Harry Schmidt, the original owner of the famed Blue Max Funny Car, died April 30. He was 67.
Schmidt began his Funny Car involvement in the mid-1960s with Texan "Big Mike" Burkhart in 1966-67, and through the late 1960s, his car was driven by the likes of Paul Gordon, Mart Higgenbotham, and Jake Johnston.
His cars initially bore only his name, but Schmidt, of German descent, chose the Blue Max moniker in late 1969 after seeing the 1960s movie of the same name.
“I guess it was that fall that I saw a movie called Blue Max starring George Peppard, and I thought that the name had a nice ring to it," recalled Schmidt. "I loved that emblem, and since I had a German last name and my Mustang was blue, I decided that’s what we’d call the car when we started the 1970 season.”
Richard Tharp took over the wheel at the end of 1970 and drove the car until mid-1973. Although the Blue Max was always quick, success at the national event eluded them, but a steady string of match race appearances – the team ran close to 100 dates in 1972, including seven in one crazy six-day stretch – kept them a fan favorite. The match race grind eventually got to Schmidt, who parked his car for more than a year.
In 1974, Schmidt met Raymond Beadle, who then was driving a second Funny Car for of Don Schumacher and asked Schmidt about resurrecting the Blue Max name. After assuring Schmidt that he would secure the financing to run the car, by November of 1974, Beadle was the driver of the born-again Blue Max.
The partnership lasted less than a year as Schmidt again grew weary of the travel and endless match racing – the Max again ran almost 100 dates – but Schmidt went out on a high note, having seen Beadle drive their car to victory at the 1975 U.S. Nationals.