by Ray Alexander
The Silver State Challenge is a 90-mile road rally held on Highway 318 in Nevada, which includes an “unlimited speed” class.
As usual, I went to the rookie qualifying session. The chief instructor still uses me as a bad example, the man who has been through rookie training more than anyone, because each time you get disqualified in a race you must attend rookie training before you are eligible to race again.
At my last session, I got my check ride with the chief instructor. He pleaded with me to not get disqualified again. He said, “You don’t need this, you are not getting anything out of it, it is only costing you money.”
This year, the rookie crop was good, with about 29 folks. The Mopar crop was far too small: one Viper ACR, one B5 blue SRT8 Super Bee, and a Fiat Abarth. The SRT8 was far too quiet. The Abarth was being held up by a Corvette. The license plates were from some far away states. I saw Florida, New Jersey, Indiana, and a Z car from Washington with a plate proclaiming ZEEHAW.
This is opinion, and I give it freely. In lead/follow, the student is being taught the proper line around the track. The instructors each take about six cars on track, almost always there is one student that leaves a gap. This student and the people behind him cannot see the racing line.
I have experienced one lead follow that was markedly better than any other. An instructor would take three students on track for three laps. As lap one was completed on the front straightaway the third student would pass the other two and take the position directly behind the instructor. On lap two, this was repeated. The procedure gave each student one lap directly behind the instructor.
Helen Landis secured the pole position for rookies, the same position that I had several years ago at my first qualifying session. She was driving a torch-red Corvette C5 Z06. I noted the car was fitted with a full racing interior. She said the driver’s seat was especially for her and no one else drove it. She used the car mostly for autocross. When she took the track, the instructor with the white Corvette was the lead car. She was on his butt like a cheap suit. I became so absorbed watching them that I forgot about the other students in the group. By the end of lap two, my photo showed only two cars, all others had been left in the dust.
Afterward, I commented on how well she did following the instructor. She replied, “He said stay close.”
I rushed back to Sam’s Town for registration and hopefully technical inspection. Registration moved slowly. One guy from Texas had it right, “Here we are moving at the speed of dark.”
I got number 454, same as last race. I took my packet and headed to the parking structure used by Silver State. In the past I have agonized over applying these. Today I slapped them on with reckless abandon with almost no bubbles or wrinkles. The Silver State decals do not stick as well as the others so I taped the leading edges with duct tape. Later in Ely, I loaned my tape to another competitor. He said, “You are not planning on spinning out and going backward at high speed.”
Definitely not planned for Sunday.
I put my car in the line for technical inspection. The floor is slightly elevated at the entry and most entrants allowed their cars to roll downhill rather than starting the engine. I was notified that I needed new harness belts before the next event. About 60 cars went through tech in Las Vegas.
Optima Battery has been a highly visible sponsor of this event since my starting in 2008, and the Silver State Race is a qualifying event for the Optima Battery Ultimate Street Car Challenge; just one driver-and-car is selected from this event for the Challenge. I learned was that Jimi Day, the guy with the beautiful AMX, works for Optima Battery and selects the contestants. I had watched the program multiple times, and knew the car I brought had no chance, but at home I have a 2006 Dodge Charger SRT8 with an attitude problem.
I told Jimi about the Dodge. He replied, “Send me pictures.” This year he selected two Silver State drivers. He has twenty more open spots and the event is not that far off.
Jimi’s AMX is a race-only car. However, to enhance his chances of winning the Hooker’s Choice Award, he installed a 400 pound audio system.
Many of the members of Old Fart Racing have chosen to travel to Ely on Thursday. This event saw a sizeable group that came together in Ash Springs about 130 miles from Ely. Kelly Gibbs, founder of the Hooker’s Choice event and noted speaker at the awards ceremony, has said, “Old Fart Racing could be made into a reality TV series, none of it planned and all of it true.”
Ely is a mining town and if it was dry, one trip through town provided a nice layer of whitish dust. If it was raining, you got whitish mud. This year, it rained every day except race day. In fact, it rained so hard during the parade, I closed my windows. At a coin-operated car wash, a guy pulled in with a work truck to chat with some of the racers. His exhaust was almost plugged with mud, but he wasn’t washing it just yet. The open pit mine a Ruth was being worked on Saturday. Copper, silver and gold prices must be high.
