It's hard for some to believe, but it's the truth. On Sunday in Bakersfield, CA., during the most prestigious nostalgia event, the March Meet, Cory Lee, a decorated veteran in drag racing, finally won his first national event. He did so as a driver behind the wheel of Gary Turner's Challenger Funny Car. 

"I've had, I think, two or three as a tuner, but this is my first as a tuner driver, so it's really exciting," Lee said. 

Lee was joined in the Famoso Dragstrip winner's circle by Tyler Hester (Top Fuel) and Lyle Greenberg (Fuel Altered).

Lee bought Jeff Arend in a battle of drivers with plenty of experience racing on the NHRA's Mission Foods Drag Racing Series. Arend was first off the land, but the lead was short-lived as his 5.658 elapsed time at 260 miles per hour quickly gobbled up Arend's 5.829.  

A former Tom Hoover protege, Lee has two runner-up finishes (to John Force) as a driver on the NHRA fuel Funny Car tour, but finally winning a race is great. Winning a race he didn't even think he would be at was even better. 

"Five days ago, I didn't have a supercharger, and things were getting pretty desperate," Lee explained. "And we actually talked about not coming to the event. Gary and I had had one of those sorrowful conversations, and we nearly threw in the towel. But we are both hardcore, and we didn't want to give in. We're not quitters. And so we persevered. We got the supercharger the morning we left at 9:00 AM, got in the truck, and drove up here, and it's history now."

"I've heard stories like that where people, they're just up against the wall. And then they just come out swinging, and they end up really succeeding. And never giving up is, I guess, the moral of the story."

It could have also been the ten-year tradition of The Pedaler at play, and in 2014, James Day won the Nostalgia Funny Car title at the March Meet by beating Dan Horan on a holeshot. 

"That's an oddity that goes along with Gary's story," Lee said. "Gary's had pretty good luck up here with his race team, so yeah, that's great to be a part of that."

Hester was also a first-time Bakersfield winner as he won the Top Fuel title by beating Shawn Bowen. An hour after his monumental victory, Hester was still shocked. 

"It hasn't sunk in yet," Hester said. "I don't know, but I'm so happy that I can't even think straight right now. My family has been chasing this one for a long time, and we've just never been able to make it happen. To finally have a little bit of luck on our side and things to go our way to get it done, it feels really good."

Hester's day started off by taking out the No. 1 qualifier and defending champion, Tyler Hilton. He then took out Pete Wittenberg on arguably one of the closest races of the day, a 5.725-to-5.728. 

"I could see them for a long time," Hester added. "That was a good drag race. Yeah, that was definitely the drag race of the day."

The Fuel Altered final round was a rematch of the 2022 Bakersfield March Meet when he beat Keith Wilson. Wilson got to the finish line first but did so by running a 5.77, which was too quick for the 6.00 index. 

Greenberg scored a victory he admits he backed into. Regardless of style points, Greenberg will take it. 

"A win is a win," Greenberg said. "Sometimes you're better lucky than good, but two years ago, when we won Nitro Pro Comp, I'd like to think we ripped their throats out. But this year, not so much. We got some lucky breaks, but you got to be there to win. And we were there, and we were running okay. We just weren't running great."

"As soon as it smoked the tires, and I'm chugging along there a little bit, just idling along, I see him disappearing into the sunset with the header flames high. And I'm telling you what, I'm thinking, 'Wow, I don't think he's going to lift. He's not going to lift. He's not going to lift." 

"And I see a 5.77 flash on the scoreboard, and I'm like, "Wow, we just won another March Meet."

Greenberg's final round berth came with wins over NHRA regulars Johnny West and Ron Capps. 






THE HEAD OF THE CLASS(ES) - Racing the Good Vibrations Bakersfield March Meet at the legendary Famoso Dragstrip always has its challenges. At the 66th annual running of the historic event showcasing the pageantry of nostalgia racing, the challenges were not only on the track but also when Mother Nature tried to intervene. 

