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October 1-3, Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA-The 13th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion returned to Famoso Raceway in a most fashionable way, as fans were treated to three beautiful days of racing, while racers and event honorees basked in their achievements.  This year's Reunion featured Grand Marshal Paula Murphy, and Honorees receiving Lifetime Achievement Awards, The 'Frantic Four' Team of Norman Weekly, Ron Rivero, Dennis Holding and Jim Fox, hot rod cartoonist Tom Medley, Joe Mondello, Amos Saterlee, and good friend "Wild Bill" Alexander.  

The trackside action was plentiful, as many firsts were achieved during the course of the weekend.  Most notable was the first '5' turned in by a woman behind the wheel of a front engine fuel dragster, that of course being Mendy Fry.  On her one and only pass of the weekend, Fry prompted many jaws to hit the ground with a stellar 5.87 e.t. at 251.32 mph!  Fellow Top Fuel competitors Scott Mason and Sean Bellemeur also scored their first 'nickel' with a 5.989 and 5.999, respectively.  By comparison, the top half of the Top Fuel show featured seven entries in the fives (six of which were in the 5.80 zone!), while only four accomplished that in 2003.  And for those of you who enjoy more interesting notes, the 2000 - 2002 fields featured only one, Rance McDaniel (2000) and Gerry Steiner (2001-2002).  Scoring the biggest and most overdue win of the weekend was the 'Razmataz' Top Fuel team led by Rick McGee.  McGee proved that he didn't have to have the quickest or fastest ride to man-handle the stout field of competitors, just the most consistent.  Also worth noting is the 219.08 speed turned in by Bill Wayne in A/Fuel Blown; Sean Renteria's third consecutive CHRR A/Gas title; and J.D. Zink's 6.972 e.t. in Jr. Fuel.  Herm Peterson enjoyed his first trip to the CHRR, as he spent time behind the wheel of the Chris Karamesines Cacklefest digger, and Bakersfield's own Buck Owens made his first trip to the 'Patch' on Sunday.  The list of 'firsts' could go on and on and on...."Everyone smiles at this event.  This is the only drag race where everyone is happy and no one bitches." -Former NHRA VP, Steve Gibbs

So, if you've yet to make your first California Hot Rod Reunion, mark your calendars for September 30-October 2, 2005 for the 14th edition , and don't forget the 3rd Annual National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Kentucky, June 17-19, 2005.  Better start making those plans for one or both soon!

The following photo highlights are just a portion of what goes on during this event.  Enjoy!  Dawn & Mark


Phil Lukens launches his ever nostalgic Blair's Speed Shop Topolino to a great 7.77 during Nostalgia Eliminator qualifying, but that number was not good enough to break the 16-car field bump spot of 7.72.

Mike Austin qualified his Tony Waters-tuned entry in the third spot of A/Fuel Blown with a 6.512.  Austin defeated Terry Caldwell, Ken Moitoza and Bill Wayne, respectively, with consistent low 6.50 passes to claim his first win.
Defending A/FX champ Phil Featherston qualified his '64 Fairlane in the third spot with a 10.13 (on a 10.00 index), and then went on to claim runner-up honors to Joel Miner, 10.16 to 10.35.

Terry Cox qualified the Cheetah III entry into the 15th slot of the Top Fuel field with a 6.36.  Cox ripped of his 'official' career-best 6.068 against Jim Murphy in round one, but Murphy's 5.953 tripped the win light.
No, this isn't a mirage, but merely a 1/4 mile view of Chuck Moore nearly rolling his '48 Prefect during the first qualifying session of AA/GS. Moore brought his beast down right-side up and returned in the second session running a 7.10, but that number fell short of the 7.00 bump spot held by John Peterson.

"I think I made a few small steps for women racers."- Paula Murphy, 2004 CHRR Grand Marshal, during Friday evening's Reunion Honoree reception.

