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Barnstormin’: Why The March Meet Still Matters

Barnstormin’: Why The March Meet Still Matters

If drag racing truly has hallowed ground like some people believe (me included), than Auto Club Famoso Raceway is it. More than Pomona, more than Indy, more than Englishtown, Famoso is a place where the formative years of the sport were fostered and one of the the most historically cool drag races in the world, the March Meet (or for you history buffs, the US Fuel and Gas Championships) was born.

It is a place that has seen tragedy and triumph, it has wavered but never fallen, it has been updated but not molested like other historic tracks whose ownership went for the cash grab whore job of adding “luxury ammenities.” It is a place that should be on the bucket list of every drag racing fan for at least one visit in their life time. It’s the home of the friggin’ March Meet, the race that professional drag racers now build cars specifically for. Guys like Ron Capps and Del Worsham will be paying an entry fee this weekend, folks. That means something.

Famoso is to drag racing what Fenway Park is to baseball, only better.

Stick with me for a second as I go off on a tangent. When the current ownership group of the Boston Red Sox took the reigns in 2002, they set about improving Fenway Park while not destroying what the core feel of the place is. They also transformed the team into a championship competitor. All of this positive energy suddenly turned Fenway into less of a baseball park and more of a social destination for a set of fans that Boston sports radio hosts dubbed “pink hats” after the team introduced hats that were pink, targeted at female fans. A “pink hat” is not simply a female fan, but a fairweather fan who likes to go to Fenway just to be seen at Fenway. They are the people on their cell phones, or the ones getting up twice an inning and making your life miserable. They know none of the players, care nothing of the standings, and know even less about the game.

The March Meet has no pink hats.

People attending the March Meet are not there on a corporate ticket. They’re not at Famoso because suddenly it is fashionable to love front engine fuel dragsters or nostalgia Funny Cars. They are there because they love drag racing and they love seeing it at a track with dirt pits, a tiny tower, and a history unparallelled in the drag racing universe. If you are lucky enough to be hitting the track this weekend you will be amongst the most intelligent drag racing fandom the sport has to offer. If it is your first race, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is how they all are. They’re not all like this. You’re seeing the sport at its very best. Love that. Drink that in.

One of the true glories of the March Meet? It is one of the last places on Earth to see regular people with regular jobs wrenching their asses off on nitro powered iron. The guy servicing the left cylinder head on that front motor fuel dragster over there? Chances are he called in sick to work on Friday or begged his boss for the day off. The dude scrubbing the tires on that nostalgia funny car? He might have done your taxes last week.

For anyone who cries about the loss of “those days” when a group of people could get together and run a nitro car, go to the March Meet. Sure, none of the car owners are grocery store baggers or professional gas pumpers, but nearly to a man, they all go to work.

I have immesnse amounts of respect and reverence for the history of drag racing. For those of you who are regular readers of BangShift.com, you already know about my near unhealthy obsession about studying, learning, documenting, and preserving the history of the most American motorsport that ever came to be.

Being at the March Meet, in any capacity from spectator to worker to racer is special. It was special in 1959 when the damn thing started and it is special now. It is a true experience.

Walk through the Grove and look at who the trees are dedicated to.

Head down to the end of the tower side bleachers and hang out with the trad-rod guys and girls.

Gawk at the hot rods and customs on display.

Stand as close to a nitro-burning Funny Car or dragster as you can when they are being warmed up in the pits. Make your eyes water and your nose get snotty.

Smell the bizarre smell that comes off of the compost piles at the far end of the track.

Wander through the orange groves you’ll pass on the way to the track.

Sit in the stands and simply appreciate where you are and how you got there.

Stay until the end on Sunday and check out the winners’ circle photo sessions. You’ll be moved to tears when you see how much those moments mean to the racers who made it there.

Lastly, thank every racer and track official you can see. History dies if it is not tended to and the Bowser family who operates the track, and the racers who will be performing on it preserve and maintain the health of this race.

In my opinion the March Meet is the Canary in the coal mine for nostalgia and historic drag racing. Thankfully, that bird is still singing a strong song.

If you are spectating at the track this weekend, I envy you. If you are racing at the track this weekend, I hope you love every second. If you are watching this weekend on BangShift.com, I thank you with all of my heart.

Thanks for reading,



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5 thoughts on “Barnstormin’: Why The March Meet Still Matters

  1. Gary Smrtic

    The March Meet is Holy Ground. It is a pilgramage I’ve only gotten to make once in my life, so far, but it was the best event I’ve been to since 1966!

    1. Jim Davidson

      Thanks Brian,not only for the story but your efforts in preserving the history of the sport and for BangShift for the coverage.Im in Australia and this is the one race i have to get to..Thanks again.

  2. Petri Parkkinen

    For me pilgrimage is exactly the right word to describe the feeling of being at Famoso Raceway. This year is the second time I have been able to travel to March Meet from Europe.

  3. BIG Eddie Cole in Boring Ore............ its a town

    I waz lucky enuff to attend H.R.R. II, it was like being heven, the sights, the sounds, the NITRO in my eye’s and nose!! I loved EVERY min, tomarrow….I’ll buy my tickets and motel for next march!

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