7-9, Famoso Raceway-Bakersfield, CA- The golden anniversary of the famed March Meet
exceeded pre-event hype and will go down as one of the most memorable
events this chick has ever attended. Over 500 racers from coast-to-coast, Canada,
and Australia took
aim at their respective fields, thrilling the record crowd with every
pass under sparkling blue skies. Qualifying was action-packed,
with many drivers recording personal best elapsed times and speeds in
several of the Pro categories. The shot heard throughout the
Central Valley was the atomic 5.56/263.62 run by Jack 'the Sheriff'
Harris and the Utah Posse during Sunday's eliminations. Never have
I witnessed a more delayed reaction to a scoreboard number than
that. It just flat rocked the house!
Sadly, tragedy befell veteran racer John Shoemaker on Saturday during a high-speed crash that took his life. Raising speculation that he may have lost consciousness during the run, there was no indication that he shut the fuel off, or deployed the chutes after the finish line.
The car continued through the shutdown area at wide-open
throttle, eventually crashing near the orchard well past the sand trap.
Track emergency personnel administered aid to Shoemaker and he
was airlifted to the Kern County Medical Center.
extend our deepest sympathies to John's family, wife Judee, and sons Jim
Enjoy the following photo highlights.
Dawn & Mark
|A record 20 entries were on hand competing in Nostalgia Eliminator III. Former Division 7 Jr. Dragster standout Lindsey Lister, near lane, made her nostalgia debut behind the wheel of this Chevy-powered vintage Shoemaker digger. Lister qualified sixth in the tough 8-car show with a 9.72 and lasted until the semi-final round losing to eventual winner John Lyon.|
|2007 B/Gas winner Leonard Perry was on a mission to repeat, but lost a close battle to eventual winner Monti Fitzgerald in the semis, 8.613 to an 8.609.|
|Legendary Super Stock and Funny Car driver Jess Tyree has six March Meet wins in Super Stock to his credit, dating back to the inaugural event. Tyree, shown with his Fuel and Gas Championships trophy from the 1965 event, earned five consecutive wins from 1961-1965. Tyree, who got into the B/Gas field as first alternate and lasted through the quarter finals, competes in the same 1963 Pontiac Tempest that earned him his win in 1963.|
|One of many competitors to make the long tow to Bakersfield was Michelle Lewis, who brought her 'Scary Thought' '69 Woody dragster all the way out from Louisville, Kentucky. Lewis tried her luck in the Nostalgia Eliminator III field, but just missed the cut by a couple of tenths running a best of 10.02 for the weekend.|
|Jay Huckleberry nabbed the Nostalgia Eliminator II title over a record 40 entries for the 16-car show.|
|This rather familiar and large winner's circle gathering belongs to A/Fuel winner Kin Bates. Bates defeated Jeremy Sullivan, Bill Wayne and Darrel Waters, respectively, while earning low ET and top speed of the event with a 6.251/224.83.|
|The new designated driver in Gary Messenger's beautiful "Future Flash" in the ever-popular Mendy Fry. Following a personal-best 6.05 in the final qualifying session to qualify sixth in the 'A' field, violent tire shake blinked the mag switch, spoiling Fry's Funny Car debut in the first round of competition.|
|And the crowd went wild, really! Hot Rod competitor and Bakersfield resident Shag Wentworth had plenty of fans cheering him on, as they watched the wily driver outlast a field of more than 150 racers in his '64 Chevy II en route to collecting his first March Meet trophy.|
|Popular B/Gas racer Monti Fitzgerald was absolutely brutal in his '67 Nova throughout eliminations. Fitzgerald used killer reactions times and worked the finish line well in defeating class heavyweights George Madden, Kevin Riley, Leonard Perry, and Ed Elliott, respectively.|
|Darrel Waters made a valiant effort in giving dad Tony a March Meet win, qualifying in the number one spot with an off-the-trailer 6.32. Waters, who was sporting the Smokers paint scheme, advanced to a final round meeting with Kin Bates, but red lit away the opportunity.|
|It was a surprise to see Gary Turner's "Pedaler" not qualify well enough to make the top 8, but they did make the "B" show. Improved performance on Sunday moved Kris Krabil past Terry Capp, Leah Pruett, and Mike Grekul, respectively, for the trophy.|
|D/Gas winner Alan Ross took to task a very tough field of competitors in his '65 Mustang, defeating low qualifier and defending event winner Ed Carey in the final.|
Brian Darcy was the "slow" half of quickest side-by-side run in Junior Fuel history, placing second behind Scott Parks with a personal-best 6.885 at 190.63 MPH. Darcy's weekend came to end in the first round against eventual runner-up JD Zink.
