Frank Hawley, Two-time NHRA Funny Car Champion, 'Excited to Be Competing Again' Frank Hawley wasn't listed in the 1982 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series media guide. He was, at the time, a rookie Funny Car driver from London, Ontario, ...
Frank Hawley, Two-time NHRA Funny Car Champion, 'Excited to Be Competing Again'
Frank Hawley wasn't listed in the 1982 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series media guide. He was, at the time, a rookie Funny Car driver from London, Ontario, Canada.
A year later, however, the upstart from across the border had guaranteed himself perpetual mentions in ensuing yearly updates. How? He stunned the Funny Car field by winning the championship, ending the three-year reign of Raymond Beadle and outlasting seasoned veterans Don Prudhomme, Billy Meyer and Kenny Bernstein.
For an encore, Hawley came back and captured a second consecutive championship, winning four races and easily outdistancing runner-up Mark Oswald, third-place Bernstein and a newcomer to the Funny Car top 10, John Force.
Hawley's ride was the fabled match-race car the Chi-Town Hustler, owned by John Farkonas, Pat Minick and Austin Coil, who also did the tuning. Coil, as drag racing fans know, later went to work for Force and earned 14 more -- and counting -- season titles.
Meanwhile, Hawley brought his dream of starting a drag racing school to life when Frank Hawley's NHRA Drag Racing School opened its doors in 1985. Hawley stepped away from active competition in 1992 and into the life of a driving instructor.
"This is the school's 23rd year," Hawley says with justifiable pride. "We' ve literally had thousands of people go through the school and continue to do so. It seems to be the place to go now for almost anybody trying to get into the alcohol or professional (drag racing) ranks. Most of the tour drivers you see getting into the pro cars have spent time with us.
"I enjoy it tremendously," he continued. "I have never lost my interest in helping share with the drivers the stuff I've learned over the years."
He apparently didn't misplace his desire to drive a race car during those years, either. Hawley will be making his second appearance of the 2008 POWERade Series season at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, April 25-27, driving the ProCare Rx Dodge Charger R/T for Gotham City Racing co-owners Roger Burgess and Mike Ashley.
Hawley's first competitive venture in 16 years came in his hometown of Gainesville, Fla., last month. Gainesville Raceway also is the site of Hawley's driving school. Limited by rain to two qualifying runs, Hawley qualified 11th (4.916 seconds at 319.60 mph) and found himself in a unique position.
His first-round rival was Jack Beckman, one of his driving school instructors. Beckman won with a 4.866-second time to Hawley's 4.898.
"It is exciting to be competing again," said Hawley. "My last competitive run (before Gainesville) was in 1991 when I drove Darrell Gwynn's Top Fuel car. "To be honest, it kind of surprised me because I'm enjoying it more that I thought I might. Mike and Roger have a great group of people working for them. They are very supportive of me and are committed to the work they do."
Hawley tested last week at Indianapolis. "The test went well," he said. " It was the first time the (O'Reilly) Raceway Park track was used this year, but the ORP staff did a wonderful job of preparing it. We were limited as to how fast we could go, and we did spin the tires, but it was further down the track and we got a couple of decent runs in. It was a brand new car and it went straight and handled very well. The guys did a fabulous job of putting it together and we were very pleased with the test session.
"I'm really enjoying the car. I haven't had a chance to drive it a lot yet, but I think that given enough time, I'll do a pretty good job at it. It's a great opportunity for me to step into a good car right off the bat. That makes my job getting back in the driver's seat a bit easier."
Hawley already has one victory at Atlanta Dragway (1983) and he was runner-up in his first visit in 1982. He collected seven race wins in Funny Car and two in Top Fuel in his previous endeavors. But that was the first chapter of his drag racing career. Now, he is eagerly awaiting his first qualifying runs Friday at Atlanta Dragway early in chapter two.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "It was great we got an opportunity to test. It gave the crew chiefs, Aaron Brooks and Ray Centorbi, confidence going into the race.
"I try not to set an unrealistic expectations other than I think our team should be as prepared as we could possibly be, and we have the attitude that if we do all the tasks that are laid out for us to the best of our ability, we are going to see very, very good results in Atlanta.
"I guess we are going to find out soon."