Round 22: Featuring Robert Hodges' Buccaneer,
Bill Daily's Lone Ranger, Clayton Pool in Dickie Williams' Firebird, Steve Leach' Starfire, Bob Larimore's Circus Cuda, Tom Crevasse in the Sir Wells Charger, Jerry Jefferson's Oklahoma Land Rush, Danny Pickett's Overland Express, Linford McLemore's
Banshee, and the Steward & Downey Camaro.
Jerry Jefferson started his fuel funny car career in the Gitthens & Jefferson Vega. Jerry Gitthens retired in the middle of 1976 due to rising costs and mental burnout, so Jerry moved to a short career in Top Fuel in 1977 with Elvis Humphrey, another former Gitthens partner (see Round 19). Jefferson returned to AA/FC in 1978 with the Oklahoma Land Rush Arrow that featured a Don Long chassis and a Keith Black Hemi. He match raced, and ran AHRA and NHRA Division IV where he finished third in 1978. He continued to run the Arrow through 1980 and had a best of 6.31/222. Two Corvette FCs followed and in 1986, Jefferson qualified second (5.68) at the first Chief Auto Parts Nationals held at Ennis. During the 87 IHRA Winter Nationals, the Oklahoma Land Rush T-boned Jerry Caminito, destroying both cars. It would be Jeffersonís final run -- he never rebuilt. (Jim White photo; info source draglist.com)†
The Overland Express funny car of Danny Pickett was based out of Kansas. The team made its nitro debut in 1977 with a Keith Black powered, Monza bodied funny car after racing an A/FD. The team ran NHRA, AHRA, IHRA, match races, and divisional races. They qualified at the NHRA Cajun Nationals in 1977, reaching a high point for the team. The Monza ran a best of 6.31 but was later destroyed in a fire at Amarillo. The team regrouped and built a Vega to replace the Monza, but the Vega never matched the Monza's performances. The team converted the car to alcohol and entered the BB/FC wars, where they raced in the All American Funny Car Circuit until 1981 when Pickett retired. Danny also drove the Satin Doll TA/FC during this period. Pickett made a short comeback in early
90s in the Just For Fun Ford Probe TA/FC. (Don Eckert photo; info from Ron Rice, Draglist files)†
Linford McLemore of Killeen, Texas, was a rising star on the Midwest fuel funny car scene before his unfortunate death in a highway accident. He and his father built the Cuda-bodied Banshee for the 1971 match race scene and ventured to several AHRA Grand American events. Obviously well on his way to learning the ropes, McLemore recorded a best of 6.79/206 with the Banshee according to Draglist files. Only in his early twenties when he died, Linford was never able to reach his full potential. The car was sold to Larry Reep and became the Grim Reeper AA/FC (see Round 11). (McLemore handout photo; info source draglist.com)†
Larimore was a popular Midwest match racer during the mid-70s. He got his start in doorslammers, then moved up to a '23-T A/Altered. Junior fuel racer Ron Rice put his injected fuel Chevy in the altered. Larimore said the car could beat Top Fuelers at U.S. 30 when the fuelers messed up. Bob then had B&N Fiberglass build him a
66 Chevelle body to fit on an A/FA chassis. The lightweight Matchmaker Chevelle debuted in
66 with tons of press. Uncle Sam postponed Larimore's budding funny car career in 1967. When Bob returned home in 1971, he raced Pro Stock for a time. Bob then built the Pegasus Pinto
BB/FC with his brother in 1973. The team ran on the Smoker Smith and Nick
Boninfante circuits, and had lots of match races at "down home
tracks." Bob also found himself filling in on the Coca-Cola Cavalcade of Stars circuit, booked by Ira Litchey's Gold Agency.
The Pinto was destroyed in a top end crash at Spartanburg, SC, in 1975. The team
rebuilt the chassis from firewall forward and mounted the ex-Don Schumacher
Cuda body. Bob recalls that they only missed three or four weeks.
In 1976, Litchey began to
demand that Larimore run nitro to get booked. On pop, the 392 Chrysler went 6.80s at first, and finally mid-sixes with a bigger motor and load. The Cuda was renamed the Circus Wagon and finally the Circus Cuda.
It began black (as pictured) but was later painted in the familiar white Wonder Wagon scheme to fit the circus theme.
