THE FLOGGING CONTINUES IN BOISE: BARTONE STILL UNDEFEATED IN 2014

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August 11, 2014, AA/FD HQ—Despite a series of determined efforts by his competitors to staunch this year’s proverbial bleeding, at the Pepsi Nightfire Nationals in Boise, Idaho front-engine Top Fuel Dragster driver Tony Bartone won his third straight NHRA Heritage Series event and continued his merciless assault on anybody standing between himself and the 2014 Points Title.

Before the clutch dust settled in Boise on Sunday night, there was no shortage of optimism and bravado amongst Bartone’s adversaries.

“We want him first round,” driver Jim Young said, before adding: “Go big or go home.” Young, who was a distant second in the 2014 Heritage Series Top Fuel points, qualified in the #1 position at Boise with a ¼-mile elapsed time of 5.80 seconds and saw this race as an opportunity to upend Bartone and salvage his season. Others echoed Young’s sentiments. “Tell anybody that will listen, we are going to win this thing,” declared Frank Ousley, engine consultant on Jim Murphy’s “WW2” entry, who was slotted 3rd in the points race. “We want this next one!!!” the head of the “Champion Speed Shop” team texted, moments before lining up against Bartone in the semi-final round.

All strong words. None of which mattered. Deaf to the dissent and the bluster, Bartone continued his undefeated streak, and has now won ten straight rounds of drag racing in 2014. At Boise, after qualifying second with a 5.83 at 261 mph, Bartone drove around Ron August (5.85 to 6.13), Adam Sorokin (5.90 to 6.12) and finally Young, (5.76 to 6.39). In each of these heats, Bartone lazily spotted his competition the lead at the hit, and then furiously gave chase while relying upon his Steve Boggs-provided horsepower to blast by the other racer and get to the finish line first. The last round against Young was the most demoralizing to the other racers. Bartone’s 5.76-second clocking stood for Low ET of the Nightfire Nationals, and his trap-speed of 267 mph earned him Top Speed of the Meet laurels.

Which is merely following form for the Long Island City, New York-based racer. Bartone has not only not lost in 2014, in each event he also set Low ET and Top Speed. In short, Tony is crushing it.

And now, with two events left this year, and with Young and Murphy’s Points Title hopes not only unlikely but a very distant mathematical possibility, the remaining drama in the Heritage Series comes to this: Will Tony Bartone go perfect for the season? -30—

(The next event in the NHRA Heritage Top Fuel Series is the New England Hot Rod Reunion, September 12-14 at Epping, New Hampshire.)

 

SPOILER ALERT: SOROKIN AND CHAMPION TO STALK AA/FUELERS IN BOISE

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Champion Speed Shop lights up Boise, Idaho.

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August 7, 2014, AA/FD HQ—Despite a start-and-stop 2014 season, Adam Sorokin, driver of the Chevy-powered “Champion Speed Shop” AA/Fuel Dragster, is spooling up to spoil the hopes of his competition at this weekend’s Pepsi Nightfire Nationals in Boise, Idaho.

Sorokin welcomes the challenge of taking down the likes of Tony Bartone, a New York-based dragster driver who has dominated the front-engine Top Fuel circuit thus far in 2014 with back-to-back wins at the Bakersfield March Meet and Bowling Green, Kentucky.

“We can run well at Boise,” Sorokin said. “That track doesn’t necessarily reward the big-power cars, but the one that can get down the track at the end of the night. The trick is being there at the end.”

In 2014 Sorokin posted a semi-final finish in Bakersfield, but the team opted to skip Bowling Green.

“After the March Meet, we were only 3 or 4 points from being in 3rd place in the championship,” Sorokin said. “Not going to Bowling Green hurt us points-wise and dropped us to 8th. So not really being in contention for another championship, we just want to win the remaining races.”

Last week the team underwent private tests to raise performance and lower expenses.

