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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Funny Car Gang Invades Nation's Capitol

By Bill Pratt
Photos by Tim Pratt

Billy Gibson set both track records en route to dominating Capitol Raceway's Funny Car show, 6-24-00. Tim Pratt photo.

June 24, 2000, Crofton, Md. – Six screaming, tire smoking, alcohol guzzling funny cars invaded Jim Cunningham's Capitol Raceway just east of Washington, D.C., Saturday night. Members of Bunny Burkett's War on Wheels gang, these five bad hombres (and one bad mama) showed up full of bad intent and ready to create havoc with the unsuspecting townsfolk. The gang included Mike "Everyone's Nightmare" Preslar, "Billy the Kid" Gibson, Sam "The Mason Dixon Raider" Leland, "Bad, Bad Leroy Dewdney," Bruce "The War Horse" Mullins, and the leader of the gang herself: big, bad Carol "Bunny" Burkett.

The plan was foolproof: race two hard rounds before the locals knew what hit them. The race format was not for the weak – there was no margin for error. Time runs? We don't need no steenking time runs! All six cars would run the tricky Capitol quarter mile in the first round. The two quickest cars would return to battle for all the gold, with the remaining four running consolation races, trying to pick up any remaining pieces of gold and pride.

Bunny vs Preslar at Capitol 6-24-00 by Tim PrattAs announcer Billy Tolson called the action, round one kicked off with Mike Preslar challenging the gang leader herself, Bunny Burkett. Preslar was hoping to give Bunny nightmares with his high-class rig. Sporting the big time sponsorship of Alliance Tractor-Trailer Training Centers, Mike had been recruiting truck drivin' men and women all day long, perhaps in an attempt to start up his own gang. Burkett showed what happens when you try to corner a wild bunny, however. She WOMAN-handled her "Bunny and the Boys" Dodge Avenger to a 6.44 second, 222 mph conquest of Preslar's 2000 Corvette which trailed with an early chute 6.69 at 143 mph.

Leland vs Dewdney at Capitol 6-24-00 by Tim PrattUp next was the Mason Dixon Raider in a street fight against "Bad, Bad Leroy Dewdney." Sammy Leland had expressed concerns that his five-second killer combo just might be more than the track could handle, leaving him wide open for attack by the crafty Dewdney. Leroy had teamed up with Kevin O'Callaghan and his crew for this race. It was a terrifying combination – Dewdney's chassis, tuning, and driving skills combined with a swoopy Bruce Mullins - sprayed and mounted Pontiac Firebird body all backed by O'Callaghan's Dynamic Technologies Software Innovations bankroll. Leland proved he was up to the task, however, as he wrestled the sleek Dodge Avenger down Capitol's quarter, nailing a 6.91 second, 217 mph win over Dewdney's out of shape 7.86 at 123 mph.

Pattie Mullins and Scott Ankrom back up Bruce Mullins prior to meeting Billy Gibson at Capitol 6-24-00. Tim Pratt photoThe next match-up was about the most anticipated race of the night. It was between two young guns vying for future control of the gang, Bruce Mullins and Billy Gibson. The confrontation was bound to happen. These guys are young, tough, and ambitious with cars and attitudes alike set on KILL. Mullins was sporting Keith Black iron under Ford plastic, his screaming yellow War Horse Mustang showing off the very latest Mert Littlefield blower and MSD 44-amp ignition system. A recent 6.08 ET at Cecil County showed the War Horse meant business, and that was BEFORE the new blower and spark! 

Billy Gibson in the lanes prior to meeting Bruce Mullins at Capitol 6-24-00. Tim Pratt photo.Billy the Kid was sporting Brad Anderson iron under Chevy plastic, and his G&H Jewelers Camaro had a secret weapon that helped win him the big MIR Spring Funny Car Classic: East Coast blown motor GOD, Bill Barrett. The fight was finished at the green light. Mullins took a HARD left at the hit and had to shut off and coast to a disappointing 16 second finish. Gibson, on the other hand, was tearing up the asphalt to set brand new Capitol Raceway track records – 6.135 seconds at 230.95 mph!

