15th annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion, June 15-17, 2017, Beech Bend Raceway Park, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA

Fry and Nostalgia Nitro Rolling

into Bowling Green

story and photos by NHRA


Mendy Fry, Top Fuel driver and wife of fortunate motorsports scribe Cole Coonce

Returning to the team that gave her the first opportunity in the Nostalgia Top Fuel ranks, Mendy Fry figured there would be some sort of transition period early in the 2017 season. But the return to driving for Tom Shelar and his High Speed Motorsports team has gone impressively well, winning the March Meet in Bakersfield and currently leading in points in Nostalgia Top Fuel. That makes Fry one of the favorites at this weekend’s 15th annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion® presented by AAA Insurance (June 15-17) at Beech Bend Raceway Park, where the longtime standout hopes to keep the momentum going. 

“It’s gone incredibly well to this point,” Fry said. “We had a lot of adversity at the March Meet, but we really pulled together as a team. It was the first time I had been in a (Nostalgia) Top Fuel car in a few years and the performance of this car eclipses any car I’ve driven. We had some mechanical failures we came back from and had some things go our way, but when it mattered we got the job done as well.”

After initially starting her nostalgia drag racing career in the Top Fuel ranks, where she became the first female to record a five-second run, Fry moved to Nostalgia Funny Car for a number of seasons. But following a few years away from the sport, she jumped at the chance to again work with Shelar and drive his top-performing Top Fuel dragster. 

Things have once again clicked, as Fry leads the points over the likes of Tony Bartone, who has won the last three NHRA Hot Rod Heritage titles in Top Fuel, Jim Murphy and Pete Wittenberg. But Fry knows she’ll have to beat at her best this weekend.

“We are first in points, but we’ve got a big target on our backs and we’re just hoping to bring our ‘A’ game,” said Fry, who went 5.598 at 252.66 mph in her final-round win at Bakersfield this year. “I’m a very competitive person and there’s pressure there. We want to do well and I know the team will be ready. The one who needs to perform is me. I’m essentially a Top Fuel rookie again and this car is a completely different deal for me, but we’re definitely on a high that would take some teams a lot longer to achieve.”

Fry at speed

Fry has meshed well in her return to the High Speed Motorsports team, and she hopes that translates into success in Bowling Green. Even though she has struggled in her career at the race, Fry is on a team that has enjoyed great success at the Holley National Hot Rod Reunion® presented by AAA Insurance. With her strong affinity for the facility, Fry hopes that provides the winning combination for picking up another victory in 2017.

“They’ve won seven out of the nine times they’ve entered this race,” Fry said. “Personally I’ve never done that great, but it’s still one of my favorites. The people are wonderful and the facility just has this great vibe. The spectator experience is really great there and they’re so close to the action.”

UPDATE: T'wasn't Fry what took the win come raceday. Jim Murphy took the win in Nostalgia Top Fuel defeating James Young in the thrilling final round. Murphy was in his fifth consecutive final round but had yet to tally a win in over two years. 

His dragster is tuned by legendary crew chief Roland Leong who kept the car going rounds during the day. Murphy trailed at the start of the run but was able to get around Young with a winning run of 5.713-seconds at 257.33 mph to the trailing run of Young at 5.920 at 253.56. Murphy, the 2013 Nostalgia Top Fuel champion, celebrated his birthday on Monday and takes the win as a belated present. 

“The win is a monkey off my back as we kept having fluke things happen and it was one thing after another,” said Murphy. “We won this race in 2013 and went on to win the championship so maybe this will be an omen and we are leading the points now moving up from second.”

Winners in the other racing included Don Nave in 7.0 Pro, Darrell Wathen in 7.5 Eliminator, Nostalgia Super Stock was Doug Duell, Competition Eliminator was won by Skeeter Wayne, Top Stock Eliminator was John Meinelt, Modified Eliminator was Larry Key, the Gas Eliminator winner was Pat Freels, 348/409 Eliminator winner was Bryan Fugate, Hot Rod Eliminator was won by Chad Brewer, and Geezer Gassers was won by John Swiek.

