Legends of drag racing to be honored at California Hot Rod Reunion at Auto Club Famoso Raceway


GLENDORA, Calif. (Sept. 21, 2017) Legendary names in the sport of drag racing will take center stage during the 26th annual California Hot Rod Reunion® presented by Automobile Club of Southern California on Oct. 20-22 to Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. 

The legends including Bakersfield native Grand Marshal Rick Stewart who will be feted for his decade’s long involvement with NHRA at the star studded Hot Rod Reunion Honoree Reception at the DoubleTree Hotel in Bakersfield on Friday at 7:30 p.m., admission to the reception is free. Also recognized during the event will be Pete Eastwood, Bill Holland, Bob Lambeck, Bob Panella, Sr., and Jimmy Scott. 

They will all also be recognized during the honoree presentation al on the track Saturday evening. 

For newer race fans Stewart is recognizable as NHRA’s long-time chief starter, but veterans of the sport know him as Rick “the Iceman” Stewart, the talented dragster driver. Growing up in Bakersfield, Stewart began his racing “career” on the street in his flathead-powered ’46 Ford Tudor sedan. He wisely changed course to Famoso Raceway when he started racing his Corvette. In 1963, Stewart teamed with past honorees Gene Adams and John Rasmussen to race a Woody Gilmore-built Top Fuel car. Running at all the Southern California strips, they won $5,500 in 1964 dollars. Stewart was the subject of Seven Second Love Affair, a great documentary, which covered Stewart’s activity from his day job as an X-ray technician through a crash at Lions Drag Strip. In 1965, Adams switched to Top Gas, and the team continued its success, including a win at the Hot Rod Magazine Championships in Riverside, Calif. In 1967, a bad crash during tire testing at Famoso eventually led to Stewart’s retirement from the cockpit in 1971. In the 1980s, Stewart began working part time as a backup starter while also serving as director of radiology at a Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. After some 10 years in the backup starter position, Stewart was hand-picked by NHRA’s first Chief Starter, Buster Couch, as his replacement. Over the next 15 years, Stewart occupied the proverbial “best seat in the house” between the lanes sending thousands of racers on their way before hanging up his familiar straw hat at the end of the 2011 season.

Coming out of the hotbed of Southern California hot rodding known as Blair’s Speed Shop, Pete Eastwood could be called the consummate hot rodder. But that’s only part of the story. His father, Doug, and Uncle Warwick were involved in the Horseless Carriage Club of America since the early 1950s, so Eastwood can give you chapter and verse with his knowledge of brass-era cars and motorcycles. When the 75 Most Significant ’32 Ford Hot Rods were selected in 2007, analysis showed that “P-Wood” had worked on nearly a third of them. Eastwood’s eclectic automotive taste is demonstrated by the brass radiator, Hilborn injector, and Triumph drag bike decorating the living room of his Pasadena home.

Bill Holland has devoted himself to helping promote the sport in a variety of ways as journalist, race car owner and driver, publicist, artist, and businessman and his extensive involvement within the automotive aftermarket industry. After having a motorsports column featured in local Los Angeles newspapers, Holland worked as the editor of National Dragster from 1969 to 1974, where he helped expand the publication’s features, tech articles, and overall editorial scope. After Holland opened his advertising/public relations business, he became one of the first to utilize the emerging desktop publishing technology for the creation of advertisements, brochures, and catalogs. 

During his very successful career that has spanned six decades, West Coast campaigner Bob Lambeck has been what is known as a “racer’s racer” in that he not only driven his cars to victory but also built the engines and set up the chassis and every other aspect of the overall operations. Lambeck’s overall excellence is best highlighted by the fact that he has raced approximately 40 cars of many different brands and models over the years, and each one has produced a class win, divisional victory, or a national record.

Bob Panella Sr. has three major claims to fame: a robust family-operated trucking business, a tremendous career track record in drag racing for himself and his son Bob Jr., and a warehouse that contains one of the most amazing collections of Willys coupes, sedans, and trucks within the world of hot rodding. Panella began his drag racing career by racing at Kingdon Drag Strip in Lodi, Calif., in 1957. He began fielding a series of Willys trucks and coupes before putting Joe Morris, who won B/GS class honors at the 1966 Winternationals, behind the wheel. Bob Jr. continued the family racing tradition by successfully competing in the Sportsman ranks during the 1990s and dominating the Pro Stock Truck category with 13 national event wins and three world championship titles in four seasons. 

In the late 1950s, Jimmy Scott appeared before Judge Darrell Morgan on a street racing charge. The sympathetic judge sentenced Scott to race at San Fernando Drag Strip instead of on the street and changed his life forever. Scott worked at the track for 12 years in positions ranging from time slips to starter and announcer. Meanwhile, he advanced from street racing to his first “real” race car, an altered roadster. In his lengthy career Scott drove a total of thirty-six different race cars. Team Scott continues to the present with their Alcohol Funny Car driven by Jim Scott Jr.

The action-packed weekend provides drag racing fans with nostalgia quarter-mile nitro racing and a full display of California hot rod culture. The event also serves as the final race of the 2017 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Drag Racing Series season. Racers in Nostalgia Top Fuel and Funny Car will be vying for a win at one of the most unique tracks in the country. 

Saturday evening will also feature the famous Cacklefest® which originated with the 2000 California Hot Rod Reunion and will continue to feature the crowd-pleasing push starts and display of dozens of nitro-burning machines of the past. For this season the Cacklefest® will return to a format familiar to the fans and participants. Adding to the excitement, the California event will include the popular exhibition push starts throughout each day that were part of previous events. 

Wide ranging facility improvements including new Armco barriers along the return road will benefit all participants and allow for push starts to take place in front of the fans during the Cacklefest®.
The Hot Rod Reunions are a series of events produced by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. The events are part of the museum’s “living history” philosophy, which works to bring to life the sights, sounds and people who made history in the early days of drag racing, land speed racing and the golden age of American car culture. Proceeds from the Hot Rod Reunions benefit the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.

Tickets may be purchased before October 9th at a discount price of $65 for a three-day pass or $25 for a single day. AAA Members save even more! Children 15 and under are free with a paid adult. For more information visit www.nhramuseum.org and click on ‘Reunions’ or to purchase tickets call 1-800-884-NHRA or online at: NHRA.com/hotrodreunion.


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