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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Jim Murphy and Roland Leong discuss strategy.

Jim Murphy and Roland Leong discuss strategy.

44th Nightfire Nationals, Firebird Raceway, Boise, ID, August 12, 2015—With High Speed Motorsports having recently ended the Bartone Brothers unprecedented 22-round win streak in NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel competition, the rest of the class has smelled blood in the water and have begun sharking. To that end, at this weekend’s Pepsi Nightfire Nationals in Boise veteran nitro racer Jim Murphy and his “WW2” dragster are set to pounce on a full field of front-engined fuelers.

“I think that (High Speed driver) Bill Dunlap winning Bowling Green gave everyone in the Nostalgia Top Fuel class a glimmer of hope,” Murphy explained. “It has been apparent that Tony Bartone has completely dominated our class for the last year and a half. High Speed and the Champion Speed Shop have been getting closer and closer and I believe we can now be part of that group.”

Earlier this summer at Bakersfield’s “Saturday Night Nitro,” an after-hours test with a new crew chief validated Murphy’s claim about rejoining the Top Fuel elite. That event saw the debut of the collaboration between Murphy and an infamous tuner he raced with during the ‘70s Funny Car wars, Roland Leong a/k/a “the Hawaiian.” After midnight, the WW2 fueler laid down the quickest run of the event, a spectacular 5.67-second 1/4-mile elapsed time at a mere 237 mph, with Murphy shutting off at 1000-feet.

That stunning run set the stage for Boise: When asked about if there was anything to prove this week, the “Hawaiian” was as cagey and contrite. “The goal is just to get more runs and data and learn what I think this car wants,” Leong said. “I tell everyone I work for, I only know how to do it one run at a time and it takes a lot of laps to figure things out.”

If Murphy and Leong want to go rounds—whether in pursuit of “data” or the actual Nightfire Top Fuel title, they will have to fight through a full quota of competitors. Besides Bartone and Dunlap, among those entered in the Boise’s 8-car eliminator are sophomore hot-shoe Dusty Green, March Meet runner-up Adam Sorokin in the Champion Speed Shop small-block Chevrolet fueler, fan-favorite Brendan Murry, Rick Williamson in the “Team Craig” rail, and Ron August, Jr. in the “Forever Young” slingshot. All of these teams are hoping to upend the defending series and event champion Bartone, despite any pleas to the contrary.

“Right now we’re not trying to upend anyone,” Roland said, downplaying his notorious take-no-prisoners competitive ethos. “Hopefully the day will come when they will be trying to upend us.”

“We are still in the experimental stage with the tune-up,” Murphy said, echoing Roland’s sentiments. “But we now know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel—and it’s not a train coming back at us.”


44th Annual Pepsi Nightfire Nationals “Idaho’s Premiere Racing Event”

August 13-16

Fri., August 14: Nitro Qualifying: 7:45 pm. Concludes: 10 pm

Sat., August 15: Nitro Qualifying: 2 pm, 7:45 pm. Concludes: 10:30 pm

Sun., August 16: Nitro Eliminations: 2 pm. Concludes: 9 pm

More on Heritage Series Top Fuel and the AA/FD here:

AAFD on Facebook:

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(photo by Ted Soqui)

Bill Dunlap Wins the Inaugural Mastercam Top Fuel Shootout (photo by Ted Soqui)

“Good Vibrations Saturday Night Nitro,” Auto Club Famoso Raceway, June 28, 2015—“High Speed Motorsports’” Bill Dunlap swept the two-round winner-take-all Mastercam Top Fuel Shootout held in conjunction with Famoso Raceway’s “Saturday Night Nitro” by firing off a sizzling 5.70-second ¼-mile elapsed time at 246 mph to fend off hard-charging Rick White, who runner-upped with a second-best 5.79 at 257 mph.

Six front-engine Top Fuel dragster teams entered the Shootout, whose format was an all-run first round before the two quickest dragsters returned for a first-to-the-big-end final. Late afternoon test runs knocked out two of the combatants before actual competition even began, as both Rick McGee’s “Overtime Special” and Rick Williamson’s “Team Craig” suffered pronounced chassis damage due to severe tire shake.

The first pair of the Shootout’s qualifying round featured the two drivers who would meet later in the final, White and Dunlap. In their side-by-side qualifier, both entries blazed down the dragstrip with all eight cylinders lit. Unfortunately, the clocks in the tower malfunctioned and displayed 1/8th-mile times. Regardless, both nitro gunslingers powered through to the ¼-mile stripe. Onboard data shows that Dunlap posted a 5.70-something and White’s time was in the 5.80s. Next up, Mike Irwin suffered the same fate as both McGee and Williamson, when his “Forever Young” dragster also shook. His opponent, Jim Murphy, left hard with a 1.01 60′ time and then his “WW2” dragster jumped hard to the right. He scuffed the right slick on the guardwall and shut off while Irwin posted a 6.57.

