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Bakersfield, CA - 10/26/19: The 28th edition of the California Hot Rod Reunion set a great stage for next years 29th event. Car count was up from last year, participant satisfaction was up and the fans enjoyed exciting racing action and classic Cacklefest..

Unlike the March Meet, the CHRR is a reunion that includes a race. Its a place and time where old friends meet, new friends are made and those no longer with us honored. A huge part of the history/friendship aspect is the legendary original Cacklefest® now in its 19th year.

Enjoying an entire weekend of Chamber of Commerce weather, the fans enjoyed a great race and a large number of cacklecars. The NHRA Wally Parks Motorsports Museum and the crew at Famoso insured those in attendance enjoyed 3 full days of unleashed cacklecars and the reason the reunion started in the first place, friends getting together while we still can.

Racing aside, this site is about the Cacklefest® and all that surrounds it. That always begins with the Honoree Ceremony at the Double Tree Hotel on Friday night. It is also the official kick off of endless fire-ups.


Honoree Presentations


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 the party.




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.




Harry Burkholder
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.




Mike Cook
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 wins.



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 next.









Last but not least, Gary Southern










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.


Danny "Buzz" Broussard who goes back the the legendary Greer-Black-Prudhomme car.


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 Reel


And an Ivo good night.




Untitled Document


2019 CHRR Racing Coverage




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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, 2020.




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