Combustion Chamber-2003 Goodguys March Meet


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When reflecting on past seasons and events, it’s hard to imagine how any one event could be bettered.  Well let me tell you that the 44th running of the Goodguys March Meet did just that.  The event eclipsed previous participant numbers (over 425), as well as over 1,000 show cars and vendors for the Swap Meet.  Famoso Raceway was packed to the brim.  Before we jump into our photo highlight section, we would like to extend additional “get well” wishes to Gerry Steiner.  The 2002 VRA Champ endured a most serious top-end crash, which was followed by an immediate trip to the Kern County Hospital.  Gerry is on the mend, and making steady improvements daily.  We look forward to seeing you soon, Gerry.  Out of respect for Gerry and his daughter, Gerilyn, we are not featuring photos of his incident.  Now on to the rest of the event. Enjoy!  Dawn & Mark

image Gil Valencia, in his sharp looking ’29 High Boy, was one of 47 entries vying for a spot in the 32 car NE1 field.  Valencia’s best of 8.13 fell short of the 7.87 bump spot held by Steve Romanazzi.
Reigning A/GAS champ, Mark Mahood, took full advantage of the March Meet field, as he muscled his ’69 Camaro to the number one qualifying spot with a 7.604.  Here, Mahood disposes of Richard Maas in round one with a 7.660 to Maas’ off-pace 8.075.  Mahood went on to win the event, defeating David Morris and Sean Renteria, respectively. image
image Don Dicero clocked an out-of-the-park blast during NE1 qualifying, as he rocketed to a 7.450 in his beautiful “Dago Express II” ’23 T.  Unfortunately for Dicero, that run kept him out of Sunday’s program, as he ran well below the class’ 7.60 index.
Bill “Grasshopper” Genco blazes the Goodyear hides prior to his first qualifying attempt in A/Fuel.  Genco recorded a 7.027, which eventually held for the 1oth spot of the very tough field.  Genco was unable to hold on to the track in his opening round match with Kin Bates, as his incurred severe tire shake at the hit and was forced to abort the run. image
image Bill Galli was one of 25 entries shooting for a spot in the 16 car B/GAS field.  Galli ran an excellent 8.797 in his ’66 Chevy, but that was only good enough for he second alternate spot.  Wow!
Bob Clayton was one of 20 entries competing in the always tough A/GAS class.  Clayton drove his “Rat Infested II” ’33 Willys to a best of 8.58, but that number fell short of the A/GAS “B” field bump spot of 8.46. image
image Scott Parks, along with his dad Frank, systematically dismantled the Jr. Fuel field, beginning with an out-of-the-box 7.150 number one qualifying shot.  Parks defeated Kelly Craig and Mike Chrisman, respectively, before setting up a date with finalist, Dean Carter. Parks, who had run low 7-teens during his conquests, stepped up with a winning and record setting 7.069/189.15 against Carter’s game 7.076.  Way to go, guys!
Chris Davis launches his “Flashback” digger to a 7.707, which placed him in the 21st spot of the NE1 field.  Davis disappeared in the second round, as his 7.90 was easily disposed of by Bobby Runyon’s winning 7.66. image
image Frank Merenda wowed the fans with these bumper scraping launches in his blown ’65 Chevy wagon.  Merenda qualified his entry in the third spot of the B/GAS field with an 8.616, and went on to claim the event title.
Rick McGee (near lane) and Tim Gibson faced off during the first round of Top Fuel eliminations.  Both drivers recorded nearly identical reaction times, but McGee’s “Razmataz” entry possessed the power to overtake Gibson and advance to the second round with a winning 6.081 over Gibson’s 6.295. image
image Dave Gruzen hikes the front-end up in his “Mighty Mouse” entry during NE1 qualifying.  Gruzen claimed the 15th spot of the 32 car field with a 7.666, and lasted until the second round where he encountered mechanical problems following the burnout.
Joe Maggione earned an alternate spot in the A/GAS “A” field with his classy ’66 Chevelle, replacing Jim Data’s wounded Pontiac entry.  Here, Maggione strapped a major holeshot on first round opponent Larry Ofria, .449 to a .625, but must have taken an all too conservative approach at the finish line, as Ofria drove around him with a winning 7.724 to Maggione’s early shut-off 8.299.  Ouch! image
image After a year of being absent from the Goodguys West Coast Series, the Iowa-based “Orange Crate” Top Fuel entry, driven by Roger “Radar” Lechtenberg, came back with a vengeance as they nailed down the top qualifying spot with a 5.853/239.93.  Lechtenberg proceeded to dump the event’s low e.t. to a 5.787 during his second round crushing of Rick Rogers.  Lechtenberg advanced to a final round meeting with Jim Murphy and was set to put the icing on the cake, but engine failure at the 1,000′ mark prevented a complete event sweep.  Murphy used a great 5.979 to overcome Lechtenberg’s wounded 6.221.
