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Steve Chrisman continues the family legacy in Las Vegas

The Chrisman name has been bannered on dragstrips since the early 1950s when Jack Chrisman began competing. More than six decades later, Chrisman’s son, Steve, will continue that legacy as he suits up to drive the Worsham family Top Fueler this weekend.
05 Apr 2019
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Race coverage
Steve Chrisman

The Chrisman name has been bannered on dragstrips since the early 1950s when Jack Chrisman began competing. More than six decades later, Chrisman’s son, Steve, will continue that legacy as he suits up to drive the Worsham family Top Fueler this weekend.

Steve Chrisman, who himself has a long history of competing with his own cars before selling his operation a few years ago, drove the Chuck and Del Worsham-owned dragster at the first three events of the 2018 season before giving way to Bill Litton, who went on to earn the Auto Club Road to The Future award as the year’s top rookie. 

With Litton currently on the sidelines seeking funding for this season, Chrisman’s chance to jump back into the dragster came only after Frank Pedregon, who was going to drive the Worshams’ Funny Car at this event, broke his leg in a highway accident. The Worshams turned to Chrisman and asked if he’d like to drive their dragster instead. They didn’t have to ask twice.

“I live just a couple of miles from their shop –- I go over there a lot for Tuesday night bowling [on the two-lane alley the bowling-crazed Worshams have built in their shop] –- and I guess that Chuck still wanted to race this weekend, so here I am,” he said.

All In The Chrisman Family: A Primer

Everett Chrisman was the gearhead patriarch who moved his family from Arkansas to Compton, Calif., before WWII, opening Chrisman and Sons Automotive.

Art Chrisman was Everett’s son and Jack’s nephew.

Jack Chrisman was Everett’s younger brother (and therefore Art’s uncle).

Lloyd Chrisman was Everett’s son and Art’s brother. He is best known for his land-speed racing with the famous Chrisman Coupe ’30 Model A and drag work with the Hustlers.

Steve Chrisman is Jack’s son; he operates Chrisman Driveline Components.

Mike Chrisman is Art’s son and owns Chrisman Auto Rod Specialties.

Jerry Toliver is the son of Juanita Toliver, who is Art Chrisman’s sister. Jerry was a drag boat racer before running NHRA nitro Funny Cars with his brothers, Craig and Kevin.

Chrisman grew up surrounded by drag racing royalty that orbited in the spectacular world of his father, who won the NHRA points championship in 1961, famously beat Don Garlits to win Indy in 1962, and is credited with piloting one of the sport’s first nitro Funny Cars, the Sachs & Son Comet, at Indy in 1964. Luminaries like Mickey Thompson, Danny Ongais, Garlits, Don Prudhomme, Tom McEwen, Connie Kalitta, “Fast Eddie” Schartman, Ed Iskenderian, Keith Black, Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin were frequent visitors at the Chrisman casa in the 1960s.

As a kid he was helping his dad run his car at famed Lions dragstrip and as a teenager traveled with his dad on summer Funny Car tours in the late 1960s and early ‘70s.

“Every summer I’d get to leave school a couple of weeks early and go out east and come home a week late after Indy," he remembered. "We’d go out and maybe run 40 dates. In 1969, it was my dad, Dick Bourgeois in the Doug’s Headers car, Fred Goeske and his orange Road Runner, Marv Eldridge, Jess Tyree, Gary Dyer in the Mr. Norm car, Kenny Safford in the Stone-Woods-Cook car, and Kelly Chadwick. I remember having to drive the ramp truck when I was 12 years old because my dad was falling asleep at the wheel. I remember ‘Jungle Jim’ [Liberman] sleeping in his ramp truck in the Holiday Inn parking lot and asking to use the shower in our room as we were checking out. So many great memories.”

His dad won the NHRA points championship in 1961 –- his reward was a new Ford Thunderbird that the family still owns -- stopped driving in 1972 to open Chrisman Driveline Components, a business that Steve runs today and that supplies high-strength rear ends to a number of today’s Top Fuel and Funny Car teams as well as other classes of drag racing and in other motorsports. There is one, of course, between the framerails of the Worsham car.

Steve got his first racecar, an Alcohol Funny Car in 1982, and progressed into nitro Funny Car with Steve Plueger and eventually Top Fuel in the early 2000s. Jack Chrisman passed away in 1989 and got to see his son race.

“It’s a legacy that I’m proud of,” said Steve, 64. “My dad did a lot of amazing things in career. He was really one of NHRA’s first big stars, and I know that every time I pulled to the starting line that the announcer is going to mention my dad.”

Chrisman is looking for more of the success he had at this event last year, where he and Tony Schumacher advanced out of round one by finishing ahead of Terry McMillen and Scott Palmer.