by Kevin Triplett & “Waterbed” Fred MIller
Raymond Beadle born in Spur Texas in 1943 started drag racing in 1963 with a fuel-injected 1957 Chevrolet and later drove a Top Fuel dragster that reached the semi-finals of the NHRA World Finals in Amarillo Texas in both 1971 and 1972. Beadle then achieved national prominence during the 1973 season as the driver of the ‘Wonder Wagon’ red Vega Funny Car in match races and national events across the country and in 1974 Beadle hired fellow Texan Harry Schmidt as the crew chief on the Funny Car leased from Don Schumacher.
Prior to working for Beadle, Schmidt had owned and tuned a Ford Mustang Funny Car. In those days, many Funny Cars carried names such as the ‘Chi-town Hustler’ or ‘Stardust’ so in 1970 Schmidt was in search of a readily memorable name. Since his car was already painted blue, Schmidt chose the name of the 1966 20th Century Fox motion picture The Blue Max which told the fictional tale of a German World War One pilot’s efforts to win the coveted Pour le Mérite (Blue Max) Prussian military cross by shooting down 20 enemy aircraft.
Schmidt’s ‘Blue Max’ Mustang achieved good success through the early 1970’s with a variety of drivers that included fellow Texans Mart Higginbotham and Paul Gordon and on a limited schedule scored NHRA and IHRA event wins before Schmidt parked the car at the middle of the 1973 season. When Schumacher dropped out of racing at the end of the 1974 season, Schmidt and Beadle formed a partnership which returned the ‘Blue Max’ Funny Car to the quarter-mile for 1975. With Beadle behind the wheel, the ‘Blue Max’ Mustang II won the 1975 US Nationals for his first NHRA win as he set the national ET record of 6.14 seconds and handed reigning champion Don ‘the Snake’ Prudhomme one of only two losses he suffered during the 1975 NHRA season.
During that first season Beadle and the “Blue Max’ won four IHRA events and won the first of three IHRA championships. Raymond bought out his partner Schmidt in late 1975 then ended Prudhomme’s dominance of the class and captured three consecutive NHRA Funny Car National Championships between 1979 and 1981. Raymond retired from driving for good after the 1987 season and finished his career with 3 AHRA, 13 NHRA and 19 IHRA national event victories. Raymond is a member of the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, was honored in 2001 as one of the NHRA’s top 50 drivers in the first fifty years, and is a member of the NHRA Division 4 Hall of Fame.
Just as remarkable as his racing accomplishments are Raymond Beadle’s impacts on the business of auto racing. Beadle incorporated and trademarked the ‘Blue Max’ name and through the years sold countless t-shirts and hats, a forerunner of the modern racing apparel market that we know today. Beadle excelled in the board room as well, as he sold sponsorships for the ‘Blue Max’ to such diverse corporations as the Stroh Brewery, English Leather cologne, Regal Ride shock absorbers, CAM2 motor oil, and Rio Airways. Through his Chaparral Trailers Company, Beadle changed the way race teams traveled as Chaparral pioneered the transition from pickup trucks with tag trailers to the 18-wheel trailers so familiar to race fans today.
In 1983, Beadle expanded his reach beyond the quarter mile with the creation of both Blue Max Racing stock car and sprint car teams. With 1982 World of Outlaws sprint car champion Sammy Swindell as the team’s driver through the 1987 season, Blue Max Racing captured 62 WoO feature wins including the coveted Knoxville Nationals title in 1983. In three seasons of NASCAR competition, Tim Richmond took Blue Max Racing to victory lane twice, and then was replaced by ‘Rusty’ Wallace who captured the 1989 NASCAR Winston Cup series title after a runner-up title finish in 1988. When Wallace left after 12 NASCAR wins at the end of the 1990 season, Blue Max Racing Inc. ceased all operations.
Nowadays, Raymond Beadle stays busy managing his many real estate and business investments and serves on the advisory board of the Harry M. Schmidt Foundation to battle prostate cancer. In 2006 Raymond entered the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame, and on August 6th was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Raymond pasted away in late 2014. RIP