Twenty-one years after the first NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion was staged at Auto Club Famoso Raceway, the nostalgic event remains true to its roots: paying homage to the “golden years” of drag racing by honoring those who made it happen.
And how better to honor such legends as “TV Tommy” Ivo, (grand marshal) and honorees brothers Bob and Jim Brissette; Gary and Jerry Mallicoat and Jim Nicoll, Marv Ripes, and Ed Sigmon than by basically throwing a party and tossing in some good old-fashioned drag racing?
Add a huge swap meet, a manufacturer’s midway, dozens and dozens of restored or recreated drag cars from the early days of drag racing, a car show and plenty of nitro and one ends up with a three-day party.
Actually four, if pre-race festivities tonight are counted.
The actual events runs Friday through Sunday at Famoso. The NAPA kickoff party, a sort of appetizer, takes place tonight starting at 6 in the parking lot of the Roadhouse Grill, 8490 Rosedale Hwy. The kickoff party features a car show along with some race cars on display.
Action at the track begins at 8:30 a.m. Friday and heavy amounts of nitro fumes and tire smoke should be drifting over the track around 1 p.m. as the first round of qualifying for front-engined Top Fuel dragsters and nostalgia Funny Cars gets under way.
The vintage-appearing Funny Cars (think ’69 Camaro, ’77 Arrow, ’65 Mustang and ’69 GTO) have become the rage in nostalgia racing. They made their first appearance at the event in 2006 with a handful of cars competing in a Chicago-style shootout. Upwards of 30 cars are expected to be in the pits Friday, looking for a spot in a 16-car field.
The number of front-motored Top Fuel cars, also known as AA/Fuelers, has waned a bit as interest in Funny Cars escalated, but at least 15 of them are expected to be on hand.
The biggest party of the weekend is the Honoree Reception on Friday night at the DoubleTree Hotel, 3100 Camino Del Rio Ct., starting at 7. Free to the public, the reception is held indoors, but the fun spills over to the parking lot where hots rods and dragsters will be on display and are sure to be fired up a time or two.
The fuel cars have their second round of qualifying at noon Saturday to set the fields with the first-round of elimination set to begin at 3:30.
The Honoree Presentation and Twilight Memorial is set for 5:30 p.m. with the immensely popular cacklefest to follow. The cacklefest is a tribute to the old days as the restored and recreated dragsters are push-started in front of the grandstands, make the turn onto the drag strip, and then idle, or cackle, on the drag strip.
Eliminations begin again Sunday at 11:30 a.m., with finals set for 4:30 p.m.
Admission is $25 daily with kids 15 and under free with a paid adult. Those with military ID get free admission.
Local racing notes
Derek Thorn of Bakersfield continued his domination in the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series, notching his sixth win of the season in Saturday’s race at Roseville All-American Speedway. Thorn led the final 10 laps of the 125-lap race. Jim Pettit II was second and M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park third. Thorn holds a 59-point lead over Pettit with only the Nov. 17 race in Las Vegas remaining. Thorn needs to finish 14th or better to secure the championship.
Three Bakersfield drivers finished in the top 10 of the K&N Pro Series Race at Roseville All-American Speedway on Saturday. David Mayhew was third; Thorn fourth and rookie Dallas Montes, in just his second outing, was eighth. Dylan Kwaniewski was the winner, with Eric Holmes second.
Bakersfield’s Ryan Reed will be competing in the final ARCA race of the season Saturday at Kansas Speedway (Speed TV, 5:30 p.m.). Reed competed in 13 of the first 14 races and is 13th in points despite missing five starts.