Former U.S. Nationals Funny Car winner Gary Burgin died May 23. The driver of the Orange Baron Funny Car, who began his career in the A/Gas Supercharged ranks and famously bragged to have never driven anything on the quarter-mile that didn’t have a supercharger atop the engine, won two NHRA national events and finished in the top 10 five times in his career.
No win was bigger for the Southern California racer than his triumph at the 1976 U.S. Nationals, where he defeated Don Prudhomme in the final round to hand “the Snake” his only national event round-loss that season. Burgin finished a career-high second in the points standings the year before behind Prudhomme.
Burgin continued to race into the early 1980s – finishing fifth in 1981 and seventh in 1982 – and won again at the 1979 Springnationals, but the rising cost of racing eventually forced him from the cockpit. He went on to serve as a crewmember and/or crew chief for the likes of Jody Smart, Al Segrini, and Tom McEwen during 1984-86, and worked with Swedish Top Fuel racer Pelle Lindelow, which led to a burgeoning business in Europe servicing those racers through his business, Gary Burgin Enterprises, which exported complete engine packages and other related car components to racers around the globe.
Burgin’s business reach extended into Australia as Dean Oakey of American Auto Parts pays his respects. “We did a lot of business with Gary after our good friend Lee Cohen ( The Good,The Bad and The Ugly Top Fuel Dragster) went to work for Gary in the mid 90’s till we parked it in 2010. His thorough and methodical ways ensured we always got the right parts at the right time,and when we were stuck Gary always got us out of the proverbial without any complaint.”
“I would like to pass on our deepest sympathies and condolences to his wife Gerry and family, and if any of you out there never met or dealt with Gary you unfortunately missed out on meeting an icon of the sport and fantastic guy,” he said.
Information and images courtesy of NHRA.com & Phil Burgess