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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Celebrating a Racer and Friend

by Chris Stinson

Dick "Wilky" Wilkenson - RIP, Big Bird
Dick "Wilky" Wilkenson - RIP, Big Bird

Time for a local racer story. One of the great guys who was a frequent racer in the late 70's and 80's at Winslow, Arizona, was Dick "Wilky" Wilkenson. Wilky towed from Joseph City (about 30 miles) with several different race cars over the years. He was never "bucks up," but won at least his share, and was one of the funniest guys to hang around in the pits. We used to run eliminations on Saturday and Sunday. One Saturday after eliminations, Wilky said to me "Hey kid, take my car for a run, I want to see what it looks like from out here." So I took the early Firebird for a pass and returned to the pits, where I found Wilky surrounded by several of the guys taking a good ribbing. I had managed to run a quicker ET than Wilky had ever run. (A low 12 something). No driving skills involved, it's just that I weighed about 125 pounds LESS than Wilky.

After harassing me about the run for several minutes he told me to go do it again, he said "I bet the clocks were wrong" with a sly grin. So, I back the car out of its pit space, put it in low to head for the water box...but it wouldn't move. Tranny is trashed. (Powerglide). I figured I was hamburger ... fixin' to get a butt-chewing royale. Wilky just laughed and said it was way overdue, just a stocker. I said, "What can we do? How are you going to run tomorrow? Don't you have another transmission somewhere?" Wilky indicated he could get his hands on another transmission, but didn't really want to work on the car, and would rather just kick back and have a beer or three with the gang. 

I said "Wilky, if you will just go get that tranny, I'd take the car to my house and removed the wounded piece, and get the car ready for your arrival with the good one." He thought about it over a couple of beers, and said okay, I'll go find that transmission. We loaded the car and a friend and I hauled it to my house and jerked it out in nothing flat. My wife cooked up a huge batch of tacos, rice and beans, and we waited for Wilky's arrival. And waited...and waited ... and waited. ... got bored and put a new water temp. gauge in the car, lightened everything we could get a wrench on, dressed up the engine compartment, washed the car ... but no Wilky. Finally gave up and went to bed about midnight. 

About three am, I awoke to a knock on the door. Yep. Wilky. Caked with dry mud from head to toe, and with his sly grin still intact. I asked him where the heck he had been and how the heck he ended up so muddy. He mentioned something about getting a little "side-tracked" before he went to get the transmission. I said at what? A mud-wrestling match? He said no, he got muddy getting the transmission out of a car.... at the river...on the river bank ... by himself...with a flashlight. Wilky the character. If you lost to him at the track, you could expect some good natured ribbing. And if he lost, he expected nothing less from you. 

Wilky died in his sleep last Monday night. An apparent heart attack. He was 50 years of age. His funeral was Saturday. His son (Macy) said Wilky had been planning to paint his truck for the last six months and it never happened before his death. The truck was painted Friday night. It led the funeral procession, along with some hot rods. Race cars on trailers and street rods making noise. Wilky would approve.

RIP Big Bird.

Chris Stinson


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