December 1, 2022

Vintage-Nitro

Still car-crazy after all these years

Steve Harris Blackhawk Vega funny car

Steve Harris and the Blackhawk Vega funny car at Detroit.

Digging into the Complex Story Behind the Blackhawk Vega Funny Car

The Blackhawk Vega Funny Car

Another West Coast funny car that appeared at Detroit in 1976 was the Kase and Harris Blackhawk Vega. The lineage of the car is somewhat convoluted, as Mike and Bernie Young originally commissioned Mike Kase to construct the car for them.

After campaigning the car in ’74 and ’75, the Young Brothers leased the Blackhawk to Kase and teammate Steve Harris. With Harris driving, the duo attacked NHRA and AHRA National Events as well as many independent and match race shows.

The car never took home any major event trophies, but the Blackhawk Vega was in the thick of things in ’76. The team seldom failed to qualify and usually could be counted on to survive several rounds.

Built by Mike Kase

Mike Kase put together the chassis for many of the finest funny car and dragster teams in the seventies and eighties. His customer list included Bays and Rupert, Gordon Mineo, the Invader Corvette, Darrell Gwynn, Connie Kalitta, and Jim Wemett. Kase built the Budweiser King cars for Kenny Bernstein, as well the remarkably successful Alky cars driven by AA Dale Armstrong.

Proving that Kase knew how to build strong race cars. Kase was responsible for the construction of Jr. Thompson’s swoopy BB/FC Corvette. That car was destroyed when Thompson hit some cement blocks someone had left on the track. The car reportedly flipped ten times and Thompson was so severely injured he never drove again. But he survived, thanks in part to Kase’s strong chassis.

The Blackhawk Vega Paved the Way for the Speed Racer

At some point in the ’76 Season, Kase and Young teamed on a new car, the famous Speed Racer Vega. The Young brothers resumed racing the Blackhawk with Mike Young acting as wheelsman. The brothers continued fielding updated versions of the Blackhawk into the early ’80s.

Harris drove the Speed Racer in the early part of the ’77 season. He was severely injured trying to gain his Top Fuel license in the spring of that year. It appears Harris didn’t drive after that. Tom Anderson took over the driving chores for the Speed Racer, with Kase still listed as owner.

The Speed Racer name continued into the early ’80s, and AA Dale Armstrong eventually took over the driver’s seat. Eventually the car was acquired by Jim Wemett. The original Speed Racer burned to the ground and Wemett renamed the replacement simply Jim Wemett.

Tom Bonner