The setting was Goodsprings, Nevada, during the Frontier 250. Willie Valdez, a Class 7 Mini-Truck Champion who won his class at this very race, always started and ran at a distinct disadvantage. He and his class, with only two-wheel drive, started at the very back of the pack. The only class behind them was the stock Class 11 sedans.
This left the smaller, underpowered trucks trying to tackle a course that had already been used. The track had been churned to dust. Almost the entire field had run down the course already on their first lap, to say nothing of the countless cars that had been over it during prerunning, which was allowed at any time the previous month.
Adding to the course’s rough nature, the Jean-Goodsprings area was used as a race venue for many of Walt’s Racing Association’s events, an organization that eventually became the High Desert Racing Association. HDRA’s head honcho, Walt Lott was very familiar with the area just outside of his Las Vegas, Nevada, headquarters.
In 1972, he put on a benefit race for a close friend and race volunteer Tom Camp, who crashed his helicopter during a course recon. Tom needed to cover his medical expenses, so Walt put on the Whirlybird 300 to help with his significant costs. It was a big success.
But back to The Frontier 250, Walt feared that Goodsprings—and its one bar—would be overrun with race fans and declared the area closed to spectators and press. Many didn’t get the official word (or just ignored it) and showed up on race day anyway. Some were Goodsprings’ town folks, who only had to walk out their front or back doors to watch the race.
Most of the land behind the town where the racecourse ran was on private property. One teenager, upon hearing of the “closed” area, boasted to the small crowd that his mom, “Owned all this property and no one will kick us off. All of you are my guests.” He was actually dead right. No race officials or Rangers were seen there the entire day, despite all the action in the silt beds there.
The scene of spectators helping stuck vehicles was repeated many times that day. Most cars flew on by, but some vehicles, like Valdez’s, were just too underpowered and got stuck. A few drivers hesitated at the wrong time and buried it. Whatever the cause, the small army of dedicated fans worked tirelessly to keep the track clear all day long at the couple of trouble spots behind the town. Afterwards, many of them retired to the bar in Goodsprings for a well-deserved drink.
• Nowadays, for safety and environmental reasons, spectators are not allowed on Nevada racecourses. As a result, more race officials are needed to put on a race and to respond to course emergencies. Drivers and their vehicles that are stuck or broken can sometimes wait a lot longer for assistance than the almost instant response provided by the eager spectators in this 1984 photo.
• The very next year in 1985, Sal Fish’s SCORE International group would merge with Walt Lott’s HDRA. Eventually, the HDRA name would be dropped from the merger until Roger Norman revived it for the 2012 racing season. Norman went on to buy SCORE at the end of that same year, merging the two series together once again. Proving that history truly does repeat itself, the HDRA name was dropped for 2014.
Vaya con Dios From the Staff of Dirt Sports