Harry M. Schmidt (1944-2012)

Harry Schmidt, one the south-central United States’ original Funny Car competitors, first attracted attention in 66’. At that time, the Dallas, TX, mechanic teamed with Mike Burkhart to race an injected, fuel-burning 66’ Chevy II, under the banner of Friendly Chevrolet. For the next two years, Burkhart and Schmidt ran a nitro-burning injected 67’ Camaro before parting company.
Harry Schmidt
Burkhart then fielded a two-car team of blown, nitro Camaros with Mart Higgenbotham, in 68’, and Schmidt took some time off. At the end of the year, he decided to return and commissioned Don Hardy to build him a 69’ Mustang. The Taylor, Mich.-based Ramchargers Racing Engines shop built him a blown nitro-burning 426-cid Hemi, which he raced in 69’.
Paul Gordan was first behind the wheel, but the only drove the car three or four times according to Schmidt. Higgenbotham drove the car once at Tulsa International Raceway but never got downtrack because of a blown transmission.
In the summer of 69’ Schmidt hired former Gene Snow crew chief Jake Johnston to drive, and he was the first driver of the Blue Max series of race cars.

“When Gordan and Higgenbotham drove,” Schmidt said, “the car just had Harry Schmidt racing on the side. It was the same with Jake in 69’. We did a little touring at the end of the year; the car was running in the 7.40s and the 7.50s at close to 200mph.

“I guess it was that fall that I saw a movie called the Blue Max starring George Peppard, and I thought that the name had a nice ring to it. I loved that emblem, and since I had a German last name and my Mustang was blue, I decided that’s what we’d call the car when we started the 70’s season”

Schmidt and Johnston debuted the Blue Max Mustang at the 70’ Winternationals. The car did well, setting Top Speed at 203.61 mph and lasting until the second round.

In November, Schmidt and Johnston enjoyed the kind of race on which reputations are built. They entered the Orange County Manufacturers Funny Car show in the land, and the Blue Max tore ‘em up.

During eliminations, Johnston ran the lowest elapsed time in the history of the class, a 6.72. In the final, Johnston left on Rich Siroonian’s and “Big John” Mazmanian’s Barracuda and claimed the win, 6.89 to 6.88.

Richard Tharp replaced Johnston as driver at the ’70 Supernationals. Tharp remained Schmidt’s driver until mid 73, when Schmidt decided he’d had enough and parked the car.

“I just got tired of racing. “ Schmidt recalled. “ I had burned out. We made close to 100 dates in 72’ and the traveling and running around wore me out. Some people are cut out for that nonstop thrashing, but I’m not one of them”

As worn out as Schmidt was, he apparently wanted one more go-round with drag racing. Fellow Texan Raymond Beadle toured Don Schumacher’s Stardust Vega in 74’, and Schimidt helped him for a month that summer. It was then that Beadle broached the subject of reviving the Blue Max Funny Car name.

Schmidt’s big concern was money, but Beadle told him that could be handled. On November 9 in Lakeland, FL, Beadle debuted behind the wheel of the Beadle and Schmidt Blue Max Ford Mustang II.

harryThey remained a team until the second week on September, when the grind again got to Schmidt. He couldn’t have picked a better time to leave because a week earlier at the U. S. Nationals, Beadle defeated Don “ The Snake” Prudhomme’s Army Monza for the event title”.  - Wikipedia

Harry M. Schmidt passed away in April of 2012 of prostate cancer.

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