Bill Dunlap chases down Denver Schutz and claims his 3rd CHRR Top Fuel Title.

Bill Dunlap chases down Denver Schutz and claims his 3rd CHRR Top Fuel Title.

24th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA, October 25, 2015—In a final round of competition that was as poignant as it was dramatic, 74-year-old “High Speed Motorsports’” driver Bill Dunlap seized victory from the maw of veteran nitro-racer Denver Schutz and claimed his 3rd California Hot Rod Reunion Top Fuel Title.

Dunlap posted a strong ¼-mile elapsed time of 5.69 seconds coupled with a commanding top-end speed of 255 mph to Schutz’s 5.83 at 252 mph, but the margin of victory was narrower than those number suggest as Denver “put out the top bulb” and deep-staged his “RE3” machine before dropping a stiff holeshot on Dunlap, forcing the quicker High Speed dragster to drive around his adversary.

“He rolled in deep at the last minute,” Dunlap explained. “I just decided if he was going to do those things, I was going to stage last — I wasn’t going to stage first. I was waiting for it.”

What happened on the pass?

“He may have left on me, but I didn’t ever see him. I heard him for awhile and the noise kind of went away. The car was singing to me so I took it the stripe. I got out at the end and nobody down there knew who won.”

It was that close. Factoring in reaction times, Dunlap beat Schutz by four-hundredths of a second. Dunlap said the win here eased the sting of not winning the 2015 NHRA Heritage Series Point Title “a lot.”

For Fresno-based Schutz, that was the second consecutive heat where spectators marveled at his unorthodox start followed by a nail-biter of a finish. In the semi-finals, Denver unnerved 2015 Points Champion, #1 Qualifier and odds-on favorite Tony Bartone with a similar mud-in-your eye startling line stratagem, deep staging and then expertly dropping a holeshot. This startled Bartone, who belatedly gave pursuit in a see-sawing battle. Schutz held off Bartone with a 5.90 at 241 mph to Tony’s quicker-but-losing 5.82 at 202 mph.

“You only do it when you have to,” Schutz said afterwards, about the deep-stage. “It kind of a c.s. way to race but we are professionals and sometimes you do what you have to.”

“He threw me off and I was dead late,” Bartone confirmed. “That’s the story.”

Bartone added that a broken fuel line coupled with three dead holes four seconds into his run contributed to his loss.

Schutz’s performance during his last two rounds was a near-perfect finale to what turned out to be his career curtain call. Moments after scoring his hard-earned runner-up finish at the 24th CHRR, 70-year-old Denver Schutz announced his retirement from the sport. Among other achievements, Denver was the 1998 CHRR Top Fuel Champion.

“Quitting is hard,” Schutz explained. Suffice it to say, he went out in fine fashion. He took it deep. -30-

Just after the CHRR Top Fuel final, Denver Schutz announced his retirement.

Just after the CHRR Top Fuel final, Denver Schutz announced his retirement.

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Saturday Night Nitro event at the Auto Club Raceway Famoso. (photo by Ted Soqui c/o thelastdragstrip.com)

Rick McGee at the Auto Club Raceway Famoso. (photo by Ted Soqui c/o thelastdragstrip.com)

24th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA, October 22, 2015—Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield. It is the vintage Top Fuel competitor’s “Brickyard” — its Super Bowl, World Series, Daytona and Indy 500 all rolled into one. And for the nitro-burning racers in NHRA’s Heritage Series, their annual marquee event happens here twice. The season opens at Famoso Raceway with the exalted March Meet and wraps up here this weekend with the prestigious California Hot Rod Reunion. After 24 years of bookending in Bakersfield, it has become a tradition.

Going back to the 2014 March Meet, New York-based Nostalgia Top Fuel phenom Tony Bartone has swept the last three events in Bakersfield. Can he perform an unprecedented Famoso Four-peat? Bill Dunlap, Denver Schutz, Rick McGee, Jim Murphy, Rick White, Rick Williamson and Adam Sorokin — all California residents — are the dirty half-dozen former California Hot Rod Reunion winners competing this weekend who say: “Forget about it, Tony.”

