AA/FUELER FEUDS TO BOIL IN BOWLING GREEN

SatTF0514th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion, June 16-18, 2016, Beech Bend Raceway, Bowling Green, Ky.With the 2016 Heritage Series Top Fuel points race wide open, over a dozen supercharged and nitro-powered competitors from across the United States are gathering their steeds in Bowling Green in anticipation of claiming this week’s 8-car AA/Fuel Dragster Eliminator at the 14th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion.

Among those mounting up will be Stockton, California’s Rick Williamson, driver of the “Team Craig” dragster and current Heritage Series points leader as well as the recent March Meet victor. Following the Craig gang’s entry out of California on I-40 East is a nattering menagerie of their enemies, including Adam Sorokin with the Chevy-powered Champion Speed Shop fueler — March Meet runner-up and #2 in the points — and veteran nitro-man Jim Murphy with his fearsome “WW2railjob.

Murphy, who is making the scene with his Roland Leong-tuned digger, won here in 2013 on a holeshot, but has struggled to find a consistent combination after that decisive weekend. At the Bakersfield March Meet, he appeared to return to form before an unfortunate top-end collision during eliminations rattled his concentration and compromised his effort. Similarly, New York-based Tony Bartone, the 2014 Holley NHRR winner and two-time defending Heritage Series Points Champion, has also seen his once-dominant form contract recently.

Both Bartone and Murphy would love to repeat here, as a means of making the statement that their team has entirely too much knowledge, talent and gumption not to dominate. Moreover, a Top Fuel win by Bartone would serve as an emphatic punctuation mark to the deserved pomp and circumstance awarded to his crew chief, the legendary Steve Boggs who, in concert with his late brother Ron, will be anointed as an Honoree here this weekend.

There are other scores to settle here: Rick White, driver of the hard-charging “Neal & White” machine out of San Diego, wants to undo the damage from a first-round loss at the March Meet, which transpired, ironically, after Rick set Low ET at that prestigious event with a ferocious ¼-mile clocking of 5.54 seconds.

Additionally, Salem, Wisconsin’s Jim Young hopes to advance to the top of the points chart here and will light up the Kentucky concrete with his Chrysler-powered “Young Guns.” Fleshing out the field are Californian Brendan Murry, Paul Schultz’s “Spirit of Tulsa,” Tyler Hilton’s big-block Chevy-powered “Great Expectations III” from Virginia (by way of Ohio), Illinois-based Tim Cullinan, “Diamond” Dave Miller’s dragster from Atoka, Tennessee, Racine Wisconsin’s Jason Greenwood, Troy Ray’s new “Wildside II” digger out of Knoxville, Julius Hughes’ “Atlanta Speed Shop” special and 2011 NHRR Top Fuel winner Lincoln Hassell out of North Carolina.

California. New York. Wisconsin. Virginia. Ohio. Oklahoma. Illinois. Tennessee. Georgia. North Carolina. With such diversity and power, Top Fuel Eliminator at the 14th Holley National Hot Rod Reunion is anybody’s race — and merely qualifying for this fierce field could be a partial victory. Odds are, whoever wins this nitro-powered shootout will drive away as the Heritage Series Top Fuel Points Leader. -30-

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AA/FD YEAR IN REVIEW: 2015 TOP FUEL DIGEST AVAILABLE NOW!

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Only $9.99 at topfueldigest.com

AAFD HQ, December 8, 2015Who says print is dead? Not the AA/Fuel Dragster media mavens, who have organized a digest-format magazine chronicling all of this year’s action from the wildest circuit in drag racing, front-engine Top Fuel.

Available at topfueldigest.com, the 2015 AA/FD Top Fuel Digest compiles explosive coverage of the Bakersfield March Meet, the Boise Nightfire Nationals, Bowling Green and more. Follow the exploits of Tony Bartone, Adam Sorokin, Bill Dunlap and the rest of the fearless fueler heroes as they made 2015 a year to remember. An instant collectible for fans of nostalgia-style Top Fuel drag racing, the Digest has 36 pages of spectacular photography and razor-sharp race reporting with contributions from seasoned dragstrip shutter bugs “Max Cackle,” Ted Soqui, and Dave Kommel as well astute correspondence from veteran copy chimp Cole Coonce. -30

http://topfueldigest.com

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/986979

DUNLAP DASHES DENVER’S CURTAIN CALL AT CALI REUNION

Bill Dunlap chases down Denver Schutz and claims his 3rd CHRR Top Fuel Title.
Bill Dunlap chases down Denver Schutz and claims his 3rd CHRR Top Fuel Title.

24th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA, October 25, 2015—In a final round of competition that was as poignant as it was dramatic, 74-year-old “High Speed Motorsports’” driver Bill Dunlap seized victory from the maw of veteran nitro-racer Denver Schutz and claimed his 3rd California Hot Rod Reunion Top Fuel Title.

Dunlap posted a strong ¼-mile elapsed time of 5.69 seconds coupled with a commanding top-end speed of 255 mph to Schutz’s 5.83 at 252 mph, but the margin of victory was narrower than those number suggest as Denver “put out the top bulb” and deep-staged his “RE3” machine before dropping a stiff holeshot on Dunlap, forcing the quicker High Speed dragster to drive around his adversary.

