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Big Bang at Beech Bend Hot Rod Reunion


Street rods roll into Beech Bend Raceway Park

22.6.06. The 4th Annual Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion, a three day festival of speed, hot rods and American automotive enthusiasm, finished with a bang at Beech Bend Raceway Park on Sunday, June 18.

Unfortunately, that "bang" came from a thunderstorm that ended the racing activities a little earlier than expected.  NHRA officials determined results based on elimination runs that had been completed before the rains came, and on best qualifying time for those classes that had not yet run an elimination round. 


Sean Bellemeur (L), who won the Reunion's Top Fuel race in 2004 and 2005, checks the track early on Sunday morning with Adam Sorokin (R).  Ironically, the two drivers would have met in the Top Fuel final except for the rain that cancelled late elimination sessions. 

After the racing had been cancelled, the two Top Fuel semi-final winners, Sean Bellemeur who ran a best of 5.86/244, and Adam Sorokin, (5.91/247) suited up anyway and raced down the track in golf  carts rather than their nostalgic front engined dragsters!  Bellemeur won.


Sean Bellemeur on a charge before the rains came

Earlier in the day, Bellemeur defeated Ernest S. McClain and Howard Haight along the way to the finals.  Sorokin defeated Brendan Murry and Roger Lechtenberg.  The two drivers were presented with half of the combined $7,500 purse for winner and runner-up and the match will be settled at the 15th Annual NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, at  Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California, October 6-8.


The recreated More Aggravation dragster was part of an impressive 27 car cacklefest

The night before, Beech Bend Raceway Park had rocked to the sound of Saturday evening’s Cacklefest, where nitro-burning historic, front-engine top-fuel dragsters and other classic race cars were push started onto the start line just like in the “old days.” 

Tony Thacker, the new director of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum was suitably impressed. "This was my first Holley NHRA Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, though I had been there 30 years ago to the month for the Sports Nationals in 1975. The event was up about 20 percent in all categories from race cars to 'show and shine' cars and on Friday and Saturday, when the sun shone, we had a terrific event with so much to see and do that there wasn’t time to fit it all in. Sadly, a rain storm put paid to the racing, but the track dried out enough as the sun went down for the Cacklefest, when 27 front-engined vintage drag cars lined up on the centerline. Meanwhile, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and Chris “The Greek” Karamises push-started their cars down the track in front of the crowd as the “Line of Fire” exploded into life.

The noise of all those zoomied Hemis (and others of course) was deafeningly sweet as the nitro-laden flames lit the Kentucky sky. Not since the infamous “Ring of Fire” in 2001 has so much nitro been burned for the pure enjoyment of drag fans.”

According to Greg Sharp, curator of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, producers of the Reunion and the man who coined the “cackling” term back in 2000, cackling is the sound emanating from a vintage top fuel drag racing engine while it’s idling and shooting out flames. “They ‘cackle,’” Sharp said, “and people love it.”  

Additional dragsters making their debut at the 2006 Cacklefest were Al Bergler’s “More Aggravation,” which won the first Ridler award at the 1966 Detroit Autorama; three “Tennessee Bo’Weevils” from Raymond Godman and Texas-based Floyd Head’s full-bodied top fueler.

Overall, the event was described as "awesome" and with almost 400 race cars and about 1500 pre-’72 cars for the show and shine, it's easy to see why. Both Friday and Saturday were jammed to the gills and this year, 21 Top Fuel motorcycle heroes were celebrated - a Hot Rod Reunion first.

 
The Justice Brothers Reunion Spotlight award fell on Top Fuel Pioneer Motorcycles.  Amongst those honored, was Elmer Trett who began racing bikes in the 70s. He was the first man to cover a standing quarter mile on a motorcycle at 200, 210, 220 and 230 mph. Before his death during a 1996 exhibition run, Trett won eight national Top Fuel championships.


Two special presentations from DuPont Hot Hues Custom Finishes were presented at the weekend.  First, Jerry and Pat Baltes were presented with the “Most Accurate Restoration” award for the Croshier-Baltes-Lavato dragster and second, Mike and Kathy Hill received the “Hot Color Award” for their 53 Studebaker. 


Acres of louvres on this great looking mobile cheese grater.  Just one of the many rods at this year's reunion, which was reported to be the busiest ever

Story & photos: NHRA Wally Parks Museum

 
 
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