The NHRA Heritage Drag Racing Series kicked off at the 59th annual March Meet at the famed Auto Club Famoso Raceway, just north of Bakersfield. The racing wasn’t just on the track, but also against the weather. The weather started out good until race day, when the winds, rain and hail came. The race was finally halted on Sunday, with the final rounds in every category being delayed until Monday, March 6.
The Nostalgia Top Fuel category featured the upset of the event in the opening round, as three-time series champion, Tony Bartone, squared off against Mendy Fry. Bartone in the Bartone Brother dragster, qualified number one, while Fry, in her High Speed Motorsports dragster qualified eighth. As the tree sequenced, Bartone double stepped the throttle, allowing Fry to charge to an upset 5.597 at 249.26 mph win. With her team having struggled to get into the eight-car field, it was going to take nothing short of a miracle for her to advance. Not only did she get that miracle, but she went on to the final round for a chance at drag racing immortality. In the final round, Fry would face off against Jim Murphy, the number two qualifier. Murphy had one of the most consistent dragsters in the field, running in the low 5.70’s throughout. He had the quickest run in the semi-finals with a 5.635 at 244.95 mph. Fry’s car had started to fall off, slightly, and Murphy was statistically favored to get the class event win. But, races are won on the track, not on paper. Fry raced to a 5.598 at 252.66 mph for a March Meet Top Fuel title and into the history books as Murphy’s car broke a fuel pump on the burnout.
Nostalgia Funny Car featured 29 cars qualifying for 16-elimination ladder spots. It also featured some controversy, as three of the cars utilized some controversial bodies. The bodies looked like modern versions of the 1968-69 Chevy Camaro, featuring some radical aero packages. The bodies looked very similar to the bodies used in today’s NHRA Pro Mod category, and not much like the nostalgia appearance the category was founded under. In the final round two of these cars faced off for all the marbles. Kris Krabill, the 2016 Series Funny Car champion would race against the first driver to introduce this body style to the category in 2016, Ryan Hodgson. The final round matchup between Krabill and Hodgson ended with Hodgson taking the win with a 5.609 at 259.91 mph to a flaming 6.513 at 166.50 mph, as Krabill blew the engine in his car before the finish line. The ensuing fire lasted all the way through the shutdown area, basically burning the car to the ground. Krabill exited the car with no injuries and the car will be rebuilt before the next event in Boise, Idaho.
Oakdale’s Richard Townsend and the Nitroholic team ran into some mechanical gremlins and failed to make the quick 16-car field. They ran an event best of 5.98 seconds, well off the 5.84 second bump spot.
The Fuel Altered (AA/FA - radical short wheel based nitro rods with a 6.0 second index) class was won by Bryan Hall in his ’32 Bantam with a 6.06 at 214.45 mph.
The Nostalgia Rear engine Top Fuel category was won by Mike Halstead with a 6.046 at 229.43 mph.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series will compete in Gainesville, Florida over the weekend of March 16-19. It can be seen on television on FS1 over the weekend of the event. Check listing for times.