Remembering racing legend Raymond Beadle: ‘Once upon a time, I was the best at what I did’


They say they always do things bigger in Texas, and that phrase would perfectly describe legendary former drag racer and NASCAR team owner Raymond Beadle.

Beadle, who passed away early Monday in Dallas at the age of 70, seemingly was always thinking bigger and bigger.

A native of tiny Spur, Texas (population: 500 when he was born in 1943), Beadle and his Blue Max Funny Car became legendary on the NHRA and the IHRA circuits.

Borrowing pages from other promotional-minded drivers like Tom “Mongoose McEwen and Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Beadle campaigned the Blue Max to not only numerous wins and three straight Funny Car championships from 1979 to 1981, but into the sport’s lore.

Prudhomme put Beadle’s life into great context in the latter’s obituary on

“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.”

Current Funny Car driver and former champion Cruz Pedregon tweeted about Beedle, “RIP Raymond Beadle. Forever a legend.”

ESPN drag racing announcer Alan Reinhart echoed Pedregon’s tweet with his own: “(Beadle) lived with his foot on the gas.”

Because Beadle also raced in the rival International Hot Rod Association (winning championships in 1975, 1976 and 1981) and American Drag Racing Association circuits, as well as being a legendary barnstorming racer who booked dozens of match races across the country, it was rare to go to a drag strip anywhere in the country in the 1970s and 1980s and not see countless fans decked out in Blue Max t-shirts, ball caps and other memorabilia.

In fact, many consider Beadle as the pioneer of producing, marketing and selling racing-related souvenirs and memorabilia.

But Beadle wanted to do more, to branch out from drag racing and try to replicate his success on the quartermile in other forms of motorsports, like NASCAR and sprint car/World of Outlaws racing.

He did just that.

He took a pair of cocky, boisterous kids and began to mold them as potential champions in NASCAR. First was Tim Richmond, who spent three seasons with Beadle before shifting to the then up-and-coming Hendrick Motorsports operation after the 1985 season.

Beadle then took an equally raw St. Louis area kid by the name of Rusty Wallace and within four years had turned him into a Winston Cup champion in 1989.

In doing so, Beadle had achieved what he set out to do, with plans and aspirations of adding many more Cup crowns to come.

But when Wallace was lured away by Roger Penske after the 1990 season, Beadle surprised – rather, shocked might be a better word – the NASCAR community by abruptly closing up shop and moved on, never to return to the stock car racing world.

Some say that while Beadle understood Wallace’s departure was a business decision, he was nonetheless heartbroken that Wallace left, and that he just didn’t see another talented young driver out there at the time that was worth the time or monetary investment to continue on.

While Wallace would go on to other great success, eventually culminated by his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame two years ago, he would never replicate with Roger Penske what he did with Beadle, namely winning a Cup championship.

Wallace tweeted earlier today: “Really saddened by news about Raymond Beadle. Without him, I would have never gotten to where I am today. He will be greatly missed.”

At the same time he ran his drag racing and NASCAR teams, Beadle also branched out into the WoO world, with Sammy Swindell as his driver.

Beadle could be both easy-going and cantankerous at times. Think of a combination of Prudhomme, McEwen, John Force, Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt.

That was Raymond Beadle.

I remember talking with Beadle at Phoenix International Raceway in fall 1988. That was the first time I had ever met him and within five minutes, it was like we were old friends.

Later that same day, he showed great classiness by walking over to congratulate that day’s race winner, Alan Kulwicki, for winning his first career Winston Cup race.

Not every owner takes time to congratulate the driver of a car that beat his (with Wallace behind the wheel, finished fifth), but Beadle did. I’ve never forgotten his gesture to NASCAR’s Polish Prince. He seemed to be as genuinely happy for Kulwicki as if the latter drove for Beadle himself.

Beadle had a smile and laughing personality to go along with it. While he was stone serious when it came to business, Beadle also had a great sense of humor.

In his quest to be first in everything he did, he and both his motorsports and business acumen also rubbed off on others, particularly fellow Texan and legendary Funny Car and Top Fuel drag racer Kenny Bernstein.

