Can the 26th annual edition of the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion recapture some of the magic that slipped away during last year’s Silver Anniversary?

Well, the push-start Cacklefest is back and that’s a start.

The event at Auto Club Famoso Raceway has always blended nostalgia drag racing with reunion-type activities, stubbed its toe big time last year with a decision to eliminate the push-starting of recreated and restored front-engines “cackle” dragsters in front of the grandstands.

The move was made in the name of safety, since only a chain-link fence separated the cars from spectators, but it was not well communicated to spectators or participants.

That left a sour taste in both camps.

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Well, that quarter-mile stretch of fence, which fans pack three-to-four deep, is now protected by a guardrail and the cackle cars will once again be brought to life in front of the crowd, before turning onto the drag strip and stopping to idle, or rather “cackle” until the nitromethane fuel runs out.

That spectacle, set to begin around 6 p.m. on Saturday, will conclude two full days of racing, which will be highlighted by competition in Nostalgia Funny Car and front-engined Top Fuel dragster.

The fuel cars have two rounds of qualifying on Friday (11 a.m. and 3 p.m.) and another qualifying round on Saturday at noon before first-round action at 4 p.m.

In top Fuel, Jim Murphy and Mendy Fry are locked into a tight championship battle with Murphy just seven points up on Fry. Those two met earlier this year at the March Meet with Fry getting the victory as Murphy broke after his burnout.

March Meet Funny Car winner Ryan Hodgson, from Edmonton, Alberta, will be looking for a clean sweep this year at Famoso and to cap the season with a championship.

Both divisions will have three rounds of qualifying but the third round at noon on Saturday will have a bit of a twist for four drivers.

That will be the finals from the NightFire Nationals in Boise, which were not held due to rain.

Funny Car points leader Hodgson will square off against Jason Rupert in that final with Adam Sorkin facing Murphy in the Top Fuel final.

Top Fuel field will be an eight-car show.

The Funny Car field will feature 16 cars with a whopping 31 competitors expected to battle for a spot in the show.

Classic AA/Fuel Altereds also will be in competition along A/Fuel, Junior Fuel. 7.0 Pro. Nostalgia Eliminator and A/Gas.

Also taking to the quarter-mile for exhibition runs will be A/FX, AA/Gas, Super Stock, Sportsman and Geezer Gassers.

Kirby, Miller race to ANRA wins

Two Bakersfield drivers emerged victorious Sunday during the American Nostalgia Racing Association Fall Nationals at Auto Club Famoso Raceway

Mark Kirby used a better reaction time to get the win in Hot Rod, over Goleta’s Wayne Rich, covering the quarter mile in his ’73 Plymouth in 11.062 seconds. Paul Miller won E/Gas in his ’69 VW Bug, running 11.616 on an 11.60 index. He beat Wasco’s Josh Wagner, who ran too quick. Ken Christy of Bodfish was runner-up in C/Gas.

ANRA concludes its season Nov. 18-19 with the Season Finals, a make-up for the Spring Nationals, which were canceled due to excessive heat.

Mike Griffith can be reached at 661 395-7390. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeGriffith54.