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Street Rods, Hot Rods, Racing and Cacklefest Highlight Saturday Action at the 4th Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion
Rain dampens cars, but not enthusiasm of biggest crowd

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (June 17, 2006) – Hot rod fans from around the world came to Bowling Green and on Saturday, they got what they came for, as street rods competed for trophies, racers worked to qualify for Sunday’s eliminations, and the legendary “Cacklefest” was held at the 4th annual Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion, presented by DuPont Automotive Finishes.

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 Law enforcement reported the largest crowd in Reunion history and worked to keep traffic flowing past road construction projects and into the well-groomed acres of Beech Bend Park. But traffic flow shifted directions late in the afternoon.

Hot rod fans from around the world came to Bowling Green

The Soffseal Show ‘n’ Shine judging had just been completed when the first of a series of brief rain showers cooled the park. The winners were nonetheless announced as scheduled.

Winners of the Soffseal “Best of the Best” awards (by class) were:

Classic Cars – Johnny & Cheryl Pittman of Murfreesboro, TN, 55 Chevrolet

Memory Lane – Brent Hajek, Ames, OK, 63 Mercury

Street Rod – Troy Fellers, Alvaton, KY, 36 Ford

Muscle Car – Tim Childers, Cummius, GA, 67 Chevy Chevelle

Hot Rod – Phil Brown, Frentor, MO, 23 Ford

Custom – Tony and Amy Spenser, Gaffney, GA, 55 Chevy Bel Air

Truck – Wayne Brown, Bardstown, KY, 66 Pickup

Rat Rod – David Parris, Calton, NC, 29 Ford Model A

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Phil Brown's '23 Ford was declared the "Best" Hot Rod. Brown is from Frentor, MO.

Following the awards ceremony, some of the most historic cars in NHRA drag racing were rolled onto the track for Cacklefest.

To the uninitiated, “Cacklefest” sounds like it might be the nickname for a hen house. To the initiated, Cacklefest is the sweetest sound in the world. And that’s the sound thousands of fans heard from the fabled wooden grandstands at Beech Bend Raceway Park on Saturday night. 

According to Greg Sharp, curator of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, producers of the Reunion and the man who coined the term back in 2000, cackling is the sound emanating from a vintage top fuel drag racing engine while it’s idling and shooting out flames. “They ‘cackle,’” Sharp said, “and people love it.”

Among drag racing fans, Cacklefest is now a common word. Perhaps Webster’s will add it in the dictionary soon. There’s even a www.cacklefest.com. This year, more than 25 cars lined up and cackled at Beech Bend.

“Cacklefest is a proven inspiration for enthusiasts who have experienced this unique event,” said Steve Gibbs, former vice president and current board member of the Parks Museum. 

“With each passing year we are amazed to see newly resurrected pieces of automobile history appear at the event.” 

Chizler

This year, Cacklefest welcomed the return of Chris “The Greek,” Karamesines’ Chizler. Karamesines, one of the most colorful and popular characters in drag racing history, was behind the wheel as his original 204 mph “Chizler” cackled to life for the first time in four decades.

Additional dragsters making their debut at the 2006 Cacklefest were Al Bergler’s “More Aggravation,” which won the first Ridler award at the 1966 Detroit Autorama; three “Tennessee Bo’Weevils” from Raymond Godman, a former Honoree and Texas-based Floyd Head’s full-bodied top fueler.

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Chris “The Greek” Karamesines’ Chizler

The recently-restored "More Aggravation" of Al Bergler shoots the flames that are the signature of Cacklefest at the Reunion. All photos by Bill Groak for the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California

The first Cacklefest in 2000 at the California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield, Calif. featured only nine dragsters, but as the event’s popularity rose with subsequent Reunions, so did the number of classic cars. At last year’s California Reunion, 37 vehicles participated, and 25 dragsters cackled at the Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion.

Said Gibbs, “From the very first Cacklefest, I knew we touched upon something that took many of us back to a hallowed era. It was pure magic.”

The Reunion continues on Sunday with final eliminations on the dragstrip.

The 4th annual Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion, presented by DuPont Automotive Finishes, through Sunday at Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green, Ky., is a 3-day festival of speed, hot rods and American automotive enthusiasm. Produced by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California and located in Pomona, Calif., the Reunion is 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. 

Unique among motorsports events, the Reunion honors some of the top names in hot rodding from the past and features a fabulous array of cool drag cars, street rods and customs of the historic and present-day hot rod eras.

General admission/pit pass, per person: Sunday, $20. Children 15 and under are free when accompanied by an adult.

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TWO LEGENDS: Announcer Dave McClelland and Grand Marshall Barbara Hamilton share a moment before the racing begins.

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Mike Spitzer

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Grand Marshal for the event is Barbara Hamilton, first woman in NHRA history to get a license to drive supercharged cars. This year’s honorees are Malcolm Durham, Bobby Langley, Gene and Ron Logghe, Jim Farr and Bill Roell – known as “Short Round and Dauber” – and Mike Spitzer. The Justice Brothers Reunion Spotlight award falls on Top Fuel Pioneer Motorcycles. Those honored were feted at a reception on Friday at the Sloan Convention Center. 

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Malcolm Durham

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Bill "Short Round" Roell (L) and Jim "Dauber" Farr

Bobby and Ruth Langley

The Reunion features a wide variety of activities and events, including:

  • Hot Heads Eliminator NHRA vintage drag racing, featuring some the sport’s most famous and historic cars and drivers, racing in such classes at Top Fuel, Supercharged Gassers, classic Funny Cars and Super Stocks
  • Street rod “show and shine,” presented by SoffSeal, with more than a thousand gleaming pre-1972 hot rods, custom cars, classics and muscle cars. “Memory Lane” includes a display of nostalgic race cars.
  • National Hot Rod Reunion Reception. Open to everyone at no charge, it’s a tribute to the Reunion’s Grand Marshal and Honorees and a chance for fans to meet some of drag racing’s heroes.
  • Parish Heacock Pit Pass Barbeque on Saturday afternoon, June 17, in a special tent.
  • Cacklefest on Saturday evening, where nitro-burning historic, front-engine top-fuel dragsters and other classic race cars are push started just like in the “old days.”
  • The Swap meet and Reunion Midway filled with manufacturer exhibits and demonstrations
  • A separate amusement park with rides and games for all ages, including a brand-new roller coaster, adjacent to the park.
  • Information, including a full activities schedule at http://museum.nhra.com.

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Ribbon Cut

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Big Red

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Bill Waltrip Pick

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Black Widows

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Boy toy

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Business Coupes

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Charger Daytona

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Buick Model

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Fathers Day at the Reunion helps create the next generation of racing fans. Scott Fowler and his daughter Hayley (L) from Franklin, Ky. check out the "Freight Train.

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Seven-year-old Cameron Graham and his father, Steve, enjoy the Reunion with racer Sam "Moody" Jones.

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