The REAL March Madness! 56 Years of Drag Racing Drama, The Bakersfield March Meet

           Tim Avila Hookin

Tim Avila Hookin!

Every year at this time, we’re bludgeoned to death with March Madness

basketball hysteria. It takes command of TV, radio, newspapers and the internet. Freakishly tall guys in shorts bouncing a ball? Get over it! If you want real action and excitement, head to Bakersfield for the March Meet.

The historic Auto Club Fomosa Raceway played host to yet another barnburner: Race cars from coast to coast were pitted cheek to jowls, so many that “traffic cops” were needed to manage traffic flow. Near 30 nitro Funny Cars and more than 16 Top Fuelers thundered for four days. The number of Big Show drivers and crew chiefs in attendance provided further proof this is a serious event.

In the nitro ranks, upsets were the order of the Meet, even before eliminations began. A handful of heavy-hitters and past winners didn’t make the F/C 16-car cut. Those frantic Fuel Altereds, for years relegated to exhibition runs, were elevated to Eliminator status, more than a dozen bringing the fans to their feet.

Sportsman racers provided hours of heart-pounding action, including the Gas Class competitors, many of which were show car quality appearance and construction.

John and Blake Bowser and staff are to be commended for all they’ve done to continually improve the Famoso facility. This year the participants were greeted by acres of new blacktop. Congratulations to all involved for perpetuating excitement and hard racing that makes The March Meet such a legendary event.

And the winners of the fifty-sixth annual March Meet are: Tony Bartone (Top Fuel), James Day (Funny Car), Dan Hix (Fuel Altered), Ryan Davenport (A/Fuel), Richard High (7.0 Pro), Wayne Ramey (Jr. Fuel), Brian Rogers (A/Gas), Cliff Boyles (B/Gas), Todd Lindgren (C/Gas), Sam Tucker (D/Gas), Bill Webber (NE-1), Tom Mardis (NE-2), James Kirkman (Hot Rod).

Drag Racing Car

Tony Bartone towed from the Atlantic to the Pacific and pretty much dominated T/F. In the final, a meeting of number 1 and 2 qualifiers, he defeated Rick White 5.62/262.13 (Event Top Speed/Low E.T.) to 5.71/252.52.

Drag Racing Car

The debut of Gary Turner’s new Pedaler was an auspicious one. Driver James Day nailed Dan Horan to the tree in the finals 5.88/228.31 to 5.72/255.19, for the F/C championship.

Drag Racing Car

A/Fuel number 1 and 2 qualifiers Ryan Davenport (far lane) and Kin Bates faced off in the final. Davenport got the win 6.19 (Event Low E.T.)/218.55 to 7.28/207.21. Bates earlier set Event Top Speed with a 227.31 charge.

Drag Racing Car

Wayne Ramey won the Jr. Fuel portion of the March Meet program when the #1 qualifier legendary Don Enriquez redlit in the final.

Drag Racing Car

Fuel Altereds made it back to the Big Time, exhibition to Eliminator. Dan Hix defeated the more traditional Fiat of AA/FA stalwart Mike Sullivan, piloted by son Jeremy, 6.11 to 6.21 E.T.

Drag Racing Car

Brian Rogers scored the A/G championship by defeating Chris Beanes’ beautiful Henry J in a squeaker 7.590 to 7.597.

Drag Racing Car

B/G champ Cliff Boyles wheeled his Arrow to the finals win over Michael Boss’ Chevelle.

Drag Racing Car

Bill Webber (far lane) defeated Alan Hull to capture the NE-1 title.

Drag Racing Car

Tocco & Garten, Roger Garten driving, Justin Taylor twirling the wrenches, qualified into the very tough F/C field that saw many heavy-hitters spectating on Sunday.

 Drag Racing Car

This ’55 gasser is almost too nice to race!

Drag Racing Car

Dan Horan with former Big Show tuner Ronnie Swearingen’s guidance, was the dominant force in F/C (#1 qualifier, Event Low E.T., low E.T. every round, including finals). Unfortunately James Day’s money-race holeshot soured his event.

Drag Racing Car

WWII’s Jim Murphy probably wished he’d just stayed home! His pit area was littered with “wounded soldiers” plus a starting lane miscue was just the icing on his cake.

Text by Pete Ward and Photos by Doug Adams and Roger Rohrdanz

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