Indy ORP: Frank Hawley preview

Hawley racing at U.S. Nationals after 17-year absence Runner-up finish at Reading boosts confidence of Frank Hawley, Rite Aid Pharmacy Funny Car team going into Indy For the first time this century, Frank Hawley's name is on the Funny...

Hawley racing at U.S. Nationals after 17-year absence

Runner-up finish at Reading boosts confidence of Frank Hawley, Rite Aid Pharmacy Funny Car team going into Indy

For the first time this century, Frank Hawley's name is on the Funny Car entry list for the 54th U.S. Nationals, the race recognized as NHRA's oldest and most prestigious.

Moreover, the two-time series Funny Car champion (1982-83) has not driven a Funny Car at Indy since 1984, and his last race at the venerable facility was in 1991.

So what brings him back? The opportunity to drive a competitive race car -- the Rite Aid Pharmacy Dodge Charger R/T for the new multi-car R2B2 Racing team -- lured him from his fulltime job as the proprietor of Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School.

Even though he's only entered four races this season, Hawley and the Brownsburg, Ind.-based team displayed their competitive mettle with a strong runner-up finish at Reading, Pa. (Aug. 17). It marked Hawley's first Funny Car final since 1984 and his first final round since 1991, when he was a Top Fuel driver.

"When I think about the U.S. Nationals, I think about winning the first Big Bud Shootout (1982, now the U.S. Smokeless Showdown) in Funny Car," Hawley said. "And I was runner-up to Joe Amato in Top Fuel (1990) when I was driving Darrell Gwynn's car.

"I've never won that race . . . and it would be very, very exciting do it this year. Whoever wins it will have earned it because the Funny Car category is very competitive."

And then there's the confidence boost the entire team felt by reaching the title round at Reading. They had, after all, been idle for two months.

"When the car runs good, people say the crew chief or the driver did a good job," Hawley commented, "but at Reading every guy on this team, no matter what his job, did it perfectly, or we would've had problems. I was really pleased with the performance of our car.

"Aaron Brooks is our crew chief and he obviously made the right tune-up calls and Rob Centorbi is the assistant crew chief and the rest of the guys -- Cameron Moore, Ryan Pethel, Thom Whybrew, Todd Venney, Tyler Doyle and Nate Archambault -- deserve all the credit. They did a fantastic job."

Despite his lengthy absence from regular competition, Hawley was very familiar with his final-round foe, Jack Beckman. It was Beckman who beat Hawley in the opening round of the Gatornationals in Hawley's home town of Gainesville, Fla. It was Hawley's first race since 1991. This is a friendly rivalry, however. Beckman has worked for Hawley's Drag Racing School for 12 years.

-credit: r2b2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato , Jack Beckman , Darrell Gwynn , Frank Hawley