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.