Nearly 24 hours later that statement was augmented by the on-track performance of rookie Top Fuel shoe Mendy Fry.  Fry, who had to sit out Friday's qualifying session due to a wounded engine, took a giant step into the 16-car field with a stunning 5.87 at 251 mph, her first five and the first by any woman in a front engine fueler.  Unfortunately for Fry, that run depleted the team's spare parts inventory forcing her to sit out that evening's first round of eliminations.

Pierre Poncia made several exhibition runs during the event in his Charlie's Business Coupe.

John Peterson qualified his '70 Plymouth in the eighth spot of the AA/GS field with a 7.00.  Peterson knocked out first alternate Tom Thompson in round one with a 7.06, setting up a match with Howard Anderson in round two.  Peterson cut a .015 light to Anderson's .061, but his 7.018 was nipped at the stripe by Anderson's quicker 6.960.  M.O.V. was twelve-thousandths.
Brett Hankins ripped off two impressive  exhibition passes in the Blue Blazer AA/FA Saturday.

Brad Thompson will add his name to the upcoming Goodguys Fuel and Gas Finals Top Fuel entry list, as he completed his required licensing runs during the CHRR.  Thompson, who was the last car down the track, ran a great 6.23 in this gorgeous ride.
Two thumbs-up go out to the Mighty Mouse gang for nailing down the number one spot of the Nostalgia Eliminator field with a near index perfect 7.604.  Gruzen advanced to the final round against number two qualifier Kent Specht, but lost the match as the  Merciless Mouse lived up to its name crossing the finish line with an index-busting 7.52 to Specht's winning 7.612.

Jack Harris qualified his Nitro Thunder entry in the third spot of the Top Fuel field with a 5.86/257.87.  Harris won his opening round match against Rick White, 5.91 to 6.84, before losing his second round gig to Rick McGee on a red light.  The kicker?  Harris set low e.t. of the event on that pass with a 5.808!
What a race this turned out to be.  Tim Krupa, far lane, strapped a huge holeshot on Steve Wood in the opening round of AA/GS.  Krupa, who held this car length advantage to the 330' mark and ran a 7.03, lost to Wood at the finish line who ran a 6.892.  M.O.V. was just two-thousandths!  Wow!

Bill Wayne coasts through the shutdown area following his 6.477/217.07 qualifying shot, which held for the number one spot of A/Fuel Blown.  Wayne eclipsed the class VRA speed mark (held by Ron Attebury-217.75) in his opening round victory over Bill Genco with a 6.424/219.08 blast.  Wayne defeated John Evans in round two with a 6.459, before red lighting in the final against Mike Austin.
In what has become the very coolest of traditions at the CHRR,  the fifth running of "Cacklefest" commenced following the single by the Winged Express Saturday evening.  This is mid-way through the nearly 40 cars that were push-started up the return road and lined up in the middle of the track.  

Rick Rogers ran a 6.77 best during Top Fuel qualifying, which placed him in the first alternate spot on Saturday.  Not a bad spot to be in, as Rogers was inserted into the field for Mendy Fry and won his first round match against Howard Haight.  Rogers lost a close race in round two to Sean Bellemeur, who drove around Rogers' 6.405 with a 6.299.
Johnny Cofer returned to the seat of the popular Battos Trucking '47 Crosley and qualified the SBC-powered entry 14th in Nostalgia Eliminator with a 7.699.  Cofer lasted through the semi final round where he lost a final round bid on a holeshot to eventual winner Kent Specht.  Specht used a 7.615/.024 package over Cofer's 7.611/.078.  Wow!

Don Enriquez, near lane, and John Rasmussen squared off in the Jr. Fuel B final.  Rasmussen entered the final with the performance advantage having run a 7.29 and 7.26 in the previous rounds, but it was Enriquez pulling off the win and defending his 2003 Jr. Fuel B title using a 7.323 over Rasmussen's off-pace 7.401.  To Rasmussen's credit, he did earn low e.t. and top speed of the event for the class with his second round 7.269/183.78 shot.  Congratulations to both men!
Bakersfield resident Ron O'Haver made the cut for the Nostalgia Eliminator field with a 7.69 in the Panic altered.  O'Haver red lighted in round one against Randy Harris.

