The History Behind Burris Racing
Burris Racing as the company it is today was established in 1976. The story, however, starts long before that.
As a teen, Mike Burris began racing karts in 1958 and with access to his father’s machine shop would make various parts for his own kart as things failed. As time went on, his competitors began asking if he could make the same pieces for them. So in the evenings Mike would produce the various components and sell them to support his racing.
Eventually, Mike went to work full time at Burco Manufacturing in Hawthorne, CA near the Los Angeles Airport. The Karting side of the business was a small part, but paid its own way. The bills were paid by the specialty machining and government jobs that Mike’s father Bob had relied on, but that was soon to change.
One of the items that Burco produced was clutch replacement parts for a new style oil bath designed clutch that was on the market but had some weak links. The new Burco parts made the clutch better then what was originally designed and they sold well. This lead to a complete clutch design that was marketed under the Burco name – which would become the dominant clutch throughout karting for many years.
In the early 1970’s, the combination of Mike’s growing family and escalating cost of real estate in the Los Angeles area prompted him to move to the growing suburb of Orange County. This was a common trend, and commuting from OC to Los Angeles was a real task due to the increased number of people commuting from their homes in the OC to Los Angeles. With the daily grind of spending 2-3 hrs a day commuting wearing on Mike, he and his father decided to divide the business and Mike would establish Burris Racing in a 1,500 sq ft industrial unit in Santa Ana. The initial product line consisted of pistons and rings for the McCulloch and Italian engines, Mikuni Carburetors and motor mounts.
In the early days, Mike was the book keeper, shipper, packager, janitor, sales department and anything else that needed to be done. His son Kurt would ride his bike to the shop after school and help where he could with packaging, sweeping or answering the phone until it was time to head home for dinner. Many nights, Mike would head back after dinner to continue with the work that needed to be done or to prepare for an upcoming race. It was soon apparent that Mike needed some full time help to be able to grow and build the business. Mike hired Debbie Murray to take care of many of the tasks that kept him from pursuing other ideas and she freed up his time to make those pursuits.
In the 1970’s, the popular kart tires were Carlisle Super Slicks and Goodyear Blue streaks. These were more or less industrial tires that were adapted to competition Karting. In other forms of racing there were big gains in tire technologies during that period, and Mike recognized an opportunity. He soon found Joe Jacobs who had recently started the racing division at McCreary tire and they decided that they had the capabilities to produce Kart tires and move forward. It wasn’t long after Mike had invested everything that he had into a Burris tire that Bridgestone and Dunlop appeared on the scene with their versions. The Burris tire was competitive from the start and won many major events across the country.
With the increase in politics on the sprint side of the industry and the appearance for more opportunity for growth on the Speedway Karting side, it was an easy choice of where to put the company emphasis. Burris has the largest number of tracks and series who contract with them each year to use their tires exclusively. The biggest selling point is that the tires will heat cycle multiple times and not degrade in performance which offers great value to the racer and helps the tracks in keeping the economics in check and their racers coming back. It doesn’t hurt that the tires are made in the USA either…
Today, Burris subcontracts all of the manufacturing to various vendors who make the products to the specified designs and dimensions. The products come in and are inspected and packaged before being sent out to the over 200 Burris distributors worldwide.
The business has come a long way since it began in the little industrial unit in 1976. A new, state-of-the-art 13,000 sq ft warehouse in Huntington Beach, Calif. is packed full of karting tires, wheels, oils, starters, safety equipment, mounts, Yamaha YF200 R1 engine kits and more – and the business has grown to be one of the best known names in the industry.