Even as a teenager, Tom Hoover wanted to compete in the drag racing arena. His first car was a 1959 Chevy that provided his daily transportation, but when he was 21, he purchased his first race car, a gas-powered chassis research dragster kit car. Before long his desire to be more competitive, to go quicker and faster took over, so he purchased Bruce Norman’s Big Wheel Chrysler powered AA/Fuel dragster. Tom’s enthusiasm and desire to go racing soon caught the attention of his mom and dad, George and Ruth Hoover, and before long the entire family was a team on a regular basis. Tom scored his first major top fuel when at the 1965 AHRA Winter Nationals in Phoenix Arizona; followed by his winning top fuel in NHRA’s West Central Division that year with Pa Hoover doing the mechanical chores and Ma Hoover taking care of the business side of the endeavor.
In 1965 and 1966 Tom suffered several severe engine explosions/fires with the Chrysler Hemi engines. He switched over to the newly released single overhead cam (SOHC) Ford engine and along with Connie Kalitta, Pete Robinson, and Don Prudhomme they were very instrumental in its racing development and success. In 1970 Tom decided to make the switch from competing in the AA/Fuel dragster wars to driving Bill Schifisky’s White Bear Dodge AA/Fuel funny car. While Tom was competing in the White Bear Dodges; his mom and dad continued competing with the dragster. In 1972 when it became apparent the dragster team was having better success with less breakage the family decided to rejoin forces again as a single team and concentrate on running funny cars. With this decision made, they purchased Ed Willis’s Plymouth Satellite and debuted the first of their now famous “Showtime” series of cars.
In 1974 Tom married his wife Betten. Betten has been involved in every element of Tom’s success; from staging of the car in the early days to doing all of his press coordination, the necessary bookwork, and financial manager of his racing endeavors.
Tom scored his first funny car NHRA national when in 1977 at the NHRA Grand National event in Montréal Canada, followed by the 1979 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. In 1980 Tom crossed the ocean to compete in AA/FC meets in England while driving Raymond Beadle’s car. During the 80s he raced in England at several competitions per year where he co-owned and campaigned an AA/FC with noted English driver, Wild Bill Sherratt. Tom returned to the AA/Fuel dragster driving chores during the late 80s when he flew to numerous matches in both Sweden and Australia. In 1995 he drove Jim Reed’s number two AA/Fuel dragster to the winner’s circle at the Australian Top Fuel Nationals in Melbourne in what is equivalent to the US Nationals and consequently the World Championship here in the states.
In between his racing overseas Tom continued his NHRA funny car competition and was successful. In 1992 Tom won the NHRA Fall Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona, the 1993 NHRA Autolight Nationals in Sonoma, California, and the 1997 NHRA Pontiac Excitement Nationals in Columbus, Ohio.
Tom decided in 1998 it was time to retire as a driver and become a funny car team owner. So, when the 1999 season opened, the Hoover clan was at the track with a new Chrysler powered Dodge Avenger AA/Funny car. Tom and dad building and tuning and Corey Lee driving.
Sandwiched in between all the NHRA, AHRA, and IHRA national events over the years was a full complement of match races that sometimes include two or three such events per week. Keeping the family on the road much the time. Tom and Betten’s son and daughter, Leighe Paige and Landon, traveled with the team keeping the family together even when competing as in faraway countries. Tom’s two older boys, Trent and Troy, also accompanied them to as many events as possible thereby keeping the Hoover family legacy as a drag racing family intact.
Tom earned positions into to the prestigious Five Second Club and later into the Castrol Four Second Club. Was Car Craft Magazines 1979 All-Star Racing Team Funny Car Driver of the Year. In 1997 at the NHRA Winston Championships Award Ceremony he was honored by receiving the Blaine Johnson Award. In 2012 Tom was honored as the Grand Marshal at the 10th Annual NHRA Bowling Green Hot Rod Reunion.