If you happen to question Scotty Cannon’s drag racing legend status anywhere in the Southeastern U.S, you might just get your fan-card revoked. The legendary Pro Mod racer came from humble beginnings in a quiet South Carolina town, but would soon outgrow his small town upbringing, rising to fame behind the wheel of a flamed ‘41 Willys and amassing six Pro Mod championships. Despite never finishing high school, Cannon catapulted to the highest levels of drag racing, reaching what many would consider the pinnacle of his career in driving an NHRA Nitro Funny Car sponsored by Oakley. For a time, Cannon and Oakley were synonymous, his iconic mohawk framed by a pair of custom sunglasses befitting his unpredictable style.
Unfortunately for Cannon, a series of back injuries resulting in multiple spinal surgeries ended his driving career much too soon. He went on to win yet another Pro Mod championship, this time tuning his ‘07 Firebird piloted by his son Scott Jr., and even briefly slid into the seat again to drive an Evan Knoll-owned Top Fuel Dragster.
But that was 10 years ago, and little has been heard of Cannon since.
You could say we met through our wife. – Scotty Cannon
“You could say we met through our wife,” Scotty laughed. “Basically how it was is me and my wife met in high school, were high school sweethearts. I raced and was on the road all the time. He wound up with my wife, marrying her. Two or three years later Al and I were building chassis together. There were never no hard feelings. I know it sounds a little bit weird to everybody.”
That friendship is now decades strong. So when Cannon decided it was time to get back to the track, he turned to Pittman. “With all my spinal injuries, naturally, I can’t do it by myself – picking up, lifting, building motors. There’s no way. I started throwing it together myself after the spring race. I knew I couldn’t do it so I called Alan. Ain’t nothing I can do he can’t do. We’ve both got some championships behind us. So I called him up and asked him if he wanted to do it. He wanted to go do it and have some fun, kinda’ the old way.”
Pittman had recently ended a stint driving PDRA Pro Boost for Terry Green when Cannon asked him about entering the radial ring. “I probably would have told him yes, even if the Pro Boost deal hadn’t ended,” Pittman admitted. “I’ve always wanted to help him as much as I could. In 2012 I ran Extreme 10.5 for ADRL. I liked it. At one time I thought these cars would never have went this quick on the small tire. But then Scotty was talking about the radial and getting into that, and I was excited about it. I really think we can [do well]. I ain’t saying we can go outrun everybody, but it won’t be because we ain’t trying.”
I was helping Al in the shop one day and said, ‘You know what we’re gonna put on the car? Husband-in-Law. Right on the window. – Scotty Cannon
“I was helping Al in the shop one day and said, ‘You know what we’re gonna put on the car? Husband-in-Law. Right on the window.’ Shoot, we’ve had a ball with it.”
As Cannon says, the duo didn’t “set the woods on fire” at No Mercy 7, but they did qualify and “had a ball” doing it. At Lights Out 8 last month, Pittman qualified 22nd in the 32 car Radial vs. The World field with a 3.98 effort. The duo made it to the quarter-finals before falling to eventual winner Joe Albrecht.
“We’re basically running the same combination and the rules are the same as when I won my races in Pro Mod and then came back and won a championship for my son,” Cannon informed. “Hopefully we can get back in amongst that elite crowd with that combination. Like the early Pro Mod days, the rules are changing as they go — as they should to keep it even. I’ve had more weight put on me than a transfer truck, with rules back in the day, so I think we’ll be alright.”
Both Cannon and Pittman applauded Donald Long for his work with the radial events. Cannon says that Long’s races feel more like the “old days” for him. Venturing to such events with Kyle Marcengill was what sparked Cannon’s interest.
We’re open to sponsors. We’d put a big tire on it. We’re not set on this radial deal. We want to race and we’d like to race at the top. – Alan Pittman
The championship Firebird, with a pair of “Husbands-in-Law” at the helm, has been given new life to run at radial events around the country, as funding allows, but ultimately Cannon and Pittman are open to any type of Pro Mod racing a potential backer may be interested in.
“I think we’re going to try to run some other things,” Pittman hinted. “We’re open to sponsors. We’d put a big tire on it. We’re not set on this radial deal. We want to race and we’d like to race at the top. But Donald Long with this radial deal, he’s doing a good job.”
“We wouldn’t care what we had on the back — if it was wooden tires,” laughed Cannon. “As long as everybody else had ‘em. We just want to race. Except foot race. I can’t run a lick.
“Neither me nor him’s got a bunch of money,” he admitted. “We’re just regular old folks. Our funding ain’t allowing us [to test]. We have to watch our dollars. The best thing that could happen for both of us was if somebody comes along and wants Alan to drive a car, I’ll just tag along — our eyes are wide open, our hearts are, too. As long as I can be around, I’ll be happy. We just want to go racing, is all.”
Although Cannon and Pittman are scraping by with their racing budget, they admit that not having deep pockets hasn’t limited the fun. In fact, it’s brought some of the excitement back for them.
This is just like the old times. That really does put the spark and the fun back in it, to be honest with ‘ya. It really does. – Scotty Cannon
“When I started my first Pro Mod car, it was with a big hand from Scotty Cannon,” Pittman mused about his own humble beginnings. “He gave me his engine tune up. I copied one of his cars. The whole deal was under his shadow. He taught me when to let the clutch off, how to stage the car, everything, stood there when I made my first pass, the whole deal. The only thing different now is he don’t have to tell me how to drive. I’ve learned a little bit in the last few years and I think he’s proud of me.”
Being out of the limelight for a decade, Cannon, a seven time recipient of the fan-voted Car Craft Magazine All-Star Drag Racing Awards Program, was surprised to find enduring fan support when he returned to the track.
I really didn’t realize how many still knew who I was. I’m just a regular old Joe blow. I’d like to thank everybody for still pulling for me. – Scotty Cannon
With Scotty Cannon and Alan Pittman, one thing is for sure, you know exactly what you’re getting. “Just being who you are” has taken the Husbands-in-Law to some of the sport’s highest highs and lowest lows, but with always one more chance to begin again. So, without much fanfare or funding, Scotty Cannon is back at it, and although there’s no telling how this chapter of his story will end, with a start in the ‘Husband-in-Law’ Firebird, it’s gonna be good — till death do us part.