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Danny's Corner

The Wildest Race I've Ever Seen

By Danny White

I have been around drag racing all of my life, being the ripe young age of 30 now. I have seen push starts in Top Fuel and front engine cars that still raced in Top Fuel. I remember weekly class racing shows where around Northeast Texas, Modified eliminator was the most popular class. Glen Self's Stormin' Six Camaro was the baddest of them all. But that is not what I wanted to write about in this story. The subject of this story is the wildest drag race I have ever seen in all my thirty years.

I have seen some good ones in my time but one sticks in my mind to this day. It was a good old-fashioned grudge match, held at my home race track Paris Drag Strip (a thousand foot track then). The year was 1979 and the two who were going to match race each other, Bobby Burns and Jim Davenport, were both from Dallas. 

Jerry Bob Stephens brought them both in for a couple hundred bucks and probably a lot more under the table betting going between the two teams. Bobby Burns was in the Survival Pro Stock Vega, a team owned car that had been around the Texas Pro Stock scene for years and match racing just as long. Jim Davenport was in his Double Trouble econo small block Ford front engine dragster. 

The two cars were capable of eight second times in the quarter mile and were about equally matched. The teams had made test runs before eliminations and their match race went without problems. Neither car was showing his its potential, just saving a little more for the competition. Nightfall had come on the drag strip and it was time to get it on. 

The stands were full and the fence side betting was at frenzy. Little did the fans or the racers know what was about to commence. But something memorable to a nine year old kid was going to happen -- something a 320 MPH Top Fuel run has not been able to top yet. The cars were started, they did their burnouts, and did many, many VHT dry hops and a few launches to test out the track. The two cars were finally ready to race. 

Bobby Burns was in the spectator lane and Jim was in the pit side lane. The two cars staged. Jim got the holeshot and shot his right arm in the air telling his crew to get ready to pick him up. But about mid track, the cars were even, then all hell broke loose as they hit the 800 foot mark. The dragster had problems -- serious problems -- like the front wheel collapsing, sending the dragster into a forward flip. 

The dragster flipped several times end over end. While the dragster was flipping, the Vega of Bobby Burns was on two wheels trying to get out of the way of the errant dragster. He managed to get stopped without wrecking for the win! The dragster flipped up over the win light sign wire that crossed the track at the finish line. The wire was about 15 feet off the ground!

The Double Trouble dragster of Jim Davenport was totaled, and I do mean totaled. The frame was broken at the rear motor mounts , the engine was tossed out of the car, ruining it. The rear wheels were cracked, and the front wheels were history. The only thing remaining on the car was the rear half of the car, saving the driver from serous injury. 

Davenport limped away from the carnage that night. Bobby Burns was left with no one to race until the track owner Jerry Bob Stephens brought out his 68 Camaro to race the much stronger Vega. Even spotting the Camaro a couple of seconds, the Vega won the next two rounds over the substitute. 

Burns went on to race Super Comp and Texas Pro Stock until his retirement in 1986. Jim Davenport is still around in Super Comp and still races a Ford. His father's car -- the Double Trouble Sr. -- was the Super Gas champion a couple years ago at the Mile High Nationals with Melvin Goss driving. But the night the little Ford dragster went end over end is still the most memorable race I have ever seen.

Danny White

 

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