Bakersfield, CA - 10/26/16: Since 1992 when the first California
Hot Rod Reunion took place, Bakersfield's Famoso Raceway has
been the October destination of preference for many old and new
drag racers and race fans. So it was in 2016 as well, with the
25th CHRR being the focus of attention for 15 to 20,000 people,
including fans from many foreign countries as well as almost
all, if not all, states.
Once again the faithful gathered
on a sunny weekend to visit, share recollections, watch some
racing, look at vendor displays of all sorts and appreciate the
collection of current nostalgia drag race cars there for the
season finale. For many, the gathering of historic drag race
cars that participate in the various facets of the Cackle Car
activities, on track and in the pits, was enough lure by itself.
From the first concept in 1999
when Bill Pitts fired up his Magicar after a reading of names
of racers lost during the year, to the 9 car push start in 2000,
the Cackle Car activity has increased incrementally each year.
The second year there were nine cars that participated and all
of them were original cars restored or unrestored and each one
had historical importance dating back to the 60's or before.
In subsequent years the collection of Cackle Cars has gradually
increased until there have been close to 100 exhibition/display
cars on the grounds.
That surge in car count is because
many original cars have been found and restored. Many more have
been built from scratch to replace a car that WAS a part of that
era but has been lost or destroyed in the succeeding years. People
who want to join in the activities have also adapted or built
other cars that are representative of the 60's but were not really
active in that era in the same persona as now displayed.
So the Cackle Car field is now
made up of dragsters and AA/ Fuel Altereds that have three different
lineages. 1) The original or restored cars that now appear in
the same exact configuration that they were back then. 2) The
re-creation of cars that were famous or at least verifiably active
in the 60's. 3) And the cars that represent the era but really
have no heritage from the 60's in the form they appear today.
Up until this year, the lineage
didn't matter and any and all cars capable of being push started
safely were included in the field of the Cacklefest on Saturday
night, with a high watermark of approximately 70 cars participating.
This year, decisions were made at executive levels that the program
would be limited to a smaller number, but made up of historically
significant cars and drivers.
Also addressed was the practice
of push starting the cars on the return road with nothing between
the cars and the spectators but a 4 foot tall chain link fence.
There had never been a serious incident during the previous years
but a few minor incidents had occurred. Safety concerns resulted
in a change to have the cars paraded on the return road without
engines running and then pushed out on the track and push started
there at a distance from the spectators.
There were a few other modifications
to the proceedings as well and like any changes, they were not
universally well accepted. These modifications were subject to
a dialogue between management and participants which ended up
with a workable format.
The Friday night activities at
the Double Tree had been modified to have the 25th year awards
portion largely take place at the track on a stage in front of
the grandstand. Following this a semi-circle "Ring Of Fire"
of 25 volunteer cars placed on track between the back fence and
the starting line were fired up in a rolling start and left running
until the last one had been shut off. Capping the evening a cocktail
hour and open get together took place at the Doubletree similar
to the "after" events in previous years only this time
with much fewer people.
Saturday night, the Cacklefest
was conducted as explained earlier, with a parade/push down the
return road and push start and the running line-up all on the
track. This event was limited this year to 40 cars which were
selected by a "management committee" and included essentially
the most authentic slate of cars, crews and drivers from the
The 25th CHRR wound up Sunday
with a static cackle in the morning in front of the grandstand
and in the afternoon, as always, racing until the final pairings
of race cars determined the season long series winners as well
as the CHRR race winners. There is heavy coverage of the racing
aspect of CHRR on Don Ewald's WDIFL website, which is linked
So, 25 years later, the CHRR
continues to be the largest event of it's type in the world.
For 24 years the event has taken place without a great deal of
controversy. This year didn't achieve that same harmony. Other
media sources will have explored the causes and effects of the
disharmony at great length by the time we at Cacklefest.com get
this story in front of you. For sure 2017 will see things solidify
as far as how the event will be run in the future. Keep in mind
that one less than great year out of 25 years is 4%. Most any
sporting event in the world would be thrilled to have 96% of
their history be positive.