Nostalgia nitro Funny Car racer John Lawson is dealing with a horrible loss as a result of a fire at his race garage Feb. 3 in Joliet, Ill.
“The garage is at their home and they use it as a race shop,” said Samantha Lawson-Mitchell, Lawson’s daughter, who lives across the street from where the fire took place. “He had three complete Funny Cars in there and one we were working on that we lost. He lost three everyday cars that he drives, 10 classic cars and three motorcycles in the fire. He lost everything in the fire. The garage was demolished.”
There was insurance on the contents of the garage except for the four Funny Cars. No one was injured in the fire.
“There was no way to insure the Funny Cars, those are an absolute loss,” Lawson-Mitchell said. “We literally just finished our new (Funny Car) called the American Way on (Feb. 1). It was fully-ready to rock-n-roll down the track.”
Lawson-Mitchell said someone was banging on the door at John’s family home next to the garage on Feb. 3 around 7 :30 p.m. (CT) and said their garage was on fire.
“The fire department has gone through and they have a whole team of people working and they have no idea how the fire started,” Lawson-Mitchell said. “The garage is like 100 X 50 and they said there’s probably no way to tell what actually happened. The garage was about 15 feet away from the family home and they saved the home completely. It didn’t melt siding or anything. They kept the fire totally contained to the garage. My dad said the biggest loss was a car he was finishing up with his dad, a 1957 Chevy. It was one of the last things he and his dad worked on together and all he wanted to do was take it for one ride. He was a week away from finishing that (1957 Chevy) and taking it for its first cruise in 45 years.”
Lawson-Mitchell said her dad had planned on competing in at least six Nostalgia nitro Funny Car events in 2020 with two of the Funny Cars, but that’s not going to happen now.
John Lawson was going to drive one of the Funny Cars and Joe Haas was going to drive the second Funny Car. The family’s third Funny Car was going to be driven by Pete Dove, and Dale Creasy Jr., drove it a couple times in 2019. The fourth Funny Car was going to be a back-up car.
“We lost everything, down to the tools, firesuits, helmets, we literally lost everything,” Mitchell-Lawson said. “I was in the shower and the neighbor next door said your dad’s garage is on fire. I just felt a huge ball of flames and I ran out in my pajamas. My mom couldn’t even watch. I’m one of five girls and I have sister who lives 20 minutes away and she beat me (to the fire) and I live across the street.”
The garage that was destroyed by the fire was two blocks away from the family business – John Lawson’s Auto Rebuilders Body Shop.
“They started demolishian (Tuesday, Feb. 4) and we are waiting on a permit for them to pull away the toter (Truck) and trailer,” Lawson-Mitchell said. “We’re just going claim by claim on each of the cars and trying to get through that.”