Bateman Grabs Heritage Crown
La Mirada, CA – Following a week to absorb the happenings during the California Hot Rod Reunion at Auto Club Famoso Raceway, Garrett Bateman is still ecstatic. Going into the event, though, either of Steve Plueger’s Nostalgia Funny Cars could have taken the 2009 NHRA Heritage Series crown. Defending champ, Bucky Austin, still had a chance to make it two in a row, driving Plueger’s “A-Team” Plymouth Arrow. However, his “B-Team” entry, which is a re-creation of the vaunted Plueger & Gyger Mustang from the early ‘70s, battled all year long with Austin and every other contender on tour.
The biggest buzz surrounding this contest was the huge pre-entry list, which numbered 32 cars. Obviously, the entrants dwarfed the announced eight-car field, though it proved to be a barn burner. Bucky (5.889) and Bateman (5.848) duked it out at the end of Saturday’s first session to grab the top spots. Their performance numbers didn’t change after Sunday morning’s final qualifier, though Kris Krabill improved to a 5.872, which put him second, in between the two Plueger cars. Things got strange in Eliminations, though.
Garrett rolled out in the third pair against eighth qualifier, Josh Crawford. After carding a torrid .983-second 60-foot time, Bateman led past the 330-foot clocks, but drifted out of the groove and crossed the centerline, ending his day. The final pair pitted Austin against Tim Boychuk in the new Canadian entry tuned by Roland Leong. Bucky struck the tires at the hit of the throttle, handing the win to Boychuk. Had Austin won the round, the championship would have been his. Bateman noted, “I’m fortunate to be in an awesome car that’s maintained by a super crew. This car was flawless all year and I just wish we could have gone out on a winning note.” Steve Plueger is currently reviewing sponsor opportunities for a possible 2010 return to attempt a “three-peat” championship run.