Matt Rawlins
March 1, 2000

Step By Step

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As mentioned before, the turnout was unbelievably huge. More than 200 cars made it to the ’99 race. Team Mustang, headed up by Russell Truex, had 23 Mustangs entered. Of course, Team Mustang took home the First-Place trophy for the second time in 1999, beating the likes of Team Porsche, Viper, Pantera, and Vegas ’Vettes. The show ’n’ shine was held on Saturday morning at the local high school’s football field. Team Mustang’s menacing appearance took center stage on the field’s 50-yard line. This also gave the officials a chance to walk around and finish teching the cars that needed to be checked for safety equipment.
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Here is Project Silver State en route to the city of Ely, Nevada, where the race entrants meet for the weekend and gather to show off their cars. There were some thunderstorms on the way to Ely, which is about 220 miles north of Las Vegas, so a stop was in order to put on the windshield wipers.
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On Thursday morning all Silver State firsttimers were required to attend a driving school class, followed by some on-the-course driving at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
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It was the most successful Silver State race in its 10-year history, bringing out 212 entrants, with more than 50 percent of them being rookies.
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While the rookies were running their hot laps, the boys at the nearby Shelby headquarters brought out their newest car in the Shelby lineup. It caught much attention from everyone including the General Lee’s favorite driver himself. Hey John, quit drooling, it’s not a Dodge.
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The fields of cars were let out in order, starting with the 150-mph class, then the 145-, 140-, and so on all the way down to the 95-mph class. As soon as the last car finished the 90-mile course, the bad boys were let go in one-minute intervals starting with the Unlimited class and followed by the 165- and 160-mph classes.
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Once the 95-mph class completes the course, the Unlimited class is about to be let go at the starting line, some 90 miles away. We’re not kidding when we tell you it doesn’t take long for these guys to show up at the finish line. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t allowed within a mile of the actual finish line because of safety issues. These car are streaming down the highway at more than 200 mph, and if one were to lose control, you don’t want to be anywhere near it. One of the first cars to come down the highway was Chuck Shafer in his ’93 Chrysler LeBaron, which broke the land speed record with an average speed of 197.99 mph and a top speed of 223 mph! It took this car about 20 minutes to go from start to finish. Wow! John Buscema and his ’97 Cobra came in Fourth Place, making a great showing for a car that still has a stock crank. His run averaged 168.10 mph and hit a top speed of 195 mph. Look for a feature on this car in an upcoming issue.
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Race day dawned at 4 a.m. Sunday. All entrants were summoned to meet at a local truck stop for final head counts and racing fuel fill-ups. Project Silver State was in peak form—numbers on and ready to do battle against Nevada’s infamous Highway 305.
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A gathering of all the rookies took place after the race to give out the plaques and congratulations. Silly string was also part of the finale. Later that evening, at the Showboat Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, awards were presented to the First-, Second- and Third-Place finishers in each class. Along with the presentations, there was a delicious dinner for all race participants.
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Charlie Turner and his ’93 Cobra made another successful run coming in a close second in the 165-mph class and averaging a speed of 162.54 mph. Project Silver State collected a bunch of bugs on the nose and even one right on the Ford emblem. Out of 14 cars, PSS came in ninth overall with an average speed of 98.74 mph in the 100-mph class, not bad for a rookie.
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Horse Sense: Open road races like the Silver State Classic and Big Bend race in Texas usually have an entrance fee ranging from $250 to $600 depending on which category you enter. There are also a number of forms and health checks that each entrant and navigator must fill out in order to compete in the race.
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Driving at speed is David York and his ’92 LX. David and his navigator Jack Henry came out to their first Silver State this year and competed in the 130-mph class, finishing in seventh place out of 13. Here, David is tackling one of the speedway’s toughest turns.

Two words come to mind when describing the experience of this past September’s Silver State Classic Challenge race: Adrenaline rush.

