California Hot Rod Reunion

October 19-21, 2012

Friday gallery

Saturday gallery

Saturday gallery #2

Sunday gallery

Sunday results are here.


Saturday report (Story by Bob Wilson photos courtesy Wilson and Snyder)

21st annual California Hot Rod Reunion Saturday report

With everyone down to their second and final shot at qualifying the sense of urgency was rife throughout the pits. While those racers who'd clocked a good time on Friday could feel somewhat at ease, the improved air (slightly cooler temps) and consequently lower track temperatures were going to see the savvy competitors step up their performance just when it was needed most.

The Top Fuel teams had nothing to worry about other than making a consistent second showing or trying to find a race-day tune-up, as all 14 entrants had an e.t. on the board from Friday, but the picture in the Funny Car camp was far different. Most predictions for the bump spot for the 16-car field were in the mid to high 5.80 range and with it sitting at "just" 6.01 going into the last qualifying session, almost everyone below the top 8 spots had to feeling either a little or a lot nervous.

There was still no definitive answer to the proverbial 48-car question in Pro 7.0, with the first day qualifying sheet showing what could be interpreted as an "all run" approach to elimination's. And most frustrating of all was that no one that we talked to had a firm, definitive, unequivocal answer as to what would transpire for the first round on Sunday. Least of all the racers, who were all of the mindset that something in the 7.00 - 7.10 range would be required to be assured of a place to play on elimination's day.


Nitro Round one Eliminations

NOSTALGIA TOP FUEL (1st round elimination's)

With the show running seriously behind schedule, more than an hour at this point, the Top Fuel cars led off nitro elimination's Using an NHRA national event ladder, with the quickest racing the slowest, the expected happened in the first pair as Rick White led off by improving on his qualifying time, clocking an excellent 5.76 at 253 mph to put an end to Brendan Murry's troubled weekend. Mendy Fry left on higher qualified Jim Murphy by a ton, and held the lead for a few hundred feet before her engine let go and brought things to a sudden and oily halt. It looked like a long cleanup was in the offing and it clocked in at nearly 20 minutes as the sun sank lower over the pit side grandstands.

Things got going again with Rick McGee taking an easy win over Howard Haight in the beautiful old-style "Mr. Boston" car when Haight lost the handle and crossed the centerline just before half track. McGee was on a solid pass until he shut off (or broke) at the 1000 ft mark and slowed to a 5.82 at just 201 mph. The next pair brought Tony Bartone out after the timing block cleanup and the most dangerous car on Planet Top Fuel showed some serious horsepower with a 264.39 mph speed, but only a 5.85 e.t. that was still more than enough to dispatch a blowing up and oiling down Bill Dunlap. More cleanup!

At this point we were nearly two hours behind schedule and still had three more pairs of Top Fuel cars to run, a full round of Funny Car, then the Reunion honoree ceremony, followed by the Cacklefest. Throw in a quartet of fuel altereds that have been waiting for two days to make a pass, and we've got a pretty busy agenda and not much daylight left to conduct it in.

The "Crop Duster" car of Frank Ousley, with Paul Romine behind the butterfly finally made it to the finish line and took out John Rasmussen by a 5.87 to 6.01 score, and the resulting oildown was "only" a five minute cleanup. When these cars run well and clean, they're a great show, but when nearly every pair oils the track, then it all starts to unravel quickly. The final two pairs managed to keep things clean, and the first pair turned into a single for Adam Sorokin as his scheduled opponent, Terry Cox in the "Cheetah" car, was broken and unable to appear.

Low qualifier Rick Williamson closed out the round with a weird 7.00 to 7.87 win over Dan Horan Jr., with both drivers cutting lethargic lights and getting loose, pedaling and gathering it back up to reach the finish line unscathed. Thankfully for Williamson, lane choice won't be a factor in the second round as he has a bye run. Bring on the funny cars!

NOSTALGIA FUNNY CAR (1st round elimination's)

The funny cars brought up the entertainment value a notch with a good opening match between the "Teacher's Pet" of Steven Densham and the "Jungle Jim" car of Bodie Smith. Densham took the winlight at 5.80 to Smith's reasonably close 5.91 to open the round on a strong note.

The next pair brought things down a notch or two when Jeff Arend was ordered to shut off the "War Eagle" after the burnout due to an oil leak, and Rick Rogers singled to a 7.18, with the car losing traction at half track.

After a ten minute cleanup of Arend's lane, the "Blue Max" team showed what they were capable of with a 5.761 (only one thousandth off Head's low e.t.) at 254.76 mph for a new top speed of the meet. Del Worsham smoked the tires early and threw in the towel letting Young run to a very impressive victory.

The very next pair featured the low qualifier, Chad Head, and he showed why he earned that spot with an even better 5.731 at 250 mph to take out James Day's competitive 5.93 pass.

The next race saw both racers cut mediocre lights and Dan Horan's car fell off just enough, from a 5.80 qualifier to a 5.90 first round, to allow the Edmonton-based "Sandman Special" driven by Gary Eickmann take the win with a very good 5.87 - 241.80 clocking. Making it even more impressive were some serious flames out of the GTX-bodied car, with the nitro flames leaping three feet out of the pipes all the way down the track in the gathering darkness.

The first day top qualifier, Mike Lewis in the "Brand X" car, improved on his qualifying pass with a very good 5.80 - 242.89 to take out Will Martin, who gave the automatic win to Lewis anyway when he crossed the centerline at the 330 mark after smoking the tires early.


The next, and second to last pair of the round saw a minor upset as Rian Konno took his first round win ever, holeshotting Garrett Bateman in the "Nitro Pirates" Corvette, and hanging on for a close 6.04 to 5.99 victory. And the crew was ecstatic, along with the crowd who gave them a serious ovation as they sped down the return road.

Closing out the racing for the day was the Kris Krabill vs Josh Crawfod match, and an even bigger holeshot victory went to Krabill as he launched Bucky Austin's hot rod to a 5.90 to 5.81 decision over Crawford. The difference was the .048 to .182 reaction time numbers. With just the exhibition fuel altereds left to run, that put a wrap on the racing for day two at the California Hot Rod Reunion. One final note is the crowd, that was very good all day and had the stands still nearly full even as the sun went down. No one went home before all the fuel cars ran. Those are some serious race fans.

