Kinzer admits, he’s always had a need for speed. That push to go fast led him to turn the 221.85 miles per hour in the Twin Turbo Ford Mustang.
“I’ve always loved speed,” Kinzer confided. “Speed has always been my weakness all of my life. When I get old, I’m gonna slow down.”
For now, there’s no slowing down for the hard-charging Kinzer. He also competes in area burnout competitions in Prestonsburg and Pikeville. This Saturday, area burnout competition and muscle car fans can catch Kinzer and some of his cars at the Riverfill area in downtown Pikeville. The event in downtown Pikeville is scheduled to get underway at 5 p.m.
Kinzer will make a short trip to the Mountain Arts Center on July 2 for the next Prestonsburg-hosted burnout competition.
Drag racing, however, continues to keep the 83-year-old Kinzer busy. While the Mustang is currently undergoing maintenance in Pennsylvania, Kinzer is already anxiously anticipating the chance to get behind the wheel of one of his cars during another upcoming event. Kinzer is due to return to his home track, Bristol Motor Dragway, June 30. A legend at the track dubbed Thunder Valley, Kinzer continuously takes on challenges from competitors half his age and younger. They all want to beat the “Old Man” or the “Man in Black” as many have named him.
Kinzer will compete in another NHRA Unleashed series event later in the season. In addition to traveling to Egypt, another item on Kinzer’s bucket list is winning a “Wally” – a trophy named after Wallace Gordon “Wally” Parks, founder of the NHRA. Winning an NHRA event ensures a racer of capturing a “Wally” – one of drag racing’s most coveted prizes. Kinzer came within 1/100th of a second if claiming a “Wally” during his stint in Tulsa.
Kent Rose, along with others, accompanied Kinzer on the trip to the Tulsa track. Rose was in attendance as a friend. A former drag racing champion himself, Rose lent a helping hand, or hands, as Kinzer raced to surpass the 200 miles per hour milestone.
Most of Kinzer’s drag cars are black. His racing gear is black. It’s a safe bet that the Mustang could be painted black.
“In the pits, you’ll hear them saying – ‘that’s that old man out there’ and you know, they all want to beat the old man,” Rose said. “We’re getting together and supporting this man. My main goal is to keep this man safe.”
Rose was amazed to see the stoic Kinzer after he registered the 221.85 miles per hour time.
“Willard stood there strong in his black suit,” Rose added. “I had to run up and hug him. It was amazing.”
Two of Kinzer’s other drag cars are a Corvette and a Cobalt. Both of the Chevrolets are black. The Cobalt is supercharged. The Corvette, like the Mustang, is a twin turbo.
Prior to drag racing, Kinzer competed in hillclimbing. Kinzer began hillclimbing in the 1970s after his sons, Terry and Jerry, competed in the sport. The highly-competitive Kinzer captured his first AMA title at age 50. In all, Kinzer claimed three goal medals. He retired from the sport of hillclimbing in 1984.
Drag racers of all ages view Kinzer as both an inspiration and a role model.
“In the pits, Willard always takes time for everyone and he guides them, whether its the younger kids or the adults,” Rose confided. He’s very inspirational.”
Hillclimbing and drag racing are two much different sports and Willard Kinzer has been able to thrive in both, three decades apart. He has no plans to stop drag racing any time soon.
The inaugural Hillbilly Arm Drop Drags have been scheduled for Sept. 2 at Combs Airport in Hagerhill. A group, including Rose and several other area residents, formed to get access to the facility for the one-day event. Kinzer is supporting the inaugural drag racing event.
An ambassador to the sport of drag racing, Kinzer is quick to give advice to fellow competitors or anyone who seeks his guidance.
“Put your trust in God; treat your fellow man like you would want to be treated; work hard and try to prosper; and share with your fellow man, church and schools,” Kinzer exclaimed.