Speed! That's what they came here for. How they get it is a secret known only to driver and crew. But there is no end. There are ways of getting more. On this natural highway with no speed limits, there is never too much.
A driver can fine tune an engine, and if that doesn't do it try a new cam, a bigger blower, hotter plugs or a richer fuel mixture. Tires can make a difference. So, too, do smooth lines and a waxed-down body.At 200 or 300 miles per hour, a few miles more is hardly noticeable, but can be very rewarding. It can mean the difference between just another run and a record. And, while records are nice, it's speed they want.
Al Teague, San Gabriel, Calif., the fastest man ever to run during 40 years of Bonneville Speed Week, and who went over 370 mph this week during qualifying, has an eye on 400.
Rick Vesco of Brigham City has spent four years and a lot of money for one thing - to break Bob Summers' 409.27 record set away from Speed Week back in 1965. Vesco tested the car this week for a record attempt in September.
Frances Stark, 17, on her very first record attempt this week, became a record holder on Monday, broke the record on Tuesday, again on Wednesday and a fourth time on Thursday - 119.7 mph. She sees 140 mph as a reachable goal.
Between the three Fergusons - Don Sr, Don Jr. and Don III - they hold 24 records. Number 24 came at first light Wednesday when Don Jr. drove his X-fuel roadster 37 mph over the old record of 170. An hour later the three were working on engine parts off a makeshift workbench off the bumper of their truck to get more speed out of the engine next run.
Even the very fastest of racers are lured to the salt for more. Don "Big Daddy" Garlits, the king of drag racing, holder of more than 100 drag records, the first drag racer to go over 250 mph in a quarter mile - a record that stood so long officials were talking of erasing it and start over - came to the salt for the first time this year.
An unusual goal for Garlits, considering it was common for him to make runs over 260 mph on a drag strip, was to make it into the salt flat's prestigious 200 MPH Club. He did it on Wednesday with a run of 203.7. He also wanted to set a record, which he did Monday and again on Thursday. And even though both sports involve racing and speed, he said there was really no comparison.
"Running here is so overwhelming. I get chills just thinking about it. I like speed. It was better in the early days of drag racing. You'd be in a car for at least 19 seconds, but then it got down to 10, then nine, then six . . . here the runs last for minutes not seconds. You can enjoy it that much more. You can drive here," he added.
Teague admitted that it's difficult to tell just how fast he's going.
"You see the tach(ometer) going up, and see the cones on the side of the track flying by. You can tell the difference between 200 and 300, but not so much 350 and 360.
"I don't know that it's been proven, but I feel my body slow down to compensate for the speed. Things seem to be going in slow motion. Most of your attention, though, is on keeping the car going straight. When it's over you get a good feeling knowing you went as fast as you did. Then you go to work to see what you can do to go faster.
"People talk to me about 400. Sure, I'd like it, but I'm not going to rush it. I'll get there, but I'll take it as it comes. I don't want to make any mistakes."
It has been proven, that drivers can be very innovative when record runs are on the line. When the four-cylinder engine in Pat Volk's seized, his father, Larry, and Jeff Nish simply took an eight cylinder and made it into a four.
As Nish explained, the engine will run on cylinders 1 and 4 on the left bank, 6 and 7 on the right, "with counter weights where there are no pistons."
After 30 years, several dozen records, five that still stand, Vesco thought it was time to retire the old car and bring out a new one. For four years he's been working on the new car. The headers alone, he said, took over 140 hours to design, bend and weld.
The car has two tandem 355 cubic inch Chevrolet engines with single four-barrel carburetors, and it runs on regular gas - "I wanted something that was dependable," he said. While the car is still in the testing stages, he's confident it will break Summers standing record. For his record run, Summers' car was powered by four Chrysler engines.
The driving started on Sunday and ran through the week with qualifying in the afternoon and record runs in the morning. According to officials, more than 300 cars tried for land speed records. Through the week, there were nearly three dozen new records added to the record books.
After record runs early this morning, drivers and crews will load their cars and head home, and begin the process of thinking up new way of getting more miles added to the top end.