--- Home Page
--- What's New
--- Features
--- Features
--- E-mail

The latest update as of August 28, 2023

Funny Car Chaos Maryland International Raceway

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Maryland International Raceway - Budds Creek, MD

After three qualifying sessions there were 30 cars ready to enter eliminations. With four 8-car fields offered, the "D" field had only six entries, necessitating two bye runs in the first round. With the unique FCC "index" system in place, the "B" field mark was set at 3.96, based on top qualifier Larry Higginbotham's 4.164 qualifier. In the "C" field, the mark was set at 4.12 due to Cody Helger's 4.322 best e.t. And in the "D" group it was 4.30, courtesy of Delbert White's 4.507 qualifying pass. One change to the "B,C,D" fields happens in the final round when it's a heads-up race to the finish line with no breakout.

Running without an index was the "A" field, with the eight qualifiers ranging from Jim Gifford, at a track record setting 3.723, down to Paul Conlon at 4.164. With the top three cars deep into the 3-second zone, and a drop-off of two tenths between #3 Melinda King's 3.845 e.t. and #4 Jon Wall at 4.053, there was the possibility of some lopsided outcomes in the first round, but as the very well-worn caveat states: "races are run on the track, NOT on paper".

One final note before we dive into eliminations is that there were TWO "China Syndrome" entries, owned and driven by separate teams: FCC regular Wayne Hofmann, and East Coaster George Ridnauer. And there were two "Nor'Easter" nitro-burning cars, both owned and tuned by Bill Dee, one driven by Mike Smith and the other by Jon Wall. Watching the race video on FLOracing.com left me very confused until I took a close look at the cars, and listened carefully to the announcers.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Eliminations - Round ONE - "A" Field

Joe Morrison - 'Hell Bound' --- Melinda Green-King - 'MGK Motorsports'

(LEFT) Kicking off eliminations with a hard burnout was #6 qualifier, "Nitro" Joe Morrison, in the "Hell Bound" entry. He ran a little quicker than his 4.115 qualifier, stopping the clocks with a consistent 4.094 - 182.13 to advance to the semi-finals.

(RIGHT) In the other lane of that first pairing was #3 qualifier, Melinda Green-King who ran a great 3.845 - 199.55 in her one and only qualifying pass on Friday night. Unfortunately, she was unable to hold the car on the line when she brought the revs up, and rolled through the lights before the tree was activated.

Paul Conlon - 'Boston Monkey' --- Paul Conlon - 'Boston Monkey'

Next up was the "Boston Monkey" of Paul Conlon, starting from the #8 spot on the ladder, and facing the top qualifier in the opening round. Trying to play the giant killer, he tried too hard and failed, shaking the tires hard on the launch, and coasting to a 5.827 - 81.31, making for an early exit from the event.

Jim Gifford - 'Svengali' --- Mike Smith - 'Nor'Easter'

(LEFT) The #1 qualifier, and track record holder, Jim Gifford whipped his blown fuel "Svengali" to a 3.723 - 208.23 best in qualifying and came into eliminations ready to improve on those incredible numbers. He didn't quite do that in the opening round, but a 3.774 - 205.44 was more than enough to take care of Conlon and move on to the second round.

(RIGHT) Another strong running fuel car, the "Nor'Easter", owned and tuned by Bill Dee, with Mike Smith at the wheel, didn't even get to the starting line before his weekend came to an abrupt conclusion as the car failed to fire. That sent opponent D.J. Cox (not shown) directly to the semis with a very good 3.806 - 205.98 pass in his pocket. That also gave him lane choice over Joe Morrison.

George Ridnauer - 'China Syndrome' --- Jon Wall - 'Nor'Easter (near lane) vs 
George Ridnauer - 'China Syndrome' (far lane)

(LEFT) The second "China Syndrome" car in the field, driven by George Ridnauer, qualified strongly in the #4 spot with a 4.111 pass and looked to pick up a little more e.t. in his match with the #5 qualifier.

(RIGHT) That number five qualifier was Jon Wall in the second "Nor'Easter" car (left lane), seen leaving the line while opponent George Ridnauer disappears down track, as he left before the tree came down. When the green came on, Wall left hard, smoked the tires, and shut off to a 6.765 clocking that was more than good enough to move into the next round.

