Willard Kinzer knows the exact location of his personal fountain of youth.
The 84-year old drag racer says it’s between the small population Kentucky towns of Pikesville and Paintsville, and somewhere in the vicinity of Prestonville.
And, as long as he’s drag racing, he’s not sharing the secret of the fountain and how it is also his secret of speed.
The admitted late-bloomer races in the National Muscle Car Association’s Super Street division where he drives his turbocharged 3,100 pound Mustang on 10.5-inch tread width tires to 6.74-seconds at over 228-miles per hour.
Age is a meaningless number to Kinzer, except to point out he’s lived another wonderful year of being blessed with good health and family. Ask him if he feels 84 and he’ll pose the question, “How is an 84 year old supposed to feel?”
When prodded further for how he feels, he’ll smile and offer, “Not a day over 60.”
Kinzer, in his own estimation, is like the deserted island resident who lives each day without knowing the time, the day, the month or the year.
“I don’t know how you determine what age you feel,” said Kinzer, as he dined on one of wife Lucy’s bologna salad sandwiches, a staple of his feel young diet.
“I guess if I was born on a deserted island and my parents had passed, if you never left and never had contact with anyone, you’d have a hard time determining how old you were. I guess under those kinds of circumstances, I might feel about 60. There’s no doubt God has really blessed me, there’s no two ways about it.”
In many senses, Kinzer believes God made him one those late bloomers with a tendency to be successful.
When sons Terry and Jerry took up AMA motorcycle hill climbing the elder Kinzer accompanied his kids for moral support. However, when Terry, now 65, suffered an accident and broke his arm so badly he couldn’t return, Kinzer [then age 47] took his son’s place on the team. Kinzer ended up winning an AMA amateur championship before turning professional and adding three championships. He eventually retired from motorcycles at 56.
Twenty-three years later at 79, he took up another thrill-seeking sport – championship drag racing. And the car he drives, it’s a challenging proposition to say the least. How does he train for the rigorous demands of wrestling the sometimes volatile doorslammer into the groove?
“I work six days a week … in the office at 6:45 AM,” said Kinzer. “I usually leave about 4:15 to 4:30. Occupying your mind and keeping active is important. I usually walk about two miles daily, too.”
Inspiring others means more than winning to Kinzer, who is a U.S. Navy veteran. He served during World War II in the Pacific theater.
“People tell me I’m an inspiration quite a bit,” added Kinzer.
The experience he loves to tell the most occurred at a drag strip which is located an hour-and-a-half from his home at Mt. Park Dragway.
“I had been putting down some pretty good runs and this fella came up to me, he told me about how he loved drag racing and had to quit because he got too old. I asked him how old he was and he told me he was 58. I was 81 years old at the time of the conversation. He told me he was going home to get his car back out.”
The only regret Kinzer admits in his youthful adventures is Lucy, now 83, hasn’t been able to experience the same youthful exuberance. Lately she’s felt the effects of arthritis and a month ago suffered a broken arm.
Through it all, she supports her husband’s efforts.
“She don’t care what I do,” admitted Smith.
This is not to say she isn’t proud of him.
Who wouldn’t be proud of an 84 year old drag racer who is scratching off bucket list items with the same efficiency of his race car covering the quarter-mile.
His most recent bucket list elimination was in winning a revered Wally trophy. When the NMCA absorbed the NHRA Unleashed Series, one of the perks was the permission to reward its winners with the iconic trophy.
Kinzer won the Super Street division at the NMCA Musclecar Nationals in Bradenton, Fla.
And now, there are just two more bucket list items left, but he’s sure he’ll come up with more somewhere down the line.
“I want to see the pyramids in Egypt and run 200 miles per hour in Bristol,” Kinzer said with a smile. “The people at Bristol always treat me right but just can’t get the track prep right for me to pull it off. One day I will slip in and get it done.”
And when he gets the momentous 200 in Bristol he’ll likely cut cartwheels in the shutdown area.
This is one of the perks of his fountain in Kentucky.
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