2013 CALIFORNIA HOT ROD REUNION
Through the Eyes of Veteran Nostalgia Racer Stormy Byrd
Wow, hard to believe that the 2013 season is over.
This was my 22nd California Hot Rod Reunion ! This time it was a bit different as I was a spectator & pit crew on our NE1 car Strange Brew that super girl Eily Stafford drives for us, plus I got to push start cackle cars again, something that is a lot of fun. Normally I would get up to Bako on Wednesday with my crew chief Ken Lee but I had to take a friend in for surgery Thursday so we got a late start Friday morning.
What is amazing is that only a couple weeks earlier up at Bakersfield doing some testing with my partner in crime Randy Winkle and leader of the “Famoso Mob”. We were testing one of his blown fuel coupes trying to get her to run the number, then 2 weeks later Bakersfield turns into a living breathing city literally!
You gotta hand it to John & Blake Bowser who oversee this spectacle in Kern County. There is nothing that John & Blake haven’t done from prepping the track to dumping trash and diving into burning cars saving the drivers from a certain death. As the late Jack Williams was “Bakersfield”, so are the Bowsers!
During the week of the Reunion, Bakersfield is the center of the universe and time turns back as we all get to relive the golden days of drag racing. Yes the safety standards are up to current NHRA specs but it’s a time warp back to when cars had souls & drivers had personalities.
By all counts there were well over 30 + Funny Cars on hand but sadly less than a full field for Top Fuel. 7.0 pro was over packed with hot rods as was my favorite class NE1 with a full field of 32 cars! Also on hand were a great group of Awful Awful's which included The Winged Express - Bradfords Fiat - Ron Hope’s Rat Trap - Rich Guasco’s Pure Hell - plus the recreation of Leon Fitzgerald’s “Pure Heaven III” with Chris & Jeff Bennett. Also on hand was the beautifully restored High Heaven AA/FA of the Jackson Brothers by the Callen Family who now own it.
What makes the CHRR so special is not only great racing but cars from Drag Racing’s glory days, such would be the case with Gary “Mr. C’s” Cochran Modified Fuel Roadster that use to race against my car in the mid 60’s. The car was found sitting out in Palmdale the last 40 years and it was magnificently restored with its blown fuel Ford FE block and cackled by Gary along with Gary ’s restored rear engine fueler. This is what makes the Reunion so special, cars & the heroes that drove them.
It is also a time to pay homage to those legends that we lost during the year and have gone onto Drag Racing’s Valhalla before us. It is a time to remember those former Gun Slingers of the Asphalt Wasteland that gave all they had so long ago. May we keep the candles lit & burn a piston in their memory, Amen!
You see the Reunions bring back a time when men gave their machines names, souls and did it for the love of the sport, before they started leasing their souls to the highest Corporate bidder.
*Where are the Jungle Jims - Gas Ronda’s - Wild Willie Borsch’s, the Mr C’s, The Snake & Mongoo$e’s?
*Where are the Invader’s - Holy Toledo’s - Fighting Irish - Magnificent 7’s - Flying Dutchman’s - Fireside Inn’s - The Wasp & Special K Jr. fuelers?
*What happened to the teams? Warren - Coburn & Miller - Beebe & Mulligan - Stafford-Gadie & Ratican - Weekly-Revero - Fox & Holding - Baney - Rossi-Maldonado - Kuhl & Olson - Braskett & Burgin.
Today’s racing has even changed the places we grew up at. Today “The Nationals “ as we knew them are now the Chevrolet Performance US Nationals at Lucas Raceway Mellow Yellow Drag Racing series, quite a mouthful eh? I realize the need for corporate dollars as the “Big Show” has turned into a millionaires club and without that $$$ they can’t get the same 16 cars that show up and make it 3.8 seconds before they melt…..so how’s that 1000’ racing going? By the looks of the crowd in the second round of Top Fuel at the “Chevrolet Performance US Nationals at Lucas Raceway Mellow Yellow Drag Racing series” (shameless sponsor plug), half the grand stands were empty & I don’t care how well National Dragster crops the photos, the big show is in big trouble……OK enough ranting least I digress anymore, back to real racing & fun.
Between helping the” Winkleman” with “The One Bad Hombre” Fuel Coupe, Strange Brew NE1 car and push starting Bob Hirsh’s beautiful “Anaconda” top fuel cackler plus helping Joel Gruzen with the way-cool “NewHouse Special” & Howard Cam Rattler on their push starts, I was also helping Orah Mae & Robin Millar with the “DragCartoon’s” award which I build for them to hand out to the best of “The Spirit of Drag Racing” car and or team. This year it was the “father of the cackle cars”, Bill Pitts & his ground thumping “Magic Car” who took home the trophy & the perpetual Pete Millar bronze statue to keep for the year, sorta like the Stanly cup of Drag Racing…
Top Fuel, The Kings of the Sport had 13 entrees with Denver Schutz Leading the pack with a stout 5.69 @250+.
Even old veteran Jimmy Boyd was on hand with his “Red Turkey AA/FD. Was there a chance for him to get into the field? Sure, but then running with the top dogs isn’t what drives Jimmy who’s Red Turkey Modified Roadster use to beat up on my car in the 60’s. No, in Jimmy’s case it’s about making a lap on nitro, with is ass strapped into his fuel burning contraption on Bakersfield’s hallowed grounds as he’s done for 50+ years.
This years qualifying pass was just on the idle circuit however as they had found cracks in the main frame rails so it was just an idle through at the Famoso 1320 and the bragging rights to say” Yes I was there” Unless you’re an old racer you’ll never understand what “True Nostalgia” is all about in the heads of those who lived & breathed it and Jimmy was there at the beginning of the “Nostalgia Craze” I remember because I was there also.
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