Superchargers Showdown Bunny Burkett Tribute Recap
 

October 4th, 2021

   Story courtesy of:  Bill Pratt - Draglist.com

 

 

MECHANICSVILLE, MARYLAND (October 4th, 2021) – The 2021 Superchargers Showdown at Maryland International Raceway was an incredible heartfelt tribute to the great Bunny Burkett, the former world champion funny car racer we lost in 2020. After a touching opening ceremony featuring Royce Miller, Bill Pratt, and dozens of Bunny's family and crewmembers, the event kicked off with two great rounds of tribute cars, all of whom donated their time, gas money, food, hotels, parts, and running expenses to get to Budds Creek to show their love of Bunny Burkett. In addition to the tribute cars, Budds Creek supercharger Showdown featured a full field of Pro Modifieds and Top Sportsman, which will be covered elsewhere but was a terrific mid-3-second slugfest. But on to the tribute cars! All eras were represented, and the fans got a great taste of several types of drag racing cars, from modern machines to great nostalgia vehicles.

Before the racing began, the two Bunny Burkett Dodge Avenger funny cars were towed to the line and pulled down the track in a somber but celebratory ceremony. Royce Miller asked the fans not to do just a simple moment of silence but to think of a great memory with Bunny Burkett as the cars were paraded down the MDIR 1320. The two Bunny machines were then brought back to the Tribute Car staging lanes to close out the first round. That round began with Dale Broderick lining up his supercharged Chevrolet-powered Fiat Fuel Coupe against Ken Hall in an injected alcohol front engine dragster. Hall laid more than one-tenth of a second holeshot on Broderick, but it couldn't hold as the blown car zipped by at about 1000 feet, finishing with an 8.42 to 8.58 decision.

The second race featured two women in blown alcohol nostalgia funny cars, Robin Stambaugh-Schoeman in the Generation X Vega taking on Krista Massarella in the Temporary Insanity Chevy Monza. Both cars suffered tire smoke initially, but Krista recovered first to record a 9.09-second victory over Robin's 11.35. Top Fuel and Funny Car veteran Tom Stephens was on hand to help Matt and Robin, and Robin's husband Jeff Schoeman made the unique award plaques presented at the end of the night. Next was a battle of two different types of blown alcohol Fiat altereds -- Bob Hill's car with a more standard body type and Mike Geroni's slammed and lengthened funny car-like machine. Mike has been aiming for the 200 mile an hour zone and just finishing short of it. And blowing an engine earlier in the year in an attempt, he had the old motor back in the car tonight. But with the excellent track and the dense sea level Budds Creek air, hopes were high for a 200 mile an hour pass. Geroni did a great run and slammed to a 6.795-197.05 miles an hour, just missing the mark. That was enough to beat Bob Hill's 6.992 at 163.89 miles an hour. Bob did have a great burnout, and we were tracking those for special award considerations.

Next was a battle between Ed Bliss Junior's front-engine blown supercharged dragster against Ray Urban's blown altered. Ray had troubles and shut down to a 10.21 (using up both the length and width of his lane while doing it) while Bliss Jr. cruised to a smooth 7.030 at 187.81 miles an hour. Up next was a single by venerable Paul Harris, who's been racing at Budds Creek for decades. Harris has a brand new modern altered called, of course, Yankee Doodle Dandy, continuing his association with that name and former partner John Paris. Paul said later he was just keeping his hand in! But he ran a nice 7.328 at 180.09 miles an hour to flex the new machine's muscles.

