Speed Week: Fastest, slowest record-setters meet on the Salt Flats
Bonneville Salt Flats• As the 63rd annual Speed Week wound down Thursday afternoon, the car drivers with the fastest and slowest times met for a photo session on the sparkling white surface.
George Poteet, a 63-year-old Memphis driver who has passed the 400 miles per hour mark more than any man in history, posed with the Hot Rod Magazine trophy given to the driver with the fastest run. The trophy was set on top of his Speed Demon streamliner that hit 427 miles per hour this week.
One of the photographers taking his photo was Hot Rod Magazine editor David Freiburger who set a record in his 1980 Camaro earlier in the week by going 32.419 miles per hour.
In between those speeds, numerous motorcycle and car-class records were set during the annual event.
As of noon Thursday, Southern California Timing Association official Mike Stewart, who has been working this event since 1967, had recorded 54 car records and 39 motorcycle marks in an event that drew over 500 entrants.
Poteet, who won the fastest car trophy for the third-straight year, was one of 12 inductees into the SCTA's new 400-mile-per-hour club, an elite group including Craig Breedlove, Art Arfons, Gary Gabelich, Richard Noble and Utahn Don Vesco. The charter members met Wednesday in nearby Wendover.
He couldn't back up the 416.5 mile per hour average time he hit in the C Blown Fuel Streamliner Class this week, but did shatter the old record with a 391 mile per hour time, the fastest two-run time of the week.
Poteet guesses that he has gone over 400 miles per hour between 12 and 15 times in his life.
"It feels pretty good, though it's a little bumpy," said the legendary driver, who has driven as fast as 436 miles per hour. "It's a good ride. When you run between 375 and 400 miles, it smooths out."
Poteet has been coming out to the Salt Flats for 20 years, setting is first record at 118 miles per hour.
"History talks to you," he said when asked why he keeps coming back.
Freiburger was at the other end of the spectrum. He and partner Keith Turk came to Bonneville with an 1,100 horsepower Camaro, an engine that blew up on the first day. They didn't want to just sit so they started searching for a record they might break and came across an open altered class for two-piston engines. Since only two pistons were left, the car qualified.
The record lasted for about a day.
"We pulled the engine apart and found the one and six pistons were still good," said Turk. "That was a perfect alignment for each other, so we ran on two cylinders."
The problem was that the car starter wouldn't work so, for the record run, Turk had to push-start Freiburger ,who was driving, to get the car to even fire.
"We showed up to go 260 and our engine blew up on the first day," said Freiburger. "We made the best of it. ...We're not good spectators."
The 32 mile per hour mark was the slowest recorded during the week. One record in the 350 cc motorcycle class was set with a time of 15.851 miles per hour.
One happy Utah group of drivers represented Youngblood Hot Rods of Davis County. Chris Cologna, Blaine Spendlove and J.D. Youngblood all managed to set records as rookie drivers in a 1932 Roadster competing in the H/STR class. Youngblood recorded the top speed of 123.025, shattering a record of 106.296 set in 2001.
Speed Week, the biggest event on the Salt Flats each year, ends Friday when drivers who have qualified try to make second "record runs," But many crews were breaking down their portable garages and leaving the Salt Flats. There were far fewer spectators and drivers on the course Thursday than earlier in the week.
Even more speed
Speed Week isn't the last event on the Salt Flats this year. Other events scheduled this year include:
Aug. 28-Sept. 2 • The BUB International Motorcycle Speed Trials
Sept. 15-18 • The World of Speed
Sept. 20-26 • The Cook Motorsports FIA-FIM Speed Trials
Oct. 6-9 • World finals
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