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The latest update as of October 30, 2019

California Hot Rod Reunion logo

We start today's coverage with the final qualifying sessions for Top Fuel and Funny Car from Saturday. The first trio of pictures could be sub-titled "So You Want To Drive a Front-Engine TOP FUEL Car?". Check out the closeup shots by clicking on the "thumbnail" images to see just what it's like at the far end of the track. Flames and smoke and lots of oil more times than you'd care to experience, but that's old-style Top Fuel racing.

Rick McGee - 'Overtime Special' --- Dusty Green - 'Triple Threat' --- Phil Ruskowski - 'Xhibitionist'

(LEFT) Check out the full-size image of Rick McGee's cowl and roll cage as he cruises through the top end; it's coated in oil, but that's pretty much normal for an AA/Fuel Dragster.

(CENTER) Oil coming out of the spark plug tubes is spraying Dusty Green as he crouches down in the cockpit to avoid another oil-bath.

(RIGHT) The third shot shows flames coming out of one header, smoke out of the other, and oil and other debris all over the cowl as Phil Ruskowski coasts to a stop in his Western Canadian fueler.


Going into the second qualifying session, all 14 of the cars in attendance had laid down a run, and only one (Bret Williamson), had failed to run at least a six-second pass. The bump spot stood at a soft 6.314 (Adam Sorokin), with just five cars in the 5-second zone already, so an all 5-second field was a definite possibility. As a bonus to the fans, a third qualifying session was added for the late afternoon, immediately before the first round of Funny Car eliminations.

Rick McGee - 'Overtime Special' --- Bret Williamson - 'Forever Young'

(LEFT) No improvement on his Friday 6.108 - 194.91 clocking saw Rick McGee drop from #6 to the bump spot in the "Overtime Special". With just one shot left to stay in the field, the team was looking vulnerable.

(RIGHT) On the other hand, Bret Williamson in the "Forever Young" entry stepped up big-time from a bottom of the pack 10-second pass to the #4 spot on the ladder with a solid 5.889 at an early shutoff (or piston-melting) 226.51 mph clocking.

Phil Ruskowski - 'Xhibitionist' --- Dusty Green - 'Triple Threat'

Here's two of the culprits from the oil-bath sequence at the top of this report with (LEFT) Victoria, BC's Phil Ruskowski reeling in the "Xhibitionist" after what must have been a career best - corrections invited - 6.474 - 218.48 pass. It wasn't perfect as it blew up big time on the top end and trailed smoke and flames through the shutdown area. Despite improving by 4-tenmths from Friday's pass, his efforts left the "Island Nitro" team in the #12 spot.

(RIGHT) Coming back to nostalgia Top Fuel racing, Dusty Green wheeled the "Triple Threat" car to a 6.192 at only 184 mph to move up one spot to #10 on the list, barely a tenth short of the bubble. If he could have kept on the throttle a little longer, he might have bumped his way into the field.

Most of the rest of the field, including the top three qualifiers failed to improve, and the only previously qualified car that stepped up was Adam Sorokin in the "Champion Speed Shop" entry who moved up one notch from the bump spot, carding a 6.069 that bested Friday's 6.314 by a full quarter-second. Getting bumped from the field was Tyler Hilton who fell from #7 to #11 as he couldn't improve on Friday's 6.282 in the Lee-family's "Great Expectations III".


The final qualifying session for the Funny Cars started with the bump spot held down by rookie at a decent, but not exactly heart-stopping 6.052 - 227.11. Sitting below him were a couple of hitters (Brad Thompson & Bill Windham) to make Gregory's position a precarious perch indeed. First out of the lanes were two of the non-qualifiers as they attempted to fight their way into the field.

Billy Morris - 'Problem Child' --- Brad Thompson - 'Jailbreak'

(LEFT) Leading off the session was #7 qualifier Billy Morris in the "Problem Child" Camaro, and he laid an absolute bomb on the field with a career best - and new low qualifying pass - of 5.631 - 255.59.

(RIGHT) With his back against the wall and just outside the field in the #17 spot with a 6.07 best on Friday, Brad Thompson stepped up too as his much improveed 5.783 at an early shutoff 228.23 vaulted the "Jailbreak" Camaro up to the #10 spot.

Dan Horan - 'Strive Testing' --- Kris Krabill - 'Cascade Automotive'

(LEFT) The next pair featured two racers on opposite sides of the field, with Dan Horan "Strive Testing" Camaro (what else?) knocking a full tenth off his very good 5.73 clocking on Friday, and fell just short of the top spot in the field with an excellent 5.634 - coupled with a big speed of 262.44.

