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Gathering Of Hot Rodders Takes Over Famoso Raceway
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The Nostalgia funny car class final featured rookie Ryan Hodgson and Jason Rupert, with Hodgson nailing down the win in his first appearance at the Hot Rod reunion. Jeff Burghardt/The Times


For the 24th consecutive time hot rodders from around the country gathered at Auto Club Raceway in Famoso, California for the California Hot Rod Reunion. The hallowed grounds were filled with history of days gone by; dragsters from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s were on display and cackled for the delight of the thousands of fans in attendance. Amongst the original race cars of the past were some of the men who raced the cars that put the sport of drag racing on the map. With all the history on the property there still was a race and NHRA Heritage Series Championships on the line.

Nostalgia Top Fuel is a blast from the past, they are front motored unlike their modern day counterparts that are rear engine. Today’s top fuelers frequently exceed 320-plus mph in a 1000 foot race track. The Nostalgia dragster covered 1320 feet at 260-plus mph.

When the weekend kicked off on Friday, Tony Bartone of Long Island, New York looked to duplicate his win from the 2014 Reunion. Bill Dunlop and the High Speed Motorsports team looked to put an end to Bartone’s second consecutive Heritage series championship run. Dunlop cruised through round one when Brenden Murray’s car broke after the burnout. In round two he took on David Hirata. Hirata left the starting line first but his 5.737 at 226 mph was no match for Dunlop’s 5.661 at 260 mph. In the semifinal round Dunlop had a free pass to the final as Rick White was unable to answer the call. In the other semifinal match, it was Denver Schutz taking on series champ Tony Bartone. With the upset of the weekend, Schutz put Bartone with a hole shot. Schutz cut a .078 reaction time to a .216. Schutz ran a 5.908 at 244 mph which was enough to hold off Bartone’s 5.826 at 202 mph. Schutz would then take on Dunlop in the final where he again had a good reaction time of a .071 to a .167, but this time it would not be enough. Dunlop put up a 5.695 at 255 mph to a 5.838 at 252 mph.

The Nostalgia funny car class hosted 32 nitro burning floppers from all over. The number one and two qualifiers would square off in the final round. Rookie Ryan Hodgson qualified number one and marched through his side of the elimination ladder. On his road to the final he took out Danny Gerber, James Day, and Mark Sanders. This would match him up with Jason Rupert. Rupert conquered his side of the ladder by beating Don Hudson, Dan Horan Jr, and Hollywood Kris Krabill. In the final round Rupert got off the starting line first with a .057 to a .135, but Hodgson drove around him with a 5.722 at 255 mph to a 5.817 at 249 mph to capture his first Hot Rod Reunion title in his first attempt. Steven Densham was crowned 2015 NHRA Heritage series champion.

Local funny car racer Richard Townsend of Oakdale had an impressive second full year of racing. He captured his first career win earlier in the season and finished third in the series points standings. Townsend qualified in the number nine spot and took on James Day in round one. Day got off the starting line with a .068 to a .112 reaction time. Day was able to hold off Townsend with a 5.820 at 249 mph to a 5.837 at 249 mph. Although the Nitroholic teams season came to an early end on Saturday night, the team remained in high spirits celebrating their number 3 points finish with family and friends.