At the car show a guy came up to me and asked, “Are you Ray Alexander?”
A quick mental scan of my recent activities revealed nothing shady, so I answered, “Yes.”
He went on, “I am Rob Bearden, and I want to thank you for putting me and my ’71 Barracuda in your article. I have had more fun with that than you can imagine. My old tires were laid over on the sidewall pretty badly in the picture. I have also referred many people to the Allpar web site.”
While we were talking, Jimi Day came up and wanted to trade him a new Optima Battery and a charger for his current battery. Rob had the oldest Optima Battery in a large demographic area. Rob agreed. After Jimi left, Rob’s wife complained, “You just traded a known good battery for a new one that will fail.” The old battery will be put on Optima’s Power Wall and be displayed at SEMA this year.
Rob’s car has never been repainted and most of the interior is original. The car show judges awarded it “Most Coveted Car.” I heard it as it left for the starting grid, and it sounded mean. Rob successfully asked for the number 340, to match his engine. Meanwhile, Robert and Ray Leier showed up in a 2011 Dodge Charger R/T with number 426. These cars finished 5th and 6th in class.
Stan Sutton salted the 105 class. His daughter, Jennifer, navigating in a 2011 E63 Mercedes, was the winning car. It was piloted by Martin Sullivan. Stan navigated for his son, Michael, in a ’95 BMW 540i and they took fourth. Caren Sutton and Nooshin McFaull were eighth in an ’87 Ferrari 328 GTS. Jimi Day and Saroja Raman ran the AMC AMX to fifth place in the 120 Class.
John and Tom Ciancitto are brothers, running a 1965 Nash Rambler; last race, they ran out of fuel three miles from the finish. This race, the car quit so close to the start they were able to walk back. Next race I hope they get to experience the entire length of the course. John said, “The car quit as if it had been shot.”
Ken Steffan ran a ’72 Dodge Charger to third place in the 145 class. Lirel Holt and David Webster, in a 2009 Dodge Viper, ran fourth in this class, and Ted Hlokoff and Tim Anglin in a 2001 Viper managed to get disqualified. Lirel let me down terribly, he promised to use the Madam of the Stardust as his navigator, but he showed up with David. David has a classic Corvette convertible with a roll bar installed by Clay Hansen. Lirel then promised to take the Madam in May, but he is not going to do that either. I am going to take my wife’s gear and if she can fit in it, I’ll take her.
Rob Ferretti is a funny guy, much of it at the expense of his navigator, Dani Nardi. He was afraid she would stab him in his sleep. He certainly earned it, but showed up unharmed in the starting grid. He drove a 2009 Dodge Viper in the 150 class.
Steve Waldman, founder of this event, drives a ’97 Dodge Viper. He is there just for a Sunday drive.
My race went well until I got the car up to speed and then discovered I couldn’t hear my course notes. I didn’t have a single written checkpoint. My new plan is to record them to a CD and play them on the car audio.
The guy who catered the finish line had broken his arm. No food equaled no reason to stay. I noticed a white Hyundai that made a quick trip through Ash Springs and followed him for several miles. Behind me was a white Porsche, which could be Fred Wagner. I prepared to pass when the Hyundai suddenly increased speed. These three cars stayed together until US 93 joined I-15. I was back in Las Vegas earlier than I had ever been after a race.
At the awards ceremony, I confirmed that the white Porsche was Fred Wagner. I had also heard his car leave for the starting grid and it sounded like no other Porsche I had heard. It cackled at low rpm, maybe like a witch would sound. Fred told me he had taken the mufflers off. What kind of man takes the mufflers off a twin turbo Porsche? One who races with Old Fart Racing, that’s who.
See the first segment: Silver State Challenge, 2008 • 2012 • 2010 • 2009
More Articles by Ray Alexander
More Mopar Car and Truck News
Dodge Demon hints... • 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT HELLCAT widebody... • 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner.