TOP FUEL FRENZY AT FAMOSO FOR CALIFORNIA HOT ROD REUNION

chrr-aafd-38A baker’s dozen’s worth of AA/Fuel Dragster combatants will close out the 2018 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series this weekend with a supercharged 8-car Top Fuel Eliminator at the 27th California Hot Rod Reunion at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California.

Thirteen drivers representing three generations of nitromethane-fueled drag racing are ready for the final race of competition. With an incontestable points advantage following consecutive event wins at the NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion and Nightfire Nationals, second-generation drag racer Mendy Fry and the “High-Speed Motorsports” team are already the 2018 Nostalgia Top Fuel Champions. But for the rest of the field, it’s not over until its over and the battle for the event win and number two Nostalgia Top Fuel points position will certainly be fierce at Famoso.chrr-aafd-23

Current 2nd place points sitter and March Meet Winner Pete Wittenberg is back in the saddle of his early-model Hemi-powered “KMA Circuit Breaker” after a semi-final finish at the Nightfire Nationals in Boise. Venerable Brendan Murry is heading out of the Murry Building in San Jose, California with the “Running Wild” late-model Hemi-propelled dragster in tow. Second generation dragster driver Adam Sorokin is confident that the “Champion Speed Shop” small-block Chevrolet combination can make more with less at Bakersfield. “We’re concentrating more on making the car run harder and longer. We will be just staying on our side of the tree and maximizing everything we can,” said Sorokin.

chrr-aafd-12After a Herculean runner-up finish at Boise, Dusty Green will once again team up with Steve Harwood’s “Nitro-Hemi” contender. Bret Williamson will strap into Mike Fuller’s “Forever Young” AA/Fuel entry. 2006 CHRR Top Fuel winner Jim Murphy will drive the “WW2” fueler as an event Honoree. Last year’s Reunion winner Jim Young is hauling his Hemi-powered “Young Guns” rail to Bakersfield from Wisconsin and third-generation drag racer Tyler Hilton is moving towards California after posting the quickest and fastest time yet in the big-block Chevrolet-powered “Great Expectations III” AA/Fuel Dragster at the Nightfire Nationals in Boise, Idaho with a blistering 5.88 ET at 249 MPH.

Rick White is suiting up in the “Neal & White” front-engine dragster, and Dan Horan Jr. will push his departed father “Digger Dan” Horan’s front engine dragster towards the high fives with a tuneup from 1995 March Meet winner Fritz Kaiser. Phil Ruskowski and the Island Nitro Gang are motoring to Famoso from Canada with their small-block Chevrolet-powered “Xhibitionist” digger. Veteran driver Rick McGee and crew have been putting in plenty of extra hours preparing their Hemi-powered “Overtime Special” dragster for battle at the ‘patch.

And in a gesture to ensure future participation in the sport, the Jim McLennan Drag Racing Foundation is once again firing up its successful Top Fuel Intern program, taking students from Bakersfield College and tasking them with mechanical maintenance on these exotic front-engine Top Fuel dragsters. Solidifying the Reunion’s relationship to the past and present, former Top Fuel Champion, stunt driver Kelly Brown will serve as the Reunion’s Grand Marshal.

Event Honorees include crew-chief extraordinaire Bob Brandt, A/Fuel driver and trainer Jerry Darien, onetime Hot Rod Magazine Editor and current drag racing journalist-historian Dave Wallace Jr., former Car Craft Magazine Editor and drag racer Rick Voegelin, and 2017 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Nostalgia Top Fuel Champion Jim Murphy.

chrr-aafd-29The All American Fuel Dragsters will join nitro-huffing Funny Cars, awful AA/Fuel Altereds, front-engine blown alcohol and injected nitro A/Fuel dragsters, and the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum curated collection of nitro-burning history in is annual “Cacklefest.” Historic push-starts are scheduled to occur throughout the weekend. Hundreds of Hot Rods and Customs will complement a swap meet full of vintage speed parts along with specialty equipment and memorabilia vendors on the midway.

