Hall of Famer Roger Coburn Passes




by: Phil Burgess

Roger Coburn, who along with his driving partner James Warren dominated Top Fuel racing in Southern California in the 1960s and '70s, died Nov. 25, two weeks after emergency surgery to repair a ruptured aorta. He was 78.

Coburn had come through the 12-hour surgery well and doctors at UCLA Medical Center initially were encouraged by his progress, but complications unrelated to his heart issues later arose, leading to his passing.

Wheelman Warren, tuner Coburn, and sponsor and partner Marvin Miller, hailed from Bakersfield, and had to make a three-hour tow over the San Gabriel Mountains on Highway 99 -- the famed Ridge Route -- to reach the mecca of Southern California dragstrips, which earned them the nickname "The Ridge Route Terrors." There are stories of other teams having spotters stationed at the end of the route to see which freeway the Terrors would take and what their destination might be so that the other teams could quickly head off to a different track, as far away from them as possible.

Warren originally had been a dirt track racer, and initially met the drag racing-oriented Coburn through Coburn's brother, with whom he had served in the armed forces, and in 1958 they had partnered and switched to the dragstrip with a twin-engine gas dragster. They ran in Top Fuel from 1964 through 1980, always with Coburn on wrenches, first with supercharged small-block Chevy engines then early Hemis and finally late-model Hemis. Miller owned the irrigation company Rain For Rent, which supplied Bakersfield farmers with portable water solutions, and became the team's major sponsor for years.

Warren, who was voted No. 38 on NHRA's list of Top 50 racers in 2001, was quick to credit his partner's role in his many successes. "I had a good car. We were a team for so many years that we knew what to do for each other. I knew what I needed, and Roger knew how to tune the car the way I liked to drive it. It just seemed like there was a combination there."

After a runner-up at the 1967 Nationals -- to Don Garlits, who famously shaved off his beard after winning – the team won their first of two NHRA national events the 1968 Winternationals, and also set low e.t. and top speed, 6.86 at 230 mph, in the first round. They also finished second that year in the Professional Dragster Association series behind Garlits.

Warren and Coburn were Division 7 Top Fuel champion five straight years, 1972 to 1976, and the Ridge Route Terrors were never tougher than at their hometrack, where they won the famed U.S. Fuel and Gas Championships three straight years, 1975-1977. The 1976 season was among their best. They opened with a runner-up at the Winternationals, won the Phoenix Winter Classic as one of only two cars in the fives, won an East/West race at Orange County Int'l Raceway, the U.S. Fuel and Gas title, and the Gatornationals, and finished fifth in NHRA points.

Both Warren and Coburn are members of the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame and former honorees at the California Hot Rod Reunion.

Coburn is survived by his daughter, LeeAnn, brother Larry, and sister Juanita Warren, who is married to James Warren.








2009 CHRR - Goodbye my friend.




The Warren & Coburn racing partnership lasted nearly 20 years and like any other team had their ups and downs but let there be no question that when they rolled into the pits everyone knew they were there to win. I had the pleasure of racing James many time in both front and rear engine dragsters. Incredibly they were one of the few teams I had a winning edge over. To this day James tells me how he hated to see me in the other lane and that is music to my ears as no matter what car I was driving, I was just proud to be racing them.

They were both men of few words but Roger was truely the quiet giant. Even when you got to know him a long conversation was rare. In hind sight his presence said way more than words. I was blessed to know him and his memory will be with me the rest of my days. He joins a short list of those who have passed that really effects me. Rest in peace old warrior. Don Ewald



The Ridge Route Terrors (Roger Coburn, James Warren, & Marvin Miller) were heros to all of us who follow Top Fuel racing. Not just because they ran hard and won more then their share of races, but also because they were so laid back and unassuming about their accomplishments. They were just nice people. Marvin left us a number of years ago, and now Roger is gone too. I had a soft spot for the team ever since the moment I laid eyes on their first Woody car. It was so simple, so clean, yet so bad ass fast. It seemed to reflect their personalities.

Others have mentioned the photo of Roger and James that hangs in the NHRA Museum. Ironically I was at the museum this past week and inquired about whether they had any copies of that poster still available. They did, so I bought one. I have admired that B&W Jon Asher photo since the first time I saw it years ago. It is so typical of the many nights a lot of us have spent in our garages, and it catches the essence of Roger and James so perfectly. It is too big to scan, so I have tried to shoot a photo of it so I can show it here. I hope it comes out OK.

RIP Roger and Marvin. Hang in there James.

Henry Walther



Warren-Coburn-Miller was the quintessence of California top fuel teams. They stayed together longer than just about any other team, and they ran hard at every meet they entered. What kind of sportsmen were they? At the epic '67 Nationals, W-C-M helped Garlits set up his slipper clutch before Big ran down James Warren in the first dual six-second final.

God be with, Roger.

- Chuck Turley



Losing such a giant within our sport certainly takes the edge off Thanksgiving, yet I'm thankful I got to see James and Roger, and Marvin, and the rest of the Bakersfield team race...and to have them as friends. Roger...you were as good as it gets. Vaya con Dios mi Amigo.

Steve Gibbs



Well, It gets harder each year. Has we keep losing family. Roger and his gang. James, Marvin. From Bakersfield, Were very hard racers. Won a bunch of races and make a lot of us racers look bad. These guys were so kick back at the races. you wound never believe, That they won kick ass, God Bless, God speed, To another super guy. R.I.P.

Walt Stevens



I grew up rooting for the w-c-m team all my life, I was even a crew member one time that was a thrill watching Coburn tune the motor.....rip .......Roger God Speed....Ricky



I've probably made 100 trips to California to see Top Fuel races, and one car I always enjoyed seeing (and cheered for) was W-C-M. My best love to Roger's family. Don Vanhook


Having moved here from Oregon in nov. 73 i started going to OCIR,Irwindale,Pomona,OMS early 74, I saw every one of the 6 straight James won between OCIR and the Dale I think it was 75? I'll never forget him pumping the handle for the 2 speed as he was backing up and clearing the throttle after he lit the 1st light, header fire to the wing and as cool as they get Coburn standing off to the side, these guys are my heros, I have one of Asher's photos hanging in front of me right now. I never talked to Mr. Coburn but I was honored to chat with James @ the corral @ the winters for about 20 minutes. This one made me cry, God bless all whom was close to this legend.

With deepest respects Steve Morse




If you would like to share your thoughts about Roger send them to: Roger Coburn Remembered and I will add it to this page.


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