“We’ve been working to get the combination to reduce the work the guys have to do between rounds and stop forcing us to pay these piston manufacturers so much of our money!” Sorokin exclaimed.

With three races left on the calendar, Sorokin is poised to upend the hopes of anybody in his way, meaning not only Bartone’s but also those of Jim Young, who is second in points and tenaciously giving chase.

At Boise, Young will be in his third different dragster in as many races. Having towed his own small-block Chevy-powered fueler from his home in Wisconsin to Bakersfield in March, and then commandeering the McClain’s Brothers’ big-block Bowtie rail at Kentucky in June, this weekend Young will be stabbing and steering a Chrysler-derivative Hemi.

“(This is my) first hemi,” Young confirmed, while thanking Utah-based dragster owner Steve Harwood for the opportunity to remain in contention for the Top Fuel Title. “I hope the wick’s longer than a Chevy’s.”

Despite long odds of catching the 2014 AA/FD Heritage Series Points leader, Young remains cagey and optimistic. “I hope to face Bartone in the first round. Go big or go home.”

In the way of Sorokin, Young and Bartone’s aspirations will be a cluster of California-based hitters, including, Jim Murphy, Rick White, Rick Williamson, and Terry Cox.

One factor working for Young: The Harwood-prepped “Nitro-Hemi” entry won Top Fuel at Boise last year. One factor is Sorokin’s favor: He likes upsetting apple carts, only to see which way the apples roll.

NO “SISSY,” HIRATA TO BATTLE BEASTLY FUELERS AT BOWLING GREEN REUNION

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Dave Hirata boils the skins in Dale Suhr's "Orange Crate" AA/Fuel Dragster
Dave Hirata boils the skins in Dale Suhr’s “Orange Crate” AA/Fuel Dragster

AA/FD HQ, June 10, 2014—Exuberant, fresh-faced Dave Hirata is among the fearless AA/Fuel Dragster drivers converging from all points of America to battle at this week’s 12th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Kentucky for an 8-car showdown between the always gnarsome and unpredictable front-engine Top Fuel class.

As the new driver of Dale Suhr’s stealthy but beastly “Orange Crate” Top Fuel dragster out of Waterloo, Iowa, Hirata insists that this Hot Rod Reunion is not just a fight for control over the competition, but a contest of wills between the driver and the race car itself.

“Things are slowing down and I’m getting more comfortable,” Hirata said about his return to driving front-engine machines, after an anxious outing at the season-opening Bakersfield March Meet.

“Rear-engine cars are sissy cars,” Hirata said, when asked to contrast the “Orange Crate” with the rear-engined A/Fuel dragster that Hirata races in competition in NHRA’s Top Alcohol Dragster class. “Front-engine dragsters are men cars. I’m getting more used to the front-engine dragsters, which are a riot to drive.  You never know what will happen.  The sensation of everything is magnified because of the vision… there is none!”

This shoot-’em-up will be the second of six NHRA Heritage Series events in 2014 to feature the AA/Fuel Dragsters. Indiana-based Hirata is among a number of Midwest-based Top Fuel racers descending upon Bowling Green’s Beech Bend Raceway. Nitro racers are also coming from both coasts. Among the most-feared combatants is the “Bartone Bros.” entry out of Long Island City, who will carom to Kentucky after setting California on its ear two months ago at the Bakersfield March Meet. At that event, driver Tony Bartone trampled the competition, setting Top Speed of the Meet (262-mph), Low ET (5.62 seconds) while taking the event title.

Among Bartone’s adversaries who want to show Bartone the way back to the Statue of Liberty is the Northern California-based “WW2” entry of Jim Murphy, who took Top Fuel at Bowling Green last year en route to winning the 2013 Heritage Series Championship.