Final qualifying


The Friday report failed to mention the Nostalgia Pro Mod racers, as I'd assumed (without looking at the schedule - my bad!) they were just a group of exhibition racers and they were to a certain extent as there is no Pro Mod category in the official Heritage Series. But good on the folks who run Famoso Raceway for bringing them in. I did catch their second and third sessions on Saturday and was impressed with the body and appearance styles, but a little let down by the performances, until you factor in a lack of turbos, screw blowers, and really big budgets, putting everything in a clearer and more realistic perspective.

However there's a real gap between the competitors as you go through the field with the spread from top to bottom in the 8-car show being nearly one second. While the top four cars are reasonably bunched between 6.01 and 6.16, there's nearly a quarter second drop-off to the #5 and #6 cars, then after the seventh car the numbers fell off a cliff to the 6.93 bump spot. The first round of elimination's should weed out the week and the semifinals will start seeing some closer races.

NOSTALGIA TOP FUEL (final qualifying session)


With the Pro Mods finishing their session early, there was a nearly 15 minute lull before the first pair of Top Fuel cars appeared in the water box to begin their last qualifying round. With a reasonable air temperature of 79 degrees and a track temp of "only" 96 F, one of the crew chiefs inspecting the surface said it was "like Disneyland" (aka: we're gonna run HARD) and the expectation was to see some great performances from the cars that were willing to make the effort and do a full pull. In that vein it has to be noted that just 11 of the 14 cars that ran yesterday were in the lanes, with Terry Cox, Howard Haight and Dan Horan Jr. not making it into the lanes.

No improvements from the first two pairs, and only one car, that of Rick White, even made it to the finish line under power. In the third set, Tony Bartone showed some of the "Boggs' Beast" potential with a solid 5.85 at 251 mph to jump from the bottom of the ladder to the #4 spot, while in the other lane, Bill Dunlap dropped into the 5-second zone (5.96) to move up one spot to the new #8 position.

The beat went on for the next two pairs as it was fives all around, with Rick McGee showing the biggest gain, from a 5.94 to 5.84 to move up three slots (#7 to #4), while Rick Williamson and Jim Murphy, number one and three respectively, both slowed a bit from Friday, and even worse, Williamson's car put out a very large cloud of oily smoke in the lights. And we're down for a cleanup - hopefully one of the few we see today.

Nearly 30 minutes later, Adam Sorokin made the final pass of the round and the little Chevy couldn't quite get the job done today, as even though it ran a 5-second pass, the car slowed with some serious engine smoke at the 1000 foot mark, nevertheless moving him up from the bottom of the field to the #8 spot going into elimination's later in the day.

NOSTALGIA FUNNY CAR (final qualifying session)

Unlike the NHRA national event seeding where the quicker cars from the previous qualifying session run later in the round, here the only concession to that system is the alternating of lanes from session to session. So it was a bit of a surprise to see yesterday's low qualifier, Mike Lewis, run in the second pair of this final round of qualifying. With Tim Boychuk sitting on a very tenuous bubble at 6.013, the betting was that an e.t. with a 5.8 as the first two digits was going to be necessary to gain admission to the first round of elimination's

Starting proceedings were two non-qualifiers from Friday, and neither Ed Dougan or Chris Davis were able to come close to making the show. Lewis ran next and charged hard to the 1000 ft mark before slowing to a decent 5.94 at just 212 mph. In the other lane, Rick Rogers took the "Darkside" Challenger into the field with a 5.94, dropping the bump to James Day's 6.006 pass from day one. And it didn't take long for it to become an all 5-second field with Dwayne Patton's "High Voltage" Camaro doing the deed at 5.98 to claim the new and presumably very shaky bump spot.

The next two racers were both looking to step up solidly and while Steve Nichols picked up nearly two tenths, his lack of seat and tuning time over the past year the car has been parked kept him out of the big tent with a 6.04 effort. Tim Nemeth looked to make a move too, but his 5.96 only showed a marginal gain on the first day's 5.97 clocking. While that moved him up one notch to the "lucky" #13 position, it was going to take some real luck for Nemeth to maintain a spot in the field.

Cruz Pedregon and Chad Head ran next, bringing some of the big show flavour to the event, and young Mr. Head made the first big move of the weekend, carding a new #1 time of 5.760 - 250.37 to show that conditions were right for some big numbers. Pedregon failed to improve and his earlier 5.97 was looking nervous in the current #14 spot. Then Dan Horan Jr. whipped his pony to the new number two slot with an excellent 5.80 at 245 mph to show some serious consistency when compared to yesterday's 5.85 - 250 showing in the next duet.

In the other lane, John Hale dropped the first big bombshell on the field when the car left with some serious tireshake which degenerated into smoke before the 330 lights and he was finally forced to shut off at half track after several attempts to re-establish contact with the racing surface. Just like that, the #2 championship contender was done. A chance conversation with him later on the starting line revealed that Friday's first qualifier was aborted due to an empty air bottle that didn't allow the transmission to go into high gear - and to add injury to insult - when he lifted on that pass, the rods dropped out of the block - ouch!

Another contender in the points standings, the number 3 man, Kris Krabill, came up next in the "Northwest Hitter" and had the do or die task of making a serious advancement on Friday's troubled 6.30 pass. He did so in a big way, with a 5.86 at 249 mph moving him all the way from #25 to #8, while James Day, ironically driving the "Pedaler" that had been Krabill's ride for many years, moved into the field at a decent 5.95 for the new #13 spot. In the process, Dwayne Patton and Gary Eickmann dropped off the ladder, with Eickmann yet to run.

Eickmann in the "Sandman Special" got his chance at redemption in the next pair, cranking out an improved 5.93 at 242 mph to move back into the field in a somewhat comfortable #12 spot. Josh Crawford in the almost brand new all-black Camaro made good on his second chance too, coming all the way from an 8.84 to a 5.83 to move into the top half of the field. The next three pairs had a lot of disappointment as only Steven Densham was able to put down a good time, showing the consistency of the veteran team, with a 5.840 nearly matching his first shot of 5.834, leaving him well prepared for the first round. Moving down two notches and out of the field were Tim Nemeth and Cruz Pedregon, bringing the bubble down to Jason Rupert's 5.96.

