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NHRA Heritage Season Closes Out At California Hot Rod Reunion
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Taking the win in the Top Fuel category at the 30th annual California Hot Rod Reunion/NHRA Heritage Drag Racing Series was Tyler Hilton of Ohio, driving past Lockland, Ohio, came into the event with a brand-new car. Photo By Mike Burghardt

The 30th annual California Hot Rod Reunion (CHRR) represents the final event of the season in the NHRA Heritage Drag Racing Series. The entire event started out as a way for fans to celebrate the golden age of the sport, with hundreds of restored race cars and show cars. Many of the restored cars were put together in running (not for racing) form, so they could be started and cackled. The engines cackle due to the exotic fuel, nitromethane, that pops as it exits the exhaust. Soon the event developed into actual racing, with stringent rules for safety of drivers, participants and fans. And today the series has become very popular to drag racing fans, young and old all across the country and even on foreign shores. There are nearly a dozen different categories contested and many of the drivers from that golden age are still active in this series. The main two categories are Top Fuel (AA/FD) and Nostalgia Funny Car (NFC).

The Top Fuel category is historically known as AA/FD (“Double A Fuel Dragster”) and are all the famed sling-shot front motored cars. They are quite different from their modern-day offspring, which have large 500 cubic inch engines mounted behind the driver with a 300-inch wheel-based car. These shorter cars can be a handful for the drivers, as they thunder down the quarter-mile track.

Tyler Hilton, Lockland, Ohio, came into the event with a brand-new car. The car was the same car that Tony Bartone had dominated the category in, winning multiple championships before he retired. In addition to the car, Hilton also received all the tuning and set up data to make the car run. And run it did. After taking the top spot in qualifying, he ran low elapse time every round (opened with a 5.592 at 248.72 mph) to advance to the final. In the final, he had to drive around Pete Kaiser of Pleasant Hill, California with a 5.645 at 238.22 mph to 5.704 at 251.95 mph effort. Kaiser was able to leave first (0.069 to 0.118), but Hilton’s car was quicker in the early part of the run and was able to hold off Kaiser’s top end charge for the win.

With the win, Hilton also garnered enough points in the event to capture the 2022 NHRA Heritage Season TF (AA/FD) championship.

Billy Morris, of LaQuinta, California, powered his ’69 Chevy Camaro bodied Nostalgia Funny Car (NFC) to the winner’s circle from the third qualifier position at the 2022 NHR heritage season’s final event. Morris got by Brad Thompson, Nathan Sitko and Tim Boycheck to advance to the final round. In the final, he squared off against Tony Jurado of Pleasanton, CA. Jurado had qualified number four in his slick black, purple-flamed, ’69 Chevy Camaro bodied Nostalgia Funny Car. Morris was quick all day and laid down a series of 5.664, 5.601 and 5.620 second elapse time runs in his march to the final round. In the final, Morris saved his best for last, as he drove left first (0.108 to 0.153) and ran low to take the win over Jurado.

In Funny Car, Bobby Cottrell of California, in the Bucky’s ’69 Camaro (owned by Bucky Austin) came into the event as the point leader. With his semi-final round finish, he was able to maintain his point lead and claim the 2022 NHRA Heritage Season Funny Car championship.

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California’s Bobby Cottrell was the points leader entering the Funny Car NHRA Heritage Series season finale and held on for the title, despite ending his day in the semifinals with his 1969 Camaro, owned by Bucky Austin. Photo By Mike Burghardt