Kelly Brown, the 1978 NHRA Top Fuel world champion, will be the 2018 Grand Marshal for the 27th annual California Hot Rod Reunion presented by Automobile Club of Southern California, leading an impressive list of names that will be honored during the highly-anticipated event, which takes place Oct. 19-21 at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif.
Along with Brown, the rest of the 2018 honorees at the annual fan-favorite event include Bob Brandt, Jerry Darien, Jim Murphy, Rick Voegelin and Dave Wallace Jr. The Honoree Reception will take place at the will take place at the Doubletree Hotel at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19. Admission to the honoree reception is free.
Brown hitchhiked to the first Bakersfield March Meet in 1959 and was an instant fan of the sport, advancing to the Top Gas finals at the 1967 Winternationals. Jim Brissette hired him for Top Fuel testing the next year and Brown earned runner-up finishes at the Springnationals and U.S. Nationals. Brown earned a runner-up in Funny Car at the Springnationals in 1971, moving back to Top Fuel after a five-year hiatus doing stunt work. He won three events in 1978 en route to the championship, earning a spot on the Car Craft Magazine All-Star Drag Racing team. He won four events, including the U.S. Nationals, the following year, and was eventually inducted in the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame this year.
Bob Brandt was a top-flight crew chief, working for Don “the Snake” Prudhomme during his run of four straight Funny Car championships from 1975 to 1979. He was a part of Prudhomme’s 34 national event wins in the process. He started working with Prudhomme in 1970, quickly earning his role as crew chief. Prudhomme and Brandt had immense success and set many national records, including the first five-second run and 250 mph run. He served as crew chief for Top Fuel’s Gary Ormsby in the 1980s, also tuning Cruz Pedregon to eight Funny Car wins in 1994 and 1995. Brandt also worked with crew chief Dan Olson during Tony Schumacher’s 1999 Top Fuel season that ended with his first championship.
Jerry Darien grabbed a Top Alcohol Dragster win at the 1981 Winternationals, but his career included much more as a engine builder, tuner and mentor to top names like Gary Scelzi, Brandon Bernstein, Morgan Lucas, Courtney Force, Brittany Force, Melanie Troxel, Ashley Force-Hood and Frank Pedregon. In all, competitors under his guidance have won more than 100 races and captured three world championships. Darien started competing in 1973, moving to engine work in 1989. This year, a pair of Darien’s Hemi engines were used by Danny Thompson to set a new world Land Speed Record of 448.757 mph.
Jim Murphy claimed the 2017 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series Nostalgia Top Fuel championship, but his successful racing career dates back to the 1970s. Murphy raced Top Fuel from 1973-1976, competing on a limited basis after that through 1985, moving to the Funny Car ranks until 1993. He moved to the Nostalgia Top Fuel ranks a few years later and has enjoyed impressive success in the class, winning his third March Meet in 2003 and making the first 250-mph run the same year. The 2017 championship was his second in the NHRA Heritage Series.
Honoree Rick Voegelin was a popular technical journalist for decades, working for Car Craft Magazine in the 1970s and moving into public relations effort for three decades following. After graduating as a Regents Scholar at the University of California, he soon started working for Car Craft, becoming a key figure in the magazine’s success. From there, Voegelin founded his own public relations and advertising agency, High Performance Communications, in 1979, a three-decade tenure that saw him work with the top racers, manufacturers and racing series sanctioning bodies.
Dave Wallace Jr., a 2018 honoree, had his first byline by age 14, becoming a reporter for Hot Rod in the 1970s. After putting together three successful one-shot drag racing history books, he ran Drag Racing magazine for four years from 1984-1987. Following that, he opened his own advertising agency, also serving as editor of Hot Rod Deluxe before being inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2008.
The weekend also brings together the best of the past and present with a number of other exciting events, including quarter-mile nostalgia drag racing, a huge vendor area with vintage speed parts and specialty equipment, cars of numerous makes and models on display and the famous Cacklefest that takes place throughout the weekend. Combined, it is a memorable weekend showcasing the full display of the California hot rod culture.
The 27th annual California Hot Rod Reunion presented by Automobile Club of Southern California opens at 8 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 19, with Nostalgia Funny Car and Top Fuel dragster qualifying sessions taking place at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The third and final qualifying session takes place at 12 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, with the first round of eliminations slated for 3 p.m. The static and push start Cacklefest parade and presentation follows at 6 p.m., with eliminations concluding on Sunday, Oct. 21.
Tickets for the 27th annual California Hot Rod Reunion presented by Automobile Club of Southern California are on sale now to the general public. Tickets purchased before Oct. 5 are $65 for a three-day pass or $25 for a single day. After Oct. 5, tickets are $75 for a three-day pass. Children 15 and under are free with a paid adult. AAA members can save even more on this event by entering their first three digits of their membership card at checkout. Tickets can be purchased at www.NHRA.com/HotRodReunion.