot of Northern Californian Ken Silvestri's Vega on nitro. The former gasser racer stepped up to fuel in this car that was featured prominently in the cult drag racing movie American Nitro. Silvestri did not race on nitro with the car for long and soon swapped over to cheaper and more forgiving alcohol. Ken raced alcohol funny cars for the next decade before retiring in the mid-eighties. (Photo by Auto Imagery; Info from Draglist files)


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