SCE TOP SPEED AWARD IS BOTH FAST AND CURIOUS

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Good Vibrations March Meet, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA, March 10, 2016—In what turned out to be a hybrid of a contest of wills and theater of the absurd, Terry Cox and his Terry Manzer-tuned “Cheetah IV” dragster claimed the Inaugural SCE AAFD Top Speed Qualifier Award at last weekend’s March Meet with a blistering speed of 256 mph.

“It’s an awesome feeling to be able to run the car that hard out the back door,” Cox said when he was graced with a $1000 check from SCE President Ryan Hunter while being interviewed by the Bakersfield Californian. “We’re really excited that SCE stepped up and provided an award for mile-per-hour.”

Prior to the meet, Hunter correctly predicted Top Fuel Qualifying for the March Meet would be absolutely off the hook and wanted to reward those charging hardest — thus the SCE AAFD Top Speed Qualifier Award was born.

And in a twist that was ironic as well as indicative of how fierce this shootout was, Terry Cox won the Award for Top Speed — but didn’t qualify for the actual 8-Car Eliminator, settling for 1st Alternate. Yes, qualifying for Top Fuel Eliminator at the 2016 March Meet was that intense and bizarre…

To wit: Going into the final session, Cox had a provisional spot on the ladder with his previous-best ¼-mile elapsed time of 5.89 seconds, coupled with his speed of 256. But that final session was a barrage of bumping and re-bumping as former March Meet winners Adam Sorokin, Jim Murphy, Bill Dunlap and a handful of others all jostled for a spot in the show. After Sorokin stuck a 5.86 for the #8 spot and bumped out Cox, Terry fired his final salvo, a 5.88 at an outrageous 254 mph. Cox was the final driver to attempt to qualify at the 2016 March Meet and he missed making the show by 2/100ths of a second.

“Our car was a little lazy getting off the starting line, but it runs really well out the back door,” Cox explained, in what was a bittersweet moment.

But with the kinds of speeds Cox was posting, there is little doubt about the “Cheetah IV’s” chances to march to the front of the field at future AA/Fuel Dragster contests.

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WILLIAMSON WINS WILD MARCH MEET

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Good Vibrations March Meet, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA, March 6, 2016—In an emotional final round, Rick Williamson guided the “Team Craig” dragster into the Winner’s Circle at the expense of sentimental favorite Adam Sorokin. Williamson expertly laid down a sweet but ferocious 1/4-mile elapsed time of 5.57 seconds at 242 mph to defeat Sorokin’s off-and-on the throttle 6.71.

But just qualifying for the March Meet, much less winning it, was a struggle for Team Craig.

“The first round was our first full pass of the weekend and it still wasn’t right,” Williamson explained, about his team’s incremental improvements in performance that culminated into his first March Meet victory. “In the final, I legged it as far as the car would take me and it started laying down around 1000′. I am going ‘Oh crap, he is going to go around me,’ not realizing we ran a .57.”

Indeed, Williamson’s path towards conquest was an exercise in the snowball effect. After qualifying 6th with a 5.79 at a mere 203 mph, Williamson stepped up in the first round of eliminations and dispatched #3 qualifier Jim Young with a 5.61 at 244 mph to Young’s 5.74. After Young, “Team Craig” encountered 2014 and 2015 March Meet winner Tony Bartone. In that heat, Bartone got out of shape almost off the line and despite fighting his ill-handling nitro-burning beast of a dragster, couldn’t keep his Steve Boggs-tuned machine from crossing into Williamson’s lane. Rick clocked a 5.63 ET at a speed of 234 mph, with a disqualified Bartone right behind the “Team Craig” entry.

This set up Williamson’s final round showdown with Sorokin and his “Champion Speed Shop” entry, who also had a treacherous path to the March Meet’s closing heat. In the first round of eliminations, #8 Qualifier Sorokin strapped a holeshot on #1 Qualifier Rick White and Adam’s 5.63 at 242 mph held off White’s fearsome but futile 5.54 at 243. (Ironically, in defeat Rick White set Low ET of the Meet.)

In Sorokin’s semi-final heat, due to a towering wheelstand, he was oblivious to opponent Jim Murphy’s red-light foul start. Once the wheels sat down, a stunned but determined Sorokin whomped on the loud pedal five times in hopes of making the final. And for good reason…

This event had a family connection for Adam. This was the 50th Anniversary of Adam’s father, Mike Sorokin, winning the 1966 March Meet with his team, “the Surfers” —a contest that many consider the purest drag race in the history of the sport. To honor that occasion, “Surfers Nation,” an online Surfer’s Appreciation Society, created the Mike Sorokin Award for the Top Fuel winner of this year’s March Meet. Adam was one round win from claiming the trophy named after his late father.

