The opening of the 52nd Annual March Meet at the famed Famoso Raceway just north of Bakersfield got off to an auspicious start for Oakdale’s nostalgia drag racing team and driver Josh Crawford on March 5.
On his first qualifying attempt, Crawford — in the famed “Blue Max” 1969 Mustang funny car — shook the tires, causing the car to veer across the center-line of the track. In the process, the run was disqualified. The car took some minor lower front body damage when it contacted one of the centerline timing system reflector cones. The damage to the fiberglass body was minor and quickly repaired.
On Saturday, crew chief Bob Brooks and a staff worked on ways to put the power back into the race set-up, leading to qualification and consecutive wins in the single-elimination bracket. The car landed a huge upset and a semifinal appearance before a top-4 finish among 32 cars.
After qualifying 17th, the team was paired with No. 16 qualifier Jim Adolf and the Blair Speed Shop 1968 Camaro funny car, for round one of eliminations in the Fuel Funny Car category. At the flash of green, Crawford had an exceptional reaction time, quickly leaving his opponent behind at the starting gate with a 6.12-second run, taking the all important win light.
The win propelled Oakdale’s Crawford to the second round against the number one qualifier, Ron Capps. Capps is one of the premier drivers on the NHRA ‘Full Throttle’ drag racing series, having qualified with a 5.703 second pass for one of the quickest runs ever run in a Nostalgia Fuel Funny Car.
In the pit area, the crew had to thrash on the engine, replacing a couple pistons. They were definitely paying their dues to the proverbial ‘aluminum gods,’ as aluminum pistons were being sacrificed on each run down the track. But if rebuilding an engine in a short time period and having to face the ‘baddest car’ on the grounds was not enough pressure, problems arose with the re-assembly of the engine. After much extra effort the talented crew found the problem and the car was quickly warmed-up. Then it was a race to the starting line to meet their heavily favored competition.
At the flash of the green light, the cars leaped off the starting line in unison and headed down the track. Almost immediately, Capps’ car over-powered the track, and smoke billowed off the huge rear tires. Crawford’s car stumbled on the tuning set-up and started to shake. Not to be deterred, Blue Max reacted quickly, feathering in and out of the throttle (commonly called pedaling), recovering much quicker than Capps. Crawford ‘out-pedaled’ one of the best in the business and streaked on to a huge upset with a 6.093-second mark at 233 miles per hour.
A repair glitch to the next car the Blue Max was to face handed the Oakdale team a free ride into the semi-final round, where Gary Densham’s 40 years of experience led to a victory and finals appearance.
In the finale, Leah Pruett-Leduc defeated Densham to take the 52nd funny car title with a 5.811-second run at 242.65 mph.
Oakdale’s Blue Max is sponsored by Oakdale businesses Napa Auto Parts, Signs by Randy and John Morgan Snap-on Tools.
The Nostalgia funny car is a modern day representation of the fuel funny cars, as they appeared in the late 1960s through 1979. They are very similar to their 300-plus mph offspring of today that are currently run on the NHRA Full Throttle Championship drag racing series.