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Speed Week opens Saturday on Utah's Salt Flats

Published August 11, 2012 11:28 pm

Conditions • Look good for large contingent of drivers.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Bonneville Salt Flats • Excellent racing conditions and a big preregistration list of drivers from around the world mean interest is high in the Southern California Timing Association's 64th annual Speed Week that opens Saturday just east of Wendover.

"It was beautiful," SCTA press officer JoAnn Carlson said this week after already being on the Salt Flats. "We have four courses set and ready and 512 pre-entries. It's big this year."

Though driver tests and set up have been under way this week, racing officially begins at 10 a.m. Saturday after opening ceremonies and a drivers meeting. The event ends Friday.

A year ago, 378 cars and 198 motorcycles ­— a total of 566 — tried to set land speed records in dozens of classes. Then, 163 records fell.

George Poteet, of Collierville, Tenn., who had the fastest streamliner time a year ago when he hit 427 miles per hour, is expected to lead an assault of drivers hoping to join the exclusive 400-mile per hour club. Poteet has been over 400 mph more than any driver in history.

Many crews and drivers come to the Salt Flats with high hopes of even approaching 500 mph, but find that conditions and the difficulty of getting their vehicles just right for an attempt stymie their efforts.

"There are a couple of fast cars that are entered that have been saying they are going to do 500 miles per hour," said Carlson. "They haven't got here yet so we'll see. There are quite a few potentially fast cars and some people don't pre-enter."

In addition to the streamliners, entries include hot rods, roadsters, belly tankers, lakesters, motorcycles and always a variety of unusual vehicles.

There are two 5-mile courses and two 3-mile courses for the drivers set up this year.

Carlson said that means racers will not have to wait in line in order to make a record run, which involves setting a time on the course and then "backing it up" with a second run.

One of the unusual aspects of the competition is that competitors do not race for cash. They hope to be entered in the club's extensive record book as holding a class record and to perhaps win a trophy.

Cost for spectators is $15 per person. They are welcome to walk through the pits, view the vehicles, purchase souvenirs and T-shirts and chat with drivers and crews as they prepare their vehicles.

The Bonneville Salt Flats are about 88 miles west of Salt Lake City. Spectators should take the Bonneville Speedway Exit —– exit No. 4 — off Interstate 80.

wharton@sltrib.comTwitter @tribtomwharton Speed Week

For more information on Speed Week, go to http://www.scta-bni.org/.