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29th annual CALIFORNIA HOT ROD REUNION - October 22 - 24, 2021

NOTE: Click on the thumbnails to display the full-size images

This will be a work in progress for the next week, with photos, captions, results and commentary added as and when time permits. We start with the first day of our coverage, Thursday, where our correspondent, Bob Snyder, toured the pits to capture some of the images of the attendees.

BIG dogie

Guarding the golf kart and the pit area behind it is the BIG dog.

Cory Lee - 'The Pedaler' - AA/FC --- Morey & Pettinato - 'Rat Posion' - AA/FA

(LEFT) Out of his part-time "Big Show" ride and back in Gary Turner's "Pedaler" is itinerant drag racer Cory Lee getting ready for another Nostalgia Funny Car weekend.

(RIGHT) All the way from South Carolina is the "Rat Poison" AA/Fuel Altered team of Morey & Pettinato, a modern day tribute to a famous team of the 60's and 70's.

Dan Horan Jr. - 'Infinity' - AA/FC --- Van Gundy, Clark & Monise - 'Quarter Pounder' 

(LEFT) It's Dan Horan (Jr.) with the body from his "Infinity Plumbing" AA/FC sitting behind the trailer, getting ready to contend for another race win.

(RIGHT) One of the real veteran teams, the group of Dale Van Gundy, Keith Clark, and Geoff Monise are still campaigning the "Quarter Pounder" after nearly fifty years of blasting down drag strips on the West Coast.

'Cacklin' Critter' - AA/FC --- 'Cacklin' Critter' - AA/FC

Two shots of the "Cacklin' Critter" team getting their AA/FC ready for action.

Don Knoblauch - 'Atomic Punk' - AA/FC --- Bob Snyder & Dave Kommel - 'Problem Child' pits

(LEFT) Just peeking out of the transporter as they begin the unloading process is the Washington state-based "Atomic Punk" AA/FC of Don Knoblauch.

(RIGHT) Making his version of a smile is our photographer, BIG Bob Snyder on the left, with veteran lensman (from almost the beginning of the sport) Dave Kommel hanging out at the "Problem Child" AA/Funny Car pits.

Ron Hope - 'Rat Trap' - AA/FA --- Randy Bradford - 'Bradford's Fiat' - AA/FA

(LEFT) It's the one... the only... "Rat Trap" AA/Fuel Altered, owned and driven by Ron Hope sitting in the pit area getting ready to run.

(RIGHT) Washington state's Randy Bradford campaigns the way-too-quick-for-that-short-narrow-car "Bradford's Fiat in the AA/Fuel Altered class. Unlike some of the other teams, it looks ready to head for the staging lanes.

Shawn Callan - 'High Heaven' - AA/FA --- 'Pure Hell' - AA/FA

(LEFT) Relaxing in the pits with the car ready to run is the "High Heaven" AA/Fuel Altered gang from Idaho, not to be confused with the Keith Jackson driven "High Heaven" Funny Car running on the Funny Car Chaos circuit. Odly enough, the Callan family, with Shawn Callan at the tiller are running the original chassis that the Jackson family ran in the 1970's, now with updates in the drivetrain and a new lease on its racing life.

(RIGHT) Another of the iconic names in AA/Fuel Altered racing from waaay back is the "Pure Hell" Bantam roadster, still owned by Rich Guasco, and now being driven by Brian Hope.


(LEFT) We're not sure who's pit area this is, or who is on the left, but it's almost certainly Larry Sutton, one of the most famous starters in So-Cal drag racing history (Lions, Irwindale, Orange County, etc) sitting on the ATV on the right.

(RIGHT) Managing to snag a "VIP" media parking spot is our roving photojournalist, "BIG" Bob Snyder with his (very) incognito transporter.

Finishing off our photo "essay" is Bob Snyder trying - and failing - to disguise himself in what looks like a Mark Sanders mask while schmoozing in the "Cacklin' Critter" pits.

Joel Miner - 'Miner Threat' - A/FX --- Dan Horan - 'Infinity Plumbing' - NFC

(LEFT) Lifting the wheels waaay up was Joel Miner as his '65 Dodge "Miner Threat" made a qualifying pass in A/FX. His best of the weekend was a 10.339 - 128.24 that placed hgim #19 in the 28-car A/FX field.

(RIGHT) After the sportsman cars finished their session, it was time for the first round of qualifying for Nitro Funny Car. One of the first cars out of the lanes was Dan Horan in his "Infinity Plumbing" entry and he pounded out a huge 5.614 - 256.70 to stake his claim for the #1 spot. Barely visible in the near lane is the flaming nose of Tony Jurado's car as he nearly matched Horan's e.t. with a 5.674 at a booming 259.56 mph.

Cory Lee - 'The Pedaler' - NFC --- Chris Davis - 'Old School Nitro - NFC

(LEFT) Getting a little sideways on the burnout was Cory Lee in Gary Turner's "Pedaler" '79 Challenger. He put down a strong opening lap of 5.684 - 257.97 to slot into the #7 spot at the end of the session.

(RIGHT) Coming down from Spokane, WA with his "Old School Nitro" '77 Arrow, was Chris Davis and he put down a good 5.957 - 241.20 to start his weekend.

