Its natural and I think we all know that. You get your first bicycle as a kid and run outside to meet up with the other neighborhood kids and the first thing you hear from your buddy is “I bet I’m faster than you on my bike!”. You can’t help yourself but make an imaginary line in the road, “On 3 we go!”. 1, 2, GO! And you dart down the street with a smile on your face. Its natural and every gearhead knows it. The need for speed is in the blood and we all want to know who can go the fastest. This is where the Bonneville Salt Flats brings childhood nature and nurtures it into true landspeed motorsport.
Racing at Bonneville began in 1914 and hasn’t stopped since. In terms of tradition and history in the form of racing there is no better example. This is where you do it. This is where you take your hard work and see what it will do. I’ve been drawn to that idea since a very young age and this year (2022) I was finally going to experience it and all its glory! Or so I thought…
Finally get to go!
As someone who loves traditional Hotrods and Customs, Bonneville has been a dream of mine since the age of 13 or 14. I grew up around the culture of cool cars and motorsports of all different kinds. Around stock car racing and drag racing my whole life, Bonneville was something that came to me naturally. I started to search out the cars that ran on the salt through out the years as a hobby. I never dove to deep into the rules and regulations but just admired landspeed racing from a distance thinking I would never get the chance to see it in person. When Jerry said we were going this year I was beyond excited. I was finally going to see it and experience this piece of racing history. We make the trek out to Wendover Utah from our home here in Atlanta Georgia.
Now we all seen the weather reports but what I come to learn was that weather is the kryptonite of landspeed racing and is always on everyone’s mind come this time of year. Friday August 5th, we had reports of light rain throughout the day. We think “No problem, the sun and heat out here will dry this up without issue for Saturday”. Our flight lands in Salt Lake City and the sky is looking menacing… I wasn’t even running down the salt and I felt the stress coming over me. But no worries, it wasn’t even raining but occasionally a drizzle would come down and stop after a few minutes. We pick up our rental car and RV then head towards Wendover.
The drive there had more of the same. Strong winds and in the distance, you see a giant dark cloud swallowing the mountains. Still no heavy rain, its going to go right over the salt. On the bright side im already seeing the effects of speed week. A small block chevy powered 3 window coupe blows right by us on the highway. In that moment I needed that. Seeing that hotrod and knowing he was heading to the same place we are gave me some hope despite the weather threat that we will see some racing.
Finally, we reach Bonneville. The signs are every ½ mile it seemed like, and I probably have pictures of every one of them. You can tell I was excited. We stop at the Sinclair on the corner and another hotrod pulls out from the parking lot. I see the lights in the distance and hear the roar of engines over the sound of rain hitting the steel roof of the gas station. We made it, I finally made it.
Lessons at the Bend
Like I said we rented an RV, and the plan was to camp at what they call “The Bend in the Road”. The Bend is literally what it sounds like. A bend in the road leading to the actual salt that gets raced on. This sounded awesome. I can step right out of the RV at night and see the stars in the sky or greet the salt first thing in the morning. I’m stoked on this idea. We drive off the bend and into the salt mixture there, probably head a ¼ mile back in the camp area to get a good spot where you can see everything in the round. Now the ground here isn’t like the salt on the track. Its salt but with what we were told is a mix of gypsum and other things. We notice that its obviously wet but not soaked, the ground was still solid. This looked like an awesome place to camp. We setup and hangout for a couple hours before deciding to turn in for the night.
As my head hit the pillow, the on off drizzle we experienced all day turned to full on rain. And it rained all night… I woke up early as you do when you’re excited for an event, and what do I see out my window? Standing water all the way up to the road. I’ve never been to Bonneville before, but something told me this isn’t the best news. An hour or so goes by and we are all up and watching our new neighbors try their best to make it out of this mud pit. The ground was no longer the solid surface we had parked on. The best example I can give for the consistency of the ground at this time was soaked Georgia clay. It was a whole different level of slick and we knew we were in trouble and basically confined to the RV. After hours of sitting and waiting we decided to call in some reinforcements. John Levie, the driver of the fastest streamline side car motorcycle, brings his 4×4 Ford Truck out to save the day. Now if I’m honest with you, watching him drive out to where we were wasn’t a promising sight to see but he managed to not only tow our rental car and RV out of there, but he went back for another gentlemen who traveled all the way from Japan to run his motorcycle on the salt. This just shows you the temperament of everyone out there. At the end of the day, we all are here for the love of this culture. Check out these pictures from this mud bog extravaganza.
The Nugget Casino
At this point the SCTA obviously called the event for Saturday and Sunday with hopes to run on Monday or Tuesday after the salt dries out. So, you might be asking what else do you do at Bonneville if you can’t watch the racing? Well on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday leading up to Speed Week there is a car show at The Nugget Casino. Now for me this is literally heaven. I love anything pre 65 and have a special place in my heart for traditional hotrods and customs. I was taking pictures nonstop with my Pentax 35mm film camera as well as on my phone. Even embracing my car nerd side and crawling on the ground to get the right shots and check out the build quality of these cars. People were probably looking at me like I was crazy but man I can’t help it. I truly love this stuff, so this was a good time despite the weather and lack of racing. Check out some of the rods from the show!
The End of Speed Week 2022
At the time of me writing this you probably already know what happens next but let me paint you a little picture…
(Fade in) The Nugget Casino – Wendover, NV.
It was a cool evening.
Jerry and I were standing next to this beautiful Nova prepped for drag and drive events talking with a past customer of ours.
Enjoying our conversation, a cold drop hits the top of my balding head. (Hey, I’m young but genetics aren’t on my side in the hair department!) I immediately look at Jerry and Ben, we communicate with no words and simultaneously look up at the sky to see this dark black cloud slowly moving in. I think we all knew what this meant but we really didn’t want to say it out loud.
Just a quick look across the parking lot you can see everyone scattering for cover and checking the weather apps on their phones, but it only took a second to get the real time weather report… The sky opens-up like a water park ride and the rain comes down with a vengeance. Ben and I took off and went inside The Nugget to stay dry. Everyone we spoke with while we huddled in the lobby said, “oh this is going to blow by, and we will be racing by Tuesday!”. We didn’t really know what to think judging by the fact that we were just dragged out of the bend due to it being flooded earlier that day. We decided to stay optimistic for the time being.
John Levie reaches out to us and told us to meet him for dinner across the street at Montego Bay. Now our first clue to the anti-climactic ending of our trip should have been the waves and wakes of water in the parking lot at The Nugget, but it took John dropping the truth bomb on us over dinner (way to catch us while we are fat and happy!) that he was certain they are cancelling the event. Now you must trust John’s word since he is a long-time driver and record holder at the salt. He was so sure he even told us he would be heading home in the morning. We enjoyed our dinner and moved on with our night.
Sunday morning, we got the official news. It was over, and Speed Week 2022 has been cancelled. A bitter pill to swallow for me as it was my first time out and I wanted nothing more than to see some racing. But man, I made some killer memories regardless of the outcome, realized I love the salt, and I cannot wait to take my son out there for him to experience it as well! Maybe one day ill get to drive and shoot for a record myself! A big thank you to Jerry Hoffmann and everyone at DIYAutoTune for making a lifelong dream of mine a reality. It might not have gone to plan but I still get to say I’ve been to Bonneville, The Fastest Place On Earth!
Well, this concludes my tale of Speed Week 2022. I hope you enjoyed the read and ill see you guys on the salt.
(Fade To Black) I’m a professional…