Author: Sharp, Greg
Date published: November 5, 2010
When the California Hot Rod Reunion presented by Automobile Club of Southern California was first introduced in 1992, NHRA officials were ecstatic that approximately 5,000 fans attended the event. Now, nearly two decades later, reunion crowds have grown to more than four times that amount, and it appears that this year's edition, held Oct. 16-18 at Auto Club Famoso Raceway, was the biggest one to date.
The weekend of traditions began with the popular Friday evening reception at the DoubleTree Hotel to present Lifetime Achievement awards to this year's honorees. Attendees filled the chairs at every table while many more stood in the hallway.
The always-loquacious Dave McClelland, who has emceed every CHRR event since the program was established in 1992, was almost rendered speechless when he was announced as a surprise honoree during Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum Board Member Steve Gibbs' welcome speech. McClelland remarked, "I don't know what to say," which brought down the house.
After McClelland recovered his composure, he introduced the class of 2010, which includes Bill Bagshaw, Don Long, Al "Mousie" Marcellus, Tom Prufer, the Steinegger & Eshenbaugh team, and grand marshal Tom Hanna.
The Golden Age award, which recognizes significant figures from the formative days of hot rodding, was presented to Gordon Browning, who as a Los Angeles Police Department officer worked with Wally Parks and chief William H. Parker to help get kids off the street and into organized racing. When police departments from other cities saw the success of these efforts, they adopted similar programs. Browning later became a member of NHRA's board of directors and served a term as secretary.
Saturday began with qualifying runs in all categories, which included 16 entries in Nostalgia Top Fuel and a whopping 40 Nostalgia Funny Cars.
After the first round of eliminations, the evening's program included the Twilight Memorial, which recognized hot rodding figures who have passed on since the last reunion; the parade of honorees in traditional hot rods; and the Cacklefest parade of historic vehicles, which were introduced by announcers Jon Lundberg and Mike English.
For the first time, the Cacklefest ritual was divided into two parts, with Saturday's event restricted to push-start cars only, for which 47 vehicles took part. Self-starting cars were part of the pre-race ceremony Sunday morning.
During Sunday afternoon's eliminations, wind, thunder, and lightning brought a halt to racing for the day. Attempts to complete the program on Monday were cancelled by rain, so the Nostalgia Top Fuel and Nostalgia Funny Car finals will be run at the upcoming Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals in Pomona. The rest of the category finalists split the purse with the trophy going to the driver who posted low e.t. of the previous round.
Greg Sharp, the NHRA Museum's curator and event director, said, "Despite the fact that eliminations were not completed, the weekend was still a tremendous success. I'm still amazed with how this event continues to grow over the years, and it is with a great degree of anticipation and excitement that we look forward to the 20th annual CHRR in 2011." ND