Jim Murphy in his latest "WW2" fueler. (photo by Mike Sopko, Jr.)
Jim Murphy in his latest “WW2” fueler. (photo by Mike Sopko, Jr.)

Firebird Raceway, Boise, ID, August 8, 2013—As a part of a year-long quest to claim the coveted 2013 Heritage Series Top Fuel Points Title, wily and tenacious veteran drag racer Jim “Holy Smokes” Murphy is leading a convoy of his California competition to Boise, Idaho for participation in this weekend’s 42nd Pepsi Nightfire Nationals at Firebird Raceway.

Based out of Santa Rosa, Murphy is third in Heritage Series points, about one round of competition behind the gutty and irascible Denver Schutz and the young, fast and terse Jim Young. Murphy plans to leapfrog over both Schutz and Young this weekend, and has both the mojo and machinery to do it. In fact, after retiring his old trusty-but-tiring “WW2” mount, Murphy purchased Frank Ousley’s Illinois-based “Crop Duster” AA/Fuel Dragster, the very racecar that Young drove to victory in the season-opening March Meet. With Tim Beebe, Murphy’s longtime cohort in grime, retiring from tuning Top Fuel cars, Jim also snagged Ousley himself to continue as his new co-tuner. Murphy then steered Ousley’s ex-machine to victory at the next race in the Heritage Series, the Holley National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, KY, when he dispatched Schutz in a wire-to-wire thriller of a final round.

Due to seasonal business commitments, and even despite leading the points chase, Schutz will miss this year’s Nightfire Nationals. Young, who is out of a ride after the “Crop Duster” was sold to Murphy, will still be in Boise, plotting to subvert and foil Murphy’s plans to take the points lead. Young will attempt this, not as a driver, but by assisting mechanically on the Champion Speed Shop fueler out of South City, San Francisco. Champion’s driver, Adam Sorokin, won the 2012 Heritage Series Top Fuel Points Title.

Impromptu partnerships aside, the fact remains that between Young’s tenure and Murphy’s ownership, the pre-owned “WW2” fueler-formerly-known-as-the “Crop Duster” is unbeaten in competition in 2013. This weekend in Idaho, Murphy’s objective is keep that undefeated streak intact.

Besides the Champion Speed Shop team, other potential obstacles to Murphy’s goal included the hard-charging Neal & White entry out of San Diego, Ron August, Jr. and the “Forever Young” dragster from the Bay Area, and the San Jose-based Brendan Murry’s 426 Hemi-powered “Running Wild.” Also attempting to throw a spanner in Murphy’s works are 2nd-generation fuel racer Brett Harris in Steve Harwood’s digger from Denver, Colorado and the so-called “Beast from the East,” Tony Bartone, who has posted the quickest ¼-mile elapsed time in the AA/Fuel Dragster class, at 5.561 seconds.

42nd Annual Pepsi Nightfire Nationals Details:
Firebird Raceway, Boise, Idaho
Friday Night Nitro Pro Qualifying: 7 pm
“Saturday Night Thunder” Nitro Qualifying: 7 pm
Sunday’s Nitro Eliminations begin at 2 pm

Follow the AA/Fuel Dragsters at and


(photo by Chris Graves)
(photo by Chris Graves)

NHRA Motorsports Museum Holley National Hot Rod Reunion presented by AAA, BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (June 15) –  Cagey drag-strip veteran Jim Murphy knows a driver is only as good as his piece of pipe. To that end, the Santa Rosa-based veteran drag racer stepped up and purchased the machine that won last year’s Heritage Series Top Fuel title, as well as this year’s March Meet, Frank Ousley’s “Crop Duster” out of western Illinois. Once the deal was struck, Murphy debuted his pre-owned fueler at NHRA’s prestigious Reunion race in Kentucky and claimed the event win by besting fellow Californian Denver Schutz in a stunning final, while posting a 1/4-mile an elapsed time of 5.80 seconds and a top-end speed of 233 mph to a losing 5.81 at 250 by Schutz.

Schutz, who also runner-upped to this same dragster (at that time driven Jim Young) at the season-opening March Meet, was less than enthused with the result, even though Denver’s successive 2nd place finishes have propelled him past Young in the 2013 Heritage Series Points Race. By virtue of the Bowling Green win, Murphy is now 3rd in points and has his sights set on taking the entire 2013 tournament by season’s end in October, at the California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield.

“This was a huge win, and I can tell you, we now have one bad hot rod,” Murphy said. “We haven’t scratched the surface of its potential. I’m real excited as Frank (Ousley) will be with us again in Boise and the man can tune a race car.”

