The 64th annual Bakersfield March Meet at the historic Famoso Dragstrip turned out to be a race against the weather with Nostalgia Drag Racing being the winner at the end. On Friday the cold and wet weather gave track officials and racers only a three-hour window to get qualifying rounds in. Saturday had more rain coming in from noon on, which allowed only one more qualifying round. The planned second session got delayed due to showers and an oildown well into the night, so the track was already too cold to provide enough traction for the nitro cars.
After the qualifying days concluded, last year’s NHRA Hot Rod Reunion Fuel Funny Car winner Drew Austin stood on top of the ladder after posting a 5.592 at 257.73 mph to the scoreboards. Shortly behind him was Billy Morris with his 5.603-second, 257.14 mph run. Bobby Cottrell’s 5.660 at 254.47 mph run got him into third, Jerry Espeseth 5.688 at 257.48 mph became fourth quickest and Geoff Monise ended up fifth out of the 23 cars entered with his 5.688 at 256.75 mph run.
Bret Williamson grabbed low e.t. in Nostalgia Top Fuel with a 5.789-second, 252.90 mph run. Pete Wittenberg clocked a 5.868 at 240.94 mph for second and Jim Murphy 5.937 at 235.27 mph for the third spot. Tyler Hilton got the fourth spot with his 6.092 at 194.07 mph run and Adam Sorokin completed the top five with a 6.092 at 221.74 mph run. To everyones surprise, Dan Horan and his team failed to adopt to the tricky weather conditions and failed to qualify for the eight-car field. He ended up with a best of 7.743 at 116.32 mph and saw himself sidelined for Sunday eliminations, but not without having famous company.
After fulfilling his dream of winning a March Meet AA/FA trophy, which he did in the Hertzig Motorsports “Good News” AA/Fuel Altered back in 2020, reigning NHRA Funny Car champ Ron Capps was back for more. This time he took the wheel of the newly built Burkholder Bros. Fuel Altered Fiat Topolino. But on the two attempts Capps had problems keeping the the Burkholder Brothers Altered in the grove and his best e.t. of 7.70 seconds at a coasting 116.32 mph unfortunately wasn’t quick enough to make the eight-car Fuel Altered field on Sunday.
So it was Dan Hix who took the top spot in the Fuel Altered class with a leading 6.086 at 204.79 mph followed by Mark Whynaught and his 6.115 at 213.74 mph, Dylan Winefsky (6.137 at 235.97 mph), James Generalao Jr. (6.151 at 208.26 mph) and Brian Hope (6.18 at 237.84 mph) rounding up the top five of the 12 participants qualifying for an eight-car field.
Sunday greeted racers and fans with plenty of sunshine, blue skies and fluffy clouds, yet cool temperatures which provided great racing conditions.
Once more it was Bobby Cottrell who dominated the Nostalgia Funny Car class on race day. On his way to the finals he defeated John Weaver in the first round and Dan Horan in the second round, as well as Dan Horan in the semifinals with consecutive quick runs in the 5.60-second zone. On the other side of the ladder, Geoff Monise took out Tim Boychuck in the first round and got a lucky second round win over Rian Konno, who was a no-show. Having hurt his engine in the first round, Monise needed a loan of an engine from Densham Motorsports to compete in the semifinals. Monise went on to defeat Cory Lee in the semis, but only to hurt this block again, which prevented him from making the call for the finals, handing the win to Cottrell. Certainly not how Cottrell wanted to win a final round, but this time he got it by just rolling to the starting line.
Bret Williamson won his first round against a tire-smoking Brendan Murry and went on to beat Tyler Hilton in the semifinals before the finals, where he met Jim Murphy. Murphy himself took the win over Bryan Hall and Tyler Hester on his route to the finals and looked like the favorite having run better numbers and posted better reaction times than Williamson all day long, but Williamson was able to defeat him in a close final with a 5.731 at 256.06 mph to Murphy’s 5.771 at 256.75 mph. Williamson’s win gave him a head start in the championship points battle for the 2022 Nostalgia Top Fuel championship crown.
Dan Hix, no stranger to the winner’s circle at Famoso Dragstrip, made it to finals in the Fuel Altered class against Mark Whynaught in the “Nitro Mamba” Fuel Altered. Hix beat Whynaught on the tree but ran into tire smoke shortly after the hit. Whynaught passed him but suddenly slowed after his ride lost power and coasted towards the finish line. Hix got back on the throttle and flew by him to cross the line first with a 7.010 at 208.78 mph to a 8.877 at only 96.46 mph.
March Meet debutant Lyle Greenberg brought his beautiful “Cone Hunter” Corvette Funny Car all the way from New Mexico to compete in the Nitro Pro Comp series. It turned out to be a huge success as Greenberg ran well in eliminations and ended up in the finals against Keith Wilson in the “Witch Doctor” Altered. Wilson’s 5.863 et ended up being a smidge too quick for the Nitro Pro Comp 5.90 index, handing the win to a very excited Greenberg, who celebrated on the wing of his Funny Car during winner’s circle.
Winners in other categories were:
Kin Bates Sr. in Junior Fuel, Tony Trimp in 7.0 Pro, Dustin Lee in Nostalgia Eliminator 1, Jaycen Justus in Nostalgia Eliminator and Jeff Follin in Nostalgia Eliminator 3
Richard Wilson in A/Gas, Steve Pullin in B/Gas, Chris Rea in C/Gas, Don Fournier in D/Gas and Dan Rowley in Hot Rod Eliminator