Cottrell, Wittenberg, Hix, and Bates Come Out Swinging at the 2018 March Meet
There is a drag strip on Famoso Rd., Kern County, California that has been hosting the Good Vibrations March Meet presented by Lucas Oil for sixty years. Originally, the one square mile patch of asphalt surrounded by grape vines and fruit trees, was called the Famosa Drags. Under the auspices of the Smokers Club of Bakersfield, the 1959 U.S. Fuel and Gas Championships set in motion and established a drag race that has endured for decades and remains the destination as the best nostalgia drag race in the country.
The nitro classes are the bedrock of this classic event, and now boast five categories with the addition of 5.90 Funny Car and Rear Engine Top Fuel Dragster. The 16-car open Funny Car attracted 25 entries paced by 2017 CHRR winner Bobby Cottrell driving the Austin-O’Brien ’69 Camaro with a 5.650. To say this team dominated the class would be an understatement. In addition to being #1 qualifier, Cottrell set low ET at 5.588, and in the final round, beat Ryan Hodgson the 2017 Heritage Racing Series champion. Norco, CA’s, Dean Oberg won the 5.90 Funny Car class behind the wheel of the “Holy Toledo” ’67 Jeep.
If Bobby Cottrell was dominant in Funny Car, the same can be said for Mendy Fry in Top Fuel Dragster. The High Speed Motorsports dragster was two tenths quicker than the #2 qualifier (5.736 to Bret Williamson’s 5.933), and got quicker in eliminations with a pair of 5.6s, including low ET at 5.600. The only thing that stood in her way of a clean sweep was #3 qualifier (6.303) Pete Wittenberg. In the final round, Pete, easily the underdog based on performance, held firm and left even with Mendy. With Fry pulling away to what looked like a convincing win, her dragster crossed the line, giving the win to Wittenberg. Mike Halstead driving the Mike’s Transmission entry won Rear Engine Top Fuel Dragster.
The fabulous fuel altereds have been a fan favorite since the time of the Standard 1320 record days (as far back as 1959), and their popularity has continued to grow. Why? Well, it’s the WOW factor: open-wheel, short wheelbase, tire blazing, flame- throwing coupes, sedans, and roadsters. Fourteen entrants fought for eight spots highlighted by Dan Hix’s near-perfect 6.005. Hix, no stranger to the Auto Club Famoso Raceway winner’s circle, became a three-time March Meet winner as a result of his final round win against Fallbrook, CA’s, Eric Gates.
Never has a team dominated a Heritage Racing Series class in the manner Adams-Bates has in A/Fuel dragster. The nine-time class champion began 2018 in the same way he finished 2017—with a Wally in the winner’s circle. In doing so, the team from Redding, CA, put on a display of consistency that would be the envy of Top Fuel Dragsters: 5.893; 5.918; 5.847; and 5.849 in the final against Rick Ewens. Let’s not forget that this performance came after Drew Austin obliterated the A/Fuel dragster record in qualifying with a 5.813. Picking up on Kin Bates’ script, John Marottek dominated the Jr. Fuel dragsters. The #1 qualifier ran as quick as 6.855 and was never seriously challenged in eliminations. Sonoma, CA’s, Ronnie Lennon came out on top over a 27-car field in 7.0 Pro. After a tepid start (#17 qualifier), Lennon put together a consistent string of low seven second runs in eliminations, including a 7.007 against Lawton Ferreira II in the semi-final round.
In Nostalgia Eliminator 1, “Dirty” Dan Schrokosch showed that he still has what it takes to survive five rounds of eliminations, including a semi-final round win over 2017 champion Dustin Lee. Sam Tucker and Ed DeStaute came out victorious in Nostalgia Eliminator 2 and Nostalgia Eliminator 3, respectively. Tucker beat #1 qualifier J Todd Fernandez on a holeshot in the final round.
Rounding out the sixteen class March Meet itinerary were the gassers and Hot Rod. Dale Hicks, Wilmington, CA, survived seven grueling rounds of eliminations to win Hot Rod. Other highlights included PJ Giacalone’s win over Larry Heseman’s perfect 9.600 in C/G, and Frank Merenda’s double breakout victory over Eric Bush in A/G. Tim Mulvihill gifted Neal Westbrook the Wally with a red light in B/G as did Dan Ficher against Don Fournier in D/G.