To purchase California Hot Rod Reunion tickets call 1-800-884-NHRA, head over to NHRA or drive on out to Auto Club Famoso Raceway.

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27th CALIFORNIA HOT ROD REUNION TOP FUEL SCHEDULE:

Friday, October 19th
Top Fuel Qualifying Session 1: 11:00 AM
Top Fuel Qualifying Session 2: 3:00 PM

Saturday, October 20th
Top Fuel Qualifying Session 3: 12:00 noon
Top Fuel Round 1: 3:00 PM

Sunday, October 21st
National Anthem & Pre-race Ceremonies 10:45 AM
Top Fuel Eliminations Round 2 11:30 AM
Final Eliminations – All Categories 4:00 PM

Schedule subject to change

NHRA HOT ROD HERITAGE SERIES

Nostalgia Top Fuel Championship points standings heading into the 27th California Hot Rod Reunion at Auto Club Famoso Raceway, the 4th and last race in the 2018 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series following the cancellation of the Nitro Nationals at Tulsa Raceway Park.

1) Mendy Fry 334
2) Pete Wittenberg 188
3) Brendan Murry 179
4) Adam Sorokin 164
5) Dusty Green 161
6) Bret Williamson 131
7) Jim Murphy 126
8) Jim Young 97
9) Tyler Hilton 85
10)Tim Cullinan 84
11) Rick White 54
12) Jason Greenwood 52
12) Dan Horan 52
13) Julius Hughes 51
14) Phil Ruskowski 20
15) Rick McGee 10
15) Dave Miller 10
15) Paul Schultz 10

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TOP FUEL FINAL RAINED OUT IN GEM STATE

adam-sorokin-nightfireMurphy vs. Sorokin Battle Rescheduled for California Hot Rod Reunion.

An action-packed weekend of nitro-burning mayhem was unexpectedly cut short when rain at Firebird Raceway upended the Pepsi Nightfire Nationals ahead of the AA/FD Final Round, leaving semi-final victors Jim Murphy and Adam Sorokin in nitro limbo. Murphy and Sorokin will strap into their front-engine dragsters and settle their contest of wills at the California Hot Rod Reunion and last race of the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Top Fuel Championship at Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California on October 20-22.

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EXPLOSIVE QUALIFYING ACTION

The long race weekend celebrating Firebird Raceway’s 50th year began with some unanticipated AA/FD news as a surprisingly missing-in-action Tony Bartone left an odd number of Top Fuel drivers battling for front-engine nitro supremacy in Boise. Pre-race rumors left some wondering if Bartone was setting up a fake out, but only seven AA/Fuelers made the call for Friday’s Qualifying, confirming the absence of the 3-time Nightfire Nationals winner and reigning Top Fuel Champion. Still, four Chrysler Hemis and three Chevrolets entered Boise, with drivers ready to prove which combination would prevail.

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Near 100-degree daytime heat saw teams take different tuning approaches. Mendy Fry launched the Hemi-powered High Speed Motorsports dragster to a 5.78 ET in Session One. Later in the evening session, she clicked off early for event Low ET and number one qualifying spot with a 5.69 at 219 MPH. Concurrently, Jim Murphy drove the Roland Leong-tuned WW2 dragster out the back door oiled in and on fire into the number two slot. Fry witnessed the fiery drama unfold in front of her as Murphy passed lit up and smoking. Fortunately, both drivers emerged unscathed. Dusty Green gave the Nitro Hemi all it had in every round of qualifying for a number three position.

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Bret Williamson not only drove the Mike Fuller Forever Young dragster to a number four AA/Fuel qualifying slot but also made number one qualifier and low ET behind the wheel of a fearsome Corvette Pro Mod. Adam Sorokin stepped up from a Session One mechanical mix up with a 6.01 ET at 214 MPH and number five qualifying spot in the Champion Speed Shop Chevy-powered canopy entry. Tyler Hilton ran the Great Expectations III through qualifying with some gear changes for a number six position, and Phil Ruskowski ran the small block Chevrolet powered Mighty Mouse into the number seven spot ahead of Saturday night Round One Eliminations under the lights.