The apparent winner, until his controversial disqualification at this year's March Meet, Tim Boychuk, failed to come to grips with the track - literally - and spun and smoked and sashayed his way to a shutting off 9-second pass to put an early finish to his weekend. His erstwhile opponent for this pass, Brad Faria, wasn't even able to start the engine to finish his race. Two more big show connections, Del Worsham in the "Drink Hard Racing" Arrow and "Bodie" Smith in the "Jungle Jim" car got down the track solidly with Smith's 5.85 just edging out Worsham's 5.87, and Smith moved into the field solidly in the #9 spot, putting Jason Rupert out of the top 16 and moving James Day into the last qualifying spot at 5.95. Not an all-5.8 or better field, but still a very tight show with a number of non-qualifying cars in the 5's already.

The next three pairs saw only Ronny Young in the "Blue Max" improving, from a 5.94 to a 5.85, and Jeff Arend moving into the 5.7's with a great 5.78 at 239 mph to move into the #2 spot. Jason Rupert came up in the last pair of the round with a last shot to make the field and finish out the year as champion of the series, which became his when John Hale failed to qualify earlier in the session. Rupert left hard in the "Mert Littlefield" Camaro, but slowed at half track and shut off, leaving the top two points earners out of the field in the final race of the season. Who'da thunk it?

Dean Oberg's second chance in the "Holy Toledo" ended after the burnout - but at least he got it started and managed to do a smoker - and yesterday's surprising Rian Konno shut off early, already qualified and with nothing to gain. The final tally was 33 cars for this session and two license passes and at least one car (Stone, Woods & Cook) that never left the pits. Even though the field didn't quite match pre-race predictions as to quantity, the quality of the racers was very good and a strong field was assembled for the first round of elimination's later in the day.

7.0 PRO (final round qualifying)

The expected barrage of 7.0 e.t.'s didn't quite materialize in the first qualifying session, as only seven cars ventured into that zone, compared to a 16-car bump spot of 7.051 at last year's edition of the Reunion. However, with the improved atmospheric conditions and good track prep, and a second session to get the tune-up right, lots of the fast cars were primed to make a move into the upper ranges of the indexed field.


The first session leader, Ron Huegli in the "Tiki Warrior", wasn't challenged for the top spot at 7.005, but the gaps behind him filled in quickly, with the de facto series champion (as neither of his closest competitors were in attendance), Richard High moving into the eventual #9 position at a very good 7.043. A trio of the Alberta based Nostalgia Funny Cars made their presence felt as they dialed in nicely, led by Joey Steckler's excellent 7.023 (#4), David Brant's very entertaining "Reaper" in the #7 slot at 7.030 and Darrell Webb in #12 at 7.067. And just like magic the 16-car bubble was an awesome 7.083, almost as good as last year's unreal cutoff.

Only one of the Northwest BB/FC Association made the cut, that being Huegli, while Greg Howland put "Zeus" close at 7.12 and Todd Swinford wheeled Jeff Dykes' "Photo Op" to a 7.16, but the two Harter entries were well back and out of contention.

The Rocky Mountain gang had some misses too as Sherrie Bodnarchuk's best of 7.24 was well outside the top 16, Jeremy Jelinski (in the second Webb family entry) ran too quick in the first round and ran over his parachute backing up from the burnout in the final session.

And the biggest shocker of all was the 2012 Rocky Mountain series champion, Cal Tebb, failing to qualify his "Bad Goat" GTO as he never came to grips with the track, and having a bit too much tune-up running 6.97 in his final attempt.

A late entry came up from the back of the staging lanes in one of the last pairs of the final session, and in a real surprise after being a.w.o.l all week, Qualicum Beach, BC's Leon Aines brought out his brand new '67 Acadian flopper, the "Beach City Canso" and after an aborted burnout, laid down a very good - for the very first pass - 7.24 at 177 mph to end up in the #26 spot. An extra day or two of prep time might just have seen this car grab one of the Sweet Sixteen berths.

That said, it looks like there may be another chance for the non-qualifiers to make a pass on Sunday, time permitting. The final pair was the burnout contest and battle od two NWBB/FCs. Ron Huegli and Greg Howland pairied up and gave the fans an awesome side by side. Both went well past the finish line on their smokers and ran a great side by side. Huegli running another '0' with a 7.05 and Howland a tad too quick with a 6.97

Saturday extra's



Bob Wilson photos




Friday report (by Bob Wilson. Photos courtesy Bob Snyder)

21st annual California Hot Rod Reunion Friday report

It's that time of year again when the leaves start changing colours and falling, the air gets cooler, the days get shorter... and the racing gets hotter at the California Hot Rod Reunion. It's the perfect time of year to hold an event at Bakersfield, as the temps drop into the double digit range and the conditions for spectators, racers, and the cars run that much better.

Twenty-one years young now, and getting stronger all the time, the original intent was for a one-shot gathering of old racers and cars, but over the years it's evolved into a great reunion for racers from all eras of the sport, and a darn good race with some truly nostalgic refurbished cars and many more new-built serious race cars with a nostalgic look to them.

No class of racers has benefitted more from this dichotomy than the nitro funny car folks, and as each year passes, the number of competitors continues to grow as it offers a viable and somewhat affordable refuge from the insane costs of running a "big show" car and the only slightly less crazy tab for fielding a serious top alcohol flopper. Got a spare $100K or so? Then step right up and join the party. Pick a real car name - not the Acme Industries Special or some such corporate moniker - but a real nickname, either borrowing from the past, or a tribute to a former team or racer, or just something different and cool, with a paint job that is actually visible and not buried under all the sponsor logos.


Five hours into the first day of qualifying, after the sportsman classes had made their first runs, the funny cars lined up to do battle for the first of just two qualifying sessions. One Friday, one Saturday, then straight into eliminations. Get it right quickly, or get ready to go home. And the cars were ready as the announcing crew nailed it with "there's a quarter-mile of funny cars lined up to run".


As is usually the case, many of the pre-race prognostications flew out the window quickly and while some of the "hitters" stumbled, the majority of the good laps came from the racers expected to do so. The first two pairs didn't really light up the scoreboards, with Steve Nichols coming-out-of-hibernation with a 6.23 at 215 leading the way, but Rick Rogers turned up the volume in the next duo as his 6.03 - 230.57 pass was close enough to the 5-second zone to get a small buzz out of the grandstands.

