BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (October 27, 2019) – The 2019 California Hot Rod Reunion® presented by Automobile Club of Southern California completed competition at Auto Club Famoso Raceway on Sunday crowning not only event winners but also all the champions in the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series.

For the second consecutive year, Mendy Fry raced her High Speed Motorsports dragster to victory with a run of 5.526-seconds at 264.91 mph in the Nostalgia Top Fuel final against Pete Wittenberg who red lit at the starting line. The 2019 NHRA Heritage Series World Champion was also the low qualifier of the event. The win and season was dedicated to team owner Tom Shelar who unexpectedly passed away in August.

"This was just the most emotional roller coaster I think I've been on," said Fry. "Because I thought I lost on a holeshot. He (Wittenberg) beat me to the stripe, and I should have known to look up (to see if the win light was on). So I thought I lost on a holeshot and then I found out that I won! I cannot say enough about this team for giving me a car that is the car to beat every time. It's just incredible."

In Nostalgia Funny Car, Bobby Cottrell landed in the winner's circle when he ran a 5.675 at 249.90 in his 1969 Camaro bettering Tony Jurado's pass of 5.859 at 233.80. Cottrell also clinched the NHRA Heritage Series World Championship in the category for the second year in a row.

Other winners included Jason Richey in Fuel Altered, Shayne Stewart in A / Fuel, Brad Woodard in Junior Fuel, Brad Denney in 7.0 Pro, Dan Schrokosch in Nostalgia Eliminator 1, Eddie Lucas in Nostalgia Eliminator 2, Darren Hopkins in Nostalgia Eliminator 3, Brian Rogers in A / Gas, Brent Handley in B / Gas, Mike Rabener in C / Gas, Don Fournier in D / Gas, Howard Anderson in AA / Gas, Mike Maggio in Pro Mod, Bob Patten in A / FX, and A.J. Thomas in Hot Rod.

The 2019 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series champions are Mendy Fry in Top Fuel, Bobby Cottrell in Funny Car, Drew Austin in A / Fuel, Brad Woodard in Jr. Fuel, Steve Faller in 7.0 Pro, Dave Lawson in Nostalgia Eliminator 1, Eddie Lucas in Nostalgia Eliminator 2, Don Morris in Nostalgia Eliminator 3, Casey Treuer in A / Gas, Neal Westbrook in B / Gas, Mike Rabener in C / Gas, Bill Norton in D / Gas, and Henry Roberson in Hot Rod.



Mendy Fry arrived at the 27th California Hot Rod Reunion with the 2018 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Top Fuel championship already in hand then drove the High-Speed Motorsports AA/FD to the event win. Her Top Fuel victory at Famoso Raceway marked a four-peat season clincher for Fry and the team after successive wins the National Hot Rod Reunion, Nightfire Nationals and Tulsa Nitro Nationals.It was a banner year for Fry, who has put together impressive performances time and time again. But even with the championship clinched, the team wanted to cap the season with a CHRR win.

“It’s a total celebratory weekend, but we’re not going to the (Hot Rod Reunion®) just to sit on our butts and celebrate,” Fry said. “There are real rivalries that have formed this year and clinching the title early has only intensified that. For me, winning the title makes it even more important to do well at this race. We’ve had a great season and to go and lay an egg at the reunion would really be anticlimactic. I feel like we can go and kick some butt.”

That’s been the theme this season for Fry, who has enjoyed immense success driving the High-Speed Motorsports dragster for Tom Shelar. After racing in Nostalgia Funny Car, Fry went back to the Top Fuel ranks in 2017, joining up with Shelar for a memorable campaign. She won the March Meet in Bakersfield that year, finishing second to Jim Young in a tight points battle. But this season Fry and her team have been a step ahead, consistently running low E.T. and top speed at nearly every event, going to four final rounds. While its already been a dream season for Fry, winning the Hot Rod Reunion® would be the ultimate capper to the season.

“This title belongs to the team,” Fry said. “They’ve upped the bar for me as a driver, and thankfully I haven’t screwed it up this year. The thing that’s really helped is getting to know the car. They’re giving me something that repeats and because the team is so consistent and the maintenance on the car is second to none, it's really upped my confidence level. I love this track and going there. My first Top Fuel win happened at the March Meet and it feels like I’m home there.”

“We lost only one round of racing this year, ran the table on Low ET and Top Speed at every event except for Top Speed at the National Hot Rod Reunion. I’d say Tom Shelar and the crew have it dialed in. My team gave me the car to beat, and I didn’t screw it up. So this win is theirs. I’m just glad they picked me.” said Mendy.






Like Fry, Bobby Cottrell landed in the CHRR winner's circle when he ran a 5.675 at 249.90 in the Austin & O'Brien 1969 Camaro beating Tony Jurado's 5.859 at 233.80. And like Mendy, Cottrell also clinched his second straight NHRA Heritage Series World Championship.

"This day's been very hectic. We hurt a lot of parts. Anybody that hung around our pits between rounds knows we didn't back into this. We worked our you-know-what's off. I can't thank this crew enough. To win (the championship) back-to-back is just a dream come true. I didn't even think we'd have half the success we have had in the past few years but I'm very thankful to Bucky (Austin, owner / crew chief) and the whole Austin / O'Brien team. I'm really, really happy. I couldn't have asked for a better team."



Now without further ado, I'll start the race coverage and there is a lot of it.

BUT FIRST, I'm compelled to respond to those who don't understand why I spend so much time and use so many photos publishing my coverage of major nostalgia events.

