Richie Blubaugh has two things in his life that are everything to him: his family and drag racing. A terrifying crash in 2017 nearly took his life and destroyed his beloved racecar, but that didn’t stop him from getting back to the track. With the assistance of his family, Richie has returned to the dragstrip behind the wheel of a unique 1952 Ford Mainline named “Malice,” and as the name implies, this car has evil intentions for those who line up against it.
Richie has always had a knack for manipulating all things mechanical; that talent includes his work with machinery as a Technical Communicator for John Deere, to anything with wheels that can be raced. He gained that aptitude from his grandfather, Frank Madole. “He ran a Studebaker dealership and taught me everything he knew. He was a man who you could sit a pile of parts in front of and come back later to a finished project,” Richie says.
From a young age, Richie was ultra-competitive and racing felt like home to him. Before he could jump on anything gas powered, Richie was racing BMX bikes in his small town, then graduated to dirt bikes and finally to four-wheelers as a teenager. Eventually, Richie moved on to bigger things like trucks and then on to racecars to provide a release for his competitive desires.
“My dad drag raced, so I grew up around it and it played a huge role in transforming me into a total gearhead. I spent as much time at the track as I could afford to in high school once I got my driver’s license. Over the years, drag racing has evolved into a priority in my life,” Richie says.
Richie has done his fair share of bracket racing; after chasing dial-ins for a few years, he moved on to index racing. At the time, index racing was as close as he could get to heads-up competition, which fascinated him. These days, Richie races exclusively in the no-prep world, and like so many others, he was introduced to it via street racing.
“We did our fair share of street racing over the years, and that got us into no-prep racing. No-prep is fun because it lets us be more competitive with a smaller pocketbook by knowing how to tune the car and the luck of the draw. Now, there’s a no-prep race every weekend within driving distance of us, and if you know your car well enough, you can win one of these races and make enough money to keep racing,” Richie explains.
What I enjoy about no-prep racing is the challenge and the ability it takes to make one of these cars work consistently.
If you spend any amount of time heads-up racing with fast cars, you’re going to have a close call … or even worse, a crash. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Richie had spent years racing and never really had any big issues, but that all changed in June of 2017 at Kansas International Dragway.
“That wreck at KID was pretty bad. I was racing my Mustang, “Big Blower Barney,” and ended up going off the end of the track at a high rate of speed. They said I flew about 200 feet off the end of the track before the car starting flipping end over end. Thankfully, the roll cage that Lewis Fab built did its job and kept me alive,” Richie says.
After the horrific crash, he ended up in the ICU at a Kansas hospital recovering from his injuries. This kind of experience would force most people to reevaluate their racing career, but Richie isn’t one of those people, and he was quickly on the hunt for a new car.
“While I was laying in the ICU, I was shopping for a roller to use for my next car, and my wife was less than pleased. Judging by how beat up I was, I figured there wasn’t much for me to work with on the old car. Tim Ozbun wanted me to buy his Fox body Mustang so he could buy a new car. When he showed me the car he wanted to buy, it was Malice, and I instantly perked up. I had always wanted the car and had seen it around the Wichita area a few times over the years. I didn’t know where it was or who had it after it had been through a few different owners,” Richie says.
With his friend Tim ready to purchase the Ford, Richie was worried that his chance to own a car he’d always wanted might have slipped through his fingers again. At that point, he began his search for a new car again as he recovered. Richie made sure Tim was aware he was still interested in the unique car if things didn’t work out on the purchase.
“Tim was going to buy it, and I told him that if he couldn’t buy it to let me know. About two months later, my wife and I were out on a date and Tim called to tell me he wasn’t going to be able to buy the car and that the owner was ready to sell it to someone else. Much to my wife’s dismay, I cut date night short to call the guy right away to make a sight-unseen deal over the phone to purchase the car the next day,” Richie explains.
Buying a non-traditional racecar like Malice was an easy choice for Richie because he and his wife, Ashley, wanted a car that would stand out. The Blubaugh’s aren’t your typical racing family, and Richie wanted something that Ashley would love, as well. Her love for the classic lines of 1950s cars and his need for a platform to stuff some modern horsepower in made the car a great fit.
When the deal was done and Richie picked the car up, it was time to begin molding it into the machine he needed it to be. Malice had spent most of her life as a racecar in the bracket ranks, so a solid foundation to work from was already in place. To get the car up to code, Richie and his family got to work so they could create their ideal no-prep racecar.
“This car took a little more time to build for us since we as a family did the majority of the work. The previous owner had a big-block Chevy in the car that was different than mine. I didn’t like the engine placement, so I had to move it back. We made changes to the front suspension and front end to fit the blower setup. As far as safety goes, we changed the front of the cage and added bars inside to make it safer. We also changed the rearend and location of the ladder bars. My wife has just as many hours in this car as me, if not more. She did all of the wiring and a lot of other work,” Richie explains.
The car allows us to travel as a family to new races in different locations, so that’s a lot of fun. The amount of attention the car gets at the track is another thing we like.
The goal for all of the changes was to make the car safer and more competitive, while still keeping it legal for True Street and Outlaw True Street no-prep racing. Richie even added another seat to the Ford so his daughter could ride along on the cruises since that’s one of her favorite things to do at the track.
“I’m going to keep the car in Small Tire and Outlaw True Street where the rules are more open. Because the car weighs 3,500 pounds, I need to run classes where the rules aren’t as strict and let me run the big blower for more horsepower to get this car moving. The True Street class requires cruises that are too long or restrict what blower you run, so we can’t do that,” Richie says.
Building Malice has been a truly enjoyable experience for the Blubaughs; they built this car as a family, and there’s no other way they would rather spend time together.
“The shop is our living room. We spend more time in there as a family than in front of the TV. Racing Malice allows us to spend more time together as a family from building the car, to running it at the track, and we enjoy every second of it. Our kids are right there with us, from strapping the car down to the trailer to wiping it down between rounds,” Ashley says.
Richie has come to fully embrace the challenge of no-prep racing and what it takes to get a car to make a good pass. Malice has made this even better with the time he gets to spend with his family along with the attention the car draws at the track.
“The car allows us to travel as a family to new races in different locations, so that’s a lot of fun. The amount of attention the car gets at the track is another thing we like. At every race, all the old-timers come around to figure out what year the car is since you don’t see this body style of car at heads-up races. Everybody wants to be competitive, but we really enjoy the time we spend at the track, win or lose, with our racing family.”
Getting to this point with Malice has been a lot of hard work and Richie has received a lot of support to make everything come together.
“Vortech has been great to deal with, and they have really helped make all of this happen. Their support has been amazing, and they have been with us since this started. I’ve also gotten a lot of help from Tire Management By Dre to get the car going. Most of all, I want to thank my wife and kids for their support.”
Richie Blubaugh found a way to integrate family and racing as he built his wild Ford creation. The strong bond that was created allows Richie and his clan of racing fanatics to spend time at the track as a group, while having a unique car that draws lots of attention. Don’t let the warm and fuzzy feelings fool you, though — the Blubaugh’s built Malice to do evil things to the competition on race day.