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.”
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 )