Hot Rod Reunion XIII
Visit our photo gallery at Bakersfield Gallery.
SUNDAY NOTES - Winding things down, Sunday Drivers and Race? What Race?
Saturday Night's Alright for cackling - Saturday night
was the night for the Cacklefest. The ceremony went off well and all
the cars fired except for the Beeble and Mulligan recreation. Some laughed.
Some cried and others had the time of their lives. One of those having
the time of his life had to be Herm Peterson. Peterson agreed to shoe
the Chris Karamesines fueler at CHRR Cacklefest during a fishing trip
with Dave McClelland and Steve Gibbs.
The Important Punchline - As I walked by Don Ewald,
who had just climbed out of the 'Bankamericar', I asked him 'What's
worse than owning a racecar'? Of course I had to supply the punch line
of 'Owning two racecars'! Brother John had just climbed out of his brand
new Cackle car, The 'Mastercar'. John now has bankrolled both restorations.
According to Don, John's car was nothing but a pile of rust seven weeks
ago. I guess they were about to argue over who got the seat for the
Cacklefest and various displays and fire ups. That settled it the easy
way, two cars.
Buck Owens? No way... - Another surprise happened
just after the morning round of Top Fuel when someone in the tower said
'Isn't that Buck Owens'? Sure enough, we looked down and there was the
Bakersfield Icon spectating at the fence near the starting line. He
was recognized almost instantly and was finally escorted to the starting
line area after signing many autographs. Owens lives just around the
corner from the track and many that have been coming here for years
have said this is the first time they've ever seen him visit the fabled
It's all about the party - Most of the fans had gone
home by the time the finals came around on the track. This is a little
different deal with many of the people in attendance not really caring
about the racing on the track but being here to talk to old friends.
Others are here for the car show while some do come for the racing.
NHRA has always made it clear that the get together is off the track,
not on. I'll tell you this much, the people that race these events are
very serious about what they do and just like any other racer they'll
cut your heart out on the track but the party continues as soon as you
get back to the pit area. Competition? The word was that the Cackle
cars were installed larger and larger fuel tanks so they can be the
last car running. All of the exhibition altereds are very well aware
of the ETs the other racers in the class are doing. Sure, it's not a
race, but everyone seems to compete anyway.
SATURDAY NOTES - A day of recognition, The Frantic Four and Remembering the Dust Devils
Recognizing the heroes - Saturday is devoted to honoring
those who hand formed our sport into what you see on the track today.
Drag racing didn't just form full grown out of nothing and cars started
running 300 mph right away. We've taken baby steps, some forward and
some back since the 1940s.
Long live Paula - Today the patrons will be introduced to Paula Murphy, the Grand Marshall of CHRR XIII. In 1968, Murphy was one of three women who lost their NHRA licenses because, according to Murphy, “they feared negative publicity for organized drag racing if any of us got hurt.” She had been the first to obtain a license to drive Top Fuel Funny Cars. Murphy's friend and mentor Andy Granatelli. With his help and others she was back into a Funny Car by 1972. At the Reunion she's returning to one of her first loves.
Frantic Quartet - I mentioned the team of Weekly, Rivero, Fox and Holding yesterday but failed to mention that the team is being honored this weekend by the Reunion Committee. The team, also known by the nickname The Frantic Four, were known for being able to produce Top Speed of the meet with small inch Chrysler engines. In 1966 they ran a then fantastic 221.66. Today "Stormin' Norman" Weekly has created some hot pickle veggies that will curl any hair that might have survived.
"Wild Bill" - I saw Honoree, 'Wild' Bill
Alexander earlier in the year at a festival of speed at Irwindale Speedway
in the San Gabriel Valley. That was a midget racing event on the paved
1/2 mile oval.
