It’s a given that the California Hot Rod Reunion attracts some of the best racecars in North America every year and the 25th edition of this event (October 20 – 23) is no exception. The Reunion is the culmination of NHRA’s Hot Rod Heritage Series schedule, the World Finals for these nitro cars!
While we haven’t been able to get the official pre-entry list, the early predictions are for at least thirty and maybe thirty-three Heritage-style nitro funny cars in the Auto Club Famoso Raceway pits. This is a sixteen car field with two qualifying rounds on Friday, one on Saturday and the first round of eliminations on Saturday afternoon.
The only difference between the NHRA rules package and that of the IHRA is in the fuel pump, but everything else is equal and at Famoso, north of Bakersfield, the tighter spec certified 20.9 GPM is the fuel pump rule. With great weather anticipated and the quickest cars in the class on 1320 feet of concrete, this event could be a shootout for a new national elapsed time and speed record as well as some new personal bests!
There are a couple of us nitro fanatics who follow the funny car class closely and with this column predict the Odds (Vegas Style) for an often tricky class, so we’ve enlisted the the old Funny Car Gypsy as a spokesperson to lay out the “educated guesses” in the Reunion Winners Circle.
By the way, there still is an eight car Top Fuel Eliminator field, for those who wish to wager, you can get tips from the We Did It For Love Top Fuel Tipster
So here is is, the best guesses from our blue ribbon panel of “experts”!
(Even money) Kris Krabill- Austin & O’Brien “Northwest Hitter” Firebird – 2016 NHRA Champion. March Meet winner, they are this season’s Super–Team with record setting 5.50’s, a good bet for the final round, Krabill knows win light at multiple events this season. A Legends of Nitro 260 MPH Club Member.
(2-1) Jason Rupert – “Littlefield & Rupert” Camaro – 2016 IHRA Champion. Rupert is now a six-time nitro funny car champion and with repeat 5.50’s, these guys own the IHRA ET & MPH Record, but the Reunion has been tough for them in the past. A Legends of Nitro 260 MPH Club Member.
(3-1) Steven Densham – “Teacher’s Pet” Camaro – 2015 NHRA Heritage Series Champion and pops Gary Densham still have this consistent funny car dialed-in.
(3-1) Ryan Hodgson – “Pacemaker” Camaro, this team is strong on tuning, won Reunion XXIV setting the NHRA ET and Speed records and still holds the MPH mark. Rumor is Rob Flynn returns with Crew Chief Bob Papirnick & Jim Basko – great team of Canadians! A Legends of Nitro 260 MPH Club Member.
(4-1) John Hale – “One Bad Texan” Camaro, Hale’s been racing in the Mello Yello series with Big Jim Dunn this year and the 2-time DRO Series Champ will settle down quickly with veteran tuner Guy Tipton. A Legends of Nitro 260 MPH Club Member.
(4-1) Mark Sanders – “Mr. Explosive” Mustang, has been racing IHRA and match races with Son/Tuner Jake the Snake. A win waiting to happen.
(4-1) Cory Lee – “California Hustler” Firebird, Pro Tuner Ronnie Swearingen has the Hustler running consistent 5.70’s at 258 mph and on the cusp of 5.6’s. Another final round finish to Densham at Boise this year, this could be the breakthrough event. During testing this week, Lee drove the Hustler to a career best 5.70 elapsed time for owner Don Nelson.
(4.5-1) Tim Boychuk – “Happy Hour” Camaro, another strong team that’s been racing all over North America this year in IHRA, NHRA & Match Race trim. Boychuck and his tough Canadian team could be in the Final Round, again
(5-1) Paul Romine – “Man-O-War” Mustang, another 2-time DRO Series Champ and IHRA Top Fuel Champ who craves racing with the best and this field is the best! If Romine feeds Tri-tip to Mikee and crew it could a mean a photo the Reunion Winners Circle.
(5-1) Dan Horan Jr – “Patriot” Camaro, 2014 Heritage Series Champ has had glimpses of quickness this year, sleek car should run the good numbers. Dan doing double duty here in his Pop’s Top Fueler. A Legends of Nitro 260 MPH Club Member.
