".....you can't kill a dream; you can only wake
Editor's note: Bill Dunlap drove
Larry Huff's Soapy Sales RED through the summer of 1973 before
being replaced by Dave Uyehara. The team of Larry Huff and Mike
Fuller would see the year out before Mike, needing to spend more
time with his new business (Mountain Cascade), also got out of
racing (see Dunlap
- Part 1). It would be eighteen years before Bill Dunlap
and Mike Fuller would reunite in a partnership that would last
the good part of fifteen years.
Bill: I was a little bitter after Huff fired me, but
I still had my Woody car. Instead of selling it, I stored it
on the rafters in my garage. I also kept my license current hoping
some day to get another ride. It took eighteen years, but that
opportunity finally came when I got a call from Mike Fuller.
I had kept in touch with Mike, and at a social function a few
years earlier, mentioned to him my interest in getting back into
the sport. The day I heard from Mike I actually had spoken to
Rich Guasco first. Rich and Mike had grown up in the same town
and had been buddies for years. Mike wanted to know if I still
had the Woody car and my competition license. When I told him
I did, he said, "Well, do you want to go nostalgia racing?"
I replied that I did but honestly could not afford to do it.
Mike said he could fund the operation, so I gave him my Woody
car and that is how we got back together.
MARY DUNLAP ON BILL DUNLAP
."I cannot recall any
specific discussions with Bill about his return to drag racing,
but I knew it was something he longed to do. When Mike asked
him to drive, Bill did not ask me how I felt about it. But, it
wasn't necessary. By that time, I had been around the sport enough
to see what it was all about. I never had any reservations about
his driving again, especially after meeting Mike and Sharon Fuller.
They were good, generous, and sensible people. I felt comfortable
with them and that was important to me because, ultimately, Mike
was responsible for what his race car did on the drag strip.
When people find out that my husband drives a top fuel dragster,
I get the same question, "Doesn't it scare you"? My
usual reply is, "No, it doesn't scare me. What scares me
is driving to work every day." I wish I could drive to work
under the same conditions Bill drives a race car."
Bill's Woody car was the last
FED Gilmore ever assembled. Mike took it to Harry Hoffman to
be strengthened and updated with a five point roll cage. The
car was outfitted with a cast iron 392 and the weathered yellow
panels were repainted black.
Bill: In the late summer of 1992, we took the
car out to Sears Point for a Goodguys race. It turned out to
be a forgettable weekend as we had the chute fall out on a burnout
and then discovered a crack in a cylinder wall. So, we loaded
up the car and took it home. After we tore it down, we found
the crack to be only a scratch. Relieved by the discovery, we
put the engine back together, took the car down to Bakersfield,
and won the very first California Hot Rod Reunion. Back then,
a good run for us was in the 6.90s. These cars were a real handful
to drive as they really wanted to move around on you. I think
a lot of it had to do with the tires which simply were not as
good as now. I remember going through the lights at Famoso on
two wheels one way and then the other way. However, it wasn't
just me - I remember a lot of drivers experiencing the same thing.
First time out with
the Woody car at Sears Point in 1992.
<Ron Burch photos>
Maiden pass with the Woody
car was memorable, if forgettable - the chute accidently came
out on the run.
Final round of the inaugural
CHRR versus Sam Chastain and Frank "Root Beer" Hedge
at Famoso Raceway, November 1992.
Winner's circle at
the 1992 CHRR.
<Ron Burch photo>
Steve Gibbs, Trophy
Girl, Dunlap, Rich Guasco, crew and Mike Fuller.
1994 March Meet
Bill, Mike, and Rich are 2nd, 4th, & 5th from the left, respectively--
Jack Williams at the far left .
<Bob Johnson photo>
1994 March Meet -
the two team cars in the winner's circle Larry Huff at the far
Chute shots from Famoso
Raceway in 1994.
