Bonneville Speed Week: The Best Deal Ever
Another Speed Week at Bonneville has come and gone. My ’65 is still on jacks and now the push begins. I had planned on having more work done but my imbroglio with the ’64 Dart I described last month has put a hold on progress. I’ve got to re-do some brake plumbing and get a fuel system in. My $100 used tranny is ready for its cleanup and the mild-street 383 we built is ready and has been for a couple of years. I know it is not nearly a race motor, but it is mine and I’m gonna use it.
Yes, these are my woes and I will not bore you further with them. This was my eleventh Speed Week and even though I have seen it many times before, I still get a bit of goosebumps when we crest the last rise in the mountains and the salt appears in its vast expanse. Like horses smelling the barn we all start driving just a bit faster in anticipation of the fun to ensue. In Wendover the buzz is palpable. The streets, normally quiet, are full of hot rods and race cars. The grocery store is mobbed with racers and fans stocking up for the days to come.
Despite any hype that has come to Speed Week it remains the last great amateur race. For the spectators it is arguably the best deal in motorsports. Spectators can hang out in the start line staging areas and see the cars up close and meet the drivers and crew members. From the start line all the way out to the four-mile marker there is room allocated for spectating, and even without the aid of binoculars the runs are plenty exciting and the sound is unforgettable. Just don’t forget to bring some sort of portable shade that is easy to tie down in case of high winds.
For the spectator or press person alike Speed Week is so cool and overwhelming that it is possible to just walk away in disbelief with plans to return again the next year. What makes it possible for you and I to keep coming back is the hard work of the BNI-SCTA staff and volunteer crew. This year was especially hard due to heavy rains that wiped out the courses just weeks before the event. The crew had laid out three courses this year to accommodate the growing number of racers and then had to go to higher ground to lay out another two so the race could go on. This sort of work sometimes went on around the clock.
Creating a race course in this environment is not an easy feat; you don’t simply lay down a black line and have at it. Timing devices, mile markers, return roads, turn out points, timing tower, and timing slip retrieval locations must all be laid out. Above and beyond all that the pits, spectator areas, fuel station, food and vendor area, impound area for record qualifiers, tech area, registration, trash dumpsters, and porta pots all need to be laid out on the salt.
This list is for sure incomplete and you can add to it the task of organizing the people needed to carry out all these jobs and then add to that a crew to organize the over 500 entrants, an emergency crew, course stewards, starting line staff, and media liaisons (thanks JoAnn and Greg Carlson!). Racing begins every day 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and the salt opens at 6 a.m. The people on the starting line crew are in the blazing sun for 12 hours! Let’s not forget the racers and their crew in line for hours to make a run under a very unforgiving sun.
All of these people work incredibly hard to make the event happen in the best possible way, and year after year it does. I’ve got eleven good years under my belt and I am looking forward to many more. This is a small thank you to all the staff and the racers who make Bonneville such a great place for us writers and photographers to capture truly inspiring material. It does not matter whether our images and words wind up in print, cyberspace, or on gallery walls, the important thing is that we are allowed to do what we do with minimal interference and I truly appreciate the opportunity. Maybe one day I’ll have a race car to go along with my camera and notebook. Time to stop typing and start wrenching.