24th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA, October 25, 2015—In a final round of competition that was as poignant as it was dramatic, 74-year-old “High Speed Motorsports’” driver Bill Dunlap seized victory from the maw of veteran nitro-racer Denver Schutz and claimed his 3rd California Hot Rod Reunion Top Fuel Title.
Dunlap posted a strong ¼-mile elapsed time of 5.69 seconds coupled with a commanding top-end speed of 255 mph to Schutz’s 5.83 at 252 mph, but the margin of victory was narrower than those number suggest as Denver “put out the top bulb” and deep-staged his “RE3” machine before dropping a stiff holeshot on Dunlap, forcing the quicker High Speed dragster to drive around his adversary.
“He rolled in deep at the last minute,” Dunlap explained. “I just decided if he was going to do those things, I was going to stage last — I wasn’t going to stage first. I was waiting for it.”
What happened on the pass?
“He may have left on me, but I didn’t ever see him. I heard him for awhile and the noise kind of went away. The car was singing to me so I took it the stripe. I got out at the end and nobody down there knew who won.”
It was that close. Factoring in reaction times, Dunlap beat Schutz by four-hundredths of a second. Dunlap said the win here eased the sting of not winning the 2015 NHRA Heritage Series Point Title “a lot.”
For Fresno-based Schutz, that was the second consecutive heat where spectators marveled at his unorthodox start followed by a nail-biter of a finish. In the semi-finals, Denver unnerved 2015 Points Champion, #1 Qualifier and odds-on favorite Tony Bartone with a similar mud-in-your eye startling line stratagem, deep staging and then expertly dropping a holeshot. This startled Bartone, who belatedly gave pursuit in a see-sawing battle. Schutz held off Bartone with a 5.90 at 241 mph to Tony’s quicker-but-losing 5.82 at 202 mph.
“You only do it when you have to,” Schutz said afterwards, about the deep-stage. “It kind of a c.s. way to race but we are professionals and sometimes you do what you have to.”
“He threw me off and I was dead late,” Bartone confirmed. “That’s the story.”
Bartone added that a broken fuel line coupled with three dead holes four seconds into his run contributed to his loss.
Schutz’s performance during his last two rounds was a near-perfect finale to what turned out to be his career curtain call. Moments after scoring his hard-earned runner-up finish at the 24th CHRR, 70-year-old Denver Schutz announced his retirement from the sport. Among other achievements, Denver was the 1998 CHRR Top Fuel Champion.
“Quitting is hard,” Schutz explained. Suffice it to say, he went out in fine fashion. He took it deep. -30-