Ever heard that old saying- “You can never go home again”? Most times, it pertains to moving away from your childhood hometown. Things change – you change! When you go back to visit your hometown, it will always be different. Never again will you recapture feelings you had while living there and once you’ve experienced the wide, wide world, “home” could never be the same place it was when you left.
Actually, that bastardized saying was taken from “You Can’t Go Home Again” by Thomas Wolfe, published in 1940. Wolfe’s novel is about George Webber, a fledgling author that writes a book about his hometown of Libya Hill. Webber’s book becomes a success, but the residents of Libya Hill, unhappy with Webber’s distorted depiction of them, sent the author menacing letters and death threats. He certainly wasn’t about to go back home after that.
The management at Pikes Peak International Raceway (PPIR), located halfway between Colorado Springs, and Pueblo, Colorado, certainly didn’t buy into the never going back home adage. Even after the Goodguys Rod and Custom Association stopped organizing an event at the race track back in 2006, and NASCAR ceased racing, management never gave up. Even after Bandimere Speedway bought the bleachers, causing rumors to swirl around the circuit that the track would close forever and fall into disrepair, management never gave up.
The management at PPIR found a way to go “back home” in a BIG WAY! Not only were there over 500 registered hot rods, kustoms, trucks, rat rods, and classics on the infield of the track, but there were two band stages – one situated above the eighth-mile drag strip, and another in the “show car” area.
Wait…drag strip? Yep, underneath the band stage/platform, conveniently placed above the beginning of the eighth-mile drag strip, was the let-it-all-hang-out drag strip. Although PPIR is am oval track, they organized the eighth-mile straightaway, complete with a makeshift “Christmas tree” fronting the lanes and created a true drag strip, complete with concrete dividers at the starting box. Although the timers only recorded elapsed times, that was good enough for nearly everyone that raced on the strip.
Just off to the east side of the platform stage, about two dozen full-on drag race cars waited for their turn. Nova’s, gassers, rail jobs, a funny car or two, and a few pseudo-strip/street cars occupied the pits. But this wasn’t a drag-cars-only event. Anyone that registered a car could make a pass or nine, or twelve, any time between 8:00 in the morning and 6:00 in the evening. Needless to say, nearly everyone tried their abilities behind the wheel of their car.
The event started when the gates opened on Friday, September 29. Drag racing and cruising the large, banked oval occurred from Noon to 7:00 p.m., which is when the Shop Party started with live music. Officially, the party ended at 11:00 p.m., but you know how those shop parties go – they never seem to end.
Rod Authority: When did you start thinking about doing an event like Hot Rod Rock & Rumble?
PPIR Management: We started talking about an event like this at the beginning of 2017. The Hot Rod Rock & Rumble was a rousing success. For a first time event in Colorado, where the weather can certainly scuttle any outdoor gathering held after Labor Day, the clouds and cold rain held off just long enough! When we say rousing success, we’re not just flapping our gums. Unlike other rod runs/cruises where participants park their cars, set up their canopies and lawn chairs, and sit behind their cars watching other participants sit behind their cars watching other…well, you get that idea! PPIR’s homecoming was well planned and well attended.
RA: Did you consider asking local car clubs to help?
PPIR: Not only did we consider it, we did it. Our Director of Sales and Track Manager went to Denver in late July to meet with several reps from the Rod Chuckers, Rattle Traps, Rockabilly Mafia Dolls and Hoodlums, to “pitch” the idea to them and see how they felt about us hosting a Rockabilly event. The response was overwhelming.
RA: How many cars were registered?
PPIR: We had over 500 registered car show cars! There were only 215 pre-registered, as of Friday not counting the race cars.
RA: Was the spectator count acceptable to you?
PPIR: It exceeded our expectations. We were hoping for 1-2,000, and we ended up hosting more than 4,000 spectators on Saturday alone. That doesn’t include our Shop Party on Friday night, or all of the folks who showed up 30 minutes before the gates opened on Friday, despite the cooler weather.
RA: Will the event continue next year?
PPIR: Yes! We are also looking at doing spring and fall events, with some slightly varied themes.
On Saturday, registration opened at 8:00 in the morning, although the official start of the car show wasn’t until noon. However, by that time, the infield was nearly full of rods, kustoms, classics, and trucks. If you got bored watching the show cars park, or the drags, you could wander over and watch the oval racing. Already under way were the Quarter Midgets, the Vintage oval racers, and the Dwarf car racers. These guys started their practice laps at 8:00 a.m., with heat races at 9:30 a.m. Practice and racing went on all day until 6:00 p.m.
Not into cars going in circles? You could also wander the swap meet for an hour or two and see if there were any good buys. By mid-morning, the vendors were set up and kids could get their faces painted or have a glitter tattoo added to an arm or two. If that wasn’t enough to keep anyone busy, the burn-out contest was scheduled to take place at 3:30 p.m. and the live music from the drag strip platform featured The Atomic Drifters and Hillbilly Casino.
Did we mention there were two stages? Over near the main stage, the kid’s “Greaser” contest was held, and about 6:15 in the evening, the Aquasonics surf band took the stage until the awards ceremony at 7:15. The cackle cars lit off shortly after the awards ceremony, and a flamethrower contest was scheduled. Nekromatix played at 7:45, until the pin-up contest started at 9:00 p.m. Finally, Lee Rocker closed out the Saturday festivities. For those that didn’t feel like calling it quits, the “Tiki Lounge” opened and DJ Nick Donovan & Rum Punch played until the wee hours.
What’s a car show event without “winners?” Here are the award recipients from the first Hot Rod Rock & Rumble:
Best of Show AND People’s Choice: Ross Rodenbeck-1950 Mercury , Colby, Kansas
Best Kustom-Kim Schwarz: 1949 Ford Coupe, Colby, Kansas
Best Hot Rod: Jim Landsparger-1930 Ford Model A, Denver, Colorado
Best Truck: Brian Gonzales-1957 Chevy Cameo, Pueblo, Colorado
Best Special Interest: Chad Mininger-1958 VW Bug, Manitou Springs, Colorado
Best Foreign: Renee Ralston-1962 VW Bug, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Best Rat Rod: Deron McKinney-1942 Chevy Truck, Denver, Colorado
Best Bike: William Bunt-1966 Honda CB77 Super Hawk,Divide, Colorado
PPIR management have already decided to hold another Hot Rod Rock & Rumble in 2018. The President of PPIR has indicated that two events will be held next year, one in early Spring and another on the September date. We will publish those dates when they become finalized.