Bobby Cottrell - 'Bardahl Special' - NFC --- Geoff Monise - 'Quarter Pounder' - NFC

(LEFT) The already crowned 2021 NHRA Heritage Series champion, Bobby Cottrell in the very familiar Austin & O'Brien Bardahl Special, put down low e.t. of the round with a very quick 5.603 - 251.11 to let everyone know he was ready to go for his fifth event win in a row.

(RIGHT) Shocking everyone in the pits, and possibly even himself, Geoff Monise cranked out a career best 5.681 - 236.05 despite a slightly early shutoff. Leaving with the wheels up, the car covered the first 330' in less than 2.5 seconds to lead the field in that incremental. The crew was ecstatis to see the numbers on scoreboard as after five decades of running funny cars, the Van Gundy, Clark & Monise team finally broke into the 5.60's. That pass also put them in the top half of the field in the #6 spot.

Justin Taylor - 'Evil, Wicked, Mean & Nasty' - NFC --- Kris Krabill - 'Screamer' - NFC

(LEFT) Second generation driver Justin Taylor pushed the Mustang-bodied "Evil, Wicked, Mean & Nasty" car to a very good opening pass of 5.796 - 235.02 that eventually was only good enough for the #7 position (after the first session) in what was quickly shaping up as a very tough field.

(RIGHT) Looking like he was pedalling before the 60' mark, Kris 'Hollywood' Krabill launched the "Screamer" to a low 6-second pass that ended in a large fireball. It got worse after the finish line, as the oil-fed inferno forced Krabill to make an exit while the car was still in motion, leading to a trip to the hospital. The car was badly damaged, and to add insult to injury, the e.t. was DQ' due to the ensuing oildown. Thankfully, Krabill was back at the track on Saturday in good spirits, despite an early end to the event for the team.

Billy Morris - 'Problem Child' - NFC --- Drew Austin - 'Pro Max' - NFC

(LEFT) Smoking the tires hard on the burnout, Billy Morris drove Eddie Knox's "Problem Child" Camaro to an early shutoff 7.663 at only 118.82 mph to end the first round of qualifying in the #13 position.

(RIGHT) Making his first competition pass in Nostalgia Funny Car, Drew Austin made the jump from A/Fuel to the nitro flopper world look easy with a very good 5.952 - 240.29 that put him in the #10 spot after Q-1. Those numbers would end up being his slowest of the weekend as you'll see later in our California Hot Rod Reunion coverage.

Matt Melendez - 'Cacklin' Critter' - NFC --- Jeff Gregory - 'Madness' - NFC

(LEFT) The heavily modified '70 Challenger body that adorns the "Cacklin' Critter" worked well for Matt Melendez as he cranked out a good 5.850 - 225.26 despite the early shutoff, placing him eighth in the field.

(RIGHT) The black '78 Camaro "Madness" of Jeff Gregory didn't get very far under power, shutting off very early to a 8.343 - 99.60 to end up near the bottom of the field.

Jerry Espeseth - 'Rolling Thunder 2.0' - NFC --- Don Knoblouch - 'Atomic Punk' - NFC

(LEFT) Last year's runnerup in the points battle, Jerry Espeseth hadn't been seen since the Heritage season opener at Boise's 'Ignitor' event, but didn't show any rust from the inactivity, pounding out a 5.729 - 253.37 to place him #4 in the field in the "Rolling Thunder 2.0" entry.

(RIGHT) Closing out the round was Washington state's Don Knoblouch"Atomic Punk" Camaro, and his first pass of the weekend was a so-so 7.058 - 192.12, that showed there was still some work to do on the tuneup.

PRO MOD - Qualifying Session #1

These are not NHRA "Big Show" Pro Mods, or one of the multitude of "Outlaw" series that have proliferated. It's just a bunch of West Coast cars that gather for a fun event at Bakersfield twice a year. Lots of less than perfect aerodrynamic bodies and not as polished, and certainly not as well sponsored as you might expect at a national event. Hmm... sort of like Funny Car Chaos with doorslammer bodies. Pro Mod Chaos anyone?

Robert Bingham - PM --- Andy Kouerinis - PM

(LEFT) Looking a little more like a Pro Street car with a blower than a full-on Pro Mod, the gorgeous '67 Nova of Robert Bingham showed that it could run just as good as it looked, cranking out a 7.089 - 162.33 to hold the #10 spot in the 11-car field. The 162-mph speed showed that he had serious 6-second under the hood.

(RIGHT) Leading off the Pro Mods was Andy Kouerinis in his Camaro S/S and he put down a good 6.179 - 214.69 to sit fourth in the field at the end of Friday's qualifying.

Kirk Kuhns - PM --- Karl Wilson - PM

(LEFT) Long-time West Coast hitter Kirk Kuhns is still at it after three decades of wheeling Pro Mods, but it's Jeremy Hanger behind the wheel of his '59 'Vette now. He covered the field by a bunch with a very strong 5.806, coupled with a BIG speed of 257.92 mph.

(RIGHT) In contrast to the early model 'Vette of Kuhns, the '93 'Vette of Karl Wilson showed a very different look, and unfortunately, a very different result as Karl's best effort of the day was an early shutoff of 9.997 - 75.98 to sit at the bottom of the 11-car field.