Dunlap, driver of the High Speed Motorsports entry and winner of the Inaugural CHRR (as well as the 1997 iteration), is the only driver to have defeated Bartone in two years, and is coming off back-to-back Saturday Night Nitro Mastercam Shootout victories here at Famoso. About his driver’s chances to win a 3rd CHRR title, his crew chief, Tom Shelar, put it this way: “With the weather conditions being forecast, we should run consistent 5.60s. That should be enough to win, but it might take a 5.50 with Bartone on the grounds.”

Adam Sorokin, hot shoe for the Champion Speed Shop entry, is the 2013 CHRR winner and the last driver other than Bartone to take Bakersfield. Sorokin also wants to play the spoiler and give the New Yorker a Bronx cheer.

“I’d like to come out of the trailer fairly aggressive,” Adam asserted. “The car is capable of running .60s, and I think that kind of performance can get us to the later rounds.” Then he added: “Bartone will be the guy to watch, but anything can — and does — happen. We wouldn’t show up if we didn’t think we could win the thing.”

According to wdifl.com’s “Top Fuel Tricky Tipster,” Schutz, McGee, Murphy, Williamson and White all have a better than 5-to-1 shot to thwart a four-peat.

It is also worth noting that at recent “Saturday Night Nitro” events, Murphy’s Roland Leong-tuned “WW2” machine has been clocking the kinds of numbers Sorokin and Shelar deem necessary to take the Reunion, and the “Neal & White Racing” dragster runner-upped at both of those events while posting bodacious top-end speeds.

Tony Bartone is here to show all the former winners from California that this scene has come a long way from, say, 1992. Bill Dunlap is here to say it’s not that different at all.


Nitro Qualifying for the 24th CHRR begins this Friday at 11 AM, with a second session at 3. Top Fuel Qualifying resumes Saturday at noon followed by eliminations at 3 pm. Top Fuel Eliminations continue Sunday at 11.30 AM.

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“High Speed Motorsports” wins the Mastercam Top Fuel Shootout. (photo by Ted Soqui)

“Good Vibrations’ Saturday Night Nitro,” Auto Club Famoso Raceway, September 19, 2015—For the second time this summer, front-engine Top Fuel virtuoso Bill Dunlap zoomed ahead of Rick White and captured the Title in the winner-take-all Mastercam Top Fuel Shootout in Bakersfield.

By virtue of his .044 second reaction time in his “High Speed Motorsports” machine, Dunlap launched ahead of the always-powerful “Neal & White Racing” dragster and was not to be caught.

“I didn’t see him until I pulled the parachutes and he blasted by me,” Dunlap said. “So I knew it had to be close.”

Dunlap won the event on skill and desire; indeed, his 5.75-second quarter-mile elapsed time with a top-end speed of 240 mph was inferior to the 5.73 that engine maestro Chuck Neal provided for his driver. Despite Dunlap’s holeshot, White never gave up, as evidenced by Rick’s speed of 247 mph.

Earlier, in the “all-run” first round of eliminations which determined the two quickest cars that would meet in the Shootout final, Dunlap laid down a Low ET 5.63 at 251 mph to drive around Jim Murphy, who cranked out a 5.69 at 238 mph in his Roland Leong-tuned “WW2” rail. Next, Rick White posted a 5.76 at a thundering 256 mph — numbers which stood for Top Speed of the Meet — to upend Champion Speed Shop’s 6.06. And finally, after Bret Williamson suffered from a trashed clutch earlier that afternoon in the “Forever Young” entry and missed showtime, Rick McGee singled to a 6.09 in his “Overtime Special.”

Because of their respective times of 5.63 and 5.69, the final round of the Mastercam Top Fuel Shootout was to be a rematch between Dunlap and Murphy.

Unfortunately, WW2 had endured crankshaft issues all day and couldn’t make the call. White was the alternate and gave Bill Dunlap nearly all he could handle, but fell short of upending High Speed, who have won half of the events they have entered this year.

The AA/Fuel Dragsters wrap up their season next month at the California Hot Rod Reunion, also at Famoso. If the numbers and the action from the Shootout are any barometers, it should be some rather fierce competition.

