Lee Beard has been referred to as “a crew chief’s crew chief”. Beard, known for cleanliness, organization, and preparation, was first introduced into the world of drag racing by his high school Industrial Arts teacher, Ed Renck, who also happened to have a front-engined Top Fuel Dragster. In 1969, Lee started hanging around Ed’s shop doing the grunt work and gradually graduated into helping maintain the car. By this time, he had fallen in love with the sport, all of its sounds, and smells. In 1972 he bought his own Blown Chrysler AA/Fuel Dragster which he competed with until 1977.
Winning many local events and several Division V events, Lee made the journey to the 1973 NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis where he made it to the third round of eliminations only to lose to eventual winner Gary Beck. In 1978 Lee began driving Jerry Ruth’s AA/Fuel Funny Car where the pair put together a successful campaign of match races along with local open events through the 1979 season.
In 1980 the team shelved the Funny Car and concentrated on running Ruth’s AA/Fuel Dragster, posting their first big win at the NHRA Mile High Nationals in Morrison, CO. That was the beginning of Lee’s outstanding career as a Crew Chief.
The list of teams and wins reads like a who’s who of drag racing. Gary Ormsby, Larry Minor, Joe Gibbs, Kenny Bernstein, David Powers, Don Schumacher, and Cruz Pedregon just to name a few. The same applies to Lee’s record of wins, championships, and awards. As a Crew Chief, Lee has visited the winner’s circle with 14 different drivers in the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes; for a total of 55 NHRA National event wins. Six of those drivers were first-time winners. He also tuned cars to the number one qualifying spot 66 times and set the NHRA National Speed/ET record seven times.
He started his legacy of World Championships when he tuned Gary Ormsby to the NHRA Winston Top Fuel Championship in 1989. In 1992 he helped head up Cruz Pedregon’s efforts to take home the NHRA Fuel Funny Car Championship. As the team manager he Don Schumacher Racing to two more NHRA Championships; one in Top Fuel in 2009 and one in Funny Car in 2011. Beard has won the US Nationals, held in Indianapolis, three times with drivers Ed McCulloch, Cory McClenethan, and Whit Bazmore. He was Whit’s Crew Chief from 2001 through 2004 with the team scoring 12 wins along with two-second place finishes in the NHRA Funny Car Championship points standings.
Lee wasn’t limited to just winning in the United States. Working for Rapisarda Autosport International in Australia; Lee guided 3 drivers, Larry Dixon, Cory McClenethan, and Dom Lagana to six Australian National event wins. Highlighted with Cory McClenethan winning the Australian National Championship title in 2016. Along the way, Lee set the Australian quarter-mile National Record, with Larry Dixon, at 4.50 at 335.48 mph
Beard’s awards “wall” also reflects his outstanding accomplishments. In 1984 Lee received Car Craft Magazine’s prestigious Hi Riser Award, in 1989 he was named both Car Craft Magazine’s Crew Chief of The Year and Person of The Year. In 2017 he was inducted into the Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame and in 2018 into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. Lee also earned spots in the Cragar 4 Second Club, the Slick 50 300 MPH Club, and Venolia Piston’s 3 Second Funny Car Club; a feat no other Crew Chief has accomplished.
While he has retired from drag racing, Lee isn’t sitting on the porch in a rocking chair; currently, he is a Technical Analyst for NHRA (Fox Sports) and an Angler Athlete for The Angling Channel. Now living near Breckenridge Colorado, Lee is an avid snow skier and fly fisherman.