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.