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Champion Speed Shop (photo by Ted Soqui)

Champion Speed Shop (photo by Ted Soqui)

Good Vibrations’ Saturday Night Nitro, “Mastercam Top Fuel Shootout,” Auto Club Famoso Raceway, September 17, 2015—As the sun begins to set on a season that has been spectacular, somber and sometimes frustrating, this Saturday night Adam Sorokin will saddle up in his fiery Champion Speed Shop dragster in Bakersfield and shoot it out with a half-dozen of the finest AA/Fuelers from all parts of California.

Sorokin has some unfinished business in Bakersfield: Earlier this year, in an explosive, ferocious finale Sorokin came within a burnt eyelash of winning the prestigious March Meet here and now aims to not only claim Saturday’s Mastercam Top Fuel Shootout, but also to use the entire “Saturday Night Nitro” event as an exercise to lengthen the fuse on his Chevy-powered race car.

“We’ve been trying to get further down the track and reduce our parts carnage,” Sorokin said. “We just have to stop the present parts attrition situation we’ve been having. We’re getting there, but we need laps.”

Beyond the pragmatism of Sorokin’s team keeping its powder dry this weekend at Famoso Raceway, there is also a poignancy to its pursuit of perfection. For Champion, this isn’t just a gunfight… this is also a salute.

“We intend to honor our recently departed teammate, Jeff Stich,” Sorokin said, in reference to veteran Champion Speed Shop pit-crew leader Stich who passed away after a sprint-car pit accident on September 5th. “He’s irreplaceable. He made us a better team. We’re not gonna’ limit honoring him to just one race, though. He will continue to be a part of the team as long as there’s a Champion Speed Shop race car.”

Joining South San Francisco’s Champion entry for the Mastercam Top Fuel Shootout will be Jim Murphy’s “WW2” rail out of Santa Rosa, the Tedford & McGee “Overtime Special” from Kern County, San Diego’s “Neal & White Racing” and the Bay Area-based “Forever Young” machine, as well as defending Shootout winner “High Speed Motorsports” out of Orange County.

Saturday’s action-packed Top Fuel Eliminator format is simple: All front-engine Top Fuelers run at 7:30 and the two quickest return at 10:00 in a winner-take-all “shootout” sponsored by Mastercam.

Also on the marquee during what the track is calling “Fan Appreciation Night” are over a dozen AA/Funny Cars and as many as ten AA/Fuel Altereds. -30–


2015 Saturday Night Nitro @ Famoso – September 19


Saturday Only Tickets $20
Kids 12 & Under Free
Gates Open 8am
Time Trials & Qualifying as called starting 10am till 6pm
Saturday Night Nitro Parade 6:30pm
Saturday Night Nitro 7pm Qualifying
Saturday Night Nitro 9:30pm Funny Car Quick 8, Fuel Altered Quick 4, Top Fuel Quick 2
Run Order – Funny Car/Fuel Altered/Top Fuel/Jet Cars Close the Show
Secure Track

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The Bartone Bros. celebrate a second consecutive Heritage Series Points Title.

The Bartone Bros. celebrate a second consecutive Heritage Series Points Title.

New England Hot Rod Reunion, New England Dragway, Epping, New Hampshire, August 30, 2015—For the second consecutive season, Long Island City’s Tony Bartone clinched the Heritage Series Top Fuel Points Championship at the New England Hot Rod Reunion, one race before the season has even finished.

After his nearest contender for points, Bill Dunlap, red-light fouled in the first round of eliminations, Bartone became the NHRA Heritage Series Champion. To prove he deserves the 2015 Title, in the final round “T-Bone” won this decisive event with a swift ¼-mile elapsed time of 5.60 seconds at a speed of 248 mph, numbers which earned his Steve Boggs-tuned entry Low ET and Top Speed of the Meet.

“We didn’t want them to think we didn’t have it tuned up,” Bartone declared, after watching his final round foe, Dusty Green, also red-light foul. “We are running good. We got a good program, a good crew and Steve Boggs is on the money.”

Despite the powerful and convincing performance en route to a back-to-back Title, Bartone expressed both empathy for Dunlap’s folly (“That was a terrible way to go out,” he noted) as well as some humility.

