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Bakersfield, CA - March 11, 2019:


The 61st annual Good Vibrations March Meet was foretold to be a weather related nightmare. Thankfully those bleak predictions didn't quite pan out and with the exception of two short rain delays the event went off without any major glitches and finished on schedule everyday. That I believe is a first.

Thursday was dry and there were a lot of cars who took advantage of the open testing. It also featured one of the more dramatic funny car accidents in memory. Nitro Nick took flight providing many photo ops. Matt Bynum OK, car needs a doctor.

Back to Friday. After some track drying in the AM the race officially kicked off with all classes qualifying. The Pro cars featured two funny car sessions and one each for top fuel and fuel altereds. All other classes got their designated runs as well. After day one it was Dan Horan's 5.665 @ 265.22 leading the way for the floppers and Bret Williamson on the long car pole with a 5.736 @ 250.74. The "WOW" moment of the day was Jim Maroney turning the Candies & Hughes Barracuda into a dune buggy. There was an upside, Steve Scott bought the roof for $150.00.

There is no doubt the wet forecasts kept a lot of racers and fans from making the trip to Famoso and the Friday stands attested to that with few spectators. However, word got back to LA et al that Saturday would be dry and the fans came in droves. Despite the cold temps that never let up all weekend it was SRO for final nitro qualifying and round one of funny car.

The throngs were treated to some great runs and a round one of funny car featuring an upset or three. Going into eliminations Horan's 5.665 held for the #1 spot and he won his first round. Rick White moved to the pole in top fuel with a 5.723 @ 254.52. The days "WOW" moment came at the experience of the Densham family. Steven won his first round race on a hole shot over Ryan Konno but the cost was hardly worth it. Their 19 year old "Teachers Pet" '69 Camaro body was reduced to rubble in the lights. No spare (duh), no round two.

On Sunday the program ended with Defending NHRA Heritage Series Funny Car champion Bobby Cottrell picking up where he left off at the 2018 CHRR winning funny car driving Bucky Austin's floppier.

Joining Cottrell in the winner's circle of the NHRA Heritage Series season opener was Adam Sorokin (Nostalgia Top Fuel) and James Day (AA/Fuel Altered).

Cottrell clocked a 5.718-second elapsed time at 249.03 mph to stop the Cinderella-like effort of first-time Funny Car racer Jerry Espeseth, who reached the final in Jason Rupert's Camaro.

“It actually was really tough (Sunday),” Cottrell said. “The air was a lot better than I think people thought and thank God Bucky made the right calls and I just tried to drive the car to the best of my ability.”

Sorokin, who always races in honor of his late father, the legendary Mike Sorokin, scored his second Nostalgia Top Fuel title when defending series champion Mendy Fry's dragster broke on the starting line. Sorokin clocked a 5.844-second elapsed time at 212.16 mph on the solo pass.

“It started out pretty tough, actually,” Sorokin said. “We went through a bunch of adversity and the guys kept putting the car back together and it kept getting a little better each time. I kind of knew by the way Bobby (McLennan) was helping in that he had a tune-up in it. He tends to belt me in a little tighter every time it is a little bit more hopped-up. Two March Meet (wins) is unbelievable. One was a dream come true and to win another is something special. This one is for Jim McLennan and Mike Sorokin, my dad.” Sorokin defeated Rick McGee, Rick White to reach the final round.

The AA/Fuel altered final looked like a classic rerun of the 2014 March meet Funny Car final, or maybe a play out of James Day's classic starting line caginess when as a major underdog he won the title over Dan Hix.

This time Day unexpectedly rolled in and deep-staged, and by the time multi-time Bakersfield champion Dan Hix realized what had happened, the former Funny Car pilot had nearly .08 on him out of the gate. Cha Ching, holeshot win.

In the semi-professional divisions, Dan Hix won the 5.90 Classic Funny Car class while Mike Halstead repeated as event champion in Rear-engine Top Fuel.

With all that said, grab a drink, put your feet up, and peruse the largest March Meet coverage anywhere. 16 pages with over 3200 photos.