“He rolled in deep at the last minute,” Dunlap explained. “I just decided if he was going to do those things, I was going to stage last — I wasn’t going to stage first. I was waiting for it.”

What happened on the pass?

“He may have left on me, but I didn’t ever see him. I heard him for awhile and the noise kind of went away. The car was singing to me so I took it the stripe. I got out at the end and nobody down there knew who won.”

It was that close. Factoring in reaction times, Dunlap beat Schutz by four-hundredths of a second. Dunlap said the win here eased the sting of not winning the 2015 NHRA Heritage Series Point Title “a lot.”

For Fresno-based Schutz, that was the second consecutive heat where spectators marveled at his unorthodox start followed by a nail-biter of a finish. In the semi-finals, Denver unnerved 2015 Points Champion, #1 Qualifier and odds-on favorite Tony Bartone with a similar mud-in-your eye startling line stratagem, deep staging and then expertly dropping a holeshot. This startled Bartone, who belatedly gave pursuit in a see-sawing battle. Schutz held off Bartone with a 5.90 at 241 mph to Tony’s quicker-but-losing 5.82 at 202 mph.

“You only do it when you have to,” Schutz said afterwards, about the deep-stage. “It kind of a c.s. way to race but we are professionals and sometimes you do what you have to.”

“He threw me off and I was dead late,” Bartone confirmed. “That’s the story.”

Bartone added that a broken fuel line coupled with three dead holes four seconds into his run contributed to his loss.

Schutz’s performance during his last two rounds was a near-perfect finale to what turned out to be his career curtain call. Moments after scoring his hard-earned runner-up finish at the 24th CHRR, 70-year-old Denver Schutz announced his retirement from the sport. Among other achievements, Denver was the 1998 CHRR Top Fuel Champion.

“Quitting is hard,” Schutz explained. Suffice it to say, he went out in fine fashion. He took it deep. -30-

Just after the CHRR Top Fuel final, Denver Schutz announced his retirement.
Just after the CHRR Top Fuel final, Denver Schutz announced his retirement.

FAMOSO FUELERS FIT TO FOIL FOUR-PEAT AT CALI REUNION

Saturday Night Nitro event at the Auto Club Raceway Famoso. (photo by Ted Soqui c/o thelastdragstrip.com)
Rick McGee at the Auto Club Raceway Famoso. (photo by Ted Soqui c/o thelastdragstrip.com)

24th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion, Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA, October 22, 2015—Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield. It is the vintage Top Fuel competitor’s “Brickyard” — its Super Bowl, World Series, Daytona and Indy 500 all rolled into one. And for the nitro-burning racers in NHRA’s Heritage Series, their annual marquee event happens here twice. The season opens at Famoso Raceway with the exalted March Meet and wraps up here this weekend with the prestigious California Hot Rod Reunion. After 24 years of bookending in Bakersfield, it has become a tradition.

Going back to the 2014 March Meet, New York-based Nostalgia Top Fuel phenom Tony Bartone has swept the last three events in Bakersfield. Can he perform an unprecedented Famoso Four-peat? Bill Dunlap, Denver Schutz, Rick McGee, Jim Murphy, Rick White, Rick Williamson and Adam Sorokin — all California residents — are the dirty half-dozen former California Hot Rod Reunion winners competing this weekend who say: “Forget about it, Tony.”

Dunlap, driver of the High Speed Motorsports entry and winner of the Inaugural CHRR (as well as the 1997 iteration), is the only driver to have defeated Bartone in two years, and is coming off back-to-back Saturday Night Nitro Mastercam Shootout victories here at Famoso. About his driver’s chances to win a 3rd CHRR title, his crew chief, Tom Shelar, put it this way: “With the weather conditions being forecast, we should run consistent 5.60s. That should be enough to win, but it might take a 5.50 with Bartone on the grounds.”

Adam Sorokin, hot shoe for the Champion Speed Shop entry, is the 2013 CHRR winner and the last driver other than Bartone to take Bakersfield. Sorokin also wants to play the spoiler and give the New Yorker a Bronx cheer.

“I’d like to come out of the trailer fairly aggressive,” Adam asserted. “The car is capable of running .60s, and I think that kind of performance can get us to the later rounds.” Then he added: “Bartone will be the guy to watch, but anything can — and does — happen. We wouldn’t show up if we didn’t think we could win the thing.”

According to wdifl.com’s “Top Fuel Tricky Tipster,” Schutz, McGee, Murphy, Williamson and White all have a better than 5-to-1 shot to thwart a four-peat.

It is also worth noting that at recent “Saturday Night Nitro” events, Murphy’s Roland Leong-tuned “WW2” machine has been clocking the kinds of numbers Sorokin and Shelar deem necessary to take the Reunion, and the “Neal & White Racing” dragster runner-upped at both of those events while posting bodacious top-end speeds.

Tony Bartone is here to show all the former winners from California that this scene has come a long way from, say, 1992. Bill Dunlap is here to say it’s not that different at all.

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Nitro Qualifying for the 24th CHRR begins this Friday at 11 AM, with a second session at 3. Top Fuel Qualifying resumes Saturday at noon followed by eliminations at 3 pm. Top Fuel Eliminations continue Sunday at 11.30 AM.

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.