Why would anyone rev their engine and spin their tires until they had a blowout? To win the title of "Burnout King or Queen," that's why. Your car may not be the fastest or the best-in-show, but if you are a thrill seeker who wants to prove you're the best at burning rubber, a burnout contest may be just the challenge you've been looking for. The more noise and smoke you create the better, and if you keep going until you blow one or more tires, you may get a standing ovation.
Smokin' Tires at the Ford Nationals
It's hard to believe, considering the number of car shows I've attended, but I watched my first burnout contest at the Carlisle Ford Nationals. The grandstands were filled to capacity, with additional spectators standing around the entire perimeter of the burnout pit. Prior to each burnout, the pavement was sprayed with water to help start the tires spinning. Precautions were taken to ensure the safety of the spectators, as well as the driver, by installing concrete barriers around the vehicle, and keeping fire extinguishers on hand in the event the heat had some unintended consequences. The burnout contest reminded me of what it must have been like during Roman Times, because the greater the destruction, the more enthusiastic the audience was with their applause and appreciation. Fortunately, the destruction at the burnout contest was not to human life, but to a set of tires.
The lineup included Mustangs, 4WD Ford trucks, and a souped-up Pinto. Two of the Mustangs were convertibles, whose drivers apparently didn't mind smoke in either their eyes or their lungs. However, one driver apparently had some breathing difficulties, because he was fanning his door throughout his burnout. Two women drivers mixed it up with the boys. Although it was obvious they didn't have the experience of some of their male counterparts, they seemed determined to give the Old Boys Club a run for its money.
The crowd cheered, as the drivers willingly pushed their machines to their limits. A few times, the heat from tires resulted in some small fires, but they were quickly extinguished. The crowd's excitement increased with the sound of popping tires and flying rubber.
For newcomers to this type of event, a key lesson was quickly learned - find a viewing location upwind of the burnout pit. Spectators downwind of the burnout were engulfed in smoke from the burning tires, but as intense as the smoke was, the gearheads stuck around until the end, reveling in the sight and smell of burning rubber.
The first contestant, driving a black Mustang, was the early crowd favorite, until the little Pinto with a Boss 302 engine transplant made his run for the title. He became the new leader, but not for long. In the end, when the smoke literally and figuratively cleared, the driver of a 4WD Ford truck was crowned the "Burnout King." Not only did this driver create mountains of smoke, he went all the way, blowing out both rear tires. He then switched to 4WD, and limped out of the burnout pit, much to the appreciation of the crowd.
Next Burnout Contest
Watching someone willingly, even gleefully, destroy a perfectly good set of tires might be a little crazy, but the sight of bellowing smoke and popping tires is surprisingly entertaining. I can hardly wait until my next burnout contest. Blow, baby, blow!
For a video of the burnout, check out our video.