Mike Lewis in the "Brand X" car really got everyone's attention, with some serious Paul Smith horsepower, cranking out an excellent 5.82 - 243.15 to take an early shot at top spot. Then it was back into the 6's for the next two pairs, with "Bodie" Smith in the "Jungle Jim" car at 6.05 and Bob Godfrey in his "Burnin' Money" 'Cuda at 6.04. Expected wave maker Kris Krabill ran into tire smoke early in his run, pedalled it and carded a decent 6.30 coupled with a big speed of 240.55 mph. Unfortunately, a 6.30 wasn't going to stay in the field very long as it was already obvious that either a very low 6 or a high 5 was going to be the cutoff for this first session.



The first side-by-side fives came up next as Chad Head, in his March Meet winning Firebird, posted a very strong 5.85 at 248.93 alongside Jeff Arend's even better 5.82 at 236.84 in the "War Eagle" car. And speaking of winners, last year's NHRA Top Fuel champion, Del Worsham, ran next in his Dad's Arrow and set a new top speed of 252.99 and a very good 5.84 e.t. At this point, we'd had 16 cars go down the track and a "bump" of 13.56 was established by Dennis LaCharite. It certainly wouldn't last longer than it took the next pair to get to the finish line.


Only one car out of the next two pairs dropped into 5's, with Steven Densham doing the deed at 5.83 - 244.25 to slot into the #3 spot and moved the bubble down to a slightly more respectable 6.58. From this point on, the five second passes came in droves, with two pairs of side-by-siders, as Gary Eickmann (subbing for Claude Lavoie in the "Sandman Special") at 5.98 and Cruz Pedregon with a 5.97 in his brand new "California Charger" being mild surprises.

Canadian Tim Nemeth launched hard and clocked a good 5.97 at 237.55 to grab hold of a qualifying spot for at least the first day, while Garrett Bateman train-lengthed him at the finish line with an excellent 5.82 at just 235.06 to move into the #3 spot, just a few thousandths short of the low qualifier.

It must have just been coincidence to see John Hale lined up beside Jason Rupert in the next pair, but the expected battle for low e.t. failed to materialize as Hale faded on the top end to a 6.05 - 193.88 while Rupert didn't really set the clocks on fire at 5.96 - 243.72 to sit in the #8 spot temporarily. Following that pairing, Rian Konno broke out big time with a tremendous career best 5.88 - 247.16 pass in the "Lemon & Kazanjian" '73 Mustang to jump well into the field.


The crowd favorite, at least of the sentimental variety, Dean Oberg in the "Holy Toledo" Jeepster tribute to the late Ed Lenarth, was shut off before staging due to a minor oil leak. Going solo in the other lane, Dan Horan Jr. in the family team's '66 Mustang fired off the final number of the session at 5.83 - 250.92 to take the #5 spot as qualifying closed. Two more cars ran single licensing passes, Todd Mallory and Scott Cousimano, but neither put up anything of consequence.


A total of 36 cars ran, or at least attempted to run in the session, and the only car I can think of that never left the pits was the Stone, Woods & Cook entry. We may fall short of the expected 40 cars, but the bump spot will certainly go lower than Tim Boychuk's current #16 pass of 6.013. Expect to see it dip well into the 5's by the time two or three pairs have made laps tomorrow and we may just see it drop into the 5.80's with eight cars already there. The top spot, currently held by Mike Lewis at 5.820, should be bettered with at least a few cars in the 5.70's.




Funny Car round one qualifying

1 Mike Lewis, Avon In, 1971 Mustang 5.820 243.15
2 Jeff Arend, Laverne Ca, 1977 Trans Am 5.825 236.84
3 Garrett Bateman, Hesperia Ca, 1978 Corvette 5.829 235.06
4 Steven Densham, Bellflower Ca, 1968 Camaro 5.834 244.25
5 Dan Horan Jr, Rancho Cascades Ca, 1966 Mustang 5.838 250.92
6 Del Worsham, Villa Park Ca, 1077 Arrow 5.849 252.99
7 Chad Head, Avon In, 1977 Firebird 5.851 248.93
8 Rian Konno, Rosemead Ca, 1973 Mustang 5.885 247.16
9 Will Martin, San Dimas Ca, 1969 Mustang 5.936 234.66
10 Ronny Young, Wylie Tx, 1978 Arrow 5.940 236.80
11 Jason Rupert, Yorba Linda Ca, 1969 Camaro 5.963 243.72
12 Cruz Pedregon, Brownsburg In, 1977 Trans-Am 5.972 217.14
13 Tim Nemeth, Chilliwack BC, 1969 Mustang 5.979 237.55
14 Gary Eickman, Turner Or, 1971 GTX 5.982 239.61
15 James Day, Mission Viejo Ca, 1977 Arrow 6.006 240.68
16 Tim Boychuk, Edmonton Ab, 1977 Firebird 6.013 239.31


17 Rick Rogers, Atasadero Ca, 1979 Challenger 6.039 230.57
18 Bob Godfrey, Moreno Valley Ca, 1969 Camaro 6.041 236.84
19 John Hale, Addison Tx, 1969 Camaro 6.056 193.88
20 John Smith, Anderson, Nc, 1975 Nova 6.058 233.80
21 Dwayne Patton, Visalia Ca, 1969 Camaro 6.064 233.68
22 Roger Garten, Fallbrook Ca, 1973 Mustang 6.149 242.15
23 Steve Nichols, Newark De, 1970 Camaro 6.232 215.07
24 Kris Krabill, Tacoma Wa, 1978 Arrow 6.306 240.55
25 Brad Faria, Rohnert Park Ca, 1977 Corvette 6.439 222.07
26 Chris Davis, Spokane Wa, 1972 Vega 6.585 205.38

27 Ed Dougan, Brea Ca, 1974 Camaro 6.680 183.32
28 Alex Miladinovich, Orange Ca, 1969 Mustang 7.238 184.95
29 Josh Crawford, Oakdale Ca, 1967 Camaro 8.848 82.45
30 Robert Overholser, Clovis Ca, 1973 Duster 12.042 68.62
31 Dennis La Charite, Torrance Ca, 1969 GTO 13.568 61.37


After a lengthy - 1 hour 45 minutes - session of fuel funny cars, the dragsters came out to show their wares. Even though a 16-car field is on the books, there didn't appear to be that many cars in the pits. Proceedings started with two singles, John Rasmussen in the "Circuit Breaker" breaking the ice at a decent 6.00 - 241.83, followed by Rick White's solid 5.78 at 249.67 to set the early pace.


