Combustion Chamber-2010 52nd Bakersfield March Meet


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image March 5-7, 2010 – Famoso Raceway-Bakersfield, CA- The 52nd running of the Bakersfield March Meet was certainly a test of patience. Cool air and track temperatures combined with intermittent rain gave the Famoso track crew their fair share of track time. The phrase ‘Schedule Subject To Change’ definitely applied here and race officials adjusted accordingly.

Sunday’s schedule was jam-packed with final qualifying sessions in a couple of categories, and then eliminations for all classes.  By 6:00 P.M. track temps had declined rapidly and it was obvious that eliminations would not be completed Sunday. The announcement was made that they would indeed continue into Monday.  Eliminations resumed at 10:00 A.M. Monday morning, and by 2:04 P.M. the Top Fuel final round charged through the top end lights in dramatic fashion, the first at 5.764 and the last at 5.935.  A storybook ending to one long, frustrating weekend.  Enjoy the following photo highlights.  -Dawn & Mark

Hot Rod – 28-year old Jesse Adams of Yuba City, CA, is no stranger to the winner’s circle in highly competitive bracket races, and he made his first March Meet visit a memorable one by wheeling his ’69 Camaro past 127 competitors in seven rounds of Hot Rod Eliminator. Savvy dial-ins, good lights, and a heavy dose of racing luck where all key ingredients for the win.


Nostalgia Eliminator 3 competitors Charlie See, near lane, and “Sparky” Horaczko pulled the longest burn-down staging battle we’ve ever seen in nostalgia racing. Once pre-staged, neither would budge. You could have gone to the burger stand to eat lunch and make it back in time to see starter Bill Condit throw them both the big red DQ.
image 2009 F/C B-field winner Mike Halstead recorded a career-best 5.929 in the Jeff Gaynor-tuned, Mark Stuckey-owned Mustang during his second round win over Todd Lesenko.  Unfortunately, the team exhausted their parts inventory for the weekend and were unable to make the quarter final round call against Josh Crawford.
D/Gas – Bakersfield’s own Chris Kurtis collected the D/Gas trophy with his ’68 Nova against Josh Conrad’s ’67 Nova in an all Bako final.  Kurtis used a .021/10.546 package to defeat Conrad’s .032/10.521 in the double breakout affair.
Nostalgia Eliminator III – Tim Beeman, who runner-upped here in 2008, drove his Chevy powered ’32 Bantam to his first March Meet win with decisive wins over Mike Brock, reigning NE3 champ Lindsey Lister, and John Lyon, respectively.
D/Gas racer Mike Williams got the opportunity to upgrade his license to drive Rick Logsdon’s ’55 Chevy in C/Gas.  Williams, a multi-time March Meet winner, made the best of this temporary ride as he lasted ’til the third round losing to eventual winner Bob Williams. image
image Bakersfield homeboy Gabe Wood enjoyed a solid outing in not one but two classes during the March Meet.  Wood, shown here in his NE2 ’48 Fiat entry, also drives an injected FED in NE1 and doubled-up with a semi final finish in both classes.
C/Gas – Bob Williams clawed his way through the C/Gas field in his sporty little ’48 Anglia with victories over Ken “Racer” Brown, Tom Sceberras, former D/Gas champ Mike Williams, Scott “Lucky” Hudson, and Tom Fowler, respectively.
Nostalgia Eliminator II -“Dynamic” Doug Davenport, the 2009 NE2 Heritage Series Champion, began his title defense season with a decisive March Meet victory with wins over Bob Johnson, Jim Van Gordon, Gabe Wood, and Dwight Garland, Jr. running within a few “hun” of the 8.60 index on every pass.
Unseasonably cool temps and intermittent rain interrupted racing action throughout the weekend, as well as a variety of on track incidents. Among those mishaps was Leon Sterett’s B/Gas Willys entry, driven by Robert Martinez, playing tag with the retaining wall during Friday’s qualifying session.  Fortunately, of all the unfortunate mishaps no one was seriously injured. image
image Mark Vaught of Crawfordsville, IN, made the long tow west to compete in the increasingly popular 7.0 Pro class.  Vaught advanced to the final round by defeating 2009 event champ Mike Smith in the first round, Rick High in round two, and Dewayne Sanders in the semis.  Vaught lost an ever-so-close final to Will Martin, 7.04 to 7.008!
