NHRA Funny Car pioneer Jack Chrisman was one of seven icons from the world of motorsports inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America class of 2013 Wednesday evening during the organization’s annual induction ceremony at The Fillmore Detroit.
Chrisman, the 1961 NHRA world champion who was also widely credited with developing the first Funny Car, was inducted posthumously. The other class of 2013 members included automotive publisher Robert E. Petersen, famed open-wheel racer Alex Zanardi, legendary NASCAR team owner Bud Moore, sports-car and road-racing specialist Masten Gregory, champion motocross racer Brad Lackey, and Harvey Firestone, founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co.
Chrisman, who passed away in 1989, became one of NHRA's biggest stars in the 1960s as he won multiple titles at NHRA's biggest events, including the Winternationals and U.S. Nationals. Chrisman was ranked 23rd by an elite panel of drag racing historians and journalists on the list of the top 50 NHRA drivers in 2001.
Aside from the great success he achieved driving a dragster in the early part of his career, Chrisman’s lasting legacy in the sport was his involvement in the development of the Funny Car. He made significant modifications to a Mercury Comet in 1964 so it could accommodate a large blown and injected 427 engine. He debuted that car at the 1964 U.S. Nationals, and not only was it highly competitive, but it also was an instant hit with fans. The first Funny Car established many performance records and changed the landscape of the sport of NHRA Drag Racing forever.
“At anything he undertook, Jack Chrisman was one of the best,” NHRA founder Wally Parks once said. “As a campaigner who drove some of the era's fastest and most innovative cars, his heads-up abilities put him out in front and won him a well-deserved world championship title. Jack represented the true spirit of drag racing.”
Former NHRA announcer Bob Frey presented Chrisman for induction. Chrisman's son Steve, who currently competes in NHRA Top Fuel racing, accepted his father’s Hall induction. Jack joins his uncle Art—a 1997 inductee—in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. NHRA President Tom Compton and NHRA Senior Vice President-Racing Operations Graham Light attended the event on behalf of NHRA.
Chrisman is the 25th inductee in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America from the world of NHRA Drag Racing. Others are Don Garlits (1989), Shirley Muldowney (1990), Don Prudhomme (1991), Connie Kalitta (1992), Parks (1993), Bob Glidden (1994), Keith Black (1995), Bill Jenkins (1996), Art Chrisman (1997), Don Nicholson (1998), C.J. Hart (1999), Danny Ongais (2000), Tom McEwen (2001), Eddie Hill (2002), Ed Donovan (2003), Joe Amato (2004), Tommy Ivo (2005), Chris Karamesines (2006), Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin (2007), John Force (2008), Kenny Bernstein (2009), Dale Armstrong (2010), Ed McCulloch (2011), and Ed Pink (2012).
The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is a museum showcasing the stories of Heroes of Horsepower along with a display of a wide variety of racing and high-performance vehicles. The constantly changing collection features racers from the world of Indy cars, stock cars, sports cars, sprint cars, powerboats, truck racing, drag racing, motorcycles, air racing, and even snowmobiles.