Larimore ran down South a lot, hitting IHRA races and nitro match races. Bob raced the Circus Cuda through
76 and then sold it to Chuck Finders. Larimore debuted a new Pinto in 77 and attempted to get his NHRA license. Bob lost the body on the final pass and didn't get the license. Larimore kept racing in match races, where money and fun were more plentiful. Bob said that he raced on scary tracks and suffered a couple of fires, but he managed to make money and have fun. (Gary
Hojnacki shot; information from Bob Larimore)
This drop dead beautiful Trans Am came from the state of Texas. Dickie Williams was based out of the college town of Denton throughout his career, which began
with the Peebles & Williams Top Fuel Dragster. The team was very successful in Top Fuel with Chip Woodall at the wheel, so they added a Cuda funny car that raced successfully in 1974 and 1975. When Jackie Peebles retired so did the team's top fuel effort. Dickie Williams built a new bicentennial-themed 76 Vega called Spirit of 76, driven by law officer Paul Gordon. The car was sold to Steve Hodkinson and was replaced with this new Tony Casarez-built Trans Am. The car was shoed by returning driver Chip Woodall in 1977 and early 1978.
Free spirited Clayton Pool took over the reins in 1978 after previously driving Dickie Williamsí rocket go-kart to six-second times in 1977. Pool had his own Vega Panel A/FC before driving for Williams. The team raced on the local match race circuit and with AHRA before splitting up. Williams rejoined former partner Paul Gordon to run the Enforcer Trans Am BB/FC on the All-American Funny Car circuit until 1982. The team returned to AA/FC in
82 with a Dodge Charger. Their high point was possibly when Gordon ran a career best (5.93) in qualifying for the U.S. Nationals in 1983. Not only was it the teamís first five it was the first all-five-second funny car field in history. Williams and Gordon raced through 1985 when both retired. Pool returned in the
80s to race Pro Mod, TA/FC and a blown altered with his own Wild Child Dry team. (John Shanks photo; info sources Phil Elliott and draglist.com)†
Steve Leach is the owner of Race Car Dynamics, a California company that has specialized in support equipment for nitro and alcohol racing for almost thirty years. During the mid-70s, Leach fielded two funny cars of his own. The first was a Dodge Charger named the Shadow and then came this Monza painted to look like a Buick Starfire. The car was well turned out and its Donovan powerplant put it in the thick of things through
77 with times of 6.45/224. Bryan Raines did most of the driving during its many appearances, which included West Coast national events, Division 6 and 7 events and match races. Note the use of purple anodized aluminum through out the car, a popular practice during the
70s. (photo from J.W. Last files; info draglist.com)†
The Buccaneer Mustang AA/FC is shown in 1973 at St. Louis. The Esquivel, Hodges & Carpenter team was based in Galveston, Texas. The team's two-year career was based on the 1972 OCIR Manufacturers Meet winning car of Billy Meyer. Esquivel fronted the money, making her one of the few female funny car owners. Robert Hodges was the main driver, but sometimes Grover Rogers took the wheel. The team ran the NHRA Division 4 circuit, where they finished third in
73 and second in 74. They also ran match races and the occasional IHRA or AHRA national event. The familiar Meyer paint scheme was covered up for 1974 but after solid high six-second performances the team disappeared. (Don Eckert photo; info sources Gary Osborne and draglist.com)†
Bill Daily drove the Lone Ranger AA/FC Arrow in 1979 for the team of Daily, Furr, and Stryker out of Springfield, Missouri. They raced mainly on the AHRA tour and Midwest match race action. The Arrow was the second FC for the team after campaigning the former Tom Hoover Monza with little success in 77 and 78. The team split and Daily went out on his own in 1981 with this car renamed Pegasus. Nice guy Bill Daily went on to field two more funny cars, including the ex-Powers Steel Corvette, and a top fueler before retiring at the end of 1986. Other than Daily, Larry Brown, Gene Snow, Rick Johnson, and John Davidson were among Pegasus drivers. (Don Eckert photo; info sources draglist.com)
beautiful Sir Wells Dodge Charger was owned by Fred Wells, who bought the car from Gene Snow in 1972 and fitted it with a late model iron Hemi. Paul Smith drove the Charger to the NHRA Division 2 title in 1972, then left in 1973 to drive the Fireball Vega. Ironically, the Vega's former driver, Tom Crevasse, replaced Smith at the helm of the Sir Wells Charger. Crevasse made the most famous run of the car's history when he went into multiple wheelstands and flipped the car at Suffolk in 1973. (Mike Crieder photo, info from
The Steward & Downey 70 Camaro was a rare machine from the Northwest. The car was outdated by the
time this photo was taken in 1973. Teams like Steward & Downey that still ran the 392 Chrysler setup in the space frame chassis raced at a severe disadvantage against the modern cars of the era. The team took part in the large funny car match races of the Northwest in the 72 and 73 season. (Photo by Herman Marchetti)
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