In the end, it was Tyler Hilton (Top Fuel), Shane Westerfield (Funny Car), and Mathew Leonard (Fuel Altered) claiming the top spots in their respective divisions.

For the defending series champion Hilton, it was just another chapter in his ever-expanding book with a storyline of struggle first and shine later. The third-generation drag racer used the cool conditions of the Q-3 session to lay down the best run of the Top Fuelers, a 5.625 elapsed time at 257.14 miles per hour. 

"That seems to be our MO," Hilton said. "It takes us a few laps to get going, but once we get going, we get there and end up where we need to be. That was a good lap for us. The conditions were kind of tricky. The track was pretty cold. The air was unbelievable, and it made a good lap. I had to drive it, though. I had to do some driving.

Hilton overtook Pete Kaiser, who led the first two sessions with an out-of-the-box 5.735. Adam Sorokin was third with a 5.745, a run he also scored out of the box.

Pete Wittenberg used his best run of qualifying, a 5.834, to go from outside the field into the final spot in the top half. 

Hilton made a major jump in that final session, too. He and his father, Bobby Hilton, made adjustments to the forever-changing conditions. 

"Just very minor changes," Hilton explained. "Just very minor, and some different parts. We changed some parts out. That was the main thing. We were having some parts issues."

What he ran on Saturday could be very good for what Hilton expects to see on Sunday's marathon race day. 

"I think it's going to translate over pretty close because it is going to be cool tomorrow," Hilton said. "It's going to be real cool. So you got the air right here. It was only 58 degrees when we ran, so I think that's going to be really comparable to tomorrow."

The Funny Car division was a bit more complex than the dragsters. The floppers only got two of their three qualifying sessions. In the midst of the Friday Q-2 session, rain began to fall three pairs in, but not before Nostalgia Funny Car rookie Westerfield made the run of his short AA/FC career.

Westerfield is driving the Funny Car, long known as the Problem Child, and took it to the top with a 5.613 elapsed time at 258.57 miles per hour. He drove around Geoff Monise (5.620) for his first-ever No. 1 qualifier at the most prestigious of all nostalgia races. 

"Typical Eddie Knox racing style right there," Westerfield said. "Go from the back to the front real quick and I'm kind of helping him not really tune the car, just help the car set up. He set this engine up and the car up on his own and it's a fast car. So I was just like, 'Man, if we were in this situation with the alcohol car, here's what I would try clutch-wise and tire pressure wise." 

"So we kind of put our heads together and made a mini rock pile and sent it down. We honestly figured it'd go maybe a mid-to-low 70."

"That's what we were trying to do. We just wanted to get in the show. It wasn't about trying to go No. 1; it was about just getting the car down [the track] and not hitting anything and doing a good job, and it was a handful down there, man, hit high gear, and it was moving all around. I've only driven at night in the [NHRA] night a couple times. Just trying to get used to the sounds and the noise and what's going on and I don't know if I was driving the car or if it was driving me down there, but it was fast and exciting and it was a good lap."

Coming in third was Bobby Cottrell with a 5.635, just ahead of Derrick Moreira (5.681) and Cory Lee (5.682). Cameron Ferre anchored the field with a 5.924.

"I've watched this nostalgia stuff for years and been a little bit around it," Westerfield added. "I'm not a historian by any means, but I've always dug the old nostalgia style of racing and how they did it, and obviously, this is one of their biggest races, the Super Bowl, their US Nationals, whatever you want to call it. So it's huge. I'm pretty thrilled right now to say I'm No. 1."

The Fuel Altered division was led by Howard's 6.031, followed by Mark Whynaught's 6.186. Past Fuel Altered winner Ron Capps was seventh quickest with a 6.658.

Sportsman eliminations open on Sunday at 8 AM PST.


BACK AT IT - After sitting around all day due to persistent rain at Famoso Dragstrip, once the nitro cars were finally able to hit the track, Geoff Monise at the wheel of the famed “Quarter Pounder” ’70 Pontiac Firebird did not wait to put on the show for the fans. 

