The Great Plains

By Danny White

These ten high and mighty fuel funny cars raced both in the high altitude of Division Five and across the country. — Updated October 29, 2005

One of the most popular funny car racers of all time, Tom Hoover was also one of the best ever. Hoover had already driven funny cars for 12 years by the time he built the “Champion Auto Parts Showtime” Corvette. Teaming with his father, George, Tom raced this car seemingly everywhere: NHRA, AHRA, and countless match races. Hoover was so busy by the early eighties that he raced this car and an identically painted 1978 Corvette in England. Tom was one of the members of the five-second funny car club with the first Corvette. This particular Corvette ran 5.95 at 233.16 according to files. Hoover ran this car until the end of the 1983 season. (Photo courtesy of Jim White; info from files)

“Telstar” was one the most popular names in drag racing. Charlie Proite began racing fuel dragsters under the “Telstar” name in the sixties. In 1970, Proite built the first “Telstar” funny car. By the late seventies, he had teamed with Doc Halladay. Halladay’s drag racing history was similar to Proite’s. Doc raced a dragster in the sixties and switched to funny cars in the seventies. Halladay bought out Proite’s half of the partnership. On his own, Halladay crashed the first “Telstar” Arrow. Doc bought the former Super Shops Arrow from Tom Hoover and repainted the black and white car to match his first Arrow. The H&H chassised Arrow built by Pat Foster served Halladay well until early in the 1986 season. Doc raced this car with every major association and was a killer in match races. Halladay won his last race with the Arrow at Green Valley. The Keith Black powered machine ran best of 5.94 at 245.90 before it was parked. (Photo courtesy of Jim White; info from files)

Rob Williams, at the wheel of Roger Guzman’s “Assassination,” had the best funny car in NHRA Division 5 racing from the mid-seventies until 1982. Guzman’s car was tops both in appearance and performance. The Arrow pictured here not only won the Division 5 title every year it raced, but it was also part of the first side-by-side five-second race against Raymond Beadle at Bandimere (back when NHRA ‘corrected’ the times run at high altitudes). The beautiful Arrow later ran a 5.98 at 248.48, uncorrected. Rob Williams never won an NHRA national event, but he won every other kind. The team raced the Arrow from 1978 to 1981. (Photo courtesy of Walter Huff; info courtesy of files)

Garth Widdison achieved moderate success in drag racing with the Widdison, Kay, and Mason “Utah Charger” series of Top Fuelers in the 1970s. In the early 1980s, Widdison switched to funny cars in order to race more. Garth built the “Battle Star” Arrow in 1981, using the Don Alderson built Milodon block instead of the standard Keith Black hemi. Widdison ran a 6.06 at 234.37 with the “Battle Star” Arrow according to files. Garth retired from racing and sold the ‘Battle Star” to the late Sue Spencer in 1985. Widdison returned to racing in the late nineties at the wheel of a dragster. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty; info from files)

Nelson Lengle raced a series of funny cars called the “Sno-Town Shaker” from the mid-seventies until 1982. The 1982 ‘Shaker’ was a 1981 Corvette driven by several drivers. James McMurray, Brian Conway, and Gary Ritter all took turns in the car during the 1982 season. Brian Conway had the best times of the bunch with a 6.20 at 229.48. McMurray and Ritter ran times in the high six-second range. The car featured a Steve McCracken Corvette body with a Keith Black ½ stroke Hemi. Usually seen in match races, this Winternationals appearance was extremely rare. (Photo by Mike Ditty; info courtesy of files)

The “Ambition” Arrow was one of several funny cars out of Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Hugh Munro owned and built the “Ambition” Arrow in 1980. Munro switched to funny cars after racing dragsters in the seventies. The “Ambition” was completely built by Hugh and his team. They even did the tin and paint on the car. Dean Lembke drove the low buck machine to a best of 6.59 at 226.13. A new Corvette replaced the Arrow in 1983. Darrell Amberson took over driving in 1986. (Photo and info courtesy of Hugh Munro)

The “Cheetah” was owned and tuned by Alan Tschida, who began racing in California before moving to Minnesota. The first “Cheetah” Vega funny car was raced in the mid-seventies with Carl Swanson driving. Swanson would occupy the seat of Tschida’s cars until 1985. The pictured Trans Am was built in 1979. It was standard for the era with a Keith Black ½ stroke Hemi, 2-speed transmission, and a Ford 9 inch rear end, but with a Crower 8-port injector usually found in Top Fuel. Carl Swanson won several local races with the nice-looking “Cheetah” Trans Am, hitting best times of 6.16 at 238.72. Tschida retired for a couple of years, but returned in the late 80s with Steve Gladieux behind the wheel of a new “Cheetah.’ (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty; info from files)

The Edstrom family had to overcome adversity to race funny cars. Dave Edstrom suffered from diabetes, causing him to lose his eyesight. Dave had to adapt to being blind and tuned the fuel-burning engine in his cars by sound. By keeping the tools in the same place, Edstrom was able to work on the car like any other crewman. Dave raced top fuel dragsters from the seventies into the early eighties. Richard Rhoda was the driver of the “Blind Faith” Top Fueler, followed by Mike Edstrom, Dave’s son. After Mike crashed and destroyed the “Blind Faith” dragster at Union Grove, Dave bought the “Cheetah” Trans Am. Mike Edstrom showed he could drive the Trans Am, turning in several impressive performances at match races and national events. Edstrom’s best time was a 6.20 with the 79 Trans Am. The team was forced to quit when money became short. Dave passed away in the nineties. (Photo and info from files)

The “Bear Town Shaker” Citation was the last funny car campaigned by Bear Lake, Minnesota’s Bill Schifsky. Schifsky was a famed match race funny car owner who built racecar trailers during the week and raced AA/Funny Cars on the weekends. Jamie Sarte built this Chevy Citation in 1980. The car featured a standard for the day KB Hemi for power. Mike Dunn drove the car at first but left to drive the Hawaiian for Roland Leong. Respected tuner Glenn Mikres replaced Dunn at the wheel. Mikres drove the car from 1981 to 1983 with known best times of 6.18 at 234. Schifsky sold the car to Dale Tuter. Bill Schifsky still builds trailers and Glen Mikres has established an international reputation as a top-notch fuel tuner. (Photo courtesy of Brad Boyungs; info from files)

Here is a very rare shot of the seldom run “Hell’s Force” AA/Funny Car. Dennis Childs ran the beautiful Corvette at match races and the occasional national event like the 1982 Winternationals. Mike Ditty got this great shot of the “Hell’s Force” in the tech line at Pomona. Childs usually ran the car at nearby Bonneville Raceway in Salt Lake City from the early 80s into 1986. Child’s best times according to Draglist files are 6.30 at 223.32. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty; info from files)