(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.




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: famosoraceway.com


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.


High Speed Motorsports Top Fuel Dragster

High Speed Motorsports Top Fuel Dragster

June 15, 2015, Beech Bend Raceway—In anticipation of possible regime change, after a four-year absence the “High Speed Motorsports” Top Fueler returns to Bowling Green, Kentucky for competition at this week’s 13th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion.

“We  feel that it’s time to put an end to (Tony) Bartone and (Steve) Boggs’ winning streak,” High Speed’s crew chief Tom “Slick” Shelar said, in reference to the Steve Boggs-tuned “Bartone Bros.” dragster’s relentless domination of Top Fuel Eliminator in recent NHRA Heritage Series competition. These are strong words from Shelar, but history backs up his threat. Indeed, the Holley National Reunion is an event his California-based team once dominated, winning here five times between 2004 and 2010. In 2008, the High Speed Motorsports front-engine Top Fuel dragster posted a ¼-mile elapsed time of 5.72 seconds at 258 mph, numbers which remain the class’s quickest and fastest at Bowling Green.

Regardless of that success, during High Speed’s break from cross-country travel, the team dug in and revamped its entire operation.

“We have rebuilt the team from the top down over the last three years,” Shelar said. “A lot of time and effort has been spent retooling the engine combination to be faster and more consistent while improving the reliability.”

As part of its team overhaul, High Speed also put veteran dragster driver Bill Dunlap in the cockpit. The tweaking didn’t end there. “We have fresh pipe from Brad Hadman to go along with the new combination and a few aero tweaks from Tim Gibson that should help improve downforce and yield better speed,” Shelar explained.

During High Speed’s break from competition in the Midwest, other teams have flourished here, and the Holley Reunion’s most recent victor was the New York-based Bartone Bros., who won in 2014 and have not lost a round of racing since. This feat has really gotten under the skin of the rest of the AA/Fuel Dragster scene.

Beyond spurring on the return of High Speed, the “Bartone factor” has inspired twelve Top Fuel teams from across the country to load up for Kentucky and fight for 8 spots on the eliminator ladder, resulting in one of the event’s bigger car counts.

Others joining Dunlap in the hunt for Bartone include Adam Sorokin and the “Champion Speed Shop” small-block fueler out of San Francisco (currently the #2 in Heritage Series Points after a runner-up result at the March Meet), and Dusty Green in the “Nitro-Hemi” machine out of Utah, both of whom have a shot of taking the Points Lead. More Top Fuel dragsters are coming from California, Florida, Delaware, Oklahoma, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. Among them: Jim Young and “Tri-State Racing,” Dave Hirata in the “Orange Crate”, Brendan Murry, Paul Schultz and his “Spirit of Tulsa,” Jason Greenwood, Tim Cullinan, Jerry Kumre in the “NitroCentral.com” Dragster and Phil Burkart Jr.

Look for results from the Holley National Hot Rod Reunion  on https://www.facebook.com/AAFDTopFuel and http://www.aafd.tv