Photos: 2013 Sandhill Open Road Challenge Showcase
Joe Shown, of Stapleton, Neb., and Vice President of the Sandhills Open Road Challenge, drives back to the start line after an exhibition run in his 2011 Chevrolet Corvette C6 in the Shootout, a half or one-mile race from a standing start, north of Cozad, Neb., on Friday, Aug. 9. ALYSSA SCHUKAR/THE WORLD-HERALD
I hail from a long line of car enthusiasts. The gene appears to have skipped me, but while I might not be able to list the differences between a Chevy C5 and a C6, I can appreciate the joy of an open road. When my dad suggested I look into doing a story on the Sandhills Open Road Race, I was intrigued, though a little worried that I would too obviously be out of my element.
A 1960s Chevrolet Chevelle zooms past spectators in the Shootout, a half or one-mile race from a standing start, during the Sandhills Open Road Challenge north of Cozad, Neb., on Friday. ALYSSA SCHUKAR/THE WORLD-HERALD
Upon arriving in Arnold, Neb., I found — as is so often the case — that I had it all wrong. No one seemed to mind my ignorance, which I openly admitted to. On the contrary, the drivers, navigators and fans I met seemed happy to share in a hot rod communion.
Scott Parkhurst of Minneapolis, Minn., poses for a portrait inside of his street rod built from a 1967 Chevrolet Malibu station wagon during a supper for drivers and navigators at the Arnold City Park during the Sandhills Open Road Challenge on Thursday, Aug. 8. ALYSSA SCHUKAR/THE WORLD-HERALD
Scott Parkhurst, pictured above, and I talked about the community he has found while racing at SORC. “This is a very special thing. They’ve got something precious here for the hot rod guys,” Parkhurst said. “It’s kind of a tribal thing, you know, and you get to be a part of it.”
Matt Fetty of Arnold, Neb., is covered by smoke during the burnout contest in Arnold during the Sandhills Open Road Challenge on Friday. Fetty said that, while he doesn’t make it out to see the races, he always enjoys seeing the parade and burnout competition. Competitors are given two opportunities to kick out as much smoke as possible, and the winner is decided by cheers from the crowd. ALYSSA SCHUKAR/THE WORLD-HERALD
From left, Jim Sheen of Kearney with his son Sam Sheen, 9, Natasha Bakuna of San Antonio, Texas, and Jeremiah Leak, of Broken Bow, Neb., react as race cars go by on parade in Arnold during the Sandhills Open Road Challenge on Friday, Aug. 9. ALYSSA SCHUKAR/THE WORLD-HERALD
The race organizers may love the community they’ve built, but they also take care of the community that has made the event possible. Everyone works on a volunteer basis, and after they’ve paid the bills from putting on the race, they bring money back into the towns in the form of new community centers, improved equipment for the Arnold volunteer fire department, a spruced-up downtown and new playground equipment, among others.
An event born out of the love for fast cars and open roads has become an economic lifeline for a county where towns often struggle to survive.
But don’t take my word for it. See the cars in action and hear from the people who make the road race possible in the video below:
And as it turns out, I found myself appreciating the cool cars, souped-up engines and races against time. I even had a chance to drive a Tesla Roadster down my own open road. When I got out of the car, Don Cox, the car’s owner, told me I had a “Tesla smile.”
He just might be right.