Fueler Foes Fight for Surfers March Meet AA/FD Award

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The Surfers at the 1966 March Meet.

Good Vibrations March Meet, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA, March 2, 2016—In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of “the Surfers” winning the 1966 Bakersfield March Meetan epic donnybrook of a drag race that many nitromaniacs consider the purest ever“Surfer Nation,” an online appreciation society for the infamous Surfers AA/Fuel Dragster team, will grace the Top Fuel winner of this year’s March Meet with the “Mike Sorokin Award.”

In 1966, Mike Sorokin and his madcap skateboarding teammates, Tom Jobe and Bob Skinnera/k/a “the Surfers,” outlasted over 100 AA/Fuelers to win a three-day motor-riffic marathon. The team’s unorthodox, gonzo approachheavy on the nitro percentage, mind tricks and chicanery and low on cylinder compression and financesinspired generations of drag racers in the decades that followed.

“Two wise guys (Skinner and Jobe) showed up at the track and said ‘Please and thank you’ to their parts, and listened to what the parts were telling them,” is how Bob Higginson, administrator of “The Surfers” Facebook Fan Page and the catalyst behind the Sorokin Award, explained what made the Surfers’ March Meet win so inspirational. “Simultaneously, they produced more power than the world had ever seen, while increasing reliability to levels that flat out embarrassed their peers.”

Sorokin defeated a red-lighting James Warren in the final round of the 8th Annual March Meet, after setting both Low ET with a quarter-mile clocking of 7.31 seconds and Top Speed at 210 miles-per-hour.

And now, fifty years later, a coterie of fierce fuel-burning warriors in front-engine dragsters will meet to outwit and outdrive each other at 260-mph speeds while fighting for both Top Eliminator at Bakersfield, as well as the Sorokin Award.

Among those suiting up are Mike’s son, Adam Sorokin, who manhandles the “Champion Speed Shop” dragster. Adam, whom Mike barely knew before an unfortunate fatal accident at Orange County in 1967 upended their mortal kinship while Adam was still a baby, has already done his Dad proud by winning the 2010 iteration of the March Meet. Another title, specifically this one, would be that much sweeter.

“I fully intend, to the best of my ability, on keeping that award in the family,” Sorokin said.

Another drag racer with his eye on the prize is the 1995 March Meet Top Fuel winner, Pete “Fritz” Kaiser, who has returned to the cockpit after tuning fuelers over the last decade. This weekend he will be both tuning and shoeing the “KMA Racing Circuit Breaker.”

“Winning the March Meet would be cool, but being able to bring home the Mike Sorokin Award with that win would be awesome.” Kaiser said. He then elaborated about his new team’s connection to Skinner, Jobe and Sorokin: “The KMA/Circuit Breaker team is a lot like the Surfers team was in that we don’t have a lot of money, but what we do have is a team of people that love Top Fuel racing.”

Including Sorokin and Kaiser, seven former March Meet winners—Bill Dunlap, Jim Murphy, Rick White, Jim Young and Tony Bartone—are all swinging for another shot at Kern County’s most coveted chalice.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to win the March Meet four times and have been chasing a fifth time for what seems like forever,” Jim Murphy, driver of the “WW2” entry said. “The last 18 months has been very difficult for the WW2 team as we’ve had all kinds of issues. In fact, I would have to say it has probably been the worst 18 months of my racing career. If I were to win my fifth March Meet on the 50th anniversary of the Surfers’ triumph hereWOWthat would rank at the top of the list.”

Murphy has a real shot after pre-season testing yielded very favorable results. “I feel we will be coming to this race as a contender, not a pretender like we’ve been for the last year and a half.”

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Jim Murphy and WW2 fueler  (c/o thelastdragstrip.com )

Dunlap, driver of the “High Speed Motorsports” machine has won the March Meet twice, both back in the 1990s. His car owner and tuner, Tom Shelar, has no time for sentiment and wants to propel his driver to a third March Meet Title.

When Adam made his thoughts known about keeping the Award named for his old man close to home, Shelar was having none of that sentiment.

“I’ll let you come visit it from time to time, Adam,” Shelar told him.-30-

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MARCH MEET EVENT SCHEDULE
Thursday, March 3 
3:00 PM - Nitro Testing Session

Friday, March 4
12:30 PM - Funny Car & Top Fuel Qualifying Session 1
3:15 PM - Funny Car & Top Fuel Qualifying Session 2
 
Saturday, March 5
12:30 PM - Funny Car & Top Fuel Qualifying Session 3
3:15 PM - Funny Car Round 1 Eliminations
4:00 PM - Fuel Altered Qualifying Session 2
Sunday, March 6
11:00 AM - Opening Ceremony
11:45 AM - Nitro Final Eliminations
Run Order: Funny Car, Top Fuel, Fuel Altereds
2:00 PM - Nitro Semi Finals
4:15 PM - Nitro Finals

AA/FD YEAR IN REVIEW: 2015 TOP FUEL DIGEST AVAILABLE NOW!

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Only $9.99 at topfueldigest.com

AAFD HQ, December 8, 2015Who says print is dead? Not the AA/Fuel Dragster media mavens, who have organized a digest-format magazine chronicling all of this year’s action from the wildest circuit in drag racing, front-engine Top Fuel.

