This past Saturday, about 200 spectators gathered to watch the tire screeching, engine revving, smoke billowing phenomenon of a burnout contest at Pacific American Legion Post 320.
Donnie Bailey organized the burnout contest as a fund-raiser to benefit local veterans returning from foreign deployment.
He set up a stationary burnout track by staking a sheet metal platform into the ground near the stump of a recently cut tree, which was used to chain the vehicles in place.
“When they step on the gas, we didn’t want the vehicle shooting into the street,” Bailey said.
The sheet metal was hosed down before each entry began his rev to see how long his engine would work to capacity before it stalled.
Jonathan Norfolk’s 1985 Ford Ranger took the bragging rights and only first-place prize, whining and wheezing for three minutes and 23 seconds before the passenger-side tire blew.
The engine froze and the vehicle had to be pushed from the steel burnout track, but after a few minutes and a squirt of water everything was OK.
“She runs like she was never in a burnout,” Norfolk said.
It was Norfolk’s first burnout. He is more accustomed to weekend runs at local rock crawling parks like Moonlight in Sullivan or Flat Nasty in Salem where vehicles like his Ford Ranger make low gear, slow speed runs over rocks and ridges and waterfalls.
Norfolk bought his vehicle as a Ford Explorer and spent five years rebuilding it for the sport of rock crawling.
He recently painted it bold blue with yellow roll bars and installed a 302 Ford engine.
Even though only five cars competed in the event, spectators lounging behind the yellow safety tapeline had no lack of enthusiasm.
Before each entry, organizers hosed down the metal track to allow tires to spin. Once the tires caught traction the dry track shaved off rubber that had to be removed before the next entry.
One spectator described it as a heck of an event.
“There’s nothing quite like it,” he said. “You get caught in the anticipation to see how long a guy is going to go.”