(RIGHT) Not exactly breathing the rarified air at the top of the heap, "Hollywood" Kris Krabill was looking a little vulnerable in the #15 spot at 5.91 in his "Cascade Automotive" Camaro, but he put down a very solid 5.813 - 212.99 to tentatively pull up to the #14 spot. However, it evaporated as quick as the cloud of smoke at the finish line after Krabill's pass. An oildown DQ'd the pass and left Krabill in the #15 position.

Ryan Hodgson - 'Pacemaker'

Languishing all the way down in #14, Ryan Hodgson needed to pick up the pace in the (aptly named) "Pacemaker", and crew chief Bob Papirnick found the combination as Hodgson ran a class leading 5.622 - 250.41 to move up to the #1 slot.

Mike Halstead - 'Smokey's Darkside' --- Danny Gerber - 'Wasn't Easy'

(LEFT) On the outside looking in after Friday's two sessions, with a best of 6.182 was Mike Halstead in the "Smokey's Darkside" Challenger, but he didn't give up without a fight as his piston-burning 6.042 pass at a "pedal to the metal" 239.82 mph showed.

(RIGHT) Sitting at the absolute bottom - as in a best pass of 20+ seconds was Danny Gerber in the aptly named "Wasn't Easy" Firebird, but he jumped right into the field with a career best 5.80 - 240.38 to make it an all 5-second field and put himself in #14.

Justin Taylor - 'Evil, Wicked, Mean & Nasty' --- Matt Melendez - 'Cacklin' Critter'

(LEFT) Second generation racer Justin Taylor in the "Evil, Wicked, Mean & Nasty" tribute Mustang was sitting somewhat comfortably in the field with a career best 5.810 (#15), a full tenth in front of the 5.910 bump spot (Kris Krabill) but he didn't sit on his earlier best, as he pounded out an even (slightly) better 5.809 - 245.67, remaining in the #15 position.

(LEFT) Already well into the field with an earlier 5.795 pass on Friday, Matt Melendez backed it up with a very good, but no better, 5.863 in the "Cacklin' Critter" Challenger to remain in the lucky #13 slot. A little extra excitement was added to the run when he got the rear wheels off the asphalt in the deep end.

Jerry Espeseth - 'Rolling Thunder 2.0' (left) - Jeff Arend - 'California Hustler' (right) --- Jerry Espeseth - 'Rolling Thunder 2.0'

(LEFT) Here's a great side-by-side chute shot with Jerry Espeseth in the ex-Jason Rupert "Rolling Thunder 2.0" car (left) slowing down beside Jeff Arend in Don Nelson's "California Hustler" (right). Both racers were already well into the field, but Arend - the points leader going into the CHRR - wanted to move up from his #9 position and he did so in a BIG way, erasing his earlier best of 5.776 with an excellent 5.662 - 255.92 to climb all the way to the #5 spot on the leadder.

(RIGHT) Not improving though was Jerry Espeseth as his Friday best of 5.795 wasn't bettered by his 5.812 on this pass, leaving the "Rolling Thunder 2.0" Camaro in #12.

After Espeseth and Arend ran, the session closed with a pair of single runs, as Cory Lee and Bill Windham attempted to fight their way into eliminations, but neither racer was able to improve as they both shut off at half track to set the field for the first round scheduled for the late afternoon.


Kyle Hough - 'Nanook' --- Rodney Flournoy - 'Godzilla'

After languishing in the pits for two days, the AA (Awful Awful) Fuel Altereds made their first appearance of the weekend, led off by (LEFT) Kyle Hough in the family-owned-driven-tuned "Nanook" facing (RIGHT) the "Godzilla" car of the Flournoy family, wheeled by Rodney Flournoy. They didn't disappoint as Hough led the way to the finish line, stopping the clocks first with a nice 6.443 - 228.34 to eclipse Flournoy's early shut-off 6.808 - 193.65 pass.

Jason Richey - ' The Patriot' --- Shane Harter - 'Dave Benjamin' (rear) - Jeff Bennett - 'Pure Heaven III' (front)

(LEFT) The second pair saw the Jason Richey-driven "Patriot" move to the top of the heap with a very good 6.173 - 224.70 to pull away from James Day in the "Good News Coupe", as he carded a 6.529 - 205.98

(RIGHT) In a shot that you don't see too often, Jeff Bennett in the Leon Fitzgerald-tuned "Pure Heaven III" Bantam roadster, leads the Dave Benjamin car (driven by Shane Harter) through the shutdown area. Bennett turned a good 6.606 - 196.50 number, but just past the finish line made an abrupt left turn into Harter's lane.