“None of them are easy,” he added. “We won, but nobody in the crew is going ‘Ahhh Ahhh Ahhh’ with their chest out. This is called racing, not winning. Right now we are winning, so enjoy it but don’t be talking and boasting.”

Perhaps his rationale for muting any braggadocio is to prevent any proverbial pasting of newspaper clippings in his adversaries’ locker rooms. Indeed, not only will his opponents get a shot towards boasting rights at the season-closing California Hot Rod Reunion at Bakersfield in October, they can also take aim at the “Bartone Bros.” entry for the duration of 2016.

“We are possibly working on a new car for next year,” Bartone acknowledged when asked about returning to the front-engine Top Fuel wars next year. “We plan on running the same program. I don’t see any major changes except for a new chassis. Other than that, it will be business as usual.”

With that being established, when asked about any challengers‘ desire to thwart a potential “Three-peat,” Bartone poked at his competition.

“The guys have a mark to hit now,” he said. “Maybe we woke them up a little bit. I hope so.”-30-

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Dusty Green means to light all cylinders in New Hampshire (photo by Brian Losness)

Dusty Green means to light all cylinders in New Hampshire (photo by Brian Losness)

New England Hot Rod Reunion, New England Dragway, Epping, New Hampshire, August 28, 2015—Long ago, somebody wrote that one turns over an apple cart not to effect change but only because it’s fun to see which way the apples will roll and, similarly, coming into this weekend’s New England Hot Rod Reunion, mischievous Heritage Series Top Fuel Dragster driver Dusty Green will attempt to capsize the current, established order.

“Nothing would be better than going into (Points Leader) Tony Bartone’s backyard and beating them,” Dusty said, in reference to the “Bartone Bros.” team, Green’s New York-based adversaries.

Currently 4th in points, behind Bartone and California racers Bill Dunlap and Adam Sorokin, Green is flying out of Oakland into Epping, New Hampshire today and, after strapping into Steve Harwood’s “Nitro-Hemi” entry, will attempt to ruin the weekend for those ahead of him in the standings.

“Bartone isn’t as dominant as he was last year,” Green opined. “And they were beatable in Boise (two weeks ago), except for the final round.”

At Boise, the Bartone Bros. whiffed as much as they hit, but set Low ET and Top Speed when it counted, in a victorious final-round joust against Dunlap. Still, because of that perceived vulnerability, after Boise Dusty was able to pique “Nitro-Hemi” owner and tuner Steve Harwood’s desire to make the long tow to New England from his base in Denver, Colorado. Despite Harwood’s team being under-funded and understaffed, they are not much of an underdog, particularly after three consecutive positive showings (including two semi-final results) this year.

“Harwood called me last Thursday and told me to get a plane ticket because we are going,” Green reported. “And our goal is to actually go there and win. Dunlap is also tough and has a great team, but it would be really cool to have a good points race going into Bakersfield (for the season-closing California Hot Rod Reunion). And the drama creates interest in the sport. If we can’t win it, I’d love to help play spoiler for Bill Dunlap.”

When it comes to unseating Bartone, Dunlap and his “High Speed Motorsports” team will take the assist. In fact, “High Speed”-tuner Tom Shelar expressed a desire and strategy similar to Green’s.

“We hope to take out ‘T-Bone’ either in the final or before,” Shelar said. “We can catch him in the points at this race and that should set us up for a showdown at the California Reunion.”

In two of the three final rounds this season, Bartone and Dunlap squared off and each driver has seized a victory from the other.

“The Bartone Bros. got their act together in the final in Boise, but I see them struggle when the track conditions are not able to handle the horsepower,” Shelar said. “I’m hoping the track at Epping is more like Bowling Green or Boise than Bakersfield. We have a strong combination that can get down tricky tracks, but we still don’t have a 5.50 race car. Maybe we can get a break in Epping to set us up for an all-out throwdown in Bakersfield.”-30-

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Tony Bartone sets up a heist in Boise (photo by Brian Losness)

Tony Bartone sets up a heist in Boise (photo by Brian Losness)

44th Pepsi Nightfire Nationals, Firebird Raceway, Boise, Idaho, August 16, 2015—In a circuitous return to superior form, hot shoe Tony Bartone bagged Top Fuel Eliminator in Boise for the second year in a row, snaking his New York-based, Steve Boggs-tuned “Bartone Bros.” AA/Fuel Dragster to victory with a stunning final-round shot that also earned Bartone both Low ET and Top Speed of the Meet laurels with a blistering quarter-mile clocking of 5.66 seconds at 255 mph.

