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Former three-time NHRA Funny Car champ Beadle dies

Raymond Beadle, a former three-time NHRA Funny Car world champion who was voted No. 20 on NHRA’s Top 50 racers list in 2001, died Oct. 20 at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. He was 70.

Beadle assured his status as a racing immortal when he ended the four-year championship reign of Don Prudhomme, winning the title in 1979, then added crowns in 1980 and 1981 with his vaunted Blue Max entries.

Beadle got his first taste of nitro in a Top Fuel dragster owned by fellow Texan Prentiss Cunningham before transitioning into Funny Car in the early 1970s, driving for the likes of “Big Mike” Burkhart and Don Schumacher before joining forces with Blue Max car owner Harry Schmidt in late 1974. They first hit the big time with a stunning final-round victory at the 1975 U.S. Nationals over Prudhomme, who had won every national event that year but one and was just entering the most prolific period of his career.

In addition to its national event success, the Beadle-driven Blue Max was one of the nation’s top match-race draws, running scores of dates each year in addition to a national event schedule that also included IHRA and AHRA dates.

By the end of 1976, Beadle had bought out Schmidt’s interest in the car and hired Dale Emery as his crew chief and never looked back. All told, Beadle won 13 NHRA national events and appeared in 28 final rounds. He made the American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association’s prestigious All-American team in 1980 with Shirley Muldowney and Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Dale Earnhardt, and Cale Yarborough. He and Blue Max teammates Emery and Miller were among the 11th class of inductees into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, and Beadle was inducted earlier this year into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Detroit.

Retired as a driver since 1987 and as an owner since 1990, Beadle had dabbled in cattle and quarter horses but recently had moved back to Dallas with his wife, Roz.

Said Prudhomme of his longtime friend, “I was very sad to hear that Raymond Beadle had passed. I really, really liked the guy and admired him. We always remained close, even during the days when we were racing against each other. He did so much in drag racing and in NASCAR. He led a life that most people could only dream of, like a high-stakes gambler, and was a cool guy to be around. When our rat pack of a group got together, he was at the top of the heap. I was glad to be a buddy of his, and he is going to be missed.”

Funny Car’s winningest driver, John Force, commented, “In my long career there have been five people that I have looked up to: ‘Big Daddy’ [Don Garlits], Shirley [Muldowney], [Don] Prudhomme, [Tom] McEwen and Raymond Beadle. I have taken his passing very hard and it hurts me personally. I saw what kind of team owner and driver he was as well as what kind of creative promoter and teammate. He had the most loyal team with guys like Fred Miller, Dale Emery and Dee Gantt. They were together through good times and bad. Our legends are getting older and we have to appreciate them every day. Raymond surrounded himself with the best people and they fought together every day. That is how I have run John Force Racing every day. Loyalty is the key and so are principles. Raymond taught me that and that is why I will miss him so much. In my early days he helped me so much and I thanked him every chance I got. He was a legend and one of the best who will be missed every single day.”

Beadle is survived by his wife, Roz, son Ryan, daughters Michele Wheeler, Stacey Harris, Tara and Amber Campisi, brother Ralph Beadle and sister, Debbie Sartain.

Services will be held Oct. 30 at 1 p.m. at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be directed to the Baylor Health Care System Foundation, Heart & Vascular Designation. Donations can be made here:

Read more:

NHRA Top 50 list: Raymond Beadle

Additionally, there will be a special tribute to Beadle this Friday in the Dragster Insider column.

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