Jason Rupert left Auto Club Famoso Raceway a year ago with his tail between his legs after making three quick runs in his Funny Car but having all three disqualified.
Mendy Fry left a Top Fuel win on the table in the the season opener seven months ago in the March Meet at Famoso.
Both were grinning ear-to-ear late Sunday afternoon after driving to victories in their respective categories at the 27th annual NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion.
For Rupert, a former Hot Rod Heritage Series champion, this race was redemption for a year ago when all three of his qualifying runs were disqualified.
There were some hiccups this time around, but come Sunday he clearly had the quickest Funny Car in the pits.
Ran Konno had perhaps the best race of his career as he worked his way to the finals against Rupert, but Rupert was in another zip code.
Konno got an edge off the starting line but that was it as Rupert sailed to low elapsed time of the meet at 5.634 seconds and 259.561 mph. Konno ran 5.85 at 241.84.
“After blowing all that stuff up last year this feels good,” said Rupert, who has bought a big show Funny Car and wants to race a handful of races on the NHRA Mellow Yellow circuit next year. “We did have some scary things happen, shaking the tires first round and the parachute coming out but we got it together and the car ran good.”
Rupert’s closest race came in the quarterfinals when his 5.653 edged the 5.656 of Matt Bynum. Rupert then beat Bobby Cottrell, 5.653 to 5.727 in the semis.
Konno, the No. 8 qualifier upset Jeff Arend in the semis in another razor-close race. Konno ran 5.912 to Arend’s 5.920.
Rupert would not say this was his last nostalgia race, but is going to concentrate on his new ride.
“You never know,” he said of being back for the March Meet. “If not, this is definitely the way to go out.”
For Fry, the victory caped an impressive championship season with the only non-win being her runner-up finish at the March Meet — where she had a huge lead but was disqualified for drifting over the center line.
“We did make quite a statement, didn’t we,” said Fry. “I think we set low ET every round.”
Number seven qualifier Rick McGee had a solid day to reach the final, beating Bill Williamson and Adam Sorokin but, like Rupert, Fry was in another zone.
McGee ran 5.74 at 256 mph but could only watch Fry pull away with a 5.61 at 259.36.
Fry mowed down her competition en route to the finals.
She started with a 5.582 blast at 258.24 to beat Tyler Hilton and was even better in the semis as she thundered to a 5.554 elapsed time at 261.62 mph, leaving Pete Wittenberg and his 6.153 effort in her wake.
The semifinal numbers were the quickest and fastest Fry has gone.
“We need to get quicker and faster,” she said. “Everybody’s going to catch up, that is the reality of this sport. We’ve got a big target on our backs and we can’t sit on our laurels.”
Two Bakersfield drivers also came away with victories — Roger Holder in Pro Mod and Val Miller in B/Gas.
Holder worked his way thorough Pro Mod field and beat No. 1 qualifier Ed Thornton (5.773) in an anticlimactic final. Thorton got out of shape right off the starting line while Holder had traction problems not much later with Holder’s 8.13 at 139 beating Thornton’s 9.13.
“We had a little luck go our way,” said Holder, who ran a string of 5.90s to reach the final. “We qualified 11th and somehow we worked our way through he field. It was a good day. We put it in the winner’s circle.”
It was also a good day for Val Miller, who came away with the B/Gas title in his first CHRR appearance.
I’m liking it,” said Miller who has a couple of March Meet wins and three runner-up finishes. “I’ve had other business commitments and waited 27 years to run it. I’m glad I took off.”
Miller had the race won as soon as he took the green light as his opponent broke and was a no show. He ran 8.55 at 161 in his 1971 Barracuda.
Larry Cook of Bakersfield was the only other local to reach the final as he was runner-up in D/Gas.