(Photos by: Mike Burghardt, Jeff Burghardt, Tim Marshall, Paul Schmitz, Zak Hawthorne & Darr Hawthorne)
Every year, an awesome field of nitro cars assemble for the biggest race in nostalgia racing, the Good Vibrations March Meet. This year, there are over two dozen nitro funny cars pre-entered, but some of the traditional west coast “players” are heading for a big money IHRA race in Florida, scheduled for the same date. However there are plenty of players at Famoso Raceway this weekend!
With this assembly of nitro funny cars there could be some surprises in qualifying and eliminations, so the BangShift Gypsy set about to make an educated guess on the outcome over the coming week at legendary Auto Club Famoso Raceway. NHRA added 50 pounds to the AA/FC’s for 2016, without much fanfare, but many of these ground-pounders were already near or above the newly-mandated 2,300 pound weight.
Print out this handy spotters guide while you walk the pits at Famoso or watch the Bangshift live stream and the pit reports from Donnie Couch and Darr Hawthorne over the weekend.
Here are the Nitro Funny Car Gypsy’s picks and odds for the 2016 Good Vibrations March Meet:
Frank and Debra Ousley’s “Crop Duster” ’77 Chevrolet Monza (Odds: 3-1)
Over the snowy Illinois winter, the Monza body received some new modifications, best hope for the Midwest fans with Marc White in the seat – who qualified third at the 24th California Hot Rod Reunion.
Ryan Hodgson “Oceanus Special” ’69 Chevrolet Camaro (Odds: 2-1)
The 24th California Hot Rod Reunion winner also set the NHRA Heritage Series record with his 5.64 seconds elapsed time running 262.28 miles per hour in the first qualifying session. The provocative Victory Race Cars body has received NHRA Tech Department’s mandated “modifications” and hits the ground with a Canadian Hall of Fame crew… the one to watch!
Steven Densham’s “Teacher’s Pet” ’69 Chevrolet Camaro (Odds: 2-1)
The 2015 March Meet winner and NHRA Heritage Series Champion is quiet and awesome, again with veteran funny car pilot and father Gary Densham calling the shots, steady bracket-like runs will make this team hard to beat, they speak with horsepower.
Don Nelson’s “California Hustler” ’77 Pontiac Firebird (Odds 2-1)
A strong team that ran bracket-like 5.70’s @ 255 mph in testing two weeks ago and even lower on Wednesday before the March Meet. The Hustler made it to two final rounds in Boise and driver Cory Lee won a September Saturday Nite Nitro at Famoso in his first outing. Crew chief Ronnie Swearingen and Cory Lee are simpatico.
Austin & O’Brien’s “Northwest Hitter” ’78 Pontiac Firebird (Odds: 2-1)
Another 5.70 elapsed time funny car, Bucky Austin has this Hitter swinging for the Winners Circle fence. Cagey driver Kris Krabill probably has more nostalgia funny car passes than anyone in the field, he won the Championship in 2006. 2015 Nightfire Nationals win in Boise, it’s hard to bet against these guys. Note: it’s Krabill’s birthday this week.
Dan Horan’s “Patriot” ’69 Chevrolet Camaro (Odds: 3-1)
New body with new paint scheme… he got it down the track with 5.90’s in testing two weeks ago, but probably wasn’t showing his hand for this 2014 NHRA Heritage Series Champion. This new Victory Race Cars body has received NHRA Tech Department’s mandated “modifications” as well.
Richard Townsend’s “Nitrohaulic” ’69 Chevrolet Camaro (Odds: 3-1)
This Oildale-based crew is solid, with a Heritage Series win in 2015, good driver who loves driving a funny car, these guys make the horsepower with Kevin Poynter tuning. The Magic 8 Ball likes this team!
Gary Turner’s “Pedaler” ’79 Dodge Challenger (Odds: 3-1)
This team has the horsepower and driver James Day has held the Wally in the Winners Circle before. Off season Crew Chief change, but Gary Turner knows how to win, he’s done it before in multiple classes!
Kazanjian, Lemon & Konno ’73 Ford Mustang (Odds: 5-1)
Driver Rian Konno is in sync with his funny car and you’ll probably see the Hawaiian lurking around this Mustang in the pits – these guys are smart, a win waiting to happen.
Wally Giavia’s “G-Men” ’79 Dodge Challenger (Odds: 6-1)
This Oregon veteran nitro team has some new crew onboard, Pete Jensen takes a break from his Cheap Chard tour and he knows nitro in funny cars and dragsters. These guys are street fighters!