The answers are simple and to start, nobody else would.

(1) My site is "We Did It For Love" named so from my era, and if you look at the "prize money" afforded to today's nostalgia nitro racing, you have to be naïve to not see they are doing it for love as well.

(2) I choose to use over 3000 photos to make sure most every car gets their efforts recognized. Everyone seems to throw up a few shots of the favorite cars with little or no background and call it good. Magazines might use 5 to 20 photos (on the high side) and some do a good job of text reporting. Photos on Facebook, Twitter etc. are gone the next day but a website can be revisited time and again and never gets thrown in the recycle bin.

(3) I want my photographers to have a place to showcase their work. To show different angles and aspects of the many runs over a weekend. To show the crews in the background and the fun stuff that happens on the sidelines. To show the good, bad and ugly. To honor the winners. To afford today's "armature" racers the coverage that was impossible in my day.

That said, if any business would like to sponsor an event coverage, like this one, that gets thousands of views, I'm all ears.

Don Ewald

Now, once again, without further ado, we'll start the race coverage.




Funny Car Qualifying Session One

Friday, midday. let the games begin.


First pair, first session. Mike Halstead from Sonora, CA, driving the "Smokey’s Dark Side" '78 Challenger along side Matt Bynum out of Ypsianti MI, in the "Nitro Nick" '70 Camaro.




















Bynum comes right out of the box with a stout 5.695 at 260.76 while Halstead clocked a data gathering 6.182 at 236.01.






Pair two featured the points leader (at this time) Bobby Cottrell from Whittier CA, driving the Austin & O'Brien '69 Camaro. And, in the other lane was Brad Thompson from right up Hwy. 99 in Visalia, driving his “Jail Break” ‘70 Camaro.





Some of the funny car BUGs took full advantage of Halloween season donning some wild costumes like Jana Thompson and Heidi Austin-Root in this pair.


















HELLO! Out of the box Cottrell goes low for the day carding a 5.635 at 259.61.




Thompson clicked it early with damage carding a 6.079 at 210.54.









With some big numbers already on the board next out was Kris Krabill from Tacoma WA, in the seat of the Cascade Automotive '69 Camaro.

Sporting a new body after their March Meet kaboom was Stephen Densham from Oceanside CA, in the "Teachers Pet" '69 Camaro.















Densham nailed down another impressive number for the session, his 5.739 at 250.09 would land him #5 for the day. Krabill had an ET that didn't go with the mph carding a 5.910 at 243.99






Under sunny skies, next out was Ryan Hodgson down from Edmonton AB in the Pacemaker '69 Camaro. In the other lane was Billy Morris out of La Quinta, CA, in the repaired "Problem Child" '69 Camaro.














Hodgson stopped the clocks with a not great but good data gathering 5.816 at 248.84. Morris did a planned shut-off 12.71.








Up next was Cory Lee up from Oceanside, CA, in the Pedaler '79 Challenger along with Danny Gerber out of Orange CA, in the family "Wasn't Easy" '78 Trans AM.







Gerber went into near instant tire shake and clicked it.







Lee had a decent mph with a lame ET. His 6.012 at 244.12 was good for #15 at the end of the day.







Next pair matched second generation driver Justin Tayor of Anaheim, Ca, in the "Evil Wicked Mean & Nasty" '73 Mustang along side Jeff Arend who lives in La Verne, CA, driving the "California Hustler" '78 Firebird.




















At this point Arend was still in the championship hunt and his 5.776 at 252.05 didn't set him back. Taylor carded a career best 5.816 at 248.84 which cemented his shot at making the show.







Up next was Matt Melendez from Glen Ellen CA, in the seat of the "Cacklin' Critter" '70 Challenger paired with Jerry Espeseth from Yorba Linda CA, in the ex-Littlefield & Rupert '69 Camaro now named "Atlas".






















Melendez took a 5.795 at 235.89 slip back to the pits while Espeseth carded a baseline 5.94 at 236.92.






Next to last pair matched Dan Horan Jr. from Sylma,r CA, in his '69 Camaro along side Bill Windham from El Dorado Hills, CA,in his "Shakedown" '69 Camaro.

















Horan tripped the clocks with a 5.738 at 257.92 which would be good for #4 at the end of the day. Windham had a foreboding 6.43 at 221.28 which would define his weekend.





The final pair of flopper for Q1 featured Tony Jurado, Pleasanton CA, in his "Capital Punishment" '69 Camaro. In the other lane was versatile shoe James Day who hales from San Juan Capistrano CA, making his debut in the unique, badass and very orange "Speed Sport" '78 Dodge Omni.

















Day dropped damn near every jaw on the property with a maiden voyage time slip of 5.690 at 254.66 which was #2 for the day. Melendez went #11 with a 5.795 at 235.89.




NEXT: Top Fuel Qualifying Session 1




1: Funny Car Qualifying, Session 1

2: Top Fuel Qualifying Session 1

3: Funny Car Qualifying, Session 2

4: Top Fuel Session 2

5: Funny Car Qualifying, Session 3

6: Top Fuel Session 3

7: AA/FA Session 2

8: Funny Car Eliminations Round 1

9: Top Fuel Eliminations Rounds 1 & 2

10: Funny Car Eliminations Rounds 2 & 3

11: Final Rounds and Winners Circle

12: Other Cars - Pits N' Prople

Cacklefest & Honorees




Nostalgia Race Coverage like this and more importantly the drag racing history on WDIFL will cease sooner than later if racers and fans don't start supporting WDFIL again. Thanks, Don


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