DI Warm-Up: Aussie Champ Steve Ham to Enter NHRA TAFC
Reigning Australian Top Alcohol champion Steve Ham has decided against an Australian National Drag Racing Association (ANDRA) title defense in favor of a move to compete stateside in NHRA’s Top Alcohol Funny Car class. Ham recently purchased a complete U.S.-based TA/FC operation and plans to enter three midseason events.
“It all started after we were going to race selected rounds here (in Australia) and have a holiday in the U.S.A. After seeing John Evanchuk’s package for sale, a few ideas were thrown around. I got in touch with one of our suppliers, Ken Juszczyk at Motorsports Unlimited, about how to base the car. Ken was so keen to help that now we have struck a partnership in the race operation,” Ham noted in a statement.
Juszczyk and his Motorsports Unlimited business, a performance parts distributor, have extensive knowledge pertaining to the world of blown alcohol racing. He served as crew chief on a top IHRA Alcohol Funny Car in the early 2000s and most recently has offered parts and tech support to NHRA and PDRA teams.
Ham acquired just about everything necessary to field a competitive methanol-burning Funny Car from Evanchuk, who drove the Monte Carlo-bodied Hadman chassis to the winner’s circle at the 2012 NHRA Northwest Nationals in Seattle. American race fans can expect Ham to first hit the track during the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio over Fourth of July weekend. Additional stops at the Route 66 Nationals near Chicago and a Lucas Oil Series regional event in Columbus, Ohio round out the Australian’s three-week schedule in the U.S.
The international aspect of Ham’s 2015 campaign adds to the already daunting task of competing in NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car. However, with a plan set in place and a team to help carry it out, Ham is pressing forward.
“We’re not going over with any stars in our eyes, but we really just want to start by ticking off a massive bucket list item and getting to see the country a little at the same time. We’ll do some testing as well, which we’re really looking forward to.
“All the boys are very keen but it’s a big deal to take a few months off work just to go racing, so we’re making it as easy as possible for them to come, but not applying any pressure. Ideally we’d love to have them all over but that may not be feasible for some of them. James (Rowland) is the most likely starter, as he will have finished his studies, as well as the reality that we have a great driver/tuner relationship that I think is one of the main reasons behind this year’s success.”
The Mobil1-sponsored driver became just the fifth driver to capture a season championship in ANDRA’s Top Alcohol class, which combines dragsters and funny cars. Ham beat out 16x champion Gary Phillips to take the 2014 title, clinching in a storybook manner.
“It seems stupid to finally get the Australian championship and then run away but we want to be doing this for a long time and this opportunity is just too good to refuse. It just ticks all the boxes and we’re already very excited. I’ve already got my NHRA license after they gave us the nod based on our Australian timing cards and all the other requirements like medicals and the like, so we’re already counting down the days,” beamed the Brisbane resident.
- Read more about Steve Ham’s unbelievable championship weekend.
- Qatar Race Club’s recent announcement that it will cut all funding of its United States motorsports activities, most notably Al-Anabi Racing-branded NHRA Top Fuel and Pro Mod teams, shook the drag racing world out of their post-holiday slumber. The Los Angeles Times even ran a story about the shake-up on their website.
- Meanwhile in the United Arab Emirates, the 2015 season is kicking off at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The Yas Super Street Challenge offers an alternative to illegal street drag racing, a “negative and dangerous phenomenon on UAE’s roads,” according to this article from the small Middle Eastern country’s The National newspaper.
- Take a look back at the earliest days of Al-Anabi Racing in this late 2008 press release on CompetitionPlus.com, announcing the team’s new headquarters in Brownsburg, Ind.
- Catch highlights from the 2014 ANDRA season, including Steve Ham’s championship-deciding run, in this Year in Review video.
- Can you imagine riding along for a long, smoky burnout in a Top Fuel car driven by a championship driver? 4x ANDRA champion Darren Morgan offers just that with his one-of-a-kind two-seat Top Fuel dragster.
- This Force Production Studio-produced video gives viewers a unique look at 16x NHRA Funny Car champion John Force through a series of GoPro clips. The video is hosted and narrated by two of Force’s youngest fans, grandsons Jacob and Noah.