In the lone run on Saturday, Monise broke everyone’s back when he went low of the session with a sizzling 5.620 at over 259 miles per hour to jump him up to the No.2 spot in qualifying. Monise will go head-to-head against the 2013 March Meet champion in Nitro Funny Car and 2023 March Meet runner-up Tim Boychuk in the opening round of competition on Sunday. 
FORMER “BIG SHOW” NITRO SHOES SOLIDLY IN THE FIELD AT THE MARCH MEET - “Big Show” Nitro Funny Car veterans Cory Lee, Jeff Arend, and Jon Capps will throw their names in the hat for a chance at capturing their first-ever March Meet crown on Sunday. 

Lee and Arend, who still make cameo appearances on the Mission Foods Drag Racing Series occasionally, head into Sunday’s final eliminations in the No. 5 and 6 spots, respectively. 

Lee, wheeling Gary Turner’s ’79 Challenger, laid down a solid 5.682 at over 257 miles per hour on Saturday and will race Matt Melendez in round one on Sunday. Jeff Arend will face off against Jerry Espeseth. 

Jon Capps, brother of three-time NHRA Nitro Funny Car champion Ron Capps, makes his return to the driver’s seat in quite some time and does not miss a beat. Piloting Jim Broome’s “Speed Sport” AA/FC, Capps was able to slide into the No. 10 qualifying position, scoring a date with young Ryan Horan in round one. 

ONLY ONE THING LEFT TO DO - It seems like Tyler Hilton has pretty much done it all so far throughout his young career. The driver of the Great Expectations 3 Top Fuel Dragster has no doubt been the class of the field over the past two seasons in Top Fuel eliminator in the NHRA Heritage Series, capturing back-to-back titles in 2022 and 2023 and scoring a total of five race wins out of a possible ten over that span.

Hilton’s resume so far consists of wins at some of the biggest races on the Heritage Series tour, tasting victory at both Wally Parks NHRA Nostalgia Nationals held at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and the other at Famoso Dragstrip in Bakersfield, California. You can even make a case that his win at the Night Fire Nationals from Firebird Raceway in Boise, Idaho, in 2023 is his most significant, being that race has over fifty-two years of history. 

But one race Hilton has yet to be able to conquer is a win at one of the longest-running drag races in the world, the iconic March Meet. However, Hilton has come close in the past, falling short in the final round at the March Meet in 2020 to Pete Wittenberg and then again in 2021 to Dan Horan, both eventual series champions those years.

Nonetheless, the Ohio native is planning to make the most out of his trip down to central California this year. By Sunday afternoon, he is hoping he’s the one holding that special triangular trophy in the March Meet winners circle. 

“That’s the only one we haven’t won out of the whole series,” Hilton said. The March Meet is definitely one we want to win really badly. Even the history of it as well, that’s a big part of it for us. Like I’ve said before, just the history of the sport, the March Meet, Top Fuel racing, all that stuff. It’s super important to us.’ 

Despite a dominant season in 2023, which saw Hilton score three race wins in a row and a championship, the Great Expectations team did not sit idle in the off-season. The championship-winning race car made several trips back and forth to famous chassis builder Murf Mckinney’s race shop for minor alterations in hopes of improving its performance even more for the 2024 season.

“We’ve taken the car to Murph’s, and went through it,” Hilton said. “All new carbon fiber body. Just trying to lighten up the car, put some fresh panels on it, keep it looking good and working right.”

There’s a lot on the line for Hilton in 2024. He has a chance to become the first driver to win three consecutive Heritage Series Top Fuel championships since Tony Bartone did it in dominating fashion from 2013-2015, and that’s something Hilton wants more than anything. 

“I kind of downplayed it before, but we want to do it,” Hilton admitted. “You can only take this stuff day by day and run by run, so that’s what we’re trying to do right now, so that’s our plan.”



DREAMS DO COME TRUE - Since moving to Top Fuel in the fall of 2022, all Michael Anderson has ever wanted to do was make the show and have a chance at competing for a March Meet title. The driver of the West Texas Hustler will finally get to live out that dream as he qualified for the eight-car Top Fuel field on Sunday.  