Josh Kalish - PM --- Sean Renteria - 'Borrmann's Steel' - PM

(LEFT) This very sinister looking '53 Stude of Josh Kalish blasted out a solid 6.297 - 240.51 to slot into the middle of the field in the #5 spot.

(RIGHT) The totally unique '65 Valiant of Sean Renteria doesn't look like it should be able to run that fast, but his 5.955 - 244.56 landed him in the #2 position on the ladder, however, well behind the #1 (Jeremy Hanger) car by a tenth and a half.

Troy Ferry - 'Bunker Motorsports' - PM --- Dan Myers - PM

(LEFT) The only late model car in the field, the Bunker Motorsports '14 Challenger driven by Troy Ferry almost broke into the 5-second zone, carding a 6.026 - 242.58, good enough for the #3 position.

(RIGHT) The clean looking '57 Chevy of Dan Myers didn't get all that he wanted, with a leaving him in the #7 spot on the charts.

Eric Petersen - 'The EFI Store' - PM

Something totally different is the flat black '51 Chevy of Washington state's Eric Petersen, who had a troubled day with a best of only 7.379 - 186.95 to his credit.

NOSTALGIA FUNNY CAR - Qualifying Session #2

Billy Morris - 'Problem Child' - NFC --- Geoff Monise - 'Quarter Pounder' - NFC

(LEFT) From the outhouse to not quite the penthouse, car owner/tuner Eddie Knox sorted out whatever problems his "Problem Child" had and it resulted in Billy Morris cranking out a 5.635 - 239.36 to jump from #13 to #3, despite the early shutoff, evidenced by the sub-240 mph speed.

(RIGHT) Running in the lane next to Morris, Geoff Monise tried to duplicate his first session career best 5.68 pass, but he was forced to lift just before the 1000' mark. The timeslip showed some great incrementals to half track, nearly three hundredths and five mph ahead of Morris, but the quarter-mile time was only 6.234 - 137.01 and that saw him drop from #3 to #4 on the qualifying list.

Tony Jurado - 'Capitol Punishment' - NFC --- Drew Austin - 'Pro Max' - NFC

(LEFT) With the car up For Sale as he moves deeper into the "Big Show" nitro funny car world, Tony Jurado was trying hard to improve on his first session 5.729, but fell just short with a still very good 5.780 - 250.88. He didn't drop back and stayed in the middle of the field at #8 on the ladder.

(RIGHT) In the other lane was the overnight success story of the meet, Drew Austin and the Austin clan turned the screws on the tuneup in the right direction, as they stepped up nearly two tenths from a 5.952 to an excellent 5.772 - 241.89 to #8 from #10. Steady progress and the car still wasn't run all the way to the finish line.

Dan Horan - 'Infinity Plumbing' - NFC --- Don Knoblouch - 'Atomic Punk' - NFC

(LEFT) Coming out of the burnout with the motor set on "mean", Dan Horan was ready to rock the scoreboards and he did just that. In fact, to the tune of 5.614 - 256.70 to close the gap to #1 Bobby Cottrell.

(RIGHT) With Jeff Diehl helping sort out the Don Knoblouch car, the second session saw the car run hard to half track, before coasting to a much better (than his earlier 7.058) e.t. of 6.542, at a very early shutoff 155.01 mph. With other cars stepping up, that moved the "Punk" down from #12 to #14 going into the final qualifying session on Saturday afternoon.

Jerry Espeseth - 'Rolling Thunder 2.0' - NFC --- James Day - 'Speed Sport Special' - NFC

(LEFT) After a solid 5.729 e.t. in the first qualifying session, Jerry Espeseth went absolutely nowhere when he ignited the tires on the launch and didn't cross the finish line until the clocks had reset for the next pair.

(RIGHT) It was a good looking launch for the "Speed Sport" Omni, carrying the front wheels past the 60' mark, but it went south shortly after as James Day could only manage a 8.693 - 93.85 to drop into the #17 spot with just one qualifying session left.

Chris Davis - 'Old School Nitro' - NFC --- Kamaka Pocock - 'California Hustler' - NFC

(LEFT) Another consistent pass, in the 5's and over 240 mph, but his 5.957 - 241.20 left him Chris Davis in the #13 spot at the end of Friday's second qualifying session.

(RIGHT) After an early shutoff (5.892 at just 195.05 mph) in the first session, Kamaka Pocock really picked up the pace in Don Nelson's "California Hustler", knocking two tenths of his e.t. and moving up to the #5 spot with an excellent 5.684 - 252.52 timeslip.

Terry Haddock - 'Fool's Errand' - NFC --- Terry Haddock - 'Fool's Errand' - NFC

Making his Heritage Series debut with a solid burnout, then launching with the butterflies wide open on the old-style Hilborn "Shotgun" injector, Terry Haddock labored down track in the ex-"Mr. Boston" car. It's now the "Fool's Errand" but still pays homage to it's "Bawstin" origin. The clocks stopped for Haddock at 7.434 - 196.27; nothing to write home about, but good enough for the #15 spot and a provisional spot in the show.

Heidi Austin - BUG - NFC

Always seen in front of the "Austin & O'Brien" car, backing up Bobby Cottrell, it's Heidi Austin performing her "reverse gear assistant" duties with style.

