Grand Marshal Jerry Ruth led
the list of 2019 Honorees for California Hot Rod Reunion presented
by Automobile Club of Southern California
Along with Ruth, the rest of
the 2019 Honorees at this annual fan-favorite event include Harry
Burkholder, Mike Cook, Bill Dunlap, Phil Mandella and Gary Southern.
The Honoree Reception took place on Friday night at the Doubletree
Hotel in Bakersfield with a hall full of fans and peers in attendance.
Without further ado, lets join
Jerry Ruth Grand Marshal
By 1964, Jerry Ruth was
already known as the "King of the Northwest". Never
accused of being shy or modest, following his 1973 NHRA Top Fuel
World Championship he changed it to "King of the World".
Always considered a dragster racer, he added Funny Cars to his
team in the late '60s beginning with an ex-Whipple and McCulloch
car before moving on to Don Long-built Mustangs. When the pro's
ran at NHRA Divisional events, Ruth became the first driver to
double up, winning both Top Fuel and Funny Car at the same event,
the opening 1971 Division 6 race at Boise. And, he did it three
more times! After being knocked unconscious from tire shake in
1979, he designed a new chassis using the shoulder hoop from
a Funny Car. He had Al Swindahl build it immediately creating
a demand for his chassis. Before he retired in 1984, Ruth earned
three Divisional Funny Car titles (one as an owner), eight Divisional
Top Fuel titles (including seven in a row from 1968-74) as well
as the 1973 NHRA Top Fuel World Championship.
A familiar name to Fuel
Altered fans, Harry Burkholder and his late brother Pete grew
up in the hot rod conscious town of Sacramento. As teenagers
they began to build and (street) race hot rods. By age 16 Harry
lost his driver's license for too many speeding tickets and it
was time to build a real race car. Beginning with an Olds-powered
'34 coupe, they were doing fine until it crashed. The Olds survived
and went into a steel bodied Fiat on a Harry-built chassis. Next
was a beautiful Bantam roadster, followed by a unique "touring
car" Altered. Switching to Chrysler, the car ran mid-7s
at 202 mph and won Fuel Altered Eliminator at the '70 March Meet.
A fiberglass Fiat was the last Altered followed briefly by a
Funny Car and retirement. The last Fiat has been restored and
Harry and cousin Robert Reel have been displaying and cackling
the Fiat "In Memory of Pete" ever since.
Son of gasser legend
Doug Cook, Mike began his hot rodding career as a boy polishing
wheels on the Stone, Woods & Cook Willys, and joining his
stepfather Mel Chastain at the dry lakes. Mike gravitated toward
land speed racing and drove Bruce Geisler's record-holding Studebaker
while still a teenager. When Doug suffered a horrific crash in
the S-W-C Mustang Funny Car in 1967, Mike acted as caretaker
for his dad and tagged along when Doug tuned "Big John"
Mazmanian's Funny Car. In 1972 Engine builder Les Leggitt invited
Mike to drive his rear-engine Bonneville Lakester. He set Top
Speed of the Meet in 1974 at 295.66 mph. He's driven a variety
of cars on the lakes and salt including a Studebaker Avanti,
a Vega-bodied Funny Car and an '89 Thunderbird at nearly 300
mph. He's been president of SCTA, and restored several important
race cars. He's a member of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club, the
El Mirage 200 MPH Club and the Dry Lakes Racing Hall of Fame.
Raced very competitively during the fabled front engine Top Fuel
dragster heydays of the 1960s and went on to enjoy even greater
success in the Nostalgia Top Fuel ranks. He is also well known
as the winner of his Top Fuel race against Walt Stevens at the
1968 Hot Rod Magazine Meet when both cars broke on the starting
line and had to push their cars to the finish line in blazing
heat. Dunlap's career in the Nostalgia Top Fuel ranks got off
to a blazing start when he won the inaugural California Hot Rod
Reunion event in 1992. He won that race again in 1997 and then
swept both the Bowling Green and Bakersfield events in 2015.
