(Words by All American Fuel Dragsters – Photos by Chris & Tera Graves and Darr Hawthorne) Mendy Fry and High Speed Motorsports Run Career Best Quickest Elapsed Times in Top Fuel Victory.
Mendy Fry emerged as the March Meet Top Fuel Champion after what had grown to five days of side-by-side drag racing at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield. Fry drove the High-Speed Motorsports AA/Fuel dragster to the win in a final round matchup against Jim Murphy in the Roland Leong-tuned WW2 entry. Fry staged and ran a full pass on a single with a 5.598-second elapsed time at 252.66 MPH after Murphy lost fire, breaking a fuel pump drive on the burnout.
Fry is the first woman to win the March Meet since 1982 when Lucille Lee bested Shirley Muldowney in what was the first all-female Top Fuel final ever. Fry was overwhelmed with emotion after her March Meet win both on the top end and back in the pits.
“It has been so much work to get here. These guys have given me a shot at the best ride I’ve ever had. I can’t express what that means to me. It’s overwhelming”, said Fry.
Fry emerged triumphant after near tragedy in Thursday night Top Fuel testing session when the input shaft broke on the hit, grenading the clutch. The bell housing safely contained the parts, but the disintegrated clutch left the High-Speed team working night into morning, borrowing parts from multiple teams. The team then grabbed the coveted #8 qualifying slot and into March Meet history.
March Meet Top Fuel racing action was as frenetic as it was close. Pete Wittenberg took a Round One win in his Hemi-powered Circuit Breaker with a 5.78-second ET in a tight race over Adam Sorokin’s 5.81-second ET in the Champion Speed Shop small block Chevrolet dragster. Sorokin got out on Wittenberg with a hole shot but the Circuit Breaker held onto the power through the lights for the win by a slim margin at the finish line.
The Sunday Round One battle continued as Bret Williamson drove the Mike Fuller “Forever Young” dragster to a win light over Dusty Green in the “Nitro-Hemi” dragster. Williamson got the hole shot and 5.90-second ET at 249 MPH over Dusty Green in the Nitro-Hemi.
Mendy Fry’s historic March Meet winning elapsed time echoed her earlier 5.59-second 249 MPH blast in Round One Eliminations that put 2016 points champion and 2017 March Meet #1 qualifier Tony Bartone back on the trailer to Long Island City, New York. Bartone double stepped then crossed the centerline out of the gate to foul out of eliminations.
Jim Murphy powered his WW2 dragster to a 5.71-second 243 MPH Round One win against Rick McGee in the Overtime Special. McGee had the better reaction time but lost traction after some wheelspin and drifted towards the wall before bouncing the Hemi-powered AA/Fuel dragster through the lights behind Murphy.
The Semi-Finals saw Mendy Fry trip up the Circuit Breaker with a half-track pedal and 5.78-second 220 MPH run that sent Pete Wittenberg back to Anaheim, California. Wittenberg had just earned his Top Fuel license on Thursday night in the Pete Kaiser tuned Circuit Breaker. Jim Murphy took a Semi-Final win with a 5.63-second 244 MPH run after Bret Williamson smoked the tires on the hit and set the stage for the Final Round matchup against Mendy Fry.
Ten front-engine Top Fuel dragsters made it to the March Meet for qualifying but in the end, there was only room for eight contenders. Brendan Murry could not get his Hemi-powered Running Wild dragster moving quick enough and Phil Ruskowski from Canada did not get his pedal clutch equipped small block Chevrolet-powered AA/Fuel dragster into the show. Rain delayed Sunday Eliminations in the morning and again in the late afternoon as precipitation and an increasingly cold track surface prompted race officials to push the final round matchup into Monday.
While a broken fuel pump drive and push back out of the race was not the way Murphy would have preferred things to play out, he congratulated Mendy on her historic win and looked forward into the season of NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Top Fuel Racing action and run at the points championship. “It just wasn’t meant to be. It was a good weekend all in all. That could have happened in the first round. The championship is our ultimate goal”, said Murphy.
Next stop for the All American Fuel Dragsters coalition and nostalgia drag racing action is Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky for the Holley National Hot Rod Reunion June 15-17. The full 2017 racing schedule is available at the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series.