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DUNLAP TAKES TOP FUEL TITLE
Ends Bartone's 2+ Year Winning Streak
Record 7th NHRR Team Win

 

 

 

Bowling Green, Kentucky - June 20, 2015:

In a spectacular return to form, 74-year-old Bill Dunlap captured Top Fuel Eliminator in his California-based High Speed Motorsports entry at the 13th Holley National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Ky. Dunlap defeated defending event champion Tony “T-Bone” Bartone and upended Bartone’s unprecedented domination of the NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Dragster class.

In the NHRR final, Dunlap laid down an exemplary 5.73-second quarter-mile blast at 251 mph to stun the New York-based Bartone, who encountered tire shake in his Steve Boggs-tuned dragster while falling short with a losing effort of 6.15 seconds. In victory, Dunlap snapped Bartone’s six-event undefeated streak and fired the first volley in a quest for what could be called “regime change.”

“We are going to keep knocking on his door,” Dunlap said post-race, after advancing to 2nd place in current Heritage Series Points, two rounds behind Bartone. “We want him to feel our breath on his neck. We want to give him a bad time the rest of the year.”

Dunlap’s remarks were a follow-up to a gauntlet thrown down prior to the Reunion. “We feel that it's time to put an end to (Tony) Bartone and (Steve) Boggs’ winning streak,” HSM’s crew chief Tom “Slick” Shelar had said last week, before towing his Top Fuel dragster 2000 miles from Anaheim to Bowling Green in pursuit of his quarry. That declaration went viral on the Internet and piqued old-school drag racing fans everywhere, whether in Beech Bend’s packed grandstands or among those following the event on the web.

It also caught the attention of Bartone and his team, who began its defense of their undefeated status by going back to work and letting their numbers at the dragstrip do the talking. After qualifying in the #1 spot with a clean, effortless 5.77, Bartone picked up the pace in eliminations, first by dispatching NorCal veteran Brendan Murry with a Low ET, track-record clocking of 5.56 seconds, followed by a 5.64 that upended Wisconsin’s Jim Young in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ladder, Dunlap was also making statements, winning his first-round match against Dave Hirata with a 5.72 ET powered by a thumping top-end speed of 255 mph. In the semi-finals, Dunlap posted another 5.72 to defeat Dusty Green. Dunlap’s winning speed of 248 mph served notice to Bartone that in the run for the NHRR Top Fuel Title, “T-Bone” would have to drive his record-setting machine through the proverbial back door with the throttle down if he wanted to remain undefeated.

All things considered, Bartone was considered the favorite in the final round. Even after setting Top Speed of the Meet at 255 mph, Dunlap was unsure about his chances. “I was thinking, ‘We got a tough one here, I don’t know,’” Dunlap recalled. “But the best thing is that Tom (Shelar) kept us cool. He said, ‘We are going to do our thing, they are going to do their thing and he is just going to have to outrun us.’”

Unfortunately for Bartone and the status of his unprecedented record (22 rounds of racing without a loss), he never got the chance to “back door” it. His mount shook the tires 200 feet into his final-round race against Dunlap and, despite some deft back-pedaling, the New York-based champ never caught the hard-charging Dunlap.

“Honestly, I thought he was going to run a .50 and blow our doors off,” Dunlap admitted. “But when you don't see him and you don’t hear him and the win light comes on, it’s unbelievable.”

This makes for 6 out of 7 event wins for Shelar’s team in Bowling Green. (A 7th NHRR title was claimed by “High Speed” the year it was contested in Columbus, Ohio.) This was their first, however, with Bill Dunlap as the team’s driver.

“I am 74-years old, how much longer am I going to be able to do this?” Dunlap asked rhetorically, responding to a query about the meaning of this win. “When the team got down (to the shut-off area), I was jumping around like I was lost.”

“The team kicked ass,” Shelar stated. Despite the usual daunting heat and humidity in Kentucky, the HSMS crew fulfilled Tom's vision of reclaiming Bowling Green and upending Bartone by swapping engines between every round of eliminations. “I'm the lucky one that gets to turn the knobs and Dunlap drove his ass off,” Shelar explained.

Dunlap will continue his pursuit of points-leading Bartone this summer in Boise, Idaho and Epping, New Hampshire and finally this fall in Bakersfield, CA.

