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Noble, Oklahoma's Heartland Hot Rod Reunion, held at Thunder Valley Raceway, is an absolute "must see" event during the course of the racing season. The event features a Friday night reunion gathering of drag racing legends; Saturday & Sunday, vintage Top Fuel dragsters, the Texas Outlaw Fuel Altered circuit, Jr. Fuel and Gassers. The highlight of the event, is the Saturday evening "winner take all" Top Fuel Shootout...the top qualifier from each qualifying round pair off in a finale, for a purse which is purely built on donations from enthusiasts of vintage front engine fuelers, and has fast become the largest qualifying payout of any nostalgia event held.

Qualifying kicks off at dusk, and I have to tell you, you haven't lived until you've seen a front engine fueler run under the lights, not too mention at 2:30 in the morning!

This was my first visit to the event, and like similar gatherings, I can't wait to go back for more!  I'll now take you on a photo recap of the event captured by Mark Hovsepian and myself. Enjoy!-Dawn

"I Wanna Be A Cowboy"...Normally "reserved" Bob McLennan came armed and ready for the Shootout Final, complete with holstered piston and 6 spark plugs. The homemade get-up must have served as a good luck charm, as Rance McDaniel was able to put Mike Boyd away in the final. The effort earned the South City team the largest purse in nostalgia racing history...a completely donated sum of $4500.00!

Mark Hovsepian Photo

Mark Hovsepian Photo

"Good Times, Bad Times"...Recent Indy Goodguys Top Fuel "B" main winner, Fred Bach, posted a very respectable 6.40 during Saturday's first qualifying session, before slingin' a few rods out of the belly of the Ford Cammer entry during the final qualifying round. Although qualified for Sunday's program, the "Bach & Gould" team was unable to make the first round call.
"I fought the law, and the law won"...Howard Farris qualified his "No Fear" AA/FA in the third spot, with a 6.76. Farris made it to the final round of the Texas Outlaw Fuel Altered program, but was disposed of by Burl Brown and his "Texas Justice" entry.

Dawn Mazi Photo

Dawn Mazi Photo

"Double Vision"...Many folks may have noticed this masked man strapped into two separate rides during the HHRR. Mike Boyd served as chauffeur to two of the hippest nitro burpers on the property, ripping off a career best 6.21 in the Mastercam Top Fuel dragster, and then "camp jumping" over to the Marcellus/Borsch/Boyd "Winged Express" Fuel Altered for some exhibitions runs.
"And the crowd goes wild"...for Olin Davis! Good 'Ol Olin guides Jr. Fuel driver Charlie Smith into the staging lights, prior to the final round. Smith went on to win the event over Mark Clarke, and like previous round wins, the crowd chanted their appreciation to the crew with, "Olin! Olin! Olin! Olin!"

Mark Hovsepian Photo

Dawn Mazi Photo

"Texas Hold 'Em"...The Texas Outlaw Fuel Altered circuit has their own "Sheriff", as Burl Brown trumped the entire field in his "Texas Justice" Altered. Brown qualified on top of the show with a 6.30/216.76, and went on to defeat Bobby Marriott, Jerry Williams, and Howard Farris for the title, with consistent 6.30s.

"Eye Of The Tiger"...Denver Schutz, driving Jim Cullen's/Dale Emery tuned fueler, gives a final tug on his safety harness prior to the opening round of eliminations. Schutz qualified fifth in the Top Fuel program, but lost to eventual runner-up, Troy Green, in the first round.

Dawn Mazi Photo

Dawn Mazi Photo

"Always a bridesmaid, never a bride"...Troy Green qualified third in the Top Fuel program with a 6.32 effort, made it to the final round for the second year in a row, but came up short yet again, as he red-lighted away a 6.31 against Roger Lechtenberg's 6.31! Maybe next year, Troy!
"Shot Down In Flames"...Joe Hendricks qualified his fueler in the sixth spot of the Top Fuel program, with a 7.25. Hendricks upset Rance McDaniel in the opening round, but was defeated in the semi finals by eventual runner up, Troy Green.

