Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
image A racing official shows a driver where to line up for a time trial during last year’s Speed Week at Bonneville Salt Flats. The major event begins on Saturday and runs through Aug. 18.

August 8, 2017
Speed Week begins racing season on famous salt flats

Racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats will continue for the second consecutive year this week after a two-year hiatus.

Officials from the Southern California Timing Association converged on Wendover and the salt flats last Friday to get ready for Speed Week. The event begins on Saturday and will run through Friday, Aug. 18.

Major racing events on the salt flats were canceled during the summers of 2014 and 2015, and started up again last year.

“We spend a whole week getting ready,” said SCTA president Pat McDowell. “We start with nothing but salt and end up grooming three courses.”

In the past, race officials were able to set up four courses for Speed Week, but during the past two years, salt conditions have allowed for only three courses.

Courses this year include a nine-mile course with a five-mile section for timing, a three-mile course with a two-mile timed track, and a two-mile rookie course.

McDowell said 450 entries in a variety of classifications will race during Speed Week.

“We definitely will see some records set because there are about 50 different classifications,” McDowell said. “The overall top speed record for wheeled machines is around 438 mph.”

Racing machines will include hot rods, roadsters, belly tankers, lakesters, motorcycles, streamliners and diesel trucks. About 30 percent of the entries will be motorcycles.

“Some will be capable of 450 mph,” the SCTA president said.

The SCTA starts off the season with Speed Week and will conduct the World Finals to wrap up the season on Oct. 3-6.

“During World Finals, we should see even faster cars,” McDowell added.

He said the public is invited to watch the races with the price of a day pass at $20 and weekly passes at $50.

“People should be able to get a pretty good view from the starting line,” McDowell said. “We don’t allow the public to be farther down the course because of safety concerns. You’re really not able to see the whole course anyway.”

Spectators are allowed to walk through the pits, view vehicles and talk to drivers and crew members. They should bring a hat and sunglasses. There will be vendors located on the salt flats for food, refreshments, eyewear and sunscreen, according to SCTA’s website.

Detroit Diesel sponsors two diesel race trucks each year at the salt flats, and its trucks will be on display Friday at the facility located at 100 Lodestone Way in Tooele.

“The salt isn’t the way it used to be 40 years ago when courses could run for 10-12 miles, but it’s slowly getting better,” McDowell said. “The mining company out here is now starting to pump brine back on the salt flats.”

The SCTA president said this will be the 69th edition of Speed Week. “We started it back in 1949,” he said.

The SCTA holds six events each year at El Mirage dry lake bed in Southern California May through November. Racers are able to accumulate points throughout the season. Bonneville Salt Flats allows for racers to go for longer distances than they can at El Mirage.

The SCTA includes about 900 members.

After Speed Week, the season at Bonneville will continue with the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials on Aug. 26-31. World of Speed Racing is scheduled for Sept. 15-18, and the Bonneville Shootout is set for Sept. 20-24. World Finals is set for Oct. 3-6.

Mark Watson

Sports Editor at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Mark directs all editorial coverage of sports in addition to reporting on a wide range of events from high school football to international racing. He has a wealth of journalism experience, having worked for four other newspapers in the state. Mark grew up in Tooele County and graduated from Grantsville High School and Brigham Young University.

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