NOSTALGIA TOP FUEL - Qualifying Session #1

Adam Sorokin - 'Champion Speed Shop Special - NTF --- Tyler Hilton - 'Great Expectations III' - NTF

(LEFT) In far-and-away the most unique car in Nostalgia Top Fuel racing, second generation driver Adam Sorokin had his hands full when the small-block Chevy powered "Champion Speed Shop Special" got waaay too close to the wall before he wisely lifted and coasted to a 9.738 - 82.18 to leave him on the outside of the field in the #9 spot going into Saturday's final qualifier.

(RIGHT) Another non-conventional powerplant came out next as a big-block Chevy sat between the frame rails in the Jim & Allison Lee-owned "Great Expectations III" car. This team has been running since the early 70's and one of the original driver's sons is now in the hot seat. It's young Tyler Hilton and he ran strong until the power went away on the top end, stopping the clocks at 6.024 - 201.76 to show there was a lot more potential in their new combination after blowing it up BIG TIME at Bowling Green in June.

Frank McBee Jr. - 'Valley Thunder' - NTF --- Bret Williamson - 'Forever Young' - NTF

(LEFT) At the end of the burnout, Frank McBee Jr. brought the "Valley Thunder" to a halt before preparing to launch into his first qualifying attempt. It went well to the 1000' mark, then the throttle closed and McBee coasted across the finish line at 6.263 - 203.09 to slot into the #4 position.

(RIGHT) Running alongside McBee was the "Forever Young" team with jack-of-all-trades Bret Williamson behind the motor. He was running away from the Valley Thunder at half track before shutting off to a 6.567 - 161.50, only good enough for the #6 rung on the ladder.

Brendan Murry - 'Runnin' Wild' - NTF --- Tyler Hester - 'Overtime Special' - NTF

(LEFT) Now running a late-model Chrysler, former Chevy stalwart Brendan Murry didn't have much better luck as his "Runnin' Wild" had to shut off early to a 7.433 - 129.59 clocking that left him in the #7 spot.

(RIGHT) Launching hard in the "Overtime Special" with the flames high, but unfortunately, not for long, was Tyler Hester as he slowed to an 8.043 at 99.11 mph to end up on the provisional bubble for the 8-car field.

Mark Tarabochia - 'Bad Medicine' - 7.0 PRO

Down from Oregon to test the 7.0 PRO waters again, Mark Tarabochia wheeled the "Bad Medicine" '70 Barracuda (the only Funny Car in the class) to a 7.642 to hold down the 16th place in the all-run 22-car field.


NOSTALGIA TOP FUEL - Qualifying Session #2

For a change of scenery, our photographer, NIG Bob Snyder, ventured down to the far end of the track for some of his favourite "chute shots" to give us a different vantage point of the cars slowing down after their runs.

Bret Williamson - 'Forever Young' (near lane) vs 
Brendan Murry - 'Runnin' Wild' (far lane) - NTF --- Brendan Murry - 'Runnin' Wild' - NTF

(LEFT) Looking like there was quite a gap between the cars, Bret Williamson in the "Forever Young" entry (near lane) comes past the vantage point after making a huge leap up the ladder from his first session mid-6-second clocking to a #2 qualifying 5.756 - 245.54 pass, while Brendan Murry trailed in the far lane.

(RIGHT) As Brendan Murry finally came into view in his "Runnin' Wild" car, his timeslip came up with a #8 qualifying 6.309 - 194.27. It was down one spot from his Friday #7 position, but more than a second quicker than his first session 7.43 pass.

Adam Sorokin - 'Champion Speed Shop' (near lane) vs 
Dan Horan (far lane) - NTF --- Dusty Green (near lane) vs Jim Murphy - WWIII' 
(near lane) - NTF

(LEFT) The ultra-cool and unmistakable "Champion Speed Shop Special" enclosed cockpit, small-block Chevy motivated dragster, wheeled by Adam Sorokin, slowed to a stop after jumping from outside the field to the #3 spot. Picking up more than three seconds from his first effort, Sorokin clocked in with a very good 5.820 - 245.94 timeslip.

(RIGHT) The next pair came by reasonably close together, with Dusty Green (near lane) slowing after being DQ'd for oiling the track, while in the far lane, Jim Murphy was still having trouble making it to the finish line under power with another early shutoff 6.311 - 169.00 to backup his Friday 6.254 pass. Green ran 6.011 - 211.69, but those numbers evaporated with the oildown disqualification.

Dan Horan - NTF --- Dan Horan - NTF

Two views of Dan Horan here as he coasted down to the far end after an early shutoff (a common theme in this session) 6.248 - 159.23. He still remained atop the ladder with his booming 5.610 - 260.51 carded during Friday's single qualifying session.

Frank McBee Jr. - 'Valley Thunder' - NTF --- Tyler Hilton - 'Great Expectations III' - NTF

(LEFT) As the round drew to a close, Frank McBee Jr. slowed the "Valley Thunder" after a much-improved 6.077 - 248.48 effort that saw him drop from the #4 spot (at the start of the session) to #5 on the ladder going into the final round of qualifying in the evening.

(RIGHT) The only big-block Chevy in the field, all the way from the east coast was the "Great Expectations III", but this run failed to live up to any expectations, as it was DQ'd with timing blocks flying, leaving Tyler Hilton in the #4 position.

