Updated: Mar 16, 2021
Arkansas Motorsports Magazine recently talked with Melvin Burris of Russellville, Arkansas about his dirt track racing career. Burris who raced several different classes throughout the years is probably best known in Arkansas for the time he spent behind the wheel of inline six-cylinder stock cars.
"The six-cylinder class was a really competitive class not just here in the Yell, Pope County area, but across the state. It wasn't uncommon to start over thirty-five cars in a race at Centerville."
"It was close to the start of the racing season one year back in the nineteen seventies and I got a call from a man in Heber Springs, Arkansas who wanted to know if I wanted to sell my car. I had a pretty good season with the car the year before and he had heard about it. I agreed to sell him the car and then after delivering the car he and his sponsors asked me if I would be interested in driving for them. Their driver had been transferred to Virginia because of his work. They were business people and told me they just wanted the advertising from the car, and offered me all the winnings if I would drive for them. I made a deal with them and spent that season racing up at the tracks around Heber Springs and Batesville."
"Because of the location up there, there was a young man, who was not very old. Just a young teenager who was racing six cylinders in that area. His name turned out to be Mark Martin. I didn't know much about him at first. One thing I did learn pretty quick was that he could drive a race car."
"His pit crew in those days was Bob Ellis who is now builds racing engines in Batesville, and Larry Shaw." Burris laughs as he says, "I guess you can say he had pretty good help."
"The thing about Mark Martin was, he was a good race car driver. I could run with him when the track was muddy. And may have beat him a few times in some heat races. But when the track was dried out, like for the feature race I couldn't stay up with him. He would run off and leave everybody."
As Burris continued to reflect, "I don't know if back then that we had any idea Mark was going to end up in NASCAR someday. But what we did know, was that if he kept driving stock cars he was going to win a lot of races somewhere."