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Speed Week: Teams hoping to hit 500-miles-per-hour mark

Published August 8, 2014 4:52 pm

Auto racing • As many as 10 entries look to break barrier.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Southern California Timing Association will be celebrating a Century of Speed on the Bonneville Salt Flats when the 66th annual Speed Week opens Saturday on the Bonneville Salt Flats 15 minutes east of Wendover.

The seven-day event has already seen a record 544 pre-entries, including as many as 10 cars with the capability of breaking the elusive 500-miles-per-hour mark, something that has never been done by a piston-driven wheeled vehicle.

"We've got between a half dozen to 10 teams saying they are going after it," said JoAnn Carlson, press liaison for the SCTA, which organizes the annual event that brings drivers from all over the world attempting to set land speed records on four courses in dozens of different classifications. "That is more than normal. We've got some cars knocking on the door."

Two Utah groups, led by Rick Vesco of Rockville and Nish Racing in Salt Lake City, have the capability of reaching the elusive 500-mile-per-hour mark. George Poteet and Ron Main's Speed Demon, which has been the fastest car on the salt in recent years, is expected to compete, as is Challenger II, run by Danny Thompson, son of legendary Salt Flats racer Mickey Thompson.

The Vescos will be bringing Turbinator II to the Salt Flats. The original Turbinator set the fastest time ever recorded on the Top Speed Hot Rod Trophy of 459.021 miles per hour, and holds the current FIA World Wheel Driven Record of 458.481 that is the speed to beat for the fastest cars on the salt.

The Vescos said they and driver Dave Spangler hope to win the Hot Rod Magazine trophy for being the fastest car on the salt in 2014, the year that marks 100 years since the first races were held on the large expanse of white salt in Utah's West Desert. Their ultimate goal is to become the first over 500 miles per hour in a wheel driven car.

Scott Andrews, SCTA President and Chief Timer, has been monitoring conditions and the weather at Bonneville and, though rain has created a few puddles, conditions are expected to be good.

"Warm weather and light winds will help to dry the race courses," he wrote in the most recent report. "There has been sporadic rain … but nothing significant and the courses are holding up well."

The SCTA has brought a new course conditioner (which is a commercial grade wheel packer) to the salt and using it to groom courses since last Saturday.

According to Carlson, entries vary from the four-wheeled streamliners with potential speeds of over 400 miles per hours to motorcycles barely capable of reaching 50 miles per hour.

"Each vehicle is unique and represents the hot rod spirit of the event," said Carlson.

"Every one of them hopes to establish an official SCTA Bonneville record in the multitude of classes available.

To reach the event, spectators take the Bonneville Speedway Exit off Interstate 80 east of Wendover and follow the paved road to the event. They will need to drive across the Salt Flats to reach the pit area and viewing spots along the course.

Entry to the area is controlled. Day passes cost $20 and weekly passes cost $50. Food, drinks, racing equipment and sunglasses as well as branded merchandise are available.

The SCTA is 76 years old and is the oldest running land speed organization in the world. It is run by volunteers.

For information and updates, log on to http://www.scta-bni.org.

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribtomwharton