Without a doubt, variety has long been a staple of drag racing.
Everyone seems to have their own take on what should be done with a car before it hits the strip and it’s safe to say that among the 500 cars in the Auto Club Famoso Raceway pits for the 60th running of the Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet that no two are alike.
Some, however, are more popular than others and there are endless takes on the very popular Novas and Camaros in a variety of classes.
Stepping a bit out of the box is Bakersfield’s Roger Stalnaker, 64, who is driving a ’65 Corvair in the B/Gas class, which runs on an 8.60-second index.
“As you can see, there’s all kinds of Novas, Vegas and Camaros so I just wanted something that was different and we built this from the ground up,” Stalnaker said before making a qualifying run late Thursday morning. “We’ve been running this particular car for about seven years. We had a partner we started with. He wanted to run the March Meet. He had open heart surgery and didn’t make it. Anyway, it’s in his memory.”
Of course, the Corvair, which is powered by an injected small block Chevrolet sitting in front of the driver, is far from stock. Other than the body.
“We bought two cars out in the desert and just built a chassis and started mounting the body on it,” Stalnaker said. “It’s all steel except for the hood, it’s fiberglass. The rest is all steel, original.
“It’s a lot of fun to drive. I’ve got the wing on the back cause Ralph Nadar said it was unsafe at any speed so I made it safe at 160 miles an hour.”
While racing may be fun at any event, the March Meet magnifies the experience.
“It’s my favorite race all year,” said Meghan Gorman of Bakersfield, who drives a ’67 Camaro in the C/Gas (9.60-second index) class. “It’s just because the March Meet is a circus and it’s great. I haven’t missed one since 2000.”
Gorman, 27, was instantly hooked on drag racing when, on advice of American Nostalgia Racing Association promoter Butch Hedrick, she took her 1975 S10 out to a test and tune event at Famoso when she was 18.
Now she competes in a variety of events with her dad, Tom, who currently races an 1964 El Camino in D/Gas (10.60-second index).
“I definitey have a deep affection for (drag racing), I cannot deny that at all,” she said. “(Dad) goes along with it, he’s cool about it.”
Bakersfield’s Val Miller, 65, started competing in the 1970s and currently campaigns a 1971 Cuda in the B/Gas class.
Miller said just seeing all the different cars is a highlight of the March Meet.
“There’s every kind of car, from slow to fast,” he said. “You see cars that ran out here in the ’60s. You don’t see that at National Events. And then the people. The people are funny.”
Miller has yet to win the March Meet, but he’s been runner-up three times, the last in 2016.
“I personally think B/Gas is the toughest class out here, I really do,” he said. “If you’re not on both ends of this track (reaction time and as close to 8.60 as possible) you’re not going to win this this thing. It’s fun, though.”
Like a lot of racers at the March Meet, Keith Morovich of Bakersfield started in a lower class and worked his way up the ladder.
This year he enters his sixth year of competition in the A/Gas class, which is run on a 7.60-second index with speeds upwards of 180 mph.
And yep, he drives a Nova.
"When I started out (in Super Street) I had a ’69 Camaro, then I had a Chevy II. I always wanted a Nova,” he said.
Morovich won the 2015 March Meet and also drove to victory at the California Hot rod Reunion.
“You need consistency,” he said of working a way through a large field of competitors to get into Victory Lane. “You’ve got to be good on the lights and keep honing your skills at running 7.60.”