??? (left) - Chris Graves (right)

We're not sure who's grinning and hugging Funny Car Chaos major domo Chris Graves, but our correspondent, BIG Bob Snyder, will certainly let us know.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Eliminations - Round ONE - "B" Field

Matt Stambaugh - 'Generation X' --- Bob Toth - 'Time Bomb'

(LEFT) Coming into the first round in the #7 spot in the "B" bunch, Matt Stambaugh faced an uphill climb in his sharp looking "Generation X" Vega, but did his best, putting down a solid 4.217 - 173.29. However, it wasn't enough to get past opponent Gary Pritchett's (not shown) much better 4.033 - 183.17 winning time.

(RIGHT) Another old school style body, the Vega-bodied "Time Bomb" of Bob Toth faced an even more daunting task, starting from the bottom of the field, and facing a blown fuel car. He improved on his qualifying time, and punched out a 4.225 - 170.58 for the upset win. It came courtesy of a major holeshot: Toth's mediocre .206 light was enough to cover his opponent's nearly comatose .361 reaction time and give him a car length victory.

Larry Higginbotham - 'Sinister Sally' --- Wayne Hofmann - 'China Syndrome'

(LEFT) That sleepy driver, Larry Higginbotham made his best run of the event at 4.118 - 168.37, but it wasn't enough to overcome his tardy launch, and it was the end of the day for the Mustang II-bodied "Sinister Sally" team. The one upside for the team was the tuning help provided at the event by Jake "The Snake" Sanders got them moving in the right direction.

(RIGHT) Launching into another hard burnout was the Dodge Avenger-bodied "China Syndrome" of second generation racer Wayne Hofmann as he prepped for his first round match against the blown fuel car of Michael Tabacco. Hofmann wasn't intimidated, leaving first with a great .025 reaction time and putting down his quickest run of the event, at 4.234 - 168.41 to turn on the winlight.

Michael Tabacco - 'Pandemic' --- Michael Tabacco - 'Pandemic'

Coming out on the losing end of the race against Hofmann was the "Pandemic: Nitro Variant" car of North Carolina's Michael Tabacco, as he launched late (.253 r.t.), before being outrun as he slowed from his qualifying best of 4.238 to a losing 4.321 - 179.14 timeslip.

Bill Naves - 'Shooting Star' --- Bill Naves - 'Shooting Star'

Two views: coming and going, of the beautiful "Shooting Star" Top Alcohol Funny Car of longtime veteran Bill Naves. He qualified in the #3 position in the "B" field with a solid 4.207 - 174.84 and easily advanced to the second round with an early shutoff 4.254 - 149.58 pass. Making it easy was his opponent, Doug Fassl, being unable to appear due to breakage.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Eliminations - Round ONE - "C" Field

Krista Massarella - 'Temporary Insanity' --- Cody Helger - 'Dazed & Confused

(LEFT) The "C" field consisted mostly of East Coast racers, and provided some new looks to regular followers of Funny Car Chaos. One of the nicer looking entries was the "Temporary Insanity" car of Krista Massarella. She qualified at the bottom of the field with a decent 4.465 - 160.59, and ran near that number with a 4.513 - 158.46, in what became a losing cause.

(RIGHT) Eliminating Ms. Massarella was Cody Helger in his early model Camaro-bodied "Dazed and Confused" car, as he nearly matched his qualifying time with a good 4.338 - 163.49 for the win and a ticket to the semi-finals.

Wade King - 'Big Girl' --- Wade King - 'Big Girl'

Going really old school was Wade King in his WWII-themed P51 fighter plane paint job on his '57 Chevy-bodied "Big Girl" entry. His race ended when the car broke before getting to the finish line. Taking advantage of his plight was Joe Pirrone in the "Screamin' Eagle" entry (not shown) as he stopped the clocks at 4.338 - 171.97 for the win.

Jami Russell - 'Iron Outlaw' --- Jami Russell - 'Iron Outlaw

Two views of the colourful "Iron Outlaw", driven by Jami Russell. In the burnout (left photo), it appears there's a track worker crouching and trying to avoid a shower of hot burning rubber. On the right, the car launches into what was the closest race of the day, with his opponent, Justin Mallot (not shown), as both racers left with identical .038 reaction times. At the finish line, Mallot's slightly better 4.350 - 162.53, edged out Russell's very close 4.399 - 162.35 losing effort.

Jordan Ballew - 'Ballew Thunder' --- Chris Massarella - 'Total Insanity'

(LEFT) The round closed with Oklahoma's Jordan Ballew putting on his usual show with the early Camaro-bodied "Ballew Thunder", with a big burnout, followed by a series of dry hops. He slowed a little from his 4.433 qualifying e.t., and his 4.512 - 158.09 wasn't enough to turn on the winlight.

