NHRA’s co-production Hot Rod Heritage Drag Racing Series wound up its 2017 season campaign during the 26th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California—on October 20-22, 2017, held at fabled Auto Club Famoso Raceway located just north of Bakersfield.
After kicking off the event’s festivities with a pre-race party and car show display hosted near the Original Roadhouse Grill on Thursday, it was game on from that point through to Sunday evening. Not only did the 2017 California Hot Rod Reunion (CHRR) feature its usual remarkable evening celebrations and display of nostalgic, legendary, and vintage machines—both on and off the track—the capacity crowd was treated to some remarkable finishes to the series’ season-capping event.
In particular, the CHRR’s Nostalgia Fuel Funny Car division (AA/FC) produced some highly entertaining racing with Chevrolet-bodied cars being dominate once again. A healthy car count of 30 machines attempted qualifying laps for that category, and after three sessions they produce the quickest 16-car field in class history, with a 5.830 e.t. bump.
The AA/FC class was led from start to finish by California’s Bobby Cottrell, who is a new designated driver this year for Bucky Austin’s very formidable Bardahl/Buckey’s Auto Center 1969 Camaro based out of Washington state. Cottrell, qualified Number 1 with a 5.563 e.t. then rattled off low e.t. of the event (at a record quick 5.528), while proceeding past the field during eliminations to ultimately win decisively.
In the final round, Cottrell beat another Chevy Camaro, a 1970 model driven by Florida’s Matt Bynum, with a 5.670 at 253.61 to Bynum’s 5.744 at 258.62. Bynum, who had qualified Third, was credited with a 263.05 mph terminal speed during eliminations—another record for the AA/FC category.
“It was a busy weekend, and I’m so thankful for my crew,” said Cottrell, who is from Whittier, California. “We did hurt some parts, and every single round we had to change stuff. My crew worked their tails off. To get the win here in front of my family and my kids is pretty special.”
The event also determined the overall season championship title for the AA/FC class and that prestigious honor will, for the very first time, go north of the border to Canada with the highly formidable Pacemaker Hodgson/Papirnick Chevy Camaro team. Team driver Ryan Hodgson (from Edmonton, Alberta) qualified Number 4 and advanced to the final four on Sunday to clinch, while his closest points competitor, two-time series champion Jason Rupert, (Yorba Linda, California)—also in a Chevy Camaro—unexpectedly was disqualified.
The event also featured a hard-fought win in an all-Chevrolet Pro Modified final round. Jeremy Hanger wheeled the powerful 1959 Corvette owned by SoCal racer legend Kirk Kuhns to victory by beating another supercharged car, the 1957 Chevy driven by Tony Jurado.
Chevy cars dominated the Pro Mod class from a performance perspective, too, with Mike Maggio qualifying Number 1 and setting low e.t. at 5.717 in his supercharged 1969 Camaro. Ed Thornton wheeled his turbocharged 1970 Camaro to an amazing 268.65 mph terminal speed, which was top speed of the meet.
Chevy racing proponents Bob Moreland (A/FX) and Bob Tingler (Nostalgia Super Stock) were also CHRR eliminator champions racing their Chevelles.
Check out this extensive NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion event photo gallery.
Photos by Bruce Biegler