“High Speed Motorsports” wins the Mastercam Top Fuel Shootout. (photo by Ted Soqui)

“Good Vibrations’ Saturday Night Nitro,” Auto Club Famoso Raceway, September 19, 2015—For the second time this summer, front-engine Top Fuel virtuoso Bill Dunlap zoomed ahead of Rick White and captured the Title in the winner-take-all Mastercam Top Fuel Shootout in Bakersfield.

By virtue of his .044 second reaction time in his “High Speed Motorsports” machine, Dunlap launched ahead of the always-powerful “Neal & White Racing” dragster and was not to be caught.

“I didn’t see him until I pulled the parachutes and he blasted by me,” Dunlap said. “So I knew it had to be close.”

Dunlap won the event on skill and desire; indeed, his 5.75-second quarter-mile elapsed time with a top-end speed of 240 mph was inferior to the 5.73 that engine maestro Chuck Neal provided for his driver. Despite Dunlap’s holeshot, White never gave up, as evidenced by Rick’s speed of 247 mph.

Earlier, in the “all-run” first round of eliminations which determined the two quickest cars that would meet in the Shootout final, Dunlap laid down a Low ET 5.63 at 251 mph to drive around Jim Murphy, who cranked out a 5.69 at 238 mph in his Roland Leong-tuned “WW2” rail. Next, Rick White posted a 5.76 at a thundering 256 mph — numbers which stood for Top Speed of the Meet — to upend Champion Speed Shop’s 6.06. And finally, after Bret Williamson suffered from a trashed clutch earlier that afternoon in the “Forever Young” entry and missed showtime, Rick McGee singled to a 6.09 in his “Overtime Special.”

Because of their respective times of 5.63 and 5.69, the final round of the Mastercam Top Fuel Shootout was to be a rematch between Dunlap and Murphy.

Unfortunately, WW2 had endured crankshaft issues all day and couldn’t make the call. White was the alternate and gave Bill Dunlap nearly all he could handle, but fell short of upending High Speed, who have won half of the events they have entered this year.

The AA/Fuel Dragsters wrap up their season next month at the California Hot Rod Reunion, also at Famoso. If the numbers and the action from the Shootout are any barometers, it should be some rather fierce competition.


Jim Murphy and Roland Leong discuss strategy.
Jim Murphy and Roland Leong discuss strategy.

44th Nightfire Nationals, Firebird Raceway, Boise, ID, August 12, 2015—With High Speed Motorsports having recently ended the Bartone Brothers unprecedented 22-round win streak in NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel competition, the rest of the class has smelled blood in the water and have begun sharking. To that end, at this weekend’s Pepsi Nightfire Nationals in Boise veteran nitro racer Jim Murphy and his “WW2” dragster are set to pounce on a full field of front-engined fuelers.

“I think that (High Speed driver) Bill Dunlap winning Bowling Green gave everyone in the Nostalgia Top Fuel class a glimmer of hope,” Murphy explained. “It has been apparent that Tony Bartone has completely dominated our class for the last year and a half. High Speed and the Champion Speed Shop have been getting closer and closer and I believe we can now be part of that group.”

Earlier this summer at Bakersfield’s “Saturday Night Nitro,” an after-hours test with a new crew chief validated Murphy’s claim about rejoining the Top Fuel elite. That event saw the debut of the collaboration between Murphy and an infamous tuner he raced with during the ‘70s Funny Car wars, Roland Leong a/k/a “the Hawaiian.” After midnight, the WW2 fueler laid down the quickest run of the event, a spectacular 5.67-second 1/4-mile elapsed time at a mere 237 mph, with Murphy shutting off at 1000-feet.

That stunning run set the stage for Boise: When asked about if there was anything to prove this week, the “Hawaiian” was as cagey and contrite. “The goal is just to get more runs and data and learn what I think this car wants,” Leong said. “I tell everyone I work for, I only know how to do it one run at a time and it takes a lot of laps to figure things out.”