Also honored during the day were the winners of the Axalta Show 'N Shine that took place during the three-day event. Winners in each of the categories were: 
Best Shine & Detail: Dan Duffy, 1956 Chevy 210
Memory Lane: Kevin Dolittle, Willy’s Pickup 
One of a kind: Lowell Groom, ’63 VW Beetle Funny Car
Grand Marshall: Linda and Ralph Miller, 1930 Ford Tudor
Killer Kustoms: Truman & Wanda Morgan, ’55 Chevy Bel Air convertible
Dazzelin’ Deuce: Erik & Oksana Hansen, ’32 Ford Fordor Sedan
Director’s Choice: Mike Whitney, ’32 Black Highboy Roadster
Dynamat Pick: George Poteet, 1950 Ford Coupe
Trick Truck: Trent Blue, ’49 Chevy Pickup 
Timeless Tradition: Mark Watson, ’32 Ford Roadster
Thrilling ‘30’s: Linda & Ralph Miller, 1930 Ford Tudor
Fabulous ‘40’s: Ted Novicki
Finest ‘50’s: Kevin Burt, ’55 Chevrolet “Resurrected”
Sensational ‘60’s: Zach Straits, ’61 Galaxie
Super ‘70’s: Gary Buckies, ’71 Camaro Custom
Push Car: Dan Shaw, ’32 Ford Pickup
Street Rod: Oscar Gamble, 1932 Ford 3 Window
Mighty Muscle: Jeff Mumford, 1970 Chevy Camaro
Most Uninsurable: ’49 Plymouth Ratrod
Period Correct: Jeremy Dorlac, ’30 Model A 

The event closed with the famous Cacklefest as dozens of nitro burning machines came to life in a celebration of the history of the sport. Full grandstands at Beech Bend Raceway Park cheered the cars as flames leapt from the pipes of the nostalgic machines. 

Jim Murphy, Neil & Parks, 5.713, 257.33  def. James Young, FED, 5.920, 253.56. 

7.0 PRO
Don Nave, Lake City Chs, 8.982, 95.66  def. Ernie Lipinski, Neil & Parks, Foul - Red Light. 

7.5 PRO
Darrell Wathen, Willys, 7.495, 172.70  def. Jeffrey Ferguson Jr., Spitzer, 7.488, 169.17. 

Doug Duell, Plymouth, 9.503, 138.33  def. Diana Bookout, Chevelle, 9.998, 134.32. 

Skeeter Wayne, Chevy, 9.498, 127.90  def. Bart Boles, Young, Foul - Red Light. 

John Meinelt, Camaro, 11.684, 98.45  def. Frankie Riggs, Cuda, 12.409, 113.90. 

Larry Key, Chevy II, 12.320, 87.46  def. Greg Carta, Camaro RS, 22.375, 32.78. 

Bryan Fugate, Impala SS, 11.472, 118.58  def. Dave Coots, Impala, Foul - Red Light. 

Pat Freels, Camaro, 10.091, 129.92  def. Dan Hobbs, Thunderbird, 8.632, 156.86. 

John Swiek, Chevy CPE, 10.060, 129.14  def. Dustin Corn, Corvette, Foul - Red Light. 

Chad Brewer, Nova, 10.825, 118.41  def. Bear Nichols, Nova, 10.375, 125.02.

The Hot Rod Reunions are produced by the NHRA Motorsports Museum and benefit the facility located in Pomona, Calif. The NHRA Motorsports Museum is a 501c (3) non-profit institution. The Museum’s mission is to celebrate the impact of motorsports on American culture. The Museum collects, preserves, exhibits and interprets the vehicles, stories and artifacts that represent America’s affection for, and the influence of, automotive speed and style in all its forms.