Combustion Chamber-2007 Bakersfield March Meet


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March 9-11, Famoso Raceway-Bakersfield, CA- The 49th running of the famed March Meet certainly made up for the cancellation of last year’s event, as nearly 450 race entries competed for top prizes among 14 classes.  Qualifying was action-packed, with many drivers recording personal best elapsed times and speeds in several of the Pro categories. There were plenty of sacrifices to the  aluminum Gods, upsets and first time winners across the board, as well as an impromptu sunset wedding ceremony on the starting line following Saturday’s qualifying.  As an example of how exciting eliminations were, the two quickest Top Fuel runs of the semi final round didn’t advance to the final.  Amazing!

Sadly, just four days after the event, Famoso Raceway and the west coast drag racing community lost a dear friend when track starter John Morgan passed away in his sleep.  Our sincere condolences go out to John’s family and friends.

Enjoy the following photo highlights.

Dawn & Mark


In memory of John Morgan

image Dolph Beasley had his injected Dart dialed-in throughout Hot Rod eliminations, en route to his first March Meet win.
This large winner’s circle gathering belongs to A/Fuel winner Kin Bates.  Bates ran consistent 6.30 elapsed times throughout eliminations defeating Claude LaVoie, Shawn Corbari and Gary Eickmann, respectively. image
image Red McGuiness used a series of holeshot victories in his ’70 Mustang, to outlast an extremely tough field of C/Gas competition en route to claiming his first March Meet victory.
Nostalgia Eliminator III competitor Tracy Purpuro earned his first March Meet title in his ’33 Bantam over John Lyon, 9.609 to 9.612. image
image Lee Paul Jennings struggled with a different tune-up in his ’70 Challenger during Funny Car qualifying, running a 6.47 which left him in the second alternate spot.  Jennings made it into eliminations, replacing Nate Bugg’s wounded entry.  Jennings and crew took advantage of the opportunity and went back to basics, and defeated Kris Krabill in the first round with a 6.14 to 6.21.  Jennings and Krabill met again in the second round (Krabill in on the break rule for Capps), but it was Krabill using a holeshot-aided 6.20 over Jennings’ quicker 6.17 for the win.
Rick High blazes the Goodyears on his NE1 digger during Saturday’s final qualifying session.  High qualified in the 21st spot with a 7.70 and lasted until the second round where he was unable to contest eventual winner Dave Ward. image
image Dan See, who posted a runner-up finish in NE2 at this event in 2005, stepped up and earned his first March Meet win over a red-lighting Skip Spence.
The Jr. Fuel A class featured the smallest field ever, with just three entries on the premises.  JD Zink, who runner-upped at this event in 2005 to Scott Parks, earned the event win over Wayne Ramay, 6.92 to 7.11. image
image Rich Howell took advantage of the exhibition sessions available during the weekend testing his Dale Pulde-tuned AA/FA.  Howell never made a full pass, as tire shake contributed to aborted runs as well as debilitating the wing on Saturday’s pass.
There was plenty of parts carnage spread throughout the the Funny Car pits, and Nate Bugg’s ’71 Cuda was no exception.  Bugg qualified fourth in the show with a 6.20, but was unable to make the first round call. image
image Former NE3 shoe Bobby Lee stepped in as driver of the ‘Soul Train Gang’ ’23T in NE1.  Lee posted a best of 8.20 during qualifying, but that was nearly four tenths away from the bump spot.
Top Fuel runner-up Jim Murphy launches to a first round win over Howard Haight, who fouled out before the tree cycled down. image
image The Jr. Fuel B field had a solid eight-car field, and it was Bud Hammer who collected his second March Meet win.  Hammer defeated Ward Francev, Fred Notzka and John Rasmussen, respectively.
Former two-time March Meet winner Mike Williams nearly made his third D/Gas final round, but lost a double breakout match in the semi finals to eventual runner-up Al McGuiness, 10.594 to 10.587!  Wow! image
image Denver Schutz dangles the front-end of the Jim Cullen-owned “Raisin Express 2” Top Fuel entry during his semi final round match against Brett Harris.  Schutz recorded his best run of the weekend with a 5.87, but Harris stopped him from advancing to the final round with a holeshot-induced 5.89.
Dennis LaCharite debuted his wicked ’69 GTO funny car to the tune of 6.11 during qualifying, which placed him third in the field.  LaCharite met Mike Savage in round one where he rattled off a winning 6.068/242.98 over Savage’s 6.63.  Although LaCharite lost a close match in the semi final round to Steve Romanazzi-6.03 to 6.07, his 242 mph mark held for top speed of the event. image
image Following a 16-month rebuild of the famed “Winged Express”, Mike Boyd completed his first full pass in the recently completed AA/FA on Saturday afternoon.  Boyd throttled through to a 7.24/204.40 to the cheers of a packed house!
“Mad Mike” Molea stepped up to qualify his ’33 Willys in the eighth spot of the AA/GS field with a 6.965.  Molea’s weekend came to an abrupt end during his first round meeting against low qualifier Ed Moss, when he cut the tree too tight and went red. image
image A/Fuel competitor Gary Eickmann came out of the number eight spot of the field to post a strong runner-up finish against Kin Bates.  Eickmann’s biggest accomplishment of the weekend happened during his first round defeat of low qualifier Bill Wayne.  Eickmann combined a great reaction time and personal-best e.t. of 6.55 in holding off Wayne’s quicker 6.41.  Wow!
