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Wally Parks Nostalgia Nationals Wrap Up Drag Racing Season
Capturing the win in the Nostalgia Top Fuel category (NTF) in a make up race for the rain delayed March Meet, was Jim Murphy, one of the fan favorites and original members of the NTF class. He was able to close out his career with a March Meet NTF event win. Photo By Mike Burghardt

The Wally Parks Nostalgia Nationals represents the final event of the season for the NHRA Heritage Drag Racing Season. The event was known as the California Hot Rod Reunion, but the reunion portion has been moved to the Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, California. That event is called the Nitro Revival and features many of the restored cars of yesteryear. These cars are started up and idled (called “cackling” due to the popping sound the engines make when running on the racing fuel, nitromethane). The Wally Parks event features the actual racing portion. And is named after the founding father of the National Hot Rod Association, Wally Parks. It is the season finale and crowns the season champions in the many categories contested.

The Nostalgia Top Fuel Category (NTF), also known as AA/FD, had three winners. The first was the winner for the rain delayed March Meet, held this past March. The event was not able to be completed, due to weather problems, so the NTF category contestants agreed to complete it during this event. Jim Murphy, one of the fan favorites and original members of the NTF class, was able to close out his career with a March Meet NTF event win. After about 40 years of racing, which included racing Top Fuel and Funny Cars in the NHRA big show series and racing the front-motored NTF dragsters, has retired from drag racing. He retires with five March meet victories and two NTF Heritage series championship (2013 and 2017), along with four GoodGuys Vintage Drag Racing Series titles (1997-1998-1999-2003). Murphy defeated Pete Whittenberg, 5.77 at 252 mph to 5.807 at 249 mph, to claim his fifth March Meet title, as the make-up runs of the rained out event were completed in conjunction with Saturday qualifying. This tied him with “Big Daddy” Don Garlits for the most March Meet Top Fuel victories.

Whittenberg may have lost to Murphy for the make-up March Meet title, but he was by no means, done. He went ahead and defeated Brett Williams, Tyler Hilton (season champion) and Frank McBee Jr. with a string of 5.70’s at 252 mph to claim the event title. Tyler Hilton, though coming up short of winning the event, did clinch his second consecutive Heritage Series Season NTF Championship. In addition, he scored (NTF) top speed of the event at 262.85 mph and low elapse time of eliminations at 5.696 seconds (Pete Kaiser had the class low elapse time of 5.631 seconds). Unlike today’s (modern rear-engine Top Fuel dragsters), these cars are all front motored. Often referred to as “sling shots” they went out of favor (mostly due to safety concerns) by 1971, as Don Garlits showed everyone the value and capabilities of the rear-motored dragster, following his severe accident a year earlier. Prior to the nostalgia era cars of today, the quickest front motored dragsters ran about 6.43-seconds in the quarter-mile. These new versions are technologically built stronger, safer and run quicker and faster under strict rules for safety and performance. They are very popular with the fans and bring back fond memories of the past.

In Funny Car (AA/FC, NFC) it was basically the Bobby Cotrell show, as he repeated as the event winner and the season champion with his radical 1969 cloned funny car. Though he qualified third, he had little trouble marching to the final round, taking out Drew Austin, Tim Boychuck and Derrick Moreira with a string of 5.60 elapse times, claiming the fastest speeds each round. In the final, he defeated Brad Thompson with a 5.660 at 260.46 mph, as Thompson’s car suffered mechanical problems and shut off. Cottrell double upped, taking both the March Meet and the season finale events at this track in consecutive years. He also claimed his second consecutive Heritage Series Season Funny Car Championship.

This event, like the March Meet, is held at this track, often known as the “patch”. Over the years, many famous drag racing events have been held here, showcasing many of the greatest racers in the sport. If you enjoy seeing drag racing history, these two events are great to attend. There are about 18 categories contested at each event featuring cars that very closely resemble those (with safety updates) run in the glory days.

Tyler Hilton, though coming up short of winning the season finale race at Irwindale in the Nostalgia Top Fuel category, did clinch his second consecutive Heritage Series Season NTF Championship. Photo By Mike Burghardt