Dennis La Charite drove his “Back In Black” ’69 Vette to an impressive 7.617, which was good enough for the fifth spot of the NE1 field.  La Charite matched reaction times (.426…hey, is that an omen?) with first round opponent Chris Davis,  but his 7.67 was just a tick too little for Davis’ winning 7.66. image
image Chris Zynda nailed down the fifth spot of the A/GAS “B” field with an 8.390 in his very cool  ’65 Chevy pickup.  Zynda  stepped up in a big way during eliminations, banging out consecutive 8.00 e.t.s during eliminations and lasting until the final round.  Unfortunately for Zynda, he was unable to contest his match-up with eventual winner, Tommy Schiffilea.
Mark Malde (near lane) and Lee Jennings squared off in round one of Top Fuel, but at this point Jennings is already pulling away for the win.  Jennings advanced to the second round using a 6.063 over Malde’s 6.204. image
image Mike Kirby drove the “Sixsession” NE1 entry to a very popular win.  Kirby, who qualified third with a 7.610, combined great reaction times and consistent 7.60 e.t.s en route to victory lane.
Rich Roberts qualified his ’34 Willys in the seventh spot of the AA/GS field with a 7.082.  Roberts wasn’t rich with luck in his first round meeting with Howard Anderson, as he bulbed away a fine 7.052.  Anderson?  He was forced to shut off when his ’38 Chevy got a bit out of shape at mid-track. image
image Darby Neagle ( near lane) attempts to drive through some serious tire shake problems during his second round meeting with Greg Uffens.  Neagle, who scored his first number one qualifying spot in A/Fuel with a 6.542, (in Steve San Paolo’s old car) eventually aborted the run, and it was Uffens who went on to score his first A/Fuel win.
Hoosier-daddy?  Hey, I shot this during NE2  qualifying Friday evening and despite not knowing who drives this “Legally Altered” (no car number to go by), it was too cool of ride not to run.  Anyone?  Anyone? image
image Mike Ward earned the number one spot of the A/GAS “B” field with a 7.929.  Ward, who was voted best appearing car, was handed first round runner-up status when opponent Chris Zynda used an 8.00 to dispose of Ward’s 8.01!
Jim Moore jumped ship from the Jr. Fuel class to compete in the NE1 category.  Moore, who found out after pre-registering that the Jr. Fuel class was split based on weight-break, decided to stick it out for the weekend in NE1 as planned.  Moore qualified in the 30th spot of the field with a 7.85, but fell to DeWayne Sanders in round one. image
image Tommy Schiffilea qualified his electric ’40 Willys in the fourth spot of the A/GAS “B” field with an 8.15.  Schiffilea collected the event title and even dipped as low as a 7.875 in the final round.
Although Jim Murphy won the Top Fuel title, his weekend wasn’t actually a cake-walk.  Murphy ran a 6.99 on his first qualifying lap, was forced to shut-off on his second attempt, and just made the field on his third run with a good-for-the-11th spot 6.18.  Murphy annihilated Jack Harris’ 5.93 with a 5.80 in round one, before being eliminated in a close heat by Rick McGee…6.07 to a losing 6.10.  Murphy was reinstated on the VRA break-rule, when Bill Dunlap was unable to return to the semi finals.  Murphy took full advantage of his 11th-hour reprieve, defeating Howard Haight and Roger Lechtenberg, respectively en route to victory. image
image Ya know, these A/Fuel guys make a hobby out of camp-jumping.  Jeff “Surfer” Diehl scored a 6.88 during A/Fuel qualifying, which placed the gorgeous “Flying Dutchman” entry in the eighth spot of the 16 car field.  Diehl claim victory over Mark Mittel in round one, (who is a former driver of the “FD”) before losing to Ron Attebury in round two.  Ironically, Greg Uffens shoed Diehl’s old ride to victory.
Dan Whiteman qualified his altered in the sixth spot of the NE1 field with a 7.623.  Here, Whiteman launches to a second round victory over DeWayne Sanders.  Sanders broke-out with a 7.41, sending Whiteman to the quarter-finals.  Whiteman lost that match to Bakersfield native, Ron O’Haver.  O’Haver used a 7.63 to knock out Whiteman’s 7.65. image
image The AA/GS semi final round match-up between Dale Boomgaarden (near lane) and Steve Wood, was about as close as they come.  Boomgaarden had Wood off the line with a .502 light to a .528, but it was Wood tripping the win light, using a 6.831 over Boomgaarden’s 6.877.  MOV-.020 Oh-baby!
Lee Jennings Jr. did an excellent job of jumping into Bob Richardson’s “Circuit Breaker” Top Fuel entry.  Although the car’s performance fell short of the rest of the field (6.50s), and it is capable of better, the team was very happy with their most recent driver. image
image Cecil Mathews towed out from Redwood, VA to compete in his ’55 T-Bird in AA/GS.  Mathews ran a best of 7.96 during qualifying, but that was only good enough for the third spot of the “B” field.  Mathews managed to last until the final round where he lost to John Peterson’s ’70 Cuda.
