Saturday, August 25, 2012

Land Speed Racing at the Salt Flats of Utah

A couple of weeks ago I did something out of the ordinary for me. I took a rare trip outside the American Mid West and went to watch racing at Speed Week at the Bonneville Speedway which is the fastest place on Earth. Actually it is just a dry lake bed of pure salt that becomes a long racetrack during late summer when the shallow water evaporates. 
My story begins as my friend Ron and I pack up my GMC suv with camping tent, coolers, and bikes and head NW about 1600 miles or more. We made the long trip in a day and a half and arrived at Wendover, UT which is only one gas station with a cafe but serves as the entrance to the racing action. Since we arrived at noon we decided to eat lunch first thing.

The food was good and the place was decorated with racing history of many years. As soon as you leave this parking lot you enter the salt flats area...
And after driving 3 miles or so in a desert type area you reach pure salt and drive your car onto it at your own risk. The salt sticks to everything and is corrosive. We were met right away by my pal Bob Klessig from Wisconsin who is a well known hot rodder and he told me to follow him.
Bob helped me get a pit pass and other info I needed and then helped us pick out a place to set up my spectator tent so we could watch the racing action.
The track consist of 4 lanes that run parallel to each other and are 6 miles long. My tent was at the 3 mile area. You could tune your car radio to the event station and listen to the track announcer and keep up with what was going on. Two of the tracks were devoted to motorcycle racing and two were used for cars and trucks. Soon a storm moved in and we fled the area and went into town for the evening. The storm passed quickly and was no threat. We pulled into the KOA campgrounds in Wendover, NV which is only 2 miles from the gas station of Wendover, UT. Like you would expect it is a casino town and that is mostly what you find there. 

Ron had a nice tent with cots and sleeping bags and we set up our camp quickly. Then we attended a bbq picnic party at the campsite that was hosted by a car club. It was fun and we met people from all over the world.

Then it was a night of visiting other campers who were mostly all racers. We even had our own "Elvis" entertainer who sang and played guitar for us and he was a racer too and was from New Mexico.

And the next morning we got to the salt before daylight to see the sun rise in this special place. And after an early morning driver's meeting the racers headed toward the starting line area. We watched the parade...

And then we rode our bicycles into the pit area for a couple of hours just looking at cars and taking it all in.

The pit area is about 3 miles long and we got tired as the sun got high and moved back to Camp PF to watch racing in the shade. Bob K came back to check on us and make sure we were doing ok.
 We had the best area to be in as it was near the fueling pit where cars would line up to get fuel and park in front of my tent which made for great photo opps...right from my lawn chair !
We put in a long day of this and then went back to camp in town. The next morning was the same. On the salt before daylight and cruising the pits on bicycles.

Then it was back to the canopy tent to sit and watch the fast cars race by at 300 MPH and one even went to 422 MPH. Watching them go by on a 6 mile track instead of a 1/4 mile drag strip was an amazing experience. And I took more photos of the cars waiting for fuel.

As you can see, the race cars are all purpose built to run on the salt and have to meet strict safety measures. The variety of cars and trucks runs the gamut of anything and everything. It can be overwhelming on your first visit. We really had a better time than we expected and met people from all over the world. It has been the highlight of the year so far and am glad I took on this big adventure. I want to thank Ron for being a good travel companion and helping share the expenses. But sadly we had to leave and come home after about 3 days here and I had my photo taken with the old sign there...
Will we return someday? Will we be driving a race car next time? Only time will tell.....


  1. Dear Mr. Poverty Flats......

    You are most definitely *Livin' the dream!!* Good on ya!!

    Mr. CuznBrucie