The March Meet is historically one of the biggest and most famous meets in drag racing. Its history really goes back long before the actual race began. The Smokers, a car club from Bakersfield Ca. that started some 60 years ago, acquired the lease at Famoso for drag racing. Famoso, like many early drag strips, was an abandoned WW II airstrip.
Factually, The March Meet wasn’t the “March Meet” but rather the “U.S. Fuel and Gas Championship” – held in March. It’s designation as The March Meet didn’t officially begin until about 10 years later.
Don Garlits was instrumental in the March Meets’ beginning as the Smokers wanted an East vs West race to decide who was fastest. Plus, the nitro ban had limited fuelers from running at many races. Art Chrisman won the first March Meet (1959) and Tommy Ivo won the gas portion (BTW, Ivo never beat the Bender & Hier car, as hard as he might try – that’s Ronnie Hier in the picture). By the early 60‘s, the race had become truly a national meet. These early years had huge entries with 64 car fields. Garlits eventually won more March Meets than anyone else.
The years after had many highs and some lows but without national ties to the major associations, independent events such as The March Meet lost entries and luster. The event ended in the late 80’s but started up again in the mid 90’s with the advent of Nostalgia drag racing and Goodguys VRA (Fuller & Dunlap winning in ’94).
Thanks in part to the Bowser’s, who run Famoso, The March Meet now is one of the largest drag racing events in the country – certainly the biggest in Nostalgia Drag Racing circles. With Nostalgia Drag Racing’s fast growing popularity (internationally too), The March Meet is all-the-rage with people more interested now than ever before as ONE OF THE ONLY SPORTS THAT CONTINUES TO GROW!
Now if they’d only figure out some parking and seating additions … Just get there early.
Want to know more about the history of drag racing? Check out these two books: