Russ Wicks Breaks the World Fastest Stock Car Record Going 222 Miles Per Hour
Entering the Bonneville Speedway off I-80, just over an hour outside of Salt Lake City is like leaving the earth and heading to the moon. The landscape is surreal - barren and white with mountain peaks in the distance. The crunch of the salt as you drive over the flats is feels like driving in snow. It sounded the same, felt the same and looked the same. As we headed the 3 miles to the security checkpoint we weren't sure there was anything out there but then glimmering in the distance was a small group of vehicles.
As we got closer we could pick out the transfer trailer truck that hauls the car and the assorted trucks you need on site for an event of this size. A pit area was set up along side the trucks - equipment and tools, tarps to provide shade and of course - the Autodesk stock car.
The car itself is a Taurus V8 with 800 horsepower and a 4 speed transmission.
When my colleagues arrived on July 3rd the engineers and crew pit were really busy all day, prepping the car - working on the engine and strategizing with Russ. After each run, in which the goal was to edge closer to the record, the crew cleaned the piles of salt out of the engine block, from the wheel wells and the tires.
You can't believe the heat out there on the course. It's blazing and coming down on the white salt it's blinding. As Russ preps for the car he puts on his fire suit which protects him if the car were to catch on fire, fire shoes and wraps fire protection around his neck before putting his helmet on. With 110 degree heat on the Salt Flats it's got to be 130 in the car with all his gear on. Inside the car there are four cameras that are capturing all the action inside and outside as he hurtles down the track. The track itself is nine miles long and marked in one mile segments to make it easy for the timers to verify the record. Mike Cook is the official time keeper on site - he's the Chairman of Bonneville Nationals Inc.
Before daylight on the crew gathered to start prep for the day. The engineers were on site along with crew pit and the camera crew was getting into position for all the shots. News station camera crews started gathering around 9am along with media who had been on site for two days watching the activities. Leslie Gordon from Machine Design was there as was a freelance journalist from Popular Mechanics and daily print media. Leslie was blogging about her experience on site with the American Challenge and Autodesk team.
The lead up to the record run was intense. Tons of activity around the car and Russ - getting him prepped - physically and mentally. You can really feel the tension. A big truck gets the car started down the track by pushing a back row bar and then Russ pops the engine into gear and you can hear the car but pretty soon, you can't see him - he's gone. You can hear his communication with the team crackling on the radios all around the pit and then the long wait for Mike Cook to call the official time. And it is official - by early afternoon, it's confirmed that Russ Wicks has broken the world Stock Car speed record and now holds the world's fastest stock car speed record at 222 miles per hour. The crew is screaming and congratulating each other. Months and months of works have been just been rewarded. The talented engineers and the motor sport professionals who help make up the American Challenge team got to see their own fireworks on the July 4th weekend at the Salt Flats and Autodesk is proud to be part of the team.