“The March Meet” spells “Mecca” for tens of thousands of Nostalgia drag racers and millions of fans.
The March Meet is historically one of the biggest and most famous meets in drag racing. Its history really goes back long before the actual race began. The Smokers, a car club from Bakersfield Ca. that started some 60 years ago, acquired the lease at Famoso (just north of Bakersfield) for drag racing. Famoso, like many early drag strips, was an abandoned WW II airstrip.
Factually, The March Meet wasn’t the “March Meet” but rather the “U.S. Fuel and Gas Championship” – held in March, but was quickly nicknamed ‘The March Meet’. It’s designation as The March Meet didn’t officially begin until about 10 years later.
Don Garlits, from Seffner, Florida, was instrumental in the March Meets’ beginning as the Smokers wanted an East vs West race to decide who was fastest. Garlits had boasted through racing journals of the time that he and his nitro-burning Chrysler powered dragster could defeat any other drag racer including the so-called kings of the quarter-mile on the West Coast. The nitro-methane ban had limited fuelers from running at many tracks but Famoso continued to allow the exotic fuel races.
Art Chrisman won the first March Meet and Tommy Ivo won the gas portion (BTW, Ivo never beat the Bender & Hier car, as hard as he might try – that’s Ronnie Hier in the picture). By the early 60’s, the race had become truly a national meet. These early years had huge entries with 64 car fields in the Top Fuel Dragster class alone, drawing crowds from across the U.S. Garlits eventually won more March Meets than anyone else.
The years after had many highs and some lows but without national ties to the major associations, independent events such as The March Meet, lost entries and luster. The event ended in the late 80′s – weather (rain) was and has always been a problem so the race was moved to May and was nicknamed the ‘March Meet in May’ – but started up again in the mid 90′s with the re-emergence of front-engine Nostalgia dragsters and Goodguys Vintage Racing Association (VRA). That initial race bringing back The March Meet, was won by Fuller & Dunlap winning in ’94. The March Meet continues to act as Mecca for the millions of Nostalgia Drag Racing fans across the globe.
Thanks in part to the Bowser’s, who run Famoso, The March Meet now is one of the largest drag racing events in the country – certainly the biggest Nostalgia Drag Racing meet in the world. With Nostalgia Drag Racing’s fast growing popularity (internationally too), The March Meet is all-the-rage with people more interested now than ever before as ONE OF THE ONLY SPORTS THAT CONTINUES TO GROW! Now if they’d only figure out some parking and seating additions … Just get there early.