|AA/Gas veteran Steve Woods earned his fourth March Meet victory, (the first three in 1998, 1999, and 2005), by defeating Cecil Mathews, defending event champ Chris Abbey, and Mike Leonard.|
|San Diego resident Ken Rappaport put up a solid day's worth of numbers in his blown BBC digger during Nostalgia Eliminator eliminations, defeating several opponents with holeshot induced breakouts. The tables were turned on Rappaport in the final though, as opponent Robert Overholser used a winning .056/7.618 package over Rappaport's .071/7.551.|
|Overton, Nev., resident John Lyon celebrates his NE3 win with his crew. Overton used consistent 9.60 e.t.s and killer reaction times to outlast a tough field of competitors.|
Thompson set the early pace in Top Fuel with an out-of-the-box 5.675 to secure
the number one qualifying position.
Thompson marched through eliminations with relative ease and faced Jack
Harris in the final.
This highly anticipated match was a bit anticlimactic as both
competitors experienced traction woes, Thompson's almost immediately after
holeshotting the Sheriff, who took the win with a 6.064 at 239.36 MPH.
Enriquez is seldom the quickest or fastest racer in the Junior Fuel B
category, but at MM50 he was unquestionably the most consistent.
A string of "bracket-like" 7.20s propelled the venerable
veteran into the March Meet winner's circle for the third time this decade.
|Steve Plueger tapped the multi-talented Mike Grekul to wheel the modern version of his "Plueger & Gyger" Mustang. Grekul qualified in the 8th spot of the 'B' field with a 6.24, and stepped up with team-best 6.03/229.12 in the opening round against Jim Holtz. The team's weekend culminated with a runner-up finish to Kris Krabill. Not a bad way to debut a car!|
Kaiser wheeled the "Ground Zero" entry to a whopping 255.89 MPH
blast during qualifying, and also scored a personal best (AA/FD) ET of 5.81 to
place fifth. While building tons
of horsepower has never been a problem for the team, getting it to the ground
proved challenging, and Kaiser's weekend ended in round one with a cloud of
|Past March Meet winner Bud Hammer sure looked like the man to beat with a 7.112 ET that could have placed him deep into the "A" category, but snagged the number one spot during Junior Fuel "B" qualifying. Sporting a homebuilt engine combination, Hammer ran a personal-best and low ET 7.068 while dispatching John Rasmussen's personal-best 7.07 in the semifinal, the quickest side-by-side race for the class. Hammer's bid for another March Meet title came to a screeching halt when he spun the tires at the hit in the final round, handing the win to Don Enriquez.|
|C/Gas competitor Mike Wortman drove his '69 Cougar out of the 23rd spot of the 32-car field to an impressive win over finalist Scott 'Lucky' Hudson. Wortman used a .039/9.641 over Hudson's oh-so-close .040/9.655.|
|If the name Danny Miller seems familiar on a Maverick flopper you may recall the "Plastic Fantastic" run by the same dude back in the day. Miller's driver, "Rapid" Randy Baker, got into the "B" field and beat Dan Horan in round one but broke on the burnout before facing Mike Grekul in the second.|
|Longtime AA/Gas competitor Mike Leonard spent the off season freshening up the engine with new parts in his '69 Chevelle and the investment paid dividends; he posted career-best numbers right off the trailer with 6.684 to qualify in the number one spot. Leonard bettered that effort with an opening round 6.66/208.09 over John Peterson and followed that up with a 6.692 win over Rich Roberts in the semis. Leonard met class veteran Steve Woods in the final, but a red-light start by Leonard ended his fairytale-like weekend. (Adding insult to injury, the chute popped out at the hit.) This was Leonard's third trip to a March Meet final (the others in 2000 & 2002) event where he runner-upped to Gary Reneiro each time.|
Swartz and Richard Stannard flawlessly duplicated the fabled "Beach City
Chevrolet" Corvette while staying within the current flopper rules.
Forgoing a known baseline tune-up in favor of "the correct
look", they nailed it right down to the original Hilborn 4 port injector.
|Top Fuel driver Howard Haight got a face-full of fire during his first round match against Shannon Stuart, a result of the heads not being torqued.|
|It's not often you see a '53 Studebaker in the the final of any class, much less two, and even less likely they'll both wind up qualified one and two in the field. That was the case in the A/Gas final when Idaho Falls, ID, native and number two qualifier Ken Ratzloff squared off in his silver and blue flamed entry against number one qualifier Scott Loomis. Ratzloff won the battle of the 'Studes when he ran a nearly dead-on 7.601 over Loomis' 7.632. Wow!|
Austin was in a class by himself at the March Meet.