Leroy Dewdney drove for Kevin O'Callaghan at Capitol 6-24-00. Photo by Tim PrattBy virtue of their 6.13 and 6.44 second first round wins, Billy Gibson and Bunny Burkett would race for the overall crown. While the young gun and the crafty veteran sized each other up, the remaining members of the gang met to decide bragging rights until the day came when they again could challenge for leadership. Up first was the deadly Dewdney & O'Callaghan duo facing the high powered War Horse of Bruce Mullins. Dewdney, who can make a funny car hook up on a frozen lake, had made adjustments between rounds and was ready.

The spectacular War Horse Under the Lights at Capitol 6-24-00. Photo by Tim PrattBruce and Pattie Mullins, along with hired guns Scott Ankrom and Mike Yohn, had been trying hard to figure out a way to use the gobs of new horsepower at their disposal. The new MSD mag and Littlefield huffer had totally thrown their combination off – at least for match race tracks. After blowing off the tires in round one, they attempted to settle down the wild stallion for the confrontation with Dewdney. But the War Horse again proved to be a bronco that wasn't ready to be broken. Mullins again overpowered the track and went up in violent smoke right at the line. In the other lane, Dewdney was legging the Dynamic Technologies Firebird to a good 6.40, 221 mph win.

Sam Leland at Capitol 6-24-00 by Tim PrattThe other consolation fight was a no holds barred affair as well, as the combatants remembered what happened at MIR two weeks before. There, Sam Leland beat Mike Preslar in a second round match. BUT Leland won by a holeshot! Preslar was actually quicker, and that meant he went to the final against Billy Gibson instead of Leland. Here at Capitol, Leland and his crew attempted to settle down the Mason Dixon Raider between rounds, taking some juice out of the high horsepower Dodge. 

Preslar vs Leland at Capitol 6-24-00 by Tim PrattMike and Jerami Preslar and crew, on the other hand, were sneaking up on the tune up, taking it easy on some new parts. At the hit, Leland immediately went up in smoke, followed by a helpless coast to a 20-second ET. The Alliance Tractor-Trailer Training Centers Corvette had its own problems in the other lane. Preslar's clutch pedal bent on the burnout and he couldn't get the RPMs up for the launch. He had to leave at a dead idle, then drive into the run. That starting line method wouldn't win many other races, but it was enough to win this one, as Mike's 7.10 at 119 mph early chute pass easily outdistanced Leland.

Bunny Burkett in the lanes at Capitol Raceway, 6-24-00. Photo by Tim PrattIt was all down to one race. The upstart Gibson against the cagey veteran Burkett. Youth versus experience. Chevy versus Mopar. Methanol versus Ethanol. Guy versus gal. The differences were striking, but there were just as many similarities. Both racers came up through the doorslammer ranks, Bunny raced Pro Stock in the ‘70s and Billy raced Pro Stock in the ‘90s. They BOTH raced Pro Mod cars in the ‘90s. And they both are incredibly popular with the fans. Gibson always has dozens of honeys and pals surrounding his pit area. Bunny, whose fan following rivals that of any fuel racer, is quite possibly the most popular alcohol racer of all time. 

Billy Gibson and Bunny Burkett face off in the final at Capitol 6-24-00. Tim Pratt photoYes, it was time for a showdown. Gibson won it all at MIR two weeks before. Bunny won it all at Cecil County two weeks before. Could Gibson pull off two straight? Or would that famous Bunny Burkett luck and ability to step up to the occasion hold the youngster back? The answer came quickly. Bunny immediately overpowered the track. She tried driving it, teasing the centerline for the first half of the course, but it was a done deal. The Gibson/Barrett juggernaut laid down another amazing run, 6.17 seconds at 230.20 mph to completely dominate the affair. Bunny coasted through four seconds later.

Looks like Billy Gibson is on his way to taking over leadership of the War on Wheels gang. Bunny Burkett is still holding on to power by a thread, however, and I think she's still calling the shots. My advice to you is to catch this circuit next time they come ‘round to your town. Yeah, the gang is separating for a while. Some are off to Bristol, Tennessee, for the big Winston Showdown and some are off to Leicester, New York, for the big CarQuest Empire Nationals. But they'll be back. And when they do, no doubt they'll be fighting it out for War on Wheels supremacy. We'll be here to report the action.

Bill Pratt
Tim Pratt

 

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