AHRA World Champs and Circuit Funny Cars:
The Battle for Legitimacy
by Bill Pratt
AHRA Spokane Funny Car winner, Jason DuChene. Photo by David Hapgood
Some recent online comments have suggested that the winners of the AHRA World Finals at Spokane, and Funny Car winner Jason
DuChene in particular, were not really legitimate World Champions. I'm here to say that
DuChene (and all the other winners) should get his props for winning that race. Remember that the NHRA basically did the same thing before the Winston era. The winner of the World Finals was considered the world champion. Of course, there were divisional races that led up to that point, but what can you do. Jason
DuChene and the others lined up against who they put in the other lane, and they came out on top after a grueling day of racing on a surface that was marginal at best.
Quite frankly, as was often the case at AHRA national events, the best track tuner often ended up the winner. If you took NHRA's best and put them up in Spokane on that day, Jason
DuChene might have had just as good a shot at winning. When you consider that often the NHRA guys go up in smoke on even the finest, best prepared track surfaces, it's logical to assume that the Spokane race would have taken the NHRA boys so far away from their regular race day tune ups that they might very well have been lost.
Frankly, I LOVE the AHRA World Finals, as quirky as it is, and I can't wait to see who comes out for it year after year. As for legitimacy, all you can do is race the guys and gals who show up. That's what Jason did. Peter Russo rightfully went back to Australia last year claiming the AHRA World Championship, because he beat all the guys who showed up for the title. Think of the Super Bowl, folks. You can get there by going 8 and 8 on the season, but if you win it, you're the National Football League champs. (Well, in Canadian
DuChene's case, I guess I should cite the CFL, but frankly, I don't know a damn thing about that league except they have wider fields, higher scores, and my departed favorite John Candy once owned a piece of the Argonauts <g>). I think you get my point, though.
Jay Mageau and the IBAA put on a terrific show with their 7.50 funny car circuit.
Photo by Cheryl Ogonoski
There have also been some disparaging comments about circuit racers like Jay Mageau and his immaculate, but relatively slow, '57 Chevy. I think the 7.50 circuit cars are GREAT. You gotta learn somewhere, and if you can race on a budget, put on a good show for smaller tracks, and fill out a bigger show for larger tracks, then GO FOR IT! It's how this game is played, folks. I remember seeing Don Skuza and his little kid running a 7.50 blown Fiat in circuit action in the Ohio area. Now, we all know who Dean and Don Skuza are. Whit Bazemore was a photographer who ate peanut butter sandwiches and drove a circuit alky funny car to get to where he is. Bob Gilbertson, originally from the Northwest, drove mildly competitive alky cars for years before moving down to North Carolina and moving up to nitro. I could go on and on with the examples, but you get my point.
As an announcer and a hard core drag racing fan, I want to see fast cars and a good show. But I admire ANYONE who puts their money where their mouth is and lays out the bucks and time to field a drag car, especially in one of the quicker categories. I have fuel funny car guys on the Drag Racing List with 14-second time slips as personal bests. But they were out there, giving it a go. And that alone separates the doers from the wanna bes (like me).
If you missed them, here are two great David Hapgood pieces on the weird but
wonderful AHRA World Finals in Spokane, Washington: