Chandler’s presence will be felt at Bandimere Speedway
When the 38th annual Mopar MileHigh Nationals come to Bandimere Speedway this weekend, there will be one person noticeably absent from the start line of each run.
Terry Chandler, once dubbed “the most influential woman in drag racing” — a woman known for her charitable donations to both the Make-A-Wish and Infinite Hero Foundation funny car teams for Don Schumacher Racing — passed away July 4 of brain cancer.
Chandler was a fixture at events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series in the years leading up to her death.
“She did so many things behind the scenes that people don’t know about,” said Tommy Johnson Jr., the driver of the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger funny car. “She helped so many people, not just (the racers).”
Chandler became a regular at NHRA events when her brother, Johnny Gray, drove a funny car for DSR in 2011. But she quickly extended her arms to others in the drag racing community, like they were her family too. Soon after her brother’s retirement in 2013, she added Johnson as a driver. A few months later, when Jack Beckman’s team appeared close to dissolving, she funded them too.
She called herself the “head cheerleader” of teams she sponsored, Johnson said.
“Her and I were almost like mother and son,” Johnson said. “It’s almost like not having your mom at the races now. That’s the hardest part.”
She will be most remembered for her ability to combine her love of drag racing with charitable causes. Chandler donated the branding of Beckman’s car to the Infinite Hero Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to helping military veterans combat physical and psychological challenges.
On Johnson’s car, she didn’t want the colors of “Chandler Aviation” — the company she operated with her husband. Instead, “Make-A-Wish” was painted on its exterior. And every Saturday for Mello Yello series events, Chandler would host Make-AWish kids and their families at the track, giving them tours of the pit area and the Make-A-Wish race car.
Everything was done with an infectious smile and a redirecting of the spotlight from herself to the causes that needed attention.
“She’s going to continue to have an impact (in death),” Beckman said. “We’ll keep moving forward with the things she wanted us to do and keep changing lives.”
Chandler won’t be present at the start line anymore, but her legacy with NHRA will live on.
“The closest you can get to immortality is through children and memories,” Beckman said. “She’ll be immortal out (on the track) because we’re going to make sure that no one forgets her.”