Available at topfueldigest.com, the 2015 AA/FD Top Fuel Digest compiles explosive coverage of the Bakersfield March Meet, the Boise Nightfire Nationals, Bowling Green and more. Follow the exploits of Tony Bartone, Adam Sorokin, Bill Dunlap and the rest of the fearless fueler heroes as they made 2015 a year to remember. An instant collectible for fans of nostalgia-style Top Fuel drag racing, the Digest has 36 pages of spectacular photography and razor-sharp race reporting with contributions from seasoned dragstrip shutter bugs “Max Cackle,” Ted Soqui, and Dave Kommel as well astute correspondence from veteran copy chimp Cole Coonce. -30

http://topfueldigest.com

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/986979

TOP FUEL DIGEST LIGHTS UP THE PRESSES

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TOP FUEL DIGEST VOL. 1, NUMBER 1

Proving that print’s not dead, the Media Department of the All-American Fuel Dragsters have just published their 2015 Top Fuel Digest. This magazine features explosive coverage of the Bakersfield March Meet, the Nightfire Nationals, Bowling Green and more. Follow the exploits of Tony Bartone, Adam Sorokin, Bill Dunlap and the rest of the fearless fueler heroes as they made 2015 a year to remember. 36 pages of spectacular photography and razor-sharp race reporting. Edited by Cole Coonce. Cover photo by Ted Soqui. Available now at MagCloud.com

DUNLAP DASHES DENVER’S CURTAIN CALL AT CALI REUNION

Bill Dunlap chases down Denver Schutz and claims his 3rd CHRR Top Fuel Title.
Bill Dunlap chases down Denver Schutz and claims his 3rd CHRR Top Fuel Title.

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-

Just after the CHRR Top Fuel final, Denver Schutz announced his retirement.
Just after the CHRR Top Fuel final, Denver Schutz announced his retirement.

FAMOSO FUELERS FIT TO FOIL FOUR-PEAT AT CALI REUNION

Saturday Night Nitro event at the Auto Club Raceway Famoso. (photo by Ted Soqui c/o thelastdragstrip.com)
Rick McGee at the Auto Club Raceway Famoso. (photo by Ted Soqui c/o thelastdragstrip.com)

24th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA, October 22, 2015—Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield. It is the vintage Top Fuel competitor’s “Brickyard” — its Super Bowl, World Series, Daytona and Indy 500 all rolled into one. And for the nitro-burning racers in NHRA’s Heritage Series, their annual marquee event happens here twice. The season opens at Famoso Raceway with the exalted March Meet and wraps up here this weekend with the prestigious California Hot Rod Reunion. After 24 years of bookending in Bakersfield, it has become a tradition.

Going back to the 2014 March Meet, New York-based Nostalgia Top Fuel phenom Tony Bartone has swept the last three events in Bakersfield. Can he perform an unprecedented Famoso Four-peat? Bill Dunlap, Denver Schutz, Rick McGee, Jim Murphy, Rick White, Rick Williamson and Adam Sorokin — all California residents — are the dirty half-dozen former California Hot Rod Reunion winners competing this weekend who say: “Forget about it, Tony.”

Dunlap, driver of the High Speed Motorsports entry and winner of the Inaugural CHRR (as well as the 1997 iteration), is the only driver to have defeated Bartone in two years, and is coming off back-to-back Saturday Night Nitro Mastercam Shootout victories here at Famoso. About his driver’s chances to win a 3rd CHRR title, his crew chief, Tom Shelar, put it this way: “With the weather conditions being forecast, we should run consistent 5.60s. That should be enough to win, but it might take a 5.50 with Bartone on the grounds.”

Adam Sorokin, hot shoe for the Champion Speed Shop entry, is the 2013 CHRR winner and the last driver other than Bartone to take Bakersfield. Sorokin also wants to play the spoiler and give the New Yorker a Bronx cheer.

“I’d like to come out of the trailer fairly aggressive,” Adam asserted. “The car is capable of running .60s, and I think that kind of performance can get us to the later rounds.” Then he added: “Bartone will be the guy to watch, but anything can — and does — happen. We wouldn’t show up if we didn’t think we could win the thing.”

According to wdifl.com’s “Top Fuel Tricky Tipster,” Schutz, McGee, Murphy, Williamson and White all have a better than 5-to-1 shot to thwart a four-peat.

It is also worth noting that at recent “Saturday Night Nitro” events, Murphy’s Roland Leong-tuned “WW2” machine has been clocking the kinds of numbers Sorokin and Shelar deem necessary to take the Reunion, and the “Neal & White Racing” dragster runner-upped at both of those events while posting bodacious top-end speeds.

Tony Bartone is here to show all the former winners from California that this scene has come a long way from, say, 1992. Bill Dunlap is here to say it’s not that different at all.

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Nitro Qualifying for the 24th CHRR begins this Friday at 11 AM, with a second session at 3. Top Fuel Qualifying resumes Saturday at noon followed by eliminations at 3 pm. Top Fuel Eliminations continue Sunday at 11.30 AM.