Well, I did it. 2014 was the first time I ventured to all three of NHRA's Hot Rod Reunions. I first went to Beech Bend, Kentucky in June, then Epping, New Hampshire in September, and finally Bakersfield, California in October. You may be wondering, out of all of them, which one is the best of the bunch. If you enjoy that old race track feeling and hundreds of classic street rods, then Beech Bend is the place for you. Epping, New Hampshire, a new event in the line-up, is still growing and has that small but mighty feel to it. The California event is the Granddaddy of all the reunions as it hosts a ton of race cars and over 50 cackle cars at the Saturday night Cacklefest. If drag racing star gazing is your pleasure then Bakersfield is the place for you. Wandering around the event, I bumped into Don Prudhomme, Tom McEwen, Ed McCullough, Alison Lee, Carl Olson, Tom Hoover, Mike Kuhl, Berry Brothers & Hughes, Bill Tidwell, Mike Dunn, Sid Waterman, Ronnie Hampshire, Nelson Carter, Kenny Hirata, Phil Hobbs, Cecil Yother, Dale Emery, Waterbed Fred Miller, "Rocketman" John Paxson, Glen Way, Roland Leong, Gary Cochran, Jerry Clayton, John "Tarzan" Austin, Kenny Logan, TV Tommy Ivo and many more. What a trip down memory lane!
The retro funny car class attended in force at Bakersfield with over thirty cars attempting to make the sixteen car field. When the smoke, nitro fumes, and flying funny car bodies subsided, Dan Horan, Jr. outran Texan John Hale for the funny car gold. Horan, Jr. also captured the overall crown in the Nostalgia Funny Car Championship. Top Fuel was a bit anti-climatic because the Bartone Brothers with Tony Bartone at the controls wrapped up the Top Fuel title in Epping, New Hampshire. Still, the Bartone's made the tow to Bakersfield, California, to prove that they are the team to beat in Nostalgia Top Fuel racing in 2014. Bartone marched through the field at Bakersfield and won Top Fuel Eliminator. For me the show within the show at CHRR was the AA/FA's. Pure Hell, the Winged Express, Pure Heaven, The Rat Trap, Randy Bradford and towing from New England was the Mr. Boston AA/FA Fiat with California's Howard Haight at the controls. These guys put on one heck of a show with smoky burnouts and side by side racing.
For twenty-three years Bakersfield has hosted the CHRR and it gets bigger and better every year. It is sort of ironic that the reunion has lasted longer than Lions Drag Strip, Irwindale and OCIR. Anyway, if you have a chance to find yourself in California in October, come out to Bakersfield, California. It is drag racing deja vu in a great way.
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trip from the Northeast to race at the 23rd Annual California Hot Rod Reunion.
These guys put on a great side by side show on Saturday and Sunday.
This car is a great replica of Marvin Schwartz's Top Fuel car of the late 1960's.
and gave Bartone the Top Fuel Eliminator victory. Bartone had already won the overall
Nostalgia Top Fuel title at Epping, New Hampshire. The Bartone Brothers win at CHRR was
just a great way to end a great year in Top Fuel for the Jersey Boys.
Bill Corbett did a masterful job of restoring the Fiat for the Cacklefest.
The car was formerly owned by Jim Miles.
the 23rd California Hot Rod Reunion.
At one time this car was the fastest in all of drag acing at 166 m.p.h. in 1957.
Channel 23 reporter on Saturday morning. It was a live feed and Channel 23
viewers were able to see and hear a Top Fuel cackle first hand.
Dan Horan, Jr. took on last year's funny car winner John Hale.
Horan, Jr. not only won this race but also won the overall Nostalgia
Funny Car Championship dethroning Jason Rupert.
The first three to light up and cackle were Roger Garten in the Tocco and Harper AA/FA,
The Mr. C AA/MFR and the very cool Bobby Langley Scorpion AA/FD.
Here the New England based Mr. Boston Fiat with Howard Haight
driving put Mike Boyd driving the Winged Express on the trailer.
To the crowds delight the Fiat carried the front wheels about 400 feet.
Haight never lifted on the throttle as the wheels returned to earth and the Fiat headed for the finish-line.
outer limits of the Bakersfield sky. AFXer's were fun to watch.
with the same results. Ryan Hope in Pure Hell beat his dad Ron Hope in the Rat Trap.
Jack Gillett restored this sidewinder to its glory days of racing.
Gillett made the components of the sidewinder by hand.
The late Jack Chrisman must be looking down with a big smile and liking his former ride.
However, Bartone prevailed and went on to defeat the red-lighting Neal & White in the final.
I spoke to John "Tarzan" Austin, Ivo's former crew chief about the trailer.
He and Ivo built the trailer in front of Ivo's mom's house from the ground up.
One interesting fact about the trailer is that the windows are regular glass, not plexiglass.
Austin said Ivo was too cheap to use plexiglass.
With all the touring, the trailer never broke any of the glass.
Don is one of the cornerstone's in Southern California Top Fuel racing.
He not only owns and drives his car but is also a published writer.
He escaped a hospital stay to come and cackle his Hustler VI Top Fuel car.
Next to the Garlits AA/FD is the Medor's family owned Speed Sport Roadster.
Behind them is the almost finished Beebe Brothers and Sixt AA/FD.
ever to speed down the quarter-mile. The NorCal based car had artist/painter
Eric Reyes (no relation to me) at the controls of the beautifully restored roadster.