GRANDSON HONORS CHUCK BEAL WITH FUNNY CAR
Brandon Welch said his grandmother cried like a baby.
And why not? Karen Beal – a/k/a “KB” – never had had her name on any of husband Chuck Beal’s alcohol or nitro Funny Cars. But she’s featured on her grandson’s Monte Carlo Funny Car that pays tribute to her and her late husband. Beal passed away July 13, 2017, in San Diego following complications of a heart procedure.
“I’ve got her name on the car,” Welch said. “She always used to give Chuck a hard time about it. For some reason he never put in on there, so I’m putting it on there.”
The message on the rear of the car reads, “Special Thanks, KB.” Accompanying it is the quote, “God love her, and so do I.” Welch said that’s “something he always used to say when he’d hang up from talking to her.
“I was more excited about that than anything on this car,” Welch said. “It’s pretty cool to do that for her, just because when he was off racing umpteen weekends a year, she raised two daughters. And then I came along when her daughters were grown, and she helped raise me. I was at home with her a lot of times. It’s pretty cool to do that for her.”00
Adorning the car is a mural with photos of Beal, one in the winners circle years ago and one of him in later years, against a backdrop of a Coronado Island beach.
Welch said “KB” loves the racing scene and always showed pride in Chuck’s success in the NHRA alcohol ranks: “She thought because Chuck was so successful, especially in the alcohol days, there was a lot of pride that ‘Hey – we’re making this sacrifice as a family. We’re living in the same house we bought 30 years ago and we’re giving every last penny to these race cars. We’d better be proud of what we’re doing.
“And so she really liked it. She liked the community at the races, and she went as often as she could. But when it came to putting diapers on babies and putting food on the table, she did that. And I think there’s a bigger story there about racing wives are as important as the, or husbands for that matter, as the racers that are out here. It takes a village to run a race car,” Welch said.
Welch called Beal “a very joyful guy.” And what he is doing for his grandfather’s legacy is competing in the so-called “Bealmobile” for the third limited campaign in four years.
“This is the exact body,” Welch said, showing off the replica of his grandfather’s mid-1980s Camaro. “We sent the designer a picture of this car and just said, ‘Clone it’. We got as many color pictures as we could. We said, ‘We need to find roughly what these shades were and let’s clone that car. I don’t want to modernize it. I don’t want to do anything [different]. I just want to clone it’. I think he did a great job.”
Ontario, Calif.-based Gatorwraps designed it and produced the wrap. Mark Lueck, a painter whose portfolio includes many of Don “The Snake” Prudhomme’s iconic cars throughout the years. He pinstriped some lines, scripted the message to KB, and lettered the BealMobile logo.
“The color really pops in the sun, too,” Welch said, admiring the artwork. “I’m excited to see some on track photos of it.”
Other than having some trouble with the pan pressure shutoff switch not tripping, Welch said he Friday he was ready to go. He was unqualified, at the bottom of the 19-car field, at the end of the first qualifying day. He moved up a spot when Gary Densham slipped onto the Funny Car card behind him in 20th place. But Welch ended his weekend with a DNQ, in 20th place.
Welch, a securities broker, worked on the car with his grandfather since age 15, and Beal was proud to see his grandson kick-start his driving career in 2015. And like Beal, Welch knows all too well how hard it is to balance racing with a family and primary job.
“It’s always a scramble,” he said. “I got a promotion, and part of the promotion was I needed to work in Vegas. I’m actually working four days a week in Las Vegas right now. I’m living in San Diego. The race car’s in San Diego. I got twin daughters and a wife in San Diego, so it’s been a total juggling act. The guys have really stepped up, and then I’ve really just been on the phone ordering parts and coordinating all of this.
“But it’s great,” he said. “It’s a big purpose that’s bigger than yourself. You know, you’ve got a team of guys. That’s really hard to do. It’s like it’s a reason to get out of bed in the morning and work a little harder.
“You talk to any racer who’s been doing this long enough,” he said, “and you know they could always have lived in a bigger house and had a bigger pile of money – but not nearly as much fun.”