The highly formidable Pacific NW Austin & O’Brien team shines again during Mission Raceway’s Hot Rod Heritage Series feature….

As the Nostalgia Nitro Funny Cars of the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series rolled into Mission Raceway Park for their annual event last weekend, the question on everyone’s mind was, could anyone beat Bobby Cottrell in the Austin & O’Brien Bardahl Camaro? That team proved last year they knew the quick way down the Mission track.

With seven strong cars entered, there were any number of possibilities. It wouldn’t be last year’s runner-up to Cottrell, as Jason Rupert withdrew with what was reported to be a recurrence of a previous leg injury. Nor would it be Ryan Hodgson, in Canada’s consistently quickest AA/FC, who was mysteriously and unfortunately not entered, the first time ever a Hodgson AA/FC has not been at this event.

Making up for those two were Shawn Bowen from Michigan and Dan Horan from Los Angeles, figuring they had better beat Cottrell at Mission to have a chance in the NHRA points. So, on paper, it looked to be those three as the favourites, and that is how it turned out on track.

Qualifying saw Cottrell fire the first big shot, a 5.69 / 253 for provisional pole. Mark Sanders was right behind at 5.72, while Bowen would have been closer than 5.81 had he not had a top-end oil-down. Chilliwack’s Tim Nemeth suffered heavy damage to the valve train that necessitated a long tear down and missing the final session.

In that session, run under near-ideal 20C temps and very low humidity, it was surprising to see the best time be a 5.89, turned in by Edmonton’s Tim Boychuk. Horan and Bowen ran ‘only’ 5.96s beside each other, and Cottrell was on a strong pass when he had to pedal twice and shut it down.

The first round was run late Saturday afternoon under unusually not-so-hot conditions of mid-20s C, and the six cars put on the best three races ever seen in Mission AA/FC racing. Bowen ran a 5.77 to beat Boychuk’s good 5.84, Horan ran low ET / top speed of the meet at 5.67 / 257, to just beat Sanders’ third-lowest ET of the meet, a 5.69, and Cottrell kept pace with a 5.71 over Nemeth’s best-in-a-while 5.83.

Bobby Cottrell and his potent race team celebrate in Mission Raceway victory lane after they defeated Dan Horan in the Nitro Nostalgia FC championship round.

As the sun began to set, it got even cooler, probably mid-to-high hundreds in corrected altitude, and low qualifier Cottrell would get to sit and watch Horan and Bowen duke it out. Horan took the win at 5.731, with Bowen inches back at 5.757. That is a .026 difference in ET, but Bowen left on him by .023. So the margin of victory was 3/1,000ths of a second. After that, Cottrell’s 5.67 single seemed almost ho-hum, but it got him lane choice for the final.

So, in the cool night air, hopes were high for a final round with something approaching the side-by-side 5.50s we saw last year, but it wasn’t to be. Cottrell, as usual, had the hole shot and ran a routine 5.71, while Horan got out of the groove and slowed to a 5.97, the first run of the day that wasn’t straight and hard to the finish line. With a couple of races left at Boise and Bakersfield, the NHRA Heritage Series is still wide open.

As usual, there were two nostalgia alcohol FC circuits on the program, bringing the total number of FCs on the property to 20. The Rocky Mountain Funny Cars brought five cars from Alberta, down from the usual, and expected, eight cars due to a number of business and personal issues. Of the five, the ‘Dirty White Boys’ car couldn’t run due to damage.

With four cars left, it was decided to forgo the usual eliminations, and instead run it Chicago-style on a “soft” 6.75 index, with the two closest runs to that, either over or under it, coming back for the shot at an NHRA Wally trophy. Of the seven runs made (Joey Steckler didn’t make the second round), three were under 6.75, but by a bunch, so it was the 6.80 of Norm Kolwich and the 6.77 of Cal Tebb that got them to the final.

Cal Tebb’s incredible “The Judge” GTO (from Edmonton) was a popular winner in the event’s Chicago-style index Funny Car class.

And it was a wild one. With a “hard” 6.75 index back in place as usual, Kolwich not only lit the red by a lot (.341), but rocketed down track with what must have been the quickest he had ever been in his Corvette, a 6.46 in the cool conditions. In the other lane, Tebb had big problems, slowing to 14.88, but he still got the win and the trophy.

As always, the NW BB/FC group from the U.S. put on a good show, with the most cars (nine) and best burnouts. There were no Canadians in this group, and in the final, on the “soft” 6.70 index (basically, don’t go really quick), Royce Taylor’s ’72 Mustang beat fellow Washington racer Greg Howland in his crowd-favourite “Zeus” ’79 Corvette, 6.59 to a 7.42.

Royce Taylor’s ’72 Mustang from Washington state took home the BB/FC title.

(Editor’s Note:  Mission Raceway’s Hot Rod Heritage Series Funny Car feature weekend also included a separate NHRA Pacific Northwest National Open event. DragRaceCanada will post details including those results in a separate story – coming soon).

Posted by Gerry Frechette — Photos by Gerry Frechette and Les Puchala 

To link to our 2018 season Mission Raceway Photo Gallery visit our LoudMusicLoudCars site presentation: HERE