<Ron Burch photo>
Famoso Raceway in
<Ron Burch photo>
1994 CHRR against
teammate Larry Huff driving Pure Hell.
Dunlap versus Pierrre
Poncia at Sacramento in 1993.
Mike and Bill retired the
Woody car at the end of the 1994 season. Today, the car is being
restored by John Walsh (of The Wailer top fuel dragster fame)
for cacklefests and displays at the museum.
Mike and Bill raced their vintage
Woody car for about three years before it was replaced in1995
with a brand new dragster built by Dave Uyehara. During that
time, they won not only the inaugural CHRR, but the 1994 Goodguys
March and 1994 Jim Davis Memorial meets as well. Nostalgia drag
racing was slowly maturing from events where old friends met
and reminisced about "the good old days" into a structured
series of races with points and a purse.
Bill: Nostalgia drag racing took
a while to catch on with the fans. In the beginning, there were
not a lot of people in the stands and that must have made it
hard on the promoters. But, slowly it caught on, and as car counts
increased, so did the number of fans in attendance. NHRA's support
and promotion of its California Hot Rod Reunion was a big reason
nostalgia drag racing took off, and today, has become a permanent
part of the drag racing map. Our first race with the new Uyehara
car was a Goodguys deal at Sears Point. I never saw the car until
it showed up at the track straight from Dave's shop; it didn't
even have any paint on it. Compared to my trusty old Woody car,
this was simply a great race car-the sweetest handling car ever.
With it, we won a host of races including the '97 March Meet
and the '97 California Hot Rod Reunion. We were also the first
top fuel dragster to make a five second run at a Goodguys event--
5.98 at Sears Point.
April 22, 1995 - first
pass in the Uyehara car at Sears Point Raceway.
Famoso Raceway (1995)
versus Ty Norton.
Mike Fuller and Bill Dunlap
won the 1997 Goodguys March Meet with Paul Romaine's engine (Paul
is second to right).
Final round of the
1997 Fremont Reunion Drags at Sacramento Raceway; versus Ground
The 225" '95 Uyehara
car was powered by a 430 cid Donovan engine and had a best time
of 5.98 (Sears Point) and 238 mph (Bakersfield).
Donovan engine with
BDS supercharger and the Hot Heads aluminum cylinder heads.
During a race against Gerry
Steiner at Sear's Point in 1997, Bill got a face full of oil,
hit the tire barrier for the pedestrian bridge, and took a cruise
of the race track usually reserved for the open wheel cars before
coming to a stop along the K rail.
After the accident
at Sears Point in 1997, Bill switched from the visor to old school
At the 1998 March Meet, Dunlap
and Jim Murphy ran identical 6.00s with Bill crossing the finish
line first. Later, he was DQd when it was judged his tire crossed
over the center line.
LIST OF WINS FOR FULLER-DUNLAP
(first Uyehara car)
1996 Goodguys Jim Davis Memorial
1997 Goodguys March Meet
1996 Goodguys Fuel & Gas Championships
Goodguys West Coast Hot Rod Happenin'
1996 Goodguys West Coast Championship Series
NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion
1996 ANRA Nostalgia Racing Series
1998 Pro Nitro
Top Fuel World Championship
LIST OF WINS FOR FULLER-DUNLAP
(second Uyehara car)
1999 Pro Nitro Phoenix and
1999 March Meet Top Fuel B Eliminator
2000 Goodguys Happenin' Top Fuel B Division
Goodguys Fall Classic Top Fuel B Division
Bill: Interest in nostalgia drag racing picked up in
the mid '90s, and especially so after the Goodguys got their
point series organized. We had one of the cars to beat, but there
was always plenty of good competition. There was Paul Romaine,
Sammy Hale and Champion Speed Shop, the Kaisers, Ty Norton and
Jesse Perkins, the Boyds, Dan Horan Sr., and Sam Chastain, just
to name a few. We must have raced Sam and Frank (Hedge) eight
or ten times, and Horan was another tough customer. I remember
an ANRA race at Bakersfield in which Horan ran a 6.16 and that
finally eclipsed John Wiebe's 6.17 which had stood as the lowest
e.t. for a front engine dragster since 1972. After the 1998 season
Mike sold the Uyehara car to John Halstead and ordered a new
one from Dave. This was the dragster Steve Gibbs nicknamed "the
coupe" for the way the cowling came right up to my face.
