CHIMNEY ROCK MEMORIES
Here you will find a collection of memories by drivers, crew and spectators that each have their own special memories at The Rock. Enjoy.
In the early days of our hillclimb history with Mike Green, Steve Hampton was always dreaming up bizarre, press-worthy shenanigans that would draw attention to our quest to unseat Finger at Chimney Rock. For example, veteran observers will recall the year we unpacked four charcoal grills, with the explanation that we had to feed Green’s impressive entourage, when in reality we used them to preheat the tires in the staging line as the car dangled from an engine hoist.
The following year, we had progressed to four propane torches in the hands of faithful members of afore-mentioned entourage. You get the idea…
Having discovered that a decent burnout was really more effective than tire torching, and a helluva lot less dangerous, the next year we turned our attention to chemical treatment of the tire treads. This strategy had been carefully leaked to “The Press”, who stirred up the connection to Hampton’s Michelin link, and my Firestone background. Now, while it is true that we researched and tested a couple of elaborate recipes for tire treatment concoctions, we discovered that the most effective “conditioner” we could use was a simple, over-the-counter chemical available in any hardware store. Hmmm. Not exactly the stuff of legends.
The first day at Chimney Rock was cold and rainy, and we were all crammed into the van waiting for the weather to clear. As we discussed preparation details and checklists, I was fiddling with the white gallon can containing the tire conditioner, and idly peeled off the label, leaving the can totally unidentified. In a state of terminal boredom, I grabbed a black marker and in my best Little Rascals lettering style scrawled “SECRIT TIRE STUF” on the front of the can. Ha ha. Put the can away, wait out the rain.
As the weather cleared, the day was filled with the usual strategies, preparation, and routine activities. Warm up engine. Set tire pressures. Bring out tire treatment and wiping rags. But wait. What’s all the commotion? Newspaper guys scratching something in their little notebooks. TV cameras. Microphones. WTF? Suddenly the Secrit Tire Stuf was a Big Story, and we were credited in more than one local paper for crafting this remarkable traction brew that helped Mike Green become the new King of the Hill. If only they knew…
Steve Cooke Chap Racing Valiant #40
Spectator… and now a Hillclimber
went to the last one with Ray and secretly said goodbye to the dream of ever running a
hill-climb. I guess my favorite moment has to be finally getting to meet the legends I
had looked up to as a child. Now, I am getting the chance to race on the same hills with them and it is unbelievable. All of those guys are truly what hill climb racing is all about.Thanks
for the memories. – Sheila Cockrell ESP #66
Arriving after dark at the paddock area and finding that the only available space consisted of a muddy, sloped area, well away from any paved roadway or light, drove home the wisdom of arriving early. Being motivated by the prospect of running the famous Hill Climb in the morning, I soldiered on, changed my wheels to the “Race Rubber” and did whatever was possible to make sure there were no mechanical issues needing attention. Race Day! I’m on the starting line ready to take the wave from the starter. I had driven slowly up the course early that morning to see what I was going to attempt and had decided it was going to take a few more trips to remember the turns.
The signal to go is given and I nail it. The trees line the side of the road and meet overhead to give the impression of driving in a green tunnel. Exiting the darkness of the shade, the full light of day glares on the windshield and the spectators lining the meadow on my left are a passing blur on the approach to a high-speed right hand turn. I’m momentarily distracted by the number of spectators standing or sitting in folding chairs on the dirt bank a few feet above the road waving beverage cans and making so much noise I can hear it above the sounds of the Chevy V8.
As I down shift and get on the brakes while starting a turn to the right, I realized something was big time wrong. The tires had suddenly lost grip and I was in a four-wheel slide headed toward the spectators located on the outside of the curve. Not knowing the cause of the slide, I reacted with my first in a short list of options and released the brakes, turned into the slide and accelerated. What a relief! It appears that I’ve made the right move when the rear tires bite enough to launch the car away from the crowd and into the opposite direction. Then I realize that I’ve traded one problem for another. The car is now in a slide to the right and all I can see out of my passenger door window is a very large tree that seems to be in the middle of the road and is rapidly approaching. Just at the last moment, the right rear wheel impacts a large stone that covers a drain pipe on the roadside and straightens the car allowing enough control to drive around the tree and continue on course.
By now, I’ve convinced myself that an earlier fluid spill had not been noticed and cleaned up, and was the source of my adventure, therefore the remainder of the course was probably okay. Wrong! Having made uneventful progress to the sweeping left hand turn known for the house that it arcs around, I decided it was time to get going and as I made my left turn apex, I did. Right into a ditch and the Ivey covered dirt bank. Coming out of the turn and accelerating was all it took to once again lose all grip and allow the car to slide off the turn. Not wanting to destroy the right side body panels by slamming into the embankment, I got back into the gas and spun the rear tires enough to push the car forward as it dropped into the ditch. I was lucky, only the corner of the rear bumper made contact with banking and the car was moving forward fast enough to pull itself out of the ditch and continue on. I was only too happy to cross the final turn to the finish line and proceed to the parking area to catch my breath. While driving up the remainder of the mountain to the parking area people were turning and pointing at my car, while pondering this I was surprised to hear my name and car number called out by the announcer and assumed he was making comment about the sloppy run I’d just made up the hill. After I shut off the engine and was getting unbuckled from my belts, a worker came over and congratulated me on being the fastest car up the hill for the day. While letting that sink in, I walked around the car to see what the damage was, as I reached the right rear corner, I saw why people had been pointing. The end of the bumper had dug into the Ivey covered dirt bank and had captured a thick twenty-foot streamer of Ivey and was dragging it like a tail. As I started to remove this trophy the announcer came back on the PA to declare the second car up the Hill that day to be the new “King of the Hill”.
Every story has a Moral; as does this one: NEVER assume that a tire technician is going to follow your instructions. ALL WAYS check to make sure that they do not mount your tires outside in! Brian Gause – BSP#1
My “Story” about the Rock includes a very close race (’95). We were not being able to ascertain the winner, Boland or Green. At the top of the parking lot I hollered out “Does anybody know who won the race?” A still suited driver ran out of the woods and yelled “I DID” and ran on down the parking lot toward the pits. His name was Jerry Kieft!
My inspiration, as I pull the torque wrench, are the competitors I watched and how much I wanted to not only compete, but build my own car and figure it out and not look stupid, which I have. At Little Talledega we got hard lessons and earned the honor to hillclimb at the Wolf and show our stuff. I LOVE THE WOLF RIDGE HILLCLIMB! We will hillclimb until the sun sets. It couldn’t have happened if Sheila had not let me chop up her car. OH, she didn’t tell you it was HER car. Bought it new in ’77 . Now that I’ve built a street rod I really want to try open wheel. When your idols put videos online, it makes my blood pump,, Thanks Stan, George and even King Nick. But special thanks to the old timers who took me under their wing and taught me engine work, the Ingrams (Roger and David), Ray Stafford and Earl Pegram. Thanks to Ted and Dagmar for their friendship…It means more than you know. But isn’t that what a club is all about?