Jim Young swung for the fence and burned up some parts; Adam Sorokin made the show on his last-gasp bid and four-time March Meet winner Jim Murphy failed to qualify for Sunday’s Top Fuel Show at the 27th annual California Hot Rod Reunion.
It was another long day of racing at Auto Club Famoso Raceway that dragged on well into the evening, thanks in part to a significant amount of oil being spewed onto the quarter-mile racing surface requiring lots of down time for clean up duties.
At least the Top Fuel crews got an early start, relatively speaking, on post-race maintenance Saturday night.
The first round of Funny Car was supposed to start around 4:30 p.m. but the first car did not light its engine until 7:25 p.m. It went clean and quick, finishing at 7:47 p.m.
But that was hardly the end of the night.
The grandstands, which were full throughout the day, remained packed awaiting the Cacklefest. Nearly 40 restored and recreated dragster from the early days of racing were push-started to life in front of the grandstands before turning onto the track and parking there and idling, or cackling, for several minutes.
At 8:49 p.m., nearly 13 hours after the first race car roared down the track, the cackling died, bringing and end to the day and night.
In Top Fuel, Mendy Fry ran a 5.592 in her first qualifying effort on Saturday and that held up as she heads into Sunday’s race as the No. 1 qualifier.
“That’s the third .59 I’ve run in this car, but the other ones were out the back door (on the throttle all the way to the finish),” she said. “This one was to 1,000 feet.”
That means there could be a bit more left in the High Speed Motorsports car, but she wasn’t about to push the issue on her late qualifying run, easing down the track in 5.83 seconds.
“It’s been a great season,” said Fry, who had the championship clinched before this event. “But it’s be really great to win the race, too.”
Young had run 5.66s on two previous qualifying runs with no parts damage and prior to the last run said he said he was looking to take the top qualifying spot.
He ran 5.66 again, but this time burned up some parts in process.
Sorokin, who won this race in 2013, saved his best effort for last running 5.72 to get into the show as the sixth seed in the eight-car field. He will face Bret Williamson, who ran 5.66 on his final qualifying attempt to take the third seed.
Murphy, who was last year’s runner-up, struggled all weekend and his final run of 5.98 was not good enough to make the show.
The first round of Funny Car qualifying featured a huge upset as No. 1 qualifier Steven Densham lost his race before it even started. Densham jumped the start by two-tenths of a second, drawing the big red light which immediately gave the win to No. 16 qualifier Geoff Monise.
Dan Moran, the No. 2 qualifier, beat Bill Windham in a pedal-fest as both drivers had to get in and out of the throttle and Brad Thompson made his best run of the weekend (5.74) to upset John Hale.
Matt Bynum, the No. 3 qualifier, had the win before he left the starting line and ran 5.76 as his opponent Tim Nemeth drew the red light.
Rian Konno’s 5.83 beat the 5.86 of Matt Melendez in the best race of the night and Jeff Arend (5.68) and Jason Rupert (5.63) had the best runs in their wins.
In fact, Rupert’s is the low elapsed time of the meet and he went through the timing lights with the parachutes out.
“I shut it off early, it’s almost like something in the drive train broke,” said a perplexed Rupert of what happened as he approached the finish line. “I may have instinctively pulled the chutes. It was on a run. It carried the front wheels past half track and was thinking this is fun, but don’t come up any more.”
Rupert will face Bynum in one of Sunday’s quarterfinal matchups.
“We sat there (in the staging lanes) so long that by the time we ran we did;t know what to expect,” Bynum said. “When Hodgson red lit I just drove it down to about 1,000 feet and shut it off, there was no reason to push it.”