There was a time, in fairly recent years, that riding out raging, pavement-melting infernos were just a part of the job description of driving a nitro Funny Car. Perhaps as much as his personality did, John Force helped create his legend by melting more race cars in more epic fashion than any other racer of his time, and he lived to tell about each and every time. But from Whit Bazmore to Al Hofmann, “Flash” Gordon Mineo to Kenji Okazaki, virtually every driver of the 1980’s and 90’s had their share of red hot moments. Thanks to improvements in fire suppression systems, body materials, and less catastrophic engine damage in general, those massive fires have largely become a thing of the past. But every now and then, the wrong fuse gets lit at the wrong time and things get hairy. And such was the case a little more than week ago for Australian Funny Car pilot Anthony Begley.
Begley, competing at the Australian National Drag Racing Association’s Nitro Champs at the Sydney Dragway, had a destructive engine failure near the half track mark in his “Chemical Warfare” Chevrolet Camaro flopper and was instantly engulfed in flames. Like the fires of old, the flames only grew larger with time and the parachutes burned right off the car as Begley began attempting to bring it to a quick, albeit safe, stop. And that he did, after sliding in his oil and tapping the guardrail with the nose of the car. Then, as quick-footed as he could, Begley climbs from the roof hatch that’s billowing with black smoke and bails out…boots smoking and all.
This of course wasn’t the only harrowing incident of the 2013 Nitro Champs. If you’ll recall, last week we published the video and story of Top Bike racer Chris Matheson, who was yanked from his nitro-burning motorcycle over 200 mph, meaning the safety crew was hard at work all weekend.
Apart from some minor burns to his hands, Begley was uninjured in the blaze. No word on whether or not he saw Elvis at a thousand feet.