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October 18, 2009

18TH CALIFORNIA HOT ROD REUNION, Bakersfield, CA, October 18th — With twenty-eight machines lighting it off and jostling for the eight-quickest positions during Saturday’s AA/Funny Car Eliminator qualifying round, one has to expect some broken hearts — and broken parts.

For “Nitro Kitty” Mendy Fry and her mount, McCain’s Bomb Squad, that meant a broken rear end — and one that was impractical to mend.  At the shift-point during the first of what should have been two qualifying runs, a puff of smoke came out of the ‘73 Duster’s headers, a signal that the pinion gear lost more teeth than two cowboys in a bar fight, and the damage spread throughout the drivetrain, including destroying the axle and snapping a steel input shaft like a pretzel. With power to the slicks dis-engaged, Fry coasted to a quarter-mile elapsed time of 7.13 at 131 mph, netting a provisional 19th position, insufficient to qualify for Sunday’s race.

Which was academic, because after the damage was assessed, in hopes of making Sunday’s qualifying round, a frantic search for a replacement rear axle was met with sympathetic responses from members of the Nitro Funny Car community, most specifically by the teams of Claude LaVoie and Todd Lesenko, but to no avail. And after McCain’s Bomb Squad spent the night disassembling the drivetrain in hopes of putting it back together in time for more qualifying, the team’s season came to end for want of a spare axle. Which begs the question: How do you mend a broken heart? Or even a  broken rear end? -30-


October 15, 2009


This weekend it’s a Fiberglass Forest at Famoso Raceway! A Plethora of Plastic Fantastics! A Carbon Fiber Cotillion! With thirty-two (32!) nitro-burning coupes entered in competition, never has the battle for Funny Car Eliminator at the California Hot Rod Reunion been so cut-throat: Indeed, on the eve of the event’s 18th running, all of these wicked machines will vie for a mere eight spots, with these quickest contestants participating in Sunday’s final showdown. To that end, “Nitro Kitty” Mendy Fry — shoeing McCain’s Bomb Squad ‘73 Duster — will have to claw and scratch her way through the field when time trials begin on Saturday at 4 pm.

Indeed, qualifying will be ruthless! Among the legion of fuel floppers duking it out with Fry in what is the last race this year in the NHRA Heritage Points Series: “Northwest Hitter” Bucky Austin,  Kris Krabill  in the Pedaler, and Mark Sanders’ Mr. Explosive Nova.  In addition to those stalwarts, former NHRA Funny Car champ Cruz Pedregon has entered his just-finished Joe Pisano ‘77 Arrow tribute funny car. The last-minute details behind Pedregon’s late entry underscore the camaraderie amongst otherwise pitiless competitors…. Indeed, because of scheduling conflicts last weekend Pedregon was racing in Virginia and not able to leak-down and warm-up his brand spankin’ new machine, so in preparation for its debut at this weekend’s drag race, Joe Pisano crew chief Donnie Couch enjoined Fry to light off the untested Hemi-powered Nitro Coupe last Sunday. Upon ignition, everything appeared buttoned-up properly and no leaks were to be found, so Fry signed off on the systems-check and handed the steering yoke back to Couch to give to Pedregon, its righful owner — just in time to fight it out on the drag strip this weekend in Bakersfield. -30-


photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

“Keeping It Sealed” Hits The Airwaves This Weekend

October 6, 2009

Sneak Preview! Click here for a sneak peak of the SCE Gaskets “Keeping It Sealed” commercial starring AA/Funny Car driver Mendy Fry. Officially, the spot will premiere this weekend on Fox Sports Net’s motorsports show,  Inside Drag Racing.

Check it out! And remember; SCE Gaskets are keeping it sealed!

(The Nitro Kitty Crew would like to thank SCE Gaskets, the Jackson Bros. and Dan Lea for their help organizing and compiling the race footage.)