Rod Hynes had the privilege of participating in Cacklefest behind the wheel of Rocky Childs' Addict fueler.
John Shoemaker qualified the Brad Berger-tuned/Bill Schwartz-owned Hot Rod Bill's entry in the 10th spot of the Top Fuel show with a great 6.06.  Shoemaker lost his first round match to Scott Mason, as both drivers fought traction problems after half track with Mason snagging the win light.

Mendy Fry wasn't the first person to earn their first "5" during the event, as Scott Mason pulled his off during the first Top Fuel session on Friday.  Mason set the pace for the Chevy contingent with this great 5.989/244.49 pass.  Mason, who qualified seventh, disposed of John Shoemaker in round one before losing a close battle in the second to Jim Murphy, 5.867 to 5.990.
The Stellings & Hampshire Red Stamp Special of Dennis Prater. Restored by John Shoemaker and Kent Fuller, and restoration funded by many Standard 1320 friends.

Following his first session 5.93 qualifying pass, Rick McGee blazed the Famoso 1320 to a career-best 5.899 during the second qualifying session of Top Fuel.  McGee bettered his mark with a winning 5.890 in round two en route to winning his first major title.  What a weekend!
Nostalgia Eliminator competitor Rich Rio handles driving duties in Bob Foster's beautiful Millennium Warrior.  Rio ran a best of 8.40 during qualifying, but that was way off the 7.72 bump spot held by Roy Victor.

Jim Lange ran a best of 7.02 during A/Fuel Blown qualifying, placing him in the first alternate spot of the field.
Claude Lavoie qualified his nitro injected Hemi-powered entry in the fourth spot of the A/Fuel field with a 6.77.  Unfortunately, Lavoie was unable to make the call for first round on Sunday.

John Loukas gets a snoot-full of nitro while wheeling his Priesing & Loukas coupe into place during Cacklefest.
Since A/Gas was the only class available for the Gasser contingent, several notable B/Gas entries upgraded their status to compete at the CHRR.  Frank Meranda, the 2003 March Meet winner in B/Gas, grabs hold of Famoso Raceway's starting line in his 4-door Chevy Nova running a best of 8.25.  While that is impressive and well below the 8.60 index in B/Gas, it wasn't enough to make the A/Gas 7.91 cut.

Ron Maroney streaks by in Steve Barcak's Pontiac Heaven Special during Saturday's Top Fuel qualifying session.  Maroney ran a best of 7.91 before sneezing the blower on this pass.
Nostalgia Eliminator competitor Bruce McDowell ran a 7.71 during the first session of qualifying, which placed him sixth in the field.  By the time the second session was over, McDowell had been bumped to the 15th spot.  McDowell lost his opening round match to eventual winner Kent Specht.

John Meissinger made his first CHRR appearance behind the wheel of this sharp looking A/Fuel entry.  Meissinger qualified in the third spot of the show with a 6.759, and advanced to his first final round against Kin Bates.  Meissinger cut the 'tree a bit too close, going red by four-thousandths and handing over an instant win light to Bates. 
Scott Parks qualified his SBC-powered entry in the second spot of the Jr. Fuel A field with a 7.019.  Parks advanced to round two where he was stopped short of the final round by eventual winner John Haire.  Haire used a 7.046 over Parks' trailing 7.103.

Tom Thompson ran a best of 7.29 in his Burgundy Bandit Willys during AA/GS qualifying.  While that number wasn't enough to make the elite 8-car show, Thompson was high enough on the alternate list to replace low qualifier Ed Moss on Sunday.  Thompson was quickly dropped by John Peterson.
Mike Boyd rocked the house on Saturday evening, bringing the crowd to their feet with his usual 300' burnout, followed by the out-of-shape, off-and-on the throttle pass through the lights.  Boyd's pass remained a hot topic during breakfast chatter overheard at Milts the next morning!  Awesome!

Mark Hyla smokes the tires and gets side-ways in Bob Richardson's Circuit Breaker entry during the final Top Fuel qualifying session.  The team failed to make the 16-car show.
Chris Davis launches his '69 Woody Gilmore Flashback entry to a 7.82 during Nostalgia Eliminator qualifying.  Of the 44 cars vying for a spot in the 16-car field, Davis ranked 30th.