Dawn Mazi Photo

Dawn Mazi Photo

"Candy Apple Blue"...Kent "Thrash Biscuit" Terry enjoyed his weekend at the HHRR. Terry qualified fourth in the Top Fuel program with a 6.54, and lasted until the semi final round.
"Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"...Claudie "Leg It & Duck" Meador, who has been absent from the nostalgia scene for over a year, returned to Thunder Valley Raceway in hopes of winning the HHRR. Meador's vision of this goal was clouded over in the opening round though, as the motor blew an intake gasket at the hit of the throttle.

Dawn Mazi Photo

Mark Hovsepian Photo

"Fire On High"...Jon Barrett put on a nice show for the fans Saturday evening. Barrett qualified eighth in the program with an 8.30, but was unable to make Sunday's first round call.
"Pretty In Pink"..."I had a towel in the cockpit before we started the car to get the sweat out of my eyes, but I forgot to give it back to a crew member. As I got to about the 1000' mark, all of a sudden the world turned pink (the color of the towel). So I reached up, caught it, and tried to shove it between my legs. I thought the problem was solved, however, just as I crossed the finish line, here it comes again. So once again I caught it, shoved it between my legs, and then pulled the chute (a bit late)." -Jr. Fuel semi-finalist, Robert Donovan.

Mark Hovsepian Photo

Mark Hovsepian Photo

"Tangled Up In Blue"...Top Fuel tough guy, Kent "Thrash Biscuit" Terry, was able to stop his potent fueler despite having the laundry crossed up. Terry was stopped in the semi final by the red bulb, handing eventual winner Lechtenberg the round win.
"High Voltage"...Bobby Marriott qualified his gorgeous "Shockwave" Altered in the sixth spot of the Fuel Altered program, with a 6.99. Marriott was zapped in the first round though, as opponent and eventual winner Burl Brown used a 6.35 to dispose of Marriott's 7.07.

Mark Hovsepian Photo

Mark Hovsepian Photo

A flurry of activity in the "Champion Speed Shop" pit area.  The mood was all business, even though the clock had long since passed the stroke of midnight. The race track is wonderfully situated in a valley, and surrounded by farmland and a cemetery.  Someone said that it's doubtful that any of the occupants at the cemetery would be awakened by the noise of two thundering top fuelers at 2 A.M., to which Al "Mousie" Marcellus responded, "It's never woken Willie up."
"Dark Side of the Moon"....1:30 A.M. in the Mastercam pit area. A scene which has become the "norm" this year for the Mastercam bunch, as Walt "Thumbs" Stevens (near trailer door) keeps a close eye on the rest of the crew, as they complete another motor rebuild prior to the "Shootout" final.

Mark Hovsepian Photo

Dawn Mazi Photo

"Read my lips."...Okay, so when verbal communication between drivers and crew are hindered by helmet clad drivers, hand signals are often simple and universal. Here, Rance McDaniel gives a "reminder cue" to one of the "Champion Speed Shop" crew members prior to firing the motor during the first round of eliminations...
...while eventual Jr. Fuel runner-up Mark Clarke, displays a solitary moment of triumph in the shut down area, with a "thumbs up" for his first round win.

Mark Hovsepian Photo

Mark Hovsepian Photo

"Celebration"...The Champion Speed Shop crew celebrates victory in the wee hours of the morning after winning the Shootout. The glory faded faster than pink sidewalk chalk during a rainstorm though, as driver Rance McDaniel fell victim to tire slippage during the first round of Sunday's eliminations.
"Radar Love"...For the second year in a row, Roger "Radar" Lechtenberg took top honors at the HHRR.  Shown here during qualifying on Saturday night, the "Orange Crate" team has become a real threat in the nostalgia Top Fuel playground.

Mark Hovsepian Photo

Dawn Mazi Photo

"Happy Trails"...There isn't a nostalgia event on the planet that would be complete without an appearance by the "Winged Express" team of Marcellus/Borsch/Boyd. Multi-tasking shoe, Mike Boyd, lays down another crowd pleasing burnout...
...launches the short wheel-based altered to another beautiful run...

Dawn Mazi Photo

Mark Hovsepian Photo

...before coasting to a stop at the top end.

M & H Photography -All text, photos, graphics, artwork and other contributed material within the Combustion Chamber  are copyrighted and may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without express written consent.