B/Gas-John Saliani earned a spot in the B/Gas final with round wins over Doug Hampton, Jeff Handley, and Cliff Boyles, respectively.  Saliani’s final round opponent was none other than defending event champ Jerry Jahnsen.  Saliani and Jahnsen went tooth-and-nail to the stripe, and it was Saliani taking the win light with an 8.601 over Jahnsen’s too quick by a thou 8.599!
image Defending A/Gas champ Brad Chafee qualified his freshly repainted ’67 Nova in the number one spot of the field with a 7.609.  Chafee’s bid for a repeat ended in the second round when he lost a double breakout battle to eventual winner Jimmy White, 7.583 to 7.593.
Fighting Irish pilot Ed Dougan scored one of the biggest upsets during the second round of Funny Car when he bested John Hale in the Mike Burkhart Camaro off the line and won with a 6.050 to Hale’s quicker 5.969.  The luck of the Irish faded in round three though when Dougan bulbed against eventual runner-up Gary Densham. image
Nostalgia Eliminator I – Dale Taros was on his game from start to finish in the wildly popular, and diverse, Nostalgia Eliminator category. With nearly 45 cars competing in NE1 , Taros used lightning quick reaction times and near-perfect index runs during round wins over Alan Hull, brother Don (the multi-time NE1 champ), Austin Fry, Dale Shubert, respectively, before disposing of number one qualifier Jordan Frolka in Monday’s final.
Howard Haight wheeled Jim Didio’s New York-based “Nitro-Diction” fueler to four straight 5.90s during eliminations, and considering the crisscross action in the final one has to wonder what the car would have run had it hooked and gone straight. Haight did out-mph Sorokin with a 5.935 at 246.23 to a 5.764 at 241.61. image
image Longtime B/Gas racer George Madden nails an .016 light during his semi final round meeting against defending B/Gas champ Jerry Jahnsen.  It was a battle to the finish line but Madden gave up a little too much at the stripe, as Jahnsen drove on by with a winning 8.641 to Madden’s 8.665
A/Gas- Jimmy White earned his first A/Gas title in his blown BBC ’63 Vette.  After qualifying fifth in the tough field, White defeated Rick Logsdon in the opening round, defending champ Brad Chafee in round two, and Terry Newton in the semis.  White met 2008 champ Ken Ratzloff in the final and the two duked it out to the finish line in a double breakout dash, 7.596 to a losing 7.569.
image Cecil Mathews blasted out a 208-plus mph victory over Howard Anderson in the first round of AA/Gas, which held for top speed of the class. Mathews qualified second, and finished second behind Chuck Moore.
Grizzled Funny Car veteran Gary Densham enjoyed his most successful outing since joining the N/FC ranks. Densham sent Jack Harris packing in round one, chased and beat Dwayne Patton in the second, got the luck of the Irish over Ed Dougan in round three, gave Josh Crawford a case of the blues to the max in the semis, and was pacing Leah Pruett-LeDuc until the last few hundred feet of their final round clash. image
7.0 Pro – The defending 7.0 Pro Heritage Series champion followed last year’s title-clinching CHRR crown with another Bakersfield victory. Will “the Thrill” Martin qualified his ’69 Camaro at the top of the pack then marched through the field with wins over Bill Windham, Dean Oberg, Matt Mahoney, respectively, before defeating the Indiana invader Mark Vaught in the final. Will’s dad, “Captain” John, won the 1988 March Meet in Funny Car competition, and rumor has it the kid will be joining the nitro ranks soon. Look out!
Johnny Cofer debuted this recently completed Hemi-powered ’23 T in Nostalgia Eliminator.  New car blues prevented Cofer from qualifying in the ultra tough class, but we don’t doubt that he’ll get this slick looking ride dialed in soon. image
image It was great to see Jess Tyree back in action at the March Meet.  Tyree qualified his ’63 Tempest fifth in the B/Gas field with an 8.611 and lasted until the second round where he was on the losing end of a double breakout affair with eventual runner-up Jerry Jahnsen.
Jr. Fuel – Dean Carter ran the table in Junior Fuel by qualifying number one with a 7.025 at 187.30 mph, then trouncing JD Zink in the final with best-in-class numbers of 7.011/187.89.
Lee Paul Jennings ripped an early-shutoff personal-best elapsed time during his third round victory over Bob Godfrey. The beautiful new “Code Red II” Camaro couldn’t make it back for Monday’s continuation of eliminations thus giving Leah Pruett-Leduc a semi-final single. image
image Mark Malde enjoyed his best outing in Arnold Birky’s Chevy powered ride. The perennial underdogs qualified second behind Jim Murphy with a 6.201, which was good enough for Saturday’s $500-low-of-the-round bonus money. Malde scored in the first round against Mike Chrisman but was stopped by Brad Thompson in the High Speed Motorsports entry during their second round clash.
