Cox, Pritchett, Helger, and Sweetman take Funny Car Chaos at MIR
Drag Racing Action Online Images: Geoff Sculley and Phil Hutchison
The Funny Car Chaos series finally made their East Coast debut August 25-26 at Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek Md. The popular series which hosts events for the most part, in the Mid-West, made the trip to the Maryland facility a success with over 30 Funny Cars racing along with a huge field of blown dragsters, altereds along with injected cars vying for the Burnouts for Bunny and Bear title.
To many, the event brought back memories of when dozens of blown Funny Cars and Fuel Altereds would pack the house and eliminations would run deep into the night. Header flames and side by side racing under the lights at MIR captured that feeling.
Cox had the jump off the line and it counted with a win in the finals of the ‘A’ field.
Taking the Rodak’s Custom Coffee ‘A’ Field at MIR was one of Maryland’s best. Reigning NHRA East Region champion D.J. Cox from Whiteford Md. wheeled the DXI Construction Camaro to a win over the Svengali Firebird of James Gifford out of Taflon PA. Gifford, who already has won in the Chaos series in 2023, had a 0.110 reaction time to Cox’s better 0.063 and it cost the Pennsylvania driver as his better but later 3.708 lost to D.J.’s 3.741.
Cox’s weekend was far from perfect as the Camaro had overpowered the track the first two qualifying rounds failing to make a competitive pass. It wasn’t until Q3, which was run during the hottest part of the day, the car made it down the track.
“We showed up to the race wanting to try some different things with the tune up, but the heat and track temp made it difficult.” Cox said after his win.
“Going into Q3 we were a little nervous, Cox said. “The car had smoked the tires on Q1, Q2 and we were not even in the ballpark. We backed the car down and rode out eliminations with consistency.”
“It was awesome to run side by side with a nitro car in the final. I could hear that nitro burning next to me the whole way. We had a great time, and very happy to get the win.”
It was a case of going full circle for Cox, as a youngster, his family who was already into drag racing, had him behind the wheel of a Jr Dragster. “Last time I raced at MIR was 28 Years ago, I got the win in Jr Dragster that day,” Cox adds. “I’m now 2 for 2 at MIR with wins in a Jr and Funny Car if you can believe that!”
Earlier in eliminations Cox defeated the ’00 Avenger of Joe Morrison in the semis as Gifford beat the Nor’easter Mustang driven by Jon Wall to get to the finals.
Pritchett, near lane, had the power to pass Hofmann for the ‘B’ win
In the Alkydigger “B” field, it was Gary Pritchett and the “Bunny and The Boys” team taking an emotional win in the finals over Wayne Hofmann in the “China Syndrome” Spell Paving backed Avenger. Pritchett was second off the line with a 0.112 light to Hofmann’s much better 0.019 but had the power to pass the Connecticut driver with a 3.964 to Hofmann’s losing 4.192.
Jessica Eastburn, along with Gary Pritchett, join D.J. Cox and Melissa Thomson in the winner’s circle after their historic wins at MIR
The win was special as the Bunny and the Boys car, a mainstay at MIR, had so much history at the track. Carol “Bunny” Burkett, one of the most successful women drag racers, was to MIR as John Force was to Englishtown Raceway Park, Bunny left us in 2020 but her star looms large over the track. Bunny was so popular at MIR, one of her old funny car bodies graces the food stand in the pits.
Winning the Wulff Pumps ‘C’ show was Cody Helger and the “Dazed & Confused” ’69 Camaro. Helger, from Little Compton R.I. was up against Chris Massarella and the “Total Insanity” Monza from Lake Hiawatha NJ. in the finals. And what a final it turned out to be. Massarella got the jump off the line with a 0.092 to Cody’s 0.132 and at the stripe it was Helger edging Massarella with a 4.284 to a losing 4.373.
After the victory Helger said, “We had an excellent weekend, and we are very satisfied with our showing at the inaugural Funny Car Chaos event at MIR. The track is a premier facility and CHAOS is a top tier event, which I think made for a perfect marriage.”
Helger continues, “A big thank you to Royce Miller and Chaos promoter Chris Graves for making this happen. We hope to compete in at least two Chaos events next year and hope that it comes back to MIR. I’d like to thank my crew, all their help and devotion to our team and taking time out of their lives to make this happen, without them and the support of my loved ones at home this wouldn’t be possible. What a great weekend!”
Krista Massarella lines Chris up against Helger in the finals
Runner up Chris Massarella said this after the loss. “Just knew going in the Helger team is one of the toughest out there. They were coming off a win at our Island event a couple weeks prior, so knew we had to be on our A game lining up against them. Gave it our best shot, made a good race out of it, but just came up a touch short. All in all, still a great weekend for our first time at a Chaos event.”
In a classic matchup in the ‘D’ field final it was second generation racer Drew Sweetman from Elkton Maryland in the “Frantic Ford” Mustang racing Jamesville N.C racer Delbert White’s “Carolina Outlaw” Firebird. It was another close race as Sweetman snuck by the N.C. racer with a 4.527 to a 4.598 after White got a slight advantage off the line.
The Competition Coupes consisting of Altereds, and Dragsters had two separate fields racing at MIR. It was a great mix of injected, blown, altereds and dragsters. In addition to the cars from Earth Shaking Entertainment, racers that run nostalgia shows, ran heads up against some quick cars.
Duckworth, near lane, was on a tear taking his blown car to the win at MIR
Kurt Duckworth from West Virginia took his “Complete Chaos” Fiat to a win in the ‘A’ field over the “Rat Poison” of Dan Pettinato from South Carolina. Duckworth, who had his car dialed in like he was in a bracket race, ran 3.95, 3.96, and a winning 3.95 in the win. Pettinato trailed with a 4.42.
Nitro Kevin joins the Duckworth team in the winner’s circle
“We had a great time participating in the Burnouts for Bunny and Bear race,” Duckworth said after his win. “The MIR crew did a great job preparing the track as we made consistent 3.95 runs. I would like to thank my crew and especially my crew chief Scott Carpenter none of this is possible without them.”
The ‘B’ field was won by the blown “Revolution” dragster of Bruce Hacker over the altered of Ray Urban. Hacker cruised to an easy 4.76 as Urban left too soon turning on the red light.
The Hacker team celebrates in the winners’circle
Urban did not go home empty handed as his “Never Satisfied Racing” Fiat took the “Bunny and Bear” burnout contest with wild and long smoky burnouts down MIR .
Urban, who races out of Richmond Va. said this about the event, “It’s all about the fans. This was the largest race and show that I have ever been part of in my career.”
After the event, Funny Car Chaos founder and President Chris Graves said, “What a show the East Coast funny car teams put on this past weekend at Maryland International Raceway. Wow! The big burnouts, dry hops and competitive racing was on point and the fans certainly got a great show.”
Grave adds, “Royce Miller and the team at MIR delivered a fantastic facility for the CHAOS and it was a lot of fun. We made a lot of new friends and look forward to next time at MIR! I’m confident we will see 32+ cars pre-entered for our next East Coast chaos event.”