Brainerd's Bob Volkmuth was so excited about his final-round win Sunday during Brainerd International Raceway's bracket drag racing season opener he left the message, along with a guess of last week's mystery vehicle, on the Brainerd Dispatch's "Guess the Vehicle" phone line.
It was Volkmuth's first win since 1987 when he won one Super Comp race at BIR on his way to winning the Super Comp season points championship in his altered racer.
"I'm hoping this is the beginning of a good season," Volkmuth, 51, said by phone Tuesday. "We came out and basically with one run we were competitive."
Volkmuth's last statement referred to clicking off one time trial Sunday before the elimination rounds began in his 764-horsepower dragster that weighs 1,600 pounds.
On Friday, he couldn't get down the track without hazing his tires (losing traction). On Saturday he had to work at Acro Tech in Riverton.
"The car actually ran pretty close," Volkmuth said.
Volkmuth wasn't even close to losing the first round. His opponent left the starting line too soon, or red-lighted.
In the second round, he and his opponent red-lighted but his opponent did it first.
The third round saw Volkmuth and his opponent leave the starting line at almost the same time, .030 to .032 reaction times. Both racers broke out or went faster than the class' index but the other racer went 1/1,000th of a second faster than Volkmuth, giving the win to Volkmuth.
In the final round, Volkmuth said he raced an opponent who builds dragsters for a profession. Both broke out but Volkmuth was closer to the index (3/1,000ths of a second). "Every round was a crap shoot," said Volkmuth, who started drag racing in 1974.
Volkmuth said the race was close at the line. "It was really neat," he said. "I really enjoyed that."
His enjoyment of anything with engines while he was growing up sparked his drag racing interest. He grew up in the St. Cloud area where he could either watch dirt track stock car racing at Golden Spike Speedway or travel to the former Minnesota Dragways near Anoka to watch drag racing.
Volkmuth said he can still remember how much Funny Car races impressed him. "I wanted to go home and build one just to listen to it," he said.
He said he also liked drag racing because the mechanic could also be the driver.
Volkmuth's first racer was a front-engine dragster that came with a surprise. He said when the seller arrived, he was a large man, too large to fit into the dragster's cockpit.
His original plan was to have someone else drive his dragster so he was surprised that he was going to be the driver. "You have to think, everybody who drives has two eyes, two arms and two legs so I guess I qualified," he said.
Volkmuth said this dragster "felt more like a go-cart because everything was so lightweight and it moved so easy."
He clicked off elapsed times of eight seconds in the A-Gas dragster he raced in the Competition Eliminator class. Five years later, Volkmuth earned his Top Alcohol dragster license and raced in the class until 1982 when he took a year off. In that year, he built an altered racer and raced it for several years before taking some time off to restore Buick Grand Sports. But he returned to drag racing in 2000 because he said he had more fun.
Volkmuth bought his current racer from a driver in Iowa who purchased it from Gary Stinnett, the 1998 NHRA Super Comp national champion. The car was built in 1993 and Stinnett used it to win the Super Comp class at the 1995 U.S. NHRA Nationals in Indianapolis.
"I could see 10 years ago this was the car to have," Volkmuth said.
He said last year the car quit "breaking stuff" and "settled down."
"It just performed beautifully," he said.
It's beautiful and it's a winner now.
clint wood can be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5869.
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