Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
LOGAN — Take the door-handle-to-door-handle racing of NASCAR, slow it down with a wet dirt track, add some of the contact of demolition derby, and you get Trash Car Racing.
The rambunctious car racing is filling the stands and rodeo arenas in northern Utah and could be an affordable way for you to get behind the wheel of a race car. Albeit, a super-cheap, beat-up, clunker of a race car, but a race car nonetheless.
Wayne West, who owns First Place Promotions, runs the show. He was a demolition derby driver when he lived in Cache Valley in 1993. He moved to Oregon and drove in something similar to Trash Car Racing there, and then brought the concept to Utah in 2016, tweaking and modifying it to fit fairground rodeo arenas.
And it goes like this:
West uses dirt berms to keep cars in, not tires or poles, and he keeps his tracks wetter and muddier — to slow the cars down. Gigantic earth-mover tires keep drivers from cutting the inside corners.
The video above shows what happened when a driver cut the corner a little too close. You’ll see the car go past, then out of the frame, then the camera catches up when the car is already upside-down. The drama lasts less than a minute as the track crews make sure the driver’s not hurt. Then the crew gathers together and rocks the car back onto its wheels — the driver starts it up and continues the race. A smushed roof is not a problem in this arena.
Don Misner, Jr., of Warren, in Weber County, smashed a roof two years ago.
After a full roll ending back on his wheels, he said he tried to continue racing but officials stopped him. He started racing at the end of the 2017 season and has since gotten his wife, father and buddies involved in the ruckus. He hauls cars and friends from the Ogden area for every race.
Misner has given cars to his dad to race, swapped out drivetrains for his wife’s racer, and goes through plenty of engines himself. He’s easy to spot on the track because he drives with the gas pedal to the floor the entire race, allowing the rev limiter to keep his Honda engines from blowing. Eventually, they still overheat and wear out.
Another easy-to-spot driver is Tomas Colqui.
Colqui’s racing helmet is covered with a panda head and his car is usually full of stuffed animals he picks up at yard sales that week. He grew up in Preston, Idaho, traveling to watch races and getting hooked on racing as a kid.
The semitrailer driver and Smithfield firefighter likes Trash Car Racing because it’s a cheap way for him to get into racing — he has less than $100 invested in his car. He started in 2016 and has been through six cars. This year he is racing a 2006 Toyota Camry.
West said he tries to keep things cheap for drivers. There are no entry fees, and there are only 4- and 6-cylinder, front-wheel drive cars. Honda Civics are popular in the 4-cylinder class, and you’ll see plenty of Pontiac Grand Ams racing their 6-cylinder engines. West tried a minivan class a couple of years ago but didn’t get enough entries.
To get a car race-ready, drivers rip out everything unnecessary in the car, throw some padding on the driver’s door, remove all the glass, get a roll bar welded on, and that’s it. Most racers weld bars on the outside to protect the car body, but that is not required. Some race on snow tires; some on temporary spares; some on just rims in the back.
If a car is missing something, it’s probably available in the pits.
West, Misner and Colqui agree that drivers have camaraderie, and they’ll loan whatever is needed, even to competitors. Colqui said he popped three tires in one race. Within five minutes, his fellow racers gave him the three he needed to finish racing that night. West said racers come from as far away as Utah county, and from all walks of life, including massage therapists, business owners, day care providers, ATK employees, stay-at-home moms, CNAs, mechanics and EMTs, among others.
Racing is done in “full contact” or “gladiator” style, according to West. The muddy track sometimes causes the cars to get jammed up in a corner and the race stops. Sometimes, a car can push its way through and break up the log jam; other times, track workers bring out a pickup truck and start pulling cars out of each other’s way.
It’s a little unusual to see racers work out their issues with some pushing; but then again, it’s unusual to get racing with just $100 at stake.
The next race is scheduled for Aug. 20 in Logan. To buy tickets, register to race, or for more information, visit trashcarracing.smashpass.com.