Horse Sense: Making the competition wonder not only adds character, but it also creates a fear of the unknown. Don "Burndown" Burton's Fulton Competition 500-inch big-block has everyone wondering what "Game On" means-how many nitrous systems is he using, are they foggers or a plate, is it something illegal? We'll keep you updated as our spy satellites zone in on his pits throughout the season.
Nicknames are what make our racing heroes so colorful. The stories of how they came to be are from either a highlight or lull of one's story of fame. As such, "Burndown" is a common reference to the NMRA Super Street Outlaw nitrous junky Don Burton and his silver JPC-sponsored '80 Mustang.
Don Burton puts in a tremendous...
Don Burton puts in a tremendous amount of testing, so he makes many more than just the race weekend runs down the track. Not only has he experienced it himself, but he has seen others get the parachute ropes tangled in the wheelie bars while exiting the track after a run. Since switching to the single rear wheel system, he hasn't had any issues, but it's more challenging launching on the single wheel. Don has the horsepower and the chassis; a 4,000-rpm converter from Pat's Performance Converters adds the right touch of power to keep the car hooked all the way across the stripe. He does most of his own work on the Powerglide, so any changes in gearing or repairs can be done at the racetrack.
"Burndown" doesn't refer to a nitrous-fiery, burn-it-to-the-ground, win-at-any-cost wild man. It refers to two racers who pull up to the starting beams and neither is willing to stage first. Eventually, one of the race cars will burn down when either the engine or transmission overheats from the prolonged waiting period. Just as a NASCAR engine is built to run all-out for 501 laps, these cars are tuned close to the edge. Overheating is always a fear, especially during the minutes after a lengthy burnout.
Don and his fellow Outlaw racer Jarrett Halfacre had an outlandish five-minute staging dual a couple of years ago. Jamie Meyer, one of the industry's most colorful commentators, pinned him with the nickname.
Enough about that-let's get to what makes Don's race car so fast and where it all began. He has always been a Mustang enthusiast, so when he spotted a left-for-junk '80 four-cylinder 'Stang in his buddy's field, the cogs churned and the journey began. Don traded a set of rebuilt Ranger heads and $1,600 for the powerplant-free shell, to which he added a 302/C4 setup. It ran 10.80s on the motor more than 10 years ago. Next, a stronger 408 busted into the nines and a second quicker e.t.'s on the squeeze, which was quick enough to get a taste of the Super Street Outlaw class.
Don was hooked on the thrill of competition, and drag racing became a mainstay of his summer activities. SSO competition meant stepping up to a 440-cube Yates-headed monster and a lot of nitrous. The combination equated to 10th Place in the '04 NMRA points race after attending only a few events. Don says it seemed like he found a possible winning combination, so he vowed to give the '05 season a full-fledged run for the crown. What came so easily soon turned into endless home-track testing sessions and a lot of sleepless race weekends replacing the carnage from leaning too hard on the overextended small block powerplant. Good lights, hard work, and luck made the JPC crew a runner-up in the NMRA Super Street Outlaw Championship points.
A bulletproof Fab 9 sheetmetal...
A bulletproof Fab 9 sheetmetal 9-inch rearend with a Moser Spool and a set of gun-drilled 35-spline axles guarantee all the power makes it to the Mickey Thompson 28x10.5 drag slicks. Mark Williams' quad-piston calipers would handle the whoas with slotted and grooved rotors for added cooling.
It was time for Don to get serious about his racing program, and that meant a complete revamp of his hot rod before the start of the '06 season. The small-block came out, and the chassis was dropped off at Matukas Motorsports. There, nearly every bar was cut from the car and replaced with stronger, lighter chrome-moly tubing by Steve Matukas. He has turned out some of the finest engineered Pro-Mod, Pro Street, and Outlaw chassis from his shop in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
To assure complete satisfaction, Steve accompanies his customers to the racetrack for the first couple of outings to make sure the chassis measures up to his clientele's expectations. He's accustomed to making every piece from scratch, which is exactly what he did with Don's prized Pony. The A-arms, the K-member, and the ladder bars were all replaced, assuring everything was perfectly square at all four corners. Afco double-adjustable struts and springs up front and Santhuff single-adjustables with Afco springs out back offer plenty of flexibility to dial in the projected sub 1.20 60-foot times. The driver compartment was upgraded to the latest SFI-25.2 spec, ensuring the driver's safety at nearly 200 mph.
Don (right) and crewman Jason...
Don (right) and crewman Jason Lam handled the prerace maintenance duties on this weekend, but Don says the list of crucial helpers is long and distinguished, with none of them being any less important-it's a team effort. The biggest weapon in his arsenal is acquiring JPC Racing as a sponsor, as well as countless non-race-weekend testing. Don says, "The nitrous guys are closer to the edge of destruction of an expensive motor than any of the other combinations, so a methodical maintenance program is essential to a successful racing program." As for the outlook for the '07 season, Don adds, "Game on, bring it!"
The series was aware that the bottle boys were leaning on their parts to keep up with the big power the supercharger guys were making, so they were allowed the use of modestly displaced big-blocks for more durability. Don and other racers running nitrous-oxide combinations were keeping up with the pack, but they spent too many Saturday nights putting in new slugs for the Sunday showdown.
A lightweight aluminum Ford Racing block, bored and stroked to 500 ci, replaced the maxed-out, 440-cube small-block. Sixty cubic inches may not seem like much at this level, but anyone who has built a stroker knows you're squeezing a much bigger rotating assembly than was designed to fit in the confines of a small-block. Most of the time, areas of the engine block have to be trimmed away for the additional stroke of the rods and crankshaft. Big-blocks, on the other hand, can be punched out to more than 800 ci when the taller blocks are used. Fulton Competition of Spartanburg, South Carolina, handled Don's machining duties. The rotating assembly centers on a Moldex cross-drilled crankshaft that was treated to a secret wear-resisting coating for longevity. GRP aluminum connecting rods and Diamond pistons complete the lightweight, quick-revving bottomend.
A set of aluminum Ford Racing C-460 Wedge heads and CNC-ported Fulton house lightweight titanium valves from Xceldyne Technologies take orders from a secret-spec Comp camshaft. Darryl Bassani loves racing and will go out of his way to help the guys get on top of their game. Darryl's business houses some of the most high-tech, mandrel tube-bending equipment in the industry. Many racers, such as Don, rely on him for quality, custom stainless steel pieces to weld together a trick set of 2 1/2- to 4 1/2-inch headers and mufflers.