THE 18th ANNUAL NHRA NATIONAL HOT ROD REUNION

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Hot Rods and Racers Gather at Bowling Green Beech Bend Raceway Park

By Gerry Burger – Photography by the Author

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For the past 18 years there has been a migration of sorts, with hot rods and drag racers converging on the town of Bowling Green, Kentucky, in general, and the scenic Beech Bend Raceway Park in particular. They come from all directions—east, west, north, and south—for a weekend of great nostalgia drag racing, a rod run–style car show, and a great Cacklefest. The racetrack is part of a 379-acre complex that includes the racetrack, Beech Bend Amusement Park, and a campground.  Located on the Barren River, this amusement park has been entertaining families since 1898 while the first drag races began in the mid ’50s.

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When Father’s Day Weekend rolls around the amusement involves a bit of time travel. Walking among the show cars, the pits, or sitting in the covered stands of the dragstrip one might think they were back in the ’60s. Gassers launching with wheels in the air, Nostalgia Top Fuel dragsters add to the time travel theme when they cover the quarter-mile in about 5.5 seconds at speeds in excess of 250 mph. Top Fuel Altereds are always a fun to watch and vintage Pro-Stock and Funny Cars fill the staging lanes.

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Behind the track, street rods, muscle cars, restored ’50s and ’60s cars all gather on the grass under the shade trees. You’ll also find a good swap meet filled with genuine hot rod and race car parts. We found everything from early dragster frames to real Halibrand magnesium wheels and vintage gauges for sale as we wandered through the area.

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The event starts on Thursday and the big day is Saturday when final eliminations are run for all classes. It’s non-stop action at the highest level of nostalgia drag racing. This year the weather was picture-perfect and as the sun dropped down behind the Kentucky hills the “cackle cars” rolled onto the track for the traditional, event-ending Cacklefest. If you have never attended a Cacklefest put it on your bucket list. The sights, sounds, and smell of 30 or more nitro-burning motors spewing flames into the night air is a sight and sound to behold. And then, the last fuel-fed hemi shuts down and the event is officially over. Produced by and benefitting the NHRA Motorsports Museum, the event is sponsored by Holley and AAA Insurance. The Hot Rod Reunion is simply a great event that never disappoints. The Hot Rod Reunion will return again next year on Father’s Day Weekend. We’re already counting the days. MR

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