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Area Funny Car Team Shines At Bakersfield March Meet
Taking part in the NHRA Heritage series season opener over the weekend, Richard Townsend of Oakdale and his Nitroholic nostalgia Funny Car team made the trip to Bakersfield for the competition. - photo by MIKE BURGHARDT

Richard Townsend of Oakdale and his “Nitroholic” nostalgia Funny Car team had been working hard during the off-season in preparation for the NHRA Heritage series season opener. Their hard work paid off, as the 1969 bodied Chevy Camaro Funny Car came alive all weekend. Townsend opened his qualifying effort with a career best 5.75 second at 249.86 mph pass, which would hold for the fifth position. There were 29 Funny Cars vying for one of the 16 available qualifying positions, which featured a 5.904 second “bump” to get into the show. There were a lot of big name racers who failed to get into the show at the conclusion of qualifying.

Townsend and his team arrived at the track about a week before the event to perform some test and tune runs to get not only the car ready, but also the driver (Richard Townsend, himself). Not only was the 5.75 pass a great run, but it also caused no damage to any parts other than minor wear and tear. In addition, the elapse time gives him the bragging rights as the quickest nostalgia Funny Car around the area. During the second round of qualifying on Friday, the team decided against making the run, choosing to relax and perform routine maintenance on the race at a less hectic pace, rather than possibly damaging parts. For Townsend, it would be a long anxious night, as the car was running so good, he could hardly wait to drive it.

On Saturday, they took on the track once again for the third and final qualifying session, and performed a scheduled early shut off run to about the 800 foot mark. The timing incremental data collected by the on track timing system and the cars data collection computer showed that the car could have run into the high 5.6 second range, if Townsend had not shut off early, making the entire team very excited. Once again, the car was very strong and team could hardly wait for the first round of eliminations to begin.

They wouldn’t need to wait long, as the first round of racing was scheduled for later that same day and they would face off against the #12 qualifier, Peter Gallen and his Poverty Stricken Chevy Monza bodied Funny Car. Gallen is known as an east coast heavy hitter, having won numerous races and series titles over the past few years. When the anxiously awaited first round came, numerous cars ran quicker than their qualifying times, as the track conditions and weather conditions approached optimal conditions. Townsend squared off against Gallen, taking the right lane, as he had the lane choice by being the quicker qualified car. When the starting lights sequenced, both drivers were off. But, Townsend was headed towards the outside wall, in a hurry. As he fought to gain control, he had to let off the throttle, allowing Gallen to race down the quarter mile to the victory. Though the track was optimal, it could still be tricky, and the tractive grip of the race tracked pulled his car quickly toward the outside wall, ending what was a very promising race day and weekend.

Townsend and his team, though disappointed, were very optimistic and plans are to head to the next event scheduled at Firebird Raceway in Boise, Idaho in mid-April.

In other qualifying notes, Steven Densham (son of Gary ‘the School Teacher” Densham and longtime NHRA “Big Show” Funny Car racer) captured the number one qualifying spot in Funny Car with a 5.69 at 249.30 mph effort and advanced to the second round of eliminations. Tony Bartone, a volunteer New Jersey Sheriff, took the number two spot with a 5.63 at 241.89 mph, and advanced to the second round of eliminations. All in all, there were about 14 categories being contested at this event with nearly 500 race cars from across the country and Canada entered, making this one of the largest events on the NHRA Heritage Drag Racing schedule.