If Murphy and Leong want to go rounds—whether in pursuit of “data” or the actual Nightfire Top Fuel title, they will have to fight through a full quota of competitors. Besides Bartone and Dunlap, among those entered in the Boise’s 8-car eliminator are sophomore hot-shoe Dusty Green, March Meet runner-up Adam Sorokin in the Champion Speed Shop small-block Chevrolet fueler, fan-favorite Brendan Murry, Rick Williamson in the “Team Craig” rail, and Ron August, Jr. in the “Forever Young” slingshot. All of these teams are hoping to upend the defending series and event champion Bartone, despite any pleas to the contrary.

“Right now we’re not trying to upend anyone,” Roland said, downplaying his notorious take-no-prisoners competitive ethos. “Hopefully the day will come when they will be trying to upend us.”

“We are still in the experimental stage with the tune-up,” Murphy said, echoing Roland’s sentiments. “But we now know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel—and it’s not a train coming back at us.”


44th Annual Pepsi Nightfire Nationals “Idaho’s Premiere Racing Event”

August 13-16

Fri., August 14: Nitro Qualifying: 7:45 pm. Concludes: 10 pm

Sat., August 15: Nitro Qualifying: 2 pm, 7:45 pm. Concludes: 10:30 pm

Sun., August 16: Nitro Eliminations: 2 pm. Concludes: 9 pm

More on Heritage Series Top Fuel and the AA/FD here:


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Tony Bartone: 5.53, 270-mph

March 9, 2015, Auto Club Famoso Raceway—In a fiery, spectacular clash of two distinct, different approaches to front-engined Top Fuel drag racing, New Yorker Tony Bartone chased down Los Angeleno Adam Sorokin in the final round of Good Vibrations March Meet in Bakersfield, while claiming Low ET and Top Speed.

Bartone shoes the Chrysler-powered, Steve Boggs-prepped “Bartone Bros.” rail, while Sorokin stabs and steers a small-block Chevy-powered full-bodied, canopied dragster. What these two nitro warriors have in common is a willingness to blow up their mills in pursuit of a second March Meet Title — and that’s how it shook out in what is the NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel season-opener: In the final round Sorokin launched off the line like a bullet. Bartone, who had more than a 1/10th of a second performance advantage over the rest of the AA/Fuelers throughout the event, gave pursuit. At 330’ Bartone figured to make his move but, instead, found himself a car length behind the hard-charging Chevy. And Sorokin’s “mouse” motor kept pulling: At half-track, Sorokin had six-hundredths of a second on the New Yorker.

This was something different for Bartone, who has had his way with the class all last season, and won every round of competition in 2013. As a further insult to his competition, he rarely keeps the throttle open beyond 1000’, shutting off early while blithely setting 1/4-mile elapsed time records for the Heritage Series Top Fuel class.

All of a sudden, this got serious and things looked pretty dire for the New Yorkers. And then at 800’ … BOOM! The Champion Speed Shop fueler popped the blower. The automatic shut-off systems deployed and as Sorokin’s parachutes came out at 1000’ Bartone finally caught the California car.

At the finish line, Tony went by for the win with his foot mashed horizontal: There, Bartone’s machine blew up in a cloud of oil, smoke and conflagration. After hitting the flame retardant, Bartone was on fire momentarily, but the numbers were absolutely incendiary: An unprecedented 5.53 at 270 mph for the victorious Bartone, to a 5.79 at 192 mph for Sorokin. Once again, just like at every event in 2014, Top Fuel Eliminator, Low ET and Top Speed belonged to Bartone. With the 5.53, Bartone broke his own Heritage Series Top Fuel ET Record.

“I had my worst light of the weekend in the final, which I am not proud of,” Bartone said. “I looked over at 1000’ and Adam was right there. I kept driving it. He blew up. I blew up. I was on fire and just got it stopped safely.”

And then, Bartone became pragmatic. “I just hope we can re-use the block,” he concluded.