Up next featured an exciting pairing of the latest version of the Cape Codder against a brand new machine. Ed Parker had new driver Larry Antonelis aboard, and he took on Wade King in his Three Kings Racing big, bad flat black 55 Chevy. Wade said that as of last September, that thing was a pile of pipes and tubing. But he has put together a really great-looking car, and he's holding off on painting it until he gets it shaken down. Unfortunately, the big 55 had transmission problems in the first round, while the Cape Codder was gone to an incredible 6.509, 212.33 miles an hour. Next was an exciting match between Drew Sweetman in the Frantic Ford Mustang II and NHRA top fuel racer Joe Morrison, driving Rocky Pirrone's Screamin' Eagle Trans Am. Morrison got the best reaction time of the tribute cars with a .072 light, which by the way, won a special award. And that was needed because he started bucking like a bronco halfway down the track and slowed to 6.983 at 219.36 miles an hour. But that and the holeshot was enough to hold off Sweetman in the Frantic Ford, who ran 6.930, 200.53. The margin of victory was .0051 seconds -- about 1.7 feet!

Following were nitro funny cars with Michael Tabacco in his aptly named Pandemic '78 Challenger taking on Cody Helger in the Dazed and Confused '69 Camaro. Helger nailed an impressive burnout which to that point was the best of the session. Unfortunately, he redlighted in the first round and did not get a time while Tabacco took a 6.712, 192.53 victory. The next race featured two more Nitro cars, and Brian Cunningham brought up the former world record-holding Peter Gallen "Gone Ballistic" Monza with folks wondering if he'd be able to approximate the success of the car's history. He was up against Dave Hill, whose "Mad Max" Mustang featured tuning by veteran Rick Krafft. Unfortunately, Hill had to be backed out of the beams, and Cunningham was sent on a single, but what a single it was! Brian shocked all in attendance with a blistering 5.780 at 235.72 miles an hour! That was temporarily the low ET and top speed of the round, which was also a special award presented by Jagger Naves' Earth Shaking Entertainment promotion!

The next race run was two modern Top Alcohol Dragsters—Tom Fox Senior and Junior from Pennsylvania and Dan Dietrich from Maryland. The two long, high-tech machines were quite a jolt after the Nostalgia machines experienced thus far. The first race was a barn burner. Fox Jr. had a redlight foul, but both cars stayed glued together down the track until about the thousand-foot mark where Dietrich lost something. Tom Fox Jr. sped by to set Low ET of the Tribute round at 5.355, 268.54 (the awards were for pure performance, regardless of win/loss status). Dietrich went 5.550 at a slowing 204.70, but progressive times indicate he would have matched Fox's time had the car stayed together.

It was time for the Bunny Burkett machines to line up against one another. This evening, Gary Pritchett, who spends his time on the NHRA Top Fuel circuit tuning for the Capco Contractors team, returned to his honored role of driving one of Bunny’s cars. In the other lane was Mike Hall of the venerable Hall racing family, whose twin brother Ken had already run his injected dragster. Both drivers laid down awesome burnouts, with Pritchett hoisting the American flag proudly. That effort gained Gary the overall best burnout honors for the first round. He then took a 6.116, 233.56 victory over Mike Hall, who had some troubles and slowed to a 7.071 at 209.62 miles an hour.

Announcers Chris Higgins and Bill Pratt relayed that packed in the parachutes in both cars were the ashes of Bunny Burkett, which were placed there in a loving ceremony earlier in the afternoon by her daughter Julie Burkett. Bunny's last wishes were that her ashes be spread at the top end of Maryland International Raceway, and that's precisely what happened on this run. The announcers allowed the two cars to make the run, staying silent until after the chutes deployed. It was a moving tribute to Bunny and one that had more than one fan's eyes wet with tears.

After some terrific doorslammer action, the Jet Dragsters came back to finish the round. Young Josh Graham was driving the Hanna Motorsports Eastern Raider, and Dawn Purdue drove the Scott Arriaga tuned Wicked Sinsation machine. After the traditional flame show and burner pops, Grant achieved a long-term goal of cracking the 300 miles per hour barrier with a nice 5.252 at 300.40. Purdue made a nice 5.911, 266.58 lap, well below her capability but entertaining nonetheless! That wrapped up the first round. It was great to visit in the pits with the legendary Al Hanna, who traveled down to attend the race in person.