Despite those dominating last-minute numbers, “T-Bone’s” path to a repeat Nightfire Nationals title was fraught with uncertainty.

“I thought we were in trouble the whole weekend,” Bartone confided. “I tell people all the time ‘Give Steve Boggs one more lap.’ It took him quite a while to figure it out but he got his act together in the final round.”

At Boise, for three days the “Bartone Bros.” sleek rail shook and smoked as often as it grabbed traction, and when it did hook up the numbers paled somewhat to those posted by others, most specifically racers like Bill Dunlap and his “High Speed Motorsports” machine and Rick Williamson and the “Team Craig” digger.

As Bartone struggled, his fate seemed even more cursed as the new alliance between Jim Murphy and Roland Leong caught proverbial fire in the opening round of eliminations, when Murphy’s “WW2” dragster moved to the top of the class with an outstanding elapsed time of 5.77 seconds.

Which led to a semi-final showdown with Bartone, before which Jim Murphy said: “I just shut off at 5.4 seconds, and (still) ran 244 (mph). I am sure we will take it all the way this time, as we are racing Bartone.”

Murphy had been anticipating this match for months and having renowned repeat-winner and notorious nitromaniac Roland Leong in his pit only added positive equity to “WW2’s” odds. But unfortunately for Murphy, possible impatience led to an early foul start. Murphy wasted a fine 5.79 as the “Bartone Bros.” smoked the tires. Yes, the New Yorkers advanced courtesy of Murphy’s startling-line blunder.

“That’s the third time I’ve red-lit in forty years of racing,” Murphy said, struggling to remain philosophical.

Murphy’s gift set the stage for a final round rematch between Bartone and the man who recently snapped his 22-round winning streak in Kentucky, Bill Dunlap. Dunlap qualified in the #1 position with a 5.78 at 251 mph and blithely advanced through his opponents in fine style, including a semi-final round trouncing of the “Champion Speed Shop” dragster, where he recorded a 5.79 to Champion’s losing 6.27.

In the final, however, both Bartone and Boggs hit their normal cock-walking stride. Against Dunlap, Bartone left first and put up punishing numbers at every increment, adding a couple of hundredths of a second to his lead at each timing cone. Dunlap gave fine, if not futile chase, and in defeat posted an otherwise remarkable 5.74 at 245 mph.

“I was so elated to win, because we struggled and it was so unexpected,” Bartone exclaimed.

“If we didn’t do it, Dunlap would’ve had two wins and we would’ve been (holding the bag),” he added, in reference to bolstering his chances to repeat as NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Champion.

“I never thought we were going to win, until I got the win light at the 1320,” he concluded.

But when asked if he ever saw Dunlap in their final-round race, he cracked wise: “Only when he got in his car.”

Yes, the Bartone Bros. are back. -30-

Pepsi Nightfire Nationals Top Fuel Eliminator Results, Sunday

AA/Fuel Dragster Round 1
Adam Sorokin, .049, 5.87, 218.80 mph def. Dusty Green, .098, 5.96, 208.36. Tony Bartone, .113, 5.84, 240.77 def. Ron August, Jr., .117, 6.56, 169.34. Jim Murphy, .086, 5.77, 243.55 def. Rick Williamson, .135, 5.99, 237.59. Bill Dunlap, .190, 5.80, 245.90 bye.

AA/Fuel Dragster Round 2
Bill Dunlap, .118, 5.79 seconds, 250.97 def. Adam Sorokin, .059, 6.27, 203.86. Tony Bartone, .089, 13.22, 65.76 def. Jim Murphy, -.039 red light, 5.79, 241.20.

AA/Fuel Dragster Final Round
Tony Bartone, Long Island City, NY, .109, 5.66*, 255.34 mph def. Bill Dunlap, Capitola, Calif., .187, 5.74, 245.05.

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