Dragway shootout: Racers vie for unique prize

STEVE STEWART OF GRAND JUNCTION sits in his Twister, an original Volkswagen with a Porsche Speedster body. Stewart raced Saturday in the Volkswagen Mania at the Western Colorado Dragway.



Mark Backes of Parachute displays the Gunslinger Shootout title.



Dean Sayler decided this was the year to go all out and race with the big boys.

The Grand Junction man invested in some electronics to run in his 1987 Dodge Daytona and drag race in the Super Pro Class for the first time.

“The car responds to the computer different and we’ve had a funny year with the weather,” Sayler said. “When I was running pro, I didn’t have a probably dialing in the car. This year, with the electronics, I am

“The car is all right. If the driver does his job, the car will do his. The driver’s got to do his job first.”

Sayler, though, had some luck Saturday, reaching the finals of the new Gunslinger Shootout event at the Western Colorado Dragway. He raced Joy Cozzette of Grand Junction.

They shared the stage with the annual Volkswagen Mania.

Twenty-one Volkswagen drivers raced this year, including Steve Stewart in his altered Volkswagen with a Porsche Speedster body.

The Foreign Aid automotive repair owner has owned the vehicle for 25 years and raced it for 20. He won the 2011 Volkswagen Quick 8 race three weeks ago at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison.

“There are a lot of grudge matches going on,” Stewart said. “It’s all in the reaction time.”

The Shootout is an event for the dragway classes (Super Pro, Pro ET and Sportsman). The eight drivers with the best reaction times in three qualifying runs competed in the event for a prize, but the prize wasn’t revealed until after the winner was determined Saturday night.

Mark Backes, the owner of Rocky Mountain Pumpers, Parachute NAPA Auto Parts and ME2 Firearms sponsored the race and provided the prize, two Heritage Rough Rider .22-caliber pistols in a case.

“I asked them if they were interested,” Backes said. “It’s something I’d like to promote. That’s why we’re doing it. Not too many racers do racing sponsorship like this.”

“We’re up here to have fun and to promote firearms. I think everybody needs one.”

Sayler and other drivers were excited to race in a new event and for a mystery prize.

“It’s something to do to recognize the racers if you have a good day,” Sayler said. “It may not be my day or it might be. That’s the chance you take. If it’s your day, you smile and go along with it. If it’s someone else, you shake their hand.”

Sean Richardson of Grand Junction and Darwyn Cline of Dolores qualified for the Gunslinger Shootout with the best reaction time of .001 second. The rest of the qualifiers had a reaction time of .012 second or better.

Richardson, 40, had no idea about the Gunslinger Shootout when he arrived at the dragway Saturday and qualified on his first of three runs with his .001 reaction time in his 1923 Altered Ford Model T with a Chevrolet engine.

“I figured I might as well go for it,” Richardson said. “It’s nice to see racers giving back to us. It gives us an opportunity to win something different.”

Backes competed, but didn’t reach the elimination round.

The second-year driver is going through some growing pains in his 1969 Chevy Chevelle.

“I’m learning quick,” Backes said. “I have a lot of friends help me out. That’s why I like this track. Everyone is friendly. Everybody wants to be safe.”

He received third-degree burns from a static electricity fire building the Chevelle. When he first raced the car, he turned it sideways, but was able to keep it on the track.

“It’s not about the winning, it’s all about the good time,” he said. “I’d rather have the plaque than the check. I couldn’t believe I did this when I was 20. I’m in position to do this now.”


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