The owner/driver team of Oakdale’s Richard Townsend and Josh Crawford tackled the famed Famosa Raceway just north of Bakersfield on Oct. 19 and 21 to compete in the 21st Annual National Hot Rod Association California Hot Rod Reunion.
The event is the final event on the NHRA Heritage Drag Racing Season tour, where racers in various categories earn the final points available towards their category season championships. Townsend recently completed all of his competition licensing procedures, but decided to have Crawford handle the driving duties. Crawford has several years of experience driving a nitro funny car, including his own Blue Max nostalgia funny car and his NHRA ‘Big Show’ funny car.
In all 30 nitro funny cars from across the county competed in qualifying for 16 final elimination positions. With only two qualifying runs on the schedule, one of Friday afternoon and the last on Saturday afternoon, getting into the qualified field was no easy task.
During the pair of nitro funny cars running in front of the Townsend team, one of the cars broke, resulting in a delay for track clean-up. This would prove to have a critical effect on the Townsend racing Camaro. After performing all the pre-run rituals to heat the tires and warm the engine, Crawford staged the car for his first qualifying run of the event. When the green light flashed, he was gone and the car started accelerating nicely. As the car approached half-track, Josh attempted to shift into high gear, but the car would not shift. While they were waiting for the track clean-up to finish, the air to operate the shifter had bled out of the system. Normally, the system valves are not operated until they are getting ready to run the car. They had just opened the system valves when the track clean-up delays came into play. During the delay, the team inadvertently forgot to re-close the valve, thus the air was able to bleed out of the system. Because of Josh’s experience, he quickly realized that he needed to abort the remainder of the run to prevent any damage to the car’s engine or drive line components.
The second and final round of qualifying occurred on Saturday afternoon. The weather and track conditions optimal, increasing the chances for record category runs. By the time the Crawford approached the starting line for its final qualifying effort, the field was a 5-second field, the bump to get into the 16th spot was 5.98 seconds. Getting into this tough field was not going to be easy, but Crawford said that they found something in their tune up that would get the car to run well into the field. Run, it did, as Josh qualified sixth on the 16-car ladder with the quickest run of the round at an astounding 5.83 seconds at 241.20 mph.
The team was ecstatic, as this was the quickest run, to date, with this new Camaro. On the run, they did cause some minor damage to the engine, but they would have plenty of time to make repairs before the 1st round of eliminations later that day.
In the first round, Crawford would square off against the 2010 series champion, Kris Krabill driving the ever potent Bucky Austin Plymouth Arrow funny car. Kris Krabill had qualified 11th with a 5.864 at 249.21 mph, giving Josh the edge on paper.
But, they don’t race on paper.
As the starting lights flashed to green, Kris Krabill left first by nearly a 1/10th of a second over Josh, commonly called a ‘hole shot’ advantage. Crawford had the quicker elapse time at 5.81 seconds to a 5.90 second time by Kris Krabill, but Krabill got the win light. It was another great run by the team from Oakdale, though they came up short.
Rick Williams of Stockton won the Nostalgia Top Fuel event title.
Immediately following the reunion race at Famosa, Crawford and his NHRA Full Throttle funny car team was bound to Las Vegas for the NHRA Big O Tires Nationals. Things did not go as good at that event, as his Full Throttle team continues the learning process, failing to qualify for the 16-car field. They ended up qualifying 18th with a 4.377 elapse time at 282.48 mph. The bump spot to get into the show 4.136 second elapse time.
Oakdale Leader correspondents Mike and Jeff Burghardt contributed to this report.