Tony Bartone sizzles through the Famoso finish line. (photo c/o

Auto Club Famoso Raceway, March 9, 2014—Call it regime change. The Bartone Brothers rolled their menacing nitro-powered dragster out from Long Island City, New York all the way west to Auto Club Famoso Raceway north of Bakersfield and, by both sheer power and guile, trounced the California-centric Top Fuel competition at the 2014 March Meet.

Their domination began in time trials, when driver Tony Bartone scored the #1 qualifying spot in his Steve Boggs-tuned rail, with a quarter-mile elapsed time of 5.63 seconds, six-hundredths ahead of the #2 qualifier and 2011 March Meet Top Fuel winner, Rick White, in his San Diego-based entry, “Neal & White.”

2014 March Meet Top Fuel runner-up Rick White. (photo c/o

During eliminations, White weeded through his side of the tournament ladder with a series of strong 5-second runs, handily dispatching Roger Lechtenberg, Dusty Green, and Adam Sorokin. Meanwhile Bartone, after running unopposed in the first round, put the power to the pavement against Pleasanton, CA’s Ron August in the second round, with a sizzling 5.629 clocking. This set up a pivotal semi-final round against local racer Rick McGee. In that heat, “T-Bone” strapped a “holeshot” on McGee, with Bartone’s quicker reaction time enabling his 5.82 at only 213-mph to get to the finish line first, as McGee left late and unsuccessfully gave chase with a superior elapsed time of 5.70 seconds at a boisterous but futile top-end speed of 257-mph.

In the final round against White, once again Bartone drilled his opposition on the start. But it didn’t end there, as T-Bone hit every mark at the expense of White: Yes, Bartone not only left first, he then posted a peerless 5.623 at an insane 262 mph to White’s second-best, 5.71, 252. With that pass and those numbers, Bartone scored the Top Fuel hat trick: Top Eliminator, Top Speed and Low ET. In other words, utter domination and the first March Meet Top Fuel victory from a racer east of Lake Michigan since Indianapolis driver Paul Romine won in 1996. -30–



1 Tony Bartone 118
2 Rick White 97
3 Rick McGee 75
4 Adam Sorokin 71
5 Rick Williamson 54
6 Denver Schutz 54
7 Ron August, Jr. 53
8 Dusty Green 52
9 Jim Murphy 36
10 Dave Hirata 33
11 Terry Cox 32
12 Jim Young 32
13 Brendan Murry 32
14 Bill Dunlap 31
15 Roger Lechtenberg 31
16 Jimmy Boyd 31



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 )

Top Fuel Test Means No Rest for the Best

WW2 at Famoso
WW2 at Famoso. photo c/o

AA/FD HQ, February 27, 2014–Despite the torrential downpour hammering Southern California this weekend, NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Champ Jim Murphy will test at Famoso Raceway, in hopes of leveraging his odds in winning a 5th March Meet Title. This feat would equal the accomplishment of Don Garlits, who claimed Top Fuel at Bakersfield in 1965, ’71, ’79, ’86 and ’87.

As reported by Drag Racing Online, AA/Fuel Dragster stalwart Murphy is on a mission. “We are going to be at the track Saturday to shake off the rust,” Murphy the defending 2013 NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel champ, said in all modesty.

In the DRO feature, Murphy explains his continuing quest to improve his chances at repeating as Heritage Series champ, as well scoring that coveted 5th March Meet.

“We worked very hard over the winter on the new car that I got from Frank Ousley. It’s one bad hot rod and all we really did was make it a lot easier to work on, get the cockpit more comfortable for me and were able to take a little more weight off the car,” Murphy reported.



AA/FD HQ, February 25, 2014–With a healthy complement of AA/Fuel Dragsters added to the mix, Drag Racing Online is reporting fifty fuel-burning entries for competition at the upcoming March Meet. 

Among the notable Top Fuel entries cited by DRO is Jim Young. “Young will bring out his ‘Young Guns’ 388-c.i. small-block Chevy-powered slingshot to Bakersfield and hopes to score the March Meet Top Fuel trifecta.”

DRO continues: “There are fourteen confirmed entries in Top Fuel, and the rest of the class have agendas of their own which are at cross purposes to Young’s pursuit. Heritage Series Top Fuel champ Jim Murphy is looking for a fifth March Meet Top Fuel title, a feat, which will tie him with drag racing legend Don Garlits.”