The first pair of the session come out next and yield one five-second pass, that being Rick McGee's 5.94 at just 187 mph, and two blown engines as Dan Horan Jr. blew it up early and McGee lost it on the top end. Lots of smoke but no oil and we continued. A big battle next as two veterans, Jim Murphy and Bill Dunlap duked it out, with Murphy's 5.79 at a slowing 226.01 taking the honours.

Rick Williamson set the bar very high for the rest of the field with a flawless 5.75 at 261.02 to easily overtake White for the top spot and Paul Romine (subbing for Jimi Young in the "Crop Duster") tried to match him with a strong 5.88 at only 207 mph as the engine went away big time at the 1000 ft mark. And we're down for some cleanup.

The track crew put things right fairly quickly, just in time for Mendy Fry and Howard Haight to send them back to work after both cars smoked out the top end at the conclusion of a pair of 6-second passes. The long cleanup took the edge off the interest building for the final pair of the session, Terry Cox in the "Cheetah IV" and the baddest car in the pits, Tony Bartone in the Steve Boggs tuned monster.

When they finally got a chance to run, it was an anticlimax as Bartone smoked the tires at the 100 ft mark, while Cox put down a decent, but not spectactular, 5.90 - 249.72 lap. When the smoke finally cleared from his pass - literally and figuratively - all 14 cars that appeared in the lanes had a qualifying number on the board, with six of them in the 5-second zone and the next two cars in the low 6.0's. And all of them get two more passes tomorrow, with everyone guaranteed a spot in the first round of eliminations on Saturday afternoon.

TF round one qualifying

1 Rick Williamson, Stockton Ca, Davison-Chrysler 5.750 261.02
2 Rick White, San Diego Ca, Hansen-Rodeck 5.787 249.67
3 Jim Murphy, Santa Rosa Ca, Thornhill-Rodeck 5.792 226.01
4 Paul Romine, Fishers In, N&P 5.883 207.69
5 Terry Cox, Clarkburg Ca, URC-AJPE 5.900 249.72
6 Rick McGee, Exeter Ca, Tedford-Donovan 5.945 187.16
7 John Rasmussen, Littleton Co, Sterling-Donovan 6.002 241.63
8 Howard Haight, Brownsburg In, Tuttle-Donovan 6.029 197.94
9 Bill Dunlap, Capitola Ca, Sterling-Donovan 6.134 200.08
10 Mendy Fry, Los Angeles Ca, Uyehara-Donovan 6.361 162.20
11 Brendan Murry, San Jose Ca, Rooman-TFX 7.840 112.38
12 Dan Horan Jr., Big Bear Lake Ca, Bergan-Chevy 8.734 120.17
13 Adam Sorokin, La Crecenta Ca, Stirling-Chevy 14.212 79.75
14 Tony Bartone, Long Island City NY, McKinney-Ro 14.975 69.95



Twelve into eight doesn't go, so with an 8-car field, the A/Fuelers were going to have to earn their way into eliminations. Kin Bates had already claimed the Heritage series championship over second place Les Davenport, but there were still some serious bragging rights on tap for this weekend's Reunion race. As expected, Bates led the way with a big speed of 221.16 mph paired with the low e.t. of 6.33 to take the first day top spot in the field.

Davenport launched hard and ran strong until the blower banged at half track, slowing him to a 6.64 at just 159 mph to take the #6 spot in the field and Dennis Allen grabbed the bump at 6.79 - 208.52. The mix of blown alcohol and injected nitro cars is always interesting and the cars can run some big numbers on occasion. But today wasn't that occasion as the 3100 feet of altitude, the 90 plus degree air temps and track temperatures approaching infinity left the cars gasping for air.

A/Fuel qualifying

1 7573 Kin Bates, Anderson Ca, Tuttle-Chrysler 6.338 221.16 (A/Fuel)
2 750 Darrell Waters, Bonsall Ca, Comstock-BAE 6.508 216.34 (Blown)
3 777 Garry Wheeler Jr., Tulsa Ok, Uyehara-Rodeck 6.513 217.74
4 7293 Shawn Corbari, San Jose Ca, Stirling-BAE 6.549 209.75
5 720 Chip Beverett, Brentwood Ca, Uyehara-KB/AJ 6.607 214.86
6 646D Les Davenport, Dewinton Ab, Sarmento-BAE 6.646 159.40
7 D776 Bobby Cottrell, Whittier Ca, 6.724 194.18
8 7734 Dennis Allen, North Highlands Ca, Allen-KB 6.797 208.52


9 7777 Bill Wayne, Bullhead City Az, URC-AJPE 6.958 195.73
10 6258 Mike Pauluk, Delta BC, N&P-Rodeck 7.213 194.10
11 714 Bill Genco, Westchester Ca, Tuttle-Donovan 7.246 142.32
12 7775 Frank McBee Jr., Kingsburg Ca, Tuttle-Chrysler 11.739 69.89

7.0 PRO

With a vertiable flotilla of cars in the pits, with numbers quoted in the high 40's, this was sure to be a long, but entertaining, qualifying session. The only disappointment was the lack of a large tight group of cars near that 7.00 index spot. Last year's 16-car field had a bump spot of 7.05 and 20 cars in the 7.0's, but this first round failed to put very many 0's on the scoreboards, just seven in all.



The fleet of US Northwest and Western Canadian nostalgia alcohol funny cars who mostly run on similar indexes to this class were expected to take a number of the top spots, but almost to a man (and woman) they ran under the index, and in some cases, waaaay under the 7.00 minimum. The two "worst offenders" from the northern invaders were David Brant in the "Reaper" at 6.89 and Jimmy Fersch in the "Bulldogger" at 6.90. Joining them in breakout purgatory were Joey Steckler at 6.94 and Shane Harter in one of the two "Hart Braker" cars at a close, but not quite, 6.984 e.t.


Reaper does get one award for sure. Guess what it is????

Finding the combination on the first hit, and doing it almost perfectly was Ron Huegli in the gorgeous "Tiki Warrior" carding a stellar 7.005 after a full 1/4-mile burnout. He was joined in the upper half of the field by a group of California 7.0 regulars, and the next northern car on the roster was Greg Howland in the "Zeus" Corvette, clocking in at 7.12 after a - you guessed it - quarter-mile smoker. These guys obviously came to race and put on a show too. Another Northwest BB/FC car, Todd Swinford's "Photo Op" was right behind him at #10 with a 7.16 effort.


