Bakersfield, CA - While the local forecast calls for a slight chance of showers this weekend in Bakersfield, the official Goodguys/VRA Forecast is calling for thunder. The thunder generated by over 400 vintage drag racers as they get set to pound...
Bakersfield, CA - While the local forecast calls for a slight chance of showers this weekend in Bakersfield, the official Goodguys/VRA Forecast is calling for thunder. The thunder generated by over 400 vintage drag racers as they get set to pound the pavement at central California's hot rodding holyland...Bakersfield's Famoso Raceway. This weekend, the Goodguys 42nd March Meet officially kicks off the 5-race 2001 Goodguys VRA West Coast Championship Series. Competition will be held in Top Fuel, A/Fuel, Pro Supercharged, Jr. Fuel, A/GAS (7.60), B/GAS (8.60), C/GAS (9.60), Nostalgia Eliminator (7.60), Nostalgia II (8.60), Nostalgia III (9.60) and Hot Rod and Street Machine eliminators. Competition is restricted to 1972 and earlier drag racing machines.
Friday 3/9 Professional qualifying is set for 1:00pm, Saturday 3/10 the pro' s qualify at 11:00am and 2:00pm. Final eliminations begin at 10:00am Sunday 3/11. Event gates open at 8:00am daily.
In Top Fuel, defending event champion Bill Alexander will do his racing from the bench this weekend. Alexander, who did a masterful job driving John Eirich's Merced, CA based "Ground Zero" car in 2000, has been replaced in the driver's seat this year by veteran NHRA and IHRA Funny Car campaigner Dale Pulde of Sylmar, CA. Alexander was philosophical in a recent interview. "I understand the drag racing biz," Alexander said from his homebase of Sun City, CA. "Dale came along with some much needed funding and needless to say, knows a lot about running a fuel car, so they decided to put him in the seat this year." Alexander is still searching for a ride but time has run out to defend his March Meet top fuel crown. Insiders who follow the Goodguys VRA circuit have labeled Fresno's Rance McDaniel (who won the 2000 Goodguys Top Fuel Champion driving Bob McLennan's Champion Speed Shop entry) and Utah's Jack "The Sheriff" Harris as two drivers who have a big shot at grabbing this year's March Meet Top Fuel championship. McDaniel beat Harris twice last year in head-to-head competition and both drivers logged dramatic side-by-side 5.95 elapsed times in a qualifying lap at the Goodguys Fuel & Gas Finals held last October at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A friendly rivalry has developed between the two teams. Not to be overlooked is the man who owns the all-time quickest time slip for a contemporary front-engined top fuel car, Roger Lechtenberg of Cedar Falls, IA. Lechtenberg, driving Dale Suhr's Iowa based "Orange Crate" fueler, logged a stunning 5.87 ET at LVMS last October and will compete at the 42nd March Meet. Others expected in Top Fuel are Denver Schutz, Howard Haight, "Techno" Tim Gibson (who works full-time as John Force's aerodynamisist) Bill Dunlap, Bob Muravez (Of "Freight Train fame) and dozens of others. Over 30 front-engined top fuel dragsters are expected to attempt to qualify for the 16-car field. To enhance the 42nd March Meet Top Fuel action, veteran announcer Dave McLelland will man the mike with drag racing historian Dave Wallace Jr. supplying the color commentary. Central California NHRA drag racers Gary Scelzi and Bruce Sarver are expected to make cameo appearances in the announcer's tower.
The Goodguys Vintage Drag Racing Association took over the March Meet in 1994 after the event had floundered in the early 90's. The popularity of the event has exploded in recent years under Goodguys sanction, sending spectator attendance past the 30,000 mark at last year's event. More of the same is expected this weekend if the weather holds. Last year, cars parked a mile and a half from the Raceway entrance on old Famoso/Woody Rd. just to get a glimpse of this drag racing time capsule.
This year, Goodguys has processed over 75 media credentials for the 42nd March Meet. Those filing reports from the event include Autoweek Magazine, Summitracing.Com, Drag Racer, and Drag Racing USA. Pre-event stories will run in the Los Angeles Times, Fresno Bee, Bakersfield Californian and dozens of other dailies.
"Timing is everything," said Goodguys' Advertising and Sponsorship Sales Director Jack Williams, who besides working with Goodguys holds the lease at Famoso Raceway. Williams, NHRA's 1964 Top Fuel World Champion will also be honored as the event's Grand Marshal. "When Goodguys pondered the idea of resurrecting the March Meet and try to re-establish it as a special event, it was met with some hesitation. Now look. There's 30 cars trying to qualify for Top Fuel, they're four deep on the fence and we have people coming from different countries just to take in all the excitement. The pits haven't been this full since 1975. This thing is a monster," Williams said.