AA/GAS – Chuck Moore has notched a few number one qualifying spots since teaming up with Gasser legend Steve Woods in this gorgeous ’63 Corvette, but the duo had yet to complete the deal with a big win, until now. Even under ideal weather and track conditions these AA/Gas cars are a handful, so it was no surprise that most of the runs from this short field were either stab-n-steer-n-lift nail biters or scary fast. Moore pedaled his way around an ailing Rich Roberts in round one late on Sunday, and was the beneficiary when Gary Reinero failed to return for Monday’s second round, thus setting up the final with Cecil Matthews with the nod going to Moore with a 6.748 at 204.68.
Rick White made the pass of the weekend in the first round of Top Fuel with a stunning 5.705 at 255.24 mph. His second round 5.79 at 254.88 was equally impressive but not enough to make up the tenth-plus deficit at the tree he gave to eventual winner Adam Sorokin. image
image It looked like Ken Ratzloff had the March Meet A/Gas trophy in his hands, but alas the Idaho racer was on the (too) short end of the stick in a double breakout final against Jimmy White. White had cleared the path by dumping the number one qualifier, Brad Chafee, in round two, then Ratzloff disposed of the 2009 Series champ, Rob Patten in the semis. The wild final pitted the ’53 Stude against White’s gorgeous ’63 Vette, with clock times of 7.569 and 7.596 on the 7.60 index.
A/Fuel -It had been six long years since Bill Wayne and his crew earned a March Meet victory, but there’s no question that this was well worth the wait.  Wayne qualified second behind Kin Bates and the two eventually met in the final round.  While Bates had a slightly better starting line advantage, Wayne had more than enough power to pull around him for the win, 6.393 to 6.586.
Jerry Jahnsen, who won the B/Gas title at last year’s event, was one thousandth too quick for a repeat during his final round match against John Saliani.  Jahnsen had the slight advantage off the line but took the stripe with an index-busting 8.599 to Saliani’s 8.601.  Wow! image
image The jaw dropping 5.703 that Ron Capps unloaded during qualifying was punctuated with a record-busting first round 5.675 pedal-job that had the rest of the field shaking their heads in disbelief. Capps couldn’t get the Hooker hooked in round two despite a valiant effort, and fell to Josh Crawford’s Blue Max.
Funny Car -It’s like déjà vu all over again. Steve Plueger brought his two-car team back to the March Meet again this year with different drivers, but the same dominating performance. After struggling a bit during qualifying, Leah Pruett-LeDuc first disposed of Jeff Bennett, and then the 253 mph speedster Paul Romine. When the semi-finals were postponed until Monday, Lee Paul Jennings called it splitsville, advancing the Mustang to a final round meeting with Gary Densham. The battle between the youngster and the teacher started nearly dead even but Pruett-LeDuc’s top end charge was too much for Densham, and a new lesson has been entered into the history books showing Leah Pruett-LeDuc as the first female Funny Car pilot to win the March Meet.
image 19-year old Casey Grisel showed that he has outgrown his Junior Dragster days by notching Top Speed in the A/Fuel class. Grisel, who crews on Courtney Force’s NHRA car, tapped Crew Chief Jerry Darien for the weekend. Grisel’s efforts came to an end in the semis where he lost a squeaker against eventual winner Bill Wayne.
Top Fuel – The nitro-fueled roller-coaster ride experienced by the Champion Speed Shop gang during the recent past has had some punishing lows, as well as a number of incredible highs, but no victory was quite so satisfying as their March Meet triumph. Believe it or not this was the team’s first victory at this fabled event. What with some of the toughest cars on the planet and a list of skilled drivers as long as your arm – dating back to the origin of the sport – How can that be, you say? …Oh it be.
Sorokin’s first round victory over Mike Fuller’s “Forever Young” squelched the sibling rivalry between the McLennan brothers, then he drilled Rick White at the tree to advance to the semis where Brad Thompson made an unsuccessful bid to rattle his cage, and finally Sorokin guided the spankin’ new Neil & Parks framed, Guy Ruchonnet bodied, Art Himsl painted, and Brian Van Dyke sponsored entry straight down the same lane his dad was victorious in during the 1966 event. I can assure you that Sorokin’s eyes pooled with emotion as he pulled past Howard Haight – and his weren’t the only ones.
©  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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