This weekend in Kentucky, Bartone wants to continue his domination. Murphy wants to repeat. And Hirata is here to show the rest of the class that he knows the quickest route to Top Fuel Eliminator is a straight line. -30–

The Top Fuel Schedule for the 12th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion is as follows:

Top Fuel Qualifying Session 1: Thursday, June 12, 3 p.m
Top Fuel Qualifying Session 2: Friday, June 13, 12 noon
Top Fuel Qualifying Final Session:  Friday, June 13, 3 p.m.
Top Fuel Eliminations, Saturday, June 14, 11 a.m.

Live streaming of the 12th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion is available via bangshift.com

TOP FUEL AGENDAS COLLIDE AT BAKERSFIELD MARCH MEET

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Jim Murphy’s “WW2” AA/Fueler. (photo by Stephen Justice)

AA/FD HQ, March 5, 2014—This weekend a pair of dragster-driving Jims from separate parts of America will converge just north of Bakersfield at Auto Club Famoso Raceway, to settle some scores in Top Fuel Eliminator and maybe make history.

After claiming the 2012 and 2013 March Meet titles in Frank Ousley’s “Crop Duster” fueler, Wisconsin-based Jimi Young’s goal is to three-peat, joining the late local legend James Warren as the only driver to claim the Top Fuel trifecta. (Warren did it in 1975, ’76 and ’77.)

“In my opinion the March Meet is the most prestigious race there is,” Young said. “Never in my wildest dreams would I think that we would win not one, but two of them. It is truly a honor to be on the list with all those great names that have won in the past fifty-plus years.”

Young’s challenge to win a third consecutive time is made even more daunting by his recent change of steeds, not to mention an entirely different thermodynamic approach to winning Top Fuel. This year Young is no longer shoeing Frank Ousley’s Chrysler-powered “Crop Duster”; instead he is at the helm of his own “Young Guns” slingshot, which uses a 388-cubic inch small-block Chevy for propulsion. One constant this year is Ousley himself, who is credited as crew chief for Young’s entry.

“Our goal for this race is not only to win, but to leave with both the Top Speed  and Low ET for a Chevy,” Jimi said. “Frank and myself put a package together that is more than capable of running in the 5.50 range, it just needs laps. We will test on Wednesday and Thursday and hopefully figure out what the car wants before qualifying.”

Jimi Young's "Young Guns" AA/Fueler.
Jimi Young’s “Young Guns” AA/Fueler.

One man standing in the “Young Gun’s” way is the other Jim: Jim Murphy, a veteran drag racer from Santa Rosa, California and the 2013 NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Champion. His goal is to win a fifth March Meet Top Fuel title, thus tying drag-strip legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits’s feat, who bested all comers at Bakersfield five times between 1965 and 1987. 

“The March Meet has always been special to me,” Jim Murphy explained. “One of the reasons is that we won the race in 1972 with my funny car. I had not completed my licensing yet so Ed McCulloch drove the car. This may have been the reason the hook was set so deep as it was so much fun and seemed so easy to win.”

Easy, peasy. His joking aside, Jim Murphy knows better than any racer how daunting the March Meet can be. It took another quarter-century for Murphy to grace the Famoso Raceway Winner’s Circle. He won as a driver for the first time in 1998. Now, after fifteen years of doing battle in the AA/Fuel Dragster scene, he is poised and ready for a historic fifth win.

“I believe we have one of the top two or three cars in the circuit right now,” Murphy reported. “There was only one round all of last year that when that car went to the starting line, it did not win. Our plan it to keep that performance going.”

Murphy’s math about round wins wasn’t off.  His new car is Frank Ousley’s “Crop Duster”—the same piece of pipe that Jimi Young won the last two March Meets in.

Besides tuning Young’s mount, Ousley is also assisting with Murphy’s machine.

Even while factoring in another dozen AA/Fuel Dragster entries who are poised to seize Bakersfield, this year’s March Meet could come down to a see-sawing contest of wills between the two Jims. And Frank Ousley is the fulcrum.

(c/o http://aafd.tv )