Shane Harter - 'Dave Benjamin' --- Ron Hope - 'Rat Trap'

(LEFT) Here's a better view of the Benjamin car (truck?) with fellow Washingtonian Shane Harter at the wheel. He was on a good pass against Bennett, leading him until the blower belt departed at the 1000 ft mark, and slowing him to a 6.789 - 166.95 clocking

(RIGHT) In the final pairing of the AA/Fuel Altrereds, ageless veteran Ron Hope whipped the "Rat Trap" to a 6.733 - 193.63 to easily take the measure of "Iron" Mie Boyd in the (in)famous "Winged Express" of Al "Mousie" Marcellus. Boyd left the line with Hope, but took out the 330 ft timing block and joined Hope in the right lane until he weaved his way back into the left lane just after half track.


Going into the final session, the Top Fuel field stretched from Mendy Fry's leading 5.595 down to the bump spot 6.108 held by Rick McGee. Trailing him were six racers with clockings ranging from 6.177 to 6.623. With 14 cars in the pits, the battle to make the "Quick 8" was more intense than seen since the CHRR had 15 AA/FD entries in 2016.

The first pair out of the lanes showed that there was going to be some movement on the ladder, as Dan Horan Jr. moved from #6 to #4, picking up from a previous 5.98 best to a 5.942 time. Two pairs later, both lanes saw some much better numbers on the scoreboards, as Pete Wittenberg pushed the "Circuit Breaker" to a great 5.691 - 252.27 to jump from #5 to #2, just a few hundreths behind low qualifier Mendy Fry. In the other lane, Rick McGee moved off the bump spot (6.108) to #6 with a solid 5.899 at only 223.99. Both runs were career bests for their respective drivers.

Tyler Hilton - 'Great Expectations III' --- Bryan Hall - 'H & H Nomad'

(LEFT) With the bump spot now down to 6.069 (held by Adam Sorokin), all eyes were on Tyler Hilton in the Lee-family "Great Expectations III" and he delivered with a last ditch 5.982 - 235.19 to bump Sorokin from the field and take over the bubble. But the good news story for the Hilton-Lee camp ended in the very next pair as Frank McBee Jr. in the Valley Thunder car turned a - stop me if you've heard this one before - career best of 5.901 - 249.90 to take the #7 spot and move Dan Horan Jr. down to the new #8 slot at 5.942 - 248.48.

(RIGHT) Down to his last chance, rookie Top Fuel pilot Bryan Hall in the H&H Nomad came into the session in the #9 spot at 6.177 and needed to pick up more than two tenths to make the cut for Sunday's eliminations. He gave it his best shot, posting a 6.134 - 225.26 but it left him well outside the field in the #10 spot. Still, not a bad debut for the new team.

Rick White - 'Neal & White'

We knew the hits couldn't keep coming in every pair down the track - or could they? - but Rick White in the Neal & White fueler failed to improve on his #4 position courtesy of an earlier 5.793 shot. After so many great pairings and bump after bump, career best after career best, the session closed with a cloud of piston (and other parts) smoke as non-qualifying Brendan Murray blew it up just past half track.


Matt Bynum (left) vs Tony Jurado (right) --- Ryan Hodgson (left) vs Kris Krabill (right)

(LEFT) The first pair of eliminations featured Matt Bynum in the "Nitro Nick" Camaro (left side) matched against Tony Jurado in the "Capitol Punishment" ....Camaro and they put on a good race to kick things off. The higher qulified Bynum slowed a quarter second from 5.69 to a 5.940 at a piston-burning 205.40 mph, while Jurado picked up half a tenth and turned on the winlight with a very good 5.730 - 245.23 to advance to Sunday's quarter-final.

(RIGHT) It was the top against the bottom in the second pair as top qualifier Ryan Hodgson (left side) in the "Pacemaker" car lined up against "Hollywood" Kris Krabill and the race held true to form as a late-leaving Hodgson caught Krabill at the 1000 ft mark and put up a scoreboard-busting 5.635 - 249.90 to oust Krabill's 5.895 at a very early shut-off 196.79 mph.

Justin Taylor (left) vs Billy Morris (right) --- Bobby Cottrell (left) vs Matt Melendez 'Cacklin' Critter'(right)

(LEFT) In a big upset, the #15 qualified Justin Taylor (left side) treed Billy Morris (.130 to .196) and ran away from him with a great 5.869 - 232.19 pass. Morris in the "problem Child" got out of shape, nailed the half track speed block and shut off to a losing 6.648 - 150.68. With the win, Taylor earned the right to face Tony Jurado in the second round, albeit without lane choice.

