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Bakersfield, CA - 10/26/15: The 24th edition of the California Hot Rod Reunion set the stage for the 25th in 2016. As it has every year past, it lived up to its rock star billing and then some. The three day weekend featured Chamber of Commerce weather, record crowds, great racing and tons of cacklecars. There was no doubt that Auto Club Famoso Raceway operators Blake and John Bowser had their facility ready for what was one of the largest CHRR's ever.

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 now legendary original Cacklefest® now in its 15th year. And as in years past, the sheer numbers of restored and recreated dragsters and Altereds grew to over 100 in attendance.

Add to that the hard working folks from the NHRA Wally Parks Motorsports Museum and the crew at Famoso insured those in attendance enjoyed 3 full days of great racing, tons of cacklecars and the reason the reunion started in the first place, friends getting together while we still can.

For the fourth year in a row there was a silent auction to benefit the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum was held by the Nitro Alumni. 160 unique and rare items went on the block and the end result was over $25,000 to benefit a great cause, that being keeping the museum up and running to preserve our history.

Another tradition is Friday night at the CHRR which is one of drag racings major social events of the year. Hosted at the DoubleTree Hotel, the California Hot Rod Reunion Honoree Reception always draws the who's-who of drag racing.

This reception was free and was followed by the traditional DoubleTree parking lot "Cacklefest Preview" that kicks off the official start of Cacklefest. We will start at the beginning and share some of what went on inside before the record number of cacklecars started outside.



Prior to the ceremony there was lots of mingling in the parking lot, halls of the Double Tree Hotel and in the banquet room. For whatever reasons, I have less shots than normal for this intro.


Don Ratican, Danny "Buzz" Broussard, Don Gaide and Jay Carpenter


"Sour Sisters" table.


Dave Wallace Jr.


Greg Sharp and Don Ratican


Bill Pitts and Team Magicar.


Steve Gibbs with Bob and Sharon Muravez.


Tom Jobe and The Surfers historian, Bob Higginson.


The Dunn table.


Ed McCulloch with Diane and Jim Dunn


Ed Pink and Cub Barnett





The Honorees
Pencil Art done by Shannon Olson


Paul Althouse


Cub Barnett


Don Gaide


Don Ratican


John Jodauga


Doug Kruse


Grand Marshal Jim Dunn




Master of Ceremonies, Dave McClelland led off the program and introduced Larry Fisher who is celebrating his third anniversary as the Executive Director of the museum.




Up next was Steve Gibbs for his opening remarks that led to the introduction of Don Ewald who accepted an award for his brother John who passed away in March. He would have much rather seen his late brother receive it.









When Don found his BankAmericar back in 2003 he couldn't afford to buy it back much less restore it. However, John had the money and a geographical location that Don did not to make it all work. After getting the car restored John jumped into the cacklecar craze with both feet. All the while he gave countless hours to the museum and its many projects and causes. He was a spearhead for the very successful Nitro Alumni Auction. His cackle shows were second to none and exposed countless people to early top fuel drag racing. This award was for those things and much more. His presence and go-getter drive will be sorely missed by the folks at the museum in particular and drag racing in general.




Ewald did a segway to Cindy Gibbs who touted the auction that John was such a big part of. A couple of the over 165 items were a One of a Kind "Cacklefest Tribute Blanket". Made and Donated by Leigh Buttera and Art Chrisman's personal Saint's 1948 Car Club Jacket - Compton, California. Authenticated and donated by Art Chrisman. At the end of the day on Saturday 80% of the items sold for over $25,000 that went directly to the museum. If you missed out this year, imagine how big it will be for the 25th Anniversary of the CHRR in October of 2016.







After Cindy, Big Mac auctioned off the winners circle banner that graced the stage for over $1,000.







Then to the business at hand, it was time for the first honoree. Paul Althouse ran Paul’s Automotive in Monrovia and gained fame for tuning the fastest Chevys in Southern California. His shop was home to such entries as the Christie and Fisher Camaro, Geno Redd’s Chevelle, Bob Davis’s Impala and even served as West Coast headquarters for Bill Jenkins and Dave Strickler. Past Top Alcohol Champion Jay Payne, Super Stock and Comp racer Rick Houser and Pro Stock tuner Dave Butner all used Paul’s shop as a launching pad. It became the go-to shop for anyone who wanted a really fast doorslammer.