Anderson, who’s having the best weekend of his career, qualified convincingly as he laid down three solid passes. Kicking it off with a career-best 5.904 in the opening session, then backed it up with an even quicker 5.834 at over 236 miles per hour in the final session to place him fifth in the final qualifying order. 

The West Texas Hustler driver will go one-on-one with two-time March Meet champion Pete Wittenberg in the opening round on Sunday. 


WHERE DID HE COME FROM - He may not be a household name in AA Fuel Altered, but Matt Leonard aboard “Nitro Rat” will lead the field going into Sunday’s final eliminations at the March Meet. 

Australian Leonard ran a 6.031 on Friday evening, a run good enough to hold up for the top spot the rest of the weekend. For his efforts, Leonard earned a date with one of the best in the biz in round one on Sunday, Cory Lee, who’s pulling double duty this weekend and driving Nitro Funny Car. 

NITRO FUNNY CAR HAS A NEW “PROBLEM” TO WORRY ABOUT - Just when you thought the already ultra-competitive Nitro Funny Car field at the March Meet couldn’t get any more stacked, 15-time NHRA National event winner and 2017 NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car Champion, Shane Westerfield adds his name to this list of heavy-hitters to compete in the flopper division at Famoso Dragstrip. 

Westerfield, a Funny Car standout having made a name for himself garnering much success behind the wheel of a Top Alcohol Funny Car and having made a few starts in a “big show” Nitro Funny Car in the newly named NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series, inherits a pretty stout race car as he makes his NHRA Heritage Series Nitro Funny Car debut behind the wheel of Eddie Knox’s famous “Problem Child” at this year’s March Meet, which seems to be a match made in heaven. 

“Eddie and I have been friends for a long time, going back to all the old boat racing days,” Westerfield said. “We traveled around the country together, and we had our dualies and our trailers, and we’d hit different race tracks along the way. So between that, going to the river a lot together, it’s been probably a twenty-year friendship, And when this came about, he needed a guy to fill in for him for a race or two, and I was available to try to do it for him.”

Although Westerfield has gone quicker in his Alcohol Funny Car, the former champ has had the time of his life in the few runs he’s made so far behind the wheel of Knox’s Nostalgia Funny Car. It’s also no surprise that he has adapted as quickly as he has. On the opening day of Nitro qualifying on Friday at the March Meet, in just his second pass down the track, Westerfield took the “Problem Child” straight to the top of the field with a staggering 5.61 elapsed time at over 258 miles per hour, giving him the provisional pole after day one. 

“This car doesn’t leave as hard as the Alcohol car, but the sensation of speed is much faster down there,” Westerfield said. “It really got my attention. It was fast, and you could see more in these cars. The roof line’s lower, but you can actually see farther out because the front windows cut down a little bit more. And then, with no side window, just loud, you got header flames.

“But this car has been fun. I’m looking forward to a good day run and see how it is to get down there. Even last night, my first full run was a night run. Parachutes flew into each other. I had no chutes, and I’m trying to get it stopped. So the excitement was great for the run, and then it was even more exciting trying to get it to stop. I’m learning like they’re learning at the same time.”

Learning is the keyword for the “Problem Child” team this weekend. While Westerfield would love to add a March Meet trophy to his mantle, with a new driver and a relatively new crew, the team has had to try to limit expectations and take it one run at a time. 

“This weekend is just about meshing,” Westerfield admitted. “Eddie has a new crew, bringing in a new driver, and he’s trying some new stuff on the race car right now. So it really wasn’t talk about we’re going to go win. Trust me, we’re not just here for the beer. We want to win the race, but that’s pretty far out there. 

“And then coming with what we did last night. Eddie told me, ‘If we get this thing through low gear, it will go fast on the other end.’ And I’m kind of like, ‘Yeah, all right, Eddie. It will,’ shrugging my shoulders with it. We get down there, and Becky yells, ‘61.’ I go, ‘No way, dude. No way, we just went 61,’ and honestly, really not trying really hard. So there’s a lot left in it. I’d like to see how we compare though with some of these other fast cars. 