(RIGHT) Eliminating Ballew, after his long tow from the Midwest, was Chris Massarella in the "Total Insanity" car with a very good 4.280 - 165.94 pass, initiated with a reaction time of .033 seconds. A winning combination to be sure, and quick enough for lane choice over Joe Pirrone in the semi-final round.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Eliminations - Round ONE - "D" Field

Drew Sweetman - 'Frantic Ford' --- Andrew Armstrong - 'Smoky Bonz Gang'

(LEFT) Just six cars were available for a "D" field, which meant two pairs and two byes in the first round. The round opened with Drew Sweetman" in the "Frantic Ford" tribute car taking the first bye and laying down a decent 4.728 - 155.26 to advance to the next round.

(RIGHT) The '67 Nova-bodied Smoky Bonz Gang car, driven by Andrew Armstrong entered eliminations with a 15-second and 10-second run on his dance card. It looked like a certain first round exit, but luck was in his favour as opponent John Cerchio couldn't fire his car, leaving Armstrong to take a free ride to the second round. The car still refused to cooperate as it barely got to the finish with a 12.279 - 50.18 showing up on the scoreboard.

Troy Liebi - 'The Raider' --- Delbert White - 'Carolina Outlaw'

(LEFT) Another car and driver that had nothing but trouble in qualifying was the Datsun 350Z-bodied "The Raider" of Troy Liebi. When his opponent, Marc Lyon also failed to fire, it opened the door for an automatic win for Liebi. He staged the car, then shut off. With his only run on the boards being a 8.105 - 55.88, it was going to take some serious luck to advance to the final in this admittedly weak "D" field.

(RIGHT) The first round limped to a conclusion with Delbert White taking the other bye run in his "Carolina Outlaw". In fact, everyone who advanced to the second round took a bye run, whether it was scheduled or not. The scoreboards barely lit up when White finally crossed the finish line at 12.298 - 56.78. We could only hope for some side-by-side racing in the semifinal.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Eliminations - Round TWO - "A" Field

Joe Morrison - 'Hell Bound' (near lane) vs 
D.J. Cox - 'DXI Construction' (far lane) --- Jon Wall - 'Nor'Easter' (near lane) vs 
Jim Gifford - 'Svengali' (far lane)

(LEFT) It was a different atmosphere when the second run began under the lights, with two blown alcohol cars running in the first pair, and two blown fuel cars in the second matchup. Leaving first in the alky pair was Joe Morrison (near lane) as he took a slight .094 to .109 reaction time advantage, but couldn't hold it as his 4.110 - 177.21, wasn't close to D.J. Cox's (far lane) excellent 3.799 - 206.02 effort.

(RIGHT) In the blown fuel pairing, Jon Wall (near lane), tried hard with a very good 4.052 - 172.94 as the "Nor'Easter" went silent at the 500' mark. Taking full advantage was Jim Gifford (far lane) as he cranked out a new low e.t. of the meet, and new track record, with a brilliant 3.716 - 207.91 to turn on the winlight and clinch lane choice over Cox in the final round.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Eliminations - Round TWO - "B" Field

Wayne Hofmann - 'China Syndrome' (near lane) vs 
Bob Toth - 'Time Bomb' (far lane) --- Bill Naves - 'Shooting Star' (near lane) vs 
Gary Pritchett - 'Bunny & The Boys' (far lane)

(LEFT) Another great (.030) reaction time, and another good 4.221 - 168.87 was more than enough for Wayne Hofmann (near lane) to advance past the mostly obscured "Time Bomb" in the far lane. Driver Bob Toth ran well, with a 4.364 - 165.31 but it wasn't enough to keep up with Hofmann as he advanced to his second final round of the season.

(RIGHT) Leaving first by a small margin, Bill Naves (near lane), laid down his best run of the event at 4.172 - 167.20, but it wasn't enough to turn on the winlight, as Gary Pritchett (far lane), pushed the "Bunny and The Boys" entry to his quickest run too, nearly dipping into the 3-second zone, with a winning 4.002 - 184.09 to advance to the final and take lane choice over Hofmann.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Eliminations - Round TWO - "C" Field

Cody Helger - 'Dazed & Confused' --- Chris Massarella - 'Total Insanity' (near lane) vs 
Joe Pirrone - 'Screamin' Eagle' (far lane)

(LEFT) The closest race of the event happened next, as Cody Helger (near lane) took a holeshot win over Justin Mallot (almost totally obscured) in the far lane. Helger left first with an .057 reaction, against Mallot's .115 light, then held the lead all the way to the stripe. Helger's 4.290 - 164.85 held up for the half car length win over Mallot's quicker but losing, 4.257 - 166.95 pass.