To the detriment of his hopes of repeating as Heritage Series Top Fuel Champion, Jim Young lost in the first round of eliminations, posting a inferior 6.12 clocking at 242 mph in Steve McClain’s Chevy-powered “Mill Road Boys” entry to eventual semi-finalist Randy Bridges’ better 5.96.

The NHRA Heritage Racing Series 2013 Top Fuel Points battle continues at the circuit’s next race, the NightFire Nationals at Firebird Raceway in Boise, Idaho on August 8-11.-30-


The Crop Duster (photo by Cole Coonce)
The Crop Duster (photo by Cole Coonce)

2013 Bakersfield March Meet, Auto Club Famoso Raceway — In a thrilling, barnburning final round of Top Fuel Eliminator, Wisconsin-based racer Jim Young won the 2013 Bakersfield March Meet while extinguishing the hopes of local veteran driver Denver Schutz, repeating as event winner while posting a stunning Top Speed of 269.11-mph, the second fastest ever for the AA/Fuel Dragster class.

Those big numbers served as an exclamation point for Young and his “Crop Duster” teams dominance throughout the race weekend. On Saturday,in cold and moist conditions Young deftly guided the Frank Ousley-tuned Top Fueler to the #1 qualifier position. In eliminations on Sunday, Young never looked back, expertly dispatching 2012 Points Leader Adam Sorokin and 4-time March Meet Winner Jim Murphy with repeated 260-mph clockings, before squaring off against Bakersfield bridesmaid Schutz, a man who has been trying to claim a March Meet victory since the 1960s.

Fresno-based Schutz, in a brand new piece of pipe making its competition debut, qualified #2. On race day, Schutz and his Fritz Kaiser-tuned “Raisin Express 3” slingshot earned the right to fight for the title by first taking out Tony Bartone, the quickest Top Fuel entry on the drag strip, before upending Hot Rod Reunion winners Team Craig, and finally Neal & White.

As darkness gathered, young Jim Young and 67-year old Schutz suited up for battle and finding a sentimental favorite among the railbirds, race-chat keyboard jockeys and racing press was impossible. Schutz only had a handful of passes on the Jim Cullen-owned “RE3,” but with each blast down the Famoso quarter mile the car showed improvements in incremental performance. Schutz said a March Meet victory would “complete his resume.” In the other lane, the Young represented the hopes of the entire Midwest, and predicted a 270-mph clocking. But would a cooling track hold that kind of horsepower?

The other question on race fans’ mind was that old proverb that asks: Would age and treachery overcome youth and skill? In five seconds, they got their answer. At the hit, Young moved first but by 330 feet into the run, Denver had put a wheel out front. It stayed that way until 800 feet, when Young’s machine really started gathering steam. Denver put the pipes out at 1100 feet as Young went marching by with all eight candles lit, and in the cover of darkness neither driver knew who had triumphed. The scoreboards showed times of 5.65 seconds, and 269-mph for Young to a losing 5.70 at 242-mph for Schutz. As the RE3 team went in search of their driver, Young asked them in passing if they had won. They said: “No dude, it was you.”

It was that close, but the record books will show that eliminations ended as they began, with Denver Schutz number two and Jim Young and the Crop Duster number one, with their laurels punctuated by a 269-mph time slip.


(photo by Darr Hawthorne)
(photo by Darr Hawthorne)


Auto Club Famoso Raceway, March 7, 2013—Seasoned and versatile drag racer Tony Bartone lowered the boom on the AA/Fuel Dragster scene during testing for this weekend’s Bakersfield March Meet, posting the quickest elapsed time in the history of the class, while covering the famous Famoso quarter-mile in a stunning 5.561 seconds.

What made Bartone’s feat even more remarkable was the relatively diminutive top-end mile-per-hour clocking, a paltry 220 mph, numbers which indicated he had “clicked” off the Bartone Bros. dragster well before the finish line. More proof that his machine was on a proverbial rocket ride was found in the details of his time-slip, which showed that Bartone was traveling at 217-mph at the 1/8th-mile mark, startling numbers which were unheard of until now. Indeed, previously Bartone has clocked top-end speeds of nearly 270-mph, which indicates his Steve Boggs-tuned nitro-burning dragster still has plenty left “in the tank,” in regards to the potential for even quicker passes.

Because it happened during a test, today’s 5.56 is considered unofficial. Bartone already holds the ET and Top Speed records for the AA/Fuelers, when he ran 5.566 seconds at 269-mph at Famoso in October, 2011. Regardless of the technicalities, all of this has given the rest of the Top Fuel dragster teams plenty to ponder tonight while preparing for competition at the always fiercely contested March Meet.


