SPORTSMAN VETERAN BOBURKA HAS SEEN DRAG RACING EVOLVE
The more drag racing changes, the more it stays the same for Jim Boburka.
Take for instance, the NHRA U.S. Nationals. While it is still the toughest trophy to earn on the 24-race tour, the approach has changed drastically.
Try as he might, Boburka cannot seem to get the point across to today's drag racing youth just how tough racing the NHRA U.S. Nationals used to be. Indeed, the struggle was real.
Boburka, 72, who for decades raced Super Stock but now competes in Stock, won the 1980 Super Stock crown at The Big Go. He believes Indy is still a challenge, but nothing like it was back in what some describe as the good, old days.
"One of the biggest things and I tell a lot of the young guys this today, nobody would realize what we had to go through at Indy," said Boburka, who first attended the Big Go in 1965. "When you come here, you took everything out of here every night. There were no cars, trailers, nothing left here, including the pros.
"So you would have to get here at 5 in the morning to try and get in line because there were no designated run sessions. Whenever they called Stock, you went up there. And whenever they pulled out whatever it would have been 20 pairs, you were stuck there.
"There was many a time I can remember vividly like it was yesterday being on this circle right over here jacking the car up and changing the transmission because I ran a stick back in those days. But that’s what you did. Once you made your run, you got right back in line. That line could have been all the way over on the other end, go all the way around here to get into the pits."
Boburka has seen the process simplified, and he credits NHRA for taking the initiative to improve the program.
"Best thing they ever did was give us time trials and sessions, and not make you have to be here or let you leave your equipment here in the pits. I tell the young guys that and a lot of people don’t believe what we had to do. It was a challenge."
Boburka said he first experienced Indy as a fan before attempting to compete in what some describe as the greatest drag racing spectacle.
"We live in Pittsburg, and I come out here, Interstate 70 wasn’t even done," Boburka explained. "We had to take the old route, U.S. 40. So however many years ago that was. The first time I raced here I believe was 1970 with my ’69 Z-28, and I won this race in 1980 in Super Stock J Automatic."
The win was completed on a Tuesday when rain postponed competition.
"The only thing that hasn’t changed in Indy is 90-degree oppressive heat”, Boburka said, in addition to the rain. "It was the same back then as it is today. I guess 90 degrees doesn’t change."
What keeps Boburka coming back? It's his favorite "man" activity.
"We talk about this, and it’s the only thing I do," Boburka admitted. "I don’t hunt, I don’t golf, I don’t fish, I don’t bowl, I don’t do anything else but car-related, mostly drag racing stuff. I’ve done it since I was a kid, it was ingrained in me. And the kids today, I have four grandsons, they’re not interested in cars. Two of them are too young at this point, but one’s 20 and the other one’s 18. They’re not interested in cars. They’re perfectly happy driving around in a four-door Impala.
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"For what I have, you’d think one of the kids would have taken, including my son, now my daughter would have wanted to do it, but she, unfortunately, not, unfortunately, fortunately, she got married, had a family, got a career, so drag racing isn’t in the game for her right now."
Boburka understands the difference between he and the kids is he would have been searching for a perfect combination to race the four-door Impala.
"I'd be trying to hop up that six-cylinder and make the thing go faster," Boburka said, smiling.