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The final day of the 25th annual California Hot Rod Reunion presented by Automobile Club of Southern California concluded with intense quarter-mile drag strip racing on Sunday, Oct. 23. Event and category champions were crowned as the sun set over Auto Club Famoso Raceway.
The Nostalgia Top Fuel world championship in the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series came down to the event’s final round. Tony Bartone, of Long Island City, N.Y., and Jim Murphy, of Santa Rosa, Calif., met in the winner-take-all final. Bartone came out on top by powering to a 5.600-second pass at 247.25 mph to defeat Murphy’s 9.519 at 74.74. Bartone, the No. 1 qualifier, was the only racer to double up with a world championship title and California Hot Rod Reunion event victory on Sunday.
During Sunday’s eight-car eliminator, Bartone first dispensed of Bret Williamson with a 5.58 and then faced a stiff challenge from Adam Sorokin and the “Champion Speed Shop” dragster, who were also within one round of claiming the Points Title. In their semi-final joust, Sorokin left first with a startling .036 reaction time, forcing Bartone to give chase. At 1000 feet, Sorokin was still ahead but his Chevy-powered fueler caught fire and Bartone went by him just before the stripe. Bartone’s 5.68 at 254 mph held off Sorokin’s 5.81 at a parts-munching 234 mph.
Meanwhile, Murphy plotted his route to the final by first laying down a serious 5.62 at an incendiary 254 mph over Rick McGee, and then posting a holeshot on his semi-final opponent Bill Dunlap who threw down a 5.61 in pursuit of Murphy who, with the help of a superior reaction time, won with a 5.64.
“We struggled a little bit this season,” said Bartone, who claimed his third consecutive Nostalgia Top Fuel world championship. “We didn’t win any races until the third and fourth races of the season. We had some handling issues here at the Bakersfield March Meet and we had a major fuel leak and shut the car off in Bowling Green, but somehow we just squeaked out the championship.”