(Photos by Mike Burghardt, Jeff Burghardt, Big Bob Snyder, Zane McNary, Zak Hawthorne and Darr Hawthorne) – The legendary March Meet, now presented by Good Vibrations Motorsports, has always attracted the best wanting to race against the best. The event has always attracted the best nitro racers from all over the nation and Canada and this year’s crème de la crème is no exception. With no nitro funny car competition in the seemingly aimless IHRA this year a few AA/FC owners and drivers are looking to the great traction at Auto Club Famoso Raceway to capture one of the special trophies and place their names firmly into the record book as winner of the 2017 Good Vibrations March Meet.
This event begins the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series season, but the March Meet is much more than a sanctioning body, and without a show of Cacklefest™ cars as featured at the Reunions, this is a drag race – pure and simple!
There are a couple of us nitro fanatics who follow the funny car class closely and with this column predict the Vegas-style odds for an often tricky nitro group, so we’ve enlisted the the old Funny Car Gypsy as our spokesperson to lay out the “educated guesses” in the newly finished Famoso Raceway Winners Circle.
Thanks to the Bowser family, racing will again be here on BangShift LIVE, but as always if you are within 200 miles of McFarland, California, get off your ass and attend the Good Vibrations March Meet. With over fifty nitro cars predicted, between funny cars, both front-motored and rear-engined top fuel and nearly two dozen wild fuel altereds, this is an event to experience!
(1-1 Even money) Jason Rupert – Littlefield & Rupert “Black Plague” ’69 Camaro – tough to bet against this team of touring “pros”, but they have the combination to break the 5.50 elapsed time barrier. Won the 2016 IHRA Championship, ’16 California Hot Rod Reunion, three-time NHRA and now a three-time IHRA Champ. A Legends of Nitro 260 Club Member.
(2-1) Kris Krabill – “Northwest Hitter” Victory ’69 Camaro – 2016 Heritage Series Champion, another who is capable of running the table at Famoso. Heritage Series ET record holder. Their new swoopy body and Victory chassis in the hands of co-owners Bucky Austin and Mike O’Brien with driver Krabill make for a formidable hand of Aces and a seasoned crew of wild cards ready to repeat their championship form with a new sponsor. A Legends of Nitro 260 Club Member.
(2.5-1) Ryan Hodgson – “Pacemaker” Victory ’69 Camaro – still holds onto the NHRA Heritage Series mile per hour record with tuning by Bob Papirnick, this Canadian Hall of Fame crew chief and crew could make it to the final round against either Krabill or Rupert. A Legends of Nitro 260 Club Member.
(2.5-1) Mike McIntire Jr – “McAttack” ’70 Camaro – a strong IHRA competitor and event winner who has run consistent 5.60s & 5.70s and on Sunday could end up in the Final Round on his first trip to the March Meet. A Legends of Nitro 260 Club Member
(3-1) Steven Densham – “Teacher’s Pet” ‘69 Camaro – was the 2015 Heritage Series Champion and with pops Gary Densham as crew chief, there may not be a more consistent funny car in the pits.
(3-1) John Hale – “One Bad Texan” ’69 Camaro – a two-time DRO funny car series champion has a newly wrapped transporter and a couple of years under his belt driving the thunderous Big Show funny car owned by Big Jim Dunn. He’s back in this Guy Tipton-tuned flopper and ready for the final round, team has a dogfight to get there. A Legends of Nitro 260 Club Member
(4-1) Dan Horan Jr – “Patriot” Victory ’69 Camaro – the 2014 Heritage Series and multi-event Champion was talking retirement, but this is the March Meet and he’s back with David Fears, tuner John Stewart and funny car legend Dale Pulde on the phone. A Legends of Nitro 260 Club Member
(6-1) Richard Townsend – “Nitroholic” ’69 Camaro – coming off an up and down 2016 season, co-owner Dustin Davis and crew chief Kevin Poynter have found the Winners Circle, over the winter the team mounted a new body. Should qualify in the top half of the field.
(6-1) Tim Nemeth – “Iceman” ’78 Pontiac Firebird – another IHRA winner and hard charger from Canada, has shown glimpses of greatness. A strong dark horse in this field.
(7-1) Mike Peck – “California Hustler” ’78 Pontiac Firebird – Northwest driver is new to funny car racing, but is a multi-time event winner in 7.0 Pro. Pro tuner Ronnie Swearingen and solid crew found the 5.60’s at 259+ during the ’16 Reunion.
(8-1) James Day – “Pedaler” Dodge Challenger – famed owner Gary Turner and strong team have multiple visits to the Famoso Raceway Winners Circle, must find the 5.60’s to get to the finals and attend more races.
(9-1) Bill Windham – “Shakedown” ’69 Camaro – Windham has driven just about every kind of drag racer, not new to nitro drag racing, smart dude, and another strong dark horse with a pedal clutch.
(9-1) Matt Bynum – “Nitro Nick” ’70 Camaro – owner Cecil Matthews and the team had some hard luck, but always come together for the big races. Matt works on the DHL Toyota funny car and has a direct line to Kalitta Racing and clutch guru Nicky Boninfante.
(10-1) Marc Meadors – “Good Times” ’70 Camaro – GoodGuys team took the year off to rebuild with new chassis after kissing the Famoso wall. Beautiful car with seasoned driver and dedicated crew. Stayed late over testing weekend to fix some engine oiling issues. Should qualify in the top half of the field.
(10-1) Don Hudson – “Sizemore Construction Special” ’78 Pontiac Firebird – Central California Coast team, good running car, smart driver with lots of funny car seat time. Should qualify well with a pedal clutch.
(11-1) Rian Konno – “Kazanjian Lemon & Konno” ’73 Mustang – Hawaiian Roland Leong has helped with the tune-up on the classic nitro team’s funny car, back strong for 2017.
(12-1) Rick O’Rogers – “Fighting Irish” ’76 Camaro – one of the best-looking cars out there, with smart tuning advanced in eliminations at the ’16 Reunion with an awesome pit kitchen and chefs.
(12-1) John Weaver – “Dream Weaver” ’77 Plymouth Arrow – former Del Worsham funny car, could be a dream race for the team, look for a strong performance.
(13-1) Brad Thompson – “Jailbreak” ’76 Camaro – crew changes with a talented driver, needs to find and repeat their old 5.60’s form.
(13-1) Chris Davis – “Old School Nitro” ’77 Plymouth Arrow – great looking funny car with good showings in the Northwest, has developed a strong tune-up with hard working crew.
(13-1) Dean Oberg – “Holy Toledo” Jeep – shares the pits with the “Fighting Irish”, has won here at Famoso Raceway and should qualify well, need to bring this cool car out more.
(13-1) Shawn Van Horn – “Choo Choo Mama” ’78 Pontiac Firebird – fuel altered guys who have come over to the fuel funny car side and have a shot at qualifying.
(15-1) Mike Halstead – “Code Red” ’70 Camaro – owner Lee Jennings knows just about every tuning trick, they need to race more.
(15-1) Danny Gerber – “Wasn’t Easy” ‘78 Pontiac Firebird – hard to pick this one, sometimes strong qualifying effort. A longshot.
Let the wagering begin, although we make no guarantees for a Vegas-like payout. Here’s this year’s pack of Nitro Funny Cars and their odds, the weather looks good this week for Auto Club Famoso Raceway!