50th March Meet, Bakersfield, CA
By Frank Kunkel
The whole event was about NITRO. Drag Racing Fans flock to this event to watch the Nitro Cars do their stuff. The 50th was no exception. The other Classes did make it hard to leave the Grandstands.
Our reporting team started with Nitro from the get-go at the Car Rentals. They ran out of full sized cars and offered us a SUV. We figured a red one would be good. As we walked past the first one checking out the row the girl said the 1st one was a NITRO. Two of us stopped in our tracks laughed and said we would take it. It was black but it was a NITRO!
The trip to Bakersfield was uneventful, it does get worrisome having the Motorcycles do what they call whitelining. Apparently California is the only state this is allowed. When the traffic slows the bikes can drive between the cars in the lanes on the lines sometimes just missing the side view mirrors.
Back to the race….the place was packed, racers late to enter were on a waiting list hoping to be a part of this historic event.
This event was also the kickoff of the Hot Rod Heritage, seven nostalgia race series by NHRA.
The Grand Marshals for this race were Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen and Don “The Snake” Prudhomme.
NOSTALGIA TOP FUEL
Twenty-one cars made it down the track trying for the top 16 spots.
Qualifying was led by Brad Thompson with a 5.675, 250.34 mph followed by
2. Troy Green 5.767, 258.47 mph
3. Jack Harris 5.796, 233.58 mph
4. Rick White 5.816, 250.69 mph
5. Pete Kaiser 5.817, 250.55 mph
6. Rick Williamson 5.833, 246.57 mph
7. Denver Schutz 5.853, 251.74 mph
8. Howard Haight 5.899, 244.43 mph
9. Shannon Stuart 5.924, 234.37 mph
10. Adam Sorokin 5.950, 256.11 mph
11. Mike McLennan 6.013, 232.73 mph
12. Jason Richey 6.017, 250.97 mph
13. Rick Rogers 6.059, 235.47 mph
14. Rick McGee 6.079, 236.96 mph
15. Jim Murphy 6.092, 222.60 mph
16. Bill Dunlap 6.148, 215.10 mph
17. Terry Cox 6.164, 246.23 mph
18. Ernie McClain 6.238, 229.76 mph
19. Mark Malde 6.242, 208.52 mph
20. Dan Rusk 9.271, 89.51 mph
|Brad Thompson Low Qualifier.|
Saturday’s events were marred and saddened by the death of John Shoemaker. His car didn’t slow at the finish line and crashed at beyond the end of the track. There was speculation that he had a heart attack before the finish line. John will be remembered by his many friends. He is survived by his wife Judee and his son Jim.
|John Shoemaker's last run...God Speed John.|
In Eliminations “Sheriff” Jack Harris ran a 5.793, 248.96 (almost matching his #3 Qualifying shot) winning in his 1st round over Rick McGee’s 6.11. The second round Harris’ opponent Mike McLennan broke before staging…all eyes were on the Sheriff…he ran a 5.568 at 263.62 for the quickest run in the history of the sport!
|Jack Harris on way to 5.56. |
The third round Jack Harris met up with a game Denver Schutz, Denver strapped a .002 reaction time hole shot on Jack’s .120 reaction time. Jack Harris quickly reeled in Schutz’s 6.78 with a 5.578, 249.51. Jack Harris raced Brad Thompson in the final, it was now dark Jack’s reaction time was .106 to Brad’s .045. As Brad’s rear ties past the start line his tires bellowed smoke, Jack Harris had trouble at half track in the left lane.
|Top Fuel Final, Thompson, left, smokes em after 40'.|
His car made a big move towards the center line. Jack lifted momentarily corrected , one slick 3 inches off the ground, straightened out and powered on to a 6.064 at 239.36 mph win.
|The Sheriff Harris drifts to center line, gets on 3 wheels.|
NOSTALGIA FUNNY CAR
Instead of a 16 car field like Top Fuel, NHRA had Funny Car run an “A” Field and a “B” Field. The “A” Field got points towards the Hot Rod Heritage Series. The “B” field didn’t get points…The powers to be said Funny Car was an unproven category. The Funny Car entries proved them wrong, 27 cars made it down the track, it was the 1970’s all over again.
Bucky Austin won the last race here last Fall at the CHRR Reunion and he showed the way it is done again with a 5.833, 242.91 mph for top spot in Qualifying.
2. Lee Paul Jennings Jr. 5.967, 240.44 mph
3. Jeff Utterback 6.008, 234.55 mph
4. Dennis LaCharite 6.022, 232.01 mph
5. Mendy Fry 6.053, 210.03 mph
6. Mike Savage 6.127, 235.66 mph
7. Stephen Romanazzi 6.147, 231.71 mph
8. Bob Godfrey 6.151, 236.34 mph
9. Jim Holtz 6.151, 232.97 mph
10. Terry Capp 6.168, 229.76 mph
11. Dan Horan 6.172, 231.60 mph
12. Sean Dale 6.208, 234.43 mph
13. Michael Grekul 6.242, 192.80 mph
14. Chris Krabill 6.263, 219.13 mph
15. Randy Baker 6.273, 218.18 mph
16. Leah Pruett 6.340, 198.50 mph
17. Steve Nichols 6.342, 192.88 mph
18. Nate Bugg 6.343, 228.65 mph
19. Joe Haas 6.440, 211.81 mph
20. Jeff Diehl 6.488, 199.77 mph
21. Jack Wright 6.567, 215.87 mph
22. Andy Beauchemin 7.592, 157.15 mph
23. Vince Generalao 8.007, 123.06 mph
24. Ed Schwartz 8.400, 116.51 mph
25. Rian Konno 8.893, 101.58 mph
26. Terry Cox 9.697, 153.50 mph
27. Mike Adams 10.670, 67.55 mph
FUNNY CAR “A”
In Round One Bucky Austin defeated Bob Godfrey (6.21) with a 5.908, 242.24 mph, Round Two he ran a 5.892, 241.87 to win over Dennis LaCharite (6.12). In Round One Stephen Romanazzi peddled it to a 6.18 win over a smoky Lee Paul Jennings Jr. In Round Two Romanazzi got the better reaction time over Mike Savage and won with his 6.049, 232.97 mph over Savage’s 6.039, 233.82.