The second round kicked off with a single by Jim Gloyd from Mount Airy, Maryland, who has a brand new hemi-powered Blown Nitro dragster called "Old School," which he has owned for only five months! Jim's flames were about a foot and a half high and looked great at the hit, but Gloyd shut her down to an 8.84 at 117.86 miles an hour after an impressive start. Up next was a rematch between Ken Hall and Dale Broderick in their respective Nostalgia machines. The reaction times were about the same, which told the tale as Broderick took a relatively close but decisive win over the dragster. Dale later said he had never before raced at night and was having difficulty seeing the finish line! The numbers were 8.331, 139.17, to 8.555, 154.19 for Ken. It was a great peek into the past for the drag racing fans. Ken Hall says he already has his eyes on a blower and will be back next year!

Up next was a rematch between Krista Massarella and Robin-Stambaugh-Schoeman. Both teams were hoping to have fixed their issues. Chris Massarella, between rounds, said, "We ran Low ET last week, and tonight we can't get down the track!" He actually cited the incredible bite and great air at Budds Creek and noted that they are not used to running in those optimal conditions. The Stambaughs, for their part, have been having significant issues with their clutch discs recently. The evening before, they had visited the Tom Fox pit, which has a terrific onboard clutch grinder. Fox smoothed out their clutches, and they reinstalled them for the evening, but unfortunately, they're still having some issues. It's likely the team will have to buy some new ones. Robin got a good start in the race but immediately went up in smoke and her 13.56 at 72 miles an hour resulted. In the meantime, Krista and Chris found their groove, and Krista nailed a nice 6.978, 195.73 to take two straight.

Up next was Paul Harris against Ray Urban! Neither car was 100% there, and Ray's car again bucked like a bronco, but Harris took an 8.478, 135.51 win as Urban shut down to an 11.35 at 73 miles an hour. Following that was another altered vs. dragster race with Mike Geroni up against Ed Bliss. While Geroni was having all sorts of troubles and shutting down to at 12.50 at 61 miles an hour, Bliss grabbed an 8.115, 112.65 win but took out one of the cones! Since it was at the top end, that still counted as a win. The next pair was Cody Helger's Dazed and Confused Camaro, taking on Drew Sweetman in the Frantic Ford. Sweetman laid down an incredible .113 to .642 holeshot on Helger, and all looked lost for the orange Camaro until Sweetman had troubles. It was a close race until about a thousand feet when Helger passed Drew for a 6.749, 208.10 victory, and Sweetman shut down to a 7.669, 127.97 loss.

The two blown alcohol dragsters were next, and Fox Jr. impressed with a very consistent 5.359 - 267.11 win as Dietrich had significant troubles and shut off to a 15-second run. So, it was one win apiece for the alcohol dragsters as far as the wins went, but it was the Fox team with two straight 5.35s setting the performance standard. Up next was Tabacco with his great Nitro car from North Carolina on a single. He blasted off the line with the header flames shooting high but hit a cone and had to slow to a 9.804 at 79.18 miles an hour. The Bunny cars faced off again, but unfortunately, Gary Pritchett had to shut off right after the burnout. He pulled over next to the wall, sending Mike Hall on a single. The amazing Bunny Burkett team showed how close they have these cars tuned as Hall went 6.178 at 230.37 miles an hour to even the match for the Bunny boys.

Finally, the Jets returned to wrap up the show with the Eastern Raider facing off against the Wicked Sinsation. Josh Graham got a fantastic .018 reaction time after some concern that the fuel system may not be working correctly. He turned that into a holeshot victory as indeed the car died on the top end but had enough juice to get a 5.373 win at only 219.58 miles an hour over Dawn's much improved and hard-charging 5.371 at 288.95 miles an hour. It was a great final run to a terrific show, followed by several more Pro Mod and Top Sportsman runs!

The 2021 Superchargers Showdown at Budds Creek was another fantastic event made all the more special by the tribute to our dear Bunny Burkett and the attendance of about 50 of her family and friends!