We were moderately successful with this car winning a couple
Pro Nitro events in Arizona, the B division at the '99 March
Meet, and the B division at the 2000 Goodguys Hot Rod Happenin'
and the Fall Classic. In 2001, we came out with the current car.
This is the one in which we recorded our quickest time and fastest
speed: a 5.81 at Sacramento and 255 mph at Bakersfield. I actually
ran a 5.75 at Bakersfield but it was not allowed. We had a remote
oil filter in front of the engine and the oil line broke under
the canard. That put oil on the tire although I could not see
it. The car pulled me to the center and I took out the lights
in the process. I think Jack Harris' run was DQd, too.
The 3rd URC car was
nicknamed the "Bat Car" for its distinctive blower
scoop; got oil?
The final of the 2003 Governor's
Cup at Sacramento would, at the time, result in the quickest
side by side nostalgia top fuel race in history. Jim Murphy won
the race with a 5.832-239.98 to Bill's time shown above. In the
semis, Bill suffered an engine explosion, slid sideways, and
when the chute caught on the guard rail from the wind, tipped
the car on its side. This necessitated a furious thrash by the
Fuller crew prior to the final.
2003 Boise Pepsi Nightfire
Under the Goodguys umbrella,
nostalgia top fuel competition got better and better, and as
car counts increased, so did the number of fans attending the
events, At the 2002 Nitro Nationals at Infineon Raceway, so many
fans showed up that the newly refurbished facility was unable
to accommodate all the cars. Many of the fans in attendance that
day had to be bused in from outlying dirt lots. Fuller-Dunlap,
always one of the cars to beat, continued its winning ways. In
2002, they won the CHRR top fuel B division, and in 2003, the
prestigious Pepsi Nightfire Nationals. Along with Jim Murphy
and Jack Harris, they were always in the hunt. Then, things started
to go wrong. The car was not performing as consistently quick
as before and there were more than a few hot rides for the driver.
At the 2005 Goodguys event at Sonoma, Dunlap had Brett Harris
covered until the engine blew up at 1100'. The car had slowly
begun to slip out of the top of the class. In an effort to shake
things up, the team showed up at the 2006 March Meet with a new
body and color design. Rejuvenated, the team won the 30th Annual
Nitro Nite of Fire at Sacramento Raceway. They seemed to be creeping
back to the top, although a major win continued to elude them.
LIST OF WINS FOR FULLER-DUNLAP
(third Uyehara car)
2001 Goodguys Fuel and Gas Finals
2002 CHRR Top Fuel B Division
Boise Pepsi Nightfire Nationals
Bill: We had a black race car and it was not working.
The new design and color was an attempt to shake loose from "the
bads". At the 2007 March Meet we were having trouble and
did not qualify in the upper half of the field. In round one
of eliminations, I was paired with Stu and The Circuit Breaker.
It was a close side-by-side race so I did not want to lift. As
soon as I shut off, I got "oiled in" about as bad as
I could ever recall-it was pretty grim. But, I got the car stopped
without incident. Everything was OK except I had so much oil
on me it was literally dripping down my suit.
March 11, 2007-E1 at the '07
March Meet. This would be Bill's final pass for Mike Fuller.
Though totally blinded by the engine oil, Bill stayed in his
lane and got the car safely stopped. Despite the engine explosion,
Bill still ran a 5.951 at 245.83 in a losing effort against Shannon
"I don't get mad or pissed
off when the engine catches on fire, blows up, or throws oil
in my face
..that just goes along with the territory.