(6-1) Rich Townsend – “Nitroholic” Camaro, on and off performance this year with one of the hardest working teams in the pits and added consultant Ray Zeller to help sort it out. Grabbed a Wally for Salt Lake City race in 2015.
(7-1) Tim Nemeth – “Iceman” Firebird, Canadian business keeps him busy, but he’s managed to fit in plenty of nitro racing this year with consistent ET’s. A strong dark horse.
(7-1) Marc White – “Crop Duster” Monza, Frank & Debra Ousley made the long trip from Illinois, have won here with Frank’s Top Fueler, a funny car win would put grandson Braylin holding the Wally.
(8-1) James Day – “Pedaler” Challenger, famed owner Gary Turner and team have multiple visits to the Famoso Raceway Winners Circle, but they’ve got to find the 5.60’s
(9-1) Rian Konno – “Kazanjian Lemon & Konno” Mustang, one of the veteran SoCal teams out there, getting better with every round, it’ll be no surprise to see the Hawaiian dropping by to check the computer between runs.
(10-1) Don Hudson – “Sizemore Construction Special” Firebird, will be fighting for the Central California Coast Cup, good running car, smart driver with lots of seat time. Should make the Semi’s.
(10-1) Matt Bynum – “Matthews Racing” Mustang, the former “Nitro Nick” team has had its share of hard luck, but really come together for the big races. Matt has a direct line to his Kalitta Racing nitro buddies; you’ll find many of them lurking in the Famoso pits with support.
(11-1) Mendy Fry – “Darkside” Challenger, awesome driver with Smokey’s Arias motor, another one fighting for the Central California Coast Cup.
(11-1) John Weaver – “Dream Weaver” Arrow, been putting his Del Worsham tune-up book to good use, could be a dream turnaround race for the team, might see some of the Kalitta boys in this pit too.
(12-1) Geoff Monise – “Quarter Pounder” Monza, this rookie driver (left) already has put $6000 cash winnings from Famoso’s Saturday Night Nitro in the Van Gundy & Clark tuned machine, the crystal ball looks good.
(13-1) Bill Windham – “Shakedown” Camaro, Windham is new to nitro funny car, but not new to nitro drag racing, smart dude, and another strong dark horse.
(13-1) Nathan Sitko – “Team Ace” Arrow, good to see this strong Canadian team making more races, long family drag racing tradition gives them the logbook to perform.
(13-1) Chris Davis – “Old School Nitro” Arrow, good showings in the Northwest this year, developing a strong tune-up with hard working crew.
(13-1) Alex Miladinovich – “Hot 4 Teacher” Mustang, makes the most with a tight budget getting into the 5.80’s at recent Famoso Saturday Night Nitro, awesome people, could break through here.
(13-1) Rick O’Rogers – “Fighting Irish” Camaro, one of the best-looking cars out there, often with smart tuning and an awesome pitside kitchen.
(14-1) Marcus Lawson – “No Secrets” Firebird, Marcus has gotten more seat time this year with some very strong talent in the tune-up department. Emerging team.
(15-1) Clint Thompson – “Shack Attack” Camaro, hard running alcohol funny car campaigner, this time in Paul Shackelton’s nitro flopper, could trump his way into the field.
(15-1) Bazz Young – “Down Under Thunder” Camaro, this International Fun Team is making the Reunion for the fourth time on their 5,000-mile Wal-Mart tour all the way from Wisconsin with Snap-on tools onboard.
(15-1) Jim Maroney – “Candies & Hughes” Challenger, longtime funny car owner Jim Broome has been running this car more this year and with Maroney’s long fuel altered experience could make it well into the show.
(Wild Card) – Often there’s a Breaking News item as a last minute entry, this new northern California Camaro (raced by a bunch of talented GoodGuys) may already be loaded in the box and headed south try their luck against one of the best nitro funny car fields in the short history of this class. If they don’t race it at the Reunion, they’ll be testing for 2017 on Monday after the event… that’s how serious they are!
We’ll have results from California Hot Rod Reunion XXV here in BangShift.com next week!