Combustion Chamber-2006 15th California Hot Rod Reunion

October 6-8, Auto Club Famoso Raceway-Bakersfield, CA- It’s hard to believe that the 15th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion has come and gone already. If you weren’t there, let me share with you a portion of what you missed. Adam Sorokin running an off-the-trailer 5.80 in Top Fuel; Mark Malde scoring his first “5” for Arnold Birky and the “Birky Bunch”; 14 of the 16 qualified in Top Fuel ran a “5”; the beautiful funny car restorations of the “Hawaiian” Charger and the “Pisano and Matsubara” Vega; nearly 50 Cacklefest entries; seeing such legends of the sport on hand like Wally Parks, “The Greek”, “Big Daddy”, Larry Reyes, and so many more. Between the on-track action, the massive Swap Meet, and everything else that goes on for three full days, it has become nearly impossible to absorb it all properly. The event has become a virtual vortex of an era forever reminisced about, and deeply appreciated by those that attend and for what it represents in motorsports history.
So, if you’ve yet to make your first California Hot Rod Reunion, mark your calendars for October 12-14, 2007 for the 16th edition , and don’t forget the 5th Annual National Hot Rod Reunion at National Trails Raceway in Columbus, OH, June 15-17, 2007. I highly recommend making plans for one or both soon!

The following photo highlights will take you on a journey of just some of the excitement and ups-and-downs that happened during this event. Enjoy! Dawn & Mark

It was just four years ago that Randy Walls returned to drag racing, following a 31-year absence from the sport, and re-licensed in his Super Nova funny car. Since then, Walls won the 2004 Goodguys Funny Car championship, and chose the 15th CHRR to debut his new Nova entry during Sunday’s nostalgia funny car program.
Jason Richey qualified Dave Smith’s “Nitro Fever” Top Fuel entry in the second spot of the field with a personal-best 5.833. Richey lasted until the semi-final round where he lost fire after the burnout.
“Mad Mike” Molea, ran a best of 7.11 in his ’33 Willys during AA/GAS qualifying, but that fell just a tad short of the 6.99 bump spot.

Kin Bates, who lost the A/Fuel final in 2005 when he crossed the centerline, found redemption this year in a big way. Bates qualified number one, set low e.t. and top speed of the event with a 6.259/223.93, before earning the class trophy by topping brother-in-law Claude LaVoie in the final with a 6.299 over LaVoie’s 6.39.
AA/Gas driver Ed Moss, who runner-upped at this event in 2005, came out of the fourth spot of the field to win his first Reunion title in his all-Ford powered ’37 Coupe. Moss also set low e.t. and top speed of the event during eliminations with a 6.68/210.13.
A/Fuel competitor Nick Norton ran a best of 6.669 during the first round of eliminations, but lost on a foul start against eventual runner-up, Claude LaVoie.

Dan Schrokosch, near lane, defeated defending event champ, Rich Raymond, here in the Nostalgia Eliminator final, 7.64 over a 7.65, to claim his first CHRR title. Coming out of the 13th spot, Schrokosch downed a very tough field of competitors, moving past class hitters Ronnie Lennon, Dave Gruzen, Jess Sturgeon and Don Taros, respectively.
It was a long journey from Minnesota (as well as Hawaii), but Ted Guth’s beautiful restoration of the “Hawaiian” Dodge Charger Funny car left many in awe, and even former shoe Larry Reyes very emotional. Guth’s attention to detail did not go unnoticed, and with help from a generous group, including event Grand Marshal Roland Leong, and Dale Pulde, the “Hawaiian” came to life with Reyes back behind the wheel during the static start to kick off Saturday evening’s Cacklefest. Asked what it felt like to be in the car again, Reyes quipped, “Like I never left.”
John Rasmussen was among several first-time winners at the CHRR. Rasmussen led the Jr. Fuel “B” field with a stellar 7.19, and then reset the low e.t. mark to a 7.17 in his second round win over Marc McCormick. Rasmussen earned a trip to the winner’s circle with a winning 7.20 over Fred Notzka’s 7.21 in the finals.

Randy Bradford ran a stunning 212 MPH pass in the family-owned AA/FA to close out the Saturday evening show. Wow!
Jim Data was one of 18 competitors vying for a spot in the 8-car A/Gas field. Data wheeled his ’57 Pontiac into the eighth spot with a 7.778. Data upset low qualifier Andrew Berry in round one with a 7.61 to 7.67, but lost in round two to eventual runner-up, Brad Chafee.
The Nostalgia Funny Car contingent were featured during Sunday’s program, and Steve Romanazzi led the way in the first session with an out-of-the-box 5.98; his first “5” since moving up to the class.

Brett Hankins, near lane, and Ron Hope squared off during an exhibition session on Saturday, treating fans to great side-by-side fuel altered action.
The most talked about race of the weekend featured Top Fuel racer, Mendy Fry. Fry, who was paired up with Scott Mason in round one, lost traction early on in the run (shown), and pedaled feverishly to regain control. Meanwhile, Mason, who was several hundred feet out on Fry, went up in smoke and then lifted after a couple of attempts. Fry, who wasn’t ready to give up the chase, watched Mason’s candles go out and got back on the throttle, sending those Chevy header flames up into the night and just barely nipping Mason in the lights. Scorecard-7.80 to an 8.05! Wow!
Rob Patten is enjoying much success in his rookie season of A/Gas. Having just won the West Coast Pro Gas Championship, Patten claimed his first CHRR title with round wins over Mike Doushgounian, Phillip Herrera and Brad Chafee, respectively.

