“Good Vibrations Saturday Night Nitro,” Auto Club Famoso Raceway, June 28, 2015—“High Speed Motorsports’” Bill Dunlap swept the two-round winner-take-all Mastercam Top Fuel Shootout held in conjunction with Famoso Raceway’s “Saturday Night Nitro” by firing off a sizzling 5.70-second ¼-mile elapsed time at 246 mph to fend off hard-charging Rick White, who runner-upped with a second-best 5.79 at 257 mph.
Six front-engine Top Fuel dragster teams entered the Shootout, whose format was an all-run first round before the two quickest dragsters returned for a first-to-the-big-end final. Late afternoon test runs knocked out two of the combatants before actual competition even began, as both Rick McGee’s “Overtime Special” and Rick Williamson’s “Team Craig” suffered pronounced chassis damage due to severe tire shake.
The first pair of the Shootout’s qualifying round featured the two drivers who would meet later in the final, White and Dunlap. In their side-by-side qualifier, both entries blazed down the dragstrip with all eight cylinders lit. Unfortunately, the clocks in the tower malfunctioned and displayed 1/8th-mile times. Regardless, both nitro gunslingers powered through to the ¼-mile stripe. Onboard data shows that Dunlap posted a 5.70-something and White’s time was in the 5.80s. Next up, Mike Irwin suffered the same fate as both McGee and Williamson, when his “Forever Young” dragster also shook. His opponent, Jim Murphy, left hard with a 1.01 60′ time and then his “WW2” dragster jumped hard to the right. He scuffed the right slick on the guardwall and shut off while Irwin posted a 6.57.
Despite the clock malfunctions, because of the onboard data recordings of their incrementals, Dunlap and White earned the right to square off in the final. Earlier on Saturday, White had told the press his San Diego-based “Neal & White” dragster was just the weaponry to take out Dunlap who, after ending Tony Bartone’s 22-0 round-win streak in Bowling Green, KY the week before the Famoso Shootout, had become drag racing’s version of “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” It was then, for the second consecutive weekend, that Bill Dunlap and the High Speed Motorsports front-engine Top Fuel Dragster team hit their mark, and bagged the bounty.
For the always-tough White, his final-round finish-line velocity of 257 mph stood as Top Speed of the Meet, and was indicative of the lengths his tuner Chuck Neal was willing to go in pursuit of the High Speed machine. And he just missed.
And even after Dunlap’s 5.70 won the Shootout, the salvos weren’t over: Testing continued at Famoso, and, with the help of consultant Roland Leong, Jim Murphy continued to fire bullets.
Murphy had said that because of his own recent disappointments coupled with Bartone’s and now Dunlap’s surge in performance, he has opted to reinvent his approach to racing front-engine Top Fuel, and accepted the help of Roland Leong on the tune-up. The positive results have been instantaneous.
“Roland is not afraid of making big changes,” Murphy said at Famoso. “So far, it looks promising.”
After midnight, in what could be billed as “Sunday Morning Nitro,” WW2 turned an outstanding 5.67 at 237 mph, with Murphy shutting off at 1100’.
Yes, timing is everything. Had Murphy posted that earlier, he would’ve won the Shootout, not Dunlap.
After that 5.67 shot, Murphy has set his sights on Bartone and Dunlap. Murphy plans to execute his precise attack at the next event on the Heritage Series docket, the Pepsi Nightfire Nationals at Boise, Idaho in August.
In spite of the positive and exhilarating tone at Famoso on Saturday night, post-race news muted any further celebration. Nitro Funny Car racer Roger Garten suffered a crash on Saturday night and unfortunately succumbed to his injuries Sunday morning.
To that end, after their victory here High Speed Motorsports owner and tuner Tom Shelar wanted to extend his sympathies.
“It was great to get the win light, but we are saddened by the loss of a fellow racer,” Shelar said. “Our hearts go out to the family and crew. Godspeed, Roger.”
His sentiments are echoed by the entire AA/FD organization.