Go Faster – Celebrating a Record-Breaking Year at the 2020 Bonneville Speed Week

Bonneville Speed Week is a hot rodder’s paradise, rich in history and horsepower. The salt has been luring speed merchants to Utah since 1914, when Teddy Tetzlaff broke the land speed record with a top speed of 142.8mph in the “Blitzen Benz.” It’s a place where the red hat is worn with pride, signifying that you are a member of the 200mph Club. It doesn’t matter what you drove or when you did it…you are part of this fraternity for life.

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While the salt sits quiet most of the year, it comes alive each August during Speed Week, when the smell of racing fuel fills the air, racing engines echo through the pits, and drivers push the limits of man and machine to the brink, hoping they have what it takes to earn a spot in the record book. While things may have looked a little different this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, one thing was for certain: the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) took all the necessary precautions to help keep everyone safe on the salt. Masks were required and social distancing was evident as there was significantly more space between pit areas than in years past. When you think about it, the expansive Salt Flats are about as safe of venue as you could ask for during these times – wide open space, lots of fresh air, and not a building in sight for miles.

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The 72nd annual Bonneville Speed Week, held August 8-13, may go down in history as one of the most memorable, from the uncertainty of whether the event was even going to happen, to feel-good stories, to record runs and possibly a glimpse into the future. An estimated 250 cars from across the United States made their way to Bonneville once it was confirmed the race would be held. Unfortunately, COVID-19 travel restrictions kept international competitors from attending .

While the Speed Demon garnered much of the attention, setting the AA/Blown Fuel Streamliner record at 471.015mph and becoming the fastest piston-powered car on the planet with an exit speed of 481.576mph, there were also more than 80 other records set by roadsters, belly tankers, lakesters, cars, trucks and motorcycles. One of the emotional favorites was Frank Silva Jr., who was driving the Got Salt Blown Fuel Lakester that he inherited from his father. Silva, a rookie driver who had never made a run in the car, earned his license at 150mph on Saturday and by the end of the week held the class record at 353.514mph.

George poteet Speed Demon worlds fastest streamliner

Roger Hickey’s Electraliner, a Tesla-powered electric streamliner, had plenty of people talking as the car set the 2/E class record at 229.363mph, surpassing the old record by 25mph. While the majority of auto manufacturers are exploring electric power, there is definitely a lot of interest in using this new technology in racecars as we head into the future.

Competitors put countless hours and their blood, sweat, and tears into their cars for the love of the sport. What many don’t know is that there are no trophies and no money awarded here. When you race at Bonneville, you literally race for a time slip, down to the thousandth of a mile-per-hour with the hopes of earning a spot in the record book. There is only one goal for those who compete at Bonneville: go faster.

2020 Bonneville Speed Week Photo Extra!

Photos by Marc Gewertz

Growing up just miles from Fremont Drag Strip where his father both worked and raced throughout the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, Marc Gewertz was exposed to the excitement, color, and pageantry of hot rodding at an early age. During junior high, he began taking his Nikon camera to the dragstrip to capture the action and the people behind all those fast cars. With a penchant for being in the right place at the right time, he quickly developed a reputation as being one of rac­ing’s rising young photographic talents.