2013 CALIFORNIA HOT ROD REUNION cont...
Through the Eyes of Veteran Nostalgia Racer Stormy Byrd
It is with much excitement to read that the 2014 March Meet will have an open 8 car AA/FA class ! The return of the “Original Hot Rods” ! (It’s about friggin time)
The Reunion offers something to everyone be it door cars, non-door cars, a huge swap meet where you can go and begin your dream from the past. A great manufacture’s row that outshines the BIG SHOW National events with merchandise from $5 sun glasses to complete chassis, bodies & engines for your racer.
It is also a place where we come to honor those who lead the way in the early years. This years lineup had Grand Marshall Butch “California Flash” Leal. Fuel racer Tommy “The Watchdog” Allen - Roy Brizio - Jim DeFrank - Larry Dixon Sr. & John Rasmussen. The Reunion spotlight was on legendary paint splashier Tom Kelly and his son Mitch who keep the iconic paint place alive & well.
I was to say I was busier than one legged man at a butt kicking contest would be an understatement. After helping my “House of Mouse” teammates get in the show I watched Super Girl Eily Stafford run a 7.70 to a 7.70 only to lose by a few thousands in round one. Then it was teammate Dave Gruzen in the second round that tried to put the brakes on at the big end but broke out by a smidgen, but then that’s how tight the NE1 field is.
I then helped Bob Hirsh over the course of 3 days push starting the gorgeous Anaconda top fuel car of the Late great Marvin “Starvin” Swartz. I’m truly liking this cackle deal with the old push starts & yes there is an art to in it.
You get the wave all is clear, you squeeze down slowly on the accelerator as you begin to push the animal ahead of you, keeping it straight & true. When we hit 20mph I toot the horn informing Bob that we are at the point of no return. He lets the clutch out and you feel the compression of his blown Hemi as it grunts the push car. Keeping the speed constant you see him goose the throttle a couple times as the engine turns & the fuel pump picks up the nitro. He closes the throttle then hits the mag …..WHOOOOPPPP! it is alive ! You now hear the sound of the 50 year old Leviathan come to life as the cylinders begin to hit, it then turns into a show of flashing fireballs as 94% flows through the old warriors veins.
This is how is was at Lions-Irwindale-Fontana-Famoso as these beasts come back to life belching fire & brimstone. Soon, Bob pulls away without effort as the old 392’s - 1,500 ponies start to gallop. It’s magical as you watch from behind, and as it was in the day they would steer them to the starting line in an epic battle of horsepower.
Bob whacks the throttle, our eyes sting from the acrid smell of CH3NO2 as he pulls away in a cosmic cloud of nitro fumes & flames that he’s looking between. We follow our deafening Leviathan as it pops & snorts on loads of what the race gods drink…..Nitro. As we near the starting line we watch as Bob turns his machine with the lights glowing off it’s Tom Kelly paint. It’s almost surrealistic as it looks to be alive & possess a soul as it slowly rounds the turn onto Bakersfield’s hallowed 1320’. Slowly Bob then guides his nitro burning ride down the very grounds where the names Sorokin - Muderbach - Snively - Mulligan once did battle. The header flames are growing as the engine gets heat in it. It cries to race as its ancestors did decades ago.
This beast if given the chance could go out & lay down a six second run at 220+….but what's the point? These machines have already earned their pedigree decades ago and don’t need to prove anything these days. Why take a chance at hurting one on the guardrail especially if they survived the weekly grind at The Beach or OCIR.
It would be cool if they were allowed to race side by side smoking the tries for let’s say 300’, but then what if? Besides, NHRA doesn’t need anything that could attract sharks looking for blood (lawyers). One by one these man-made contraptions of beauty power & speed cackle down Bako’s 1320 belching fire as they're parked side by side for the crowd to see - smell & hear. One by one the candles go out as the Nitro runs low. 80 cars by one count we heard.
In the end it was the 2 remaining cars of Bill Pitts Magic Car with Jeep Hampshire in the seat and Sonny Messner in Garlits car whacking the throttle back & forth as neither one would surrender. After what had to be seven minutes Sonny threw up the white flag but not to be outdone Jeep kept the candles lit for another minute. You’d swear the headers were going to melt off as Jumpin Jeep gave her throttle informing the New World order “This is how it was….. Screw you! Waap Waap ! Truly the best Cacklefest in ages!
Many have wondered about what I was doing this year not racing, well here it is.
After racing for 38 years and with all we, “The Famoso Mob” did last year and ended up going to New Zealand to race and to win the NE1 class at the first race, we decided to take a break. It’s that simple. I’ve had time to reflect what I’ve done the last 38 years with 28 of those in “Revelation”. I’ve been very blessed to do what I’ve done and to have so many wonderful fans that have routed for me.
I know I’ll never go 200mph or run a 6 second pass.
I’ll never win a Championship much less a race like the Reunion
My victories are counted by the smiles I put on the fans in the stands, they are my wins and while I’ll never set low ET, it’s the smoker I lay down & the dry hops to the starting line that YOU the fans will remember when you go home.
As I said I’ll never be that points Champion but when it come to the show I’ll beat all their asses and you my friends are that championship I race for, you the fans every time I put a smile on your face, YOU give me that Championship win.
Revelation is not done yet, It’s up at the Famoso Speed Shop getting some body work done along with paint, re-certing all the safety goodies for 2014, possibly putting a new front cage loop on it and maybe, just maybe a new shoe in it for just the March Meet which I’ve already sent entry in for. I’m not done by a long shot, just needed some time to work on whats happening in my life and to regroup .
Look for Revelation match racing none other then Rich Gausco’s Pure Hell AA/FA in May at Rocky Phillips Eagle Field drags in Dos Palos Ca. and you’ll see me at Butch Hedricks' ANRA events where the best in Nostalgia Racing happens, hands down!!
Nostalgia Drag Word - by Robert "Stormy" Byrd
YOU'LL FIND PAGES OF REUNION PHOTOS THROUGHOUT THE MAGAZINE STARTING ON THE NEXT PAGE HERE