Some of the Canadian cars had troubles, as Cal Tebb (lifted early) and Darrell Webb (broke), and Webb's second car, driven by Jeremy Jelinski, broke out at 6.94. Sherrie Bodnarchuk put down a decent 7.24 to take the #17 spot at the end of the first session. A total of 35 cars carded a timeslip and all were listed as qualifiers so it's still somewhat up in the air as to how they plan to run these cars on Sunday. Two 16-car fields, a 32-car field, or all run? The only thing that seems certain at this point is that everyone will get one "elimination" run, but the question of how many will be back for a second pass is still open.



And that's the story from day one of the 21st annual California Hot Rod Reunion. We're expecting slightly lower temperatures tomorrow and even cooler on Sunday for eliminations, so the performances should get even better and the competition even more intense.

Pro 7.0

1 6536 Ron Huegli, West Linn Wa, '76 Monza 7.005
2 7866 Jeff Woods, Beaumont Ca, N&P-Chevy 7.020
3 7472 Bob Murphy, Clovis Ca, D&M-Chevy 7.047
4 791 Richard High, Lake Havasu City Az, Dragst 7.066
5 720 Richard Phillips, Visalia Ca, '32 Bantam 7.069
6 7111 Bill Windham, El Dorado Hills Ca, '37 Fiat 7.071
7 121 Dave Rosenberg, Long Beach Ca, DRE-Donovan 7.083
8 684 Neil Fagen, Puyallup Wa, '27-T Ford 7.116
9 2 Greg Howland, Wenatchee Wa, '79 Corvette 7.120
10 686 Todd Swinford, Keizer Ca, '80 280Z 7.163
11 6570 Todd Miller, Fairview Ca, '23-T Ford 7.164
12 7114 Mike Buerksen, Redding Ca, Tuttle-Chevy 7.165
13 4605 Peter Veahy, Mt. Nathan As, Bantam-Chevy 7.166
14 6532 Dewayne Sanders, Albany Or, Tuttle-Chevy 7.223
15 7 7.0 Sam Daghir, Manchester Mh, SCM-Brodix 7.236
16 7126 Terri Lynne Brewster, Rio Rico Az, N&P-Ch 7.244

the rest of the field

17 6009 Sherrie Bodnarchuk, Grandora Sk, '70 Supe 7.245
18 728J Jess Sturgeon, Costa Mesa Ca, N&P-Donovan 7.293
19 7888 Don Dicero, Vacaville Ca, '23-T Ford 7.412
20 713F Lawton Ferreira Jr., Spring Valley Ca, '4 7.425
21 7039 Chaysse Trimp (Chase), Wilton Ca, '23-T F 7.532
22 225 Ronnie Lennon, Sonoma Ca, Bantam-Chevy 7.550
23 7812 Andre Peyues, Elk Grove Ca, H&W-KB 7.567
24 696 Jesse Welch, E. Wehatchee Wa, '80 Omni 7.818
25 6659 Cal Tebb, Edmonton Ab, '69 GTO 8.913
26 108 Greg Holman, Kingman Az, Alterd-Chevy 9.085
27 7841 Tony Trimp, Wilton Ca, Dragster-Chevy 9.876
28 663 Shane Harter, E. Wenatcher Wa, '78 Corvet 6.984
29 659 Michael Peck, Woodinville Wa, '69 DRC 6.959
30 7183 Jesse Adams, Yuba City CaA, '71 Mustang 6.944
31 658 Joey Steckler, Edmonton Ab, '69 Corvette 6.942
32 6586 Jeremy Jelinski, Edmonton Ab, '78 Corvette 6.941
33 676M Chris Marshall, McMinnville Or, '37 Fiat 6.922
34 6045 Jim Fersch, Drayton Valley Ab, '71 Barrac 6.902
35 657 David Brant, Fort McMurray Ab, '77 Firebi 6.895
36 117 Rocky Pirrone, Trevose Pa, '77 Trans Am 6.762


Pro Mod

An added class this year at the reunion is a Pro Mod class, which in itself is not nostalgia, but the cars running it are 1970 and older. Many ran in the bow defunct AA/GS class, which went via the dodo bird when the participants could not get along and agree on rules, cars, payout etc. Whether or not this will become a class or what rules they will run is open to debate but the cars are kick ass.

1 1940 Terry Housley, Loudon TN, '53 Corvette 6.167 233.80
2 7700 Scott Bailey, Folsom CA, 69 Camaro 6.226 236.38

3 7235 Rich Roberts, Atwater CA, '37 Chevrolet 6.384 215.58
4 7766 John Overholser, Selma CA, '56 Chevrolet 6.933 202.48
5 7238 Bret Williamson, Campbell CA, '53 Studabaker 7.033 227.57
6 1115 Joe Lopone Jr., Palm Desert CA, '70 Duster 7.178 174.30
7 757X Mike Doushgonian, San Martin CA, '67 Nova 8.408 91.67
8 726 Marc Meadors, Danville CA, '69 Camaro 8.836 92.50

------------ Not Qualified ------------

9 7350 Rob Cacioppo, Orangevale CA, '63 Corvette 10.867 81.54
10 7965 Sean Renteria, Hollister CA, '65 Valiant 14.089 72.94


And then there are the cackle cars. Too many to count and they will be doing a bitching drive-by all weekend long.


Funny Car preview

21st annual California Hot Rod Reunion Nitro Funny Car preview

(by Robert Wilson)

There's two stories in play here, as the Reunion is the culmination of a six-race Hot Rod Heritage Series points battle, but it's also an event with some serious cachet for the winner. The first part of the equation is simple as Jason Rupert comes into this weekend with a 71-point lead over second place John Hale. With a maximum of 118 points available for the winner if he can qualify #1 in the process, the task facing the "Texas Terror" is a simple one.

Hale must win the race, or finish runnerup if Rupert fails to quickly - which is highly unlikely - and outqualify him. No matter what Hale does, if Rupert gets past the first round, it's game over. Putting a little more pressure on Hale is the ever-improving team of Kris Krabill and Bucky Austin and they sit just 56 points in arrears of Hale going into the Reunion. A stumble by Hale could see the "Northwest Hitter" team finish second in the season standings.

