Willie Burnett: April Blog
By: Ivan NoDrivin
WARNING: The following contains no educational content
For any of you TIBR faithful that have come upon my writings with the thought of gaining insight into the inner workings of a skilled driver exhibiting his talents then please take my warning into consideration. However, if your brain needs some cool down time from processing the wealth of knowledge found in the remainder of this site, if you crack a smile from reading about the misadventures of a sub-par racer proving his skill level is just that, or need confirmation that you aren’t the biggest idiot to push in a trans-brake button then…welcome and enjoy.
I’m certain that, for most of you in TIBR nation, an introduction is in order. My name is Willie Burnett or “Ivan NoDrivin” to anyone who’s seen my finish line prowess. I’m a local/regional bracket racer from Olathe Kansas. I grew up in a car loving family in Manhattan, KS but didn’t know much of drag racing until my best friend Kyle Lawrence and his dad Randy introduced me to this crazy sport at age 16. We were too old for the Junior Dragster craze that had just began so Kyle’s ¾ ton Suburban and my v-6 Vega wagon were the tools of choice for some trophy class dominance at the local track. As we grew up in the ranks I was always the tag along but never gave up. I raced an 11 second Chevy II with a delay box for 8 years for no other reason than that was the class all my friends ran. It was a great learning lesson bringing a butter knife to a machine gun fight but I regret not gaining more bottom bulb experience as a youngster.
Currently I pilot a ’04 Undercover dragster that runs in Electronics and Top Dragster and a door car in progress that will hopefully be my Swiss Army knife sorts (that’s if I ever get it finished). I spend every weekend, every dollar, and every favor I have to keep my meager operation on the track as much as possible. You didn’t see me in the latest National Dragster or on the short list of big money race winners but I put everything I have into my program in the hopes that someday you might. I’m lucky enough to have very supportive parents, great friends (who are regularly making me look like a one legged man in a butt kicking contest), and a smoking hot girlfriend. What else could a chubby little Kansas boy ask for? Well, I’d settle for a big check and a Wally but or right now this column is all the press I’m gonna get so here we go.
As I’m standing in the cul-de-sac of my little bi-level house in the Kansas City suburbs looking out at my dragster shoved sideways in the garage and a 28 foot trailer, high mileage Silverado, Tacoma, and Volvo wagon encompassing every inch of paved area I can call mine.
Welcome to the humble and overcrowded driveway that is Burnett Motorsports
A 21 ft long dragster and a 20 ft garage require a unique parking job
The first race of the year is something we all fantasize about to get us thru the winter months, especially a winter like most endured this year. When it finally arrives the shear panic of reality sets in like the dream when you show up for a test and haven’t studied, or remembered to put on pants. Is everything ready? Did I put tranny fluid in the car? Where’s my helmet? Am I wearing pants? Ok, maybe that’s a mental process only available in my twisted mind but you get the idea. Guess it’s time to get this show on the road.
After a executing a car/truck/trailer/dragster driveway juggling show that would make Bozo the Clown blush I’m loaded and heading South on Hwy 169 with my dragster (the Blue Beacon) and my thoughts on the 4 hour trek to Tulsa International Raceway Park. My maiden hits at the test and tune before the 2-$5k races are my only hope to shake the aforementioned questions of my sketchy preseason preparation.
It's no toter home and stacker but since my last trailer had a trap door that the dragster nose stuck through so it would fit then I would call this an upgrade
Maybe I should’ve paid more attention to that little voice in my head after all. After making my first hit at half throttle due to a linkage setup issue on my new/used APD 1250 I finally get the Blue Beacon to put down a usable pass on run #2. Now that everything was working what would the next logical step? If you said turn on the bottle and spray the guts out of it, then give yourself a point. Now that she went a 7.02 at 191 for no good reason, a new stumble appeared off of the line. “I’m sure it’s nothing”, I say to myself so I make one more short track hit on the motor and call it a day and get ready for the big money.
Since I am always on a budget the question of a nights lodging is usually answered by begging and pleading until someone throws me a pillow to shut me up. Luckily my homeboy Jeremy Maples (Tulsa’s favorite son) let me shack up in his room at his dad’s house. A shower and a warm bed are all I could ask for after a rough day at the track. And before you ask…No, Jeremy stayed at the track so I had the bed to myself.
