By the time you read this, I’ll be in Seattle for the big show there, but I wanted to leave you with a few more parting comments on popular car owner Paul Candies, who died two weeks ago Sunday and whose story I shared here last week, which, as expected, elicited comments from those who also knew him, some way better than I did.
I exchanged emails with Jon Asher, who attended Candies’ service last week, and who had known Candies for more than four decades and authored his own brilliant and touching piece about the man that you can find here.
Above right is the decal made by Colbert Seagraves and the Matt Smith/Viper Racing team and distributed to racers last weekend in Sonoma. Seagraves is the son of former R.J. Reynolds exec Ralph Seagraves, a big supporter of the Candies & Hughes team.
I also was not surprised to hear from longtime Insider contributor and Candies & Hughes fan Lance Peltier, who grew up in Houma, La., idolizing Candies and was there July 9, 1969, when Southland Dragway opened and, of course, Candies & Hughes were the star attraction.
"As you probably know by now, Paul Candies was a childhood hero of mine. I grew up in Houma, La., and [Southland Dragway] was brand-new back then. It opened in July 1969, I was 9 years old, Dave McClelland was the track manager, and Candies & Hughes were my neighbors, so without a doubt, they were the talk of the town.
“I lived near Leonard Hughes' house and remember their 1969 fastback Barracuda vividly,” he wrote. “Leonard would work on it under his carport, the chassis up on jack stands, the fiberglass body lying in the lawn, and the ramp truck parked in the ditch out in front of his house. At night, he would just cover it with a tarp. As a kid, I thought that it was by far the coolest thing that I had ever seen. The very next year, they built a brand-new shop on West Park Avenue in Houma. No pictures really exist that I've seen, but I remember seeing Paul drive around Houma all the time in a brand-new 318 Barracuda that was painted and lettered exactly like his Funny Cars. They used it as a tow car sometimes, but he raced it at Southland against Shirl Greer's Funny Car at the 1970 Bayou Championships after Leonard crashed the Funny Car. I think he had a 10-second head start, big smile, cigar in mouth, and all. He later told me that his wife used to drive the kids to school in it.
“I now live in Austin, Texas, but back in the late '90s, I was going to go spend a week on a family vacation with a bunch of Cajuns, fishing in Grand Isle, La., so I emailed him at Otto Candies and said that I would like to stop by during the week to visit and show him my old pictures. He called me back and asked me to please stop by. He was such a nice person to me; we looked at old pictures and reminisced about the old days.
“He gave me one of the old Candies & Hughes hats and then gave me a huge box full of racing pictures and said, ‘Just scan what you want and mail them back to me.’ I thought that was pretty crazy; he didn't even know me but gave me his entire photo collection. When I left that day, I shook his hand and said, ‘Thank you.’ He said, ‘No, thank you for being my biggest fan for the last 30 years.’ After that, he always kept in touch, invited me to meet them at the races, and added me to his joke email list. I received my last email from him last Wednesday. I'm really going to miss his emails.”
Any doubt that Peltier is the team’s biggest fan might well be erased when you look at the pics he sent me showing the spare room in his house that he has turned into his own little drag racing museum and which, of course, is mostly occupied with C&H memorabilia.
Bill McLauchlan dropped me a line to offer clarification on the early Candies & Hughes Funny Cars.
“The 1968 Logghe car (Keith Black 426 Hemi, Fiberglass Ltd. body, candy red) was run in 1968, set the record at LaPlace, ran S/XS at Indy in Super Eliminator with ‘Dyno Don’ Nicholson and Bruce Larson (no Funny Car class then). Also ran the OCIR Manufacturers Meet (photo with weird yellow decal).
“This car was sold to [Tom] McEwen, who painted it blue to match his AA/FD, put a 392 with a Hays direct-drive clutch in place of the 426. Qualified No. 1 at ’69 Winternationals and runner-upped to Danny Ongais at ’69 Springnationals in Dallas.
“In 1969, Candies purchased his first Don Hardy car (Keith Black 426, Fiberglass Ltd. body, blue paint). This car had a longer wheelbase, ran 7.28, 208 at ‘69 Indy (I think they went out in the semi's to [John] Mazmanian but would have to look to confirm), and was the car [Larry] Reyes drove at the ’70 Gators. The 1970 'Cuda that was part of the first team final at Gainesville was also a Don Hardy car. In 1971, Candies began buying Woody cars, which Leonard, then Leroy Goldstein, would drive."
I also heard from reader Bill Tickle, who shared, “I had always been a big fan of Candies & Hughes, but like 99 percent of the masses attending any national event, the opportunity to tell them I was a fan never presented itself -- until the Gatornationals, when the Smokin’ Joe's sponsorship was in place. I saw Paul walking through the pits, and with more bravado than I felt, I yelled out his name, and he turned around to see who it was. I stuck my hand out and received a bone-crushing handshake and told him how great it was they were back. We had a nice conversation for about 15 minutes, and I came to the conclusion that Paul Candies was one of the nicest people in drag racing. Taking time out to talk to a fan like that was a wonderful experience. I had always hoped in the back of my mind that the fabled team would once again terrorize the national event scene, but it never happened, and now never will. A true gentlemen who will be missed.”
And from Jay Watson: “That was an excellent write-up on Paul. I was so glad you went back to the Wale-Candies days as that was when I first met Paul. That night in 1965 at Harmon Raceway when 'Q-Ball' [Wale] was killed, Paul stepped in to take care of 'Q-Ball's son, who had made the trip. He continued to look after that boy for many years. I was there to qualify for my fuel license that night.
"You left out another of Paul’s close friends that is a legend in drag racing: Joe Teuton. Paul helped Joe come from an energetic poor kid to a very successful businessman in Houma with three truck dealerships. Joe used to give a Christmas party every year, and Paul was in his glory telling war stories about the good ol’ days!” He also attached this photo of Candies and Wale and their dragster in Pomona in the early 1960s.
Billy Meyer, who raced against the Candies & Hughes teams in the 1970s and 1980s, shared this photo of Candies at the wedding of Meyer’s daughter. “Paul was the consummate gentlemen at all times,” he said. “The funeral was spot-on as he loved and was loved by many. We really did not get to know each other well until the mid-‘70s, but he took me in and was a great mentor then later a great confidant. I can't tell you how many dinners he and I and [Raymond] Beadle had at both series race weekends. He and Rita were and are considered close friends; I guess that is why they were at our daughter's wedding.
"He has never failed to bring a cooler of shrimp and crab claws and sauce and beverages each year to the suites at the Motorplex. I can't tell you how many times we lied to each other about shutting off early during night qualifying at poorly lit IHRA events when they had money up for low e.t. and top speed.”
Paul Candies, a great man, a great friend to many, and a shining star in our world. Thanks to all who have shared their thoughts with me in the past two weeks to let those who didn't know him very well know what we all knew.