Quite aside from the points race is the actual event, that has grown in stature among the flopper afficionados over the years to the point where the car counts are exceeding anything ever seen in the history of open competition Funny Car racing. Last years special 20th edition of the Reunion attracted "just" 33 entries, a bit of a dropoff from the previous year's collection of nearly 40 nitro-burning funnies, but this year's crop should equal or surpass any of the previous racer totals in the Nitro Funny Car category.

A quick survey of some of the more knowledgable observers in attendance (full disclosure: during dinner at the Roadhouse Grill last night with Bob Meyer and Paul Shackleton) produced the obvious, but astute observation that anyone who qualified has a chance to win. That is usually not the case at most drag races as the lower half of many fields are quite often just cannon fodder for the bigger hitters.

There's more than a few cars here with "big show" connections, either as drivers, tuners, owners, or a combination of all three, but they don't have a lock on the top spots or the later round placings at this event. Many teams that concentrate solely on the Heritage series of races, which include two trips to Boise (The Ignitor and the Nightfire Nationals) two rounds at Bakersfield (the March Meet and the Reunion), the Rockabilly Rod Reunion at Las Vegas and Sacramento's Funny Car Fever, are very serious contenders for the event crown.

And then there's the dark horses, the guys that sneak up on the higher profile teams, the cars that seemingly come out of nowhere and make everyone ask "where the heck did that/they come from?" The odds I'm posting below are on the assumption that all the usual suspects will be in attendance and include everyone that I saw unloaded and on display before I left the track Thursday afternoon, but it's guaranteed that there will be some surprise additions or deletions when the first qualifying session results are tallied up on Friday afternoon.

It should be pointed that out that there's just two qualifying sessions (one on Friday and one on Saturday) before the first round of eliminations for the 16-car field on Saturday. Every one has to bring their best effort to the line each time to just get into the show, let alone plan on advancing rounds. While some wishful thinkers are dreaming of two 16-car fields (an A and B show), it's going to be a survival of the fittest/fastest and a whole squadron of cars are going to be back in the pits while eliminations start on Saturday.

Based on what we've seen from these cars/racers/teams this year, historical performance records, current tuneups and plain old guesswork, here's my personal picks to click for the Nitro Funny Car field at the 21st annual California Hot Rod Reunion. (Sorry, no refunds given if you bet on any of theses racers and lose).

Jason Rupert - points leader and his race/series title to lose 3-1
John Hale - lots of tuning help (Skippy Kennedy and Guy Tipton) and a big budget 4-1
Kris Krabill - veteran team and driver that keep getting better 5-1
Steven Densham - his tuner/father has been in this game since day one 7-1
Chad Head - winner by default at this year's March Meet - good car but likely not a finalist 8-1
Ronny Young - another team with a century or so of nitro smarts - could surprise 10-1
Dennis LaCharite - tuner Cory Lee is stepping it up and it's not hurting itself as much 12-1
Del Worsham - tons of experience in the cockpit and on the crew could pay dividends 13-1
Tim Nemeth - always qualifies, makes tons of power, could go a round or two 15-1
Tim Boychuk - definitely lost a step when Leong left, but sneaking back up on tuneup 18-1

From this point on it's more than a bit of a crapshoot, with a number of NHRA National event drivers entered, including Cruz Pedregon (with a brand-new Keeling & Clayton "California Charger" tribute car) and Jeff Arend back in Dale Pulde's "War Eagle" and the Paul Smith - Henry Gutierrez stable of the "Brand X" (driven by Don Schumacher Racing VP Mike Lewis) and the "Jungle Jim" car wheeled by John "Bodie" Smith.

Moving through the entry list, below the top ten it's a lot more guessing than knowing.

Jeff Arend - combination of big show driver and veteran tuning could get the job done 20-1
Will Martin - top qualified at Boise but may have trouble getting far this weekend 21-1
Dan Horan Jr - with Ron Swearingen tuning and the team's experience, could be a darkhorse 22-1
Robert Overholser - the "Nitro Angel" (nee "Bomb Squad") has run well in the past 23-1
John "Bodie" Smith - only about a hundred years of racing beneath the belts of this team 24-1
Mike Lewis - see above as this the second team car from the Gutierrez - Smith camp 25-1
James Day - a guy who's shown he can run with the bigger dogs but is there enough bark? 27-1
Rick Rogers - car has run fast but not consistently 28-1
Cruz Pedregon - could be rated higher on experience but it's a new car and new combination 30-1
Roger Garten - a year ago would have been rated higher but it's been a tough year for Roger 32-1

And then there's the guys who show potential or have shown it in the past but frankly they're going to be swimming in deep water with the sharks in the two upper groups. Not much to say about them other than good luck - they're going to need it.

John Powers III - new driver, but experienced team (Lee Jennings Jr and Sr)
Garrett Bateman - tons of Bonneville experience in the engine bay
Josh Crawford - Big Show beginner doing this for fun
Bob Godfrey - car driven by Mike Lewis last year - can run numbers
Claude Lavoie - Gary Eickmann (crew chief) driving for injured Lavoie
Dennis Taylor - even Bob Brooks hasn't got this one figured out yet
Ed Dougan - the Fighting Irish haven't been laying down the numbers
Mike Cook - famous team name from the past (Stone, Woods & Cook) but real unknown quantity
Dwayne Patton - car looks the part but not reflected on the scoreboards
Dean Oberg - real sentimental favorite in the late Ed Lenarth's "Holy Toledo" jeep
Chris Davis - don't have any info on this racer
Rian Konno - came over from NHRA Top Alcohol but still coming to grips with tuneup
Scott Cousimano - needs more experience and horsepower

Finally, there's a number of names conspicuous by their absence as they've been here in the past, and some have even run part of the Heritage series this year, such as Jim Obalek in Twig Zeigler's "Pizza Haven", Brad Thompson in the '69 Nova, and Paul Romine in his retired/unretired/retired "Man O' War" Mustang. And where are the Steve Plueger cars? Up for sale, and apparently, at least one of them is gone already to a new owner north of the border. Hmmmmm?

Other past attendess to this race like Peter Gallen ("Poverty Stricken"), Mike Savage ("Candies & Hughes"), Tom Padilla in Dave Benjamin's "Red Dragon", Nathan Sitko, Jay Mageau and Ken Webster from Alberta, and Mark Hentges from Seattle. And the list could go on and on and on just like the 64 Funny Car ads from promoter supreme Bill Doner. One of these days, if all the planets align and everyone can sort out their various issues and the money and timing is right.... just maybe.... one can always dream.

