Bill Kuhlmann Resets Doorslammer
Story by John Lindsey
Photos by Scott Meier
Bill Kuhlmann and crewchief Vicky Shiels prepare the Summit Racing Corvette Nitro Coupe for the next round. Photo courtesy of Summit Racing
Drag racing pioneer Bill Kuhlmann has sunk
doorslammer ETs to new lows, driving his 1968 Corvette Nitro Coupe to a record
6.161 quarter mile ET in Super Chevy Series competition August 26 at Chicago’s
Route 66 Raceway. (Randy Merrick had run a 6.10 last year, but was unable to
back it up for a record.)
Kuhlmann added the national ET record to the
national speed record — 230.88 mph — he set in Maple Grove, PA in July.
Running a new 525 cubic inch Fontana-Kuhlmann
Hemi Chevy engine in his Summit Racing Corvette, Kuhlmann melted five spark
plugs and put a connecting rod out of the motor during the first qualifying
session. "I had to back off the throttle three times," Kuhlmann
explained. "It makes me wonder what we’d have run if the motor wasn’t
The run also included a 3.99 second 660 ft.
time, Kuhlmann’s first career sub-four second time at the eighth mile marker.
He backed up the record during his semifinal round appearance, defeating Jim
Nordhaugen on his way to winning his 9th of 14 Nitro Coupe titles
this season. Kuhlmann has been the runner up four times in 2000.
This ET record, even more than the speed
record, has Kuhlmann thinking about extremes and his legacy. "I’d like to
be the first to get doorslammers into the fives," he admits. "To be
the first to break the 200 mph barrier, and then to drop doorslammer ETs into
the fives, that would be really special."
In fact, at Route 66 Raceway, when everyone
else was wondering if he could back up his record with a 6.22 or quicker ET,
Kuhlmann was thinking about using the 6.161 to back up a 6.09 run. He’d like
to run 6.0s this season.
Though he’s been resetting records and
breaking barriers for years—he broke 200 mph in 1987—he still doesn’t feel
like the doorslammer legends he remembers from the 1960s and 70s. "When you’ve
raced cars all your life, you think of guys like Bill Jenkins and Dyno Don
Nicholson," Kuhlmann says quietly. "They were unbelievable. What they
accomplished seemed so unattainable. They’re the real heroes."
Follow Bill Kuhlmann’s record-breaking season