While all victories are typically remembered for awhile, a most recent victory is one Darrell Waters will never forget.
Less than three months after his father Tony passed away, Darrell drove the front end dragster his father helped build and tune to the A/Fuel championship at the weather-delayed Bakersfield March Meet in Bakersfield, Calif.
“It was indescribable,” said Darrell about capturing the coveted victory. “My dad passed way in December and we didn’t know if we wanted to run the car or not. We talked about it as a team for quite some time and we decided to run the March Meet. We dedicated all our efforts to Tony. He was the one who built the motor and called the shots. It was his race team. It was very emotional to win the race.
“There wasn’t a dry eye on our team.”
Tony Waters, Darrell's father, was an original member of the Smokers Car Club which started the March Meet, and was the Top Eliminator runner-up in 1959. Tony was 84 years old when he passed away.
Darrell, 62, has been driving the dragster since 2006, but had never won the prestigious race at Auto Club Famoso Raceway until now.
On the first day of qualifying, Waters’ team made a tribute solo qualifying run at 6.37 seconds which stood up to be the No. 1 qualifier.
“We were very pleased with the 6.37,” Darrell said.
During the race, Darrell had a first round bye, his second-round opponent broke and he went on to run a 6.35 in the semis to reach the final against Billy Wayne.
Waters clocked a 6.352-second elapsed time down the quarter-mile to beat Wayne, who had a 6.432-second lap.
“I knew about at 1000 feet barring any disaster we were going to win the race,” Darrell said. “When I hit the parachutes, it took quite awhile for Billy to come around me and I wasn’t sure if I won, until I got to the top end and there were a couple of photographers waving their arms and pointing at me. It was way cool. We felt like Tony was looking down on us all day.
Darrell said he isn’t sure what the team’s plans are next.
“We are going to let this kind of sink in and let everybody’s feet kind of touch the ground again,” Waters said. “We will talk as a team about it (what to do next). We make all our decisions as a team. We are probably committed to the (Hot Rod) Reunion this year and what we do in between will be a decision we make as a team.”
The California Hot Rod Reunion is scheduled for Oct. 18-20 at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield.
“We usually run all the races in NHRA’s Hot Rod Heritage Series, but without Tony it is not the same,” Darrell said. “It was different (running at the March Meet) and we are just going to have to see how we feel as a team and make a decision on what races we will run.”