Cub Barnett built engines have won and set records on drag strips, dirt tracks, and Bonneville and reliably covered hundreds of thousands of miles in street rods. In 1952, Cub made the trip to the Bonneville salt, met Charles “Scotty” Scott and went to work running his dyno in San Bernardino. In 1960, Cub opened Barnett’s Garage in Bloomington working alongside his father before moving north to accept an offer to go to work at Gotelli’s Speed Shop. That job lasted nearly a decade before he and close friend Andy Brizio became partners in Champion Speed Shop. Champion closed in the early ‘70s and Cub Barnett Engineering was born. His clients include Reggie Jackson, Dennis Varni, Jeff Beck and Tim Allen. The Cub Barnett Engineering Special roadster won the CHRR NE 1 class in 2007 and back-to-back 7.0 Pro titles in 2011 and 2012.




Joining Barnett on stage was Ronnie Lennon, his 7.0 driver, and Johnny Cofer.






Don Gaide and Don Ratican became known as ‘The Sour Sisters’ when they teamed with past CHRR Honoree the late Kenny Safford. Gaide, a Road Kings member like Safford, teamed up with another past Honoree Bob Muravez in 1960 on a C/Gas dragster known as the Gray Ghost. After Gaide crashed it, their engine went in Ed Janke’s chassis and made it the winningest B/GD in California. Ratican first gained fame as an Oldsmobile tuner with the NHRA Nationals winning Ratican, Jackson and Stearns Fiat Altered. When Safford and Gaide planned to run nitro in their dragster, Ratican came aboard helping make it the World’s Fastest Oldsmobile. In the 1990’s Ratican completed a fine restoration of the legendary Albertson Olds dragster that is part of the NHRA Motorsports Museum permanent collection.





Ratican's old partner Ron Stearns surprised him with a book he had made about the AA/FA (Ratican Jackson & Stearns) they raced in the 60's.







John Jodauga’s name is familiar to readers of publications such as National DRAGSTER, Hot Rod, and Car Craft. Jodauga calls himself an illustrator, but his work includes some of the most recognizable and innovative press kits in the history of the sport. Between stints in his forty-year career as a writer at National Dragster, John ran his own advertising agency with name clients such as Moroso, Simpson, the Summers Brothers, Duffy’s Performance, and many others. His first drag race was the 1964 Winternationals and he was hooked on drag racing forever. He eventually raced his own ’68 Camaro in a variety of classes including participation in the first ever Super Gas eliminations at the 1980 Winternationals. His relationships with racers and long career as a writer have made him an acknowledged drag racing historian.









Doug Kruse came to California for the 1960 U.S. Fuel and Gas Championships in Bakersfield and stayed. He was a mechanical engineer and once managed a drag strip in Manassas, Virginia. He went to work for “Jocko” Johnson and honed his skills in building race cars and aluminum bodies until opening Kruse Engineering. Samples of his work included bodies for the Yeakel Plymouth dragster, George Bolthoff’s Top Gas car, and the Assassin Top Fueler and the chassis and “tin work” on Joe Pisano’s first Funny Car (built from an actual Camaro). In late 1963, he joined with Tom “Mongoose” McEwen and others to form the United Drag Racers Association in hopes of improving prize money and safety for the racers. By February, they promoted their first event at Lions Drag Strip attracting nearly 100 dragsters and 15-20,000 fans. After the success of that meet UDRA chapters sprang up all over the country lasting through the 1981 season. When Funny Cars began stealing the limelight from dragsters, Kruse put together a series of events called the Professional Dragster Championships. Beginning in 1967 a twelve-year run of successful events was held up and down the West Coast.