If I'm going to get in the car, I have to expect that these things
will happen. If a driver is going to whine and cry about it,
then he should find something else to do."
<Jeff Jackson photos>
Bill: After the March Meet, I drove up to Mike's
one Saturday to work on the dragster. When I got to the shop
Mike said he needed to talk with me in the office. He asked me
how much longer I thought I wanted to drive. I told him I hadn't
thought about it much, but wanted to finish out the year and
maybe another year after that. Puzzled, I said, "Am I not
doing a good job?" Mike replied that he had seen a picture
of the run against the Circuit Breaker at the March Meet on the
internet and had no idea what I was going through on the top
end. He felt that if we continued on I might get hurt, and because
we had been together for so long, he would not be able to handle
that possibility very well. Having said that, he then told me
he wanted to put another driver in the car. I knew it was a very
difficult decision for him, but I respected the honest and forthright
way in which Mike did it. He did invite me to remain with the
team, but I didn't feel comfortable with the idea and declined
his offer. I'm not ready to quit because I still think I can
drive. I would consider another eliminator even if I had to step
down a class. But, I'm a top fuel dragster guy and would like
to stay with those race cars until I do retire; I will take it
as it comes.
Editor's note: When Brendan Murry
was hurt in a racing accident in the summer of 2007, Bill stepped
in as the driver for Running Wild Racing while Murry recovered
from his injuries. Although Brendan is again driving the potent
Chevy-powered Stirling car, Bill is still listed as the car's
"test pilot" on the All American Fuel Dragster web
ON DRIVING A FRONT ENGINE TOP
Bill: These nostalgia dragsters are a totally different
breed from the FEDs of the 1960s. Back then, we used Goodyears
and generally the car would stick pretty well. With the smaller
M&Hs, the nostalgia dragster wants to move around. So, the
driver has to be totally focused on the task at hand and ready
for any possibility. If the car starts breaking loose, you have
to get on the brake and slow down the tire spin. It will generally
respond and straighten out pretty good-the motor doesn't know
if it's getting good traction or if the brake has been applied.
All in all, there is no point in the run where one can relax
until the car has been safely slowed and off the track. After
the car launches, I keep it in the center by looking around both
sides of the supercharger. I look for the wall, over to the center
line, back to the wall, and once again to the center of the track.
I believe the car goes where the driver is looking and this is
the best way to keep it in the groove.
More goes on before, during, and after a run, than most people
realize. Even before I get suited up and into the car, I try
to look it over for loose nuts, bolts, fuel lines, or anything
that may not be right. Every crew chief has their particular
way of approaching a run and it should be done exactly the same
each time. Mike always strapped me in. He would make sure the
restraints were secure. Once strapped in, I make sure the reverser
is in the forward position. A crew member will remove the safety
flags from the fire bottle lever and the chutes. Before the car
is started, the motor must be "backed off" to clear
any fuel in the cylinders. This is done with a breaker bar, after
which the starter is run for a few seconds with the mag and fuel
When the car is fired, I have
a firm hold on the brake and the clutch is depressed. If the
engine gets too much fuel, the RPMs can come up with a force
that can literally push your foot right off the clutch and make
the car jump forward. As soon as the engine comes to life, I
check the oil pressure and depress the clutch to keep it cool.
Once the engine has reached a particular temperature, Mike would
motion me forward to start the burnout. I let off the brake handle
and ease up on the clutch enough to roll through the water box
and look for a crewmember to tell me when to start the burnout.
Mike used a throttle stop to make sure we did the burnout the
same every time and not hurt the engine by over revving it.
Once the burnout procedure
has been completed and I have backed up behind the starting line,
I put the reverser in forward. With Mike directing me, I inch
forward to a spot right before the first stage light. Then, Mike
would make any last minute adjustments to the engine, check with
the opponent's crew chief, and motion for me to stage the car.
