NHRA In Joliet: Chris Karamesines, at 81, competing in Top Fuel
Many celebrities and sports personalities wouldn’t want to brag if they’re written about in The National Enquirer.
But 81-year-old drag racer Chris Karamesines wants people to see what the paper has about him in its July 1 issue. So he rummages through his trailer at the Route 66 Raceway in Joliet and proudly produces the article.
Karamesines may not be a household name for the average sports fan, but he is known throughout the NHRA. “The Golden Greek” isn’t planning on retiring any time soon, so he’s running his Top Fuel dragster in the Mello Yellow Series at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 Nationals.
“We’re out here to win; otherwise you wouldn’t come out,” said Karamesines, who hails from south suburban Hometown. “We like tracks that are closer to home because there’s less travel.”
Karamesines started racing in 1950 with his 1936 Ford.
“I got the bug, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” Karamesines said.
He runs about 12 races a year. Even though he has two lifetime sponsors in Lucas Oil and Strange Engineering out of Morton Grove, finding enough money and time is difficult.
Karamesines and his fellow competitors had to wait for rain to move through the Joliet area Friday afternoon. A 2-hour, 11-minute delay forced drivers to take just one qualifying run instead of two.
Karamesines’ lone qualifying run was 281.01 mph in 4.216 seconds, putting him 16th going into Saturday’s second qualifying round.
Long Grove resident Tony Schumacher is the Top Fuel leader, going 325.45 mph in 3.772 seconds. If Schumacher can hold on to the No. 1 spot after Saturday’s qualifying, it will be his second No. 1 of the season and 73rd of his career.
“If we get rain (Saturday) I have to be in the top 16 (to make the finals), so I had a lot on my mind there,” Schumacher said. “I hit the gas and had a great run. I kept it in the middle of the race track.”
Schumacher narrowly took the top spot over Doug Kalitta, who also posted a time of 3.772, but ran 322.34 mph. Shawn Langdon is in the third qualifying position (3.789).
Defending series champion and 2012 Route 66 winner Antron Brown had a near disastrous run, when his car malfunctioned right after the start. Brown ended up near the bottom of the qualifying order and has the 19th position out of 22 drivers. Brown went just 100 mph over 6.366 seconds.
John Force leads the Funny Car division over Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman. Force drove 314.02 mph in 4.035 seconds, to Hagan’s time of 4.040 and Beckman’s 4.043.
“Everybody knows it was hot out there, but then it cooled down real quick,” Force said. “I’m excited that the car ran good and so did the parts. But you still gotta make the (finals). What if it rains (Saturday)? We only got one run in (Friday, because of rain).”