Tyler Hester - 'Overtime Special' - NTF --- Tyler Hester - 'Overtime Special' - NTF

Slowing down after his qualifying attempt, Tyler Hester runs into a little trouble with the "Overtime Special" and ends up next to (or into) the guardwall at the deep end of the shutdown area.

NOSTALGIA FUNNY CAR - Qualifying Session #3

Coming into the last qualifying session, there were only 17 cars left in competition for the Nostalgia Funny Car field, as Kris Krabill was forced to drop out after his nasty engine explosion and fire in Friday's first session. The only car sitting on the outside of the 16-car field was James Day in the "Speed Sport Special", but the 8.34 bubble held down by Jeff Gregory was within easy reach for Day.

Billy Morris - 'Problem Child' (near lane) vs 
Drew Austin - 'Pro Max' - NFC --- Drew Austin - 'Pro Max' - NFC

(LEFT) The first pair out of the lanes featured Billy Morris in the "Problem Child" and he was hoping to at least backup his previous 5.635 pass that had him in the #3 position. Morris ran well until nearly the finish line when at least a few pistons immolated, slowing him slightly to a 5.703 - 240.08 that set him up well for eliminations later in the day.

(RIGHT) Running opposite Morris, was the "rookie" Drew Austin, more than ably assisted by his father Pat and grandather Walt as they carefully sneaked up on the tuneup in the Ford-powered Camaro. Coming into the session with an earlier best of 5.772 - 241.89, they were looking for a little improvement, but didn't find it as the car trailed Morris's performance from just past the 60' mark, tripping the timers with a 5.825 - 245.05 that showed less e.t. but a bigger speed in the traps. The net result was no improvement on their #9 qualifying spot, with quite a few cars still waiting to bump them down the ladder.

Rian Konno - 'Kazanjian, Lemon & Konno - 
NFC --- Kamaka Pocock - 'California Hustler' - NFC

(LEFT It didn't take for Austin to fall one spot as Rian Konno in the "Kazanjian, Lemon & Konno" '71 Mustang, cranked out a much improved 5.719 - 253.85 to jump past Austin into the #9 position.

(RIGHT In the other lane, Legends of Nitro Rookie of The Year Kamaka Pocock in Don Nelson's beautiful "California Hustler" failed to improve on his earlier 5.684 - 252.52 as he got out near the guardwall before half track and coasted to the finish line at 7.382 - 120.64 to stay in the #8 spot in the field.

Bobby Cottrell - 'Bardahl Special' (near lane) vs 
Terry Haddock - 'Fool's Errand' - NFC --- Jerry Epeseth - 'Rolling Thunder 2.0' - NFC

(LEFT) Top qualifying as is the norm for the Bucky Austin team, was Bobby Cottrell sat atop the charts with his first session 5.609 - 254.76, but wanted to equal or exceed that number to send a statement to the field. He certainly did as he set a new low e.t. of the meet with an excellent 5.603 - 251.11 that culminated in a large cloud of smoke at the finish line. Trailing him badly in the other lane was Terry Haddock (barely visible between Cottrell's chutes) as he improved from his earlier 7.43 to a 6.524 - 188.81 that moved him up one notch to #14, at least temporarily.

(RIGHT) In the former Jason Rupert car, Jerry Espeseth looked to move up from the #7 position in the order, and blasted out a very strong 5.661 - 256.45 to climb to the #4 spot to put himself in a good position going into eliminations.

Matt Melendez - 'Cacklin' Critter' - NFC --- Tony Jurado - 'Capitol Punishment' - NFC

(LEFT) Running alongside Espeseth and nearly matching him wheel for wheel going down the track, Matt Melendez whipped the '70 Challenger bodied "Cackling Critter" to a much better 5.706 at only 237.17 to jump from #12 to a tentative #8 and hopefully the top half of the field.

(RIGHT) Melendez's hope evaporated quickly in the next pairing as Tony Jurado inflicted some "Capitol Punishment" (sorry, bad pun, couldn't resist) on Matt's chances as he broke out of the 5.70's and into the 60's with an excellent 5.674 e.t. coupled with a BIG speed of 259.56 to climb up to #5 with no serious challengers to that spot waiting in the staging lanes. Both numbers were career bests for Jurado, and the 259 mph was top speed of the meet.

James Day - 'Speed Sport Special' - NFC --- Don Knoblouch - 'Atomic Punk' - NFC

(LEFT) Down to his last shot and needing to vastly improve on his previous 8- and 17-second timeslips, James Day needed to get the "Speed Sport Special" into the low 6.50's to make the field and he did it with ease, laying down a solid 6.106 - 240.85 to climb from oblivion to the #14 spot. Obviously, the help Johnny West was providing to car owner Jim Broome was working in their favour. Day had to pedal early and then put out a really ominous cloud of smoke at the finish line but the track was dry after he cleared the traps.

(RIGHT) In the other lane was Don "The Atomic Punk" Knoblouch and not safely in the field in the bump spot with one car left that could bump him so he did his best to get off the bubble and succeeded with a slight improvement to 6.513 - 164.77 time. Despite the low speed it was his fastest of the weekend as he wasn't able to keep the pedal down much past the 660' mark.

