Drag racing keeps the Old Man from the Mountains young at heart
By Steve Turner
If you think racing keeps you young, we might just know someone that proves your point. His name is Willard Kinzer, and what he does in a race car would be impressive at any age.
“It feels good, if you like racing. You know you are moving. You don’t have time to mess around,” Willard Kinzer said about running 241 mph at Lucas Oil Dragway in Indianapolis, Indiana, during an NMCA race. “About every 20 mph you can tell that you are going quite a bit faster. It just keeps adding up. Everything is so much faster, your reactions have to be so much quicker.”
In the past two years, Willard collected numerous records in series across the country, including becoming the first NMCA Super Street racer to run in the 6.50-second range, and the first driver to pilot a stock-suspension car beyond 230 mph. These might sound like the feats of a young up-and-comer, but rather they are the efforts of an 86-year-old that simply has a passion for racing.
Retirement, it seems, is not part of Willard Kinzer’s vocabulary. To this day he still goes into the office at the company he created, the Kinzer Family Group in Allen, Kentucky. The companies under this umbrella—including a gas pipeline company, a gas/oil drilling company, a real estate company, and a trucking company—are all geared toward harvesting the energy we need to power our modern world. Energy, it seems, is something Willard has in abundance, because he works six days a week and still finds time to race every chance he gets.
Hooked on drag racing as a teenager, Willard eventually moved on to racing motorcycles with the American Motorcycle Association. Not just any races either, but the series’ daunting hill climbs. He eventually won several championships at the amateur and national levels. He even made the trip out to Utah to climb the daunting Widowmaker, where he won the open class.
However, in 1984, at the age 56, he decided to bow out of the perils of motorcycle racing. Yet, the need for speed had not left him. Willard owns a host of high-performance vehicles, but he stayed away from competition for 22 years. Then, back in 2006, he made a comeback to the world of racing, by bring running his Porsche in the Street Fights series at a nearby drag strip, Bristol Dragway. While the Porsche was fast, Willard races to win. Soon he fielded a 7-second, twin-turbo Corvette in the Street Fights and started taking home some trophies.
Well, we all know how these things go. Soon enough, he was competing in the ranks of the NMCA. In 2012, despite being involved in a serious crash at the Georgia race, Willard persevered to end up second in the points of the highly competitive Super Street 10.5W class. At the NMCA’s end-of-season awards ceremony, he also took home the coveted Signature Award for outstanding sportsmanship. It joined the burgeoning collection in his trophy case.
“In NMCA, winning the last race of the season at Indianapolis. I enjoyed that probably more than any race,” Willard said. “My oldest son was with me, and we put down a pretty good number. We went 241 mph, which the fastest I’ve ever been.”
Last season, Willard joined the competitive NMCA Radial Wars class with a 1998 Mustang powered by a twin-turbo big-block. Constructed by the vaunted ProLine Racing, this 481X engine is topped by Stage 3 heads and boosted by two Precision Turbo Pro Mod 98mm turbos. Add it all up and it is good for over 4,000 horsepower!
To see what it’s like to wheel that kind of power, take a look at this video from Willard’s own GoPro cameras:
“Time changes everything,” Willard told us. “With new technology, you can set records, but they don’t last long.”
As shown in testing last fall, when ProLine Racing’s own Eric Dillard took drove the car at Holly Springs in South Holly Springs, Mississippi, the car was ready to compete with the best of them this year. On the eighth-mile hit, it clocked in a 4.071 e.t. at 199.65 mph, which was just shy of the record on drag radials. You can watch the run right here:
With that kind of performance developed in the off-season, you can imagine that Willard is looking forward to another racing season. Along with the new ProLine Racing engine combo, the car was recently converted over to a Fuel Tech FT500 engine management system, and his team is gunning for 3.90-second e.t.’s in the eight-mile, so it doesn’t sound like Willard plans on slowing down any time soon.
“That’s what we are shooting for to get into the 3.90s,” Willard said of his goals for the new season. “We leave everything up to ProLine. We just tell them we want the fastest and quickest car in street-car racing, and they do whatever it takes to get it there.”
During a recent test session at Bradenton Motorsports Park, the car re-set the Drag Radial record with a 6.101 at 239.17 rip. However, on the next pass with ProLine’s Eric Dillard behind the wheel, the car blew a tire and suddenly took a left into the guardrail.
At this point we don’t know if the drivetrain will go into a different car for the coming season or if this car will be repaired. However, we have no doubt that the Old Man from the Mountains will keep pursuing his love of drag racing.
The Mod List
Block: AJPE Billet Aluminum Block
Crankshaft: Sonny Bryant Custom Billet
Rods: BME Aluminum
Pistons: Diamond Custom w/ Diamond Hard Anodized Coating
Camshafts: PLR Custom Tool Steel 65mm
Cylinder Heads: AJPE Stage 3 Billet
Intake: Hogan’s Custom Sheet Metal Intake Manifold w/ Billet Runners
Power Adder: Precision GEN2 Pro Mod 98mm Turbochargers and Precision liquid-to-air intercooler
Fuel System: Waterman Racing Fuel Pump w/ Waterman Racing Cam Drive Kit, Weldon Fuel Regulator, System 1 Fuel Filter, Electric Primer Fuel Pump and Moran Fuel Injectors
Exhaust: Ryan Rakestraw signature turbo system
Transmission: Reid Racing Superglide
Engine Management: Fuel Tech FT500
Ignition: MSD Power Grid Ignition w/ MSD Ignition Coil
Gauges: Fuel Tech
Struts: Santhuff coil-over
Brakes: Wilwood drag
Wheels: Weld Racing
Tires: Mickey Thompson
Brakes: Wilwood w/dual calipers
Wheels: Weld Racing
Tires: Mickey Thompson