Two of the biggest names in professional drag racing make a nostalgic return to Rockingham Dragway for the May 17-18 IHRA Nitro Jam Spring Nationals and their homecoming recalls an era during which the sport enjoyed its greatest popularity as well as its most impressive growth.

(Jeff Burk photo)

Raymond Beadle’s legendary “Blue Max” Plymouth Arrow and the “Cajun ‘Cuda” campaigned by the late Paul Candies and Leonard Hughes are among the favorites, along with the points-leading “Black Plague” Chevy Camaro of Californian Jason Rupert, in an increasingly popular nostalgia class that features the vehicles responsible for putting the “fun” in Funny Car.

(Don Eckert photo)

And, during drag racing’s barnstorming days, when the match race circuit introduced the sport to fans in some of the nation’s most obscure outposts, there were few bigger drawing cards than the Blue Max and Candies and Hughes.

However, when economic reality began to diminish the number of match race opportunities, those teams also were among the most successful at making the transition to the more structured pro tours maintained by the IHRA and NHRA.

Between them, the “Blue Max” and Candies and Hughes won seven IHRA Funny Car championships and four NHRA titles in the late 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s.  In fact, Candies and Hughes once won both titles, IHRA and NHRA, in a single season (1984). 

Back then, the drivers were Beadle, who this year will be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Novi, Mich., and Mark Oswald.  Now, they’re Ronny Young of Dallas, Texas, and Mike Halstead of Fontana, Calif.