The 19th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion Presented by Automobile Club of Southern California

March 23rd, 2011

Text by Pete Ward

Photos by Lou Hart, James Drew, Doug Adams and Pete Ward

A Living, Breathing History Lesson With a Shot of Nitro

The California Hot Rod Reunion—you must attend, I repeat, you must attend!

If you truly love this sport, you need to make a pilgrimage to Bakersfield for the reunion.  And you need to come real quick, like this year, for sure.  Each year is like the racing equivalent of the Woodstock Music Festival, once it’s over, you just can’t recapture that piece of history.

Every fall it’s the great Drag Racer Migration takes place. Thousands of people from all over the world find their way to Fomosa. Among them are those who made this sport what it is today.  There’s no other venue on this planet where you can interact with Ed Iskenderian, Don Long, Bob Creitz, Bennie Osborn, McEwen and Prudhomme, Raymond Beadle, Art Chrisman and dozens of other history makers.

And it’s not just the human element. At least 70 lovingly restored or recreated drag cars rolled in and almost 50 of them were cacklers. In this era of butt-ugly slab-sided Top Fuel dragsters and vinyl-wrapped Funny Cars, these classics are truly works of mechanical art.

The main focus may not be the racing, but it was strong. A jaw-dropping, eye-watering 37 Nitro Floppers make a lap, plus a couple more, but for one reason or another, never made it to the staging lanes. The entry list read like it was straight from the early ‘80s. The Blue Max(s), both Harry Schmidt Mustang and Raymond Beadle Arrow versions, were there. Raymond Beadle, “Waterbed” Fred Miller, D. Gantt and Dale Emery (actually tuning) were on hand to support Ronny Young. Candies and Hughes, War Eagle, Coors Corvette, Teacher’s Pet, LA Hooker, Jungle Jim and Brand X also made the roster.

In the end, it was current Nostalgia Funny Car heavyweights vying for the win, Leah Pruett-LeDuc and Mark Hentges. Due to a hellacious storm that blew through Sunday afternoon, bringing rain on Monday, the finals were scheduled to be contested at the NHRA Auto Club Finals at Pomona. An unfortunate set of circumstances on Sunday evening precluded them from being contested. Leah had sewed up the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series N/FC Championship during eliminations at The Reunion.

Nostalgia Top Fuel was also strong (just not as).  Once again names from the past appeared: Adam Sorokin, son of Surfer legend Mike, and Tim Beebe, tuning Jim Murphy. In the weeks-delayed final round, Adam left first then faltered, giving the Hot Rod Reunion win to Brett Harris. He may have lost the battle, but he won the war, capturing the Heritage Racing Series Championship at Bakersfield during Sunday eliminations.

In addition to the nitro warriors, the Sportsman racers (the backbone of our sport) put on a spectacular show. Unfortunately, the foul weather dealt them a nasty blow. A/Fuel, Jr. Fuel, A/Gas and AA/Gas, 7.0 Pro and Nostalgia Eliminator divided the purse equally, and the lowest elapsed time of each class in the previous round was awarded the trophy.

Now, break out your 2011 calendar, circle Oct. 21-23 and start making plans to attend the 20th anniversary of the California Hot Rod Reunion.  While you’re at it, you need to stop by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum at the Pomona, California, Fairplex, you’ll be tickled pink you did. And who knows, you might run into Ed Pink while you’re there.

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