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In nature, spring is a season of change. Thus goes the world of nostalgia drag racing, 2013 could be titled a season of change. DRO reached out to some of the funny car teams who have some changes that might surprise you.
We will start with the two-time and defending NHRA Heritage Series Funny Car Champion, Jason Rupert. According to longtime friend, crew member and NHRA reporter extraordinaire, Brad Littlefield, Jason is mounting a new '69 Camaro body on his Funny Car. The black body will be a Rupert & Bays/Black Plague car as an homage to two of his mentors -- his father, Frank, and longtime nitro tuner Richard Bays. Rupert won the 2011 and 2012 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series AA/FC titles and recorded the only 260-mph run in class history with his Mert Littlefield tribute car. His entire team is slated to return along with sponsors Lucas Oil and Phenix Industries. This is exciting news for the Rupert team but it might not be very exciting news for the rest of the flopper contingent.
For John Hale, who took his second consecutive DRO flopper title in 2012 there are a few changes being made. “We will run the same chassis as last year, we just plan on running the Mustang “Nitro Boss” body a few more times. Fans love that body, so we will run it more.” One other piece of news about Hale not related to nostalgia racing, is that the Texan will be at the wheel of Steve Plueger’s fuel car at one or more NHRA national events this year.
There is also a reshuffling of crewmembers and duties on the team, and the addition of two new members including Marine Corps veteran Justin Wilson, who just completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan. One of the biggest changes is that Guy Tipton will now handle the tuneup decisions autonomously.
Other news, there are big changes with Will Martin for 2013. Martin will return to the flopper wars this year with none other than Chris Nance as co-crew chief along with Shane McWilliams. There is a group of new crewmembers and a list of new sponsors such as CP-Carrillo, Tejon Indian Tribe, Keigly Promotional Group and Williams Performance Products, to coincide with returning marketing partners Prolong Oil, and Fuel Injection Enterprises. The new team is busy going through the car and parts with a “fine toothed comb” to be ready for the 2013 season.
Another update, which has come into the World Headquarters, was from James Day, who will be behind the wheel of the Gary Turner Peddler funny car. There is some covert internet images of a super-secret new car (under cover) for the Turner team. However, some unexpected delays have occurred in the process of construction, and the secret project will not be ready for the March Meet, however, it will be ready for roll out from the Skunk Works facility in California later in the year.
In another big surprise that caught many people off guard, Rocky Mountain Raceway, which has been an IHRA track for the past four years, in 2013 has ventured back to the NHRA and will hold a nostalgia event on August 23-25, which is two weeks after the Pepsi Nightfire Nationals in Boise. Following the Salt Lake event the NHRA Heritage Series people appear to want to expand their horizons some as there is an event at the very legendary New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire, giving the top fuel cars another point’s event. It is not clear how many of the west coast teams are going to make the two trips back east to Bowling Green, Ky., and come back for Boise, then make 6200-mile round trip for a weekend of drag racing at Epping. One can only guess that the Epping event is a way for the NHRA to showcase those cars on the east coast that cannot make the long trip out west to any of those events.
We have been speaking with some of the Top Fuel teams to get their honest input not only on the new rules option laid out for the long skinny cars in 2013 but also to see how many of the West Coast contingent will make those two long trips back east. One owner said that it would take nearly $10,000 to make the round trip to Bowling Green. Another said he would estimate it would almost be double that to go to Epping. We shall see.