After an eventful test session on Friday and a good nights sleep, I’m ready to wreck shop in the $5k race and then finish up my dominance with a “W” in the 16 car shootout that night. Think positive thoughts right? Well, everything seems to be going as planned with some help from my early opponents serving up a red light, a .136 green, and I even won round in there somewhere. But by 4th round my lucky streak was showing some weak spots. I sneak off another red light win only to lose a tenth in the 1/8 and see the return of that damn mid track miss. “Maybe that was something” is the new muttering I hear myself say. Perfect timing since I have a bye to 5 cars in the 5k and a time trial for the shootout next on the schedule. A quick check over the normal culprits shows nothing other than my fuel pressure was a little low. With a little help from Matt ”the Human Vise” Driskell I swap out fuel pumps and hope for the best.
The parts swapping party is just getting started. JR is always right there to give his moral support
Nope, that wasn’t it. I make a wounded duck 5th round bye and time trial for the shootout that squelched any remaining positive thoughts. After not finding a quick fix to my stumble it’s back to the lanes for my quarter final match up with Bob Henry. My plan now is to dial between my sputtering bye and TT, hope Bob starts cutting me in early, and then I’ll feed the Beacon the bottle to take the stripe. Uhh…nope, that didn’t work since spraying the few cylinders firing still left me .017 behind and a tenth off my last good pass.
It seems one bad idea is too commonly followed by another so it’s time for plan “B” in the shootout, which is in the lanes waiting for me to limp back from my last beating. This plan consists of setting up .000 on the tree and hope for the best. The lucky recipient of my on track inabilities was none other than my good buddy JR Lobner. Although I should’ve pulled the plug and let him have a free pass (my chances of riding this blue turd for 3 more rounds was close to impossible) my pride thought otherwise. Since I was setting up trips, turning it .002 red isn’t going to shock anyone. At least JR used his 1st round gift to assist in a R/U finish for a decent paycheck.
I know this feels like the longest story about one crappy weekend but stick with me folks. It’ll be over in no time.
After we finally wrap up the day it’s time to throw the trailer at my car and see if I can get the damn miss to disappear. I should say throw the Lobner’s trailer at the car since John Lobner’s “parts store on wheels” is my favorite place to shop at the track. I end up wrenching until 4:00am replacing the cap, rotor, plugs, and coil along with triple checking everything I can think of. I have to be ok now…Not so much. A broken record run for the money pass of pops and sputters Sunday morning sends me back to The Lobner Parts Warehouse for a MSD box and crank trigger pick-up. Hey that actually seemed to fix it. Sweet! That warm fuzzy feeling was short lived as I turn it red to the vivacious Jeryka Lobner 2nd round and inadvertently keep the friendship ties to my parts supplier intact.
Needless to say, that was not the opening weekend I was looking for. The trip home couldn’t come soon enough. I head North with Tyler Wudarczyk and his ultra clean No-E Camaro drafting behind me. After a stop for gas in BFE Garnett, KS we decide to wait out a little storm headed our way. That little storm greeted us with a 70mph shear wind that tried to wipe the shine off his “Bitchin Camaro” and effectively knocked the power out at the gas station. We decide that a candlelight vigil between the Doritos and beef jerky isles was the best idea until the downpour is over. What a perfect end to a disaster of a weekend. I can only hope it gets better from here.
Here is our hiding spot for the "Bitchin Camaro" right before all hell broke loose in the one horse town of Garnett KS. This disaster was brought to you by Conoco
Stop 2 of my whirlwind was the first weekly bracket race at Heartland Park Topeka. This track is one of the nicest facilities in the area, not to mention being an hour from home, but has been plagued with a big business focused upper management. Their “bottom line before customer” service view has forced a lot of regional racers to choose some of the more racer friendly tracks in the area, myself included. Over the winter some of my good friends and good racers have been working hard to bring this bracket series back to its former glory and Tyler “asked” me to support the effort by paying my entry. In hindsight I should’ve just given T-Dub my money and stayed at home. A .001 red eye 1st round against Driskell followed by a comfy .030 take .027 finished my day quite early. At least it allowed me to spend some quality time with my dad and girlfriend Amy watching some good racing. Tyler did what he does and wheeled his footbrake wheelie monster into the winners circle. My buddy Kevin Lawrence also put on a clinic in his 7.20 dragster to win S/P. Not a bad showing for the homeboys on the long track.
Thought I would stop by and crongratulate T-Dub on his win before heading out of Topeka. I decided to not crash his winners circle pic for once.
After a silky smooth beat down like that Amy and I decided a cold cocktail on my parents’ deck in Manhattan, KS was just what the doctor ordered. After feeling like I’ve been hustling every minute for the last month getting cars ready and traveling, it was amazing how nice a night of pure relaxation overlooking the lake can feel. The trip back to Manhappiness wasn’t all play though because that is where I am building my new whip, a 78 Malibu big tire car. Sunday was all business and I’m happy to report the Malibu is very close to a debut in the next few weeks. I’m hoping to run it in S/ST at the Division 5 opener along with my dragster in Top Dragster.
