Ron Buckholz has a need for speed, but also knows when to pump the brakes. On Saturday, Oct. 13, Buckholz will make his fourth and final attempt at setting the world record for longest distance of a car burnout.
“I was curious about what the record was for longest burnout in a car. I put in an application with the Guinness Book of World Records, thinking they weren’t going to accept it and they did,” he said with a laugh.
There is no current world record for this event, but there is a minimum requirement of 450 meters, or 1,476 feet, that Buckholz must reach to qualify as a world record holder, according to a record executive from Guinness World Records.
Buckholz’s prior attempts fell just short of glory, he said.
“I think my first attempt I went 908 feet,” he said. “We had problems with throttle on second attempt. On the third attempt, I made it 1,258 feet but then blew both of the front tires, which ended the actual attempt.
“From the different records available, this just seemed like something that could be done with some help and support,” said Buckholz, who owns Federal Way Automotive and Radiator with his wife, Tracy.
The two Auburn residents are both NHRA Super Street Drag racers and have loved cars their whole lives, Buckholz said.
On a Wednesday night in 1995, his sponsor Gary Ermish let Buckholz take a test drive in a race car.
“One time down the track and I was hooked ever since,” he said.
“I came back to the automotive business,” he said about opening the Federal Way automotive shop in 1982. “It made sense to make my sport be racing, and drag racing was my choice.”
Now that Buckholz has decided to step away from his racing career, he wants to end with a world record for a greater cause.
“We started out doing this for the Northwest Burn Foundation,” he said.
The couple are the former owners of Cedarwood Sports Bar and Grill. In 2006, they began hosting competitions to raise money for the Northwest Burn Foundation.
“We had burnout contests there,” Buckholz said, noting this was his only experience with burnouts prior to the world record attempts. “I made a burnout pad in the back and we had different people come out with all kinds of cars, everything from race cars to old junkers.”
In the couple’s first year of burnout competitions, they raised approximately $10,000 for the foundation.
When the idea of a breaking the world record for burnouts came to Buckholz, he chose to dedicate the record to the foundation.
In his prior attempts at the record, Buckholz and his team raised $1,500 for the Northwest Burn Foundation, which they donated to the kids camp, Camp Eyabsut, in North Bend.
“The application still is set up in their name, the Northwest Burn Foundation,” he said. “If we get the record, it’ll be in their name.”
Execution of the final attempt also requires choosing the right vehicle for the job.
So, he’ll be burning rubber in his beloved ’64 Chevy Chevelle Malibu SS – the engine replaced with a late-model NASCAR motor that averages 6,800 to 7,200 RPMs when racing around the track, he said.
“I blew the motor up in it last year during the first race of the year,” Buckholz said.
He then borrowed a 1980 Ford Mustang from Tony Hopkins, a racer he sponsors, and competed all year.
Although Buckholz prefers Chevy’s, he went on to win the 2017 NHRA division race in the Ford, taking home the coveted Wally trophy, named after the founder of NHRA drag racing, Wally Parks.
“I’m not a Ford guy, I’m a Chevy guy,” he said.
Burnouts are a delicate balance between power and speed, brake and acceleration, he said.
“There’s three things that need to be done,” Buckholz said.
First, the tires must always be in motion on the pavement and creating smoke. For his attempts, Buckholz purchased specialized dye tires from Australia to add a splash of color to the burnout smoke. One attempt featured a red, white and blue smoke show, another with lime green and blue tires for Seahawks-themed smoke clouds.
Another factor is to keep the car moving as quickly as possible without losing the burnout, Buckholz said.
“If you get going too fast, then the tires aren’t spinning enough, it’ll hook up and the tires burn out,” he said. “That’s sort of what happened in the last attempt.”
The last challenge is to keep the car steered straight to avoid the rear fishtailing, he said.
“I have to foot-brake it to keep the car from taking off, but also not-footbrake it so I can move quickly down the track so the tires don’t pop,” he said, adding the RPMs should be kept around 7,000.
Despite what Buckholz can control on the track, he’s hoping for a forecast of sunshine, dry weather and a bit of luck.
Pacific Raceways is hosting the West Coast Grudge Season Final, an action-packed day of drag racing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and Buckholz’s attempt will be featured in the afternoon. The spectator fee is $15 per person for the day.
Buckholz’ final attempt to set the Guinness World Record will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, at Pacific Raceways (31001 144th Ave SE) in Kent.