Two big events in two weekends, battled through the storms in California and featured action on both coasts.
Heavy rains from the large storm front caused delays in the completion of the 65th annual Good Vibrations Bakersfield March Meet at the famed Famoso Drag Strip, just north of Bakersfield.
The AA/FD (Nostalgia series AA/Fuel Dragster racers were not able to stay over into the late afternoon Sunday and Monday with delays caused by the weather. These racers and teams all had business and job commitments that required them early on Monday morning. For this reason, their portion of the event will be rescheduled to a later date. That rescheduled date will be at the California Hot Rod Reunion in October. Tyler Hilton, the series defending champion in 2022, sits atop the eight-car field in the number one qualifying position, with a 5.757 at 250.32 mph.
Bobby Cottrell from Hemet, CA took home the win in Nostalgia Funny Car (AA/FC, NFC). Cottrell qualified his Camaro Funny Car in the number one spot and ran the gamut, setting low elapse time of the event with a 5.661 at 254.62 mph. In the final round, he took out Tim Boychuck.
In the Fuel Altered class (6.0-second index; AA/FA), Mark Whynaught of Las Vegas, NV qualified at the top of the eight-car field, with a strong 6.053 at 240.13 mph. He then utilized consistent runs and good reaction times, plus a little luck (his opponent, Derrick Moreira fouled out in the semi-final round) to get into the final round. In the final, he defeated Johnny West on a 0.061 to 0.120 hole shot, winning with a 6.120 at 223.39 mph to a (quicker) 6.109 at 247.07 mph.
The Nitro Pro Comp category is a relatively new heritage drag racing category that features rear-engine Top Fuel dragsters (very similar to those run in the early 1970s and ‘80s) racing against nostalgia funny cars and fuel altered, running with a 5.90 second index. Keith Wilson, driving the wild Witch Doctor ‘39 Topolino AA/FA, was defeated by defeated Elly Stafford and her rear engine dragster in the final round. Stafford led the field in qualifying with a 6.l130 at 224.40 mph. In the final, Wilson broke out with a 5.753 at 261.02 mph, as Stafford stayed within the class index with a 6.040 at 232.11 mph.
This past weekend, the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series opened the season with the 54th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gator Nationals in Gainesville, Florida. Unlike last season, inclement weather did not cause serious event scheduling problems. This event is not only a national event, where racers earn points towards the season championship playoffs, but it also has a special race within a race for an $80,000 payout to the winner in Top Fuel. Drivers earn points in all events coming into this event based on qualifying results. Then there is a special call out, sponsored by Pep Boys Auto Service Centers (Pep Boys NHRA All-Star Top Fuel Call Out), where each driver (total of eight qualify for this), in order of their qualifying position, call out the driver they want to challenge/race during the national event qualifying rounds. This special race within a race call out is also done for Funny Cars and held in Indy. Josh Hart from Ocala, FL won the race within a race for the $80,000 payout.
In Top Fuel, Mike Salinas took top honors, capturing the event win over four-time series champion, Steve Torrence, for his eighth career event win. Torrence got away first, but Salinas was able to power by in his Scrappers/Valley Services dragster with a strong 3.700 at330.31 mph to Torrence’s 3.754 at 333.82 mph in his Capco Contractors/Toyota Racing Team dragster.
Matt Hagan took the Funny Car honors, defeating J.R. Todd for the 44th event win of his career. It was a special win for Hagan as it happened on his longtime crew chief Dickie Venable’s birthday and at the same event where his team owner, Tony Stewart, also competed in Top Alcohol Dragster.
Troy Coughlin, Jr. won Pro Stock, taking out Mason McGaha, 6.637 at 208.71 mph to 6.765 at 207.94 mph and Gaige Herrera won his first event in Pro Stock Motorcycle, as the new “rookie” rider on the Mission Foods Vance and Hines Suzuki.