Head Games - When I started drag racing in the mid 60s the thing that most of us kids aspired to was a set of cylinder heads worked on by Joe Mondello. The first 7, 6 and 5 seconds as well as the first 200 mph dragster pass were made with Mondello heads on the car. Man, this guy knew what he was doing and everyone who was anyone ran his parts. At the same time he turned out customer parts he was doing his own R&D with the Mondello and Matsubara blown fuel altered. Mondello made heads for LeMans sports cars to Indy cars during the period and had winners in many venues.
Motorsports Medley - Every sport needs the scribe and the cartoonist that can poke fun at it and make certain the swelled heads never get to big. Last year the honoree that handled that chore with style and fun was the late Pete Millar. This year Tom Medley gets the nod. Medley's cartoon work was in the very first ever issue of Hot Rod magazine and continued through the mid 1960s. Of all his characters it's most likely 'Stroker McGurk' that most will remember. I can go back many years and think about getting caught laughing in Geometry class over Stroker and having the teacher take my magazine away. It was ok because I had borrowed it from a friend. Medley landed at Rod and Custom magazine after the Hot Rod gig was over and was partially responsible for the resurgence of street rodding by helping to create the Street Rod Nationals in 1970.
Not the Cookie Monster - 'Famous Amos' Satterlee was known in drag racing circles long before the cookie guy came along and stole the name. Early on Satterlee built the Hustler 5 with Art Chrisman and Frank Cannon. This is the AA/FD that went 200 mph in July of 1964 and according to Satterlee was the first to do so even though Don Garlits is usually credited with the feat. He started his career as a driver but was one of those that found their talent was more in the area of engine building and tuning. 'My engines and tuning have won 16 world championships', said Famous Amos in a recent interview. Satterlee has been involved in the NHRA Funny Car wars almost from the start. Early on he worked with Mickey Thompson and more recently with Craig Epperly.
Remembering the Dust Devils - The last award to be given this evening went to the Dust Devils Car Club that was founded in 1953. The reason that the club was formed then was to have a legal entity to enter into a contract for use of the Inyokern Airport for drag racing purposes. The club was formed. The contact was signed and the oldest active drag strip in the country is still...active. In the early years the club provided the help to run the Winternationals at Pomona and the Hot Rod Magazine races at Riverside. As far as club members go the club has done well. The late Roberta Leighton was affiliated with the Dust Devils and also the first woman to receive an NHRA competition license and won an Eliminator title at the 1962 U.S. Nationals. If you've ever raced a Div-7 event, or just about any other event in California you've met Harold Owens. Owens became a member of the Dust Devils in 1981 but traces his roots all he way back to a dirt drag strip in Colorado in 1957 and is still driving his dragster in SCEDA and Super-E events in the area. I know how old his but if I tell you he'd have to kill me. There are ladies around here that have NO idea. Mr. Owens was appointed by the club to receive the Justice Bros. T.V. Tommy Ivo Reunion Spotlight award.
That's awful fast for a hat - I spoke with Mendy Fry
this morning about her absence from the first round of Top Fuel qualifying
yesterday. It seems that she and teammate Shawn Bellemeur competed at
HHRR last week in Kansas and after the event the cars went in the trailer
for the long trip back to California. Yesterday, when the team went
to service the engine in the fueler, they discovered that the main girdle
was split right down the middle. She wanted to send a big thanks to
Mike Boyd, the driver of the Marcellus and Borsch Winged Express, for
the use of a block so they could make the second and final attempt to
qualify today. Bellemeur had his own problems yesterday when a rod bolt
broke on the burnout and pretty well trashed the insides of the fuel
motor. According to Fry they are both ready for a single banzai attempt.
The pair are sponsored
Top Qualifiers - Dave Gruzen was the top qualifier in Nostalgia Eliminator on Friday with a 7.61 against his 7.60 index. But wait, there's more! In the final session today he got even closer with a 7.604. Let's see how that translates in the first round of eliminations today. These Nostalgia Eliminator drivers are really good. They are allowed no electronic timing devices so the only clock is in their heads.