Westerfield has competed against some of the best in the world in Alcohol Funny Car, Doug Gordon and Sean Bellemeur, both champions in the class. But this weekend, he’s looking forward to going toe-to-toe with some of the best in Nostalgia Funny Car, like six-time champion Bobby Cottrell and Kamaka Pocock. 

“It’s exciting,” Westerfield said. “Just walking into the pits when we got here early on Wednesday, I’m like, ‘I don’t know these guys.’ I know of them, and they know of me. But they’ve been super friendly, nice guys, talking in the staging lanes and whatnot, and they’re good racers. Bobby Cottrell, James Day, and all these guys are good racers. I watch a lot of them and YouTube videos, and I have been trying to do my homework on these guys before you come out here so you’re not blinded. So I’m excited to go against them, and hopefully, we can give a good race.” 

While excited about the opportunity, for the time being, this is simply a one-race deal for Westerfield as the team gets prepared to get the car ready for their new permanent driver in the middle of the season, former crew member of the team, Todd Plate. 

“They’re going to go to Pomona, and I think Jeff Arend might be the driver for that race,” Westerfield said. “We will see for Phoenix and what’s going to happen there. I’m driving Rick Jackson’s car, the Alcohol Funny Car in Pomona, but I think that they got this one here and then Phoenix, and after that, the plan is to get Todd Plate licensed and get them ready to go to Boise.”

THE NITRO ITCH JUST NEVER GOES AWAY -  While former front-motored Top Fuel championship-winning driver and crew chief Pete Kaiser would do a one-off behind the wheel from time to time if you had asked him about a year ago, he would have told you his driving days were long behind him. Well, that all changed when Kaiser, to even his surprise, purchased the car he drove the last two times he raced in competition and the car, he tuned Dan Horan to the Heritage Series Top Fuel championship in 2021, as Kaiser is officially back with his own car and team and has his sights set on causing havoc on the rest of the Top Fuel class, starting at this weekend’s March Meet. 

“We left the reunion last year, and I did a terrible job driving on Sunday, and I was beating myself up on Monday,” Kaiser explained. “On the way home, my wife Laura said, ‘Hey, let’s buy that car.’ I laughed, like, ‘Whatever, we’re not going to buy this car.’ So I went to work Monday and Tuesday. And then, on Tuesday, she goes, ‘Just talked to Dan about buying that car.’ I said, ‘Are you serious?’ She goes, ‘Yeah, just give him a call.’ So I called him up, and by Friday, we made a deal, and we owned a race car. So I gave him back his truck and trailer because I had a truck and trailer already. I took all the parts out, and we started building a race car operation.” 

Kaiser began driving front-motored Top Fuel cars in 1988 and went on to capture a Top Fuel championship in the Good Guys Series back in 1995, driving for Dave Smith. While he had a small stint driving the famed “Circuit Breaker” Top Fueler in 2016, Kaiser stepped away from full-time driving after the ’08 season. Sixteen years later, he’s looking to chase a championship in the Heritage Series in 2024. 

“I’ll be in Bowling Green, then Boise, then Reading, and maybe Tulsa and for sure the Reunion [Wally Parks NHRA Nostalgia Nationals],” Kaiser said. I’m definitely chasing points. I love chasing points because I like the different conditions. I like different air conditions and different tracks. I like having to change the car for every track. I love the challenge of that. 

“Tyler [Hilton], he’s trying to throw a three-peat, and I’m trying to stop that three-peat. Hiltons are great people though. I like them. They’re tough competitors, and they make me race harder.”

Although Kaiser has only competed twice in the last eight years, with both coming in the last seasons, don’t expect any rust from the former Top Fuel champion. In fact, in his first race back at the then-called California Hot Rod Reunion in 2022, Kaiser advanced to the final round, coming just one round short of completing an amazing comeback. Then one year later at the same race, Kaiser qualified No.1 in Top Fuel and held onto low e.t. throughout the weekend. 

