Pikes Peak is an incredible race. Drivers, riders and spectators alike know that the race is a race against mother nature. That mountain has a personality and it’s mood on race day determines what happens on the results list. One of the most incredible pieces of this race in my mind is that a team can show up with a minimal budget and they can challenge the same time, the same class and the same record as the biggest name teams. What other race can you challenge a family like the Unsers or the Millens? What other race can you race in a class that Mario Andretti raced in? This is a race that offers you one chance a year to drive the whole course as well! A driver can go a whole lifetime and run the mountain in total as many times as they can run a normal track in an afternoon!
The lower budget teams have always intrigued me the most. Teams that have little support and do this 100% for the passion of the race. I have spent time with the Kerns, Spencer Steel, Jimmy Olson and many other drivers from the event and I get to see what they are going through during race week. Check out the Kerns last year. With catastrophic engine issues cropping up only a few weeks before race day we welded the last bits on his new exhaust the day of tech. Day one of practice more engine issues with a full engine swap and partial rebuild that night they were back for Thursday practice with more issues, another full night at the shop and I sent Dave a text in the morning to see where he was and the exchange just showed how much he and Allison were determined to make the race. At this point I can assure you that he hadn’t slept more than a few hours in at least 4 days and I know that he wore me out the week before with the late nights in the garage.
Jimmy and Spencer are fierce competitors in any form of racing that they participate in. They will also do anything for you as a competitor on the mountain. You can see Spencer rolling up to the start line in a car that has color matched duct tape to hold it together. You can see them both in the pits with an open trailer and a small team. Each race is a race that they made happen, building the car in their garage, late into the night. Each problem they have they stay up and they fix themselves with their small team but without the support of a big crew that is going to just let their driver get some sleep for the big day…
When you don’t attend the race, you don’t always get to see all these guys like you get to see the big names. I love the stories of all the smaller teams that get there. It is always just fascinating to see what people are willing to put themselves through in order to race this race. In the end Spencer won the open wheel class. His time of 10:53.1 was good enough for the 3rd fastest time on the mountain that day! Jimmy finished 3rd in Open wheel with a short in his wiring that made his engine cut through half the left turns! Last year I had a chance to put some cameras on some of their cars. Specifically cameras went onto Jimmy and Spencer’s cars on practice and race days and I threw together video actually a little too fast the week following the race but man it is incredible to follow along!