Bucky Austin and Stephan Romanazzi met in the darkness for the final. Bucky’s tune up had the best header flames for the weekend. Romanazzi went up in smoke and pedaled it numerous times as Bucky streaked to the win with a 5.836 at 243.63 mph over the 6.57 in the other lane.
Low ET Bucky Austin 5.833
|Bucky had everyone covered.|
FUNNY CAR "B”
Chris Krabill raced Michael Grekul in the final. Krabill had defeated Terry Capp in round one with a hole shot 6.204 over Capp’s 6.156. Round Two he raced Leah Pruett in Round Two, he got the holeshot and won with a 6.113 over Pruett’s 6.183.
Michael Grekul (6.037) beat Jim Holtz (6.342) in Round One. He was to race Randy Baker in the final, Baker did a nice big burnout only to pull over to the wall shutting off.
|Rapid Randy Baker in Rear Gears Maverick.|
Grekul took the green win with a stage and no run. In the Final, Chris Krabill had a nice 6.093 at 237.65 mph as Michael Grekul smoked his tires and pedaled to a 6.971, 235.04 mph.
Darrell Waters went into the final with a better ET than Kin Bates…6.306 to a 6.362, Bates had run some 6.20’s. Darrell Waters red lit and Kin Bates took home the prize with a 7.388.
JR FUEL A
Scott Parks was low Qualifier 6.846. He got Low ET in a Second Round Bye 6.841. He won over J D Zink in the final with a 6.869, 193.50 over Zink’s 6.943, 189 mph.
JR FUEL B
Don Enriquez qualified in the middle of the pack, times went from Bud Hammer’s 7.11 to #8’s Mike Craig’s 7.93. Don Enriquez 7.237 at 184.61 defeated Bud Hammer’s 17.76
Eleven Cars battled for 8 spots. Mike Leonard was #1 with a 6.682, 207.18, John Peterson topped out the 8 with 7.08, 179.35. Chris Abbey had low ET and Top Speed 6.578 at 211.01 mph.
In the Final Steve Woods ’63 'Vette ran a 7.780 winning over Mike Leonard’s ’69 Chevelle, Mike had a Red Light and chute deploy at starting line.
|Red Light and Chute out...YIKES!|
The # One and Two Qualifiers ended up running off in the Final Round. Ken Ratzloff (#2 in his ’53 Studebaker) defeated Scott Loomis in his ’53 Studebaker. 7.601 to a 7.632.
Monti Fitzgerald (’67 Chevy) 8.662 beat Ed Elliot (’56 Chev) 8.634.
Mike Wortman (‘69 Mercury) 9.641 defeated Scott Hudson (’66 Nova) 9.655.
Alan Ross (’65 Mustang) 10.749 won over Ed Carey (’71 Chevy) 10.927.
NOSTALGIA ELIMINATOR (7.60)
46 cars went for 32 spots, bump spot was a 7.748 held by Bob Byrd’s dragster.
Robert Overholster ran 7.618 to defeat Ken Rappaport’s too quick 7.551.
|This car is the Batto Trucking Car without the Crosely body.|
|Is this Nostalgia or what!|
|Simpson/Shaffer from Indianna went rounds in Nostalgia Eliminator.|
40 cars tried for 16 spots here. Bump spot was an 8.696 by Bobby Lee in his Fiat Altered. Jay Huckleberry ran 8.578 beating Ken Gillespie with no time recorded.
Twenty cars went for 8 spots. Bump spot was a 9.794 by Craig Wallace’s ’29 A. Sparky Horachko must have been frustrated with a just missing the show with 9.595 in his Grape Ape Altered. John Lyon (Dragster) won 9.751 over Tim Beeman’s (32 Bantam) 10.220.
Hot Rod (up to 12.99)
147 cars battled it out and Shag Wentworth beat Kurt Kaemerle in the Final.
|Best Wheelstand was in the Hot Rod Category.|
Back to the beginning….Thursday the Bakersfield Tourist Bureau invited the Media and had a mini car show along with Brad Thompson firing up his Top Fuel Dragster.
|Media Fire Up at Bakersfield Travel Bureau.|
That started the weekend off with a bang.
|Brad Thompson Pre Race Media fire up.|
Friday and the whole weekend had great weather, Jacket in the morning till about 11 and then shorts and t-shirts until about 5 pm. There was a car show in the Pits, Manufacturer’s Midway, and Swap Meet at the Top End of the pits. Almost too much to see and do.
Late Saturday afternoon the racing action was stopped and a Mini Cacklefest entertained the overflow crowd. There were about 12 or so beautifully restored race cars.
|Crowd loves the Cacklecars.|
Bob Beazer the 1960’s NHRA Starting Line Indian came from Ontario, Canada to join in on the fun with his complete outfit. He did sun dances and helped to keep the rain away at the races. Check that one with snopes.com, ha-ha. The crowd cheered in appreciation when it ended…it was very short as there was a lot of racing to get done.
|Bob Beazer had fun all weekend long.|
|Mike Boyd in the Winged Express wowed the crowd.|
The crowd was big on Sunday and everything flowed smoothly. The 50th March Meet will be one talked about for years. I’m glad captured the whole event on video.
Story by Frank Kunkel
Pictures by Michael Kunkel, Chuck Lazenby, Frank Kunkel