“It really is like driving a bicycle,” Kaiser said. “I got such good guys around me; it makes me very comfortable, and I trust everything. I trust the maintenance of the car. I’m just comfortable in there. Once you hit the throttle, it’s just like, ‘Okay, this is pretty easy again. I know how to do this.’ 

“I just keep my head in the game, and a lot of it’s at home. I spent a lot of time in this car at home in the garage and just working on it. I’m very relaxed. It’s in my garage; my wife’s in the kitchen. It’s just really relaxing to me. So when I get to the track, everything’s prepped for the guys, it’s not chaotic here, and it’s really easy to be in the zone that way.”

Although Kaiser plans on ramping up the driving the 2024, he will still have his opportunity to “command the starting line” as he puts it, and continue his love for tuning nitro cars, as he will also help call the shots on the Don Nelson-owned “California Hustler” Nitro Funny Car with driver Kamaka Pocock. 

“I’m kind of a consultant when I run my dragster,” Kaiser said. “But when we go Legend [Nitro Funny Car Series] races like we’re going to Pomona, Phoenix, and then Boise, I’ll be full hands-on then and really trying to get that car down the track very quickly. Don Nelson’s a great guy. Kamaka is a great guy. Dale Murray is like the car chief over there. He’s doing a good job too. I’m excited to be with the Pococks.”

HUNTING FOR ANOTHER WIN - Two years ago Lyle Greenberg scored a huge win at the March Meet in Nitro Pro Comp. Well, this year he’s back and looking to capture another victory at the iconic race but this time in AA/ Fuel Altered. Greenberg qualified third in his “Cone Hunter” Altered with a 6.317 and will take on the driver of the “Plan A” AA/FA and one the toughest guys in the class, Johnny West. 

BACK TO DEFEND HIS TITLE - Ron Capps has accomplished pretty much everything you can in the world of drag racing. Three NHRA Funny Car world championships to go along with two U.S. Nationals crowns and wins at other major events on the NHRA tour, like the coveted Winternationals and the famed Gatornatioals in his career, Capps is amongst elite company. 

But while he’s experienced success on the biggest stage in drag racing, probably the most meaningful win of Capp’s career has to be when he won the fabled March Meet in AA/Fuel Altered in 2020. Well, for the first time in four years, Capps is back behind the wheel of the legendary Burkholder Brothers Altered and ready to defend his title. 

“It’s pretty cool,” Capps said. “It’s getting tougher because with the Gainesville race being the second weekend of March and with NHRA implementing the test session on Tuesday and Wednesday the week of it makes it a little trickier for me, living in California to get out to do both events. 

“But March Meet is still probably my all-time favorite drag race event. Growing up here most of my childhood, coming here every year, whether my dad raced or not, the history of the event. And then to win it in a Fuel Altered finally in 2020, was a lifelong dream. As I said, all those times, if I ever got a March Meet trophy, it was going to go right in the center of all the NHRA ones I have because it just means so much more to me.

“Then of course Bill Windham, the Burkholder Brothers, such an epic Fuel Altered. I think it was Hot Rod Magazine that had the center that I pulled out and put on my wall as a kid. There’s a great shot at OCIR and what’s cool is Harry Burkholder who drove the car last in 1973. So we’re about just over 50 years old. 

“And it’s weird because we were talking yesterday, the whole tribute car we did with “The Snake” last year in Indy with the Hot Wheels car. It was celebrated 50 years and to win the event and all that happened with that was so killer. But I showed up here, and Harry came down from Idaho. Of course, he’s getting quite a bit older, but to see, he had tears in his eyes when we brought this car out.

“Windham did a great job of making the car look exactly like it did back then. So when I’m sitting in the car and I get ready for the burnout, there’s a lot of emotions going through because you got Harry Burkholder sitting there, watching the car and I just feel like I got a lot of weight on my shoulder with a lot of heritage and the Fuel Altered. So it means a lot. So I love coming here, and the fact I get to drive this car again is so great.” 

