FUELERS IN A FURIOUS FOUR-WAY FIGHT AT 25th REUNION

quartet-collage25th California Hot Rod Reunion, October 21-23, 2016, Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CAAs NHRA’s Heritage Series wraps up its season this weekend in Bakersfield, AA/Fuel Dragster drivers Tony Bartone, Jim Murphy, Adam Sorokin and Rick Williamson will finish the year at Famoso Raceway in a fierce and frantic four-way fight for  the 2016 Top Fuel Points Title.

Bartone, who is the two-time defending Series Champ in his family’s “Bartone Bros.” fueler, has less than one round of eliminations’ worth of points on both Murphy and Sorokin, and is 30 points ahead of fourth-place Williamson. With each round win worth 20 points, one could make the case that whichever member of this quartet of drag-strip demons lasts the longest in Bakersfield will take the Championship.

To that end, each team has its own tact.

“We’re gonna come out of the box aggressive,” Adam Sorokin, driver of the Chevy-powered “Champion Speed Shop” dragster said. “That track is never bad, so we’re gonna’ go after it from the first qualifier on.”

These are strong words coming from the driver of a fuel dragster that has been rumored to have run nitro percentages of 98% and above (!) this season.

“I like being in the position we’re inthird in points, but less than half a round from first,” Sorokin added. “That means we’re not protecting a lead, we just have to win rounds and go one past the other two guys. If we win it, it takes care of itself. Bakersfield has been good to us in the past, and we think we still have a good relationship with it so let’s see what the gods say…”

Bartone and his team, meanwhile, are sorting out not only how he finishes this year, but how he starts next year. One complication is his status coming off the proverbial Injured Reserved list. As recently as last weekend, a persistent back ailment has kept “T-Bone” out of his Alcohol Funny Car’s seat.

But when it comes to defending his Heritage Series Top Fuel Title, Bartone acknowledges he has to play hurt.

“I got to do what I got to do and there is no way I am not driving itthis is for the Title,” he said.

About the Bartone Bros. plan to win the Title and about driving through the pain, he suggested an approach only slightly more measured than Champion Speed Shop’s. “We are going to run hard, but will try to be consistent.”

Bartone then elaborated about his future in the Heritage Series. “As of now, next year is totally up in the air,” he said about rumors he might vacate his position driving a dragster in 2017. “There is a strong possibility that I will not drive my (Top Alcohol) Funny Car next year. We may have a shoe in for me. That situation will leave me driving Nostalgia Top Fuel only.”

Like Bartone, Jim Murphy and Rick Williamson will flog their early-model Hemis in a take-no-prisoners-pursuit of both the event win and the Series Title. Murphy took Top Eliminator here in 2006, and Williamson snagged it in 2012.

Among the other former winners joining the fray will be Rick McGee and three-time champ Bill Dunlap, who won here last year and claimed the inaugural CHRR Nostalgia Top Fuel title in 1992.

Overall, there are 16 dragsters entered into competition for the year’s Reunion. Among those joining past winners and aiming to upend the four points leaders are Terry Cox (who set Top Speed of the Meet earlier this year at the March Meet in his late-model Hemi-powered “Cheetah IV”), sophomore shoe Dusty Green, Pete “Fritz” Kaiser (who won the Goodguys VRA Top Fuel Title in 1995), and Northeast-based racer Tyler Hilton and his Chevy-powered, “Jim & Allison Lee”-inspired “Great Expectations III.”

16 entries. 8 spots on the Top Fuel Eliminator ladder. Qualifying alone is worth the trip to the 25th running of the California Hot Rod Reunion.Cole Coonce

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CHRR SCHEDULE

Friday, October 21
Reunion Opens …………………………………………………………………………….8 a.m.
Tech Inspection – All Classes …………………………………………………………8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Qualifying & Exhibition Runs…………………………………………………..8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Nostalgia Funny Car Qualifying Session 1………………………………………………….11 a.m.
Nostalgia Top Fuel Dragster – Qualifying Session 1………………………………………3 p.m.
Nostalgia Funny Car Qualifying Session 2…………………………………………..3:30 p.m.
Cacklefest Exhibition………………………………………………………………….As called
Secure Track Activity………………………………………………………………………..5:30 p.m.
25th California Hot Rod Reunion Dedication & Ceremonies…………………………5:30p.m.
Ring of Fire Presentation………………………………………………………….6:30 p.m.
California Hot Rod Reunion Party – Doubletree Hotel …………………..7:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 22
Reunion Opens ………………………………………………………………………………..8 a.m.
Tech Inspection – All Classes ……………………………………………………8 a.m. – 10 a.m.
Qualifying & Exhibition Runs – As Called ………………………………………………8 a.m.
Nostalgia Top Fuel Dragster – Qualifying Session 2…………………………………..12 noon
Nostalgia Funny Car Qualifying Session 3……………………………………………..12:30 p.m.
Nostalgia Top Fuel Dragster – Qualifying Session 3……………………………………..4 p.m.
Nostalgia Funny Car Eliminations – Round 1…………………………………………..4:30 p.m.
Cacklefest Exhibition………………………………………………………………………As called
Honoree Presentation & Twilight Memorial at Starting Line………………………….5:30 p.m.
Silver Anniversary Hall of Fame Cacklefest Presentation ………………………..6 p.m.
Secure Track Activity……………………………………………………………………7:30 p.m.

Sunday, October 23
Reunion Opens ……………………………………………………………………………….8 a.m.
Eliminations – As Called ……………………………………………………………………9 a.m.
Pre-race Ceremonies & National Anthem……………………………………………10:45 a.m.
National Anthem………………………………………………………………………………11 a.m.
Nostalgia Top Fuel Dragster – Round 1 (8 cars) ………………………………………..11 a.m.
Nostalgia Funny Car – Round 2 (8 cars)……………………………………………..11:30 a.m.
Continue Eliminations – All Categories As Called…………………………………..12 noon
Cacklefest Exhibition and Exhibition Runs – Throughout The Day…………As Called
Final Elimination Runs – All Categories …………………………………………4 p.m.
Winner’s Circle Awards Presentations ……………………………………………….5 p.m.
Reunion Closes ……………………………………………………………………………6 p.m.

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