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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

David Ray's Dream Weekend at the '71 Finals

By David Ray
Photo courtesy of National Dragster

David Ray had his best NHRA outing at the 1971 World Finals. Photo from National Dragster
David Ray had his best NHRA outing at the 1971 World Finals.
Photo courtesy of National Dragster

Here is a little story about the Chevy powered Burkhart-Therwhanger '71 Camaro.  Charlie Therwhanger didn't have any NHRA points in 1971, and I had accumulated 1100 in something called the NHRA's "WCS Traveling Division". My ride in the Dick Harrell #2 car had ended with his death, and the season seemed to be ending on a very sour note. I am home in Dallas. Charlie calls and asks me to drive his car at the World Finals. It makes for kind of a long story, but here's the short version.

Nothing fit me. As an example, we ended up with vice-grips for a reverser handle. But that was normal in those instances and days.

We qualified with a 7.13, I think number seven or thereabouts. Therwhanger's happy, we are all happy, so life is good. We hurt the motor a little, but not to bad. Blew a head gasket in to the lifter valley, melted a piston (just a little), and "got" the cylinder wall. No problem, Charlie fixed it that night.

The first round we beat Lou Azar. Second round, Gary Henderson in the "Super Duster" goes down.  Now we are feeling pretty "sassy" after taking out the "Super Duster." They were considered one of the "big dogs." We know that making it to third round, and with people breaking stuff, it's anyone's race.  Therwhanger says it will run a low teen or an "0" the next round. I think it was the old 10, 10, and 10 tune-up. We were at 4,000 feet, so it may have already had that tune-up.

In the third round, on the burnout, the motor blew both head gaskets, the oil pressure goes to zero, and the idle goes way up, making it kind of hard to stage.

I motion Charlie over to the car after backing-up. I point at the oil pressure gauge showing zero. Several times, he swings his arm in a long, exaggerated arc over his head, with his index finger fully extended, pointing at the finish line. Believe me, there wasn't any misunderstanding his intention.

I'm thinking, "Well... it ain't my car or motor, but...it is my ass." Being 25 years old, it sounded like the perfectly reasonable thing to do, so... it's excitement time.

The car just didn't have any beans on six cylinders, but at least it didn't blow up, and it even ran in the sevens. That's the furthest I ever went at a national event.

Great memories.

David Ray


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