"Fast Five" with Don Enriquez
California Hot Rod Reunion Honoree still races and loves it
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (Sept. 11, 2006) - As the 2006 California Hot Rod Reunion draws near (Oct. 6-8, Bakersfield), Don Enriquez is still thinking his runner-up finish at the 2005 Reunion. He thinks he should have won! That's because Enriquez is a true racer&although he didn't start out racing the usual way. In 1967, Enriquez, an employee at Stu Hilborn's Fuel Injection Engineering, approached Gene Adams about driving his Jr. Fuel dragster. Enriquez had never driven a dragster before and told Adams if it didn't work out, he would just walk away. He listened to Adams' coaching and on his first full pass he ran 7.70 @ 188 mph. Fast forward 39 years later and Enriquez is still driving dragsters and still a fuel-injection expert at Hilborn's where he's been employed for 46 years! Adams and Enriquez were a partnership for nearly 20 years. They dominated the original Jr. Fuel class with Adams' DeSoto. In July '68, Don drove the first unblown car over 200 mph and in '71 was the first in the 6s. He's driven twin-injected Chryslers in Top Fuel, scored victories in Pro Comp in rear-engine dragsters and in the last decade been a major force in the nostalgia Junior Fuel ranks.
1. How does it feel to be named an Honoree at the 15th annual NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion? What does the Reunion mean to you?
Don Enriquez: This is by far the best thing of my whole career. It means so much to my family of drag racers, Gene, Doris, Steve, Dean Adams, Bob McKray, Mike and Carol Algire, the Mallicoat Brothers, the real John Rassmussen, Roger O'Dell and Joe Squires - people who helped me throughout my racing career.
2. Are you surprised that people remember your racing exploits?
Enriquez: Yes. In my line of work I talk to a lot of racers every day. When they realize who I am they start to talk about the old days when it was Adams and Enriquez, and how they remember watching us at Lyons Drag strip and reading Drag News.
3. What are some of your fondest (and funniest) memories about drag racing in 1950s? What do you miss most? Do you still see any of your old drag racing friends?
Enriquez: I started racing in June of 1968 and I'm still involved in drag racing. I drive a Jr. Fuel Dragster for Bob McKray so I still see Gene Adams who I still race against at the GoodGuys events. Our car has won nine out of 10 times against Gene and Rasmussen. My fondest memories are being at the races with people like John Milligan, Steve Carbone, Tom McEwen and Don Prudohmme. I feel very fortunate being involved with these people. Also, the fact that my father was with me all through my career until his passing in June of 2004 is very special to me.
4. Are you surprised at the popularity of vintage drag racing? Why do you think people enjoy it so much?
Enriquez: Most of the people remember how fun it was in the good old days, when racing was not so expensive.
5. Do you still follow drag racing? What do you think of today's driver's? Enriquez: I watch NHRA Today and all the racing shows every week. I enjoy today's drag racing. I think today's drivers are awesome.
The 15th annual NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, Oct. 6-8 at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., is a 3-day festival of speed, hot rods and American automotive enthusiasm. Produced by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum located in Pomona, Calif., the Reunion is part of the museum's "living history" philosophy, which works to bring to life the sights, sounds and people who made history in the early days of drag racing, land speed racing and the golden age of American car culture.
Since its inception in 1992, the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion has offered hot rodders and racers the opportunity to reunite with old friends and reminisce about "the good old days." The Reunion includes competition on the racetrack, a car show, a chance for fans to meet the legends and stars of the sport and the highly popular "Cacklefest," which involves early-days- style front-engine dragsters being push-started, then all gathered together on the drag strip starting line with engines running or 'cackling."
Tickets for the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, are available by calling 800/884- 6472. A full-event credential is $55 for adults and only $10 for those under 16. Credentials include a "goody bag" that features the highly collectible Reunion Annual and a dash plaque. AAA members receive a $5 discount on a full-event credential or $2 off on Saturday or Sunday daily tickets when they show their membership card. Camping passes are available with credential purchase at $50 and swap meet spaces are just $40 for a 20' x 20' space. Daily tickets may be purchased at the gate of Auto Club Famoso Raceway, north of Bakersfield on Highway 99. For additional Reunion information, call 909/622-8562 or visit http://museum.nhra.com.
For 12th consecutive year, the Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest affiliate of the AAA, is the presenting sponsor of the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion. The Automobile Club of Southern California has been serving members since 1900. Today, the Auto Club's members benefit by the organization's emergency road service, financial products, travel agency and trip planning services, highway and transportation safety programs, insurance products and services, automotive pricing, buying and financing programs, automotive testing and analysis and legislative advocacy. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club's web site at www.aaa-calif.com.
Proceeds of the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, will benefit the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. Named for the founder of the National Hot Rod Association, the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California houses the very roots of hot rodding. Scores of famous vehicles spanning American motorsports history are on display, including winning cars representing 50 years of drag racing, dry lakes and salt-flat racers, oval track challengers and exhibits describing their colorful backgrounds.
One of the best entertainment values in Southern California, the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Pacific Time, with extended hours during NHRA national events. Current NHRA members are admitted free. Admission for non-members is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors 60 and older, $4 for juniors six through 15, and free for children under the age of five. The Museum is also available for private parties, meetings, corporate events, weddings and special group tours. The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is located at Fairplex Gate 1, 1101 W. McKinley Ave. in Pomona. For further information on special exhibits, museum events or directions, call 909/622-2133 or visit museum.nhra.com.