Chris Karamesines

Chris Karamesines (born November 11, 1931) is an American drag racer and one of NHRA‘s early pioneers and nicknamed “The Golden Greek” or just simply “Greek”. In 2009, he became the first driver in NHRA history to compete and become the fastest driver at over 78 years old at the final event of the 2009 season at Pomona driving in the Top Fuel category. But he would lose in the first round against Brandon Bernstein. The following year, he made an attempt at Firebird International Raceway in Arizona and made the field, but again lost in the first round. Karamesines would break his own record in 2018 at Brainerd Raceway, running a 305 mile per hour pass at 86 years old.

American racing driver
Chris Karamesines

Karamesines at Charlotte in September 2011
Born November 11, 1931
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Named 50 Greatest NHRA Drivers in 2001
2006 Motorsports Hall of Fame of America[1] Inductee
1959 AHRA Champion

. . . Chris Karamesines . . .

Chris Karamesines was born November 11, but conflicting reports raise questions regarding his birthyear. While NHRA has it listed as 1931, other sources, including The Drag Racing Hall of Fame, say he was born in 1928. At age 16, Karamesines joined the army and went to Germany during World War II, where he would stay until 1951. Karamesines served during the Nuremberg Trials, and while escorting a prisoner to the washroom, the man escaped from a moving train and he had to chase him down. Karamesines was also wounded, with a shot in the leg, which he refused to tell his commanding officer about. It was also during this time that Karamesines discovered his knack for automotive engineering. While driving a tank, Karamesines noticed one of the twin Cadillac engines not running properly. After some tinkering, he got the engine running properly. The Greek would return to the US in 1951.

After his return from Germany, Karamesines decided to go racing as a career. Karamesines began drag racing roadsters, and would eventually make his way into dragsters. Much like Don Garlits had his series of “Swamp Rat” dragsters, Karamesines had his own name, ChiZler. One of the earliest ChiZler models was a dual engine dragster, consisting of two engines stuck together to create one. By the late 50s, Karamesines was a regular on the AHRA (American Hot Rod Association) circuit. He would capture the series greatest prize, winning the championship in 1959. The following year, Karamesines would set what many feel is the first 200 MPH run at the Alton Dragstrip in Alton, Illinois. While unofficial according to the NHRA, many consider it the first 200 MPH run. The Greek would continue in AHRA only until 1964, where he would make his debut at the 1964 Winternationals with his ChiZler dragster. In 1965, Karamesines would make his first career final round at Bristol. In 1966, Karamesines would split time between NHRA and AHRA, winning at Texas in the latter. Karamesines would race in NHRA, AHRA and IHRA through the remainder of the 60s.

In 1972, Karamesines would win events in IHRA and AHRA, but his first NHRA win would continue to elude him. By 1975, Karamesines would make an unexpected career change, making the move to Funny Car. The change was brief however, as he was back in Top Fuel in 1976. By the late 1970s and early 80s, the rise in costs to operate a competitive drag racing team were beginning to show, affecting smaller teams like Karamesines’. Karamesines only had one primary sponsor, Strange Engineering, who was able to cover costs, but was unable to provide enough to be a top team. In 1985, Karamesines would win in the ADRA event in Seattle. During the latter 80s, Karamesines started becoming less of a major threat, and would frequently be eliminated early, or miss the race altogether. Mechanical problems and the effects of an all volunteer crew also took its toll. During the 1986 NHRA Gatornationals, Karamesines won his first round race and was to face former NFL Quarterback Dan Pastorini in round two. Unfortunately, Karamesines engine had taken such a beating in round one, he was forced to withdraw. During another event, Karamesines volunteer crew was to blame, as the parachute packs had not been properly secured, causing the chutes to deploy on launch.

. . . Chris Karamesines . . .

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. . . Chris Karamesines . . .

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