Chris Graves wasn’t sure if his concept would work or not.
Six years later, he’s grateful for the concept that actually worked, and several others as well.
Graves’ farm bet on Funny Cars, and what a bet they turned.
In its sixth season after two races, the Funny Car Chaos brand has become a haven for racers and fans of fantasy plastic toys.
“It means a lot that the support from the contestants, the fans and the sponsors prove that we’re doing something here,” Greaves said. “Giving those racers who don’t have a place to race a National Tour series that can pack the bleachers into your local drag strip is the most satisfying. They are so grateful to have a place to race and enjoy, and an affordable, fair place to compete.
“This is backed by the number of people building new cars to do this. I am just glad we gave it to the racers and fans, and it wouldn’t be possible without sponsors to give these racers and these fans what we’ve done for them is the really most satisfying thing.
The series expanded from just a few races at smaller racetracks to include an annual pilgrimage to Texas Motorplex, an NHRA national event facility, which has attracted more than 60 participants for two consecutive seasons.
“Once the [had a Funny Car Chaos event] “The first time, we knew there was interest, obviously,” Graves said. In the 2018 season we only needed four races which was basically a test year, and we traveled to different markets. We went to Amarillo, Missouri and Illinois, and all of these races went really well, which is why we really turned things around in 2019 and started the points run. Retaining points and honoring a champion was a rapidly evolving scenario.”
It is a simple concept that makes it work. You run the whatcha brung. If it has a nitro blower, you’re fine. Nitro injector? You are legal. A turbocharger, a brocharger, and even a rocket, you’d be legal. There is only one condition.
“If the top flops, you’re there,” Greaves added.
Greaves and his wife/business partner Tera knew in 2018 they had a hit show, and with that knowledge curbing the excitement was a tough prospect in 2019.
“At that point, I knew I had to make a change in my career,” Graves said. “I’ve spent 20 years photographing Max Cackle, traveling cross country, going 60 races a year, selling 8×10 photos. Which is why I made a living for so long, and it was pretty obvious at that point that I had to That’s throwing the towel into the field of photography that I’ve been busting my ass for so many years in order to build it up, so this was a huge step.
“We sold all of our camera and printer equipment. I didn’t even take pictures anymore. We went full time, Funny Car Chaos at the beginning of 2019 because we knew we had to do this work. It had to be complete – the time commitment, and to do that, it was We have to finish what we’ve been building for 20 years, so this was a very difficult decision, but I’m glad we did.”
Graves said no one could truly understand how difficult it was to walk away from photography, considering that he followed in his father’s footsteps as a drag racing photographer.
“I could have spent the rest of my life doing this and being comfortable and making a living, and we worked hard to establish the relationships we had,” Graves explained. We were covering Bowling Green Reunion. We were doing the March meet. We were doing the California Hot Road Reunion. We were going around the country doing 60 events a year; we were down the road in a travel trailer. We didn’t have a home. We did our laundry with College students at the laundromat.We didn’t have a dishwasher, but we were fine with that.
“We always wanted to settle down, start a family, buy a house and all of that, and we did that five years ago, but we worked really hard to get the contacts and develop our skill set. Tira was a really good photographer, and we both walked away from the game at the same time. When we first met, she was there. Shoot with Richard Schutt and Richard Brady and Mark Geurtz and all those other guys covering CompetitionPlus events and things like that.
“All the work we did in the building that was very hard to get away from but knowing we wanted to start a family, buy a house, settle down a bit and stop living on the road and live in a travel trailer made it a little easier to do that, to make that decision. It was just a transition Perfect at the perfect time, luckily the demand was there with Funny Car Chaos to go ahead and retire from the shooting business altogether.We’re still doing Hero cards and stuff, but we haven’t sold an 8X10 picture since fall 2018.
At 38, Graves doesn’t have a bucket list yet, let alone a plan that doesn’t require him to have his hand on the pulse of the chain 24/7.
“I would like to see that day come, and I think it will,” Graves explained. “But we have more demand for racing than we have Chris and Terrace, and I have to turn down race tracks a lot. So the opportunity is there to do more, and obviously that requires more manpower. But I think that’s just something that will develop here. I’ve spoken to a number of Few people are about to be involved as an assistant race director of a type of venue to carry out events that you don’t have to go to, so those days are coming.”
The only aspect of the Graves family that could slow them down in conquering the funny car world was the birth of their first child, son Levi, who had been at the Funny Car Chaos Classic for just a week outside the womb.
What would Graves ever do if Levi told him, “Dad, I’m a cyclist?”
“As long as the engine is in the front of his bike, I’m fine with that,” Graves said. “Real racing cars only have engines in the front, real racing cars don’t have doors either.”