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The purpose of the burnout is to heat the tires up. Drag slicks really didn't hit the scene until the 60's. So, I would say somewhere around then. They used to, in the 70's, put bleech down, back the rear tires into it, then light it on fire, and do the burn out in it. That was before line locs. Anyway, those fire burn outs were awesome to watch.

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Q: When did they start doing burn outs in drag racing?
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