During this period he also won many related Nostalgia events,
including the 1997 Good Guys March Meet at Bakersfield. Dunlap
continued to race in Nostalgia Top Fuel until 2016 and currently
drives an A/Fuel Dragster in NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster
Phil is a behind-the-scenes
Jack-of-all-trades drag racer who has helped many competitors
win NHRA national events with cars that he has built, and his
driver tutoring and crew chief skills. Among his clients are
five-time national champ Jimmy DeFrank, whom Mandella taught
how to drive before he won his first race at the 1997 NHRA World
Finals. DeFrank has gone on to win 14 NHRA national events, five
Super Stock World Championships, and has racked up 14 Division
7 titles. Mandella has built the SS/AH Hemi cars for the likes
of Indy Hemi Showdown winners Jeg Coughlin, Bucky Hess, Jerry
Jenkins and others. After starting out by working in his Upland,
Calif.-based garage, Mandella moved into a 10,000 square foot
shop in 2011, where he builds cars for Stock, Super Stock, Comp,
and more recently, Pro Mod. Both of Mandella's sons, Tony and
Phillip, work at the shop and race. Tony has six national event
With Southern having driven an estimated total of 77 different
cars during his career, it is largely believed that he has piloted
more entries than anyone else in drag racing history. Southern
became hooked after attending his first quarter-mile event in
Pomona in 1957. He began driving a '34 Ford flathead powered
dragster, and in 1962 won Middle Eliminator at Bakersfield. Later
that year he got his first ride in a blown fuel dragster as a
fill-in driver for Pat Akins. He came within two points of winning
the 1981 NHRA Pro Comp World Championship with Bill "Capt.
Crazy" Dunlap's Dodge Omni in 1981, and when he won the
1988 U.S. Nationals with Dale Smart's PSI-supercharged dragster,
the screw-type blower became standard equipment for everybody.
Southern was selected to drive so many rides over the years not
only because of his driving ability, but also for his talents
in being able to sort out ill-handling cars.
Folks started filling
the room before 7, great time for mixing and catching up.
To start things off, the "retired"
MC Bob Frey led with a great monologue that had the room in hysterics.
Frey then introduced NHRA Motorsports
Museum Curator, Greg Sharp.who said his opening remarks
Breaking tradition, Sharp introduced
the Grand Marshall first. Per his request, Jerry Ruth led off
the ceremonies in typical Ruth fashion.
After a long and sometimes confusing
reading of his long and illustrious racing career, JR went into
ad-lib mode which is much more his style.
NHRA Museum board member
Graham Light presented the Wally.
Getting back into alphabetical
order, the first Honoree was Harry Burkholder.
Next honoree to the podium
was Mike Cook.
Bill Dunlap has been
there and drove that. Well deserved award.
Phil Mandella was honored
Last but not least, Gary
The Class of 2019
Following the ceremonies it was
time for another tradition - burn some nitro in the parking lot
which is the official kick off for Cacklefest.
The six (yes six) cars picked
to do the honors this year were Butch Bowers "Green Dragon",
Wayne King's Doss-Clayton-King, Scott Cochran's 1963 Scotty's
Muffler Special, Brett Crane's 426 powered "Big Stroke",
Prentice Cunningham car of Robert Contorelli and honoree Harry
Burkholder in the Burkholder Bros. AA/FA.
Best show in years. How would
you like to be some salesman in room 1050 from Nebraska with
a 4 am wake-up call? Just the thought makes me smile.
Before the 25th debacle the who's
who that stayed around to BS after the fire-ups was a show in
its self. Not so much any more. There were a few players that
did hang out and Dan caught a few shots.
Broussard who goes back the the legendary Greer-Black-Prudhomme
Another first. tables for beverages
in the cackle area. Here with the Tommy Ivo "Barnstormer"
in its glass sided trailer were Marc McCormick, Kol Johnson,
Trina McCormick and Richard R. Vasquez.
Dan Kaplan, you fill
in the blanks.
Tim Gibson, Roger Mc
Martin, No ID, Roland Leong and No ID.
Ronnie Hampshire, Spider
Razon, Dudley and Mike Salinas.
Wayne King loading up
for the return trip to Famoso.
No ID, No ID, Linda,
Ivo, Gary Ritter and Don Ewald
Linda, Tom and Gary
Ritter, Ewald, Ivo, LV,
Ed and Sylvia Pink.
Ewald & Salinas.
Mike English and Robert
And an Ivo good night.
The 29th annual California
Hot Rod Reunion presented by the Automobile Club of Southern
California will be held at the legendary Auto Club Famoso Raceway
in Bakersfield, California the weekend of October 23rd-25th,