(RIGHT) The first race with championship implications came up next, as Bobby Cottrell in the "Austin & O'Brien" Camaro faced off against darkhorse Matt Melendez (right side) in his "Cacklin' Critter" (not a Camaro!) Challenger. If you discount the reaction times (.109 to .162 in Cottrell's favour), Melendez held the lead until nearly half track, but truthfully, he was behind from the starting line and shut off a little early to a losing 5.880 - 209.46 against Cottrell's very good 5.722 - 247.47. The second round will see Cottrell facing Jeff Arend (if Arend gets past Jerry Espeseth) in a full-tilt showdown that could decide the 2019 Heritage Series Funny Car title.

Dan Horan - 'Strive Testing' --- Jeff Arend - 'California Hustler'

(LEFT) After a lengthy cleanup necessitated by some major internal destruction of Matt Melendez's engine in the previous pair, the third championship contender, Dan Horan Jr., came up to face Danny Gerber's "Wasn't Easy" Trans-Am. It was a close race until half trck, with Gerber leaving first and leading until he started to spin the tires and shutoff to an 8.107 - 96.14, while Horan kept the candles lit all the way to a winning 5.802 - 254.47 (BIG speed!) to keep his championship hopes alive.

(RIGHT) The final challenger for the championship, Jeff Arend, driving Don Nelson's beautiful "California Hustler" Firebird, faced a tough opponent in Jerry Espeseth. The former Jason Rupert car - also tuned by Rupert at this race - was ready to give Arend a battle but Espeseth forgot to leave the line on time (.238 light!) and was never in the fight despite a very good 5.780 - 252.66 pass. It was all academic as Arend left first and posted the better looking scoreboard: 5.721 - 249.30 and the all-important winlight.

Brad Thompson - 'Jailbreak' --- James Day - 'Speed Sport'

(LEFT) With two pairs left to run and the skies darkening by the minute, the pace got even quicker as Brad Thompson in the "Jailbreak" Camaro blasted out the second quickest run of the round, with his 5.677 - 244.78 easily covered James Day's 7.056 - 184.85 in Jim Maroney's "Speed Sport" Omni tribute car.

(RIGHT) The picture shows what happened as Day lit the tires on the launch and was several car lengths behind as he passed the tree. It was game over in a hurry, but Day got on it again and was up to 200 mph at the 1000 ft mark before shutting off for good.

Steven Densham - 'Teacher's Pet'

The final race of the round was an absolute "pick-'em" affair, as Steven Densham in the "Teacher's Pet" left first by three hundreths of a second and held on for the win over Rian Konno in the "Konno, Lemon & Kazanjian" tribute Mustang by a margin of just ONE THOUSANDTH of a second. The numbers were Densham 5.807- 242.19 versus Konno's 5.779 - 250.04 as the two competitors closed out the first round of eliminations in spectacular fashion.


Kyle Hough - 'Nanook' --- Ron Hope - 'Rat Trap'

(LEFT) The fabled "Nanook" ,with three generations of the Hough family involved, paired up against Jason Richey in his "Patriot" and it wasn't even close as young Kyle Hough blasted out an excellent 6.173 - 223.14 to obliterate Richey's out of shape and slowing 8.907 - 122.68 effort.

(RIGHT) Next up were Ron Hope in the "Rat Trap" against Rodney Flournoy and "Godzilla". Both cars put down decent passes, with Flournoy taking the winlight at 6.78 - 202 mph to cover Hope's slower 7.065 but faster 215 mph run.

--- Jeff Bennett - 'Pure Heaven III' Mike Boyd - 'Winged Express'

(LEFT) The last pair of Fuel Altereds was to feature James Day in the "Good News Coupe" against Jeff Bennett in the "Pure Heaven III", but Day lost fire before the burnout and could only sit and watch Bennett make a single pass. Jeff made the most of his opportunity as he cranked out a good 6.74 - 204 mph pass.

(RIGHT) To close out the day/night, the ageless "Winged Express" of Marcellus & Borsch, ably driven by "Iron" Mike Boyd came up to make a solo pass. Unable to be competitive against the more technically advanced AA/FA's, it still puts on quite a show and didn't disappoint as the car moved from left to right and back again at the 800 ft makr, eventually changing lanes at 1000 ft and crossing the finish line in the other lane. Just another day at the "office" for Boyd.


It's not too often that the "Backup Girls" make a serious appearance at the races, but the nostalgia/heritage races bring out the best of them and we're lucky that Bob Snyder was close enough to the action to grab a few good shots. Remember, it's all in good fun and just like all the retro names on the cars, it adds an element to the show.

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