Friday: Noon–Funny Car, Top Fuel qualifying;. 3:15 p.m.–Funny Car, Top Fuel qualifying

Saturday: Noon–Top Fuel, Rear Motor Top Fuel, Funny Car qualifying; 3:30 p.m. –Top Fuel round one eliminations; Funny Car round one eliminations

Sunday: Noon–Funny Car, Top Fuel quarterfinals with remaining eliminations rounds in all divisions to follow throughout the day.



AAFD HQ, January 30, 2013—With the 2013 racing season imminent, the All American Fuel Dragsters—the drag racing world’s most unpredictable ¼-mile nitro-burning circuit—are bracing for the future while embracing positive changes. On the docket this year for these fearsome front-engine Top Fuel dragsters are more cars nationwide, different power-train combinations, new measures for improved safety and containment, as well as the possibility of a handful of new venues in some rather provocative and unexpected places.

Despite the changes, one constant for the fuelers is a 16-car eliminator at the season-opening March Meet at Auto Club Famoso Raceway, north of Bakersfield. Because of a recent downturn in a car count that reflected a general stall found in most economic indicators, a streamlined 8-car ladder almost seemed more feasible than what has become a traditional 16-car show.

At a recent meeting in Pomona between representatives of the association, track owners and NHRA Heritage Series Officials, it was decided the format would remain the same for both the March Meet as well as the 22nd California Hot Rod Reunion, also contested at Famoso.

 “I’m counting 15 cars, definitely,” reported AAFD President Bob McLennan, in reference to participation at the March Meet. “Including (speed-record holder) Tony Bartone who is coming out from back east as well as (defending March Meet champion) Jimi Young.” McLennan sees the possibility of 17 March Meet entries.

Beyond maintaining the status quo in Bakersfield, the Heritage Series has added two points races to its Top Fuel schedule, thus encouraging participation at dragstrips east of the Rocky Mountains. Indeed, both this year’s 11th Annual Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Kentucky as well as the Inaugural NHRA New England Hot Rod Reunion in Epping, New Hampshire will feature the vintage-style front-engine Top Fuelers in 8-car eliminators and the results will count towards season points.

“This allows the cars based back east to earn points at those two races,” McLennan said. “This is a thank you to them. With these being points races, it’ll add a little more to the Reunions.”

Of these five points races, drivers can claim any four towards their points total. Moreover, with the Heritage Series races solidified, the AAFD’s brass are in discussion with track operators about a smattering of additional match races and exhibitions from Arizona to Colorado and Utah.

But with this extra participation comes added responsibility. Ergo, the NHRA Heritage Series has implemented an “Oildown Rule,” whose aim is to encourage the proverbial “tidy workspace” and keep fluids off the track and, by extension, expedite the racing. In essence, the rule states qualifying runs will be nullified if safety trucks roll for clean-up; oil during eliminations costs the victor lane-choice. Three violations and the violator is disqualified from the event. (For the record, this rule is applicable to all Heritage Series classes, not just the nitro-burners.)

McLennan says his association welcomes the new rule. “It gives teeth to the need for a better fan experience. It’s not acceptable. It’s no longer a simple oil-the-track and walk away. It’s going to be administered pretty tight at the March Meet. (Famoso track-owner) Blake Bowser is putting two people on this.”

How teams avoid getting penalized is up to them. “There is nothing specific nor mandated,” McLennan stated. “But every team has been talked to about the need to relieve pressure and get fluid into the catch tank without any bottleneck.

“With containment and the rule, the show will be much better,” he concluded.

As part of its due diligence in the effort to lessen the oildown situation, McLennan consulted with famed ex-pro Funny Car tuner Austin Coil, and the two of them toured the NHRA pits at the Pomona Fairplex last November. Coil showed McLennan the 6-gallon “puke” tank systems used by NHRA’s Mello Yello Series’ teams and recommended AA/FD teams adopt that technology.

“We don’t have room for a 6-gallon tank,” McLennan explained. “But we can put in larger (relief) lines. My team (Champion Speed Shop) is expanding the size of the lines, in addition to putting another catch tank at the front of the car.

“Everybody is working toward relieving pressure within the engine itself.”

To that end, Heritage Series rules have been amended to allow two-speed transmissions in Top Fuel, although the rule specifies that a “two-speed transmission may only be used in conjunction with a points-type magneto.” The idea is to lower top-end rpm, which, theoretically, will also lower pan pressure. At least three teams are experimenting with this combination.

Race fans can see the changes for the AA/Fuel Dragsters in effect at the March Meet, which is billed as “Four Days of Quarter-Mile Drag Racing,” occurring March 7-10th at Auto Club Famoso Raceway. Tickets are available on the track’s website at