Friends convince Nowlin to race at hill climb

Paul Dallenbach, blue car, makes a run up the Land Ends Hill Climb on Sunday while fans watch far enough from the track to avoid being sprayed with gravel. Richard Nowlin, inset, drives his 3,000-pound off-road race car.

Larry Thompson and Mike Magee know Richard Nowlin is an auto racing junkie.

Knowing that, it wasn’t difficult to coax Nowlin into trying hill climb racing.

“Why not?” Nowlin said rhetorically when asked why he decided to race his off-road car in the Lands End Hill Climb on Saturday and Sunday. “I gave into peer pressure ... And overcame the wife’s objections. She was a wreck until I made the first run (Saturday).”

The Whitewater man has drag raced at the Western Colorado Dragway for years. Two years ago, he started competing in off-road races across the desert.

“I’m used to be in it for 300 miles instead of five,” Nowlin said. “The adrenaline of trying to be wide open through a corner knowing it’s straight down on the other side ... gets you a little going.”

He recently took first place in the 100-mile Colin Morin Memorial Cup in the Unlimited Class and third overall a couple weeks ago at the Colorado Off-Road Extreme Park in Deer Trail.

Some of the off-road races Nowlin competes in are 300 miles. He usually has a co-driver with him. Sometimes, it’s his 14-year-old son, Caleb.

“I’m used to the course being wide open with whoops, silt beds, sand washes and rough rocks on a flat road,” Nowlin said.

The 3,000-pound off-road race car has a V6 5-speed transmission with 37-inch tires. It has rear-wheel drive with GPS navigation, a fresh-air system to eliminate breathing in dust and a fresh drinking water system that feeds through a tube into the driver’s helmet.

Nowlin put 32-inch tires on the back of his off-road car, but kept the 37-inch tires on the front for Saturday’s preliminary runs. He went with 32-inch tires on the front and back on Sunday. He also made an adjustment to the shocks Sunday.

“I was a little conservative, but as a racer, you always want a faster time,” Nowlin said. “From (Saturday) to the first run (Sunday) I shaved 22 seconds off. After making five runs I still don’t know the corners yet.”

Nowlin’s first run Sunday of 6 minutes 15.74 seconds was his best time of the weekend. He blew a tire on his second and final run but still finished. He competed in the open wheel class.

“I got a lot more RPM out of it,” Nowlin said. “In the desert we’re going across the flats in the wide open and high speed. With a small motor it doesn’t have enough torque to get it going that fast. We had to go to a smaller tire on it in order to keep the motor and higher RPM.”

Nowlin’s vehicle is geared to hit 127 mph in the off-road races. He hit 82 mph Sunday on the hill climb.

A radar gun was located on the back end of a long straight-away about a mile from the finish line.

Open-wheel car driver Spencer Steele had the fastest recorded speed of 100 mph, but that wasn’t fast enough for him.

“I think I should’ve been faster,” Steele said with a wry smile. “I must have taken that corner into it a little wrong. I’d like another try now.”

Steele took first place in the open wheel class with the fastest time of the weekend in 5:02.65. Open-wheel runner-up Todd Cook won the Super Sprint class in 5:13.02.

Magee beat Thompson for the Sportsman Class title. Magee’s best time was 5:34.38. Thompson’s was 5:41.28.

Justin Schumacher won the first-ever motorcycle class in 5:57.60. That was the only record set this year.

Fellow motorcycle racer Tom Williams had several broken bones in his hand wrist and shoulder from a crash Saturday, but was expected to be released Sunday, according to the other motorcycle racers, who spoke to his wife.


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