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It's Good to be Back


Over Father’s Day weekend, the 6th annual Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion returned to its spiritual home at Beech Bend Raceway, Bowling Green, Ky. and what a time we had.


The city welcomed racers, rodders and fans with open arms and the weather just about cooperated. Almost 500 race cars blasted down the historic quarter-mile that opened in 1950. The field included Top Fuel racers from as far away as California, Pennsylvania and Oregon. Even “Big Daddy” Don Garlits trucked in for the Cacklefest from Florida and there were spectators from England, Australia and New Zealand.


Street rods, customs classics and trucks came from all over, including almost 50 cars on the Vintage Air leg of the PPG Street Rodder Road Tour. Jack Chisenhall, president of Vintage Air said, “This was one of the best tours we have ever had and we couldn’t have asked for a better, more action-packed destination. We’ll be back next year.”


What has grown into a four-day event kicked off with a tour of the Holley manufacturing plant where visitors could see Holley carbs being made alongside their other high-performance product lines. The tour was followed by the Heacock Classic scavenger hunt organized by the local Red Cross to benefit their Vettetastic 2008 program. The hunt culminated at the Holiday Inn for the ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor Elaine Walker and Sheriff Peanuts Gaines who did so much to facilitate the return of the Reunion to Bowling Green.


Friday, as the event got underway, was also education day with students of Bowling Green Technical College getting a tour of Holley and a private seminar from “Rat Trap” owner/driver Ron Hope and engine guru Joe Mondello.


A slight bit of rain didn’t dampen the mood as an overflow field of race cars began three full days of track action. Also included was the wheelstanding, 150-mph JCB-GT backhoe. One of the highlights though had to be the lines of Gasser Geezers who time-warped us all back to the mid-1960s.

JCB-GT in full flight


The evening ended with the popular Honoree Reception where tribute was paid to Grand Marshall Dick LaHaie and Honorees Arnie Beswick, Gabby Bleeker, Charles “Boogie” Scott, Bob Stange and Jim Walther. The Justice Brothers Car Care Products Spotlight fell on the legendary Ramchargers team who were there in force with their old High & Mighty Plymouth.


Thankfully, the rain held off on Saturday and a great time was had by all including more than 1,600 rods and customs—the most we’ve even seen at a Reunion—participating in the SoffSeal Show & Shine. Despite nitro at $38 a gallon, the Cacklefest proved to be its usual crowd pleaser even if some of the drivers did get a bit disoriented in the dark.


Sunday, being Father’s Day, we handed out more than 1,000 Mattel Hot Wheels to lucky early-bird spectators who came to watch the finals of the Hot Heads Eliminations, shop the midway and check out Billy F Gibbons’ ZZ Top Eliminator (courtesy of Hot Hues Custom Finishes by DuPont). Brad Thompson of Visalia, Calif. defeated Adam Sorokin of Glendale, Calif. in Nostalgia Top Fuel. Thompson, who also won the California Hot Rod Reunion in October 2007, ran a blistering 251.53 mph in 5.898 seconds.


Thanks go out to all the behind-the-scenes people who make the Reunion happen and to the sponsors who support us: Holley Performance Products, Heacock Classic Insurance, Hot Heads Research &Racing, Hot Hues Custom Finishes by Du Pont, Justice Brothers Car Care Products and SoffSeal.


Next year’s Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion will be on Father’s Day weekend, June 19-21, 2009 at Beech Bend Raceway, Bowling Green, Ky.—where else?


Story & Photos: Tony Thacker


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