(RIGHT) Joining Helger in the final would be Chris Massarella (near lane) as "Total Insanity" prevailed when his opponent Joe Pirrone (far lane), broke out with a too-quick 4.091 - 182.40, against the 4.12 index. Massarella's 4.270 -168.11 time was good enough for the win, and good enough for lane choice in the final.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Eliminations - Round TWO - "D" Field

Drew Sweetman - 'Frantic Ford' (near lane) vs 
Andrew Armstrong - 'Smoky Bonz Gang' (far lane)

Four cars went into the semi-finals in the "D" field, after a very disappointing first round. This time around, one car (Troy Liebi) failed to fire, and his opponent (Delbert White) limped into the final with a less than scintillating 11-second clocking. Only one car made a representative run, and that was "Frantic Ford" of Drew Sweetman (near lane), as he quickly dispatched Andrew Amstrong (far lane). The scoreboards read 4.553 - 161.05 for Sweetman and 13.737 - 44.66 for the "Smoky Bonz Gang". In the process, Sweetman took lane choice over White by nearly seven seconds.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Eliminations - FINAL round - "D" Field

Drew Sweetman - 'Frantic Ford' (near lane) vs 
Delbert White - 'Carolina Outlaw' (far lane)

Following Funny Car Chaos tradition, the run order was reversed for the final round, with the slower fields running first. After two rounds of uncompetitive racing, the two final round contestants put on a close side-by-side race, with Drew Sweetman (near lane), stopping the clocks first with a consistent 4.527 - 160.84 for the win. Runnerup was Delbert White (far lane), as he got back into the 4.50's with a close 4.598 - 150.40 in the "Carolina Outlaw".

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Eliminations - FINAL round - "C" Field

Chris Massarella - 'Total Insanity' (near lane) vs 
Cody Helger - 'Dazed & Confused' (far lane)

Another close race ensued in the "C" final, with Cody Helger (far lane) lighting the scoreboard first with his best of the event 4.284 - 167.97. Not far behind was Chris Massarella (near lane), with a 4.373 - 165.82 that was unfortunately a tenth slower than his semifinal winning pass.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Eliminations - FINAL round - "B" Field

Wayne Hofmann - 'China Syndrome' (near lane) vs 
Gary Pritchett - 'Bunny & The Boys' (far lane)

With no index in place for the final, Gary Pritchett (far lane) unloaded a 3.964 - 184.40 bomb on Wayne Hofmann in the near lane. The "China Syndrome" tried hard with a best of the weekend 4.192 - 169.23, but it wasn't close to catching the "Bunny and The Boys" entry.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Eliminations - FINAL round - "A" Field

D.J. Cox - 'DXI Construction' (near lane) vs 
Jim Gifford - 'Svengali' (far lane)

And the race that everyone had been waiting for finally arrived. D.J. Cox in his "big show" alky burner in the near lane, against the nitro burning "Svengali" of Jim Gifford in the far lane. Cox took a small lead on the launch, reacting quicker with an .063 to .109 light, and made his best run of the event, a 3.741 - 207.62 stand up for the win. In the losing cause, Gifford set another new track record and another new low e.t. of the meet, at 3.708 - 202.12. Gifford did hold the lead as they neared the lights, but the engine gave up in a flash of flame and smoke at the finish line as evidenced by his slower mph reading.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Winners Circle - "D" Field

'Frantic Ford' team

It was a very successful event for the Mustang II-bodied "Frantic Ford" tribute car, as Drew Sweetman and his team went all the way to the winners circle. Following a solid Friday night pass of 4.579 - 161.63 that placed them #19 on the ladder, and a spot in the middle of the "C" field, they parked the car until eliminations began. By then, Sweetman had dropped to #26 on the list, near the top of the "D" field.

