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Wed, 7 Oct 2009, 05:08 PM

Tribute to Joe Pisano
Courtesy of Darr Hawthorne


Even on his weekend off from NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing, reining Funny Car Champion Cruz Pedregon has a need for quarter mile competition and he'll be on the 1320 October 16-18 at Auto Club Famoso Raceway during the 18th California Hot Rod Reunion. The two-time NHRA Funny Car champion is calling this trip to the west coast a "Tribute to Joe Pisano" and will debut his 1978 Plymouth Arrow nostalgia Nitro Funny Car for the first time at the prestigious annual event.

Pisano, a drag racer and racing aftermarket pioneer, was instrumental in the careers of many drag racers and especially in the life of Pedregon. Joe P. as friends and competitors knew him, passed away in 1991. He helped Cruz in his early racing career and in fact introduced him to veteran top fuel and funny car team owner Larry Minor. In 1992, Pedregon won his first NHRA Funny Car Championship in a McDonald's-sponsored Funny Car owned by Minor. Pedregon looked at this as an opportunity to pay a tribute to his longtime friend by asking Joe's brother, Frank, if he could paint his nostalgia Funny Car similarly to one that Pisano raced in the late 70s. Hot Rod Reunion founder Steve Gibbs wanted to provide a place for racing friends to gather and share their stories shortly after the death of Joe Pisano.

As an added bonus, Pedregon enlisted the help of Danny Pisano, nephew of Joe Pisano, who campaigns the Pisano & Matsubara 1974 Chevrolet Vega-bodied nostalgia Nitro Funny Car to join in this "Tribute to Joe Pisano." Both cars will be part of the Cacklefest that officially kicks off the Honorees Ceremony at the Double Tree Hotel in Bakersfield on Friday night, October 16th. Both floppers will fire-up as the first leg of this tribute. Then on Saturday, plans call for both cars to line up together on the legendary Famoso Raceway starting line for the first session of side-by-side qualifying for Funny Car Eliminator.

Cruz Pedregon is a two-time and reining NHRA Funny Car champion and was the Grand Marshal of fabled March Meet earlier this year. Auto Club Famoso Raceway is also an important part of the Pedregon family's history. It's where Cruz earned his NHRA competition license and is the same track his father "Flamin? Frank" Pedregon raced in the 1960s and his brother, Tony, also a two-time NHRA Funny Car champion earned his NHRA competition license.

Veteran Nitro Tuner Donnie Couch is racing against the clock to finish Pedregon's nostalgia Nitro Funny Car in his southern California shop to make the 18th California Hot Rod Reunion. The engine he's building is a 426 cubic-inch TFX block with BAE cylinder heads and a PSI supercharger. Couch is using Venolia Pistons on BME Rods with a Winberg Crankshaft, Mahle Rings, Clevite Bearings, Manton Pushrods and Lucas Oil. The vintage Steve Plueger chassis is supported by a Strange Engineering rear, Lenco Transmission, Good Vibrations Motorsports, Impact Safety Belts and DJ Safety blankets.

The 18th annual California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, Oct. 16-18, at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., is a three-day festival of speed, hot rods and American automotive enthusiasm. It's also the season-finale of the NHRA's Hot Rod Heritage nostalgia drag racing series.

Unique among motorsports events, the Reunion honors some of the top names in hot rodding from the past and features a fabulous array of cool drag cars, street rods and customs of the historic and present-day hot rod eras.

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