2014 March Meet tickets are available at the Autoclub Famoso Raceway website.




22nd California Hot Rod Reunion, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, October 18-20, 2013–In a stunning and near catastrophic climax to Top Fuel Eliminator, Adam Sorokin and his Champion Speed Shop dragster squeezed by a crossed-up Denver Schutz and his RE3 entry in the final round of eliminations. The top-end scoreboards displayed a ¼-mile clocking of 5.91 seconds at 216 mph for Sorokin with no time showing for Schutz, but that data was somewhat misleading as  Schutz had crossed over into his opponent’s lane, ahead of Sorokin who had a blower explode at 800 feet. Schutz tripped the timing lights but already been disqualified for the centerline violation, handing the win to Sorokin.

Leading up to the final, Sorokin and Schutz shared Low Elapsed Time laurels, as both competitors had laid down 5.671 clockings in eliminations. Top Speed numbers were posted by Jim Murphy, who posted a furious 261 mph en route to claiming the 2013 NHRA Heritage Series Points Title.


1st round Top Fuel results from Bakersfield: 11 of 13 qualified cars make the call for the 16-car eliminator. #1 qualifier Denver Schutz goes 5.68, 244 on a solo pass. #2 qualifier Rick McGee solos to a 6.20, early shut off. Bill Dunlap squeaks by Terry Cox, 5.81 with a blower pop to Cox’s 5.88, 237. Points in leader Jim Murphy barely drives around Ron August, 5.80 at a whopping 261-mph to August’s 5.94, 242. Brett Harris goes 5.75, 245 to defeat Sean Bellemeur’s 6.04. Rick White turns a 5.74 at 237, running by himself when Gary Read shuts off after staging. Adam Sorokin posts a 5.90 unopposed when Jim Young misses the call. Young was second in points and needed to go rounds to win the Points Title. With his absence, Jim Murphy is your 2013 Heritage Series AA/Fuel Dragster Champion.

2nd round of Top Fuel results: Denver Schutz lays down a 5.67 at a stellar 255-mph to upend Bill Dunlap’s second-best 6.42. Trucks roll in Denver’s lane. Brett Harris turns 6.01 to defeat new Heritage Series champ Jim Murphy’s losing 6.25. Adam Sorokin drops a 5.67 at 247 mph to defeat Rick White’s 6.05, 188. Trucks roll again. McGee clicks it at half-track on his bye run into the semi-finals.

Top Fuel semis: Adam Sorokin posts a stout 5.77 @ 226 mph to put Rick McGee on the trailer, who loses with a 7.10. Denver Schutz lays down a blistering 5.69 at 246 to drive around Brett Harris, who goes 5.76 at 246.

In the Top Fuel final at Famoso, Adam Sorokin put a wheel out on Denver Schutz at the hit, then they go back and forth until 660′ when Schutz begins to catch and pass Sorokin who lifts the blower. Schutz then pulls right across the center line. Sorokin is credited with a 5.91 at 216 to claim Top Fuel Eliminator at the 22nd California Hot Rod Reunion. Schutz is not credited with a time, but it was his car that triggered Sorokin’s light, as Schutz was in Sorokin’s lane and crossed the finish line first–just in the wrong lane.

Low ET: Denver Schutz, 5.671. Adam Sorokin, 5.671.

Top Speed: Jim Muphy, 261.01

2013 California Hot Rod Reunion Top Fuel Winner: Adam Sorokin

2013 Heritage Series Top Fuel Champion: Jim Murphy

Final qualifying: 1. Denver Schutz, 5.67. 2. Rick McGee, 5.73. 3. Rick White, 5.76. 4. Jim Murphy, 5.79. 5. Brett Harris, 5.83. 6. Adam Sorokin, 5.86. 7. Terry Cox, 5.96. 8. Bill Dunlap, 6.03. 9. Jim Young, 6.16. 10. Sean Bellemeur, 6.20. 11. Ron August, Jr. 6.73. 12. Gary Read, 8.36 13. Jim Boyd, 32.00. DQ: Brendan Murry.


2013 Heritage Series Top Fuel Final Points Standings (Unofficial):

1 Jim Murphy 320
2 Denver Schutz 293
3 Jim Young 274
4 Adam Sorokin 223
5 Rick White 207
6 Brendan Murry 196
7 Tony Bartone 196
8 Brett Harris 192
9 Rick McGee 132
10 Ron August Jr. 117