[...] coming Noted crew chief Mark Oswald hadn't yet won an NHRA national event as a driver in 1981 but caught the eye of Candies and Hughes as their staunchest competitor for the IHRA Top Fuel title, and they made the wise decision to bring him on board in 1982, forming a partnership that would immediately show promise and last eight seasons. The support of team owner Candies and the handiwork of Hughes matched well with Oswald's proficiency as a driver, and in their first season together, they set a national record and earned top speed at the Winternationals and scored national event wins at the Cajun Nationals and Summernationals, where Oswald reset both ends of the national record, dislodging drag racing's oldest Pro record at the time, a 5.63 set by Garlits in 1975.
Leonard Hughes: Nitro Innovator A brief history of the first crew chief who won NHRA world championships in Top Fuel and Funny Car and one half of the famed Candies & Hughes team by Kelly Wade requested by Lance Peltier Austin, Texas he year 1964 emerged as a period of T innovation. “Big Daddy” Don Garlits began pushing the limits and exploring new territory, eventually becoming the first racer to officially exceed 200 mph on the quarter-mile, and the legendary partnership between Houma, La.’s Paul Candies and Leonard Hughes was formed, laying the ground- work for years of successful collaboration and further advancements in the sport. Long before joining forces with Candies, Hughes began his foray into drag racing as a Chevy man, burning up the strip in his first race car, a ’57 Chevy Stocker. Looking to go faster, Hughes developed a partnership with Candies, whom he had met a few years prior at Candies’ engine-balancing shop. Hughes left the slower shoebox behind for the first serious Candies & Hughes Teammates Leonard Hughes, center, and Paul Candies, left, were associated with winning from the early days of their partnership. In 1970, with entry, an SS/A Plymouth with a 426-cid Hughes at the wheel and calling the shots, they scored the Funny Car title at the independently hosted Super Stock Magazine Nationals. Wedge engine under the hood, and when the powerful Hemi engines hit the scene, effective, and in 1968, Hughes set the maneuvering a new ’70 ’Cuda into the The following season, Hughes flexed the duo stepped it up another notch for national record with a 7.87 and claimed winner’s circle. It was a glorious his muscle as both tuner and driver to heads-up racing. Eventually, the team both low e.t. and top speed at the famed weekend for the team, which had win the Summernationals in graduated to the budding Funny Car U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis with a expanded to briefly include Larry Reyes Englishtown, combining consistent six- class, where it quickly settled in and blistering 7.60 at 196 mph. The following driving its ’69 Barracuda with Roland second times with great starting-line gained respect with Hughes at the helm season, the first in which NHRA Leong turning the wrenches on it. The launches and putting away the fearsome with a wrench in one hand and the contested a separate Funny Car race as group pulled off an unprecedented one- field-leading Ramchargers Challenger steering wheel in the other. part of its regular schedule, victory two sweep when Hughes expertly driven by Leroy Goldstein, as well as Though a win proved elusive for the again evaded the team, but top speed nabbed a giant holeshot in the final entries piloted by Al Marshall and Phil team in the early days, the combination honors at the Winternationals (199 mph) round and Reyes scurried to catch up, Castronovo, before earning a final-round of a Logghe Bros. chassis and a Keith and again in Indy (208.81) supplied a clocking an impressive 7.12 but lifting victory on a holeshot over reigning world Black Hemi engine at the heart of the ray of hope. early and possibly throwing away the champion Gene Snow. fiberglass Barracuda body was quite first official six-second Funny Car run. Hughes made his way to his final Here comes the sun At the end of the day, Reyes captured money round as a driver but suffered By the conclusion of the the best times with low e.t. and top traction troubles and was runner-up to second event of the 1970 speed, but Hughes collected his first Ed “the Ace” McCulloch at the 1972 season, Hughes’ efforts as a win in historical fashion, and later that Springnationals. Hughes again made his tuner and driver were finally season, he ran low e.t. and top speed in mark in the NHRA history books by recognized after skillfully Indy with a 6.80 at 214.79. allowing “the Ace” a third consecutive win, an accomplishment never before recorded. The victory at the 1971 Summernationals was Hughes’ last as a driver, but the team still had an incredibly bright future ahead of it. A new era Hughes moved out of the cockpit and focused his attention on tuning, and from
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