Jeff Gregory - 'Madness' - NFC --- Old School Funny Car

(LEFT) With "lucky" #13 qualifier Chris Davis electing to save nitro and parts and take his "Old School Nitro" Arrow back to the pits, only one car was left to run and the "Madness" Camaro of Jeff Gregory was up to finish the session. His previous best of 8.343 was well back of Terry Haddock's bump spot clocking of 6.524, but Gregory looked good until half track when he had to pedal, then the engine appeared to go away at the 1000' mark and he shut off to a 6.763 - 152.38 to end up in the #17 position and done for the weekend.

(RIGHT) Before the Fuel Altereds came out, a really old-school car made an exhibition run, and the early model 'Vette, sporting a BB/Funny Car designation, but with some seriously outdated equipment and chassis, made a pass.

AA/FUEL ALTERED - Qualifying Session #1

Dave 'Nasty' Benjamin - AA/FA --- Nick Van Horn - 'Panic' (near lane) vs 
Randy Bradford - 'Bradford's Fiat' (far lane) - AA/FA

(LEFT) The ageless veteran from Washington state, Dave "Nasty" Benjamin opened his account with a solid run. Despite a lazy launch (1.076 in 60'), he had it up on the tires soon after and kept the pedal down until the 1000' mark before coasting across the finish line with a 6.346 - 185.36 time.

(RIGHT) In the next pairing, two period-correct cars faced off with Nick Van Horn (near lane) in the "Panic! '23 Bantam cranking out a pair of career bests at to show that they meant business. In the other lane Randy Bradford kept pace with him until the top end, but still clocked in at a very good 6.258 - 236.34 to take the second spot on the ladder.

Jeff Bennett - 'Pure Heaven' (near lane) vs 
Brian Hope 'Pure Hell' (far lane) - AA/FA --- Brian Hope 'Pure Hell' - AA/FA

(LEFT) Two more nicknames that are synonymous with Fuel Altered racing came up next, with Jeff Bennett in the late Leon Fitzgerald's "Pure Heaven" (near lane) running into trouble early and shutting off to a 8.699 - 101.88, while (mostly obscured in the far lane) Brian Hope fared even worse in the Rich Guasco-owned "Pure Hell" entry, finally stopping the timers at 10.485 - 91.59 to close out the qualifying session.

(RIGHT) Here's a closer look at the Pure Hell car as it slows with the Pure Heaven chutes in the foreground.

PRO MOD - Eliminations Round #1

Robert Bingham (near lane) vs Karl Wilson 
(far lane) - PM --- Sean Renteria - 'Borrmann's Steel' (near lane) 
vs Wade Sjostrom (far lane) - PM

(LEFT) Eliminations in Pro Mod began with Robert Bingham in his flaming '67 Nova (near lane) facing off against Karl Wilson in the '93 'Vette (far lane). Bingham stepped up hugely from his so-so 7.08 qualifying time to a 6.266 - 225.00 in the "Shoebox", but a late (.280 light) launch cost him the win as Wilson 's slower took the win by a car length despite his mediocre (.188) reaction time.

(RIGHT) The next pair saw the winner, Sean Renteria, step up but it wasn't needed as opponent Wade Sjostrom, the lone Canadian in the field, headed for the wall when the light turned green, forcing him to lift. Renteria ran away to an even quicker time than his qualifying efforts, with a 5.848 - 247.47 lighting up the scoreboards.

Troy Ferry (near lane) vs Josh Kalish (far 
lane) - PM --- Dan Myers (near lane) vs Andy Kouerinis (far 
lane) - PM

(LEFT) Another runaway victory was the story for the third pair, but this one came with a twist as Troy Ferry in the 2014 Challenger literally blew off his own passenger-side door on the launch, and he limped to a 21.077 - 34.79 time. The crew on Josh Kalish's '53 Stude got it all figured out as he stepped up to a winning 6.052 at a big speed of 248.52 mph.

(RIGHT) Early model Chev versus later model as Dan Myers (near lane) pushed his '57 Chevy to a winning 6.295 at an early shutoff 195.93 mph, while in the far lane Andy Kouerinis popped the blower at the 330' mark and slowed to a 10.494 - 77.80 clocking.

Ed Marx - PM --- Jeremy Hanger - 'Kirk Kuhns' - PM

(LEFT) The next pair turned into a bye run for #2 qualifier Ed Marx in his '53 Vette as scheduled opponent Eric Peterson broke during qualifying. Marx put on a show for the fans with a half track burnout, then backed up and launched to a 5.985 - 231.04 despite a quick early pedal job.

(RIGHT) Closing out the round was the bye run for low qualifier Jeremy Hanger in the Kirk Kuhns '59 'Vette, and he took it easy with an early shutoff to "only" a 5.899 - 208.07 mph pass to advance to a second round match against Sean Renteria.

NOSTALGIA FUNNY CAR - Eliminations Round #1

Chris Davis - 'Old School Nitro' (near lane) 
vs Jerry Eepeseth - 'Rolling Thunder 2.0' (far lane) - NFC --- Billy Morris - 'Problem Child' (near lane) 
vs James Day - 'Speed Sport Special' (far lane) - NFC

(LEFT) Nitro flopper eliminations began with a wire-to-wire win for Jerry Espeseth (far lane) as he left first by a tenth, and came close to matching his qualifying numbers with a 5.741 - 253.56 to run away from Chris Davis's good try 6.292 at a slowing 171.08 speed.

