Rich Siroonian, who made a name for himself in Funny Car in the 1960s and 1970s as driver of a line of beautiful candy-apple-red cars owned by his uncle “Big John” Mazmanian, died Sept. 20. He was 71.
As the story goes, “Uncle John” caught his nephew street racing in his Corvette and decided that the best measure was to put him into a real race car. Siroonian saddled up into Mazmanian’s record-setting Corvette, Willys, and Austin gassers – the latter dubbed “the football” for its odd shape – and proved himself a more than capable driver. When Mazmanian moved into Funny Cars, Siroonian was his choice, and together they won the prestigious Manufacturer's Meet in November 1968, defeating Don Schumacher in the final, and were match race threats everywhere the beautiful 'Cudas ran.
The next year, they reached the final round of the U.S. Nationals, but Siroonian red-lighted to Danny Ongais. In January 1971, Siroonian and Mazmanian teamed to record the sport’s first 220-mph Funny Car pass at Orange County Int’l Raceway. Mazmanian’s last Funny Car was in 1972.