Grand Marshal Jim Dunn has been drag racing for well over sixty years. He was active as a driver for nearly forty of those years and was voted No. 27 on NHRA’s Top 50 Drivers list. He won in Altereds, dragsters and Funny Cars with a record of 10 wins and six runner-ups at NHRA national events. He won the Bakersfield March Meet once in Top Fuel and twice in Funny Car. He won the ’63 and 64 Winternationals with the Dunn, Merritt and Velasco Fiat Altered then raced fuel dragsters through the ‘60s before switching to Funny Cars. He was subject of the 1972 movie Funny Car Summer exposing drag racing to millions. In 1991 he changed roles to car owner and tuner with a runner-up finish at the 1993 U.S. Nationals and the 1994 Budweiser Shootout, before winning the Shootout in 1997. His close friend, the late Bob Brooks said, “He was from the same era that spawned Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen. They were the quarterbacks, the pretty boys so to speak, and Dunn was the down-and-dirty lineman”.










Every year new or special cars are selected to fire-up in the parking lot of the DoubleTree Hotel following the awards ceremony.

This years picks of the litter was led off by the debut of the beautifully restored Dunn & Reath 1969 AA/FD "Rainbow Car" done by Pete Eastwood. With Jim Dunn as Grand Marshal, this was more than fitting.

Another debut was the Austin & Grassi Fuel Cuda, arguably one of the oddest cacklecars ever. Walt Austin owner, Dave Jeffers in the car.

John Neas brought his Tony Nancy's 1970 "Sizzler" Top Fueler car was back for the second year in a row. Harry Hibler in the seat.

Joe Schubeck made his first hotel appearance while Larry Crossan's Gingrass & Dearmore AA/FD with Bob Muravez in the seat was making its second (2008).

Rounding out the field was a return of the Climax AA/FA of Scott Krenzer.

The place was beyond packed. Some people had grabbed their spot hours earlier. No telling how many hotel guests thought they were being attacked.

At Steve Gibbs’s command, let the flames begin.















































With the scent of nitro still lingering in the air, the fans thinned out and the old dogs started holding court. The absolutely best bench racing session you will ever attend. If you wonder why so many people are wearing the same blue shirt its because in 2012 Steve Gibbs and his Big Hook Traveling Acceleration Show, had Spider Razon make up (on special order) a one time run of "A Gathering of Geezers" CHRR Famoso MMXII Limited Edition, Nitro Alumni shirts. They were such a hit that every year since there has been a new pattern/logo released.


Joe Schubeck and Harry Hibler


Ed McCulloch, Cindy Gibbs and Jim Nicoll

Sad postscript: I've taken a long time to put this together as there was a nagging feeling that it was not totally right. Now I think I know why. It was set to go live on December 26 until the news came on Christmas Day that Jim "Superman" Nicoll had passed away. Jim was an old friend and thankfully we got to have some fun just two months ago at the CHRR. Since there were several photos of Jim on this page a decision had to be made to do any changes on the coverage. This is how he would want to be remembered so no changes were made. RIP Superman. If you want to know more about Jim's drag racing career click here: Phil Burgess National Dragster - Superman 2008.


Ron Mankins, Don Ewald, Bill Simpson and J.R. Todd


Tommy Ivo


Ewald, Simpson, Vikki York and Chip Woodall


Don Gaide and Dan Broussard


John "Tarzan" Austin with Cindy, Ace, Chip and Jim


Ivo, Jerry Ruth, Tom Cirillo, Ewald with Dwight Salisbury in the background.


"Waterbed Fred" Miller and Ace


Ewald, Simpson, Jim Nicoll and Woodall


Denny Martinez, Cirillo, and Nicoll


Photogs; Dan Kaplan, Gary Nastase, Richard Shute and Dave Kommel


Ron Hodgson, Jerry Ruth and Dan Richins


Justin Arias and Liz Caudillo


Spider Razon and Dale Funk


John New and Cindy


Bob Muravez, Nicoll and Austin


Roland Leong, Hibler, Nicoll and Ivo


Paula Karamesines-Baldwin and Ace


Gotta do them selfies!


Ewald and Linda Vaughan



Dan Kaplan and LV


Finally two of the finest, and hardest working people that most never see. NHRA Motorsports Museum Manager of Marketing and Advertising, Rose Dickinson and the head of the Reunion Safety Operations, Don Irvin.


Wish we had more people shots from this deal and if you have any, send them.
2015 CHRR Photo Submission




Untitled Document


2015 CHRR Racing Coverage


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