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TOP FUEL UNDER THE LIGHTS

With Low ET Mendy Fry ran a bye in Round One Eliminations. The High Speed Motorsports car got up on the tire and danced at half-track, but Mendy kept the rubber in the groove in the face of headwinds. Adam Sorokin deep staged the Champion Speed Shop dragster and took the win with a 5.89 ET at 217 MPH over Bret Williamson’s 6.17 ET at 199 MPH. Jim Murphy launched the Hemi-powered WW2 to a 5.75 ET at 252 MPH win after Phil Ruskowski red lit his small block Chevrolet powered Mighty Mouse dragster to a 7.42 ET at 171 MPH. Dusty Green ran his Nitro Hemi flames on to a 5.92 ET at 240 MPH over Tyler Hilton who gave chase in his big block Chevrolet powered Great Expectations III dragster with a 6.32 ET at 219 MPH.

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The Chrysler vs. Chevrolet matchup continued as Sunday Semi-Final Top Fuel action saw Adam Sorokin and the small block Chevrolet prevail with a 5.92 ET at 192 MPH over Mendy Fry who red lit the High Speed Motorsports dragster and fouled out. Jim Murphy ran the WW2 to a 5.80 ET at 235 MPH over a hole shot and hard charging Dusty Green who gave the Nitro Hemi everything it had with a close 5.95 ET at 243 MPH, finishing just one tenth of a second behind Murphy. The Final Round stage was set for an epic Hemi vs. Chevy battle as crews thrashed through engine teardowns for a chance at victory.

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The battle and win would have to wait. Drops of late afternoon rain for the first time in months gave way to downpour into the night. Hope was held out for a few hours, but after measured deliberation, the decision was made to postpone the race. Falling temperatures in concert with a soaked track and more rain forecast through morning put an anticlimactic end to four days of superior drag racing action. Murphy and Sorokin will settle their Nightfire Nationals Chizler vs. Chevy score at the California Hot Rod Reunion following the 4th session in the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Top Fuel Championship at the Nitro Nationals September 22-23 at Tulsa Raceway Park.

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GIANT NIGHTFIRE NATIONALS PHOTO EXTRA

AA/FUELER FEUDS TO BOIL IN BOWLING GREEN

SatTF0514th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion, June 16-18, 2016, Beech Bend Raceway, Bowling Green, Ky.With the 2016 Heritage Series Top Fuel points race wide open, over a dozen supercharged and nitro-powered competitors from across the United States are gathering their steeds in Bowling Green in anticipation of claiming this week’s 8-car AA/Fuel Dragster Eliminator at the 14th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion.

Among those mounting up will be Stockton, California’s Rick Williamson, driver of the “Team Craig” dragster and current Heritage Series points leader as well as the recent March Meet victor. Following the Craig gang’s entry out of California on I-40 East is a nattering menagerie of their enemies, including Adam Sorokin with the Chevy-powered Champion Speed Shop fueler — March Meet runner-up and #2 in the points — and veteran nitro-man Jim Murphy with his fearsome “WW2railjob.

Murphy, who is making the scene with his Roland Leong-tuned digger, won here in 2013 on a holeshot, but has struggled to find a consistent combination after that decisive weekend. At the Bakersfield March Meet, he appeared to return to form before an unfortunate top-end collision during eliminations rattled his concentration and compromised his effort. Similarly, New York-based Tony Bartone, the 2014 Holley NHRR winner and two-time defending Heritage Series Points Champion, has also seen his once-dominant form contract recently.

Both Bartone and Murphy would love to repeat here, as a means of making the statement that their team has entirely too much knowledge, talent and gumption not to dominate. Moreover, a Top Fuel win by Bartone would serve as an emphatic punctuation mark to the deserved pomp and circumstance awarded to his crew chief, the legendary Steve Boggs who, in concert with his late brother Ron, will be anointed as an Honoree here this weekend.

There are other scores to settle here: Rick White, driver of the hard-charging “Neal & White” machine out of San Diego, wants to undo the damage from a first-round loss at the March Meet, which transpired, ironically, after Rick set Low ET at that prestigious event with a ferocious ¼-mile clocking of 5.54 seconds.

