Drag racing for the public is going fast
Jul 30, 2018 03:12PM
● By Greg James
West Valley resident Kate James pulls her Hellcat towards the line to run the quarter-mile at Rocky Mountain Raceway. (Greg James/City Journals)
By Greg James | [email protected]
As Gordy Yates and Dominick Mirabelli pull their equally prepared Mustangs to the line a hush fell over the crowd of coworkers. The much ballyhooed race amongst the employees of a local body shop was about to take place. The excitement demonstrated that the drag racing experience at Rocky Mountain Raceway had achieved its goal.
Yates staged his car and Mirabelli inched forward. As the tree of lights counted down to green Yates jumped the gun and his red light illuminated, for months they had debated who would win and their bets had been exchanged. It was over in a split second.
“The people who come have so much fun. The DRE (drag racing experience) is something most people never get the chance to do,” Rocky Mountain Raceway Experience Director Curt Stewart said. “We have company parties, public events and even family parties right here on the race track.”
The racing experiences began eight years ago under the direction of food and beverage manager Doug Binstock. The first year in operation they held only two events.
“At that time we did not have cars of our own, so we rented four cars and put them on the track for the night. Then returned them the next day,” Stewart said.
The track now owns a pair of four performance cars; in partnership with The Young Automotive Group. They include Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaros, Dodge Hellcat Chargers and Dodge Hellcat Challengers.
“One time a group came out and this old cowboy came up to me. He said I never drive over 55. There is no way I am going that fast. We got him in the car and gave him the instruction. His first pass was not too bad. By the end of the night he was in the 100 mile per hour range and screaming and hollering every time he got out of the car,” Stewart said.
The experience can be set up as a private team building experience with as few as 20 drivers and as many as 60. The race track has designed competitions and challenges for everyone. It costs around $200 a person and can include a catered dinner or lunch.
“We had Mountainland Supply out here. They had lunch and did a sprinkler demo for their customers. When they finished we got them on the track for some side-by-side racing,” Stewart said.
Stewart said the cost of maintaining the race cars is insignificant to the team bonding and smiles he sees from participants.
The cars are thoroughly checked over regularly. Brakes and oil changes are the most significant repairs needed.
“The tires hold up really well. Thinking about it they get good usage a quarter mile at a time,” Stewart said.
On one racing evening Stewart gave the ride of a lifetime to young boy, Sean Johnson. He is handicapped and loves cars. His father Brian lifted him into the Camaro and helped strap him in. Stewart, a RMR drag racing instructor, made a pass on the strip at over 114 mph. Brian said it was awesome and his son loved it.
“We love doing this and trying to pass along the excitement of racing to our fans,” Binstock said.
Rocky Mountain Raceway is closing at the end of this racing season. They still have several slots of open public and private experiences available. Each racer must be 18 and have a current driver's license. The participants are shown an instructional video and allowed to ask questions.
The racing experience is modeled after several similar programs around the country. At Las Vegas Motor Speedway they host the Richard Petty Driving Experience on the oval.