25th California Hot Rod Reunion, October 21-23, 2016, Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA—In a season-ending final round between two Top Fuel titans nearly deadlocked in points, Tony Bartone snagged the 2016 Heritage Series Title for the third consecutive year by posting a stellar 1/4-mile recording of 5.60 seconds at 247 mph to upend rival Jim Murphy’s own Points Championship hopes. In that heat, Murphy stayed with Bartone until 300′ when Murphy’s mount developed a fuel leak and the run terminated.
Afterward, when asked when he knew he had his third consecutive title won, Bartone responded: “When the (mother-lovin’) win light came on.
“A few minutes ago, I received a text,” Tony said. “And the text said ‘You’re the man,’ and I instantly responded: ‘No, we have the team—all capital letters.”
Bartone’s laudable praise-distribution aside, for these two drivers to meet in a showdown that would decide the Points Title almost seemed like destiny. Going into Bakersfield, Tony was #1 in points while Murphy was #2, separated by less than one round of racing. Furthermore, during Reunion qualifying, Bartone laid down a 5.57 in his Steve Boggs-tuned “Bartone Bros.” dragster, numbers good enough for the #1 Qualifier position and Low ET of the Meet, while Murphy, driver of the Roland Leong-tuned “WW2” machine, was notched just behind in the second slot with a 5.62 at 264 mph, a clocking that held for Top Speed of the Meet.
During Sunday’s 8-car eliminator, Bartone first dispensed of Bret Williamson with a 5.58 and then faced a stiff challenge from Adam Sorokin and the “Champion Speed Shop” dragster, who were also within one round of claiming the Points Title. In their semi-final joust, Adam Sorokin left first with a startling .036 reaction time, forcing Bartone to give chase. At 1000′, Sorokin was still ahead but his Chevy-powered fueler caught fire and Bartone went by him just before the stripe. Bartone’s 5.68 at 254 mph held off Sorokin’s 5.81 at a parts-munching 234 mph.
Meanwhile, Murphy plotted his route to the final by, firstly, laying down a serious 5.62 at an incendiary 254 mph over Rick McGee, and secondly by posting a holeshot on his semi-final opponent Bill Dunlap who threw down a 5.61 in pursuit of Murphy who, with the help of a superior reaction time, won with a 5.64.
Before the final round, when asked about his confidence level going into the decisive final, Bartone said: “(I am) never confident. Confidence will kill you.”
When asked about the significance of the final that ultimately didn’t come his way, Jim Murphy said: “It’s what we worked for all year.”
For Murphy’s entry and the rest of the AA/Fuel Dragster teams, the quest for a title begins anew next winter. Nostalgia Top Fuel returns to action at the 2017 Good Vibrations March Meet in Bakersfield. —aafd.tv