That earned them a first round bye, which they took with their slowest run of the event, a 4.728 - 155.26 that put them in the semifinal. In that round, they faced Andrew Armstrong, and easily dispatched him with a 4.553 - 161.05 to advance to the final. Sweetman's final round opponent, Delbert White, gave him a competitive race, but Sweetman prevailed with a winning 4.527 - 160.84 to take the trophy and the cash. A well earned result for his first appearance in a Funny Car Chaos race.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Winners Circle - "C" Field

Dazed & Confused team

The '69 Camaro-bodied "Dazed and Confused" Funny Car of the Helger brothers ran a series of consistently quick runs to take the "C" field win. With Cody Helger at the controls they made six runs in total, including five on Saturday. The first four runs, three in qualifying, and the first round of eliminations were tightly grouped between 4.322 - 163.73 and 4.344 - 163.41, showing bracket racer consistency. Friday night's effort placed them #12 on the ladder, but they had slipped to #17, the top of the "C" field, when qualifying concluded on Saturday afternoon.

Their three winning runs in eliminations were all against good opponents, including the husband and wife "Insanity" team of Chris and Krista Massarella. He took out Krista in the first round with his slowest run of eliminations, a 4.338 - 163.49, then stepped up to a 4.290 - 164.85 to take a narrow holeshot win over Justin Mallot in the semifinal. Saving the best for last, Cody cranked out his best run of the weekend at 4.284 - 167.97 to take a close win over Chris Massarella and capture the event title.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Winners Circle - "B" Field

Bunny & The Boys team

Editor's NOTE: Before I started writing this paragraph, I'd assumed that the "Bunny and The Boys" team was a tribute to the late, great Bunny Burkett. That was a serious mistake, as the team that runs the car is so much more. It's a story of an ever-evolving racing team that's been in existence for more than 50 years, and is still a competitive force, with their latest accomplshment being a win at a Funny Car Chaos event. Read the whole story at the Bunny Burkett website.

The team's weekend started as part of the last pair down the track on Friday night, with driver Gary "L'il Bear" Pritchett running alongside team member Matt Stambaugh. Pritchett laid down a very good 4.173 - 174.14 to hold the #4 spot at the conclusion of the session. That was followed up with a shaky 7-second run on Saturday morning, before they got back on track with a 4.166 - 152.16 that ultimately placed them #10 in the order, near the top of the "B" field.

Entering eliminations with a 3.96 index to contend with, they dialled in some extra horsepower for the first round and rang up a 4.033 - 183.17 to take out Stambaugh and advance to the semifinal. That saw them facing a tough opponent (Bill Naves), but an oh-so-close to the 3's, and very close to the index, pass resulted in a 4.002 - 184.09 winning run. In the final, they overcame a Wayne Hofmann holeshot, and drove around him before the 330' timers, lighting up the scoreboards with their best run of the weekend, a great 3.964 - 184.40 for the event win, and a very fitting end to their weekend.

FUNNY CAR CHAOS - Winners Circle - "A" Field

DXI Construction team

With an NHRA Lucas Oil Series Eastern Regional running on the same weekend at New England Dragway, it was somewhat surprising to see the "DXI Construction" team of D.J. Cox appear at this event. On the other hand, with Cox not in a position to contend for the NHRA championship this year, and deep roots in the Maryland area, it was a wise decision on his part to participate, both with event sponsorship and on the track with his Top Alcohol Funny Car.

When he pulled up to the starting line on Friday night, with the quickest run on the boards at that point being a 4.053, it was expected that he would shoot to the top of the pile and rack up a run deep into the 3's at more than 200 mph. It didn't happen as he smoked the tires immediately and shut off to a 6-second pass that placed him #23 on the list. Saturday morning's second qualifying session wasn't much better as he could only muster a 5.357 as smoke and shake set in early again. Down to his last shot to move out of the "D" field, the car responded with a very good 3.768 - 206.13 that moved him all the way to the #2 qualifying spot going into the first round.

From there on it was clear sailing, as a series of 3-second runs at more than 200 mph resulted. His slowest run of the day, a 3.806 - 205.98 came in the opening round on a bye run when Mike Smith's car failed to fire. Then a slightly quicker 3.799 - 206.03 took out Joe Morrison in the semi-final, in what was a fairly close race for the first few hundred feet. Going into the final against a formidable opponent in Jim Gifford's nitro burning monster, D.J. left on "Svengali" by five hundredths, then kept the lead to the finish line for the holeshot win with his best run of the event, 3.741 - 207.62. It was a tremendous final round clash and a very fitting way to close out the first Funny Car Chaos race on the East Coast.