Ron Capps returned to nostalgia funny car action behind the wheel of the Bob Godfrey-Jeff Gaynor operated ‘Oblivion Express’ Cuda-maro.  Capps jumped to the top of the field during Friday’s qualifying session with a team-best 5.987.  Capps won his first round over Steve Nichols, but was unable to return for the second round as the team’s parts inventory had run dry. image
image The first round of Top Fuel shows Mark Malde, far lane, with a considerable holeshot lead over Rick White. White made up the difference by half track and grabbed the win light with a 5.98 over Malde’s 6.12.
Fritz Kaiser rattled off back-to-back personal-best 5.84 time slips in John Eirich’s ‘Ground Zero’ entry during Saturday’s Top Fuel qualifying sessions. The latter of the two came with a blistering 260.41 mph which held for top speed of the event.  Kaiser lost his first round match against Adam Sorokin 5.85 to 5.95, when the fuel shut-off valve vibrated itself partially closed during the run. image
image Jeff Utterback qualified Danny Pisano’s beautiful “Pisano and Matsubara” Vega in the eighth spot of the Funny Car field with a 6.346.  Unfortunately for team, they exhausted their parts inventory for the weekend and were unable to make the first round call.
Many professional category teams sported fresh paint schemes and new sponsors.  Bob Richardson’s ‘Circuit Breaker’ Top Fuel entry was among the new looks, as the traditional blue paint scheme was replaced with this gorgeous red and yellow theme.  Not only that, but Richardson tuned driver Shannon Stuart to a career-best and back-to-back 5.84s during qualifying. Stuart defeated Bill Dunlap in round one with a close 5.93 to 5.95 decision, before red lighting against Denver Schutz in round two. image
image Ed Moss put his Ford-powered ’37 Coupe in the top spot of the AA/GS field with a personal-best 6.59.  Moss’ performance advantage during eliminations was buried on a holeshot during the semi final round, when Dale Boomgaarden combined a .011/6.82 package to dispose of Moss’ way late, yet quicker 6.64.  Holy cow!
A couple of March Meet firsts came at the hands of Top Fuel winner Brett Harris.  Brett met his father Jack in the first round of competition, marking the first time a father and son had met in eliminations at this event.  Brett won with a 5.94 over Jack’s up-in-smoke entry, and then proceeded to run down his remaining competition with consistent 5.80 and 5.90 e.t.s to score his first March Meet win.  The historical win marks the first time a father and son have won the Top Fuel class in the event’s 49 year history.  Congrats to the entire ‘Posse’ conglomerate! image
image Lisa LaVoie’s ‘Queen of Hearts’ digger was among the new injected-nitro entries to debut in the A/Fuel class. LaVoie’s 7.52 failed to break into the eight-car field.
Multi-time D/Gas champion Ed Carey, was among four drivers who earned runner-up finishes at this event in 2005.  Like the others, Carey won his first March Meet title in fine fashion, cutting great reaction times and running nearly on the class’ 10.60 index. image
image Delaware resident Steve Nichols was granted an alternate spot in the Funny Car field, replacing Jeff Utterback in the eighth spot.  Nichols met Ron Capps in the first round, where Capps used a 6.27 to easily handle Nichols’ early shut off 8.66.
What a difference a couple of years can make.  A/Gas driver Brad Chafee debuted his blown ’67 Chevy just two years ago at this event, running a best of 9.05 and missed qualifying in the field.  2007 would be a different story, as Chafee qualified solidly in the field with a 7.65, and marched through his side of the ladder with consistent 7.60 e.t.s and holeshot wins to claim his first March Meet title. image
image Brad Thompson was the man to beat in Top Fuel, and he proved that well by beating himself in the semi final round.  After qualifying at the top of the field with a stunning low e.t. of the event 5.74, and then running subsequent 5.76 and  5.74 times during his first and second round wins, Thompson posted the quickest semi final round e.t. with a 5.82, only to watch opponent Jim Murphy take the win light with a 5.86 on a holeshot.
NE1 winner Dave Ward, who was runner-up at this event in 2005, launches to a 7.62 during this final round match against opponent Mike Smith. image
image The AA/GS winning team of Goshgarian and Abbey were the mark of consistency during AA/GS eliminations, hovering around the 6.70 zone with round wins over Rich Roberts, Sean Renteria and Dale Boomgaarden, respectively.
Tom Franks launches his ’69 Opel GT to an 8.788 during B/Gas qualifying.  Unfortunately for Franks, 18 competitors ran better than that leaving him in the third alternate spot. image
image Funny Car winner Steve Romanazzi didn’t have an easy path to the winner’s circle, as he just missed tagging the wall during his first round win against a cone-tagging Jim Holtz.  Romanazzi defeated Dennis LaCharite in round two 6.03 to 6.07, and then went on to the winner’s circle by virtue of a Kris Krabill red-light in the final.
The final round of B/Gas was a doozy! For those of you who missed it, click on the following link to open a new browser window for my animated short story tribute. For those of you who were there, enjoy reliving it all over again.  (Please note-you will need Adobe Macromedia Flash Player installed in your browser to play the file.  Click here to download player if you can not view the link below.)

Leonard Perry/Eric Bush – B/Gas Final Round

©  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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