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Townsend One Chute Away From Win In Bakersfield
Taking runner up honors at the Saturday Night Nitro event in Bakersfield, race car driver Richard Townsend of Oakdale and his Nitroholic funny car team battled through an early parachute deployment to capture second place. - photo by Photo By Jeff Burghardt

Richard Townsend and his “Nitroholic” funny car team had the car to beat at the first Saturday Night Nitro event of the season at the famed Famosa Drag Strip near Bakersfield on June 28. In a “Chicago Style” racing format, 16 cars pair up and only the eight quickest move on the second round. Townsend set the performance bar with the low elapse time of the meet of 5.798 seconds at over 239 mph. Only two or three other cars ran in the 5-second zone on the tricky hot race track. A couple of the perennial heavyweights, Brad Thompson and Dan Horan, found themselves quickly out of competition, as they were unable to negotiate the tricky track conditions.

In the second and final round, the quickest winning car would be declared the winner. Townsend, racing out of Oakdale, came into the round as the performance favorite and it looked like he was not going to disappoint. He left the starting line with the front wheels up, as his car thundered down the quarter-mile race track. Then, without warning, one of the parachutes used to slow the car down after a run, deployed at about the 800 foot mark. The restraining pin had shaken loose, allowing the chute to pop out. Even with one parachute out, Townsend was able to muster up an unbelievable 5.97 second elapse time at over 220 mph. Unfortunately, the time would only be good enough for a runner-up finish, as James Day was able to drive his Pedaler funny car to a winning 5.81 second elapse time. Had the chute not deployed early on Townsend’s car, the computer data and track incremental timers showed that the car would have ran a high 5.6 second to low 5.7 second elapse time. That would have been more than enough to claim the event title.

With his performance, Townsend now sits in second place in the Bakersfield to Boise Blitz season series tournament. The winner at the end of the season collects a $10,000 prize. In addition, Townsend sits in fifth place in the prestigious NHRA Heritage Series points championship. The Heritage series champion is crowned at the California Hot Rod Reunion held in October at this same race track.

The next Saturday Night Nitro Event in Bakersfield is scheduled for Sept. 6. The track has special deals for fans attending the event, where a car load of fans get in for $25.