Surprisingly enough, despite capturing a win in the legendary Burkholder Brothers car, Capps has yet to make a full run under power to the finish line in that race car. But Capps knows that’s not all that uncommon when it comes to wheeling Fuel Altered and although he’s gone well over 330 miles per hour in his big show Nitro Funny Car, trying to man-handle a Fuel Altered down the quarter-mile is a ride of a lifetime.  

“I get asked all weekend and really every weekend I’m here is, ‘What’s the comparison for me between our big show car and driving a nostalgia car like this?’” Capps explains. “I came out here and drove Dale Worsham’s “Blue Max” car years ago and then Plueger’s L.A. Hooker car.

“This altered being a ’48 Topolino body as you look at it...And there are cars out here in the Fuel Altered class that have spoilers on them and wings on the front and rear. This car is as original as it gets. There is no wing, there is no downforce, and there is no front windshield.

“Being a guy that’s raced dirt quite a bit, I brought my tear-offs, and I learned a lesson from driving the “Good News” car, when you have a little bit of stuff that might leak out of the engine or it has an issue, there’s no windshield to keep it from going hot oil all over the driver. So I actually have tear-offs.

“I mean, sometimes I wonder what am I doing? I am sitting in a car going, ‘What am I doing in this thing?’ But that’s the whole reason I do it. This acceleration, everything is so jaw-dropping, but with no downforce and running six seconds at over 220 miles an hour in a Fuel Altered probably ranks higher for me than driving the big show car, honestly.”

On top of Capps making his return to Fuel Altered at the March Meet this weekend, it’s a special weekend for the Capps family as a whole younger brother Jon makes his return to the driver’s seat for the first time in quite some time as well, as both brothers look to be the one to bring home a win on Sunday at the Heritage Series season-opener. 

“Pretty neat,” the older Capps said. “We went up last night. We were the first pair after it rained, and it was actually dark. It was crazy but Funny Cars were behind us so we made our run. I came back, got changed out of my fire suit and I went up to watch him and it was pretty dark. But he’s a stunt guy. He does some crazy stuff in cars and I have a lot of respect because he doesn’t get to drive a Nitro car very often and he jumps in without having a lot of laps, like I have the luxury of having in our car, and he does so well. 

So Jim Broome out of Tucson, which is where they’re from and it’s a good car and he ran it right down there and went 5.71 and over 250. So it was a great lap. Those guys are really happy. So my dad’s in hog heaven right now. He’s walking around from pit to pit between Jon’s and our pit area here. I’m not sure if he is having a better weekend than maybe Indy. When he was in Indy when we won, it might’ve been a better weekend for him, but this is pretty cool.”

For Capps, simply put, the nostalgic feel this race brings him and memories that are brought back in his head is why this race will always be number one to him over any other, even the “The Big Go,” the US Nationals which is the most prestigious drag race in the world. 

“I’ve said it in the media before, I’m pretty sure I was conceived in this pit area,” Capps said jokingly. “People roll their eyes. But I came here as a kid, I was here every single year of my childhood. The US Fuel and Gas Championships was the big race here, and it was dubbed the March Meet back then. 

“It’s so funny because I can get on the scooter and go over anywhere in the pit area and there’s a good chance, 55 years ago I was a little kid playing over there, snot-nosed, trying to have fun, stay busy as a kid in that same spot, the same pavement. It’s very cool for me to come to this race. Whether I’m driving or not, I enjoy it, and there’s a smell that’s here that reminds me, it takes me right back to my childhood.

“There’s just a feeling. You got the groves all the way around here. Just everything about it really brings back a lot of flood of emotions. So watching my heroes here, I mean, when I was a kid, man, I mean Don Garlits would tow out from Florida. I mean, you talk about the US nationals and everybody in drag racing, that was the place. Well, this was on the West Coast. I mean, to have “Big Daddy” get in his trailer and drive all the way out here because he wanted to race Warren Coburn and Miller and all the hitters, it was a great place to grow up.”

