Mendy Fry finished pouring fuel into the High Speed Motorsports Top Fuel dragster, looked up and smiled.
And why not?
Life is good right now for Fry, especially when she straps into the front-motored dragster that propelled her to the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series championship last season.
“Last year year did not suck,” said Fry with a laugh during a test session at Auto Club Famoso Raceway on Feb. 23. “We only lost one round of racing all year, that was when I happened to take some cones out in the March Meet in the final.
“This is obviously a first for me. I’m now a champion and this is a championship team. I hoped, but I never dreamed, it could happen.”
Fry will be looking to come away with a victory at this year’s Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet, which begins it’s four-day run on Thursday. She'll also be seeking her second straight championship.
This will be the 61st running of the annual March Meet, with more than 20,000 fans expected during the four-day event, according to Auto Club Famoso Media Relations Representative Kleet Norris.
Fry has been involved in drag racing for decades and has competed in both Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters in nostalgia events. But the High Speed team is by far the best she’s driven for.
“Bring it,” she said of having a target on her back now. “I’d rather it be that way than the other way. I’ve been on the other side a long time.”
Among those looking to make Fry’s reign a short one are four-time March Meet winner Jim Murphy and one-time winner Adam Sorokin.
Both were beaten by Fry at last year’s March Meet, Sorokin in the first round and Murphy in the second. Sorokin lost in the semis at the California Hot Rod Reunion, where Murphy failed to qualify.
“It’s tough and it’s getting tougher each year (to win),” said Sorokin. “There isn’t anybody who doesn’t run well. That High Speed is the car to beat right now.”
Sorokin’s Champion Speed Shop team is unique in the design of the dragster (Sorokin sits in an enclosed cockpit) and the motor — based on a small-block Chevy.
In a world of big hemis, the small-block basically runs out of oomph before the end of the quarter mile and quite often attempts to devour itself.
“We’re just trying to go as quick as we can,” Sorokin said. “A lot of thought went into the off season as to what we’re doing, trying to keep it cool so it can go further down the track.
“Our key to trying to win this race is just getting to half track before anybody else can and letting (the motor) live. The rest is luck. We have to maximize the starting line into the upper increment of the run. If we’re doing what we’re doing right now we’re going to be happy.”
Sorokin and his team were certainly happy Sunday at Famoso as they ran through quarter-mile in 5.63 seconds at just 222 mph. The eighth-mile was a strong 3.70 seconds and 212 mph.
Murphy did not run full time last season and was contemplating retirement after the California Hot Rod Reunion in October, but has returned ready for a full season.
“You can’t be too smart and be a drag racer, I’m talking about myself,” Murphy said with a chuckle as to why he still competes. “It’s so challenging. I love it.”
Murphy said he made some changes during the winter such as a new fuel system as well as taking some weight off — both the car and his body.
“Your keep trying stuff,” he said. “Everybody experiments, then you hit on something that gives you a little advantage. If you can hang on to it, that’s good.
“We had it a number of years. Then you get lost and you’ve got to find it again.”
More than 500 drivers in five supercharged nitromethane classes — Funny Car, Funny Car 5.90, Top Fuel, Rear-Engine Top Fuel and Fuel Altered — as well as 12 other classes will be trying to find the winning combination this weekend.
Bakersfield Speedway will be in action on Saturday night. IMCA Modifieds, Mod Lights, Mini Stocks and NMRA Three-Quarter Midgets will be in action on the third-mile clay oval. Mini Dwarfs wil take to the new-configured eighth-mile oval. Racing starts at 7.