Sat., June 19:
Hard to top Friday, but Day Two was just as good. With the mix of rods and vintage dragsters, along with Linda Vaughn on the Hurst Shifter car, "Big Daddy" Don Garlits in the Swamp Rat, a concert by the Diamonds and the fabled "Cacklefest," it seemed like everyone was transported back in time about 35 years.
And everyone went along for the ride because that's what makes the Reunion so special and for many, sentimental. That's especially true during Cacklefest, the Reunion's ultimate blast-from-the-past event.
For the uninitiated, Cacklefest is where vintage dragsters return to the track for a special run. Since some of the cars haven't been seen in 30 or more years, the memories they evoke are priceless. This year, 23 dragsters, some push started, went down Beech Bend's strip, and then parked with engines still on, still bellowing flames, still cackling.
How fitting to have Linda Vaughn lead the charge in the Hurst car and Garlits finish the hit parade in famous Swamp Rat drasgster.
That's a crowd-pleaser in any decade, and always will be.
Sun., June 20:
And on Father's Day Sunday, they raced.
Before the drag racing action took center stage, the SoffSeal Show 'N Shine winners, who were announced before the Diamonds' concert the night before, not only received their awards, but they got to blast down Beech Bend's legendary strip.
Fifty Top Class awards were handed out, as were six Best of the Best awards. They went to: Tom O'Brien, Pittsburgh, Pa., '40 Chevy Coupe; Dan Button, Glasgow, Ky., '55 Chevrolet Bel Air; Larry Frederick, Petersburg, Ind., '62 Chevrolet Bel Air; Rick Gregorski, Largo, Fla., '41 Willys Coupe; Bill Wellman, Largo, Fla., '32 Ford Pickup; and Donna Russell, Horse Cave, Ky., '67 Chevrolet Chevelle.
Class winners included the father and son duo of Keith and Bill Hallett. Bill Hallett, the son, entered a '35 Ford Coupe, while his father entered a '55 Chevrolet station wagon. Two entrants each won with two different cars. Troy Fellers had two different '69 Chevrolet Camaros in the top 50, while Steve
Honnell had a '64 Ford Thunderbird and a '72 Merc Spoiler II.
The rest of the day was dedicated to racing. Sam Jackson personally thanked each of the competitors as he or she was eliminated and congratulated the winners. "We're glad you're here," said Jackson to each in turn. "You are the show."
Competitors were unanimous in their praise for the event. Scott Parks, who drives the fastest Jr. Fuel car in the world, said, "it's a blast. I can't thank these guys enough for putting on this race."
Tony Feil, who won the Nostalgia Gas class, said "it's been a great day for me. I've been racing seven days in the last two weeks. Ending up winning the second Hot Rod Reunion at Bowling Green is great."
Top Fuel champion Sean Bellemeur of Camarillo, Calif., brought a new car to this event. He had high praise for his Plaza Hotel and Casino crew. "Hats off to all these guys," said Bellemeur. "They got the job done on Tuesday night. This car first saw asphalt at Bowling Green. It proves the heart this team has."
Mary Ann Cooke of Ocala, Fla., was ecstatic after her win in the Oldies class. "I beat the boys," said the driver of a '50 Slingshot dragster as she raised her trophy high in the air. She beat Terry Stewart of Tampa, Fla. in the final round when Stewart red-lighted, leaving before the starting light turned green.
Jim Swedberg, who won the Open Fuel class, was emotional about his victory. "It's been so long, I didn't know how to act," he said in Victory Circle.
An exhibition match race that really defines the Hot Rod Reunion, saw 70-year-old Joe Jacono get back into his old ride, a funny car called "Rollin' Stoned," 30 years after he last raced it. He roared to victory over long-time rival Lou Sgro's "Black Magic."
After the match race, Jacono said, "I'm here and the car's all in one piece. I didn't hit the wall."
Neither did the National Hot Rod Reunion, which looks like it has lots of victories runs in it for years to come.