KEEPING UP THE MOMENTUM - 2023 was a standout year for Top Fuel driver Frank McBee Jr. The central California native recorded the second-best time of his career at the time during qualifying at the March Meet that year which was good enough to put him amongst the elite eight to make the show. But he was not done there. McBee came just one round short of capturing his first career Top Fuel win when he fell to Pete Wittenberg in the final round at the Heritage Series season finale at Famoso Dragstrip. 

The driver of the Valley Thunder Dragster marches into the new year looking to build off the momentum gained in 2023 and put together another successful season in 2024.

“Last year was great for us,” McBee admitted. “It was really our first year actually running all of this stuff, and to qualify at the March Meet was a big deal, which obviously got postponed. Then, at the Reunion, we were still going through changes. We were still trying to find our way with the car, and we went out first round for the March Meet, held at the Reunion, which is kind of complicated, but throughout the weekend we found ourselves in the final, and the car kept improving, and we kept improving as a team, and it was really good for us. We had a really, really good year.”

Racing at the March Meet this weekend is a full-circle moment for McBee as two decades earlier a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed driver just looking to make a name for himself, competed in his first-ever race here and now fast forward and here he is, racing in the “Kings of the Sport.” 

“This race was the first race that I ever raced in,” McBee explained. “I raced in Hot Rod Eliminator here in 2004. So here we are literally 20 years later in 2024, and we’re racing Top Fuel here. 

“We were parked clear back there by the time shack, and I probably spent most of my time up here watching Denver Schutz and Jack Harris and Rick McGee and Bill Dunlap and Jim Murphy and all the people that I consider the greats. If you’d have told me I’d have been here twenty years ago, ‘In 20 years, you’re going to be here running Top Fuel,’ I’d have laughed so hard I’d have peed myself probably.”

Now McBee is going head to head against the greats of the class of today. However, his path to racing Front-Motored Top Fuel was not an overnight deal. But hard work and dedication are what helped him see his dream through. 

“I’ve never driven a rear-motored car,” McBee said. “I’ve never driven a Funny Car. This is all I know. I’ve driven I think seven front motored cars throughout the years. Various chassis, various classes, and the dream, obviously, for anybody that does this is to one day run Top Fuel. 

“We ran A/Fuel for a couple of years, and I just wasn’t happy there, we happened to have some 426 parts because we ran them in our A/Fuel car, and so we just decided to make the switch.

“It took us two and a half years to save up enough money to buy the parts to make the switch. But we ran our first Top Fuel race at the California Hot Rod Reunion in 2019 when we debuted as a Top Fuel team. We actually qualified I believe number six in that field, and ran our first five-second run ever and went 249.9, so almost our first 250-mile-per-hour run at our very first race. We’re an underfunded team, so we just have to be real careful what we do, and we work real hard in the shop to try to make good decisions there. That way when we come to the track, we try not to take too many steps backwards.

While McBee has tasted a little bit of success in the shark-infested waters that is Front-Motor Top Fuel, he knows he still has not scratched the surface of what his team is capable of doing.

“We just keep trying to get a little bit and a little bit,” McBee explained. “I always say, ‘We’re testing,’ because that’s really what we’re doing. We’ve only got about fifteen runs on this car, I think, so far, and we are just trying to make progress, a little bit of progress every time. 

“Bob Tasca, everybody knows how he ran a while back, and in his interview. He said, ‘Trust the process,’ and I actually have it written on a board in the trailer right now. It’s like every time I want to get aggressive or I want to do something crazy, I just keep looking at the board and just keep thinking, trust the process and it’ll keep going in the direction we’re going.

“We run on such a tight budget, we’re on a race-to-race. So we’re here, and if we have a bad weekend and we tear a bunch of stuff up, you may not see us again until October. You may not see us again until next March. It just depends. So we have a good weekend and we don’t tear stuff up and we learn, which is what our goal is around here, is not to tear stuff up and to try to keep learning. I’d love to do the whole tour. If we could find some backing to do it, I’d love to do it. But right now we’re just focused on the Bakersfield races, and we’d like to get to Boise if possible.”