The need for speed

Longtime friends look to join ‘200 Mile per Hour Club’ at Bonneville Speed Week

Photo submitted to the Times Observer Alexander ‘Sasha’ Chernukha, Lane Wiggers and Tood Woodin stand with their car “Urgently” at the Arkansas Mile Challenge in June 2018. Wiggers and Woodin, 1989 Eisenhower graduates, have shared a lifetime of adventures together. They now have their sights set on joining the “200 Mile per Hour Club” during the Bonneville Speed Week, Aug. 10-16.

Shared interests can often form the core of a lifetime bond between people.

For a pair of 1989 Eisenhower graduates, a friendship built over three decades worth of adventures is about to culminate in a chance to join a select club. The “200 Mile per Hour Club” at the Bonneville Speedway near Wendover, Utah.

The Knights alum, Lane Wiggers, operating partner at Argosy Private Equity and currently residing in Malvern, Pennsylvania, and Todd Woodin, Magesterial District Judge for Youngsville and the western half of Warren County, decided to take part in the Bonneville Speed Week while attending the event in 2017.

“We both concluded, ‘We’re not getting any younger’,” Woodin said. “And the time to compete is immediate.”

According to Woodin, the two friends have been “frequent collaborators” on adventures and have motorcycled across most of the country.

Photo submitted to the Times Observer Team members prepare their car, “Urgently,” for competition during the Arkansas Mile Challenge in June 2018. The 2194 on the car is team member Todd Woodin’s, a 1989 Eisenhower graduate and the Magesterial District Judge for Youngsville and the western half of Warren County, East Coast Timing Association number.

Wiggers purchased a rolling chassis and built the duo’s car, appropriately named “Urgently,” with two GM/Chevrolet LS engines with 600 and 850 estimated horsepower. Once the decision was made to compete at Bonneville, Woodin and Wiggers started a program to gradually get the team and car ready for the big stage at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

They started the program on the drag strip at Cecil County Dragway in Maryland, then entered the 2018 Arkansas Mile Challenge.

“(It’s) a standing mile event held on a former Air Force base airstrip where the cars attempt to achieve the fastest speed possible from a standing start and are clocked at the one mile marker,” Woodin said. “We were able to achieve a best pass of 181 mph before a failed clutch sidelined further attempts. Nevertheless, this was a commendable speed for the first time running a new race car and was within striking distance of a record at that event.”

Speed Week will present its own unique challenges, not the least of which is getting to the event. The team will hitch “Urgently” and all the tools and spare parts needed to rebuild the car to a vehicle for the more than 2,000 mile journey. It will take the team approximately 30 hours to reach the legendary Bonneville Speedway.

“Bonneville Speed Week is the largest and most prestigious land speed racing event in the world,” Woodin said. “The blistering sun and heat challenge both the drivers and the machines.”

The Bonneville Salt Flats is a densely packed salt pan and is the largest of the many flats west of the Great Salt Lake. The Flats are open to the public and the land falls under the purview of the Bureau of Land Management.

The Salt Flats may look familiar to some as it has been featured in films such as “Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End,” and both “Independence Day” movies. The Speedway itself was the site of the speed duels in the 1960s featuring Craig Breedlove, Mickey Thompson and Art Arfons.

“The surface of the historic race venue is made up of several inches of salt crust that has the consistency of concrete covered by sand or gravel, and the appearance of freshly fallen snow. It is devoid of grass, birds or even insects for hundreds of square miles,” Woodin said. “It’s like racing on the moon.”

To gain access to the “200 Mile per Hour Club,” the team-Wiggers, Woodin and Alexander “Sasha” Chernukha-will alternate driving the car over a three mile course. Speeds will be clocked at various points and those cars running over 200 mph will be permitted to run on the five mile course. They will race with two different motors in two sub-classes, 366 cubic inch and 427 cubic inch naturally aspirated engines in a 1989 Camaro in the Unaltered Gas Coupe class.

To become members of the club and win the land speed records in their class, the team will have to achieve two way averages of approximately 250 mph.

“There is no trophy. There is no cash prize. The most a team can hope to win is a record and a coveted red hat awarded to members of the ‘200 Mile per Hour Club’,” Woodin said. “Those who race at Bonneville do so for the love of speed. Period.”

Bonneville Speed Week will take place Aug. 10-16. The event will be livestreamed on the Souther California Timing Association website.

“Lane, Sasha and I hope that Warren County will be cheering for us,” Woodin said.