Additionally, Salem, Wisconsin’s Jim Young hopes to advance to the top of the points chart here and will light up the Kentucky concrete with his Chrysler-powered “Young Guns.” Fleshing out the field are Californian Brendan Murry, Paul Schultz’s “Spirit of Tulsa,” Tyler Hilton’s big-block Chevy-powered “Great Expectations III” from Virginia (by way of Ohio), Illinois-based Tim Cullinan, “Diamond” Dave Miller’s dragster from Atoka, Tennessee, Racine Wisconsin’s Jason Greenwood, Troy Ray’s new “Wildside II” digger out of Knoxville, Julius Hughes’ “Atlanta Speed Shop” special and 2011 NHRR Top Fuel winner Lincoln Hassell out of North Carolina.

California. New York. Wisconsin. Virginia. Ohio. Oklahoma. Illinois. Tennessee. Georgia. North Carolina. With such diversity and power, Top Fuel Eliminator at the 14th Holley National Hot Rod Reunion is anybody’s race — and merely qualifying for this fierce field could be a partial victory. Odds are, whoever wins this nitro-powered shootout will drive away as the Heritage Series Top Fuel Points Leader. -30-

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DUNLAP DASHES DENVER’S CURTAIN CALL AT CALI REUNION

Bill Dunlap chases down Denver Schutz and claims his 3rd CHRR Top Fuel Title.

Bill Dunlap chases down Denver Schutz and claims his 3rd CHRR Top Fuel Title.

24th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA, October 25, 2015—In a final round of competition that was as poignant as it was dramatic, 74-year-old “High Speed Motorsports’” driver Bill Dunlap seized victory from the maw of veteran nitro-racer Denver Schutz and claimed his 3rd California Hot Rod Reunion Top Fuel Title.

Dunlap posted a strong ¼-mile elapsed time of 5.69 seconds coupled with a commanding top-end speed of 255 mph to Schutz’s 5.83 at 252 mph, but the margin of victory was narrower than those number suggest as Denver “put out the top bulb” and deep-staged his “RE3” machine before dropping a stiff holeshot on Dunlap, forcing the quicker High Speed dragster to drive around his adversary.

“He rolled in deep at the last minute,” Dunlap explained. “I just decided if he was going to do those things, I was going to stage last — I wasn’t going to stage first. I was waiting for it.”

What happened on the pass?

“He may have left on me, but I didn’t ever see him. I heard him for awhile and the noise kind of went away. The car was singing to me so I took it the stripe. I got out at the end and nobody down there knew who won.”

It was that close. Factoring in reaction times, Dunlap beat Schutz by four-hundredths of a second. Dunlap said the win here eased the sting of not winning the 2015 NHRA Heritage Series Point Title “a lot.”

For Fresno-based Schutz, that was the second consecutive heat where spectators marveled at his unorthodox start followed by a nail-biter of a finish. In the semi-finals, Denver unnerved 2015 Points Champion, #1 Qualifier and odds-on favorite Tony Bartone with a similar mud-in-your eye startling line stratagem, deep staging and then expertly dropping a holeshot. This startled Bartone, who belatedly gave pursuit in a see-sawing battle. Schutz held off Bartone with a 5.90 at 241 mph to Tony’s quicker-but-losing 5.82 at 202 mph.

“You only do it when you have to,” Schutz said afterwards, about the deep-stage. “It kind of a c.s. way to race but we are professionals and sometimes you do what you have to.”

“He threw me off and I was dead late,” Bartone confirmed. “That’s the story.”

Bartone added that a broken fuel line coupled with three dead holes four seconds into his run contributed to his loss.

Schutz’s performance during his last two rounds was a near-perfect finale to what turned out to be his career curtain call. Moments after scoring his hard-earned runner-up finish at the 24th CHRR, 70-year-old Denver Schutz announced his retirement from the sport. Among other achievements, Denver was the 1998 CHRR Top Fuel Champion.

