My first year at Pikes Peak as a competitor was 2004.  I was a amateur quad racer, in a field littered with state and national champions, as well as three previous Pikes Peak winners.  I was only let into the race after a nearly two hour interview with race officials who finally determined that; even though I had limited racing experience on an ATV, my drag racing and dirt-track experience, as well as that interview, had led them to believe that I wouldn’t be a danger to myself or others on my way to the summit.  In the end, the best thing I could say about that race week in 2004 was that I wasn’t a danger to myself or others on my way to the summit.  I had work to do, and I knew it.  Regardless of my mediocre performance, I was bitten by the fat, juicy racing bug that is Pikes Peak.  Over the next several years I got as close to the podium as fourth in Pro Quad and knew it was time to get back into a car.  Which I did.  Even got a second place trophy in Time Attack in 2010.  Not bad, I thought, for a chubby project manager who gets all of three or four days a year in the driver seat.  As many of you know, last year we popped a motor just a mile from the summit, which signaled the end of the P-I Pink car.  It was tired and time to be retired.  So for that and other reasons I sat on the sidelines this year, opting to play photographer slash reporter at the only race that’s ever really mattered to me.

Normal Business Hours at Pikes Peak.
Normal Business Hours at Pikes Peak.

And wow…What an incredible way to spend a day!  Watching all the riders and drivers, many of whom I am privileged enough to call friends, leave the starting line.  And me enjoying a day of relatively low stress not having to be behind the wheel…It sucked.  And I don’t mean it was kind of a bummer, to not be competing and standing on the summit on race day…it sucked in the most painful way.  It was the worst.  I quickly sank into a self-loathing “What the hell am I doing here?” mood that lasted until I finally dragged my dumb tail, back to my hotel late that night.  I still have a little after-taste of “I hate myself” lingering on the taste bud,s way back in the deep recesses of my pallet.

To my racing friends: I do not recommend spending race day anywhere other than right where you were – planted firmly in the driver’s seat, peering out of the tight cocoon of steel and glass and hurdling yourself up the now fully paved road, towards the summit.  We truly are the lucky few, who have been fortunate enough to compete in this race.  My recommendation to all of you, if you’ll allow me, is this: effect the change you can, tolerate the BS you can’t change, and if you do decide to retire from it, don’t ever be stupid enough, as I certainly was, to think you can just go watch it.  See you kids back on the Hill in 2014.  I’ll be looking out at you from inside the comfy confines of Pink-II.

ANYWAY…where was I?  Oh, yeah.  Here are some of my favorite shots from my Pikes Peak 2012.

Truly my favorite driver on the hill, Paul Dallenbach.  Paul would frighten all of us going off the road at turn three after his throttle stuck wide open.  Propelling him into the woods at over 120mph.  Paul was ok, but his open wheeled, twin turbocharged beast would not fare so well.  I look forward to seeing you back in the drivers seat in 2013, Paul!

These two smiling faces would both leave less than satisfied.  Dumas lost the overall by mere hundredth’s of a second, and Monster would be forced to retire just a few turns in after a fire in his EV smoked up his cockpit.

Monster and Dumas
Monster “EV” Tajima and Romain Dumas

Ken Gushi is no stranger to going fast sideways; and as it turns out, he’s a pretty talented grip driver as well.  Hopefully we’ll see Ken back on the hill in 2013.

Ken Gushi
Wickedly talented driver Ken Gushi is ready to drive.

After a year away, super smooth ATV pro Jim Goertz was back on the hill seeking his second win.  He would come up short, but knowing Jim he’ll be back with more innovation and more speed.

Jim Goertz
Jim Goertz

1205cc Champion and new overall Motorcycle record holder Carlin Dunne.  Relax – Focus – Ride.

Carlin Dunne
Carlin Dunne

Veteran Super Stock driver, Layne Schrantz waiting and watching as his father Randy gets ready to leave the line.

Layne Schrantz
Layne Schrantz

New Record holder in the Exhibition class, Rick Knoop.

Mr. Knoop.

Patiently waiting as the competitors change to rain tires.

Waiting patiently…

See it…Do it.  Gary Trachy visualizing his record run.

Gary Trachy
Gary Trachy

Our intrepid leader, Greg Tracy.  Greg would finish just seconds behind Carlin Dunne in the 1205 class.

Greg Trachy
Greg Trachy

The new “King of the Hill”, Mr. Ryhs Millen.  Rhys’ priority for the last several years has been to restore the family name to it’s rightful place alongside the best time ever on Pikes Peak.  This year, Rhys had everything working right and when the dust had cleared, he had, in fact, set a new overall record.  What’s amazing, is that he didn’t do this in his Unlimited Car, but rather his Hyundai Genesis Coupe drift car!  Amazing work by his crew to transform the car from super slip to super grip and put Rhys on top of the podium.  Now that Rhys has announced his split from Hyundai, we are all anxious to see what the “free agent” will do next year.

Rhys might be my favorite driver to shoot before a race.  I have photos of him before running at Global Rallycross, Formula Drift, as well as Pikes Peak.  He really does have one of the best “game faces” in the racing world.

Rhys Millen
King of the Hill

The weather on the starting line couldn’t have been better.

Picture perfect weather
Picture perfect weather

Stand clear…much work is about to be done.

The Office.
Rhys Millen at home, relaxing in his easiest chair.

Credit to Rhys’ crew for all of their hard work.

Rhys’ crew getting their driver up to the line. From there, it’s up to him.

Rhys all smiles after a narrow victory.

The King
You’d be happy too if you did what he just did.

Monster staging.  Although this year didn’t go as planned for monster, new beginnings are rarely without difficulty.  Remember, Monster didn’t get the overall record his first year on the hill.  And going from fossil fuel to electric must be just like starting over.

EV Monster
Monster in EV motion. The mountain will never be the same.

There were a lot of things we may prefer to forget about this year’s race.  But for each one of them, there is an equally incredible bit that we’ll hope to hold onto forever.  For me, the pinnacle was seeing Travis Tollett back behind the wheel of his own race vehicle.  Right where he belongs.  He proved to every doubter in the joint, that not only can he successfully make the summit without hurting himself or others along the way, but he’s going to be darned competitive in the process.  Anxious to see what the racing gods have in store for Travis next.

Tollett and history go hand-in-hand in 2012

And with that, friends, I will say goodbye.  There will be more stories told about this race over the coming months.  Stay tuned…Ken Stouffer.