Cruz Pedregon’s “California Charger” ’77 Pontiac Firebird (Odds: 5-1)
Cruz run’s 3.90s in 1,000 feet in the Mello Yello series, but two Famoso DNQ’s in this beauty has left these Big Show guys hungry. Longtime Crew Chief Tony Shortall needs to think smaller, he has only 3,500 horsepower to work with, the driver knows his stuff.
Matthews Motorsports’ ’69 Ford Mustang (Odds: 5-1)
Matt Bynum drives this new Mustang, replacing the crashed “Nitro Nick” Vega funny car. In his first outing has shown strength, the driver is a natural and works hard on the Championship Kalitta funny car – Chad’s emotional favorite to sit in the Winner’s Circle on Sunday.
Dennis Swearingen’s “Nitro Cowboy” ’79 Dodge Onmi (Odds: 8-1)
Dennis had some strong performances last year, plenty of experience. Watch for long burnouts and his patented dry hops on the starting line.
Tim Nemeth “Iceman” ’77 Pontiac Firebird (Odds: 3-1)
A late March Meet entry, this busy Canadian skipped the 2015 Reunion and he has the tune-up to qualify #1, eh. This funny car hauls ass!
Don Hudson’s “Sizemore Special” ’77 Pontiac Firebird (Odds 5-1)
This Central California Coast team has improved at every recent meet, former Alky funny car driver has some smart dudes on the crew. The Gypsy’s longshot for a Final round appearance. Note: it’s Don Hudson’s birthday this week.
John Weaver’s “Dream Weaver” ’78 Plymouth Arrow (Odds: 4-1)
This is an ex-Worsham Racing (Drink Hard Racing) funny car that’ll have a good chance in the final rounds, don’t be surprised to see a bunch of Kalitta Racing crew members hanging in the pits. Weaver knows his stuff.
Alex and Marcie Miladinovich’s “Hot 4 Teacher” “69 Ford Mustang (Odds: 7-1)
Good runner, smart driver, a break in eliminations could boost the chances of making it to the Semi’s. They may have lost the gremlins and picked up some new sponsors.
Brad Thompson’s “Jailbreak” ’78 Chevrolet Camaro (Odds: 6-1)
This team ran a thundering 5.60 ET, but not recently, smart driver and first class crew, just need a break or two.
Gerber Racing’s “Wasn’t Easy” ’77 Pontiac Firebird (Odds 11-1)
Driver Danny Gerber ran better than most in their Winternationals exhibition passes at Pomona Raceway.
Marcus Lawson’s “No Secrets” ’77 Pontiac Firebird (Odds: 7-1)
Lawson hired a new Crew Chief with lots of tricks up his sleeve, could make the semi’s with a few breaks.
Charlie O’Neill’s “Fighting Irish” ’73 Chevrolet Camaro (Odds: 7-1)
Driver Rick Rogers should qualify well in this awesome racecar, great crew, great chef. Watch for their matching rear engine dragster to run well, too.
Chris Davis’ “Old School Nitro” ’78 Plymouth Arrow (Odds: 7-1)
There’s a new body, new paint after Spokane mishap, but these guys are smart racers and could make Semi’s. Another of the Gypsy’s picks.
Claude LaVoie’s “Sandman Special” ’72 Plymouth Satellite (Odds: 7-1)
Hard charging Mopar, Claude is a smart driver who knows the win light in other classes. Makes traditional, old school horsepower.
Van Gundy & Clark’s “Quarter Pounder” ’77 Chevrolet Monza (Odds: 10-1)
New driver Pete Peterson has shown he can handle the wheel, great looking funny car tuned by a veteran, dedicated crew. Get well soon Dale Van Gundy!
Cousimano Racing “Nitro Mafia” “78 Plymouth Arrow (Odds: 22-1)
Driver Scott Cousimano and Pops have been absent from the nitro funny car scene, might be tough to qualify. Needs to make laps in this tough field.
Will Martin’s “Speed Racer” ’79 Dodge Omni (Odds:
Was headed to the March Meet, but will hopefully catch the Heritage Series tour in Boise for the Ignitor.
There are always a few racecars who show up for the best drag race on the West Coast, at press time, this is the most complete list available.
The Gypsy’s Reminder: If you utilize these odds for betting, you are on your own.