Austin set the Funny Car low ET of the category while qualifying number
one with a 5.833 at 242.91.
The trend continued during each round of eliminations as he blazed
through the field with a string of 5 second runs at speeds that no body else
came close to.
Austin set Top Speed of the meet at 243.63 MPH in a victorious final
round over Steve Romanazzi.
an absolutely forgettable set of attempts during qualifying, Jack Harris
dominated on Sunday, and scored his third March Meet Top Fuel victory.
The most significant run of the event came in round two when he belted
out a stunning 5.568 at 263.62 MPH.
This "first in the .50s" run left everyone shocked in
disbelief, until his next pass, another "early click" at 5.578 to
solidify the ET record for the class.
Harris was equally quick to credit his team, M&H Racemaster Tires,
as well as "Dale Emery for the basic tune-up, and Frank Parks for a
perfectly balanced racecar."
|With better than two dozen floppers struggling to enter the 8-car 'A' field, Team Pisano driver Jeff Utterback posted a career best 6.008 in the opening qualifying session, which held for the third spot of the field. Utterback's weekend came to an end in the first round when a loose oil line liberated itself from the oil gauge, forcing Utterback to lift at 500'.|
|Scott Loomis qualified his electric '53 Studebaker in the number one spot of the A/Gas field with a 7.609. Loomis defeated Augustine Herrera, Dave Matson, and Ken Moore, respecitively, before losing a close battle to fellow Studebaker owner Ken Ratzloff in the final, 7.601 to 7.632.|
|Robert 'Stormy' Byrd and his wicked-cool and era-correct 'Revelation' Modified Fuel Roadster was one of 60 entries vying for a spot in the 32-car Nostalgia Eliminator class. Byrd just made the show in the 32nd spot with a 7.74, but lost in the opening round to eventual runner-up Ken Rappaport.|
Haas reached for the sky at the wheel of Justin Grant's recreation of Don
Schumacher's "Stardust" 'Cuda during Saturday qualifying.
The Indiana team missed the cut in Funny Car competition in their first
trip to Famoso, but thoroughly enjoyed a memory-filled weekend nonetheless.
|Jr. Fuel ace Scott Parks raised the bar a little higher for the class when he posted a career-best 6.84/194.59 during qualifying for the number one spot, and then bettered the MPH on Saturday with a 194.97 MPH blast. Parks earned his fourth March Meet title by defeating Mike Chrisman in round one 6.870/193.88 to 6.962/193.05 (a personal-best for Chrisman), and then taking out JD Zink in the final 6.869/193.50 to 6.943/189.23.|
|Nostalgia Eliminator driver Robert Overholser closed a 53-year old winless streak for car owner Jake Jacobs when he drove Jacobs' blown altered to a 7.61 win in the final over Ken Rappaport's break-out 7.55. "I've been driving for Jake since the 2007 March Meet", said Overholser. "When Jake asked if I wanted to race this weekend, it didn't take much arm-twisting for me to say yes. It's the 50th March Meet; who could turn this down?" Jacobs' first and only win came in 1955 at Famoso Raceway. "I drove down to Bakersfield to visit my step-sister one weekend and read a flyer about a race at Famoso Raceway the following day", said the 77-year old Jacobs.|
|"I decided to spend the night and take my street-driven '41 Ford Coupe to give it try. It had a tricked-out flathead and they put me in the D/Gas class. I won my class with a whopping 83 MPH pass; back then they didn't record elapsed times. To record the miles per hour, you drove over a water hose that went 'ding-ding' and recorded the speed." Jacobs debuted his current altered in 2004 with Bob Murphy driving. Murphy has since moved on to his own car, but continues to offer tuning and support for the team whenever needed. For Overholser, his first win was redemption for his runner-up finish in B/Gas at the 2004 March Meet. "I was up until 3 A.M. just thinking about the whole weekend", said Overholser. "I'm still stoked and can't believe I won."|
|Perhaps the most consistent performer in Top Fuel was the 'Raisin Express 2' entry of Jim Cullen and Denver Schutz. After qualifying seventh with a 5.85, Schutz ripped off a personal-best run of 5.750 at 258.54 in defeating Adam Sorokin in round one (the quickest and fastest numbers of that round). The "Shooter" nearly Xeroxed that time slip in round two with a 5.775 at 258.69 in putting away Troy Green's game 5.95. Schutz's utterly psychic .002 light in the semis welded Jack Harris to the tree, but his early lead was quickly used up by Harris' record-backing 5.57.|
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