Borrowing several pages from Beadle’s playbook – if not the entire book – Bernstein tried to emulate his fellow statesman by becoming a promotional whiz, as well as also venturing off into ownership in both NASCAR and IndyCar.

For many years, it was Bernstein, the Budweiser King, against Beadle, the Blue Max, both on and off the racetrack, be it a two-lane dragstrip or a NASCAR superspeedway.

The interesting thing about Beadle is he didn’t hang on as long as others of his era. His drag racing tenure was less than two decades, his NASCAR and sprint car time less than one decade each.

It’s not that Beadle tired of those ventures, but rather he looked forward to other new realms he wanted to try his hand at, including raising a different kind of horsepower – actual horses – on his ranch.

He also took to raising cattle for a while, too, but most of all, Beadle returned to living the simple, laid-back and easy life in the Texas backcountry, rather than a life spent traveling from one racetrack to another for weeks and months and years on end.

In later years, enjoying the good life was Beadle’s pleasure, along with spending time with his wife. He rarely ventured to races, essentially considering that a closed chapter of his life.

But Beadle, who was still recovering from a heart attack he suffered on July 15, will forever be remembered as a true Texas gentleman, a legendary motorsports innovator and driver, astute businessman and one of the most passionate individuals behind a wheel or on a pit box.

On, which Beadle owned and remains still a popular news and e-commerce site more than 25 years after his last drag race, he very easily could have written his own eulogy when he talked about his decision to leave NASCAR, as well as the other high points of his career:

“It was time to move on to something else,” he said of the NASCAR world. “I was interested in trying my hand at ranching.

“I have no regrets about drag racing. My high points were the ’75 Indy win and that first Winston title. It’s a satisfying feeling to be able to say, ‘Once upon a time, I was the best at what I did.’”

Indeed you were, Hoss. R.I.P.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Will Power says IndyCar field toughest in world: ‘F1’s a joke as far as competition’


DETROIT – With the 2023 Formula One season turning into a Red Bull runaway, Will Power believes the NTT IndyCar Series deserves respect as the world’s most difficult single-seater racing series.

“It’s so tough, an amazing field, the toughest field in the world, and people need to know it, especially compared to Formula One,” the defending IndyCar champion told NBC Sports during a media luncheon a few days ahead of Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. “Formula One’s a joke as far as competition, but not as far as drivers. They have amazing drivers. And I feel sorry for them that they don’t get to experience the satisfaction we do with our racing because that is the top level of open-wheel motorsport.

“I think Formula One would be so much better if they had a formula like IndyCar. I love the technology and the manufacturer side of it. I think that’s awesome. But from a spectator watching, man, how cool would it be if everyone had a Red Bull (car)?”

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

It probably would look a lot different than this season, which has been dominated by two-time defending F1 champion Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman won Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix from the pole position by 24 seconds over seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton. It’s the fifth victory in seven races for Verstappen, whose 40 career wins are one shy of tying late three-time champion Aryton Senna.

Along with being a virtual lock to tie Senna’s mark for titles, Verstappen is poised to break his own record for single-season victories (15) that he set last year.

“You simply know Max is going to win every race if something doesn’t go wrong,” Power said. “Imagine being a guy coming out as a rookie, and you probably could win a race. It would be really cool to see. But you know that would never happen with the politics over there.”

Verstappen’s F1 dominance has been a stark contrast to IndyCar, where Josef Newgarden just became the first repeat winner through six races this season with his Indy 500 victory.

Team Penske (with Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), Chip Ganassi Racing (with Palou and Marcus Ericsson) and Andretti Autosport (with Kyle Kirkwood) each have visited victory lane in 2023. Arrow McLaren (which has past winners Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist) is certain to join them at some point.

Meanwhile, Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez (two wins) have won every F1 race this season with the two Red Bull cars combining to lead more than 95% of the laps.

The primary differences are in the rulesets for each series.

While F1 teams virtually have complete autonomy to build their high-tech cars from scratch, IndyCar has what is known as a spec series in which the cars have a large degree of standardization.