Rick Williamson also had designs on this coveted trophy, however. At the green-light in the final round, both drivers left together but Sorokin’s dragster climbed into a wheelstand again and although he hammered the throttle another four times trying to catch traction, Williamson was gone, not to be caught.

“We just earned it,” Williamson concluded, while exhaling in exhaustion. Not even “the Surfers” would argue that point. In point of fact, as they presented their award to “Team Craig,” “Surfers Nation” acknowledged that their plaque had found a worthy beneficiary.

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FRONT-ENGINE FUELERS SHOOT FOR SCE SPEED LOOT

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Record-holder Jim Young is gunning for the SCE Gasket Award

Good Vibrations March Meet, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA, March 4, 2016—While more than a dozen dragsters blasting their way into an 8-car Top Fuel Eliminator would normally be entertaining enough, SCE Gaskets has opted to crank up the drama further by posting a $1000 award to AA/Fuel Dragster driver scoring the fastest speed during qualifying.

Why reward speed instead of elapsed time? Tradition, actually.

“This is the 57th anniversary of the first March Meet, the most historic contest of outright horsepower,” Ryan Hunter, President of SCE Gaskets, Inc. noted. “Nothing demonstrates horsepower better than speed.”

Hence, the SCE Gaskets AAFD Qualifier’s Top Speed Award…

Although qualifying positions and the eliminator ladder are based on elapsed time and not speed, with an 8-car show and a half-dozen fuelers NOT qualifying it stands to reason that many of these fearless drivers will be keeping the hammer down through the top-end timing trap.

“Yeah, I’ll be gunning for it,” confirmed Jim Young, two-time March Meet winner and current holder of the Heritage Series Top Fuel record at a ferocious 266 mph (a speed he backed up with an even faster 269 mph.)

“Speed is expensive, but fun,” Young said. “And this car will mph just trying to make ET.”

Young’s nemesis Tony Bartone has tripped the timers twice at over 270-mph, most recently while winning last year’s March Meet. Will he be inspired to take Ryan Hunter’s money? Or is the SCE Gaskets AAFD Qualifier’s Top Speed Award incentive enough for Young to break his own record?-30-

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Fueler Foes Fight for Surfers March Meet AA/FD Award

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The Surfers at the 1966 March Meet.

Good Vibrations March Meet, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA, March 2, 2016—In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of “the Surfers” winning the 1966 Bakersfield March Meetan epic donnybrook of a drag race that many nitromaniacs consider the purest ever“Surfer Nation,” an online appreciation society for the infamous Surfers AA/Fuel Dragster team, will grace the Top Fuel winner of this year’s March Meet with the “Mike Sorokin Award.”

In 1966, Mike Sorokin and his madcap skateboarding teammates, Tom Jobe and Bob Skinnera/k/a “the Surfers,” outlasted over 100 AA/Fuelers to win a three-day motor-riffic marathon. The team’s unorthodox, gonzo approachheavy on the nitro percentage, mind tricks and chicanery and low on cylinder compression and financesinspired generations of drag racers in the decades that followed.

“Two wise guys (Skinner and Jobe) showed up at the track and said ‘Please and thank you’ to their parts, and listened to what the parts were telling them,” is how Bob Higginson, administrator of “The Surfers” Facebook Fan Page and the catalyst behind the Sorokin Award, explained what made the Surfers’ March Meet win so inspirational. “Simultaneously, they produced more power than the world had ever seen, while increasing reliability to levels that flat out embarrassed their peers.”

Sorokin defeated a red-lighting James Warren in the final round of the 8th Annual March Meet, after setting both Low ET with a quarter-mile clocking of 7.31 seconds and Top Speed at 210 miles-per-hour.

And now, fifty years later, a coterie of fierce fuel-burning warriors in front-engine dragsters will meet to outwit and outdrive each other at 260-mph speeds while fighting for both Top Eliminator at Bakersfield, as well as the Sorokin Award.

Among those suiting up are Mike’s son, Adam Sorokin, who manhandles the “Champion Speed Shop” dragster. Adam, whom Mike barely knew before an unfortunate fatal accident at Orange County in 1967 upended their mortal kinship while Adam was still a baby, has already done his Dad proud by winning the 2010 iteration of the March Meet. Another title, specifically this one, would be that much sweeter.

