Bob Burcham: Remembering the Bullet from Rossville, GA


Thereafter

Three legends go at it.  Burcham (7) trails Jack Ingram (11) and Butch Lindley (16) at Nashville.

Three legends go at it. Burcham (7) trails Jack Ingram (11) and Butch Lindley (16) at Nashville.

Bob has been married to Jean since 1955. They married in Knoxville where their daughter Vicky Jean was born in 1958.  Today she is married and works in personnel at the local hospital.  Bob and Jean also have a son, Bobby Wayne Jr., who came into the world after they moved to Chattanooga in 1960.  Since retiring from racing, Bob works in the real estate business in Chattanooga.

“I would buy these old houses and fix them up to rent or resell, whichever seemed more profitable,” Bob said. “It’s been good to me.”

The Falstaff Beer Twin 50s at Smokey Mountain Raceway had two winners in 1971, Freddy Fryar (left) and Bob Burcham (right).

The Falstaff Beer Twin 50s at Smokey Mountain Raceway had two winners in 1971, Freddy Fryar (left) and Bob Burcham (right).

“My parents were probably my biggest fans,” he said.  “My sister and her husband never really liked racing at all.  My brother Joe raced for several years in the Chattanooga area.  He was a good driver and I never really knew why he quit racing.  He is still in the car business in Chattanooga.  When dad retired, Joe took over Burcham Motors.  He sold the Mercedes portion of the dealership and dropped the Jaguar, but still sells used cars.”

Bob met a lot of people while racing.  When asked which driver was the roughest, Bob did not even hesitate.

“Tiny Lund and I liked him,” he said.  “He was a good guy, but when he got close to you, he’d hit you.  Bob Leach and Don Tomberlin were the toughest of the guys I drove against at Macon.  Tomberlin knew the track as well as anyone.  Lamar Brown (builder/owner/operator of Middle Georgia Raceway) was a real good gentleman even though he ran the whiskey still.  He treated everybody fairly, as did Don Namon at Smoky Mountain Raceway.  He was a great promoter.”

“I had some great guys help me all those years,” Bob added.  “Hoyle ‘Hoss’ Jackson was one and Floyd Travis was another.  Hoss died this spring (2006), but Floyd still works for DuPont.”

Burcham drove this Ford Torino around the early seventies at the Daytona Permatex race (which later became the NASCAR Nationwide series).  This is the same car African-American racer Randy Bethea knocked Darrell Waltrip off the pole with in a Late Model Sportsman event at Nashville in 1973.

Burcham drove this Ford Torino around the early seventies at the Daytona Permatex race (which later became the NASCAR Nationwide series). This is the same car African-American racer Randy Bethea knocked Darrell Waltrip off the pole with in a Late Model Sportsman event at Nashville in 1973.

Bob Burcham became ‘Bullet’ Bob Burcham because it rhymed for the newspapers and because of his uncanny ability to capture poles.  Bob never though, unless necessary, shot out to try to lead a race.  Interviewed in April of 1968, he said, “I’ve been on the pole in every race I’ve been to this year.  I kinda just let them go when the race starts if some of ‘em are running too hard.  I never have any particular strategy.  I just take things as they come along during the race.”

Burcham’s ability as a race driver was a proven entity. ‘Silver Bullet’ probably would have been a truer headline.  The late Bill Gazaway, GARHOFA member and former head director of NASCAR, had nothing but good things to say about him.

Bob Burcham in 2006, the time this article was written.

Bob Burcham in 2006, the time this article was written.

“You want to do a story, go do one on Bob Burcham,” Gazaway told us a couple of years ago.  “If Bob Burcham had ever gotten involved with a factory team, they could have rolled up the carpet.  Very independent, no nonsense driver and the best I watched go around an oval.  He reminded me of David Pearson.

“Like Pearson, Bob is a quiet man.  He did all his talking on the track.”

I don’t think we could have said it better.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the December 2006 edition of the Pioneer Pages magazine.  Bob Burcham passed away on Friday, April 10, 2009 at the age of 73.  In June of 2009, he was announced as an inductee into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame for 2009.  He will be formally inducted at the Hall of Fame banquet on October 23, 2009.

Mike Bell is the CEO and historian for the Georgia Auto Racing Hall of Fame Association, Inc. (GARHOFA).

Please continue on for a look at some items from Bob Burcham’s scrapbook.

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