Volume II, Issue 8, Page 4

Burk's Bowtie Blast!

Tales from the path less traveled

My career as a drag racer is much longer than the one I have as a drag racing journalist. I started drag racing in 1961 and began my career as a drag race journalist in 1976. So, like any drag racer, I have my share of experiences both good and bad. Some of them are highly entertaining, but since many of the principals are still alive and holding a grudge, I’ll have to outlive them to put those experiences in print.

Having acknowledged that, I do have stories that I’ll share with you in coming issues that are amusing, at least, and offer a glimpse of drag racing before the days of semi-trucks and trailers and corporate motor homes, back when the trips to and from the races were often as dangerous and funny as the racing itself.

The first of these involved my younger brother, Richard, famous Gasser racer Carroll Caudle, me, and that strip of pavement between Oklahoma City and Tulsa known as the Turner Turnpike.

Our story begins in 1968. I had just finished the first of my two tours in the Air Force. I had returned to my hometown of Amarillo, Texas, and as fate would have it, both my brother and I had received an inheritance of $5,000 each from my great-grandfather, E.T. Burk.

Dick (as he was known in those days) and I had drag raced together before I joined the service in 1964, so it was a no-brainer for us. We’d pool our cash and go drag racing. We bought a bitchin’ 1962 1/2 Ford Galaxie 500 XL with the NASCAR suspension and the 406-inch motor.

We started racing at Amarillo Dragway with the big ol’ Galaxie burning rubber in D/Stock. Eventually we got the car to run decently (12.80’s at 102-103 mph). The only problem was there was a guy named Gary Moore who had a Pontiac and regularly beat us like he owned us in class eliminations.

We ran enough times that year that track owner Ernie Walker allowed that my brother and I could represent Amarillo Dragway at the 1969 NHRA World Finals at Tulsa.

Our story and fortunes really began to get interesting. We had no tow vehicle or trailer. Our only soldier was my brother’s two-door ‘57 Oldsmobile 88 that was painted a glorious factory pink, often referred to by our peers as a portion of the female anatomy. When we went to the drags on a Sunday we’d rent a tow bar from U-Haul and flat-tow to the track. As we were to learn very painfully later, flat towing is actually a lost art form.

So, with the decision made to attend the World Finals at Tulsa, we went to J.C. Penney -- which in those days had a speed shop! -- and bought new slicks and a huge yellow Accel coil. We were ready to rock. We loaded up my brother’s treasured Olds with our spare third member, a cooler, tent, and various supplies. We hooked our U-Haul tow bar to it and the front bumper of the equally treasured Ford and headed off on a 300 mile one-way trip to Tulsa. We’re going to the World Finals, by God!

The ride up the panhandle towards Tulsa went pretty smooth at first. We did all right until we got to the Turner Turnpike early that morning. That particular stretch of road has a lot of hills and as we were anxious to get to the track I started stepping on the gas going up and down those hills while my brother slept peacefully in the passenger seat. Going down one of the long hills I noticed that our 3,000-plus pound race car was gently swaying back and forth behind me.

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