Arnie Karp

June 25, 1947 – July 14, 2021


The staff of New England Dragway wishes to express our sincere sadness at the news of the loss of one of the true legends of the Epping quarter-mile.

Arnie Karp passed away on July 14 following complications from a fractured hip caused by a fall in his home in Englewood, Florida. He was 74 years old at the time of his death.

Karp and his long-time friend and partner, Keith Hughes, raced dragsters early on, but they were best known for their "Boston Strangler" Alcohol Funny Cars. Starting in the 1980s, the pair built a string of funny cars to compete in regional match racing action and on the NHRA National Event circuit. Early on, Karp and Hughes did not have the financial backing of a major sponsor, but they still were able to build and maintain a competitive race car. Mountain Dew came on as a sponsor later on, but most fans remember the yellow, red, blue and white color scheme and famous Boston Strangler logo best. Karp took the "Boston Strangler" to the winner's circle at numerous match races and at NHRA National Events four times with back-to-back wins at Sanair in 1983 and 1984, and then two more wins in 1986, at the Summernationals and in Brainerd. Karp had a long-standing racing rivalry with Frank Manzo. In fact, three of those four National Event wins featured Manzo in the other lane.

Karp's health became an issue when he began to suffer the effects of polycystic kidney disease, a hereditary condition that required that he receive a transplanted kidney. A crew member, Pat Murphy donated the kidney that allowed Karp to return to health. His sister Elaine later contracted the same illness and also had a kidney transplant after Arnie helped raise the funds for the operation. Arnie and Elaine’s mother  had died from the disease many years earlier.

Once he had regained his health, Karp made a return to the cockpit, this time behind the wheel of a nitro funny car in 2003. But he soon realized the he was probably better off driving an alcohol-powered funny, and in 2004 he teamed up with Jay Blake as the driver of the "Follow A Dream" funny car.

Karp was born in 1947 and grew up in Revere, Massachusetts, graduating from Revere High School in 1965. He worked for many year as the Manager of Silver Clean, Inc., a dry cleaning company and laundromat in Winthrop, MA.

In 2008 Arnie Karp and Keith Hughes were inducted into the New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame presented by the Orientals Hot Rod Club.

Karp was highly popular with drag racing fans in New England, even decades after he hung up his racing goggles. In recent years, Boston-area car owner and driver, Paul Zona, built a tribute "Boston Strangler" funny car, and Karp was often on hand to help with the tuning. Karp's many fans made sure that he knew that they were glad to see him, and he was also genuinely glad to meet with them.

Many drag racers and fans at New England Dragway count Arnie Karp as one of their main inspirations in becoming involved in drag racing. The team of Karp and Hughes always put on a good show, and their efforts showed what could be done with hard work and determination. A generation of drag racing fans has lost one of its all-time heroes, and he will be missed but all of us who call New England Dragway home.


Written by Neil Van Zile - Northeast Drag News