Boilin’ The Hides While Cruizin’ For Life and Fightin’ Cancer

September 28, 2009

Mendy Fry boils the Lucas Oil Special's hides for charity (photo by Darr Hawthorne)

To help fight cancer, Mendy Fry boils the Lucas Oil Special's hides (photo by Darr Hawthorne)

To help support the Marian Cancer Center while benefiting the American Cancer Society, this weekend the Lucas Oil Special team towed its  AA/Funny Car down the coast from Atascadero, California to downtown Santa Maria and entered the “Cruizin’ For Life” fund raiser, an annual charity event featuring a car show and burnout exhibition. Moreover, driver Mendy “Nitro Kitty” Fry was graced with the honor of serving as the event’s Grand Marshall.

The exhibition and car show generated a lot of local buzz and netted a respectable amount of cash for the cause. Fry’s curtain closing burnout  brought down the house, however. Scenes from that spectacle were captured on video and posted online by an eager, nitro-addled drag race fan (see below). Suffice it to say, applying race car time-warming procedures to city streets is somewhat of a challenge and requires a little finesse. As the video shows, Mendy and the team put on a professional display and absolutely wowed ’em with smoke, noise and nitro.

Nitro Kitty: Cruzin for Life

September 25, 2009

While serving as the event’s Grand Marshall, AA/Funny Car pilot Mendy “Nitro Kitty” Fry will unveil the Lucas Oil Special at this weekend’s “Cruzin for Life” a popular car show in Santa Maria that doubles as a cancer-care fundraiser. The ’73 Plymouth Duster Nitro Funny Car will also participate in a burnout contest on Sunday.

As noted in The Lompoc Record, last year this same event “raised $105,000, with the Cancer Care Center receiving $70,000 and the other $35,000 going to the American Cancer Society.”


Banzai in Boise

August 19, 2009


What a weekend…. Drag racing a Nitro Funny Car at the Pepsi Nightfire Nationals in Boise was one banzai experience!

Here’s how it went: In the first session of qualifying on Friday night, the car was underpowered, and it got out of the groove; trying to salvage the run, I stayed on the throttle a little too long and gathered up the half-track timing cone, nullifying the qualifying attempt. Of nineteen entries trying to get into a 16-car eliminator, we were among the DNQs.

Saturday afternoon was a different story — and result: We ended #3 qualifier. I  posted a 5.93, 236 mph. That performance put us up against #14 qualifier Nate Bugg when the first round of eliminations were to commence at 7 pm.

Or so it said on the schedule. After some serious oil-downs by the Top Fuelers, Nate and I didn’t pair up until 10:30 at night. The track had cooled and all the traction went away. We backed down from our aggressive tune-up in hopes of just making it to the finish line under power. Before we lit it off, I told Nate: “This is not going to be pretty!” And so it wasn’t:  After sitting in the staging lanes for three and a half hours — enduring various clean ups — I got and earned this win, but it was UGLY. I pedaled it six times and put up a winning 6.89 to Nate Bugg’s 6.90-something — at this point ET and mph doesn’t matter, only who got the win-light. Which bring us to the quarterfinals on Sunday, and a heat against Paul Romine.

I swear, I thought I won. I gated Romine, .072 to .085, but he charged right around me, our soft 1.07 to his 1.02 60 ft. times. But then we made a march at half-track, and I thought I put a wheel on him and held it there. But it wasn’t true, his 6.09 bested our 6.12. He turned 232 mph and I went 234 mph. His total margin of victory: less than two-hundredths of a second. Ffs. — MF.

PS: With Boise in the books, that leaves one last race in the 2009 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Points Series: The California Hot Rod Reunion in October at Bakersfield. .

(photos by Darr Hawthorne and








#3 Qualifier at Boise: Should We Back It Down?

August 15, 2009

During the last session of qualifying for the Pepsi Nightfire Nationals in Boise, we were able to post quarter-mile elapsed time of 5.93 second with a top-end speed of 236 mph.

But then there is this: (see below) You think we should back it down tonight for the first round of Nitro Funny Car Eliminations?

Back It Down?

Back It Down?