DUNLAP STUNS BARTONE AS “HIGH SPEED” RETURNS TO FORM

Dunlap Versus Bartone

June 20, 2015, Beech Bend Raceway, KY—In a spectacular return to form, 74-year-old Bill Dunlap captured Top Fuel Eliminator in his California-based “High Speed Motorsports” entry at the 13th Holley National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Dunlap defeated defending event champion Tony “T-Bone” Bartone and upended Bartone’s unprecedented domination of the NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Dragster class.

In the NHRR final, Dunlap laid down an exemplary 5.73-second ¼-mile blast at 251 mph to stun the New York-based Bartone, who encountered tire shake in his Steve Boggs-tuned dragster while falling short with a losing effort of 6.15 seconds. In victory, Dunlap snapped Bartone’s six-event undefeated streak and fired the first volley in a quest for what could be called “regime change.”

“We are going to keep knocking on his door,” Dunlap said post-race, after advancing to 2nd place in current Heritage Series Points, just behind Bartone. “We want him to feel our breath on his neck. We want to give him a bad time the rest of the year.”

Dunlap’s remarks were a follow-up to a gauntlet thrown down prior to the Reunion. “We feel that it’s time to put an end to (Tony) Bartone and (Steve) Boggs’ winning streak,” HSM’s crew chief Tom “Slick” Shelar had said last week, before towing his Top Fuel dragster 2000 miles from Anaheim to Bowling Green in pursuit of his quarry.  That declaration went viral on the Internet and piqued old-school drag racing fans everywhere, whether in Beech Bend’s packed grandstands or among those following the event on the web.

It also caught the attention of Bartone and his team, who began its defense of their undefeated status by going to work and letting their numbers at the dragstrip do the talking. After qualifying in the #1 spot with a clean, effortless 5.77, Bartone picked up the pace in eliminations, first by dispatching NorCal veteran Brendan Murry with a Low ET, track-record clocking of 5.56 seconds, followed by a 5.64 that upended Wisconsin’s Jim Young in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ladder, Dunlap was also making  statements, winning his first-round match against Dave Hirata with a 5.72 ET powered by a thumping top-end speed of 255 mph. In the semi-finals, Dunlap posted another 5.72 to defeat Dusty Green. Dunlap’s winning speed of 248 mph served notice to Bartone that in the run for the NHRR Top Fuel Title, “T-Bone” would have to drive his record-setting machine through the proverbial back door with the throttle down if he wanted to remain undefeated.

All things considered, Bartone was considered the favorite. Even after setting Top Speed of the Meet at 255 mph, Dunlap was unsure about his chances. “I was thinking, ‘We got a tough one here, I don’t know,’” Dunlap recalled. “But the best thing is that Tom (Shelar) kept us cool. He said, ‘We are going to do our thing, they are going to do their thing and he is just going to have to outrun us.’”

Unfortunately for Bartone and the status of his unprecedented record (22 rounds of racing without a loss), he never got the chance to “back door” it. His mount shook the tires 200 feet into his final-round race against Dunlap and, despite some deft back-pedaling, the New York-based champ never caught the hard-charging Dunlap.

“Honestly, I thought he was going to run a .50 and blow our doors off,” Dunlap admitted. “But when you don’t see him and you don’t hear him and the win light comes on, it’s unbelievable.”

This makes for 6 out of 7 event wins for Shelar’s team in Bowling Green. (A 7th NHRR title was claimed by “High Speed” the year it was contested in Columbus, Ohio.) This was their first, however, with Bill Dunlap as the team’s driver.

“I am 74-years old, how much longer am I going to be able to do this?” Dunlap asked rhetorically, responding to a query about the meaning of this win. “When the team got down (to the shut-off area), I was jumping around like I was lost.”

“The team kicked ass,” Shelar stated. Despite the usual daunting heat and humidity in Kentucky, the HMS crew fulfilled “Slick’s” vision of reclaiming Bowling Green and upending Bartone by swapping engines between every round of eliminations. “I’m the lucky one that gets to turn the knobs and Dunlap drove his ass off,” Shelar explained.

Dunlap will continue his pursuit of points-leading Bartone this summer in Boise, Idaho and Epping, New Hampshire and finally this fall in Bakersfield, CA.

Make no mistake: Currently in Heritage Series Top Fuel Competition, statements are being made. Only this year, they are not all by Steve Boggs and Tony Bartone.

FOUR TO THE FLOOR, BARTONE SCORES SEASON TITLE

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September 16, 2014, AA/FD HQFor the fourth time in as many events, this weekend an undefeated Tony Bartone helmed the “Bartone Bros.” AA/Fuel Dragster to yet another win in Top Fuel Eliminator, in this instance at the New England Reunion in Epping, New Hampshire. Moreover, for the fourth consecutive race this year the New York-based Bartone also set both Low ET and Top Speed of the Meet. His command of the class has been so thorough that with one race still left on the NHRA Heritage Series schedule, Bartone has already claimed the 2014 Points Title.

“People think we just showed up and dominated,” Bartone explained, when asked about the effort it took his team to reach this level of virtuosity. “In all honestly this is our fifth year of competition. We kept developing the program until we got it right.”

Indeed, the New England Reunion was another exercise in humbling the rest of the class. At Epping, Bartone qualified in the #1 position, with a ¼-mile elapsed time of 5.73, coupled with a Top Speed of 236-mph. In the final round of eliminations, Bartone had improved those numbers while dispatching #2 qualifier Jim Young, with a 5.70 at a blistering top-end trap speed of 271 mph to Young’s second-best 5.89. To his credit, Young and his “Tri-State Racing” Chevy-powered fueler made Bartone earn the victory, after Young left first with a .058 reaction time to Tony’s relatively tardy .108 starting line light. Young still had a wheel out on Tony at 1000’, but Bartone marched around his tenacious competitor.

But tenacity is a word also applicable to the Bartones.

“Somebody coined the phrase that this is a ‘California-centric’ series, and it is a California-based thing, but we went to them all,” Bartone said. “My brother (Michael) and I made a commitment to run all the events.”

That dedication paid off. But even after running the proverbial table four races in a row and clutching the 2014 Heritage Series Points Title trophy, the Steve Boggs-tuned entry of the Bartone Brother isn’t done.

In reference to the upcoming season-closing California Hot Rod Reunion at Famoso Raceway, Bartone said he’d be there.

“It’s on the schedule,” he confirmed.

His reason for towing all the way across the country to California one more time?

“We want to sweep the series,” he said. “That would be something in itself.”

The California-based teams have been put on notice. They have one more opportunity to save face, and possibly extract a little revenge. Arguably, the damage has already been done. But none of the West Coast Top Fuel teams want to see Bartone finish the season undefeated.Cole Coonce— (c/o aafd.tv )

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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.)

 

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

NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Schedule for 12th Annual Holley Hot Rod Reunion at Bowling Green

NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Schedule for 12th Annual Holley Hot Rod Reunion at Bowling Green

Heritage Series Top Fuel Schedule at this weekend’s 12th Annual Holley Hot Rod Reunion at Bowling Green, Kentucky:
Top Fuel Qualifying Session 1: Thursday, June 12th, 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 14th, 11 a.m.