Make no mistake: Currently in Heritage Series Top Fuel Competition, statements are being made. Only this year, they are not all by Steve Boggs and Tony Bartone.

Text courtesy of the NHRA Motorsports Museum

 

 

*There are A LOT of photos in this coverage because: (1) There were 5 people shooting and I want them all represented. (2) This was arguably the biggest win in the teams long history. (3) The team really deserves the recognition.

So fans, on behalf of High Speed Motosports, we hope you enjoy this indepth coverage.

 

 

THURSDAY

 

Thursday morning was bright and sunny, and we'll open with some pit shots as the team waited for the first qualifying session scheduled for 3:00 pm.

 

 

With the car basically ready to run, they guys pretty much tinkered, waiting for the afternoon session.

 

Darrell Reid, Sean Bellemeur and Rick Shelar.

 

Walt Stevens (on right) gapping the spark plugs.

 

Bill Dunlap, Kyle Wakefield and new bottom end man, Donnie Ho.

 

Frank "Root Beer" Hedge, driver, Bill Dunlap and Nick Arias III.

 

 

 

Donnie Ho, Todd Shappe, Arias and photog, Steve Scott.

 

Ken Gentry was on hand to do the tech cards.

 

 

Team owner, Tom Shelar checking the wiring on the data computer.

 

Fast forward to early afternoon, the weather report predicted thunder storms and heavy rain and it didn't disappoint. The skies did open up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the first storm, the staff set about drying the track. It was another wait.

 

Just as the track was close to ready, round two hit. Not a bad as its predecessor, but enough to eventually off any more racing.

 

 

HSMS Hospitality Manager, Arlene Eliason making the massive shopping list for Friday. The team was feeding over 30 crew and family.

 

Into the box, off to town.

 

Backing the car out of the pit is Robert Fontes and Gregg Weist, both nephew-in-laws to Tom Shelar.

 

 

 

The Champion team next door did the same.

 

 

With rain predicted for the entire weekend everyone was expecting a repeat of Thursday, but the drag racing gods would have none of that. With the exception of a couple of drizzles, the Friday program was completed.

 

Off to the staging lanes.

 

 

 

Al Rentarea Jr. and Fontes

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY - QUALIFYING SESSION ONE

 

For their first shot at the superbly prepped Bowling Green track, Bill Dunlap was paired with Jason Greenwood. The car was awash with the distinctive HSMS uniform tops.

 

 

 

Stevens in wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, Walt Stevens backs up Dunlap in his burnout tracks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dunlap had a strong leave, Greenwood was much softer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A nice tune-up run of 5.897 at 235.76 would put them in the #2 qualifying spot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warming the engine for session two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warming the engine prior to the 2nd qualifying session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY - QUALIFYING SESSION TWO

 

The second session went off about 4:00 pm the #1 and #2 qualifiers from the first session. Dunlap was paired with the defending champ, Tony Bartone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'

 

 

 

 

Both cars left super hard, maybe too hard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dunlap was first to experience tire shake, see cup under tire.

 

Bartone was a flash later.

 

 

Dunlap drove through it, Bartone clicked it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before the 330' mark Dunlap had also shut off knowing he could not improve on his previous run. From the first session the final order would he Bartone and Dunlap 1 & 3 setting up the epic final round on Saturday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINAL QUALIFYING ORDER

1 - Tony Bartone, Long Island City NY, 5.770 @ 228.92
2 - Dusty Green, Pleasant Hill CA, 5.870 @ 242.45
3 - Bill Dunlap, Capitola CA, 5.897 @ 235.76
4 - Dave Hirata, Lowell IN, 5.922 @ 223.99
5 - Jim Young, Salem WI, 6.054 @ 204.73
6 - Adam Sorokin, Glendale CA, 6.058 @ 203.71
7 - Jason Greenwood, Racine WI, 6.272 @ 201.43
8 - Brendan Murry, San Jose CA, 7.063 @ 134.74

------------ Not Qualified ------------

9 - Jerry Kumre Jr, Rohnert Park CA, 7.178 @ 216.03
10 - Paul Schultz, Tulsa OK, 9.646 73.78 @ 76.18
11 - Tim Cullinan, Des Plaines IL, 29.785 @ 278.12

 

 

Page Two - Saturday Eliminations

Page Three - Saturday Final

 

 

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