Photos by: Bob Brown, Dan Kaplan, Arlene Eliason, Steve Scott and Don Ewald

 

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In Top Fuel it was underdog Adam Sorokin who took the Top Fuel win over Mendy Fry in a dramatic final that saw the 2018 TF Champ Mendy Fry sitting dead in the water when the tree went green. After running the two quickest passes in FED history, 5.518 and a 5.490 to reach the finals it was over when a 50 cent throttle linkage bolt fell out at the hit. High Speeds loss was Champion's gain with Sorokin motoring on down the track to a 5.83.

It was the second-generation AA/Fuel Dragster drivers second March Meet win, both in the seat of the Champion Speed Shop unique SBC powered fueler. With Sorokin being the best leaver in the class and Bobby McLennan's crafty ways the team is known for bursting through a door left ajar. Case in point. Congrats to the entire team on a well deserved win.

 

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In funny car it was no surprise that 2018 World Champ Bobby Cottrell took home the title for Austin & O'Brien, but his opponent in the final was a total shock. When the smoke cleared (ask Densham) the 16 car field boiled down to Cottrell and Jerry Espeseth. WHO?

While gearing up for his NHRA Big Show debut, Jason Rupert entrusted his championship Littlefield & Rupert Vega to Heritage Series Sportsman standout and sponsor Jerry Espeseth, a stone rookie.

Espeseth was a quick study at the Good Vibrations March Meet, not only qualifying for the 16-car field but also in winning his first 3 rounds in a weekend which has provided personal bests with each trip down the Auto Club Famoso Raceway quarter-mile.

His Cinderella story came to an end at the hands of Cottrell who drove Big Green to a 5.718 @ 249.03. Espeseth smoked the tires and shut off. Nonetheless, what a debut.

But to get to the finals, we need to take care of the business of qualifying and eliminations. Hope you enjoy the coverage

 

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The AA/FA class is gaining fans by leaps and bounds, and funny car driver James Day thought it would be a fun class to compete in. In his first attempt at driving the most unpredictable cars in drag racing Day put on a clinic of how to parlay the underdog role into a trip to the winner's circle. He used a well-crafted routine of starting line prowess to chalk up the win at the wheel of the Hertzig Motorsports AA/Fuel Altered. In the final Dan Hix, a multi-time winner was his victim.

Day has now pulled off an enviable feat of winning March Meet titles in two different classes.

“Those were my two favorite classes as a kid, Funny Car and Fuel Altered,” Day said. “It really hasn't quite sunk in that I did it again. For Bryan Hall and (Hertzig Motorsports) and all the guys, they believed in me and gave me a great race car and it is just completely incredible."

 

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TEST 'N TUNE THURSDAY

Here are a bunch of mostly random shots from the kicking off the rust day. For many of us it was the nitro fix we been waiting all winter for. No time.

 

2018 Heritage Series Top Fuel Champion Mendy Fry and defending March Meet winner Pete Wittenberg who was beginning the worst weekend of his short Top Fuel career.

 

 

 

 

 

Phil Ruskowski made the trip down from Victoria BC, Canada.

 

After a nearly 2 year sabbatical Rick White was back in the Neal & White entry.

 

After a dismal 2018 season, Brendan Murry was back vowing, "problems solved". By all accounts he was correct. Great to see him in a position to finally get a baseline for the 426.

 

Try as they may to promote it, the Rear Engine Top Fuel class still draws just 3 cars. Brad Thompson here.

 

 

 

Jim Murphy was back for an all out assault on the 2019 championship. Starting with a new setup, the learning curve needed a lot of work.

 

 

Mendy Fry on her second test.

 

 

 

Billy McDevitt getting his hit in.

 

 

Sorokin hittin' the mouse.

 

Now is a good time to get "The Wheel" out of the way as it appears in countless shots from the weekend. Thanks to Bobby Bennett for the best explanation.

Wheels we are accustomed to at a drag strip, but a Ferris wheel, this takes drag racing entertainment to a whole new level.

"Not sure if we are the first to have a Ferris Wheel at a drag strip, but we hope so, we like being the first when it comes to thinking outside of the box in entertainment features," said Blake Bowser, General Manager of Auto Club Famoso Raceway.

"It's just one of those little features we want to be part of the experience when people leave the track they think, 'Now that was fun, let's go back next time to see what they will add next."