It's probably the most exciting, nerve-racking, thrilling, death-defying, legal act of driving you can do without being a professional race-car driver. It's hard to explain the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach as you near the starting line. You think you're prepared with the countless hours you studied the course, thought out your game plan, and convinced yourself you were ready for this challenge. But as you near the starting line your heart starts beating so fast it could run the race for you, and win. You double- and triple-check everything: glove check, helmet check, goggle check, fire-extinguisher check, cars vitals check, and you reassure yourself that you've made the right decisions and have done everything possible to prepare.

Starting-line officials give a last look inside the car to make sure safety equipment is where it should be and that there are no loose items floating around the back seat. The official gives you a thumbs up, a pat on the helmet, and says, "Good luck, we'll see you at the finish line," trying to calm you a little as he hands you your timesheet which confirms the exact time you left the starting line. It's the same piece of paper you will hand to the finish-line officials who will mark the exact time you cross the line 90 miles down the road.

The moment of truth is upon you, and it's show-it-or-blow-it time. The green flag is raised, and as soon as the previous car has been given the appropriate 30 seconds lead-off time, the flag drops. At this point you have to forget your worries and nerves and let your brain, hands, and feet take over the vehicle. You're on your way, racing in America's best-known open-road race. It doesn't get any better than this.

If it sounds like we're getting a little too dramatic, it's all for good reason. It’s the best way we can describe the feeling of racing in an event like this. Imagine what it must be like for the guys and gals running in the Unlimited division, going upward of 210 mph! From the outset of our Silver State project, we knew it would be a thrill from start to finish and that's exactly what we got. We had heard stories from guys who had competed in these open-road races before, and it sounded really exciting to be able to run your car as fast as you wanted on a closed highway in the middle of nowhere. But words don't do this experience justice, doing it does. And that's one of the reasons we decided to work on Project Silver State-to show everyone that drag wars and SCCA events aren't the only fish in the sea.

This was the biggest Silver State Classic turnout in the history of the event, and of the 212 entrants more than 50 percent of them were first-timers. There were a total of 24 Mustangs in the entire field, ranging from a '68 to a '98 Cobra. Unfortunately, no '99s showed up this year, but we wouldn’t be surprised if a handful show up for the race in May 2000.

The race weekend started in Las Vegas on Thursday morning for the rookies. Every rookie must attend the driving school class, held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Class is followed by some hot laps around the speedway in your own car. At the end of the day an instructor rides a couple of laps with you, making sure you know what you're doing out there and don't decide to light up a cigarette during turn three.

On Friday morning there was a caravan up to the city of Ely, roughly 220 miles north of Vegas. It's during this caravan that the rookies branch off from the rest of the pack to be given a slow drive along the actual highway where the race takes place, Highway 305.

Participants spend Friday and Saturday in Ely. Then comes Sunday morning. Race day. It comes a lot quicker than you expect, and you try and remember why the heck you decided to enter this race. There's no backing out now, so we took a deep breath, sucked in our stomachs, and made our way out to the meetingplace, a local truck stop. Fuel tanks full, safety gear in check, we were ready and so was Project Silver State. Because of the altitude, everyone is reminded to air up their tires to compensate for the change in altitude from the starting line to the finish line. The start of the race is about 6,200 feet above sea level and the cars definitely feel a little sluggish. At the finish line, altitude drops about 1,200 feet and your tires' air contracts considerably. Many mistakes and accidents have been caused by the tires, which are the most important part of your car in a race like this. Whether it's about speed rating or air pressure, tires can be your best friend or worst enemy out there.

The race was a huge success. No one was hurt and no cars were damaged, which says a lot about today's safety equipment, tires, technology, and driver capabilities. Project Silver State handled herself beautifully out there, and we wouldn't be surprised if the '92 LX could easily compete in the 135-mph class as is. The suspension was tight and predictable at high speeds, and the tires and wheels were excellent. The only thing we would like to improve upon is the power. At an altitude of 6,200 feet, there is definitely a loss of power. About 8 pounds of boost would really wake up the engine. But there's always next year.