Willard Kinzer, who at 84 years young has been one of the most inspiring individuals to come though our sport in a long time, has continually proven his mettle behind the wheel of some of the quickest and fastest small-tire doorslammers in the world. The quiet and methodical businessman and committed family man from eastern Kentucky, who didn’t even pick up drag racing until after he’d turned 80 following a career riding hill climb motorcycles in his earlier years, has driven his way through all sorts of hairy moments, from the chutes dropping late on a record-breaking 224 mph blast on drag radials, to brain-ratting tire shake and everything in between. But, whether you’re 83 or 23, things happen fast in a 3,000-plus pound, six second, 230 mph doorslammer on small tires, and Kinzer had his share of tough moments. But through it all, drag racing’s ironman has bounced right back.
In early April, Kinzer and the gang, which includes Pro Street racer Jeff Lutz and Patrick Barnhill of PTP Racing, rolled into the Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA All Star Nationals in Atlanta with Kinzer’s black Chevrolet Cobalt in tow, ready for some Mickey Thompson Super Street 10.5W action with the twin-turbo big block mill that had been stuffed between the framerails. Unfortunately, the weekend quickly turned sour when, on a test hit on Friday afternoon, Kinzer found himself upside down in the sleek Cobalt after the car struck the tires early in the run and turned abruptly into the guardrail. After it nosed into the wall, the car turned over on its roof and slid to a halt near the half track marker.
The ageless wonder silenced any concerns on his physical prowess inside the race car, as he reportedly climbed from the car, which was upside down mind you, under his own power. Kinzer was unhurt in the incident, but according to the NMCA’s coverage team, his crew was urging him to visit a local medical facility to get checked out. All told, Kinzer only incurred a bruised hand and some expected soreness from the impact.
And then, like a competitor half his age or more, Kinzer received clearance from a doctor and climbed right back into the saddle behind the wheel of his familiar orange Mustang and went back at it the very next day. After all, what else would you expect out of a guy who once broke his back during a hill climb event, put on a back brace, and climbed right back on the bike?
(Video credit: Free Life Films)