While a drag race can sometimes provide a carnival experience, Bowser said he's all for bringing back the wheel and isn't opposed to adding a roller coaster in the future.

"One thing we never need to lose sight of in the future is that we are in the entertainment business, whether it's on the track or in the pits and Midway area," Bowser said. "We are here to experience more than just drag racing. The Good Vibrations Motorsports is about socializing, meeting old friends and having a good time. There's a lot more out here at the March Meet than just drag racing."

 

Geno and Harley made the day complete.

 

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I'll open the funny car tests with the first and worst. Matt Bynum took a very wild ride in the championship caliber Matthews Motorsports "Nitro Nick" Camaro that started with tire shake and ended in a four point landing 1500' later. We were fortunate enough to get some great sequence shots of the incident that left Matt with a bruised ego and the car with multiple bruises, breaks and scratches. May or may not be repairable. I would wager the team will be back stronger than ever.

 

 

 

 

So far, so good.

 

Until is wasn't.... note tire footprint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this point the injectors should have been closed, for good. They weren't.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Canadian Tim Boychuck who now calls Scottsdale, AZ home got a baseline for his "Happy Hour" (cool name) '69 Camaro.

 

 

 

Defending March Meet champ Ryan Hodgson getting out of the groove, no harm no foul.

 

 

Jeff Utterback in the Pisano Family Vega trying to get down the track for the lightly contested Classic Funny Car class. Like the RED class, not many players.

 

 

Dan Hix in his funny car debut also contesting the Classic Funny Car class.

 

Jeff Arend in the "California Hustler".

 

"Problem Child" misbehaving.

 

 

The Candies & Hughes Cuda body on the last day of its life.

 

STOP! It's a Jail Break!

 

 

Cory Lee shaking down the Pedaler.

 

Matt Melendez burnin' the good stuff in his "Cacklin’ Critter".

 

 

Kris Krabill getting familiar with his new ride.

 

Dan Kaplan and Kleet Norris, no he's not on a ladder.

 

Dan Horan getting all the data he needed to go low on Friday.

 

 

As they always do, the Kazanjian Lemon & Konno team take advantage of every shot they get at the track.

 

 

 

I don't think anyone made more FC passes than Marc Meadors over the four day event.

 

 

 

 

Defending AA/FA champ Dan Hix getting a baseline.

 

After a first out test session in 2018 resulted in a broken ankle for Troy Glenn, the Over The Hill Gang AA/FA made a successful debut at the March Meet. With Mike Halstead in the seat the car made shakedown runs that led to a #8 qualifying spot.

 

 

NAPA DSR Big Show FC pilot Ron Capps dipped his toes into the Nostalgia AA/FA world with mixed results.

 

 

 

"Nitro Rat" powered by a hemi. Confusing for us old school dudes.

 

 

 

 

Chris Bates in the Boudakian Racing 7.0 car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Eily Stafford-Day 7.0 Pro hit.

 

Me thinks this car was built for a much larger driver.

 

Dave Rosenberg wheelsup in his 7.0 Pro FED.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No more testing - on to the real thing. Funny Car Q1

 

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 Page 1 - Intro & Thursday Testing

Page 2 - Funny Car Qualifying Session 1

Page 3 - Top Fuel Qualifying Session 1

Page 4 - Funny Car Qualifying Session 2

Page 5 - Top Fuel Qualifying Session 2

Page 6 - AA/FA - RED & Classic Funny Car Qualifying

Page 7 - Funny Car Qualifying Session 3

Page 8 - Top Fuel Qualifying Session 3

Page 9 - Funny Car Round One

Page 10 - Top Fuel & AA/FA Round One

Page 11 - Funny Car Round Two

Page 12 - Top Fuel & AA/FA Round Two

Page 13 - Funny Car Round Three

Page 14 - All Nitro Finals

Page 15 - Winners Circle All Classes & People

Page 16 - Random Other Race Cars

 

Next Stop For Top Fuel

HOLLEY NATIONAL HOT ROD REUNION®
Presented by AAA Insurance
June 13th, 14th, and 15th, 2019
At Beech Bend Raceway Park, Bowling Green Kentucky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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