Racers do whatever it takes to complete their trek

Spenser Steele flies around a corner at the Land’s End Hill Climb



By ALLEN GEMAEHLICH
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Circumstances rarely matter.

Race car drivers will race in nearly every imaginable situation.

Two extreme cases took place Sunday afternoon at the annual Lands End Hill Climb on Grand Mesa.

Randy and Cottin Rodd raced up the three-quarter mile dirt road just minutes after Randy was run over by a rock racer buggy while he was trying to help Cottin back their buggy out of the pit area.

“I dislocated my (right) knee,” Randy Rodd said. “As soon as (the tire) rubbed my fire suit, it sucked me in.

“I told her if you’re not 100 percent about it, we won’t do it, but I’m fine. I’ve been hurt my whole life. I still race BMX bikes.”

The 40-year-old received immediate medical attention by paramedics before he was cleared.

He refused to blame the other driver, who was trying to back out of his pit area as well.

“If he didn’t have his helmet on, he could’ve heard,” Rodd said. “By rule, he had to be strapped in and couldn’t see or hear.”

With Cottin Rodd driving, they were able to complete their final run in the rock race class, but didn’t place in the top five and failed to qualify for the King of the Hammers race in February.

Butch Hardman might have made his second run if his championship series car wasn’t damaged. The veteran driver rolled three times down the embankment near Bob’s Knob and was able to walk away, race director Valerie Douglas said.

Spencer Steele had to drive all the way back home Saturday to Denver to get a rare part for his open wheel sprint car so he could race Sunday.

“I’m not going to tell you how long it took me,” Steele said. “(Law enforcement) might want to come and discuss something with me.

“When I made it to Idaho Springs, I thought, ‘Oh crap, I’ve got to turn around and go back.’

This is what racers do, crazy (things) like that.”

Steele was not only able to race Sunday, he took first in the open wheel class with a time of 4 minutes, 45.31 seconds.

Leonard Vahsholtz nearly went as fast in his 2002 Ford Explorer to win his 99th career hill climb race, including an exhibition event. He surpassed his previous competition truck class course record in 4:56.76.

“I really believe if and when I get 100, I won’t race anymore,” he said. “If I do it before Lands End next year, I probably won’t be back.”

The Woodland Park native has raced Colorado Hill Climb Association events and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb since 1976.

He had one of four Lands End course records set Sunday.

The others were Dusty McNeil with a time of 4:57.69 in the championship series class, John Conley and Keith Rudolph in the Rally Car two-wheel drive class (5:30.76) and J.T. Taylor and Matt Thompson, who established the rock racers class record in the first official Lands End Hill Climb rock racers event.

They posted a time of 5:29.19, but they had already qualified for the King of the Hammers race because they are one of the original 13 rock race class teams.

The second through sixth place finishers qualified for the 90-mile race.

The other qualifiers were Brian Shirley, Ray Mandel, Peter Wells, the team of Roger and Brad Lovell and Shirley’s son, Levi Shirley, who grabbed the last qualifying spot.

“It’s a good opportunity for me,” Levi Shirley said. “I’m more than happy. I was fighting car troubles all weekend. I thank God every day for the opportunities I have. Not every 17-year-old kid gets to come out and play.”


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