Bakersfield March Meet Turns 60
The Bakersfield March Meet takes place on a sacred piece of asphalt that has been luring drag racers to Bakersfield, Calif., for more than six decades. Once used as an auxiliary airfield during WW II, Auto Club Famoso Raceway is hallowed ground with a gritty charm all its own. Its long history of nitro, horsepower and hot rods has helped make the Good Vibrations Bakersfield March Meet the most prestigious nostalgia drag race in the world. Primarily becase the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association pumped new life into the event back in 1994 before turning it over to the Bowser family/Kern Country Racing Association in 2007.
The legend began in 1959 when the local car club, the Smokers, hosted the inaugural U.S. Fuel and Gas Championships. The Smokers wanted to make a statement, and they did: they paid Don Garlits a hefty sum of money to make his first trip to the West Coast to battle California’s quickest and fastest. The crowd charged the gates, drank all of the town’s beer, lit garbage cans on fire while Garlits went down in the first round. Art Chrisman beat Bakersfield local Tony Waters for the Top Eliminator crown, and drag racers have been trying to conquer the same quarter-mile ever since.
Anticipation for the 2018 March Meet (the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series season-opener) was at an all-time high as over 400 fuelers, floppers, altereds, gassers, coupes and rails packed every inch of the grounds. That’s a lot of horsepower in one place, but not enough to challenge Mother Nature, who had the upper hand all weekend with unseasonably cool temperatures, rain showers and even hail.
But Sunday dawned clear resulting in a frenetic 13-hour stretch of nonstop action.
For fans, the March Meet is more than just a drag race, it’s a happening. There’s also a car show in the Famoso Grove, lined with trees honoring hot rodding heroes and drag racing icons. There’s a huge swap meet, tons of food, and vendors hawking everything a gearhead could want and more.
Often referred to as “The Patch,” Famoso Raceway has a mysterious way of drawing you in, and once you’ve been there you can’t wait to go back. Some of drag racing’s biggest names return to their old stomping grounds every March to see old friends and make new ones. This year was no different. Ed “the Ace” McCulloch, Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen, Roland Leong, Ed Iskenderian, Gary Beck, Mike Dunn and more were all there for the same reason as the rest of us: to reminisce about the good ol’ days and watch vintage drag racing at its best.
The big Sunday winners were Pete Wittenburg in Top Fuel (who was designated the winner when opponent Mendy Fry crossed the centerline midtrack in the final) and Bucky Austin’s Camaro Funny Car which streaked to a 5.723 @ 241mph winner with Bobby Cottrell behind the butterfly.
You can get full results here.
We will bring you an exclusive in-depth review of the March Meet Top Fuel racing next week. We promise it will be bitchin’!
March Meet Photo Extra!