Oct. 13, 2003
California Hot Rod Reunion (Courtesy of Bill Groak)
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Final Subject: Grand Conclusion
to 12th NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion Cinderella's shoe didn't break.
It was a blower belt.
Harris, 60, from Kayville, Utah, earned his second championship here with a 5.878 quarter mile at 250.13 mph, nipping 62-year-old Dunlap of Capitola, Calif., who finished with a 5.926 at 235.41 mph.
Harris, who dedicated the victory to the late Ernie Hashim, got the proverbial second chance as he got back into the championship run on a "break rule," which allows the lowest e.t. loser in the previous round to advance if one of the finalists' cars can't show up for the final round due to mechanical or other reasons. Such was the case with crowd-favorite Muravez, who was on a magical weekend run.
"The car was just thrashed," said Crew Chief Chris Nance. "We lost a blower belt the race before and got behind the 8-ball." Still, Nance and crew almost pulled it out, whipping Murphy 5.902 to 5.892 in the semis. But that was it for Cinderella, er, Muravez, as his dragster couldn't give it another run.
"We accomplished so much this weekend," Muravez said. "We're still winners."
So were the Reunion fans who cheered on Muravez' run and Grand Marshal status. Muravez, who because of family pressures was forced to race in the mid-1960s using the alias of Floyd J. Lippencotte Jr., was signing autographs all weekend and having fun, a Reunion trademark.
"Muravez' weekend was all story book," said Greg Sharp, curator of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, Calif., producers of the California Hot Rod Reunion. "Bob had some incredible runs this weekend."
Sharp was on the committee that selected Muravez as Grand Marshal. Or as Lippencotte would argue, "Co-Grand Marshal." With or without Lippencotte's help, Muravez reached new heights, in grand fashion, of course.
In other races, Mike Smith of San Diego won Nostalgia Eliminator (his first-ever victory), defeating Robert Ditz of Highland. Don Enriquez of Mission Viejo took his '91 Fritz to victory over Kol Johnson of Escondido in an '02 Meyer. In Junior Fuel A, Dean Carter of Glendale, Ariz. smoked to a 7.078 second victory over Wayne Ramay of Simi Valley. The A Gas Eliminator Class went to Sean Renteria of Hollister in a '65 Plymouth over Ron Piazza, Jr. of San Jose in a '67 Nova. Ed Moss of Ontario brought his '37 Ford Coupe across the finish line in 6.813 seconds at an average speed of 200.44 mph over Ron Nunes of Danville's '63 Corvette. In the A Fuel class, Sean Bellemeur of La Canada brought his '99 Uyehara across the stripe in just 6.603 seconds over Kin Bates of Anderson in a '96 Tuttle.
While the nostalgic drags dominated the day, there was still a warm Reunion ambiance covering the Sunday crowd. The Hashim family was introduced early in the morning, then a new award for the best car presented in Cacklefest was handed out to Don Ewald and crew for the BankAmericar. Saturday night's Cacklefest was still the big-big buzz, and it was fitting that the Speed Sport Special, driven by Gary "Red" Greth, made the first pass of the day. "That was one of the first cars we ever push-started here at the Reunion," said Steve Gibbs, former NHRA vice president and current board member of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. "We did it about seven years ago and that's how we got the idea for Cacklefest."
After the exhibition run, everyone's thoughts turned to the drag races, the final treat for another extra-tasty California Hot Rod Reunion.
People are already asking me about next year," said Sam Jackson, executive director of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. "We happy to hear that everyone had a good time. This event is so important to us because it means so much for the people attending. They are the ones that make it a true reunion. It's their Reunion and while it's grown considerably since the first one in 1991, we want to make sure it stays their Reunion."
Jackson announced that next year's California Hot Rod Reunion is set for Oct. 1-3. "Make room reservations, now!" he said. "The local media ran stories on how many people the Reunion brings to the area and the economic impact it has. Turns out the California Hot Rod Reunion is one of the biggest events they have and is a boon to Bakersfield."
Here is the qualifying field for the hot rod reunion in Top Fuel
1 724 Denver Schutz, Fresno CA, Stirling-Rodeck/E 5.858 236.34 236.34
------------ Not Qualified ------------
17 7380 Rick Rogers, Pismo Beach CA, Tuttle-Donovan 6.470 214.28