It was a volatile environment for Brendan Murry during Top Fuel qualifying on Friday.  Murry clicked off a 6.22 effort, but ventilated the block in the process.  Murry was ready to pack it in for the weekend but was granted a shot at eliminations, when fellow Top Fuel racer, Lee Jennings, offered a complete motor to compete with on Sunday.  Murry and crew thrashed into the wee-hours Saturday night, and made the call on Sunday.  Unfortunately for Murry, a .311 red negated the 6.05 he ran against first round opponent Howard Haight.  Haight’s 5.86 would have been tough to beat though, even with a perfect light. image
image Richard Maas encountered a wildly out-of-shape burnout during A/GAS qualifying, swinging the ass-end around again past the tree.  Once Maas staged his ’62 Nova though, it was all “hook and book” as he nailed the fifth spot of the A/GAS “A” field with a 7.816.  Maas’ weekend came to end in round one, as he was defeated by eventual winner, Mark Mahood.
Denver Schutz was another casualty of the Top Fuel qualifying wars. Schutz rattled off consistent 6.0hnos during qualifying, but due to extensive parts breakage was unable to return for Sunday’s eliminations. image
image The Top Fuel contingent wondered where they were when Howard Haight, driver of Butch Blair’s “Fugowie” Top Fuel entry, bagged his first “5” with a 5.96 during Saturday’s first qualifying session; a run that places him 14th in the eliteNitronic Research AA/FD 5 Second Club.  If that wasn’t enough, “Fugowie Howie” stepped up during eliminations with winning 5.86 & 5.85 passes, before vanishing into an M&H smoke-signal fest during his semi final round battle with Bill Dunlap.  Look for Butch Blair to return to the seat during the Goodguys’ Sonoma event in May.
Chris Abbey qualified the gorgeous “Goshgarian & Abbey” ‘Vette on the bump of the AA/GS field with a 7.13.  Abbey met eventual runner-up Steve Wood in the opening round and lost the battle, as his 7.14 was too little for Wood’s 7.10. image
image Dave Ward was busy during the off season, as he incorporated a blower to his former NE2 injected Fiat.  Ward made the jump up to NE1 and missed making the field by six-thousandths of a second…on the quick-side.  His 7.594 skipped right over the the 7.60 index.
“Wild Bill” Alexander scored a 5.882/240.00 qualifying ticket in John & Lynda Eirich’s “Ground Zero” Top Fuel entry, the team’s quickest to date.  Alexander lasted until the second round of eliminations, when clutch problems  extinguished the team’s chances of advancing to another March Meet final. image
image Jeff Lirones drove his gorgeous “Muscle Machines”-backed Willys to an 8.803 during B/GAS qualifying.  Unfortunately, the Tujunga, CA-based entry ended up in the third alternate spot.
Mike Cross nailed down the number one qualifying spot of NE1, with an off-the-trailer 7.601.  Cross’ weekend came to an end in round one though, as newcomer Max Abbey used a 7.74 to easily handle Cross’ 8.41. image
image “Western Hoist” shoe, Pete “Fritz” Kaiser, incurred this most wicked motor-grenading,  top-end fire during Friday’s Top Fuel qualifying session.  Although Kaiser qualified for the field with a 6.23, the team’s exhausted inventory prevented an appearance during Sunday’s eliminations.
Probably one of the most exciting pairings of the weekend was that of David Morris, near lane, and Jim Pace during round one of A/GAS eliminations.  Morris, who had just cut a .462 light to Pace’s .690, approaches the 1/8th mile mark fending the come-from-behind effort of Pace.  Morris held on for a very close victory…7.889 over Pace’s 7.692!  MOV-.031  The crowd went wild! image
image Jim Paul bounces through the shut-down area following a 6.694 qualifying shot in A/Fuel.  Paul qualified sixth and lasted until the final round, where his entry fell victim to violent tire shake.
With the help of Andy Morocco and Sunoco Fuels, Mike Boyd was able to provide weekend entertainment in the famed Marcellus-Borsch-Boyd “Winged Express”.  While Boyd’s 300′ burnouts were impressive… image
image …so much more were the front wheel-dangling-down-the-whole-track runs!
Things just haven’t been the same for former AA/GS champ Steve Woods, since slapping “For Sale” decals on his “Hypocrite” Prefect last season.  The car has performed more like the “Christine” movie car, than the all-conquering, championship caliber vehicle of past seasons.  Here, Woods tries to maintain control of a car that’s copped a serious attitude, even though he already red-lit against first round opponent Dale Boomgaarden. image
image Dave West, owner/driver of the Beebe & Mulligan re-pop, scored a Saturday afternoon cruise in front of the SRO crowd.
© 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. 

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