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Driving 133 mph On A County Road In Nebraska

9/26/17

Most of us have a few crazy ideas hidden in the back of our minds, of things we wish we could do or experience but know that in real life it is not possible. This seems to be true more so today then it did when I grew up in the 1970's. Growing up in a small town we drag raced on the edge of town. As long as we did not get to crazy and used a little common sense, all was good up to a point.

The bad thing about living in a small town was that local law enforcement knew who the drag racers were, and if you pissed them off you got nailed for any small driving infraction they could come up with. It was to teach you a lesson...they called it an "attitude adjustment" which usually adjusted your checkbook.

While that seemed harsh then, I cant imagine growing up in todays world. Everything today is so by the book... the things we did growing up in my younger days would have us in jail today.

So as i am reflecting on this... a customer calls me and tells me he just got back from the Sand Hills Open Road Challenge in Arnold Nebraska. What the heck is that...I asked?

"Man you won't believe it! They block off 26 miles of local county roads and let cars run flat out as fast as they can, and they time them to see who has the fastest time. There are classes for different cars and all of the high dollar cars show up from the west and east coast! Corvettes, Vipers, GT 500 Mustangs, anything that goes seriously fast is there...."


This is the 26 mile course

"Then they do what is called a mile shootout. They block off three miles of straight highway and you have a mile to get up to speed, they measure your top speed in the next mile and you have a mile to slow down!"

"No way...not in 2016 would they let you do that! The lawyers and the insurance companies would have a field day with that one...I say!"

So he sends me to the website http://www.sorcrace.com (just copy and paste in your search engine) and I find out everything he says is true and more. The race is held in and around Arnold Nebraska which has a population of 578 people.

With no motels around for 40 miles all of the local residents open up their homes and rent out sleeping rooms to the racers. The local church groups put on pot luck dinners as fund raisers and the racers more than make it worth their while. This is too good to be true!

Just as he explained...this happens NOT on a race track, this happens on regular county roads that the farmers and the locals use the other 51 weeks a year. These roads are normally full of farm machinery and stock trailers, not high dollar racing cars, most of which happen to be street legal.

The entrants of the race all seem to agree...what is the purpose of having a fast car if you cannot drive it fast. When they come here they can drive fast and be safe. All of the cars are inspected before they are allowed to run on either course. Entrants can sign up for the road course or the mile shootout or both. The number of entrants is limited (usually around 110 entrants total all classes) and there is a waiting list. That should come as no surprise!

This has been going on since 2002. Meanwhile...back to the 133 mph speed. In the early days of the race there was an unlimited class. One entrant took that literally and brought his 700 hp Nextel Monte Carlo to town. He installed a Go Pro camera on the roll bar which was state of the art technology in 2006. While the video is not as clear as it would be today you can see and hear everything that went on in the car as he sat a course record. You can watch the video on you tube here...(just copy and paste this link in the "you tube" search box)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHZx24LcIpM

Keep in mind as you are watching this... that the guy did his homework. He knew from his research exactly how fast he could take each corner. His wife served as his navigator and had the job of yelling out his corner speed and either right or left hand corner. How many wives would be willing to ride along and not scream at the top of her lungs when he got to 190 mph on the straights?

He covered 26 miles of twisty farm roads in less than 12 minutes. His average speed was 133 mph and his top speed was 192 mph. There is no longer an unlimited class so his record will stand for eternity. That is no doubt a relief to many.

After watching the video and looking over the website I decided I had to go and check this out for myself. Turns out everything I learned about is still true. You can go and watch the cars on the 26 mile course from a high vantage point, but you have to be there before the race starts (first car leaves at 8:00 am and you can't leave until after the race, which usually gets over by 4:00 pm, so pack your lunch literally) because you drive to the vantage point on the same county roads the race cars drive on.

I drove the 26 mile course on Friday night before the race and I have to say it was eye opening. It was rough in places... the radius of some of the corners were kind of sharp... and there were combines and tractors parked in the fields next to the road to remind me where I was. The corners marked 35 mph I drove at 45 and couldn't imagine taking them at 65 or 70 mph.

All in all... it was a unique experience, and I plan to go again. If you want to go, you must plan ahead and either take a motor home so you have a place to sleep (there is a small RV park close to town) or get on the list to rent sleeping rooms which are typically reserved from a year to three years in advance.

The spirit of cooperation from all of the local citizens and local law enforcement is truly amazing. Everybody pitches in to help accommodate the racers and the racers have in turn donated back to the community.

All of the local business provide some sponsorship including the local bank, implement dealer, and gas station. The one I found most interesting was this one...no doubt a first for a seed company!
The racers have provided money to build a community center so they have a place to have their dinner and awards banquet. All of the local fire departments are now equipped with state of the art fire trucks and rescue equipment, and the racers even paid for the training on how to use the equipment. The kind of trucks and equipment you see in Custer County Nebraska is equal to what you see at a NASCAR track. In the last ten years the racers have invested over a million dollars in the community. Seems kind of strange in a county where the cows out number the people 10 to 1.

One of the strangest things to witness... is the look on the face of the first time entrant as he drives by the local sheriff at 120 mph and the Sheriff just waves. Priceless!

So I have now learned that nothing is impossible... and there are plenty of good caring folks living in the sand hills of Nebraska willing to make outsiders feel welcome. More important, they are willing to work together as a community to make the impossible happen. Kind of restores your faith in humanity.

On the way home from this event I was thinking I would have liked to be a fly on the wall when it was proposed to the city fathers in Arnold Nebraska by a group of "out of towners" to hold a car race in their community that would involve blocking off their local county roads so they could drive on them at warp speeds. I can't imagine.

And just so you know... the laws of physics still apply, even in the desolate sand hills of Nebraska.


This one rolled in a corner and landed upside down in the ditch.


Same car different view.


Car 357 experienced an end-over-end wreck during the Loup 2 Loup (Return trip back to Arnold) but both driver and navigator walked away with no reported injuries. Car...not so much!

Overall there are very few wrecks most years it is cars sliding off a corner and into a field. When you consider the speeds they are traveling and that the road surface conditions are just average, the drivers do an amazing job!


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Since 1987, Fifth Avenue owner, Randy Rundle, has been making antique, classic and special interest vehicles more reliable and fun to drive.