Carol “Bunny” Burkett, one of the most popular and successful pioneer female drag racing drivers, passed away at the age of 74 on Saturday, April 4 due to natural causes.
Burkett, who got her nickname from her brief stint as a hostess at the Playboy club in Baltimore, gained fame with her Top Alcohol Funny Car victory at the NHRA Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Dragway in 1986, which made her the first and only woman (until 2008) to win a NHRA national event Funny Car title. She also finished fourth in the NHRA Top 10 TAFC standings, trailing only Frank Manzo, Pat Austin, and Brad Anderson. 1986 proved to be a banner season in other venues for Burkett as she won the IHRA Top Alcohol Championship with national event triumphs at Darlington, Martin, and Rockingham, and the Division 2 season title with victories at the Warner Robbins, DeSoto and West Palm Beach tracks.
Burkett began racing in 1964 when her husband Mo bought her a stock 1964-1/2 Mustang, which was later replaced by a race-only 1967 Mustang that she raced in the Sportsman ranks. In 1973, Burkett began racing in Pro Stock with her Lil Cotton Bunny Ford Pinto, and then moved up to the Top Alcohol Funny Car ranks in 1976. During this period, Burkett was always interactive with the spectators and created a legion of fans with her outgoing approach and entertaining style of racing that also earned her many match race bookings.
In 1995 her career was interrupted when the car she was racing drifted into her lane causing a horrendous crash that resulted in two broken vertebrae, a broken wrist and a hairline fractured skull. After a year in recovery she returned to racing and amazingly continued to race Top Alcohol Funny Cars until the age of 70 in 2015. Her last final round appearance was at the Cecil County Raceway in 2004. Burkett won many awards for her 55 years of drag racing competition and was most recently named as a Lifetime Achievement recipient for the 2020 Holley National Hot Rod Reunion, where she will be honored posthumously.