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Less than a month and it will be time for one of the greatest shows on earth, well at least in our world of drag racing, the 51st Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet.
Many things went on over the winter, new cars being built, new teams being assembled and the usual amount of migration by crewmembers and tuners to other teams and theoretically greener pastures.
It will only take a small amount of time to see what will become of these changes and their effect on the outcome of the racing.
As of the writing of this column, a few teams took advantage of the Big Show test that went on at Firebird Raceway in Chandler, AZ, on Super Bowl weekend. (Must not have been football fans) Anywho, the one big item that came out of that test was the performance of Jim Murphy and his WWII team. Murphy and his crew led by Roland Leong and Daniel Wilkerson got the attention of many in the sport. Murphy ran a best of 5.57 at 264 miles per hour, moreover, having five full runs between 5.57 and 5.64 seconds for the entire weekend. In addition, Murphy ran two check passes at 5.76 seconds and 5.80 seconds shutting the car off at about 900 feet. Team WWII is looking for a one-place improvement over last year in the championship hunt, and Murphy is looking for his fifth March Meet title.
It will be interesting to see what happens the weekend after the Winternationals, as the nostalgia teams will get a test session at Bakersfield, followed by the next weekend where Bucky Austin will hold his annual private test session for those teams who have secured spots for that event.
We’re trying to get a rough car count on how many Top Fuel cars will attend. At this time we know that Bartone will be there, as he is only driving his Top Fuel car this year to save wear and tear on his chronically ailing back. D.J. Cox will pilot the team’s alcohol car for the 2017 season.
The Champion Speed Shop team will have star voyager Adam Sorokin at the wheel for another season, as the team looks to move up two more places in the championship hunt and secure another championship. The Champion Speed Shop team is still relying on a Might Mouse motor to get the job done again this year. Front end balance issues plagued them at last year’s March Meet, where Sorokin was looking to take the 50th Anniversary trophy that commemorated his father winning the first ever March Meet.
One of the big news stories over the winter was the departure/retirement of Bill Dunlap from the driver’s seat of the High Speed Motorsports team and the return of the “Nitro Kitty” Mendy Fry to the driver’s seat. Fry, who lists her age at 47, but looks twenty years younger, is a seasoned professional, with excellent driving skills and a smile that lights up the room, and is fantastic with the media and the fans.
Fry is returning to the team that gave her her shot at running Top Fuel, when the legendary Frank “Root Beer” Hedges, under the Master Cam label, headed up the team.
Tom Shelar and crew had the High Speed car running on rails in 2015, nearly getting the title. Last year’s crash at “The Patch” obviously put the team back. However, with a new car, new driver, and the same drive and determination on behalf of the crew, the High Speed team will be one to contend.
Now a dark horse in the field is the Nitro Hemi car driven by Dusty Green. This car is a proven winner and Green is a very, very capable driver. A few more resources and being able to catch a break here or there, and this team can and has stepped up to win. It is not out of the question for them to do it again. Providing owner Steve Harwood can dig out of all the snow in Colorado.
From the outside looking in, the Funny Car teams have a vast array of options from which to pick where they are going to race. With the UNFC looking to hold two and possibly four events this year, the DRO Series resurfacing, and the normal Heritage Series events again in place, it might be possible that some teams would bypass the thought of running for a championship, and pick races strictly based on financial payout.
Not saying that would happen, but it is probable. The UNFC races are scheduled for Seattle and Spokane, Washington. There is word that an East-West matchup is in the works for either Topeka or another track in the Midwest, depending on scheduling. Six stops for the Heritage Series, and five possible six stop for the DRO Series, it appears the flopper guys are going to be like kids in a candy store for 2017.
As the season approaches its overture one team that has gotten many people’s attention is the new Victory Race Car 1969 Chevy ”Cam-aero” being debuted by Uncle Bucky Austin and Mike O’Brien. With a new marketing partner in Dayton Superior and Bardahl returning also to the sides of the car it will return for 2017. The car appears to be sporting a General Motors Lynchian Blue Velvet Metallic paint job with white rally strips. Driver “Hollywood” Kris Krabill will be returning to his duties at the keyboard of the new ride, and will be a very formidable candidate to repeat as Heritage Series Champion.