Drag Racing Action Online. Images: Phil Hutchison

Coming into the season ending race for the Hot Rod Heritage season at the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion at Bakersfield CA, Top Fuel racer Bret Williamson was leading Top Fuel Championship. All the Gilroy CA. driver had to do was to qualify his dragster and go a round or two to claim the 2002 title. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned for Williamson as he failed to qualify his car in the tight field as his 5.999 fell short of the 5.886 bump spot.

With Williamson failing to qualify, the door was open for #2 in points Tyler Hilton driving the “Great Expectations” dragster out of Ohio. In addition to Hilton, Rio Oso CA. driver Bryan Hall was also within striking distance of the Championship.

Hall kicked the rods out and lifted the blower on this ill fated run Saturday night

Hall had a huge engine explosion during Saturday’s final qualifying session essentially ending his bid for the title, but Hilton ran with his chance qualifying the ex Tony Bartone/Steve Boggs McKinney built fueler in the top spot with a 5.633. Hilton reset Low ET in round one against Hall with a 5.592 on his way to the event win and the 2022 Championship.

In the finals it was Pete Kaiser driving the Dan Horan owned car in the other lane. Kaiser, driving for the first time in years, put Horan’s car in the #2 spot with a 5.654 and made it a race in the finals. Kaiser was off the line first with a 0.069 RT to Hilton’s later 0.118 light but Hilton chased the Pleasant Hill Ca. driver down with a winning 5.645 to Kaiser’s close 5.704.

“We’ve been to a couple of finals here,” Hilton said. “It’s Bakersfield. It’s Famoso. The history of it’s significant to us too. The history of Top Fuel and nitro racing. And so that’s part of it too. So yeah, it means a lot to win this race, for sure.”


While Fuel Funny Car didn’t have quite the drama of Top Fuel, Billy Morris from La Quinta CA. won his first career Heritage event in fine fashion. The 2022 title had been decided by the time of the finals as four-time and reigning champ, Bobby Cottrell wrapped up the Championship behind the wheel of the Austin & O’Brien Northwest Hitter Camaro on the basis of wins at Firebird and Bowling Green and qualifying #1 at the finals with a 5.595.

Morris qualified the Eddie Knox owned “Problem Child”  ’69 Camaro in the #3 spot with a 5.687 and defeated former winner Brad Thompson, Nathan Sitko, and Tim Boychuck to get the chance to race upstart Tony Jurado in the finals. Jurado had beat series champ Cottrell in the semis when Cottrell rattled the tires in the loss.

At the green it was Morris (far lane) setting Low ET with a 5.589 defeating the close 5.662 of Jurado.

“We knew Tony Gerardo was going to be tough in the final,” Morris said. “We knew we had to throw one at him, and we’re glad we did because he ran hard as well.”

Morris (left) and team owner Eddie Knox

The wild AA/FA class was also on hand to put on a wild show with a “Bakersfield/Chicago” style show with the two quickest cars returning for the finals and the third and fourth cars running for the consolation trophy.

After qualifying was over it was NHRA veteran Johnny West’s “Plan A” up against Tom Padilla from Arlington WA “Red Dragon”. West, from Queen Creek AZ. was off the line first and held on with a 6.064 to Padilla’s 6.705.

The consolation round featured second generation racer Brian Hope from Mt. Pleasant TN. driving the “Pure Hell” Bantam against the “Impatient” ’23 Ford of Jim Generalao Jr from Las Vegas NV. Hope was off the line first and never looked back clocking a 6.296 to Generalao’s 6.581.