June 15, 2015, Beech Bend Raceway—In anticipation of possible regime change, after a four-year absence the “High Speed Motorsports” Top Fueler returns to Bowling Green, Kentucky for competition at this week’s 13th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion.
“We feel that it’s time to put an end to (Tony) Bartone and (Steve) Boggs’ winning streak,” High Speed’s crew chief Tom “Slick” Shelar said, in reference to the Steve Boggs-tuned “Bartone Bros.” dragster’s relentless domination of Top Fuel Eliminator in recent NHRA Heritage Series competition. These are strong words from Shelar, but history backs up his threat. Indeed, the Holley National Reunion is an event his California-based team once dominated, winning here five times between 2004 and 2010. In 2008, the High Speed Motorsports front-engine Top Fuel dragster posted a ¼-mile elapsed time of 5.72 seconds at 258 mph, numbers which remain the class’s quickest and fastest at Bowling Green.
Regardless of that success, during High Speed’s break from cross-country travel, the team dug in and revamped its entire operation.
“We have rebuilt the team from the top down over the last three years,” Shelar said. “A lot of time and effort has been spent retooling the engine combination to be faster and more consistent while improving the reliability.”
As part of its team overhaul, High Speed also put veteran dragster driver Bill Dunlap in the cockpit. The tweaking didn’t end there. “We have fresh pipe from Brad Hadman to go along with the new combination and a few aero tweaks from Tim Gibson that should help improve downforce and yield better speed,” Shelar explained.
During High Speed’s break from competition in the Midwest, other teams have flourished here, and the Holley Reunion’s most recent victor was the New York-based Bartone Bros., who won in 2014 and have not lost a round of racing since. This feat has really gotten under the skin of the rest of the AA/Fuel Dragster scene.
Beyond spurring on the return of High Speed, the “Bartone factor” has inspired twelve Top Fuel teams from across the country to load up for Kentucky and fight for 8 spots on the eliminator ladder, resulting in one of the event’s bigger car counts.
Others joining Dunlap in the hunt for Bartone include Adam Sorokin and the “Champion Speed Shop” small-block fueler out of San Francisco (currently the #2 in Heritage Series Points after a runner-up result at the March Meet), and Dusty Green in the “Nitro-Hemi” machine out of Utah, both of whom have a shot of taking the Points Lead. More Top Fuel dragsters are coming from California, Florida, Delaware, Oklahoma, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. Among them: Jim Young and “Tri-State Racing,” Dave Hirata in the “Orange Crate”, Brendan Murry, Paul Schultz and his “Spirit of Tulsa,” Jason Greenwood, Tim Cullinan, Jerry Kumre in the “NitroCentral.com” Dragster and Phil Burkart Jr.