Former NHRA Funny Car racer Tom Anderson, the first driver to run in the 5.7-second range and a three-time national event winner, died May 10.
Anderson got his start driving in the fuel ranks in 1975 with his own car, a low rider Vega with which he toured the country. With that car, he suffered the worst fire of his career, which put him in a burn ward for several months. He returned in 1976 with a Mustang II named Wild Thing, which proved to be a competitive ride mainly on the match race and divisional level. While out west at Bill Simpson’s Gasoline Alley, he struck up a friendship with Mike Kase, owner of the Speed Racer Vega. When Kase moved back east in 1978 to run the family business, Anderson followed and drove Kase’s Speed Racer until Dale Armstrong took over.
Anderson then partnered with Jim Wemett, who was looking to get back into racing after a hiatus following back surgery. Anderson moved to Macedon, N.Y., in 1980 where his home remained until his passing.
The team had three very successful seasons together racing Wemett’s Wombat Funny Car.
They won the 1981 NHRA Eastern Regional Funny Car points championship, and in 1982, driving Wemett’s Mercury LN7, Anderson was the first Funny Car to eclipse 5.7 seconds at the U.S. Nationals. In 1983, they finished an impressive fifth on the NHRA world championship race after scoring three runner-ups.
“Tom’s hand-built flow bench gave him insight into fuel systems, and that alone gave us a fighting chance for many years against highly sponsored cars,” said Wemett. “Tom also was a great leaver and won many races on holeshots. We lost a true talented friend of the racing community way before his time.”
After Wemett retired from racing, Anderson went on to become a successful crew chief with Al Hofmann and many other drivers and was instrumental in Hofmann’s five wins and second-place finish in 1995.
After he retired, Anderson, who was raised on a farm, came full circle and farmed 400 acres in Macedon.
Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car driver Courtney Force recently spoke to over 400 teens at Ford Driving Skills for Life’s “Strive for a Safer Drive” event, a teen driving initiative aimed at reducing serious traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities among Michigan's most inexperienced drivers - teens.
“We were very happy to have Courtney with us today to support the Driving Skills for Life program. She has been a very strong advocate of teen safe driving. The schools here today were part of a program called Strive for a Safer Drive in the State of Michigan, so they’ve done in-school programming and this is kind of the icing on the cake; getting to come out and do hands-on training with professional drivers and getting to meet Courtney, so we’re really happy she’s here. She did a great program about wearing seatbelts and we’re just glad she’s here supporting Driving Skills for Life,” said Jim Graham, manager of Ford Driving Skills for Life.
During the DSFL Ride & Drive event, students learned key skills and gained experience in the areas that contribute to more than 60 percent of teen crashes, including: hazard recognition, vehicle handling, speed and space management, distracted, and impaired driving, but Force’s major focus was on one area- seat belts.
On the race track, it’s unthinkable for Force to drive without buckling up. Together with Ford, the 25-year-old is committed to helping teens understand that buckling up every time and exercising safe driving behavior is worth it to keep their car keys - from revocation by either parents or law enforcement, or losing them permanently through serious injury or even death from an auto accident.
Courtney and the Driving Skills for Life team are also encouraging teens to share their efforts to “keep the keys” by offering their safe driving tips on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #keepthekeys.
The Real Pro Mod Association (RPM) has announced Protect The Harvest as a supporter of racers competing in the NHRA Pro Mod Series. Racers will have Protect The Harvest identification on their cars to promote the cause beginning with the upcoming NHRA Pro Mod Series race presented by J&A Service in Houston, and continuing through the 2015 season.
Started by Lucas Oil founder Forrest Lucas, Protect The Harvest was organized to bring a collective voice to American farmers, sportsmen and animal owners who have been challenged by organizations trying to interfere with their way of life.
“I’ve really enjoyed putting together a program with the RPM Association to benefit all of the drivers in the Pro Mod class at NHRA national events,” said Lucas. “We are going to generate even more awareness for Protect The Harvest through RPM over the years.”
The Houston race is the second stop of the annual 10-race series which starts in Gainesville, and ends at Las Vegas in October. More than 30 racers are members of the RPM Association and compete in the series.
“We are so thankful for all of the support that Forrest Lucas and his family have provided to NHRA racers over the years and especially thrilled to have all the RPM members participate in the Protect The Harvest promotion,” said RPM board member Mike Knowles. “It’s a tremendous cause that Forrest is an advocate of for families.”
Peyton Manning Children's Hospital will feature a drag-racing-themed MRI room thanks to funds raised from the Eric Medlen Golf Tournament, which is hosted annually by Morgan and Katie Lucas.
Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent will hold a special dedication ceremony Thursday for a drag-racing-themed MRI room.
The room was completed with funds raised from the Eric Medlen Golf Tournament, hosted annually by Morgan and Katie Lucas. The room is complete with racing memorabilia and photos of the late Funny Car driver, who was killed in a crash in 2007.
"We started the golf tournament as a way to honor Eric, to remember him and keep his legacy going," said Morgan Lucas, owner of Morgan Lucas Racing. "When it came time to decide where the money was going to go, the Children's Hospital was the first place we thought about.
"Eric was one of the best drivers in the pits, if not the best, when it came to the kids."
The relationship with the hospital was cemented last December when the Lucases' newborn son Hunter was admitted for treatment for respiratory syncytial virus.
"As a parent that's the scariest thing you'll ever see, seeing your newborn hooked up to IVs and wires and cables and not being able to help him," Lucas said. "The hospital did a great job, and Hunter was out in a couple of days and on the right track. They helped us understand what we needed to do to help him, and Katie took the reins from there. He's doing great now."
Morgan and Katie Lucas will see the completed room for the first time Thursday.
"There's some new technology and some things they wanted to put in, and with the help and support of everyone who has taken part in the golf tournament we've been able to finish off this room," Lucas said. "What's really cool is it's going to be a room dedicated to drag racing, with a heavy Eric Medlen portion."
The sixth-annual Eric Medlen Golf Tournament will take place Aug. 28 at Eagle Creek Golf Club in Indianapolis.
"Since it's become more personal, Katie and I have taken a bigger interest in the golf tournament," Lucas said. "We're going to try to make this the best one yet.
"We've got to keep people coming to this golf tournament and keep it growing. We are seeing some really special things in the community."