Originally intended as a one-off event, 2011 saw the 20th California Hot Rod Reunion at Famoso Raceway, near Bakersfield, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, and organized as part of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. Given that Steve Gibbs was the first executive director of the museum, and has been involved in drag racing almost all his life, from numbering cars, announcing and managing tracks, to running the staging at the March Meet at this very track in the mid-’60s, it was fitting that he should be named Grand Marshall for the 20th Reunion.

The Reunion was also Gibbs’ idea, the event growing to become what must be the largest nostalgia drag racing event in the world, offering the chance to not only see, hear, and in some instances watch racing some of the sport’s most famous cars, but to also meet the drivers, builders, and teams. Many old dragsters are restored, and while not legal to race any longer, are fired up to participate in the Cacklefest on the track on Saturday night, with over 50 at this event! The Reunion also includes the finale of the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage race series, and while Nostalgia Funny Cars weren’t part of the event originally, at the 20th there were over 30 competing in qualifying sessions, 13 of them running in the 5-second zone.

But you don’t even have to be a fan of nostalgia racing or old race cars (though it’d be hard not to once you’ve witnessed this event!) to enjoy the Reunion. While you’d not be able to ignore the sound of the action on the track, you could spend a full weekend at Famoso without watching a single car run, and still have a hard time seeing it all, what with the ever-expanding swap meet, the huge car show in the Grove behind the bleachers, and the opportunity to wander through the pits, getting an up-close look at the race cars as they’re torn down between rounds.

Then there’s the opportunity to talk to racing and hot rod heroes alike. We spotted John Force riding through the pits on a golf cart, “TV Tommy” Ivo being interviewed for, er, TV, and even Ed Iskenderian blasting down the return road in his iconic T roadster. They were all there enjoying the event along with everyone else, and happy to chat. With so much to do, it’s no wonder the Reunion is a popular destination for attendees from literally around the world.

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