The professional drag racing world was paying close attention to Bristol Dragway and the Thunder Valley Nationals in Eastern Tennessee this past weekend. There, the defending Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon won for the first time this year, the Funny Car victor Tommy Johnson Jr. won for the first time in 11 years and in Pro Stock, Erica Enders-Stevens was the first women to ever win at Bristol while continuing her historic romp in 2014. However, 300 miles to the west in Western Kentucky, drag racing the way it used to be – sort of – was playing out at the National Hot Rod Reunion, which was performing for the 12th time in its successful history.
Other than a brief shower or two, which made for typical late spring muggy conditions at times, the weather was great at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green. Bonneville legend George Poteet was the grand Marshal. Poteet owns the land speed record for the fastest piston-driven car – go to the bottom of the page for a little video of his record breaking runs.
The main storyline among the ground-thumping Top Fuelers heading into the race was longtime NHRA Sportsman driver Dave Hirata out of Indiana driving the Orange Crate Top Fueler from Iowa – Hirata is fairly new to Nostalgia Top Fuel. Of course, big names like Tony Bartone out of New York and Jim Murphy from California truly made this big race, a national event through-and-through.
In the end, Bartone was the winner over Jim Young, while Hirata and Murphy were knocked out in the semis. This was Bartone’s second Nostalgia win of the year after taking the famed March Meet victory to start the season. That puts Bartone securely on top of the Top Fuel standings, with Young, Murphy and Hirata over 100 points back, in second through fourth respectively.
The other class winners were Ken Hawkins in Jr. Fuel, Michael Sexton in 7.0 Pro, Ross Laird in 7.5 Pro, Don Nave in Competition Eliminator, Buddy Wray in Gas Eliminator, Kerry Williams in Modified Eliminator, Mike Moss in Super Stock, Chad Mahlosky in Stock, Terry Lindsey in Hot Rod and John Gray in the Geezer Gasser category. Saturday night ended with the always impressive music-to-the-ears-splitting Cacklefest.
Next up for the Top Fuelers is the Nightfire National in Boise, Idaho, August 7-10.
Additional sources: NHRA, AA/Fuel Dragsters
Daryle W. Hier