Despite the clock malfunctions, because of the onboard data recordings of their incrementals, Dunlap and White earned the right to square off in the final. Earlier on Saturday, White had told the press his San Diego-based “Neal & White” dragster was just the weaponry to take out Dunlap who, after ending Tony Bartone’s 22-0 round-win streak in Bowling Green, KY the week before the Famoso Shootout, had become drag racing’s version of “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” It was then, for the second consecutive weekend, that Bill Dunlap and the High Speed Motorsports front-engine Top Fuel Dragster team hit their mark, and bagged the bounty.

For the always-tough White, his final-round finish-line velocity of 257 mph stood as Top Speed of the Meet, and was indicative of the lengths his tuner Chuck Neal was willing to go in pursuit of the High Speed machine. And he just missed.

And even after Dunlap’s 5.70 won the Shootout, the salvos weren’t over: Testing continued at Famoso, and, with the help of consultant Roland Leong, Jim Murphy continued to fire bullets.

Murphy had said that because of his own recent disappointments coupled with Bartone’s and now Dunlap’s surge in performance, he has opted to reinvent his approach to racing front-engine Top Fuel, and accepted the help of Roland Leong on the tune-up. The positive results have been instantaneous.

“Roland is not afraid of making big changes,” Murphy said at Famoso. “So far, it looks promising.”

After midnight, in what could be billed as “Sunday Morning Nitro,” WW2 turned an outstanding 5.67 at 237 mph, with Murphy shutting off at 1100’.

Yes, timing is everything. Had Murphy posted that earlier, he would’ve won the Shootout, not Dunlap.

After that 5.67 shot, Murphy has set his sights on Bartone and Dunlap. Murphy plans to execute his precise attack at the next event on the Heritage Series docket, the Pepsi Nightfire Nationals at Boise, Idaho in August.

In spite of the positive and exhilarating tone at Famoso on Saturday night, post-race news muted any further celebration. Nitro Funny Car racer Roger Garten suffered a crash on Saturday night and unfortunately succumbed to his injuries Sunday morning.

To that end, after their victory here High Speed Motorsports owner and tuner Tom Shelar wanted to extend his sympathies.

“It was great to get the win light, but we are saddened by the loss of a fellow racer,” Shelar said. “Our hearts go out to the family and crew. Godspeed, Roger.”

His sentiments are echoed by the entire AA/FD organization.

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Bill Dunlap and the High Speed Motorsports Top Fueler at Saturday Night Nitro

June 24th, AAFD HQ—After hauling cross-country to Kentucky in a successful bid to reclaim Top Fuel at the Holley National Hot Rod Reunion, Bill Dunlap and his tenacious “High Speed Motorsports” team have turned right around and are setting their sights on claiming the cash at the Inaugural “Mastercam Top Fuel Shootout,” held in conjunction with the notorious “Saturday Night Nitro” race this weekend at Auto Club Famoso Raceway, north of Bakersfield.

Despite Dunlap’s impressive triumph last weekend, this is no done deal. Standing in the way of his potential back-to-back conquests are a half-dozen of California’s fiercest AA/Fuelers, all of whom are poised to pull the trigger on the gunslinger who just snapped East Coast-terror Tony Bartone’s unprecedented 22-0 win streak in Kentucky. Those drag racers include four-time March Meet winner Jim Murphy and his sleek “WW2” rail, as well as 2011 March Meet champ Rick White in the “Neal & White” fueler. Rounding out the attackers are NorCal’s “Team Craig” manned by second-generation drag racer Rick Williamson and the “Overtime Special” of local hero Rick McGee. Both Williamson and McGee always run tough and have had previous Top Fuel triumphs at Famoso as winners of California Hot Rod Reunions. Additionally, Ron August, Jr. also hopes to upend all comers in Mike Fuller’s “Forever Young” machine.

“Yes we will be there,” perennial hard-charger Rick White said. “We are looking to be the fastest car there again!”

Having stopped the clocks at over 260 mph, White has a knack for setting Top Speed at Bakersfield, but the format for the Mastercam Shootout calls for superior ¼-mile elapsed times as opposed to sheer top-end power. Indeed, all front-engine Top Fuel dragsters will run at the 8:30 session. The two quickest will return at 10.30 for the winner-take-all Shootout title.

“My goal is to win by putting a 5.60 on the board, just to keep Bartone thinking about us,” High Speed’s tuner Tom Shelar said, from a truck stop in Oklahoma. Moreover, this race is training for his hard-working crew as they continue to chase Bartone and a 2015 Heritage Series Points Title.

“In August, we will be in Boise one weekend, then have a weekend off and then race in Epping,” Shelar confirmed. “It’s about being prepared to run back-to-back and perform at both races. The only way that works is to not tear up parts by having a tune up that can win — without blowing up.”

Somewhat similar to Shelar’s strategy is that of Jim Murphy’s, who is seeking a return to the winning form that enabled him to claim the 2013 Heritage Series Top Fuel Points Title.

“Stevie Wonder could see we’ve been struggling for over a year,” Murphy confided. To end cycle on the recent futility, starting at “Saturday Night Nitro” Murphy will be getting an assist from one of the most infamous and celebrated nitro-mongers of all-time, “the Hawaiian” Roland Leong. “Roland has worked on a lot of cars and seen a lot of problems, so my hope is he will be able to find something and help get us back on the right track.”

