Sprint Cars Race Full Throttle at RMR
By Greg James
West Jordan - The green flag drops, tension mounts, drivers drop the throttle and engines roar. Winged sprint cars have raced in the Salt Lake Valley dating back to the fairgrounds track on North Temple in downtown Salt Lake City. It continues today at Rocky Mountain Raceway in West Valley.
Sprint cars are open-wheeled racecars, aerodynamically designed to reach top speed with maximum down force. The history of sprint car drivers in Salt Lake City includes famous drivers like Tom Sneva, Mike Nish, Dave Fitzgerald and too many more to count.
Sneva consistently raced his rear engine supermodified on the fairgrounds track. In 1977, he became the first driver to qualify for the race with a speed of over 200 miles per hour, and was the winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 1983. Nish attempted to qualify for the 500 in 1985 and 1986 but failed both times.
The current winged sprint car class at Rocky Mountain Raceway includes deep history ties. Jimmy Waters leads the point standings, Mel Andrus is second, Kyle Bergener third, Chuck Groat fourth and TJ Thorne rounds out the top five. Monty and Kyle Bergener are third generation winged sprint car drivers.
“I think it is pretty cool to hear the old stories that people tell me about my family. It makes me wish I could have been around to see the things they experienced,” Monty Bergener said.
Bergener Racing is a small-budget race team supporting Kyle and Monty. They currently stand third and sixth in points at the racetrack. Both of their cars have experienced mechanical failures in races this season.
“This season has been very unlucky. Last year was pretty smooth. Kyle finished second in points; I was Rookie of the Year. It is awesome that we have a good name. We have gotten so much help to keep us running,” Monty said.
Their 1500 lb. racecar runs a 360 Chevrolet engine and puts out about 800-horsepower. The Bergeners build their own engines.
“Since Dan Breach (oval general manager at RMR) got involved at the track, so many things have changed. The track has turned around and gone in a good direction. Dan has done everything he can to get as many cars as he can on race night,” Monty said.
Thorne established the season fast time at the track on July 4. He traveled the 3/8-mile high-banked oval in 12.922 seconds, or about 104 m.p.h.
The winged sprints are scheduled to race Monday Sept. 7 at Rocky Mountain Raceway and close out their season Oct. 3 at the Utah State Oval Championships.