“Quitting is hard,” Schutz explained. Suffice it to say, he went out in fine fashion. He took it deep. -30-

Just after the CHRR Top Fuel final, Denver Schutz announced his retirement.

Just after the CHRR Top Fuel final, Denver Schutz announced his retirement.

FAMOSO FUELERS FIT TO FOIL FOUR-PEAT AT CALI REUNION

Saturday Night Nitro event at the Auto Club Raceway Famoso. (photo by Ted Soqui c/o thelastdragstrip.com)

Rick McGee at the Auto Club Raceway Famoso. (photo by Ted Soqui c/o thelastdragstrip.com)

24th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA, October 22, 2015—Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield. It is the vintage Top Fuel competitor’s “Brickyard” — its Super Bowl, World Series, Daytona and Indy 500 all rolled into one. And for the nitro-burning racers in NHRA’s Heritage Series, their annual marquee event happens here twice. The season opens at Famoso Raceway with the exalted March Meet and wraps up here this weekend with the prestigious California Hot Rod Reunion. After 24 years of bookending in Bakersfield, it has become a tradition.

Going back to the 2014 March Meet, New York-based Nostalgia Top Fuel phenom Tony Bartone has swept the last three events in Bakersfield. Can he perform an unprecedented Famoso Four-peat? Bill Dunlap, Denver Schutz, Rick McGee, Jim Murphy, Rick White, Rick Williamson and Adam Sorokin — all California residents — are the dirty half-dozen former California Hot Rod Reunion winners competing this weekend who say: “Forget about it, Tony.”

Dunlap, driver of the High Speed Motorsports entry and winner of the Inaugural CHRR (as well as the 1997 iteration), is the only driver to have defeated Bartone in two years, and is coming off back-to-back Saturday Night Nitro Mastercam Shootout victories here at Famoso. About his driver’s chances to win a 3rd CHRR title, his crew chief, Tom Shelar, put it this way: “With the weather conditions being forecast, we should run consistent 5.60s. That should be enough to win, but it might take a 5.50 with Bartone on the grounds.”

Adam Sorokin, hot shoe for the Champion Speed Shop entry, is the 2013 CHRR winner and the last driver other than Bartone to take Bakersfield. Sorokin also wants to play the spoiler and give the New Yorker a Bronx cheer.

“I’d like to come out of the trailer fairly aggressive,” Adam asserted. “The car is capable of running .60s, and I think that kind of performance can get us to the later rounds.” Then he added: “Bartone will be the guy to watch, but anything can — and does — happen. We wouldn’t show up if we didn’t think we could win the thing.”

According to wdifl.com’s “Top Fuel Tricky Tipster,” Schutz, McGee, Murphy, Williamson and White all have a better than 5-to-1 shot to thwart a four-peat.

It is also worth noting that at recent “Saturday Night Nitro” events, Murphy’s Roland Leong-tuned “WW2” machine has been clocking the kinds of numbers Sorokin and Shelar deem necessary to take the Reunion, and the “Neal & White Racing” dragster runner-upped at both of those events while posting bodacious top-end speeds.

Tony Bartone is here to show all the former winners from California that this scene has come a long way from, say, 1992. Bill Dunlap is here to say it’s not that different at all.

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Nitro Qualifying for the 24th CHRR begins this Friday at 11 AM, with a second session at 3. Top Fuel Qualifying resumes Saturday at noon followed by eliminations at 3 pm. Top Fuel Eliminations continue Sunday at 11.30 AM.

NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Schedule for 12th Annual Holley Hot Rod Reunion at Bowling Green

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NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Schedule for 12th Annual Holley Hot Rod Reunion at Bowling Green

Heritage Series Top Fuel Schedule at this weekend’s 12th Annual Holley Hot Rod Reunion at Bowling Green, Kentucky:
Top Fuel Qualifying Session 1: Thursday, June 12th, 3 p.m
Top Fuel Qualifying Session 2: Friday, June 13, 12 noon
Top Fuel Qualifying Final Session: Friday, June 13, 3 p.m.
Top Fuel Eliminations, Saturday, June 14th, 11 a.m.