(RIGHT) The "Problem Child" Camaro of Eddie Knox and Billy Morris (near lane) was only a problem for opponent James Day in the far lane. The child dispatched Day's "Speed Sport" Omni with a career best 5.615 - 250.13 that took the winlight by two car lengths. Day left first by nearly half a tenth, and ran a very competitive 5.812 - 245.94 that just wasn't quick enough. At the top end it banged the blower, but the ensuing fire went out quickly.

Terry Haddock - 'Fool's Errand' (near lane) 
vs Bobby Cottrell - 'Bardhal Special' (far lane) - NFC --- Dan Horan - 'Infinity Plumbing' (near lane) vs 
Don Knoblouch - 'Atomic Punk' (far lane) - NFC

(LEFT) A race featuring the top and bottom qualifiers is usually a foregone conclusion, but as the old cliche goes "races are decided on the track, not paper". However, the name of Terry Haddock's car (near lane) was apropos as the "Fool's Errand" lost by several trainlengths to the all-conquering "Bardahl Special" driven by Bobby Cottrell. The decision was in little doubt right off the line, as Cottrell left first by a full tenth, then simply ran away from Haddock with a great 5.632 - 242.71 (even with the speed down a bunch) over an improving, but still outclassed, 6.180 - 234.00 for Haddock in his debut in the Heritage series.

(RIGHT) The next pairing featured the #2 and #15 qualifiers and with the huge speeds and quick e.t.'s consistently recorded by Dan Horan Jr. (near lane) made him the prohibitive favourite over Washington state's "Atomic Punk", driven by Don Knoblauch (far lane). Despite some "Big Show" help from Jeff Diehl at this event, Knoblauch never got a full pass on the boards in qualifying and ended up near the bottom of the field. On the green, neither driver left on time, but Horan's .175 easily outclassed Knoblauch's near-comatose .287 launch. From there to the finish line it was no contest as Horan turned on the winlight with a 5.960 251.58 to take out Knoblauch's improving but still lacking 6.201 - 199.88 effort. It looked a little closer than the numbers show as Horan was forced to pedal early in the run.

Justin Taylor - 'Evil, Wicked, Mean & Nasty' 
(near lane) vs Tony Jurado - 'Capitol Punishment' (far lane) - NFC --- Geoff Monise - 'Quarter Pounder' (near lane) vs 
Drew Austin - 'Pro Max' (far lane) - NFC

(LEFT) With the skies darkening late in the day, the next pair came up and the headers flames were more evident as prominent. In the near lane, second generation racer Justin Taylor (near lane) faced a very tough opponent in Tony Jurado (far lane). Taylor did his best, leaving first by a few hundredths and holding the lead until nearly the 1000' mark, before the big Jason Bunker horsepower took over and pushed Jurado to a very quick 5.638 - 258.17 to take the win over a fading, but valiant, 5.794 - 228.81 effort from Taylor.

(RIGHT) After a great qualifying pass of 5.681 (good for #6), the "Quarter Pounder", wheeled by Geoff Monise, looked to get past the "Pro-Max" team of the Austin family. Making his nostalgia funny car debut at this event, third generation racer Drew Austin made steady improvements during qualifying but faced a tenth of a second deficit coming into the opening round of eliminations. The race was over almost as it began, with Austin leaving first and Monise striking the tires almost immediately, shutting off to a 16-second e.t. as Austin kept the pedal down all the way to a new career best 5.720 - 253.61 and a date with Billy Morris in tomorrow's second round.

Rian Konno - 'Kazanjian, Lemon & Konno 
(near lane) vs Cory Lee - 'The Pedaler' (far lane) - NFC --- Matt Melendez - 'Cacklin' Critter' (near lane) vs 
Kamaka Pocock - 'California Hustler' (far lane) - NFC

(LEFT) The sharp looking Kazanjian, Lemon & Konno" Mustang (near lane) left with veteran big show racer Cory Lee in Gary Turner's "Pedaler" (far lane) but Lee steadily pulled away to take the win with a 5.705 - 258.86 over Konno's close, but not close enough 5.789 - 252.10 effort. The gap at the stripe was less than two car lengths in what was a close and entertaining race.

(RIGHT) The final race of the round was also the closest, as the "Cacklin' Critter" (near lane) left with the flames up, but driver Matt Melendez was three hundredths of a second behind Kamaka Pocock (far lane) in Don Nelson's "California Hustler". However, at the finish line Melendez turned on the winlight with a 5.729 - 240.94 to barely - and we mean just barely - outrun Pocock's 5.765 - 230.37 pass. The gap at the finish line was just six thousandths of a second and the low speed (only 230 mph) for Pocock might just have been the difference. An incredible race to conclude a great round of Nostalgia Funny Car racing.

NOSTALGIA TOP FUEL - Qualifying Session #3

Sunset over the olive groves

Due to a few oildowns during the other eliminator category eliminations, the final qualifying session for Nostalgia Top Fuel began with the sun fully set and the flames really starting to show.

