With spring rains pelting the Northern California Central Valley area throughout the week, it was time for the sun to come out. And come out it did, just in time to allow another great weekend of drag racing at Sacramento Raceway for the annual “Funny Car Fever” event.
The event featured over 132 entries contesting in 14 categories, including the fan favorites of Nostalgia Funny Car (AA/FC) and the wild Pro Mod door slammer class. Nitro Funny Cars, Alcohol Funny Cars, Wild Door Slammers, a couple of Top Fuel Dragsters, gas dragsters and roadsters and a variety of gasoline fuel index race cars made up the race lineup.
Fans had full access to the drivers and it wasn’t uncommon to see fans, young and old, getting an autograph and/or photo with one of their favorite drivers.
One of the popular drivers with the fans was Oakdale’s Josh Crawford and his famous ‘Blue Max’ 1969 Mustang nitro funny car. In addition to Josh Crawford, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and San Joaquin counties were well represented with drivers from Modesto, Sonora, Jamestown, Manteca and Stockton as well.
There were numerous competitors from the local Sacramento area and some long distance travelers from out of state. Fuel Funny Car racer Mark Sanders came from the state of Washington. There were several from Oregon, Nevada and Arizona and one, Steve Rajcic, came from Oklahoma to complete competition license requirements in his Nitro Fueled Funny Car.
There were also some Junior Dragsters on hand. These cars are designed for kids of the 8- to 15-year-old age group. Many of today’s drag racing stars started out in these cars. These dragsters have highly modified Briggs and Stratton engines and look like smaller versions of the full size dragsters on tour.
The local racers from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and San Joaquin county areas had the full spectrum of performance results. Josh Crawford and his team solved some on track performance issues they were having and qualified sixth into the 8-car nitro funny car field with a 6.181 seconds at 238.60 mph pass. Crawford’s competition time was unfortunately shortened, when he ‘fouled out’ in the first round to Brian Thiel, leaving too soon, drawing the ‘dreaded red light’ start.
Rod and Matt Hartzell, of Modesto, qualified seventh and eighth in the highly competitive Top Comp class. Matt survived into the second round of eliminations, but got bragging rights over Rod in the first round by taking him out with a 7.36 to 7.19 second run. Rod had the quicker time, but lost on a ‘holeshot’ (opponent had a better reaction time off the starting line) to Matt.
Dan Maciel of Jamestown qualified fourth in the 7.00 Pro class and lasted into the semi final round of eliminations in his ’32 Bantam Roadster, when he left a bit late, allowing his opponent a fairly large starting line advantage that he could not make up, giving his opponent a holeshot victory.
Jeff Browning of Manteca qualified 10th in the D/Gas category and went out in round number one with his ’64 Chevelle when he was taken out by Alden Conway of Martinez in his ’71 Chevy Nova. Dennis Paz of Stockton qualified second in D/Gas with his ’68 Chevy Nova and made it into the semi-final round where he fouled out via a red light start.
Michael Corradi, also of Stockton, qualified third in D/Gas and went out in the second round when his ’73 Chevy Vega wagon broke out by running a 10.573 second pass on a 10.60 second class index. Rich Nedbal of Sonora, had the best results of the locals, by qualifying second with an 8.05 second run on the 8.00 class index with his ’07 Land Shark dragster and running the gauntlet to the winner’s circle, collecting a well deserved trophy and payout.
The event also featured several women drivers. The most notable were Leah Pruit-Leduc and Melissa Westerman. Leah has recently been crushing the competition in the Nostalgia (AA/FC) Fuel Funny car category in the Plueger and Gyger 1972 Ford Mustang Funny Car. She came in as the category points leader after winning the opening event in Bakersfield back in March. She qualified number one with a eye opening 5.736 second pass and set the class top speed at 255.78 mph. Unfortunately, she lost in the semi-final round to the eventual class winner, Mark Sanders and his “Mr. Explosive’ 1970 Chevy Nova Funny Car. Melissa, from Sonoma, also did quite well in the very competitive Top Comp category. She drove her pink “Girl Power” super-charged dragster to a strong semi-final finish.