When it comes to putting the “fun” back in Funny Car racing, 36-year-old promoter Chris Graves is leading the charge. His Funny Car Chaos tour has exploded onto the drag racing scene in just three short years. From Thursday night pre-parties to qualifying under the lights, the event has expanded from just one race in 2017 to a seven-event series this year, complete with a points championship.
It’s a success story the Texas native didn’t necessarily see coming. “The first race was something I was just planning on doing every fall at North Star Dragway,” Graves says. “But things quickly escalated after that race, as far as racetrack interest from other people, and racers giving me feedback that they’d like to do more.”
The tour has expanded beyond Texas, with events also held in Missouri, Illinois and Michigan. And while NHRA continues to struggle filling their field of nitro floppers, Funny Car Chaos routinely sees car counts in the mid-20s.
Two major factors play into this, the first being a wide-open rule set. “We don’t enforce any rules on performance, engine combinations, blower size, magnetos…it’s run what you brung,” Graves says. “And it’s run what you brung on body style. You can have a 2019 Ford Mustang, or you can have a 1967 Camaro. It’s not a cookie cutter deal. You’re not seeing cars that look the exact same every pair.”
The second aspect is a truly unique points system. Funny Car Chaos qualifies a 16-car field, but breaks them down into an eight-car “A” field for the quickest eight drivers, and an eight -car “B” field for spots 9-16. Racers in both fields can accumulate the same amount of points, however, allowing everyone to compete for a championship.
“Separating the field into two groups kind of helps separate that performance gap you create when you allow a nitro car with two mags to go run against a guy with a big-block Chevrolet,” Graves says. “It equals out, and ends up being some really good, unpredictable racing. It’s more exciting for the fans, and it’s more exciting for the racers.”
In short, Graves wants everybody to have a place to race. “I knew of a bunch of cars that were ready to go, sitting in the trailer with nowhere to go because they don’t fit a strict, four- or five-page rulebook,” Graves says. “We let them run what they already have. Because they built it the way they wanted to build it. It gave a home for a lot of people that had no home.”
One of the drivers that has found a home is former Pro Mod racer Brandon Lewis. After competing mainly in the Midwest Pro Mod series last year, Lewis sold his ’57 Chevy in favor of a nostalgia nitro Funny Car. His team and their ‘69 Camaro, nicknamed the “Attitude Adjuster,” have seen nearly instant success, sitting second in points after winning back-to-back events in the “A” field.
“Chris has always put on awesome events, catered to the racers and just made it absolutely a blast,” Lewis says. “This has been the best year in probably the last three years racing, that we’ve just had fun at the racetrack.”
There’s much more to the Chaos than just Funny Cars, though. A large group of supporting classes, including slingshot dragsters, altereds and index classes, fill the pits – led by the Dirty South Gassers.
“They are our number one partner,” Graves says. “Having the gassers out there between the Funny Cars, doing their wheelstands and burnouts, it’s just a perfect fit.”
Despite the success, Graves doesn’t want to expand too quickly, saying he’d prefer to crawl before he walks, and walk before he runs. However, more dates and locations – including the East Coast – could be possible in the future.
“We’re definitely going to grow next year. I’ve already got five tracks calling and wanting to do something,” Graves says. “You just gotta keep it at a steady pace of growth. We’re giving fans something different. It’s a full day of non-stop, exciting, unique, visually appealing drag racing entertainment. And when the racers get treated right, and they have fun and get paid decent money, they’ll come back.”
This story originally appeared in DI 147.