“I fully intend, to the best of my ability, on keeping that award in the family,” Sorokin said.

Another drag racer with his eye on the prize is the 1995 March Meet Top Fuel winner, Pete “Fritz” Kaiser, who has returned to the cockpit after tuning fuelers over the last decade. This weekend he will be both tuning and shoeing the “KMA Racing Circuit Breaker.”

“Winning the March Meet would be cool, but being able to bring home the Mike Sorokin Award with that win would be awesome.” Kaiser said. He then elaborated about his new team’s connection to Skinner, Jobe and Sorokin: “The KMA/Circuit Breaker team is a lot like the Surfers team was in that we don’t have a lot of money, but what we do have is a team of people that love Top Fuel racing.”

Including Sorokin and Kaiser, seven former March Meet winners—Bill Dunlap, Jim Murphy, Rick White, Jim Young and Tony Bartone—are all swinging for another shot at Kern County’s most coveted chalice.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to win the March Meet four times and have been chasing a fifth time for what seems like forever,” Jim Murphy, driver of the “WW2” entry said. “The last 18 months has been very difficult for the WW2 team as we’ve had all kinds of issues. In fact, I would have to say it has probably been the worst 18 months of my racing career. If I were to win my fifth March Meet on the 50th anniversary of the Surfers’ triumph hereWOWthat would rank at the top of the list.”

Murphy has a real shot after pre-season testing yielded very favorable results. “I feel we will be coming to this race as a contender, not a pretender like we’ve been for the last year and a half.”

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Jim Murphy and WW2 fueler  (c/o thelastdragstrip.com )

Dunlap, driver of the “High Speed Motorsports” machine has won the March Meet twice, both back in the 1990s. His car owner and tuner, Tom Shelar, has no time for sentiment and wants to propel his driver to a third March Meet Title.

When Adam made his thoughts known about keeping the Award named for his old man close to home, Shelar was having none of that sentiment.

“I’ll let you come visit it from time to time, Adam,” Shelar told him.-30-

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MARCH MEET EVENT SCHEDULE
Thursday, March 3 
3:00 PM - Nitro Testing Session

Friday, March 4
12:30 PM - Funny Car & Top Fuel Qualifying Session 1
3:15 PM - Funny Car & Top Fuel Qualifying Session 2
 
Saturday, March 5
12:30 PM - Funny Car & Top Fuel Qualifying Session 3
3:15 PM - Funny Car Round 1 Eliminations
4:00 PM - Fuel Altered Qualifying Session 2
Sunday, March 6
11:00 AM - Opening Ceremony
11:45 AM - Nitro Final Eliminations
Run Order: Funny Car, Top Fuel, Fuel Altereds
2:00 PM - Nitro Semi Finals
4:15 PM - Nitro Finals
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AA/FD YEAR IN REVIEW: 2015 TOP FUEL DIGEST AVAILABLE NOW!

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Only $9.99 at topfueldigest.com

AAFD HQ, December 8, 2015Who says print is dead? Not the AA/Fuel Dragster media mavens, who have organized a digest-format magazine chronicling all of this year’s action from the wildest circuit in drag racing, front-engine Top Fuel.

Available at topfueldigest.com, the 2015 AA/FD Top Fuel Digest compiles explosive coverage of the Bakersfield March Meet, the Boise Nightfire Nationals, Bowling Green and more. Follow the exploits of Tony Bartone, Adam Sorokin, Bill Dunlap and the rest of the fearless fueler heroes as they made 2015 a year to remember. An instant collectible for fans of nostalgia-style Top Fuel drag racing, the Digest has 36 pages of spectacular photography and razor-sharp race reporting with contributions from seasoned dragstrip shutter bugs “Max Cackle,” Ted Soqui, and Dave Kommel as well astute correspondence from veteran copy chimp Cole Coonce. -30

http://topfueldigest.com

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/986979

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TOP FUEL DIGEST LIGHTS UP THE PRESSES

Proving that print’s not dead, the Media Department of the All-American Fuel Dragsters have just published their 2015 Top Fuel Digest. This magazine features explosive coverage of the Bakersfield March Meet, the Nightfire Nationals, Bowling Green and more. Follow the exploits of Tony Bartone, Adam Sorokin, Bill Dunlap and the rest of the fearless fueler heroes as they made 2015 a year to remember. 36 pages of spectacular photography and razor-sharp race reporting. Edited by Cole Coonce. Cover photo by Ted Soqui. Available now at MagCloud.com

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DUNLAP DASHES DENVER’S CURTAIN CALL AT CALI REUNION

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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