2022 Speed Week – Rain, not racing, Dominates the Salt Flats
The 2022 Speed Week event came and went without a single record being broken. The pits were packed with race cars, tech inspection was underway, and racing fans from California to New York had made their way to Utah and the Bonneville salt flats for the 74th running of Bonneville Speed Week until Mother Nature washed it out with a rainstorm that no one saw coming.
On Friday, the teams had prepped their race cars for their first shot down the track on Saturday morning, but later that afternoon the skies turned dark, the winds picked up, and as night fell, it began to rain. After surveying the salt early on Saturday morning, the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) sent out a notice that said, “Rained off and on all night — 1/2 inch of water on track and pits. Weather looks promising.” Later that afternoon the SCTA canceled racing for Sunday but again was hopeful the salt would dry out overnight.
At first many were optimistic that racing could start on Monday or Tuesday once the water receded. But it was not to be. Another shower on Saturday night flooded the salt, and Sunday morning nearly 12 inches of standing water covered the race course. Later that afternoon the SCTA posted the message on their social media pages that everyone in town was dreading: “Due to unforeseen weather conditions 2022 Speed Week is officially canceled.”
As the race teams tried to figure out how to get their rigs off the salt, hot rodders returned to their hotels to make new plans of their own. The Nugget Casino, the site of the nightly car show in nearby Wendover during Speed Week, was abuzz with people making plans for the next few days.
While a few decided to leave town early, most wanted to make the best of a bad situation and enjoy some time with their hot rodding brethren. Groups of cars left the Nugget parking lot throughout the day, heading out to cruise the open roads. Some drove around the backside of the mountain range above the salt flats to get an aerial look over the flooded lakebed. The Rolling Bones drove 130 miles to Ely, Nevada, to check out the Nevada Northern Railway Museum while others opted for a short five-minute drive over to the historic Wendover Airfield Museum.
Each afternoon the hot rods returned to the Nugget, where everyone discussed the day’s adventures, sharing stories and a cold beer with friends new and old and always willing to lend a helping hand if someone’s car had a problem.
The number of hot rods in the casino parking lots dwindled each day as the week progressed. By Wednesday morning only a handful remained, each with their own story to tell. The hot rodding world is a tight-knit group and they will all tell you there is nothing quite like Bonneville. While they didn’t get to see any racing this year, those who attended Speed Week in 2022 will still have memories that will last a lifetime.
Photos by Marc Gewertz