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On the Road: Funny Car Chaos Series

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Imagine for a moment a group of Funny Car racers who all decided to give their cars catchy names, just like in the early days of the sport. Ponder the scene of state-of-the-art, modern Funny Cars, as well as tribute-themed nostalgia entries, right down to forgotten cars that had been literally retrieved from a barn, cleaned up, refurbished and put back into heads-up action on the drag strip.

As long as we’re dreaming, consider if you will, blown alcohol cars, nitro cars, even nitrous-assisted Funny Cars if you please, all competing with no weight restrictions, any length or style of body (so long as it represents a Funny Car in the purest of form) with dry-hops strongly encouraged!

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It sounds like a crazy dream I realize, but this deal is for real, it’s gaining lots of interest and it was also on my “bucket list” of things to see in person. It’s called Funny Car Chaos, and it’s among the coolest things I’ve come across in a while.

[Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared in DI #162, the 30 Under 30 Issue, in November of 2020.]

A big part of the appeal to the racer is the freedom to build your flopper any way you want instead of following a precise rulebook. No matter if you envision your Funny Car to sport a sleek, new-style body or a boxy nostalgia lid from yesteryear, the choice is yours to make.

This series features an 8-car qualified “A” field, backed up by an 8-car “B” field of cars, and each is equally entertaining as the other, so just get in where you fit in and let the good times roll!

The whole thing started in 2017 when Texas native Chris Graves decided to branch out from professional photography and being a race car crew member to include race promoting to his long resume of exploits. North Star Dragway became the testing grounds for what would eventually become Funny Car Chaos, initially with booked-in match races. Afterwards, the idea was to offer some purse money and see who wanted to come compete for it. Before long, this deal exploded into a multi-state touring, points-earning series that’s packing grandstands, often to capacity!

I was fortunate enough to catch this header-cackling act in Missouri over Labor Day weekend at the legendary Smokin’ Mo-Kan Dragway, where 22 of the most diverse floppers you’ve ever seen in one place showed up to do battle and entertain fans…with a strong emphasis on “entertainment.”

Long, smoky burnouts are highly recommended and pretty much expected. You’ll find back-up girls dressed for the part, staging duels and qualifying grudge races, and I even saw one crew member donning an elaborate costume and waving a sword, much to the delight of the energized fans! The whole thing is an epic display of horsepower, with tons of showmanship mixed in. For the fan of the sport, it’s the “personal experience” that they’ll never forget.

“You’ll not find signs that read, ‘Driver will be back at 4:30 to sign autographs.’ These guys are available anytime. You can sit in their race cars and if you’re hungry they’ll feed you!” laughs Graves.

These folks even throw barbecues during Thursday’s pre-race festivities, and it seems the camaraderie is what they live for. Sure, you’ll find some sprawling rigs in the pits, but not many of them. These are sweat-of-the-brow, working-class Americans who labor away all week, just so they can meet up with their Funny Car friends on weekends and do their thing.

The choice of venues is the other important component that makes this deal work marvelously well. The idea is to refrain from touring this series to tracks that already host national events, but rather, take it to vintage, time-honored facilities that are sometimes a half-century old, if not older.

Take Mo-Kan Dragway for example – a facility that famously went nearly 30 years without so much as being sanctioned, until IHRA lured them out of outlaw status and into their fold a few years ago. This is the kind of venue that delivers the goods when creating the perfect atmosphere to experience Funny Car Chaos.

Incidentally, when Graves brought his “plastic fantastic” show to Mo-Kan in late August, the resulting fan turnout was the single largest one-day crowd in track history. What’s more, the grandstands at Mo-Kan are situated in a way that provides an up-close and personal experience in drag racing…the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

The advertised field of Funny Cars alone would be enough to rock most people’s world, but there’s more to this thrill show than the headlining act. The Texas-based Dirty South Gassers group also tours with this series to select events, bringing anywhere from 30-50 of some of the coolest, wheel-standing nostalgia cars you’ve ever seen. When the tour goes further north, the popular Ozark Mountain Super Shifters club will take part in the show. Graves is also a big believer in booking a jet car for added thrill show value. “You gotta have a jet!” he declares.

Graves strives to maintain an 8-race schedule, with this year’s events touring to Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri, along with the popular stops in Texas, where the earliest roots are firmly planted.

To be clear, this was one bucket list item I was sure happy to scratch off the list, only it didn’t satisfy me for long, as I traveled to San Antonio in early October to catch the season finale of Funny Car Chaos, ’cause I soon realized that this was one show that definitely needed an encore!

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