Bob’s Knob has become a favorite place to watch cars race up Lands End

Kenny Arnett, second from right, of Delta watches the Lands End Hill Climb time trials Saturday with a group of family and friends from their vantage point on a corner below Bob’s Knob.

Craig Kendall, right, and Lori Martsolf, second from right, met Dale and Alice Smith at the Lands End Hill Climb years ago. Now the foursome meet up every year for the race, watching all the race action on the switchbacks below from a shady perch under Bob’s Knob.

Craig Kendall originally came to watch the cars race up Lands End Road.

He found more than a race.

The Grand Junction man found a favorite spot and a racing friend eight years ago.

Kendall and Lori Martsolf sit near ‘Bob’s Knob’ with former race official Dale Smith and his wife, Alice, each year.

The four were near Bob’s Knob a little more than halfway up the race course Saturday taking in another Lands End Hill Climb.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Pikes Peak but I don’t want to go that far,” Kendall said. “We came up here, had a wonderful time and came back the next year.

“We met these guys (the Smiths) up here.”

Smith has watched the Lands End Hill Climb since 1982. The last year they raced to the top of Grand Mesa was 1988. The race stopped for a few years in the early 1990s, but has returned and run a shorter course.

In 1986, the race officials gave away a Pontiac Firebird, which drew a bunch of racers and spectators.

“You can see different areas of the track,” Smith said. “When they raced to the top, if you were up on the rim, you could see about 70 percent of the course.”

Since the race was shortened, Bob’s Knob, named after one of the original hill climb racers, Bob Baughman, has become a popular spot. It is usually packed.

Kendall and Martsolf have parked a lawn chair on Bob’s Knob each year since 2003 with the Smiths.

“A lot of people haven’t heard about this,” Martsolf said. “Our friend came up here last night, been here 11 years and hasn’t heard of it. He said he’s coming back here next year.”

Ken Arnett of Delta has attended the Lands End Hill Climb for seven years. This year, he invited Jimmy Henson of Delta and Wylie Gray of Hotchkiss.

“They’ve invited me the past four years, but I was never able to make it,” Gray said. “This year, I turned everything down to come. It’s very well worth it.”

Gray was pleasantly surprised after a day of watching the cars race up the road one by one.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “I didn’t think it was anything like this. These guys said they go fast, but I didn’t think they’d go this fast.”

“He thought they would do 10-15 mph around the corner,” Arnett said. “No. They’re doing 40 or 50. When that one (super sprint) car came up this corner, everybody split.”

Arnett prefers the hill climb races over oval track or anything else.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s different than a track. What they do is totally different. I wouldn’t do that.”

Arnett has been coming for seven years and has sat in the same spot for five.

“You can see everything that comes around the corner,” Arnett said.

“The first year we just came up for the day. We didn’t know what it was all about. The next year we started camping. We’ve been camping since Friday.”

Five firemen with the Lands End Volunteer Fire Department watched the race from Bob’s Knob, but that’s because its the best spot to get up or down the road in case of an emergency.  A couple drivers slid off the road, but weren’t injured and didn’t require medical attention.

“We get to throw up our canopy far enough off the road we don’t get sprayed with rocks,” team coordinator James Wood said.

He’s seen windows shatter in personal vehicles parked a little too close to the road.

The crew saw the windows shattered in a brand new Ford pickup truck park near the road last year.

“We all enjoy it,” Wood said of watching. “For us to come up and do it, we don’t get paid, and yet we still come up and have some fun. I think it’s a blast.”

James and Wendy Earl of Colorado Springs enjoy the hill climb races so much, they work as safety officials.

James worked near the Wild Rose Campground making sure no vehicles were heading down the road as racers drove up and would send the racers down when it was clear.

“I figure I might as well hang out,” he said. “It gives me something to talk about at work.”

James has worked all of the checkpoints along the 5 1/2 mile course.

“I almost get too excited on the course,” he said. “Anywhere I can participate. I’m an adrenaline junkie.”

Wendy Earl grew up coming to the Colorado Hill Climb Association races with her dad, who has worked the CHCA events since the club started in 1971.

She wasn’t scared away from waving the checkered flag after the first time she tried it.

“I asked one of the drivers if I was standing in an OK spot,” she said. “He said, ‘I don’t know, I didn’t see you.’ “


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