IndyCar teams all use the Dallara DW12 chassis, which is in its 12th season. The development of the car largely has been maximized, helping put a greater emphasis on driver skill as a differentiator (as well as other human resources such as whip-smart strategists and engineers).

Alex Palou, who will start from the pole position at Detroit, harbors F1 aspirations as a McLaren test driver, but the Spaniard prefers IndyCar for competitiveness because talent can be such a determinant in results.

“Racing-wise, that’s the best you can get,” Palou said a few days before winning the pole for the 107th Indy 500 last month. “That’s pure racing, having chances to win each weekend.”

Of course, F1 is the world’s most popular series, and the 2021 IndyCar champion believes its appeal doesn’t necessarily stem from being competitive.

Though the ’21 championship battle between Hamilton and Verstappen was epic, F1 has grown its audience in recent years with the help of the “Drive To Survive” docuseries on Netflix that has showcased their stars’ personalities along with the cutthroat decisions of its team principals (IndyCar started its own docuseries this year).

“I don’t think the beauty of F1 is the race itself,” Palou said. “I’d say the beauty is more the development that they have and everything around the races, and that they go different places. But when we talk about pure spectacle, you cannot get better than (IndyCar).

“You can feel it as a driver here when you first come and jump in a car. When I was in Dale Coyne (Racing), we got a podium my rookie year. It wasn’t the best team, but we were able to achieve one of the best cars at Road America (where he finished third in 2020). It’s not that I was driving a slow car. I was driving a really fast car. I think we can see that across all the teams and the drivers.”

Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, who will start second at Detroit, is in his third season of IndyCar after winning three championships in Supercars.

The New Zealander said recently that IndyCar has been “the most enjoyment I’ve ever had in my career. I had a lot of fun in Supercars, but there were still things like different uprights, engines, all that stuff. (IndyCar) is spec. Really the only things you can change are dampers and the engine differences between Honda and Chevy.

“I have a blast,” McLaughlin said. “Trying to extract pace and winning in this series is better than I’ve ever felt ever. I’m surprised by how satisfied it feels to win an IndyCar race. It’s better than how it ever has felt in my career. I’ve always liked winning, but it’s so satisfying to win here. That’s why it’s so cool. There are no bad drivers. You have to have a perfect day.”

Qualifying might be the best example of the series’ competitiveness tightness. The spread for the Fast Six final round of qualifying on Detroit’s new nine-turn, 1.645-mile downtown layout was nearly eight 10ths of a second – which qualifies as an eternity these days.

Last month, the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course produced a spread of 0.2971 seconds from first to sixth – the fourth-closest Fast Six in IndyCar history since the format was adopted in 2008. Three of the seven closest Fast Six fields have happened this season (with the Grand Prix of Long Beach ranking sixth and the Alabama Grand Prix in seventh).

While the technical ingenuity and innovation might be limited when compared to F1, there’s no arguing that more IndyCar drivers and teams have a chance to win.

“The parity’s great, and no one has an advantage, basically,” Power said. “The two engine manufacturers (Honda and Chevrolet) are always flipping back and forth as they develop, but we’re talking like tenths of a second over a lap. There’s not a bad driver in the field, and there are 20 people all capable of being in the Fast Six every week. Maybe more. It’s incredibly competitive. There isn’t a more competitive series in the world. I’m sure of that.

“If you want the ultimate driver’s series, this is it I’m from a big team that would benefit massively from opening the rules up, but I don’t think (IndyCar officials) should. I think this should always be about the team and driver getting the most out of a piece of equipment that everyone has a chance to do so. That’s the ultimate driver series. Who wants to win a championship when you’re just given the best car? It’s just ridiculous.”

Power believes the talented Verstappen still would be the F1 champion if the equipment were spec, but he also thinks there would be more challengers.

“There’s got to be a bunch of those guys that must just be frustrated,” Power said. “Think about Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, Lando Norris, (Fernando) Alonso. Those are some great drivers that don’t get a chance to even win. They’re just extracting the most out of the piece of equipment they have.

“All I can say is if everyone had a Red Bull car, there’s no way that Max would win every race. There are so many guys who would be winning races. It’d just be similar to (IndyCar) and different every week, which it should be that way for the top level of the sport.”