Sometimes dreams do come true.
Just ask Bobby Cottrell.
Bucky Austin offered Cottrell the opportunity to drive his potent car after the March Meet and Cottrell jumped at the chance.
Cottrell capped a remarkable rookie campaign on Sunday afternoon by driving to the Nostalgia Funny Car victory in the 26th annual NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion at Auto Club Famoso Raceway. It was his sixth win.
“To have a win in Bakersfield oh man, it’s pretty special,” said Cottrell, 35, who also drove his own 7.0 Pro dragster and locked up the championship in that class.
Cottrell covered the quarter-mile in 5.670 seconds at 253.61 mph in the final, beating Matt Byrum, who ran 5.744 at 258.62.
“It kept on fighting me, trying to go to the guard rail but it all worked out,” Cottrell said of the final.
Cottrell started his march to the finals with the low elapsed time of the meet, thundering down the track in 5.52 seconds at 261.02 against Tim Nemeth, who smoked his tires right off the line in the quarterfinals.
Ryan Hodgson, who locked up the Hot Rod Heritage Series championship on Saturday, was no match for Cottrell in the semis. Cottrell ran 5.65 at just 237 to easily outdistance Hodgson’s 5.88 at 243.
“Man, Bucky’s got that thing tuned up,” Cottrell said. “When we went the .52 I left the starting line and got to 330 feet and kind of had to hold on to my (butt). It started motoring, especially when I went into high gear.”
The easy part was the driving, the real work was in the pits.
“We worked our butts off and to come back with the win is great,” he said. “We locked up the championship second round for 7.0 Pro but hurt a motor in the Funny Car and had to swap out motors. I didn’t have time to get back (to run the 7.0 semis). I told my crew I’m sorry, we’ve got the championship but I have to tend to the Funny Car.”
Next year Cottrell said he will not run the dragster.
“I’m going to put all my time into Bucky’s deal.” he said. “I’ve been wanting to run a nitro car since I was a young kid so I don’t want to end it before it starts.”
Byrum reached the finals by beating Steven Densham in the closest race of the day. Densham got the advantage off the line and Byrum got by right before the finish, running 5.741 at 258.81 to Densham’s 5.779 at 250.88. The margin of victory was .004.
In Top Fuel, Jim Young was the event winner as soon as he left the starting line as Jim Murphy hit the wall after his semifinal win and was not able to continue.
But NHRA allowed Adam Sorokin, who lost to Murphy, to line up beside Young in the final and the two had an old-fashioned grudge match.
Young ran an off-pace 6.31 at just 137 mph while Sorokin spun his tires right after leaving the starting line and coasted through in 14 seconds.
“We’re real happy, the crew did a great job,” said Young, who made the long haul from Wisconsin. “We had a little side bet going on with Champion (Sorokin’s team) in the final round. We were both trying to run a 5.50 each and both spun. That’s what happens. We would have played it a little differently if we had Murphy in the other lane.”
Murphy locked up the series championship in the semifinals when he powered past Sorokin with a with a 5.60 blast at 260 mph to Sorokin’s 5.72 at 241.
But Murphy’s engine blew in the lights sending up a billow of smoke while covering Murphy with oil. Unable to see, Murphy veered to the left, right behind Sorokin, then grazed the left guard wall.
The car was not badly damaged, but Murphy was not going to take a chance by running it. So he settled for the series title.
“I’ve won this race four or five times,” he said. “This is the second championship with NHRA but I won four with Goodguys, which was every bit as tough, if not tougher.”
Mendy Fry, who saw her championship hopes washed away with Murphy’s win, was late off the starting line in the semifinal against Young and as it turned out that cost her a CHRR win. Fry ran a quicker 5.638 at 260.95 but Young’s advantage off the starting line was too much and his slightly slower 5.653 at 261.98 was good enough for the win.
“We’ve been running really good, we just haven’t been able to seal the deal at any our races (in the Midwest),” Young said of why he made the long tow. “We had low qualifier and top speed at every event we went to. The car was running good so everyone teamed up, put money in a pool and we made it out here. We’re real happy. I can’t thank everybody enough.”
Nick David won the AA/Fuel Altered class; Jeremy Hanger won Pro Mod and Gary Relnero won AA/Gas.
Other winners were: Kin Bates (A/Fuel); John Marottek (Junior Fuel); Pete Peterson (7.0 Pro); Lloyd Harder (Nostalgia Eliminator I); Terry Newton (A/Gas); Bob Moreland (A/FX) and Bob Tingler (Nostalgia Super Stock).