J.D. Zink upped the ante in Junior Fuel when he ran a super quick 6.972/190.71 for both top speed and low ET. Parks tried to take it back in the final session but could only muster a 7.101/186.72. According to rumor they made a bunch of changes before the final session. If it was like his other two runs traction was at a premium. In fact, the final Junior session produced no quicker ETs for the class.
Worth the wait - Sean Bellemeur had to wait for the first round of Top to get his first '5'. His 5.999/241.15 pass netted him a three foot win over Denver Schutz. Schutz actually ran 5.944/238.34 but Bellemeur had thrown a .001 light at him. Schutz had an .065 light and a nice 5.944/238.34 but came up short. Other round one winners were: Rick McGee; Bill Dunlap; Jack Harris; Jeff Diehl and Rick Rogers. Eliminations resume on Sunday at 11:00 a.m.
FRIDAY NOTES - It's gonna be a good one, Sorokin debuts and all kinds of things happening...
(10-1-2004) - Just like old times - Driving through the gates at Famoso Raceway is like driving back in time to the early Smokers Car Club races in the late 1950's. The pit area is black top only because the track was a B-25 storage area during WWII. No better place to hold an event that's supposed to recreate that era.
You can kind of close your eyes and hear the PA system blaring out the call for the first round of Top Fuel. You can picture Garlits, The Greek, Weekly,
Rivero, Fox and Holding and Art Chrisman towing to the top end of the
track for the push start in front of the packed grand stands. If it
was the first weekend in March there was only one place to be if you
were a nitro
Today, when I opened my eyes there was 'The Frantic Four' and Jeep Hampshire working on their Fuelers in Famoso Grove behind the grand stands. These guys appear to be having more fun with the recreated racecar than they had with the original. For a small fee you can sit in the very tiny fuel car a get your world rocked when the team lights the car on over 95%. No one tells them how much nitro can be in the tank.
Sorokin debuts- Adam Sorokin is making his debut this
weekend behind the butterfly steering wheel of John Blanchard's Nostalgia
Top Fuel car. Adam's dad was the legendary driver of 'The Surfers' Top
Fueler. On his first hit today the AA/FD had holes out at the hit and
Sorokin was an early
Cacklefest Rules! - Cacklefest is scheduled for sometime
on Saturday evening after the first round of Top Fuel. Comments heard
at Indy after the Cacklefest there seemed to indicate that some were
less than impressed. I'd guess that Cacklefest at the California Hotrod
Reunion is just a bit different
Hang On Sloopy - Qualifying can sometimes get wild as evidenced by this AA/GS Anglia. Tommorrow will bring a new day, after a few repairs, of course.
Thank you Bill - Most agree that we have Bill Pitt's
to thank for the whole Cackle concept. Several years ago Pitts was displaying
his car at the Reunion and someone asked if it still ran? It didn't,
but it planted a seed that has grown to over 40 cars this weekend with
rumors and releases about
One session in the books - Top Fuel got one session
on Friday at CHRR and it was bit of a surprise that Bill Dunlap leads
the field after the first of only two rounds of qualifying this weekend.
With hitters like Jack Harris and Jim Murphy, as well as a few others,
that Top Qualifier check remains to be filled
Junior Fuel appears to be another battle ground this weekend with no room for prisoners. With Scot Parks, John Haire and J.D. Zink all running 7.0's in the first round of qualifying we should see some six second passes out of the little injected alcohol cars.
Qualifying resumes on Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. with Top Fuel and AA/GS getting their final runs beginning around 2:00 p.m. The first round of Top Fuel eliminations is scheduled for 7:30 Saturday night.
FRIDAY - Old Friends Congregate for Roddin' and Racin' at the 13th NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion Honorees feted at Friday Reception
(10-1-2004) - There aren't many events where almost
everyone asks each other for autographs and to have pictures taken.