“Wild Bill” Alexander wheels the Ernie’s Camera Shudder Bug dragster into place during Cacklefest. Nearly 50 entries participated this year.
Ed Schwarz made it into the funny car field as first alternate replacing Nate Bugg. Schwarz improved on his 6.55 run during qualifying with a 6.32, but just missed making the cut for the final pair in the Chicago-style format.
Adam Sorokin earned his first number one qualifying spot in Top Fuel with an off-the-trailer 5.80/255.39 shot. Sorokin defeated Rick McGee in the opening round 6.03 to 6.09, before being upset in round two by a mere four-thousandths and the quickest Chevy pass turned in by Mendy Fry.

Don Love brought the restored ‘Kansas John’ Wiebe fueler out to Bakersfield once again to participate in Cacklefest, this time sporting more authentic pieces from the original configuration-including the original Donovan block #2.
Bob Godfrey qualified the Godfrey & Close ’69 Camaro funny car entry in the eighth spot of the field with a 6.63. Godfrey met low qualifier Romanazzi in the first round but went up in smoke early on, and was forced to watched Romanazzi, who had traction problems of his own, coast through for the win.
Reunion honoree Don Enriquez qualified in the fourth spot of the Jr. Fuel “B” field with a 7.41. Enriquez fell off that pace in the first round, losing to Marc McCormick, 8.06 to 7.41.

It had been more than a year and a half since Jim Murphy graced the Top Fuel winner’s circle, the last trip being the 2005 Fremont Reunion. Murphy came out of the the 12th spot and outlasted the quickest 16-car field in history, defeating the likes of Denver Schutz and Mendy Fry, respectively, before taking out old nemesis Jack Harris in the final, 5.98 to 6.14.
Lee Paul Jennings, near lane, had a great weekend in his “Code Red” ’72 Cuda, as he qualified in the second spot with a great 6.10, and ran back-to-back 6.04s en route to a runner-up finish. Here, Jennings takes out Gary Read in the opening round, and then went on to run top speed for the class in the final round with a 234.98 blast.
Mendy Fry established a new mark for the Chevy-powered Top Fuel contingent, stopping the clocks with a 5.856 during her second round win over Adam Sorokin.

Denny Fenstermaker’s restoration of Roger Gates’ 1966 Top Fueler, belts out some nice header flames and the fans love it!
Woody O’Connell and family traveled from Arvada, Colorado, in hopes of bettering the 7.02 they ran at this event in 2004 and earning the team’s first “6”. A faulty mag hindered the team’s efforts early on, and the closest the iron SBC-powered digger came to the milestone was a 7.09 run on Saturday. They are so close, they can taste it!
Scott Parks finally claimed his first Jr. Fuel title at the CHRR, running a string of 6.90-range e.t.s. Parks’ best run of the weekend came in the final round, as he ran a personal-best 6.91 over John Haire’s 6.93. Parks also claimed top speed of the class with a 192.47 run during qualifying.

Paul Jones went for a wild ride in John Blanchard’s Top Fuel entry during the second qualifying session, getting doused with a face full of oil while bouncing and sliding to a stop.
Mark Malde, near lane, and defending event champ Brad Thompson squared off in the first round of Top Fuel. Thompson held off Malde for the win with a great 5.856 over Malde’s early shut-off 6.29.
Brendan Murry, sidelined from the Top Fuel field after failing to qualify, brought his “Running Wild” nostalgia eliminator digger out on Sunday for an exhibition pass.

Reunion honoree Don Hampton sat patiently in the gorgeous Eagle Electric dragster during Cacklefest, while a crew member drops in to check the cylinder head temp. The glowing headers should be a good indication of how that baby was tuned.
Pierre Poncia managed just one exhibition pass during the weekend in his Charlie’s Business Coupe .
Jack Harris performed double duty over the weekend, shoeing the “Flathead Jack” entry during exhibition sessions throughout the weekend.

Mike Kirby qualified the Sissell and Mike twin-six powered digger in the 21st spot of the Nostalgia Eliminator field with a 7.74, only to get dumped in the first round. Kirby clocked a 7.70 but opponent Ken Rappaport’s hole shot-aided 7.80 earned the win by nearly two feet. Ouch!
Kris Krabill, driver of Gary Turner’s Pedaler Arrow funny car, added another event win to his rookie season scorecard. Krabill turned in a winning 5.98 in the final over Lee Paul Jennings’ game 6.04.
Ron Sterbenk finesses a classic launch in his injected flathead dragster during an exhibition session Friday afternoon.

Jack Harris made a welcomed return in Top Fuel behind the wheel of John Rodeck’s entry. The “Paso Posse” had a very busy weekend, running a best of 5.95 and earning a trip to the final round. Harris lost a close battle to Jim Murphy, 6.14 to 5.989
One of the most popular Nostalgia Super Stock entries making its first appearance at the CHRR, was the Mr. 409 Chevy Impala owned and driven by Ken “The Kid” Walsh. Walsh, who made the long distance tow from Russellville, VA, participated in nearly all of the exhibition sessions allotted, and even dedicated one of his dry hops in honor of the late “Dyno Don” Nicholson.
Ron Hope and Randy Bradford closed out Saturday evening’s racing activities with an awesome side-by-side pass.

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