Smashes ET Record with a stunning 5.56
Austin Wins Funny Car





Bakersfield, CA - March 07-09, 2008: The 50th anniversary of the March Meet can be summed up with an amalgamation of superlatives that would send an English major scrambling for their Thesaurus. Under four days of Chamber of Commerce skies, the largest car count/spectator attendance in history filled the hallowed Famoso Dragstrip grounds for the event that lived up to its star billing - and more.

John and Blake Bowser along with one of the best crews ever assembled put on a drag race for the ages. From the full pits on Thursday to the Winners Circle shots on Sunday this was an event brimming with an accommodating facility, incredible racing surface, friendly staff, full bore fans, record performances and sadly, tragedy.

Aside from the unforeseen and grievous loss of Top Fuel veteran John Shoemaker, the 2008 March Meet was a grand slam home run by anybody's standards. The 40,000+ fans that packed the facility over the three-day event were treated to over 500 race cars, a packed manufactures midway, a Cacklefest, swap meet, hotrods, rat rods and many of the sports greatest stars. By Sunday everyone was already making their reservations for the 2009 event.

Without further ado here's the race starting with the first Top Fuel qualifying session from Friday. Until a long overdue TV deal is struck, this is the best front engine top fuel coverage in the world.


Photos by: Bob Brown, Stephen Justice, Warren Merriman, Steve Wallace, Dan Kaplan, Tim Hanaseth, Pam Schavrien, Darrell Conrad, Jim Phillipson, John Ewald and Don Ewald


*This page has 300 photos so if you have a dial up modem it probably won't load.




Jack Harris and company celebrate his 3rd March Meet win and smashing the Top Fuel ET record with a stunning 5.56.





Top Fuel Qualifying - Session One
Under sunny skies and ideal track conditions the first session of Top Fuel qualifying went off as scheduled at 2:00 p.m. Friday afternoon.


The first pair to test the water was local hitter Brad Thompson in the Thompson & Bless entry and Rick White in the AutoPower Neal & White entry from San Diego. - two drivers on the Tricky Tipster's top five to go all the way.










Both drivers focused backing up.



Both cars left hard - we had a drag race.









Out of the box Thompson set the stage for what promised to be a performance riddled weekend with a 5.675 at 250.34 - the first leg of a new ET record. And, a preview of all the pistons that would be sacrificed the the aluminum gods.


Lost in Thompson's time was a very nice 5.860 at 242.45 by Rick White.






Pair two featured Pete "Fritz" Kaiser in ever improving Ground Zero fueler and Mark Malde in the Birky Bunch Chevy car.












Both cars left hard - not a sign of tire spin.



Malde's mounts started eating pistons early and he wisely clicked it.




Kaiser laid down a trouble free 5.863 at 255.89.


In Malde's wake out came the ace Famoso Safety Safari and clean up crew. They got a real workout this weekend.





Fire the next pair - Jason Richey in Dave Smith's "Nitro Fever" and Rick McGee in the Tedford & McGee "Overtime Special".















Richey didn't get the ET they were looking for but the big MPH was there with a 6.017 at 250.97.


McGee didn't hit the tune-up and clicked it to a 6.370 at 190.39.




Out next was Mike McClennan in the Mike Fuller Motorsports car and Denver Schutz in the Jim Cullen "Raisin Express II" entry.









McClennan, the only car in this session on Hoosier tires, was a bit soft at the hit but not so for Schutz.








Denver served notice that he too was here to play carding a 5.853 at 251.74.


McClennan clicked it way early to a 6.233 at 199.55.




The fifth pair out featured Ernie McClain who travled some 3000 miles from Delaware (for sure the long distance award for Top Fuel) with his Mill Road Boys Chevy powered car for the 50th March Meet and Rick Williamson in the Hot Rod Bill's entry.










Williamson was way more aggressive on the leave....










With McClain way back in his rear view mirror Williamson clocked a career best 5.833 at 246.57. Ernie put up a shut off 6.244 at 229.18.





Out next were old friends Jim Murphy in his WW2 Racing entry and John Shoemaker in the American Eagle. This match up would prove to be a portent for the worst racing weekend in Murphy's long career and tragedy for the entire drag racing family.







As Murphy went into stage he was shut off with a minor oil leak.



Shoemaker was a bit off track from the hit.




When it was obvious that the car was not going to behave, John clicked it and did a masterful job of keeping it off the guardwall and on all fours.






Coasting through the thoughts of improving in session two were already on John's mind.




Without delay out rolled Rick Rogers in his Hammerhead Racing entry and Adam Sorokin in the RB Entertainment - Champion Speed Shop flyer.









Sorokin left first and harder but would not be around long.










With Sorokin long dead in the water, Rogers ripped off a respectable 6.085 at 250.97.





After Mendy Fry's move to funny car, Terry Cox was recruited to fill the seat of the Botehlo-Compston-Patterson late model hemi powered car. He was paired with Shannon Stewart in Bob Richardson's "Circuit Breaker".











Stewart's car had the best 60 foot time but that wasn't saying a lot.







By the 300 foot mark Stewart had gotten out of the groove and drifted way too close to the wall and wisely shut it off.


Down track Cox experienced some aluminum problems and shut off as well. His 6.295 at 204.49 would make the show at #11 but certainly not hold for two more sessions.







The next pair out was Jack Harris back in the seat of his Nitro Thunder car after a 2 year absence and Howard Haight in Butch Blair's "Fugowie!"





All was good until Harris was ready to move up to stage. A small oil leak developed and the crew frantically tried to stop it. Finally Starter, Bill Condit tells crew chief Rayce Muchmore to signal Jack to shut it off and gave Haight the single.



Haight left good and was on a good lap when he clicked it a bit early with a 6.018 at 227.90. Could have been a 1000' check out pass.












Prior to Bill Dunlap's burnout, car owner Brendan Murry shared some thoughts on the track condition with big show funny car shoe Jack Beckman who was driving a Nostalgia Funny Car on his weekend off.


Dunlap starts his burnout in Murry's "Running Wild" Chevy power fueler.


In the High Speed Motorsports car for his second full season, Troy Green heated the tire in the right lane.










Green left hard in the HSMS car (aka Great White) while Dunlap's ride was a bit soft.













Dunlap clicked it a bit early to a 6.148 at 215.10.


Green also shut off early (as planned) and stopped the clocks with a nice and clean 5.886 at 223.60 which was a great baseline pass for the team to work from.




Just following the session, Randy Beck was out in John Rodeck's "Paso Posse" fueler for his last pass to upgrade his license to Top Fuel.







The car left hard and at this point all was well.










All was fine until the 1000' mark when all hell broke loose ...


Beck, with virtually no experience under his belt, had the one thing happen that rattles the most seasoned vets - a severe oil bath right in the lights. The Rodeck hemi ate up several pistons covering Randy with oil.



Virtually blinded, he had everything go wrong that could go wrong. The chutes were very late, plying the brakes the car hopped causing the throttle to be slapped and all this resulted in a hard hit to the guardwall near the last turnout.







Beck was stabilized by Sean Bellemeur (driver/EMT) until the cage could be cut off. He was transported to the hospital for CAT scans and other treatment. He was released later that night and was back at the track on Saturday. Beck later lamented that he could/should have done things differently but we all know that hind sight is always 20/20 and there is no doubt that the next time he will know what to expect and how to handle it.


The car was a total loss. Pipe can be replaced, people can't. A testament to the high safety standards applied to this cars.






 Order after 1st of 3 qualifying sessions:

1 - Brad Thompson 5.675 @ 250.34
2 - Rick Williamson 5.833 @ 246.57
3 - Denver Schutz 5.853 @ 251.74
4 - Rick White 5.860 @ 242.45
5 - Pete Kaiser 5.863 @ 255.89
6 - Troy Green 5.886 @ 223.60
7 - Jason Richey 6.017 @ 250.97
8 - Howard Haight 6.018 @ 227.90
9 - Rick Rogers 6.085 @ 250.97
10 - Bill Dunlap 6.148 @ 215.10
11 - Mike McLennan 6.233 @ 199.55
12 - Mark Malde 6.242 @ 208.52
13 - Ernie McClain 6.244 @ 229.18
14 - Terry Cox 6.295 @ 204.49
15 - Rick McGee 6.370 @ 190.39
16 - Adam Sorokin 7.383 @ 203.20 203.20
------------ Not Qualified ------------
17 - Shannon Stuart 8.634 @ 103.32
18 - John Shoemaker 8.978 @ 102.08
Shut off due to oil leaks:
Jim Murphy and Jack Harris


Session Two - Saturday

Session Three - Saturday

Round One - Sunday

R2 - Final -Sunday

All the Winners plus Pits N' People

Funny & Other Race Cars

Media Day

 2008 March Meet Cacklefest




Order Photos

Bob Brown Photos

Stephen Justice Photos

Steve Wallace

Dan Kaplan Photos

Warren Merriman Photos

Tim Hanaseth Photos

John Ewald Photos

Don Ewald Photos

Pam Schavrien Photos

Darrell Conrad Photos

Jim Phillipson Photos


Related Links

Thompson & Bless Racing

Jack Harris Racing - Nitro Thunder

High Speed Motorsports

All American Fuel Dragsters




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