Dwight Lunkley "The Burning Car"

By: Dwight Lunkley


Although extremely interested in the sport of off road since his high school days, Dwight Lunkley did not get a truly full introduction to that extreme sport until meeting Bill Rigsby of Humbug Racing in February 1993. Dwight, looking to actually build a sandrail, began by helping pit Rigsby's 1600 class buggy. That rekindled a deep seeded desire to race that Dwight had been repressing since before his rodeo days and bull riding. The desire to race and run his own race car became overwhelming and in early 1994, with assistance from now friend Rigsby, Dwight assembled his own unlimited sportsman class buggy and began racing in March 1994.

On the morning of July 29,1994, after having competed in two closed course races, while on an excursion in the desert prior to the running of the "Fallon 250" desert race, tragedy struck. The Chenowth buggy that Bill Rigsby and Dwight were ridding in hit a hole, went end over end, and burst into flames. Rigsby was able to free himself from the burning wreckage but Dwight was trapped for five minutes or more until a fellow racer came along and affected a rescue. Bill was burned over 75% while Dwight's burns were estimated at 80 to 90%. In the early stages of rescue and burn treatment the consensus was that Bill would probably survive while Dwight stood virtually no chance. Sadly, Bill died two weeks after the crash. Dwight however, hung on to survive and overcome impossible odds. After the loss of his face, left arm, right hand, massive tissue and muscle damage, and added complications in his joints due to the seriousness of the burns, the experts felt it unlikely that Dwight would never be able to return home or hope to have even the semblance of a normal life. Fortunately, that's not how things worked out.

From the very first moment that Dwight became consciously aware of his condition, he began to struggle to get back his former life style, which of course would include somehow racing again. Dwight returned home in June of 95, went back to work in October of 95, began racing again with his old buggy in March of 96 (driven by friends Sid Smith and Pat Couch), acquired a class 8 truck in June of 1996 and began racing trucks. That marked the beginnings of High Desert Riders. In March of 1997 Dwight moved up to Protruck racing acquiring the a world class Ivan Stewart Ford Protruck. In April of 1999 Dennis Dugan came on board with Dwight's High Desert Riders team to help with the Protruck. The arrangement has evolved into a tight friendship and a full blown partnership between the two men. Dwight believes the partnership has brought the team to a more professional and competitive level. He is convinced that the two of them together with the dedicated efforts of their team, they will be dangerous competitors wherever they race. The Protruck and the team as it now stands represent the culmination of years of dreaming, effort, hoping, and planning. With the support and aid of his team, partner Dennis Dugan, family, friends, and numerous others; Dwight's hopes and expectations have been exceeded and the future has the potential to be even more gratifying.

Dwight was born and raised in the Sierra Nevada Mountain community of Brownsville and still lives and works in that area. He graduated fcrom Marysville high school (1969) and Yuba Community College in 1971 with honors; receiving an A.S. in Automotive Technology. After working in the automotive repair industry, building a solid honest and hard working reputation, and receiving state and national recognition for excellence, and earning a junior college teaching certificate; Dwight, opted to return to the mountains and the lumber industry for his livelihood. Since doing that in 1976, Dwight has risen from forest laborer to vital member of the management team of Soper-Wheeler Company (established in California in 1904). He is the safety coordinator, herbicide program director, company newsletter publisher, and involved in employee relations. Additionally Dwight has served for 4 years on the executive board of the California Lumberman's Accident Prevention Association (CLAPA). Currently Dwight is serving as president of that organization. Soper-Wheeler Company has, because they value the contributions he makes to their efforts, stood by Dwight through rodeo injuries in the early days and illnesses as well as the catastrophic accident that nearly claimed his life.

Dwight maintains over the years that there has been something about the mountains and the forests of Northern California that have strengthened his sprit and conditioned his mind and body; enabling him to struggle against the odds, and overcome the obstacles to not only survive but eagerly confront new and even more challenging endeavors. Protruck racing is one of those more challenging endeavors and has enabled Dwight and his team to participate in exciting and adventurous events such as the Baja 1000, Vegas to Reno, Pikes Peak, Laguna Seca and the Protruck Challenge at the Miller Smokin' Wheels in Guam. Just when you think "It just can't get any better than this!" It does.