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11 MAR 2011 - Former Drag Racing partners go head to head in a Nitro Funny Car Match Race!
To move forwards, sometimes you need to look back…
It’s 1979 and a young Ed Stipanovich is devastated – he’s too big to fit into his newly purchased Mustang Funny Car.
“The roll cage was too small and my head kept hitting the bars, “laughs Ed recalling the first few times he drove the car. “I had to tilt my head sideways to get in – it just didn’t feel right.”
The “L.A. Hooker” as the car was known in the USA and briefly when it raced in Australia and New Zealand was originally owned by Gene Beaver who, as it turns out is John Force’s uncle. Proof that there must be a racing “gene.”
With Ed making the tough decision to vacate the seat, the search was on for a new driver. After a short stint with Bob Shepherd behind the wheel Stipanovich teamed up with current Rocket Industries owner/director and Cowin Family Racing Top Fuel team owner Graeme Cowin.
“That’s when the car went places,” recalls Ed.
Now known as the “Sindicate” Funny Car the team took on and beat not only the local guys but also many of the touring Americans such as Gary Densham and Mike Dunn.
“With what was known then as the Ampol Series we raced all over the country – Calder Park in Victoria, South Australia, Surfer’s Paradise in Queensland and Castlereagh in Sydney,” says Stipanovich. “We ran a best ever time of 6.20 at 237 mph which was equivalent to the times they were running in the USA.
The move to sell the car to Graeme Cowin followed Stipnovich’s decision to improve his business and look after his young family. Despite this, he will always look back on those years with much fondness.
“There were good times on and off the road,” he says and while Ed recognizes the pitfalls associated with nitro Funny Cars – and drag racing in general – he completely understands his son’s passion for them.
Which brings us to today...
Further evidence that racing DNA exists can be found in the next Stipanovich and Cowin generations.
Andrew Cowin and Chris Stipanovich are set to go head-to-head in a series of feature match races at the Pro Series Top Doorslammer/Pro Stock round next weekend!
“it’s a great thing for this new generation,” says Ed enthusiastically. “It should be interesting to see how Chris does against Andrew Cowin. While we may have the slightly faster car, Andrew’s driving will be a lot sharper given his time behind similar vehicles.”
At 31 years of age Cowin (pictured left) has a number of years of experience under his belt behind the wheel of Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters both here and in the USA.
In comparison at age 36 Chris (pictured right) has had a taste of several forms of motor racing while returning to his first love, drag racing.
“I started in Go-Karts, then went to drag racing, then sprint cars and now back to drag racing.”
With the decision made to follow in his father’s footsteps Chris set about building a Funny Car. “I wanted to replicate the original L.A. Hooker from yesteryear and race Nostalgia,” he says. “But it never would have been the same.”
With a passion for floppers, the Stipanovich family set about building a new Funny Car. The “Kansas City Flyer" as it was known in the USA is an Oldmobile Cutlass with a 500ci KB engine. With 5000 horsepower the car has run a best of 5.52 seconds at 275 mph (approx 420 km/h).
“We expect to run 5.80’s this weekend,” says crew chief Brett Ehmer. “We’re more interested in making it an even race and putting on a good show for the crowd.”
This will also be the last hurrah for the Cutlass as it will make way for a new Pontiac Funny Car that is currently sitting in Chris Stipanovich’s shed. Having run 4’s in the USA at 320mph (over 500 km/h!) Chris is eager to join the ever-growing Nitro Funny Car ranks.
But for this weekend, it’s all about having a bit of fun, re-living some old memories, creating some new ones and having a BBQ with family and friends at the end of the night.
|Dont forget you can see these awesome beasts as well as huge fields is all categories including a massive 21 cars in Top Doorslammer and 20 high reving Pro Stockers on the 18-19 March at Sydney Dragway - Don't miss it!!!|