John Haire, near lane, and Wayne Ramay closed out the Jr. Fuel A final with Haire scoring his first win.  Haire, who had qualified third in the field with a 7.03, used a 7.038 over Ramay's 7.11.

Woody O'Connell and family traveled from Arvada, Colorado, to compete in Nostalgia Eliminator.  O'Connell's first qualifying pass netted a 7.05,  (well below the class' 7.60 index) followed by this personal best 7.02 shot on Saturday.  The team attempted to break the 6-second barrier with their iron SBC-powered digger Sunday, but engine failure following the burnout put an end to their weekend.

Darby Neagle has seated himself in yet another former Steve San Paolo ride.  Neagle qualified fourth in the A/Fuel Blown field with a 6.784, but lost in round one to John Evans on a holeshot.  Evans' .070/6.734 package was more than enough to beat the quicker .205/6.632 turned in by Neagle.

Kin Bates had a pretty good handle on the A/Fuel field qualifying his nitro-injected Hemi in the number one spot with a 6.698/201.16.  Bates went on to win the event over a red-lighting John Meissinger, while claiming low e.t. and top speed of the event in round two with a great 6.535/209.49 in the heat-of-the-day.  Impressive!

Scott Stanger, who campaigns his Bad Manners '48 Fiat in NE3, made several exhibition passes during the course of the weekend.

Jerry Buckley made a valid attempt at breaking into the very tough 16-car Nostalgia Eliminator field, but his 7.80 wasn't enough to crack the 7.72 bump spot.

Denny Fenstermaker's restoration of Roger Gates' 1966 Top Fueler.

Don Dicero's Dago Express II was just one of 44 entries battling for a spot in the 16-car Nostalgia Eliminator field.  Dicero ran a best of 7.806 during qualifying, but that was well off the 7.72 bump.

Bill "Grasshopper" Genco survived the qualifying war in the A/Fuel Blown field, landing in the eighth spot of the field with a 6.948.  Genco met Bill Wayne in the opening round, and it was Wayne getting the best of Genco with a 6.42/219.08 to Genco's 6.971/191.24

Dave Ward attempts to better his 7.67 during the second qualifying session of Nostalgia Eliminator, but gets a bit out of shape at the hit.  Ward survived qualifying, but lost his first round match to Chuck Bayuk.

The AA/GS final came down to Steve Wood, near lane, and Howard Anderson.  Wood clicked the timers with a great 6.897, but Anderson got the win light with a holeshot-aided 6.927.  M.O.V. was three-hundredths.  Holy cow!

Jeff Diehl, who qualified Brian Van Dyke's R & B Entertainment entry in the ninth spot of the Top Fuel field with a 6.05, advanced to the second round on this pass when opponent Lee Jennings was shut-off following the burnout.  Diehl lost his second round match to Bill Dunlap, who ran a 5.830/255.31 over Diehl's up-in-smoke 6.544.

We can never get enough of the Winged Express, and Mike Boyd was happy to make a second exhibition run during Sunday's eliminations.  Just like Saturday evening's pass, Boyd dangled the front end and finessed his way down the 1320 much to the delight of the his many fans.  Belated birthday wishes go out to Mike, who celebrated his 47th birthday October 5th!

Cancer survivor Ralph Kitron is having the time of his life at the wheel of  Harold Brewer's Swamp Fox.

Rick McGee, near lane, overcame Sean Bellemeur's holeshot in the Top Fuel final to claim his first major Top Fuel crown.  McGee drove around Bellemeur in the lights with a winning 6.134 over Bellemeur's cylinder-dropping and early shutoff 6.279.  Congratulations to Rick, Darrell, and the rest of the Razmataz team!  It's about time!

Don Love brought the restored 'Kansas John' Weibe fueler to life and to his first Cacklefest. The car was found north of the border and restored with the blessings of Weibe.

Ron Hope dazzled Reunion fans with this Saturday evening pass in the famed Rat Trap.

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.