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Holy cow, where has the time gone? I guess that when you get older the days go by faster. To me it was only like yesterday we were getting ready to head to Bakersfield for the March Meet and now next week it's time for the California Hot Rod Reunion.
This has been a unique year in nostalgia nitro racing. It has seen the emergence of the IHRA, not only putting Nitro Funny Cars as the flagship of their series but also raising the bar with their payouts to the racers.
The IHRA will be expanding west in 2015 securing the services of Spokane Country Raceway, just outside of Spokane, Wash., as one of their member tracks. Moreover, they are putting a Nitro Jam event at Spokane then following up with the Rocky Mountain Nationals a week later in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. This in essence makes a mini Western Swing for the “I” in 2015.
In addition to the westward expansion, IHRA President Scott Gardner also secured the services of Dragway 42 in West Salem, Ohio, the home state of the “I” to hold a Nitro Jam Event there. This will be the first time since 2006 that a Nitro Jam event has been held in Ohio.
The payouts offered by the “I” have attracted many of the top teams from the Heritage Series to run the Nitro Jam events. With a couple more shows now in the west, will that entice more Heritage Series teams to attempt to become part of the show over in the IHRA?
If so, it will be very tough sledding for sure as three-time Heritage Series and now newly crowned IHRA Nitro Jam Nitro Funny Car Champion Jason Rupert plans on going back to defend his championship. Tim Boychuk and Mark Sanders are said to be planning a return to the Nitro Jam Series in 2015. Plus it is reported that some others in the Heritage Series are giving some serious consideration at trying to be a part of that series. Time will tell.
Speaking of the Heritage Series and the California Hot Rod Reunion, Tony Bartone has already sewed up the 2014 Top Fuel title by taking the win at Epping. Bartone along with crew chief Steve Boggs are perfect for the year, winning every event in 2014, and will look to close out the year with a win at the Reunion.
At last report there are 14 top fuel cars confirmed for the Reunion plus two additional possibilities. So, hopefully, there are 16 cars for this show.
This will not be a cakewalk for Bartone by any stretch of the imagination. There are at least seven cars that have a legitimate shot at winning this race. Names like 2013 champ Jim Murphy, Adam Sorokin, Rick White, Rick Williamson, and Rick McGee come to mind. However, from this perspective there are two dark horses, which can just jump up and snatch this win away. Those two are Denver Schultz and Jimmy Young. Both cars are more than capable. Schultz has gone deep into the show on numerous occasions and this could be his time. Watch for the “Raisin Express.”
Jimmy Young will again be at the wheel of the “Nitro Hemi,” formerly Jack Harris’s “Nitro Thunder” top fuel car. Steve Watson will not be tuning the car, but this car knows its way to the winner circle -- some tuning help and watch out for the red rocket from Colorado.
In regards to the top fuel contingent, it must be said that a couple of years ago the top fuel guys were getting beaten up by many people for their issues with blowing up engines, oiling the track, and causing mind-boggling delays in various shows. Some – no, a great deal -- of that criticism was justified.