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Notes from the Burkster’s first March Meet
Note: Burk wrote this in the March Meet Same Day coverage, but we’re running it here too, just in case you missed it.
Fifty years ago this weekend, for my birthday my dad took me to Amarillo Dragway to celebrate my 14th birthday. He died just four weeks ago on his 86th birthday, February 5th, and coming to the 51st annual March Meet reminds me of my first trip to the drags with my dad. It has reminded me of why I got hooked on drag racing and have never been able to kick the habit. The old man would have loved this place for its simplicity, honesty, and tradition, as do I. This trip to the March Meet has been my best birthday present in 50 years!
I never thought I would ever get to see more than 24 nitro Funny Cars at one race. I just figured I’d missed that opportunity. But here I am at Bakersfield and there are 31, count ‘em, 31 AA Funny Cars in the pits that went through tech and 29 attempted to qualify for the (unique in drag racing) eight-car “A” and “B” mains. That alone will keep me coming back to this race as long as I am able.
It is amazing to see that not one of the 31 fuel Coupes or 18 AA/FD’s at this event have what could be considered a major corporate sponsorship! Some of the cars don’t even have product stickers on them. They don’t show that invasive patina of sponsorship that has become mandatory at NHRA and, to a lesser extent, IHRA events.
The drivers, tuners, and crews at this event in the nitro divisions are here because they love to burn nitro, rubber and money! And they love drag racing. For many of the men and women racing here, this is their hobby not their job.
The attraction the March Meet for the racers is nothing short of amazing. At almost no other national event would the nitro teams even consider paying for the privilege of racing, but at the March Meet they pay up and gladly. Every car, including the AA/FC and AA/FD, has to pay an $85 entry fee for car and driver, and every person on the crew has to buy a $30 ticket.
At any other race nitro teams would practically riot if asked to pay entry fees, but not at the March Meet. I haven’t heard a single complaint. Hell, many of the teams don’t seem to know nor care what the purse and payout is. They just want to be competitive at the March Meet and if they were to win it that would be a career for many of them.
NHRA president Tom Compton came up from NHRA headquarters yesterday and along with self-described PR man Jerry Archambeault toured the pits and took in the sights. According to former NHRA VP Steve Gibbs, who has been to every one of these races, Compton’s visit was the first by an NHRA president to the March Meet. Compton seemed to really enjoy his visit and Tom and Jerry went into almost every pit and talked to the crews. Tom seemed really impressed with the Champion Speed Shop Top Fuel streamliner.