The plot thickens: Will Dunlap put up a .60? Will Murphy return to form with the aid of some Polynesian Power and march to the Shootout Title? Will White or McGee or Williamson or Ron August, Jr. take out the Man who took out Bartone? For $25 a carload, this Saturday you and your friends can see for yourself.


The Good Vibrations Motorsports Saturday Night Nitro presented by Budweiser is June 27, 2015 at Auto Club Famoso Raceway. Admission is $25 a carload after 3pm.

This event is billed as “All Things Nitro Under The Lights!” and — in addition to the Mastercam Top Fuel Shootout — features full complements of AA/Funny Cars, AA/Fuel Altereds, Top Fuel Harleys and Pro Mods.

8:00   Parade and Prep 
8:30   Nitro Qualifying
10:30  Nitro Shootout

More info here:

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Dunlap Versus Bartone

June 20, 2015, Beech Bend Raceway, KY—In a spectacular return to form, 74-year-old Bill Dunlap captured Top Fuel Eliminator in his California-based “High Speed Motorsports” entry at the 13th Holley National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Dunlap defeated defending event champion Tony “T-Bone” Bartone and upended Bartone’s unprecedented domination of the NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Dragster class.

In the NHRR final, Dunlap laid down an exemplary 5.73-second ¼-mile blast at 251 mph to stun the New York-based Bartone, who encountered tire shake in his Steve Boggs-tuned dragster while falling short with a losing effort of 6.15 seconds. In victory, Dunlap snapped Bartone’s six-event undefeated streak and fired the first volley in a quest for what could be called “regime change.”

“We are going to keep knocking on his door,” Dunlap said post-race, after advancing to 2nd place in current Heritage Series Points, just behind Bartone. “We want him to feel our breath on his neck. We want to give him a bad time the rest of the year.”

Dunlap’s remarks were a follow-up to a gauntlet thrown down prior to the Reunion. “We feel that it’s time to put an end to (Tony) Bartone and (Steve) Boggs’ winning streak,” HSM’s crew chief Tom “Slick” Shelar had said last week, before towing his Top Fuel dragster 2000 miles from Anaheim to Bowling Green in pursuit of his quarry.  That declaration went viral on the Internet and piqued old-school drag racing fans everywhere, whether in Beech Bend’s packed grandstands or among those following the event on the web.

It also caught the attention of Bartone and his team, who began its defense of their undefeated status by going to work and letting their numbers at the dragstrip do the talking. After qualifying in the #1 spot with a clean, effortless 5.77, Bartone picked up the pace in eliminations, first by dispatching NorCal veteran Brendan Murry with a Low ET, track-record clocking of 5.56 seconds, followed by a 5.64 that upended Wisconsin’s Jim Young in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ladder, Dunlap was also making  statements, winning his first-round match against Dave Hirata with a 5.72 ET powered by a thumping top-end speed of 255 mph. In the semi-finals, Dunlap posted another 5.72 to defeat Dusty Green. Dunlap’s winning speed of 248 mph served notice to Bartone that in the run for the NHRR Top Fuel Title, “T-Bone” would have to drive his record-setting machine through the proverbial back door with the throttle down if he wanted to remain undefeated.

All things considered, Bartone was considered the favorite. Even after setting Top Speed of the Meet at 255 mph, Dunlap was unsure about his chances. “I was thinking, ‘We got a tough one here, I don’t know,’” Dunlap recalled. “But the best thing is that Tom (Shelar) kept us cool. He said, ‘We are going to do our thing, they are going to do their thing and he is just going to have to outrun us.’”

Unfortunately for Bartone and the status of his unprecedented record (22 rounds of racing without a loss), he never got the chance to “back door” it. His mount shook the tires 200 feet into his final-round race against Dunlap and, despite some deft back-pedaling, the New York-based champ never caught the hard-charging Dunlap.

“Honestly, I thought he was going to run a .50 and blow our doors off,” Dunlap admitted. “But when you don’t see him and you don’t hear him and the win light comes on, it’s unbelievable.”

This makes for 6 out of 7 event wins for Shelar’s team in Bowling Green. (A 7th NHRR title was claimed by “High Speed” the year it was contested in Columbus, Ohio.) This was their first, however, with Bill Dunlap as the team’s driver.

“I am 74-years old, how much longer am I going to be able to do this?” Dunlap asked rhetorically, responding to a query about the meaning of this win. “When the team got down (to the shut-off area), I was jumping around like I was lost.”

“The team kicked ass,” Shelar stated. Despite the usual daunting heat and humidity in Kentucky, the HMS crew fulfilled “Slick’s” vision of reclaiming Bowling Green and upending Bartone by swapping engines between every round of eliminations. “I’m the lucky one that gets to turn the knobs and Dunlap drove his ass off,” Shelar explained.

Dunlap will continue his pursuit of points-leading Bartone this summer in Boise, Idaho and Epping, New Hampshire and finally this fall in Bakersfield, CA.

Make no mistake: Currently in Heritage Series Top Fuel Competition, statements are being made. Only this year, they are not all by Steve Boggs and Tony Bartone.

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