Hopefully. But right now the Bartone Bros. are using everybody up.

Adam Sorokin leaves on Tony Bartone

March Meet Ladder

2015 March Meet Top Fuel Results


(photo by Chris Graves c/o maxcacklephotos.com)
(photo by Chris Graves c/o maxcacklephotos.com)


42nd Annual Pepsi Nightfire Nationals, Firebird Raceway, Boise ID—After three fiery nights of action that wowed capacity crowds in Boise, Utah-based Brett Harris dropped the drawers on an unsuspecting contingent of AA/Fuel Dragsters and claimed the event win at Firebird’s 42nd Nightfire Nationals.

Harris swung his first gauntlet late Saturday night in the final session of qualifying, posting a fierce ¼-mile elapsed time of 5.80 seconds and a full-throttle top speed of 247 mph, numbers which propelled the Steve Harwood-owned “Nitro Hemi” into the #1 qualifying spot, a position previously bogarted throughout the meet by Adam Sorokin in San Francisco’s “Champion Speed Shop” streamlined-dragster.

But Harris’s coveted slot meant more than just bragging rights: Because of a 7-car eliminator, the “Nitro Hemi” was granted a bye run into the semi-finals, where Harris’s 5.88 withstood the efforts of San Diego’s Neal & White. Harris also ran the final round unopposed after veteran racer Jim Murphy failed to make the call when he mortally wounded his “WW2’s” mount in the semi-finals while dispatching Sorokin. Murphy’s spectacular clocking of 5.73 seconds at 258 mph served as both Low ET and Top Speed of the Meet, but he said afterwards: “We hurt the # 5 piston real bad and have aluminum everywhere.”

Harris is the Boise AA/Fuel Dragster winner, but Murphy could hardly consider his efforts a defeat. His long-term goal—to claim the 2013 Heritage Series Top Fuel Points Title—became much more viable after his runner-up efforts allowed him to push past the two competitors in front of him before Boise, #2 Jim Young and #1 Denver Schutz, neither of whom drove at the Nightfires. Murphy now has a commanding lead in the points race with two events left on the Heritage Series schedule: The inaugural New England Hot Rod Reunion and the 22nd California Hot Rod Reunion.


AA/Fuel Dragster Final Qualifying

1.  Brett Harris, Hooper, Utah, 5.80, 247.38.
2.  Adam Sorokin, La Crescenta, Calif., 5.83, 224.83.
3.  Jim Murphy, Santa Rosa, Calif., 5.84, 237.52.
4.  Rick White, San Diego, Calif., 5.85, 248.00.
5.  Tony Bartone, Long Island City, New York, 5.93, 218.92.
6.  Brendan Murry, San Jose, Calif., 6.36, 230.35.
7.  Ron August, Pleasanton, Calif., 6.39, 212.91.

AA/Fuel Dragster Round One

Win-Jim Murphy, 5.913, 244.16.
Brendan Murry, 6.300, 194.13.

Win-Brett Harris, 13.409, 62.65.

Win-Adam Sorokin, 5.938, 226.13.
Ron August Jr, 6.493,216.19.

Win-Rick White, 5.974, 231.30.
Tony Bartone, 7.595, 117.61.

AA/Fuel Dragster Semi Final Round

Win-Brett Harris, .095, 5.884, 245.29.
Rick White, .134, 6.589, 219.40.

Win-Jim Murphy, .132, 5.739, 258.17.
Adam Sorokin, .053, 6.838, 144.27.

AA/Fuel Dragster Final
Brett Harris, Hooper, Utah, .315, 6.99, 132.95 def. Jim Murphy, Santa Rosa, Calif., broke.


1. Jim Murphy — 265
2. Denver Schutz — 195
3. Jim Young — 173
4. Rick White–151
5. Brett Harris–118
6. Adam Sorokin–109
7. Brendan Murry–106
8. Tony Bartone–86
9. Ron August–85
10. Randy Bridges–75

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