The March Meet. Held at Bakersfield, California’s Famoso Raceway, it’s been going on for 54 years and is vintage drag racing’s U.S. Nationals—a win at the March Meet is a serious feather in the cap of any vintage racer. If you haven’t already seen it, here’s Saturday’s coverage.
Last year’s March Meet was rained out for the elimination rounds when severe weather rolled over Famoso Raceway, blowing out the racing just as it blew away the Easy-Up tents and banners around the track. But the 2012 ‘Meet, the 54th running of one of the most significant races in the country, had nothing but postcard-like Southern California weather, meaning cloudless blue skies and high-70-degree temps. The weather honestly couldn’t have been better.
Neither could the racing have been better. From Hot Rod to Top Fuel and Funny Car, the elimination rounds offered surprise upsets, a few wins decided by less than a thousandth of a second, and crowd-pleasing burnouts and sexy backup girls. Top Fuel and A/Fuel each had less than 16 cars on the ladder, but the rest of the classes were full, with a bunch of cars not making the ladder.
Larry Dixon Sr. and Jr, were the grand marshals of the event, which represented the first time that the father and son combo made such a public appearance together, prompting some misty eyes from both men. Also included in the opening ceremony was NHRA’s former division director Steve Gibbs, driving the pushcar for the Howard’s Cams Rattler that Dixon Sr. cruised down the return road during the opening ceremonies.
This year’s March Meet was one the best in recent memory, and track owners John and Blake Bowser have done a great job in not only hosting the event, but also in getting the track in tip-top shape with a recent repaving job in full concrete. Despite numerous oil-downs on Saturday during Top Fuel and Funny Car rounds, cleanup was quick and efficient, keeping the show going as well as can be expected.
The Wally-winner in the crowd favorite class, Funny Car, was Tim Boychuk, whose team had the tuning talents of legendary Fuel racer Rolond Leong in their corner.
It had been a long time since Leong tasted victory at the March Meet, but he and the 13th-qualified Boychuk team did the deed this year, beating number two qualifier Chad Head in the final with a 5.80 at 243 mph to Head’s 6.00 at 248. Chad is a second generation racer, following his father Jim in the Fuel ranks.
The Top Fuel class had its own drama, starting with Jim Young grabbing the number four spot in the ladder on Saturday but turning his fuel Hemi into junk in the process. The team thrashed all night to get another motor together (this isn’t the big leagues where teams have 3 or 4 spare engines in the trailer), then ate up Ernie McLain, Michael Irwin, and Rick White to take home the win.
Underdog Mendy Fry in Mike Fuller’s Forever Young dragster also opened some eyes by making it to the semis. Her car was qualified 13th in the 14-car field, but got past a spinning Rick McGee in the first round and favorite Adam Sorokin in the second round thanks to Sorokin’s big wheelstand right off the line.
In the semi-final against number three qualifier White, there was hope in her camp when it was obvious that White had a dead cylinder. Mendy left on him by .008 seconds, but at about 100 feet, her car spun the tires and sent White to the final.
There were other classes beside Top Fuel and Funny Car of course. A/Fuel, which allows nitro but not with a blower, was won by Les Davenport, Junior Fuel was won by J.D. Zink, 7.0 Pro (can’t run quicker than 7.0) was won by Jess Adams in his ’71 Mustang flopper, A, B, C, and D/Gas (Rafael Quiroga, Roy Castagmetto, Justin Shears, and Don Fournier, respectively), and Nostalgia Eliminator I, II, and III (Steve Schoenfeld, Bob Johnson, and Lindsey Lister, respectively).
An interesting note are the women of NE. NE3 champ Lindsey Lister is, of course, a woman, as is NE1 runner-up Eily Stafford. Stafford. The Hot Rod class, populated by more “street” looking hot rods and muscle cars (as well as one very cool primered pickup) was won by Chris Pedersen in a back-halved ’63 Falcon.
Of course, the March Meet is more than just a drag race. The grove behind the pit-side grandstands is full of hot rods, customs, muscle cars, and rat rods, and the shade provided by the many trees makes this a nice place to hang out. It doesn’t hurt that they sell corn dogs and beer there, too. Just past the grove is the swap meet, two long aisles of parts, tools, bodies, complete cars, and knickknacks. Yes, we came home with a few things, even though sanity tried to say otherwise.
Another nice thing about this event is that it’s amateur racing, so you don’t get the big egos and insane budgets of the top leagues of the NHRA series. NHRA racers are certainly approachable, but the vintage gang is Moreso; they’re proud to show people their machinery and enjoy the recognition
Win: Tim Boychuk
RU: Chad Head
Win: Les Davenport
RU: Kim Bates,
Win: J.D. Zink
RU: Don Enriquez
Win: Rafael Quiroga
RU: Rob Patten
Win: Roy Castagmetto
RU: J. Wooten
Win: Justin Shears
RU: Pat Walker
Win: Steve Schoenfeld
RU: Eily Stafford
Win: Bob Johnson
RU: R Horn
Win: Lindsey Lister
RU: Rich Harrison
Win: Chris Pedersen
RU: G. Heriford