Inducted into the Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
John Haas was born in Allegan on October 27, 1954 and lived there all
of his life. He has raced motorcycles, cars, snowmobiles, and boats since
the age of 13. He married his high school sweetheart Deanna in 1976.
In 1978 John bought his first drag boat. It was a 18 foot 1967 Hondo flat
bottom. He put a 454 big block Chevy motor in it. Two years later he bought
his second flat bottom boat from Art Bennett, it to was a 18 footer, but it
was much faster with speeds upwards of 110 mph.
John got a chance to run a Hydro boat when Tom Earhart and he were at Hardy
Dam. That boat went 135 mph. He also got to see his first ADBA (American
Drag Boat Association) event and after watching the Top Fuel Hydros reach
220 mph, John told one of his friends, “I’m going to drive one someday.”
John bought his first Hydro in 1984 from Art Bennett. It was a 1979 Hondo.
It was capable of 150 mph. He modified the boat in 1988 and called it the
“Executioner” and joined the MBBA (Midwest Bracket Boat Association) an put
a 540 blown Chevy in it, running on Alcohol. In June of 1989 he entered his
first sanctioned drag boat race in Oregon, Illinois and he ended up winning
his class with a top speed of 174.95 mph. At the end of the season John was
ready for a faster, and lighter boat. The one he had weighed 800 pounds. He
drove to California to pick up a 1988 Kurtis Kraft 501 Hydro which tipped the
scales at about 400 pounds.
The following year John was instrumental in getting a MBBA sanctioned race
on the Grand River in Grand Rapids, Michigan. John won his class in his new
boat. He ended up as the MBBA Top Alcohol Hydro Champion. The MBBA disbanded
at the end of the season, and a new organization was formed called the MDBA
(Michigan Drag Boat Association) in 1992.
They returned to the Grand River for the “Grand Thunder”. John, being the
Vice-President of the new group decided not to run his boat and concentrate
on officiating the event. A few weeks later he ran his first ADBA (American
Drag Boat Association) event finishing second in his class. He sold that
boat at the end of the year and went to California again to buy a newer
Kurtis Kraft. This one had a capsuled seat, meaning he was
completely enclosed as a safety precaution. The following year he did run
the Grand River event and won his class.
He ran most of the 1993 ADBA races and with consistent finishes ended up
runner-up in the Top Alcohol Hydro Championship that year. He continued to
run with the ADBA for the next two years. In 1996 the NDBA (National Drag
Boat Association) was formed. A combined effort with the new NBDA, the ADBA
and some regional groups. He ended up being runner-up in points again in
1996. He pretty much sat out the 1997 season. The next year he was back and
was leading the points with two races left, but a terrible spill at the Grand
River event sent him to the hospital and he ended up missing the last race
and was runner-up once again in the ADBA. He had flipped the boat about 180
mph and was knocked out. His injuries included a broken neck, and
compression fractures between C-5 and C-6.
The following year (1999) he bought a newer 1994 Kurtis Kraft in California.
But his real break was when Roger Way out of North Carolina asked John if
he’d like to run his Top Fuel drag boat, but John had to be licenced first.
Their first try was disastrous as they never got a chance to make a full
run. The next weekend he got his second chance at an event in North Carolina. This
time he passed with flying colors and then to top off an unbelievable weekend
he ended defeating a nine boat field to win in his first IHBA Top Fuel Hydro
race as he blazed to a 233.02 mph run. He also won two more races in his
Alcohol boat that year. He then sold his “Executioner” and continued drive a
Top Fuel boat for Roger Way. The engine in Roger’s boat produced 7,000
horsepower. He ended up winning twice that season and won the NDBA High
Point Championship. The following year was tough on John as first his sister
Linda suddenly died and then a few months later his father died. John and
Deanna drove home from a race in Georgia, but after the funeral, John flew
back to North Carolina for the next race and ended up winning the event and
dedicating the win to his father Eugene. John continued to run a Top Fuel
Hydro for Roger Way through the 2003 season.
In 2004 John got the nod from Lou Osman to drive his “Speed Sport Special”
Hydro, but things started out slow.
In 2005 his career took a turn for the best as he won three straight and he
had his first four second pass at a IHBA Nationals. That year he turned a
4.762 second ET. He also had a set a top speed of 252.24 mph. The same year
he was named the National Series “Driver of the Year” as well as winning the
Top Fuel Hydro World Championship.
Then in 2006 he won the $50,000 Nitro Nationals Bounty winner. He also
topped the charts with a 4.705 ET and he also set a top speed of 255.78 mph. He was
leading the points when a bad crash in Augusta, GA destroyed his boat. John
was OK, but they were out for the rest of the year.
The following year a new “Speed Sport Special” was ready saw much the same
as he repeated as Top Fuel Nitro World Champion as well as being the overall
point champion and the “Pro Driver of the Year”.
In 2008 he won finally won the prestigious World Finals at Firebird Raceway
as well as his third Top Fuel Nitro World Championship.
Last year saw John surpass all records with the fastest times in a 1/4 mile
(4.535 seconds) as well as in the 1/8 mile (2.626 seconds at 227 mph). The
“Speed Sport Special” team went on to claim yet another Top Fuel Hydro World
John was tragically killed in a high speed crash in Oklahoma on August
John left behind his wife Deanna and two children. Joey and John, Jr.
John, Jr. is married to Jenny, and they gave John, Sr. and Deanna their first grandchild. Her name is Kaylee.
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