by Jon Asher
courtesy of $1
Shortly after the New Year I was asked by the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America if I'd write a short biography for the induction of Raymond Beadle. The ceremony was slated for August, so I had plenty of time, and while I was honored to have been asked, there was a problem. The copy had to be no more than 500 words due to space limitations. How do you compress an individual's stellar career in racing into so few words, particularly when that person's fingerprints are all over the history of not only drag racing, but stock car racing as well? And how can you possibly capture the essence of a personality as gregarious and outrageous as was Beadle's in just a few paragraphs?
Raymond's career demanded more than 500 words if for no other reason than the man himself was bigger than that. He had a major impact on drag racing, one that went far beyond mere statistics. Yes, he was an NHRA champion (three times consecutively!) and a two-time winner of the U.S. Nationals (among many other victories), but those are just numbers, and Beadle was more than that, too. That he would also prove successful in NASCAR racing surprised many, but he knew talent when he spotted it, and together with driver Rusty Wallace (another 2014 Hall of Fame inductee) they won the '89 Cup championship. Less than a handful of owner/drivers can claim such lofty accomplishments on their resumes.
There's a somewhat regional aspect to the history of drag racing, and while these might be generalities, there's nevertheless some truth to the theory that California and the West Coast was where Top Fuel grew up. At the same time the East Coast was the breeding ground for Funny Cars and hot doorslammers, while the Midwest was Gasser country. And then there was that whole separate universe of Texas drag racing. Some of the cars were as crude as the oil bubbling up out of the ground, but you knew a Texas racer the moment you saw him. From the top of his Stetson to the tips of his razor-pointed Justins, you knew what you were looking at. But here's the thing. Beadle rarely fit within that comfortable frame. Sure, he wore his share of hats and boots, but when the moment demanded it he could be as urbane as the slickest New York bond trader or Washington Beltway insider. And where's the evidence for that? Just look at the sponsor names his cars carried over the years.