At this point, I would inch the car forward until the top stage
light came on. Once my opponent's top light goes on, I will have
my right hand on the brake. With the left hand I switch the fuel
system onto the high side. Then, I take my left foot off the
clutch and rest it on the floor. With my left hand on the steering
wheel and my right hand on the brake, I inch forward to light
the bottom stage bulb, and then pull hard on the brake. When
I see the flash of amber, I simultaneously release the brake
and press down on the throttle. If it's not a particularly good
track, I will keep my hand on the brake to control wheel speed.
At 300', I hit a lever on the steering wheel to retard the magneto.
This is accomplished by driving with the thumb around the butterfly
steering wheel and a couple fingers around the lever. I don't
have to take my hand off the wheel, but I will need to open up
my hand. If the race is close, there is a lever on the other
side of the wheel that I can use to advance the timing. Nearing
the finish line, I reach across with the left hand and hit the
chute lever. I wait for the chute to hit before I use the brakes.
If you get on the brakes just as the chute hits, it will exert
a lot of pressure down on the chassis which is not a good thing.
Of course, it doesn't always
go as planned. Once at Bakersfield, I had a bad fire that literally
burned off the strap for my goggles. When the chute hit, the
goggles came off my face, and I received second degree burns
around my eyes.
ON INNOVATION, SAFETY, AND THE
Bill: We switched to an alloy block as soon as it
was permitted by the Goodguys. The iron 392 blocks, as a result
of sitting in some guy's garage or backyard, had bad cylinder
walls, rusting from the inside out. At first, the Donovan was
the only aluminum block available, and at that, still had to
be mated with iron heads, preferably the '55 Chrysler model.
Then, the Rodeck billet block was allowed and that was a big
step forward in terms of performance and safety. The billet block
is stronger and will not flex like cast aluminum, and can be
repaired unless it is really torn up. Finally, the AJ heads was
a tremendous improvement in the way the engine breathes and stays
together. Even though they are more expensive, it's worth it
in terms of durability and safety.
Something needs to be done
about the M&H tire and the chunking problem. Someone is going
to get hurt if they don't get a handle on it--the new Hoosier
Cost has been an issue for
a number of years now. It may be immaterial to the five or six
best funded teams, but for the rest of them, it's a real concern.
I think we have seen car count peak for the top fuel dragsters.
Just in the last two years, several teams have sold or parked
ON JOHN SHOEMAKER
Bill: He was an outstanding person; a super gentleman;
and, as good as there was when it came to driving a dragster.
I never had to worry about him being in the other lane-he never
goofed around or did anything stupid. At the CHRR last October,
we both brought our baseball mitts and tossed the ball back and
forth in the pits. I was supposed to bring my glove to the March
Meet but forgot it. John told me he brought an extra one and
to come above and play catch when I got the chance. I miss John
ON MIKE FULLER
Bill: Mike's sharp-always thinking about improving
things to make it better. We may go out and run good one weekend,
and despite that result, Mike may have a different plan for the
next session. Sometimes we would take a step back in the short
run to make two steps forward in the big picture. Actually, I'm
somewhat surprised Mike has slipped as much as he has and not
gotten a handle on it. But, he will figure it out and get it
running well again. There is one other thing that should be mentioned
about Mike. He has always wanted to see the low budget guys get
as much or more of a break than the better funded teams-whatever
it takes to keep the little guys in the class.
Goodguys 5 Second Club-Fuel
& Gas Finals, Famoso Raceway, 2002 Left to right: Rick McGee;
Rance McDaniel; Jack Harris; Gerry Steiner; Lee Jennings; Jim
Murphy; Bill Alexander; and Bill Dunlap.
Bill, Mike, and the
late Jim Herbert at Sears Point Raceway.
Bill, Ty Norton, and
Jesse Perkins (both of whom have since passed).
to Part 1