Robert “Bob” Burdick was born on October 26, 1936 in Omaha Neb. He began to develop his love of racing when only four years old, as he sat between his parents riding on a Harley-Davidson. Also, after going to motorcycle races to watch his uncle, Bud Burdick, in competition he knew what he wanted to do - be a racer!
Bob’s dad, Roy, owned stocks cars since 1949 with Bud doing the driving. In 1954, an International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) new model stock car race came to Omaha, and Roy entered a 1953 Dodge for Bud to drive. They won the race and $2300. This was a full time racing schedule for professional drivers with tremendous competition and this is what Bob decided he wanted to do.
In 1955, Bob and his dad built a 1955 Ford to compete in IMCA. The first race was at Hutchinson, Kan. Up to that time Bob had raced motorcycles for three years and with no other racing experience, finished third in the 200 lap race!
Bob improved as a driver and started to understand that a good handling car was the key to success. His dad built stout engines but Bob learned, if the car handled, how that horsepower could be used. He concentrated on this area and pretty soon the wins started coming. Bob won four times each of the first two years on the circuit. In 1957, Bob won 22 races with IMCA, winning at all the major state fairs. Wins rolled in from Shreveport, La.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Huron, S. D.; Oskaloosa, Iowa; Hutchinson and Topeka, Kan.; Oklahoma City; Des Moines, Iowa; Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; Minot, N. D.; Sedalia, Mo.; St. Paul, Minn.; Beaver Dam, Wis.; Lincoln, Neb.; and Muskogee, Okla. Bob was just edged for the IMCA Championship by arch rival, Johnny Beauchamp.
It was at this same time that Bob also raced weekly at Pioneer Speedway in Des Moines. Marion Robinson of Knoxville Nationals fame, was the promoter, and Bob had one of his old IMCA Fords to race there. Bob prepared his race car by beating on the body with a hammer and painting the wheels half black and half white, so it would fit in with the local competitors better. Of course there was IMCA to deal with as they frowned on their drivers running the local bullrings, so Bob assumed the identity of one Don Quinn. Quinn/Burdick started every race on the tight 1/4 mile in last and usually had the lead within three or four laps. Robinson paid Bob $200 to show up plus $800 to win, and said if it wasn’t for the money, he would have felt sorry for all those locals going up against a full factory Ford effort.
During the time that Bob ran the IMCA circuit he worked very closely with Holman & Moody, Ford’s top factory team in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). Bob and his Ford won every race on the IMCA tour at one time or another setting a bunch of track records.
At the end of the 1959 season, Bob was drafted by the Army, and racing was put on the back burner for a while. In the interim, Roy put Johnny Beauchamp in his Ford Thunderbird for a run at the new Daytona International Speedway, and nearly came away the winner of the first Daytona 500. Bob was able to use his Army leave to go racing occasionally and in his first ever NASCAR Grand National race, at Trenton, N. J., sat on the pole! In the 1959 Southern 500 at Darlington, S. C., Bob, still a rookie in NASCAR’s top division, sat on the pole with a new track record, and finished second. With his track record, Bob was Darlington’s Rookie of the Year and was inducted into the Pure Oil Record Club, which is one of the most prized awards a driver can receive.
For 1960, Roy had a brand new 1960 Ford for Bob to race in the Daytona 500. Fireball Roberts and Bob hooked up in the draft and ran away from the field, until Bob’s engine blew. Roberts went on the win the race. Bob only made a few other starts during the season, because of his obligations to the military.
Roy decided to run Pontiacs in 1961, and for the Daytona 500, Bob again had a good run going until mechanical gremlins cropped up. At Atlanta one month later, there would be no gremlin tough enough to spoil one of the biggest days in Bob’s racing career. After starting seventh in the Atlanta 500, Bob passed Marvin Panch with 43 laps left in the race and went on to record the $15,000 victory! Bob led Rex White, Ralph Earnhardt, Nelson Stacy and Ned Jarrett across the line.
Bob only entered 15 races in his NASCAR career and recorded one win, one second and one fourth, six top 10 finishes and two pole positions. He ran up front in every race, with cars that were engineered and built right in Omaha.
In the early 1960s, Bob ran supermodfieds with much success in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas for Ernie Motz of Omaha and Kettleson’s Automotive in Lincoln.
You can’t do it alone, and one of the people who helped Bob over the years was, truck driver, Bill “Bad Body” Morris. Bill and Bob changed many a motor under an Oak tree along the side of the road. In addition, Ed Sacks, John Czaja, John Narduzzol, Roy Ehlers and the real Don Quinn always tried to make the IMCA races. When the Burdicks went to NASCAR, there was Toy “The Tool” Ehlers, who was the fastest gasman in NASCAR at the time, jackman, Jim MacElroy, tireman, Ralph Koch, and pitman Rich Peers . In the supermodified ranks, Ray Killion was always there to lend a hand. And of course Bob’s dad, Roy, a 1998 Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee, and Uncle Bud, who was inducted last year. These guys were lifelong friends, who made the victories that much sweeter.