Jason Rupert got a win Saturday afternoon at Auto Club Famoso Raceway, but he was the biggest loser of the day at the California Hot Rod Reunion.
Rupert squared off against Ryan Hodgson in the final Funny Car qualifying pair which also served as the rain-delayed final from Boise, Ida..
Rupert thundered down the quarter-mile and and got the win light, going 5.65 at 248.43 mph to beat Hodgson’s 5.70 at 255.
But, as was the case on two qualifying runs on Friday, Rupert’s engine blew at the finish line, coating the track with oil. Per NHRA rules, any competitor whose car causes the track to roll clean-up equipment during a qualifying attempt, has that time and speed disallowed.
Thus Rupert, who won this race last year, was not around for Saturday evening’s first round of competition.
Yet, since the qualifying attempt was also serving as an elimination round, the time and speed did count for that, so he is the Boise winner.
Rupert ran 5.56 and 5.66 on Friday and any of his three qualifying runs (if they had not been disallowed) would have put him in the top three spots in the quickest 16-car field in nostalgia Funny Car history.
Rupert entered the race with a shot at catching Hodgson and coming away with the Hot Rod Heritage Series championship, but Hodgson clinched the title when Rupert failed to make the field.
“I’ve got something weird going on and I can’t figure it out,” Rupert said. “The thing gets down to about 1,000 feet and it runs out of fuel. It kicked the rod out all three times. This last time was a brand new engine.
“It’s depressing. Really depressing. I’ve got to figure out how to pay for all of this now. Even if we were allowed to run we couldn’t. We’re out of parts.”
Bobby Cottrell led the field in qualifying at 5.563 seconds and Don Hudson at 5.839 was the final qualifier. Last year’s field ranged from 5.605 to 5.875.
Eliminations started just as the sun set and Cottrell remained consistent, running a 5.58 to easily advance to today’s quarterfinals.
No 2. qualifier Dan Horan was upset as he smoked his tires at the hit of the throttle and was beaten by No. 15 qualifier Ryan Konno, who ran 5.85. The round ended with Mark Sanders getting a win light but being disqualified for hitting the 1,000-foot timing cone, thus giving the win to Steven Denham, who had already shut off and was far behind.
The final round of Top Fuel qualifying also featured the final from Boise, with series points leader Jim Murphy taking on Adam Sorokin.
Sorokin got his usual quick launch in his small-block Chevy dragster, but Murphy caught him just at the lights, as he set low elapsed time at 5.65 seconds. Sorokin ran 5.73 but due to his better reaction time, Murphy’s victory was by a scant .009.
“It shook pretty good from about 200 feet to 500 feet and slowed it down, then it really took off,” Murphy said. “I just got him right at the end. It was a great race.”
It also made Murphy the No. 1 qualifier and extended his points lead over No. 2 qualifier Mendy Fry by 28 points. Each round win is worth 20 points.
Fry ran 5.66 in the early Saturday session and Jim Young laid down a 5.67 late Saturday afternoon to grab the No. 3 spot in the eight-car field.
The night ended with the “Cacklefest” with around 50 recreated or restored front-engined dragsters being pushed to a start in front of the fans as they did back in the 1960s. Those dragsters then turned down the drag strip, parked and idled, creating a cackle that eventually faded away as they all shut off.