HILTON TAKES TOP FUEL AT TULSA – WITTENBERG CLINCHES CHAMPIONSHIP

Tyler Hilton hammered the big-block Chevrolet powered Great Expectations III into the Nitro Nationals winner’s circle with a 6.39 ET at 239 MPH after Runner-Up Pete Wittenberg struck the tires at the hit in the KMA Circuit Breaker.

After posting event Low ET and Top Speed, Wittenberg clinched the 2020 NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Championship in the season-closing AA/Fuel pedalfest that came down to a margin of victory of just five-thousandths of a second.

The track was cooling down as the two Top Fuel titans staged into the night. The “KMA Circuit Breaker” hemi broke traction first, but Wittenberg wasn’t the only one fighting the balance of power over pavement. Hilton said he felt things get loose a little further down track and rolled into the fearsome big block Chevrolet for the win. “I don’t think the track would have held a quick pedal. It was pretty close at the end, but I was there first.”

Wittenberg quickly recovered from the smokey step and launched the hemi-powered “KMA Circuit Breaker” into hot pursuit, driving out the back door at 246 MPH with an almost but not enough 6.43-second ET. The two-time Bakersfield March Meet Top Fuel winner came into the race in the number one points position and pulled the chutes on the Nitro Nationals as the 2020 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series Nostalgia Top Fuel Champion.

2020 NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Season Champion Pete Wittenberg and the KMA Circuit Breaker crew. Photo: Mary Robinson

More: Hot Rod Heritage Series Championship rundown from the NHRA. Bates, Cottrell, and Wittenberg claim 2020 Heritage Series Championships

The Top Fuel season wrap-up at Tulsa Raceway park saw timing tree trip-ups and mechanical mishaps through two qualifying sessions and eliminations. Brendan Murry overcame qualifying troubles but went out in round one eliminations with a 6.63 to Pete Wittenberg’s winning 6.169. Tim Cullinan’s 5.88 dispatched Jim Murphy, and Tyler Hilton’s 6.05 defeated Paul Schultz. Dusty Green drove Steve Harwood’s “Nitro Hemi” into the semi-final with a 5.89 over Gary Wheeler in the all-new Grand Prix Auto AA/Fueler.  

Wittenberg moved into the final with a 5.89 at 195 after Dusty Green scrubbed with mechanical problems during the warmup, and Tyler Hilton’s 5.83-second 246 MPH win over Tim Cullinan set the stage for the final Nostalgia Top Fuel battle of 2020. In an opening ceremonies move that foreshadowed the outcome, Tulsa Raceway Park impresario Todd Martin recognized three generations of Hilton and Lee family drag racing achievement by presenting Alison Lee with a Lifetime Dedication Award. Jim and Alison Lee campaigned the original “Great Expectations II” AA/Fuel dragster in the ’60s and ’70s. 

With the California Hot Rod Reunion’s cancellation, the Nitro Nationals at Tulsa Raceway Park marked the end of a tumultuous year for the NHRA Heritage Series drag racing community and the entire world. Head over the NHRA for the official 2020 Hot Rod Heritage Nostalgia Top Fuel Championship points final and mark the calendar for the 2021 March Meet at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California.

WITTENBERG VICTORIOUS AT MARCH MEET IN KMA CIRCUIT BREAKER

pete-wittenberg-launchPete Wittenberg took the Top Fuel win over Mendy Fry at the 60th March Meet in a dramatic conclusion to a manic March Meet weekend at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California. The Top Fuel Final ran into a dark and cold Sunday night after incessant rain torpedoed Saturday racing action. Wittenberg struck the tires and pedaled the KMA Circuit Breaker out of the gate as Mendy Fry charged ahead, but Fry clipped a half-track cone driving through tire shake and darkness in the High-Speed dragster for a centerline disqualification.

Front-engine Top Fuel dragster competition ramped up at the 2018 Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet with nitro testing on Thursday and kicked off officially with Friday Qualifying. Rain prevented two scheduled Saturday Top Fuel qualifying sessions from running and left the All-American Fuel Dragster Dirty Dozen with a single qualifying session instead of three. After calling it due to rain on Saturday afternoon, officials made the decision to run 8-car Top Fuel Eliminations on Sunday based on Friday qualifying session order. With last minute hopes of running 12-car Eliminations dashed, four weather-beaten racers towed back home.

fry-chargeRunner-up Mendy Fry was on track to the Top Fuel Final rain or shine at the 60th March Meet. Fry took #1 Qualifier with a 5.73 ET at 219 MPH blast. She then set Top Speed in a Round One Eliminations with a 5.96 ET at 261 MPH win over Adam Sorokin and the Champion Speed Shop, and set low ET in the Semi-Final round with a 5.60 ET at 250 MPH victory against Jim Murphy after he lost traction in the WW2 out of the gate. Murphy grabbed a Round One Eliminations win with a 5.84 ET at 231 against Rick White who ran a 6.22 ET at 242 MPH in the Neal and White AA/Fuel dragster.white-murphyPete Wittenberg held the #3 Qualifying spot going into Sunday Eliminations and advanced to the Semi-Finals with a 5.84 ET at 221 MPH win over Brendan Murry. Bret Williamson drove the Forever Young dragster on fire past the stripe for a dramatic 5.79 ET at 212 MPH win against Dan Horan Jr. that set Williams and Wittenberg up for a Semi-Final battle. Wittenberg moved on to the Final with a 5.83 ET at 219 MPH against Williamson who ran a 5.94 ET at 238 MPH. Pete Wittenberg went from getting his Top Fuel license and going a single round the 59th March Meet to the Top Fuel final at the 60th March Meet.horan-williamson-E1The Final round paired up Mendy Fry in the High-Speed Motorsports dragster and Wittenberg in the Jimi Young-tuned KMA Circuit Breaker. Darkness fell as did the temperature before the finalists hit their burnouts and staged in for the Top Fuel decider at the 60th March Meet. Wittenberg lost traction off the line and pedaled the KMA Circuit Breaker in an attempt get 3000-plus horsepower back down to the ground. Mendy Fry pulled away for the lead unaware of Wittenberg’s situation but encountered tire shake in the dark and clipped the half-track cone for a disqualification.W03Pete Wittenberg ran the gamut of emotions in the cockpit. “I hit the throttle, and the car went up in smoke. I pedaled it. I rolled back into it. I saw her way out there, and I lifted and thought ‘that was fun, we’re out,’ then I saw here come over into my lane a little bit, and there was a role reversal in my head”. Wittenberg took the 60th March Meet Top Fuel trophy home just a short year after first strapping into the KMA Circuit breaker as a licensed Top Fuel racer. Drag racing, as Jungle Jim Lieberman famously said, is far out.

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The 2018 Good Vibrations Motorsports 60th March Meet was the opening salvo in the 5-race NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series Top Fuel Championship battle. Next up for the All-American Fuel Dragsters and legions of vintage drag racing fans is the 16th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky June 14-16, 2018.