On the drive back to KC all I could think of was that if I don’t show some promise by the next weekend at Mo-Kan Dragway then my first column is gonna be a rough start for sure. Luckily, Mo-Kan is one of my favorite stops so I better make em proud. No matter where you are reading this (that is…if you’re still reading at this point) I will suggest you at least make one stop to Smokin’ Mo-Kan Dragway in your racing life. This little gem is a backwoods, old school track tucked in the Southwest corner of Missouri. It’s a 180 from Heartland Park Topeka but that’s a good thing. Carl Blanton and his family run a bracket program that is second to none in effencency and fairness. At first glance Mo-Kan is far from a Rolex but it operates like swiss watch, the track is always killer, and you won’t find a better group of good ol’ boys and girls anywhere. Don’t wash your stuff before you go but I bet you’ll have to scrub the smile off your face when your done. Ok…that’s enough blowing wind up Carl’s skirt. (Carl, get that check in the mail)
An easy 2 hour jaunt Saturday morning from my house puts Amy and I in “The ‘Kan” for the first CDRA series race of the season. The Central Drag Racing Association is a 6 race series located in the Kansas/Missouri/Oklahoma area that allows some bigger money 2 day races for the region. Carl Blanton also runs this series but I’ll talk sweet about it in a later column. In the hopes to regain my composure I put the digger into the first $4K race. Just as I think this I’m ready to shake my early season funk I get an unwelcomed visit from my old friend the mid-track miss. Are you kidding me? After popping and snorting my way thru 2nd time trial I’m ready to start throwing stuff and cussing like a sailor that stubbed his peg leg on the poop deck. I guess the miss must’ve been pretty noticeable because I’m met by about every guy with a wrench and a free hand to help sort the issue out. My go-to crew of Matt Driskell and John Lobner decide it’s time to swap carbs to see if that is the weak link. Matt drags a spare Dominator out of his trailer (from the dirt and grime covering the carb it looked like it was stored under the trailer) and we slapped it on.
Matt "The Human Vise" Driskell and John Lobner putting in some overtime hours on my carb swap
First round is another crapshoot since I don’t know what to expect. I’m not great on the tree and find out that this dump truck carb is in Matt’s trailer for a reason. I go from a non-missing first TT of 4.89 to a rocket ship 4.87 killing 14 mph (taking .040 stripe) with the new carb. I still lost but at least it’s fast. I throw some more cash thru the buyback window and guesstimate what to throw on the dial board. My sketchy plan was thwarted by my .030 light and a failed attempt to take the stripe in a double breakout. That was all I needed to bring my day to an end.
The lack of a win light in 2 rounds sends me back to the finish line to take in some great driving lessons from the killers still making passes like Driskell, Jeff “Peanut Butter” Solomon, and “Downtown” Chris Brown.
I could learn alot for these guys at the finishline. This explains explains why I'm sitting in the stands
After class was dismissed and Matt put another check on his wall, I drive some of the boys (and Amy) to grab some dinner. Somehow that quiet dinner ends up turning into a group of drunken idiots stumbling out of the casino at 3am. Luckily I was the semi-designated driver so I was able to get a couple bucks out of the place before they brought the hammer down on the rest of the crew.
Maybe my luck is finally turning around? If you answered “hell no” then give yourself another point. We’ll add up your points at the end of the season and the best score gets an autographed picture of yours truly. I think my new nickname is “Sir Missalot” since first round Sunday the Blue Beacon is rapping “Baby got baaaaa-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-back” off the line and I don’t get within 3 car lengths of the guy at the stripe. I decide to save my buyback gonna money and call it a month. I’m planning on doing some serious testing and checking over before next race so you readers who’ve made it this far won’t have to read any more of my cheezy 90’s rap references. I promise.
As always, all this “fun” wouldn’t be possible without the support of all my good friends and family. Although I don’t have a laundry list of sponsors to mention I would like to thank Matt Driskell of Driskell Racing Engines for all his help and also for the support he gives to the tracks and bracket series in the area, John, JR, and Jeryka Lobner for their moral and parts support, and my parents who keep believing in me even though, at this point, I don’t understand why. I can’t forget to thank Micala Stallbaumer, Jeryka, Amy, and Bland Bridenstine for the help with their photography skills Also thank you to APD, Nitro Plate, J&J Engine Diapers, K&N Filters, and “LB Money” at ThisIsBracketRacing.com for all the sweet product and giving a guy like me a place to tell my tales. If you just can’t get enough of Ivan NoDrivin (yeah right) feel free to friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter at @IvanNoDrivin. It will make me feel special. I hope to see you all back next month so for now…Peace Out!!!