BARTONE DETHRONES TOP FUEL PHAROAHS OF FAMOSO

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Tony Bartone sizzles through the Famoso finish line. (photo c/o maxcacklephotos.com)

Auto Club Famoso Raceway, March 9, 2014—Call it regime change. The Bartone Brothers rolled their menacing nitro-powered dragster out from Long Island City, New York all the way west to Auto Club Famoso Raceway north of Bakersfield and, by both sheer power and guile, trounced the California-centric Top Fuel competition at the 2014 March Meet.

Their domination began in time trials, when driver Tony Bartone scored the #1 qualifying spot in his Steve Boggs-tuned rail, with a quarter-mile elapsed time of 5.63 seconds, six-hundredths ahead of the #2 qualifier and 2011 March Meet Top Fuel winner, Rick White, in his San Diego-based entry, “Neal & White.”

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2014 March Meet Top Fuel runner-up Rick White. (photo c/o maxcacklephotos.com)

During eliminations, White weeded through his side of the tournament ladder with a series of strong 5-second runs, handily dispatching Roger Lechtenberg, Dusty Green, and Adam Sorokin. Meanwhile Bartone, after running unopposed in the first round, put the power to the pavement against Pleasanton, CA’s Ron August in the second round, with a sizzling 5.629 clocking. This set up a pivotal semi-final round against local racer Rick McGee. In that heat, “T-Bone” strapped a “holeshot” on McGee, with Bartone’s quicker reaction time enabling his 5.82 at only 213-mph to get to the finish line first, as McGee left late and unsuccessfully gave chase with a superior elapsed time of 5.70 seconds at a boisterous but futile top-end speed of 257-mph.

In the final round against White, once again Bartone drilled his opposition on the start. But it didn’t end there, as T-Bone hit every mark at the expense of White: Yes, Bartone not only left first, he then posted a peerless 5.623 at an insane 262 mph to White’s second-best, 5.71, 252. With that pass and those numbers, Bartone scored the Top Fuel hat trick: Top Eliminator, Top Speed and Low ET. In other words, utter domination and the first March Meet Top Fuel victory from a racer east of Lake Michigan since Indianapolis driver Paul Romine won in 1996. -30–

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 2014 NHRA HERITAGE SERIES TOP FUEL DRAGSTER POINTS

1 Tony Bartone 118
2 Rick White 97
3 Rick McGee 75
4 Adam Sorokin 71
5 Rick Williamson 54
6 Denver Schutz 54
7 Ron August, Jr. 53
8 Dusty Green 52
9 Jim Murphy 36
10 Dave Hirata 33
11 Terry Cox 32
12 Jim Young 32
13 Brendan Murry 32
14 Bill Dunlap 31
15 Roger Lechtenberg 31
16 Jimmy Boyd 31

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TOP FUEL AGENDAS COLLIDE AT BAKERSFIELD MARCH MEET

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Jim Murphy’s “WW2” AA/Fueler. (photo by Stephen Justice)

AA/FD HQ, March 5, 2014—This weekend a pair of dragster-driving Jims from separate parts of America will converge just north of Bakersfield at Auto Club Famoso Raceway, to settle some scores in Top Fuel Eliminator and maybe make history.

After claiming the 2012 and 2013 March Meet titles in Frank Ousley’s “Crop Duster” fueler, Wisconsin-based Jimi Young’s goal is to three-peat, joining the late local legend James Warren as the only driver to claim the Top Fuel trifecta. (Warren did it in 1975, ’76 and ’77.)

“In my opinion the March Meet is the most prestigious race there is,” Young said. “Never in my wildest dreams would I think that we would win not one, but two of them. It is truly a honor to be on the list with all those great names that have won in the past fifty-plus years.”

Young’s challenge to win a third consecutive time is made even more daunting by his recent change of steeds, not to mention an entirely different thermodynamic approach to winning Top Fuel. This year Young is no longer shoeing Frank Ousley’s Chrysler-powered “Crop Duster”; instead he is at the helm of his own “Young Guns” slingshot, which uses a 388-cubic inch small-block Chevy for propulsion. One constant this year is Ousley himself, who is credited as crew chief for Young’s entry.

“Our goal for this race is not only to win, but to leave with both the Top Speed  and Low ET for a Chevy,” Jimi said. “Frank and myself put a package together that is more than capable of running in the 5.50 range, it just needs laps. We will test on Wednesday and Thursday and hopefully figure out what the car wants before qualifying.”

Jimi Young's "Young Guns" AA/Fueler.

Jimi Young’s “Young Guns” AA/Fueler.

One man standing in the “Young Gun’s” way is the other Jim: Jim Murphy, a veteran drag racer from Santa Rosa, California and the 2013 NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Champion. His goal is to win a fifth March Meet Top Fuel title, thus tying drag-strip legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits’s feat, who bested all comers at Bakersfield five times between 1965 and 1987. 

“The March Meet has always been special to me,” Jim Murphy explained. “One of the reasons is that we won the race in 1972 with my funny car. I had not completed my licensing yet so Ed McCulloch drove the car. This may have been the reason the hook was set so deep as it was so much fun and seemed so easy to win.”

Easy, peasy. His joking aside, Jim Murphy knows better than any racer how daunting the March Meet can be. It took another quarter-century for Murphy to grace the Famoso Raceway Winner’s Circle. He won as a driver for the first time in 1998. Now, after fifteen years of doing battle in the AA/Fuel Dragster scene, he is poised and ready for a historic fifth win.

“I believe we have one of the top two or three cars in the circuit right now,” Murphy reported. “There was only one round all of last year that when that car went to the starting line, it did not win. Our plan it to keep that performance going.”

Murphy’s math about round wins wasn’t off.  His new car is Frank Ousley’s “Crop Duster”—the same piece of pipe that Jimi Young won the last two March Meets in.

Besides tuning Young’s mount, Ousley is also assisting with Murphy’s machine.

Even while factoring in another dozen AA/Fuel Dragster entries who are poised to seize Bakersfield, this year’s March Meet could come down to a see-sawing contest of wills between the two Jims. And Frank Ousley is the fulcrum.

(c/o http://aafd.tv )