Jim Murphy - 'WWIII' (near lane) vs 
Tyler Hester - 'Overtime Special' (far lane) - NTF --- Brendan Murry - 'Runnin' Wild' (near lane) vs 
Adam Sorokin - 'Champion Speed Shop Special' (far lane) - NTF

(LEFT) With the field already set when Dusty Green failed to better the 6.351 bump spot in the first pair of the round, the table was set for position changes for the remaining cars in the lanes. Sitting on that bump spot was Tyler Hester (far lane) in the "Overtime Special" and he managed to leapfrog over Jim Murphy (near lane) as neither driver made it to the finish line under power. Murphy's powerplant expired in a cloud of smoke at the 800' mark, clocking in at 6.266 - 144.00 as Hester made it a little further and quicker as his 6.216 - 181.59 moved him up to #6 and Murphy down to #7 on the ladder.

(RIGHT) Dropping down to the #8 spot was Brendan Murry (near lane) and he failed to retake the #7 spot as he left soft and was in trouble right away, as can be seen in the photo. In the far lane Adam Sorokin was running hot in the "Champion Speed Shop" small-block Chevy until he took out the 1000' cones and DQ'd both runs. That left both racers in their respective #3 (Sorokin) and #8 (Murry) positions on the qualifying sheet.

Tyler Hilton - 'Great Expectations III' - NTF --- Frank McBee Jr. - 'Valley Thunder' - NTF

(RIGHT) The final pair of Top Fuel qualifying was also a very special race-within-a-race in memory of longtime fuel racer Tom Shelar, the owner of the "High Speed Motorsports" team who passed away suddenlty two years ago. A group of companies, spearheaded by Custom Floaters put up a $12,000 winner take all purse for the two drivers with the best average elapsed times over the past year. We're not sure if the Tom Shelar Memorial Drag Race will become a fixture on the schedule but it was a very worthy memorial to a great drag racer.

In the near lane Frank McBee Jr. burned out in the "Valley Thunder" in preparation to face Bret Williamson in the "Forever Young" entry (not shown). They left together, but Williamson started opening a gap almost from the starting line and it was all over by half track when McBee lifted, making Williamson's 5.799 - 250.92 the winning time over McBee's slowing 8.200 - 102.05 effort. And that was it for Nostalgia Top Fuel qualifying.

AA/FUEL ALTERED - Qualifying Session #2

Brian Hope - 'Pure Hell' - AA/FA --- Brian Hope - 'Pure Hell' (near lane) vs 
Ron Hope - 'Rat Trap' - AA/FA

(LEFT) Burning out first in the near lane was Brian Hope in Rich Guasco's iconic "Pure Hell" '32 Bantam roadster as he prepared for his second and final qualifying session.

(RIGHT) Opposing Brian in the far lane was his father Ron Hope in the similarly historic "Rat Trap". Both racers sat at the bottom of the qualifying list with 12-second times in the first qualifier, and hoped for some serious improvment on the rapidly cooling track. It was over quickly as Ron Hope headed for the centerline again, and Brian sped to a much imrproved 6.642 - 216.24 to slide into the #5 position on the ladder.

Dan Pettinato - 'Rat Poison' - AA/FA --- Dan Pettinato - 'Rat Poison' (near lane) vs 
Randy Bradford - 'Bradford's Fiat' (far lane) - AA/FA

(LEFT) Leaving a nice trail of burnout smoke, South Carolina's Dan Pettinato in the "Rat Poison" looked to improve on his 9-second pass in the first session.

(RIGHT) Leaving first on opponent Randy Bradford (far lane) in the period correct "Bradford's Fiat", Pettinato ran into trouble first, striking the tires, then pedaling his way to a 9.062 - 124.40 pass, while Bradford headed for the centerline, lifted then limped to the finish line with an 11-second clocking.

Shawn Callen - 'High Heaven' - AA/FA --- Shawn Callen - 'High Heaven' (near lane) vs 
Kyle Hough - 'Nanook' (far lane) - AA/FA

(LEFT) Burning out in the "High Heaven" '32 Bantam is Shawn Callen in what was the Jackson Bros. AA/Fuel Altered of the early 70's, fully restored and running a big-block Chevy powerplant.

(RIGHT) Callen (near lane) left first, but started smoking the tires immediately and was forced to pedal before giving up on the run to the tune of a 10.177 - 95.96, while in the far lane, third-generation driver Kyle Hough nearly tagged the wall in the "Nanook" as he lumbered to a 10.901 - 69.86 pass. Obviously neither driver improved on their previous elapsed times and remained in their respective positions of #4 (Callen) and #6 (Hough).

Jeff Bennett - 'Pure Heaven' (near lane) vs 
Nick Van Horn - 'Panic!' (far lane) - AA/FA

Closing out qualifying for the Fuel Altereds was Jeff Bennett in the "Pure Heaven" (near lane) and Nick Van Horn in the "Panic" '32 Bantam. Both cars got down the track, with Van Horn getting out of shape and shutting off just past the 660' mark to a 7.791 - 120.16, while Bennett kept on it past the 1000' mark to record a 6.692 - 185.95 clocking. While Van Horn remained in the top qualifying spot with his earlier 5.948, Bennett's much improved 6.692 moved him up one spot to #6 on the ladder.

Unfortunately this is where our coverage ends as our photographer only had starting line access for the first two days of the event and didn't want to sit up in the grandstands and attempt to photograph over the heads of the other fans or the photographers lining the guardwall. The results for Sunday's eliminations are availalbe on the DRAG RACE CENTRAL website, our source for so much of the data we use in our coverage of all NHRA national, regional and Heritage Series races.