For the second time in the last eight years Bonneville Speed Week was canceled due to heavy rains. The event was also called off in 2014. Prior to the day of the event all reports were that the salt was well groomed and in excellent shape. However, a thunderstorm on Friday night led to an announcement that racing would be delayed from Saturday until Monday. Another, larger storm, on Saturday night led to the salt flats being covered with water from two inches to a foot deep. A scene more suited for hydroplane racing than for car racing. The salt flats are part of the great basin. There are no rivers or streams that eventually flow into the ocean. All of the water runs into the basin and sits there until it evaporates. This is a slow process. On Monday, the official announcement came that all racing for the week was canceled. The only chance that we had to get out on the salt was when we hitched a ride with Lee Kennedy, the Chief Tech for the Southern California Timing Association, the body that runs the event. We had met Lee at the Nugget car show and he had offered us a ride down the track. He followed through and we accompanied him as he retrieved some of the Southern California Timing Association equipment from the flooded area. Our only view of the race vehicles was sitting on trailers in the parking lot or on trailers being towed off the slat through the flood waters. This was a major disappointment for the three guys in my group who had just driven 700 miles to see cars capable of nearing 500 Miles per hour.
Just because racing was canceled, there were still things to do and sights to see. A day trip down to Ely to visit the train museum and ride the old steam engine was well worth the time. And the nightly car show at the Nugget Casino was the main attraction. The show occurs in the parking lot at the Nugget nightly throughout the week. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the best nights by far. Attendance tends to wain as the week goes on and racers start to head home along with the spectators. This show is different than most. There are no classes and no awards. What there are is a lot of cars that you rarely see elsewhere. Early hot rods are in heavy attendance along with rat rod types of vehicles Creativity is the name of the game. Where else are you going to see a fifty seven Chevy hood used as a trunk lid on an early pickup bed? Where else will you see a twin engine roadster, each engine with twin turbos? It is clear that most of the cars are home builds and the only limitations are the owner’s imaginations.
The first time I attended this show they had cocktail waitresses roaming throughout the show vending drinks. This no longer occurs, but there is a bar set up in the parking lot (the heat and all you know). The really fun thing is the friendliness of everyone. The car owners, racers and spectators mixing freely. It is also fun to meet people, not only from around the United States, but from around the world. New Zealanders and Australians are usually present in numbers. They have a strong car culture of their own and love to venture to the salt flats.
Even with no racing it is an event that should not be missed.
By: Terry Thompson