But then again, there aren't many events like the NHRA California Hot
Rod Reunion, where old friends gather for a warm weekend of reminiscing
and fun, all wrapped around the golden age of drag racing and hot rodding.
Paula Murphy: Holds so many "firsts" and "fastests" that it's hard to know where to begin to chronicle her accomplishments. She was the first woman licensed drive a fuel funny car, the first woman to drive a race car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, she set land speed records at Bonneville and was the first woman to drive a rocket dragster. She's driven almost every type of racing vehicle known including a 10,000 horsepower jet car and the legendary supercharged Novi, sports cars, stock cars, funny cars and grand prix cars in Monaco. Murphy might even be responsible for Shirley Muldowney's "graduation" to Funny Cars. The two had dinner and Murphy suggested that Muldowney move up to Funny Car so that they could have match races and attract more attention for their sponsors. Muldowney got a ride in Connie Kalitta's car and the rest is history. Her career in racing was capped by a promotional trip driving around the world in 1976 with champ car racer Johnny Parsons Sr. The two completed the journey and ended up calling it "Around the World in 80 Delays" because of the many problems they had.
Bill Alexander: Driver of the legendary "Ernie's Camera Shudder Bug," a Pontiac-powered front-engine Top Fuel dragster with an extremely short wheelbase, "Wild Bill" Alexander crashed the original Shudder Bug in 1964 at the San Fernando dragstrip, but salvaged the engine and races with it in a car rebuilt by his son, Rod. In 1962, Alexander beat the Greer-Black-Prudhomme fueler at Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach, Calif. In 1964, driving for Jim Brisette, he was one of the first to exceed 200 mph with a 202.24 at San Fernando. He had the second best E.T. of 1964 with a 7.50. In 1965, he was the runner-up to Prudhomme at the Winternationals. He was low qualifier at the Bakersfield March Meet in 1967 with a 7.19 E.T. He drove at least ten different dragsters during his career. Alexander was one of the first members of the Nitronic Research AA/FD 5 Second Club, awarded to those whose times are in the 5-second range in front-engine dragsters.
The 'Frantic Four' Team: With a driver nicknamed "Stormin' Norman" and a bright-red front-engine Top Fuel dragster, the only thing to wonder about is why they called it the 'Frantic Four.' But "Stormin' Norman' Weekly, Ron Rivero, Dennis Holding and Jim Fox will each have a story to tell at the Reunion. The genesis of some teams may be lost to history, but the Frantic Four can date their existence from Jan. 21st, 1963, when the four Southern Californians got together. The name was derived from the team's amazing performance levels from a small-displacement Chrysler engine. They set track records from all along the West Coast in 1963. They had top speed at the 1964 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis and beat legends such as Don "Big Daddy" Garlits, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and Chris "The Greek" Karamesines. In 1966, they were among the fastest in drag racing with a speed of 221.66 mph.
Tom Medley: Arguably the first hot rod cartoonist, Medley's contributions to the sport are visual and began in the very first issue of Hot Rod magazine, when it was edited by NHRA founder Wally Parks. He began with the magazine when publisher Robert E. Petersen saw his work posted on the wall at Blair's Speed Shop in Pasadena and invited him to join his soon-to-be-released monthly. The most important of the cartoon characters he created was 'Stroker' McGurk. But cartooning wasn't his only talent. An outstanding photographer, he also sold advertising for years. He photographed the Indy 500 and Bonneville land speed record trials. Medley's work at Hot Rod continued through the 1960s, when he turned his attention to the printed word and was appointed publisher of Rod & Custom magazine. During his tenure there, he was responsible for the resurgence of street rodding and was instrumental in creating the first Street Rod Nationals in 1970. Later, he wrote a series of books called "Tex Smith's Hot Rod History," only fitting, since he was there at the beginning to document it. Medley is still a popular figure, appearing at numerous annual hot rodding events..
Joe Mondello: In 1951, Joe was racing at airports
and drag strips throughout Southern California. In the early 1950s,
before Joe was 17 years old, he had already ported and relieved more
than 50 Ford flat head blocks for the finest engine builders of that
Amos Satterlee: "Famous Amos" Satterlee
has been setting records for a long time. He's just not in the car -
or boat - when the records are set. Like many, he started as a driver,
but soon found out that his talents were in engine building and tuning.
The La Habra, Calif.-based Satterlee's engines are world famous. "My
engines and tuning have 16 world championships ," Satterlee said.
Dust Devils: Winners of the Justice Bros. T.V. Tommy Ivo Reunion Spotlight Award, the Dust Devils are one of the oldest hot rodding clubs in California. Founded in 1953, the club's purpose was to create an entity that could contract with Kern County to create racing at Inyokern Airport. Inyokern, the world's oldest continuously used drag strip, is a monument to drag racing. The club is celebrating the 50th anniversary of racing at the track. They were very active in providing personnel for early NHRA Winternationals races in Pomona. Among the members of the club is Bernie Partridge, long time division director and now a retired NHRA vice president. In 1963, the Dust Devils operated the Hot Rod Magazine drag races in Riverside and purchased the first "Christmas Tree" light system in California. They made money renting the system and their services to other drag strips throughout the state. The late Roberta Leighton, a member of the club, was the first woman to receive an NHRA competition license. She won the 1962 U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, becoming the first woman to earn a national title.
The weather co-operated as drag racers took to the track, making 196 runs during Friday qualifications for this weekend's 13th Annual NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California. The three-day event benefits the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.
Stepping up to the plate early was Bill Dunlap of Capitola, Calif. in his 2004 Uyehara, with a quick 5.819 second time and a speed of 248.34 miles per hour for the top time of the day. Top Fuel will have its first night elimination session during Saturday's activities at Famoso Raceway.
Scott Mayson brought his 02 Neil and Parks dragster all the way from Syracuse, N.Y. and qualified fifth fastest at 5.989 seconds and 244.49 miles per hour.
Although the type of racing is called nostalgia drag racing, it's more like nostalgia-style drag racing, with teams building and re-building new vehicles in the style of those raced in the early days of the sport, the 1950's and 1960's.
Qualifying results from Friday's first sessions at the 13th NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California with qualifying position, car number, home town, car type, time in seconds and speed in miles per hour:
Top Fuel (Top 16 qualify)
Nostalgia Eliminator (top 16 qualify)
A/Gas Eliminator (Top eight qualify)
AA/Gas (Top eight qualify)
A/Fuel Blown (Top eight qualify)
Jr. Fuel B
Jr. Fuel A
2004 California Hot Rod Reunion: Fact Sheet
WHERE: Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, California. 33559 Famoso Road, McFarland, CA
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Oct. 1-3, 2004
SATURDAY, October 2 - Gates open at 8 a.m. Qualifying, time trials and exhibition runs begin at 11 a.m. Jr. Fuel, A/Fuel and Top Fuel qualifying session #2 at 2 p.m. Special Awards ceremonies at 6 p.m. NEW! Jr. Fuel, A/Fuel and Top Fuel qualifying session #2, followed by Top Fuel Round 1 Eliminations at 6:30 p.m. Twilight Memorial at 8 p.m. followed immediately by "Cacklefest"
SUNDAY, October 3 - Gates open at 8 a.m. Eliminations begin at 11 a.m. Exhibition runs throughout the day. Winner's Circle Awards at 4:45 p.m.
TICKETS: Full event credential--$55 (includes admission and pit pass for all three days, preferred parking, Pit Pass barbecue, Reunion Annual, dash plaque, etc.)
GENERAL ADMISSION/PIT PASS - $15 Friday, $20 Saturday*,
For ticket orders, please call (800) 884-6472 (NHRA)
CONTACT: California Hot Rod Reunion (909) 622-8562
Produced by and benefiting the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum
Click to visit our sponsor's website
© Competitionplus 2004