That's a wrap from Bakersfield as we enter day one of the Reunion.

Funny Car picks #2

Here are the picks from SpeedZone Photographer Bob Snyder

Never one who talks a lot about the races or picking winners etc, he lets his photos do the talking. Bob sent me his list for the top 8 and a couple long shots as well.

Rupert, Hale, Worsham, Head, Peddler, Horan, War Eagle, & Will Martin top 8. Longshot Steve Nichols, whose car has been out on the West coast in the rig for 12 months last ran here a year ago and what the hell Dean Olberg in the Holy Toledo jeep for the 'Bob Special' longshot to get in the show at #16. The bump and low et of qualifying will be 5.67 to 5.88.


SpeedZone's Editor picks #3.

While it does not take a brain surgeon to state the obvious (much like picking either a DSR or JFR flopper to win on the Full Throttle tour), Rupert, Hale and Krabill all have the most at stake in the battle for the top three final placings in the Heritage Funny Car Standings. While many teams are closing the gap to those three, they will let it all hang out to reach the final round. The editor's other choices are: Will Martin and Dan Horan are ones to be watch closely. Then there are the couple Canucks in attendance. Tim Nemeth and Tim Boychuk both will go one or two rounds in this battle and if either can catch a break, to quote the great NFL commentator Chris Berman....... "they could go all the way"!! You can't discount Chad Head (MM winner) in the family Trans Am nor Del Worsham's flopper. Both will be in the mix as they have huge brain trusts behind them. Steven Densham is also one to be followed closely. With the increased performance levels shown throughout this year, I expect the field to be very tight and a good number of 5 second cars will be on the sidelines when first round is played out Saturday afternoon.

The bump spot will not be a lot different then it has been in the past and it will take a 5.80 to make the field. But there will be at least 8 -10 cars in the 'fives' ouside the field. The weather is extremely warm there, so the top numbers are not expected to be stellar, but I do think a couple will be in the 5.60's at 255.



Top Fuel preview (courtesy AA/FD inc. news)

With NHRA’s Heritage Series Points Title on the line, Top Fuel drivers Adam Sorokin and Rick Williamson lead a field of fifteen AA/Fuel Dragsters into battle next weekend at the 21st California Hot Rod Reunion in Famoso.

Sorokin, driving the Champion Speed Shop Chevrolet, is leading the series by 61 points -- less than three round of racing. Number 2 in points, Williamson, manning the Team Craig machine, will be gunning for the Champion Speed Shop dragster in hopes of upending Sorokin’s title quest. All of which matters little to East Coast and Midwest drag racers towing to Bakersfield looking to prove to Left Coast racers and fans that the baddest fuelers aren’t from California. Of those, strongman Tony Bartone and the Bartone Brothers car from New
York is the fastest of them all, clocking a 274-mph top end speed earlier this year. Similarly, midwest maniac Paul Romine, taking the place of Jimi Young in Frank Ousley’s “Crop Duster” dragster out of Illinois, will attempt to post more 5.50-second elapsed times like those that his team recorded en route to winning this year’s Bakersfield March Meet. Moreover, for the first time this year accomplished journeyman Howard Haight will be racing the “Mr. Boston” car out west.

As always, consistently-fierce competitors Jim Murphy, Rick White and Rick McGee will all play a major role in setting the pace for the 21st Reunion in their Chrysler 392-type powered dragsters. In contrast to their approach, among entries sporting the 426-hemi powerplant are young gun Terry Cox, Brendan Murry and Dan Horan Jr.

Also competing will be “the World’s Fastest CPA,” Mendy Fry, the lone female of the group, piloting Mike Fuller’s explosive “Forever Young” car. Rounding out the field is respected wheelman Bill Dunlap in the “High Speed Motorsports” entry, as well as John Rasmussen driving for Bob Richardson’s “Circuit Breaker” machine and El Segundo peacenik beach-bum Jim Boyd and his vintage-perfect "Red Turkey."


2012 California Hot Rod Reunion
Presented by Automobile Club of Southern California
Schedule of Events

Wednesday, October 17:
Racer & Vendor Registration Opens 10 a.m.
Display Setup & Contestant Parking 12 noon – 5 p.m.

Thursday, October 18:
Racer & Vendor Registration Opens 7 a.m.
Display Setup & Contestant Parking 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tech Inspection & Registration – All Classes 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Cacklefest Practice noon
Mandatory Cacklefest Meeting 4 p.m.
Motorhome/Camping Area Opens noon – 5 p.m.

Friday, October 19:
Racer & Vendor Registration Opens 7 a.m.
Reunion Opens 8 a.m.
Tech Inspection & Registration – All Classes 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Display Parking & Setup 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Qualifying & Exhibition Runs 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Nostalgia Funny Car – Qualifying Session 1 1 p.m.
NostalgiaTop Fuel Dragster - Qualifying Session 1 2 p.m.
Secure Track Activity 5 p.m.
California Hot Rod Reunion Reception – Doubletree Hotel 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 20:
Reunion Opens 8 a.m.
Tech Inspection & Registration – All Classes 8 a.m. – 10 a.m.
Qualifying & Exhibition Runs – As Called 8 a.m.
Nostalgia Top Fuel Dragster - Qualifying Session 2 noon
Nostalgia Funny Car – Qualifying Session 2 1 p.m.
Nostalgia Top Fuel Dragster – Round 1 3:30 p.m.
Nostalgia Funny Car – Round 1 4:30 p.m.
Honoree Presentation & Twilight Memorial at Starting Line5:30 p.m.
Push Start Cacklefest Presentation 5:45 p.m.
Secure Track Activity 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 21:
8 a.m.
Reunion Opens
Chapel Service 8:30 a.m.
Eliminations – As Called 9 a.m.
National Anthem 11 a.m.
Pre-race Ceremonies 10:45 a.m.
Self Start Cacklefest
Nostalgia Top Fuel Dragster – Round 2 11:30 a.m.
Nostalgia Funny Car – Round 2 11 a.m.
Continue Eliminations – All Categories As Called noon
Exhibition Runs - Throughout The Day - As Called
Final Elimination Runs – All Categories 4 p.m.
Winner’s Circle Awards Presentations 5 p.m.
Reunion Closes 6 p.m.
Schedule subject to change

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