Bonneville Or Bust

Four months ago, I was stuck in quarantine. The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing, causing every car meet in Texas to be cancelled, effectively ruining my chances of an eventful break from school.

I couldn’t bear the thought of wasting a summer at home, so I enlisted my best friend and brother Reid to map out a road trip throughout multiple states over nine days. There would be some major bucket list stops along the way, but our main goal? To drive over 2,000 miles for the 72nd annual Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats.


I knew from the beginning this trip wouldn’t be easy; our vehicle would have to handle eight hours a day, at 80+mph, for nine days straight. For this, nothing could top my own daily, a 2002 Mustang GT with now over 130,000 miles on the clock, still running strong. I’ve tinkered with it of course. H&R springs, solid rack steering bushings, subframe connectors, and wide sticky tires bring out the best in this almost 20-year-old pony car.

We left before the sun was up to drive the nearly 10 hours from the San Antonio area to El Paso, Texas, loaded to the gills. The drive through West Texas is spectacular, but the real views would come the next day with our first major stop.


We greeted another early morning with plans to arrive at the Grand Canyon by dinner. In New Mexico, Highway 180 cuts a divine path through the southwest corner of the state. Smoother than copy paper, it traced the edges of canyons that rivaled the Angeles forest. We cruised to the Grand Canyon no problem, grinning the whole way.


Over the next two days, we drove north through Arizona and into Utah, heating up oatmeal with a camp stove and sleeping under the stars.


Finally, we arrived in Tooele County. The ‘Stang ran without a hiccup and after stopping for a picture, we had to get out on the flats. I had read about the effect that loose salt has on traction, still, I had to try it for myself.


At the end of a long road into the heart of the salt lies a checkpoint to purchase wristbands and sign a waiver acknowledging the risks of being around people during COVID. Because of the massive expanse of area needed for Speed Week, there were no problems with social distancing. Though masks were few and far between, it was like seeing the first signs of spring after a nuclear winter.

Hearing unmuffled engines fire up and crowds of people cheer the latest broken record was something I hadn’t realized I missed.


We found out quickly that shade is important on the flats. Extremely important. With no umbrella, Reid and I were forced to find cover where we could. Walking through the pits that disappeared into the mirage, I was offered an apple from a team sponsored by Honeycrisp. I can’t tell you how refreshing cold fruit was on a day of pure sunlight.

For our next bit of shade, we stumbled upon a group of guys that had just set the record in their class at 240mph. We graciously accepted a turkey sandwich and a half-frozen Gatorade slush, restoring much needed energy.


There were some machines that I recognized, and some I did not. The fastest piston-engined car in the world, Speed Demon, looked like a rocket ship that had melted into the ground. Surrounded by the crew, I would have to wait until the next morning until I could get some good pictures.


After 10 hours of baking in the sun, we finally resolved to drive to the sidelines where I witnessed Speed Demon run at over 460mph (740km/h). Even at half a mile away, its pace was mind-boggling.


Even with all our sunscreen, Reid and I underestimated the power of the desert sun and could not see ourselves staying past lunch the next day. As much as I enjoyed the return to motorsports, my skin was burnt and flaking, and my eyes were bloodshot.


The next morning, we re-tetris’d the car and arrived at the starting line for the day’s first golden hour.


Speed Week runs with a fluidity that only comes from repetition. On its 72nd iteration, cars wait in line like at a drag strip and are methodically released one by one to disappear into the horizon.


The rising sun burned off the cool morning air by 10:00am, and without a camper or even a sunshade, our time on the salt was over. We packed up and started the long road home before lunch.


Honestly, we should just be called speed fiends. While we do hunt for the fastest of the fast, this year has shown me what it’s like when that gets taken away from us. It’s our vice, and when we go cold turkey, we suffer. I had 2,000 miles to contemplate this until my brother and I scraped back into our driveway in Texas. The Mustang sputtered to a stop and I half expected it to fall apart like the Bluesmobile. COVID-19 had deprived us of our fix for too long, and even though we’d scratched that itch, we knew (like any other addicts) it would barely tide us over until we could get another.

Rushton Skinner
Instagram: rushtonnn


How To join the IATS program: We have always welcomed readers to contact us with examples of their work and believe that the best Speedhunter is always the person closest to the culture itself, right there on the street or local parking lot. If you think you have what it takes and would like to share your work with us then you should apply to become part of the IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER program. Read how to get involved here.



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Cool article.That is an interesting track.And I did not expect to see speed demons at speed hunters



These are some of the most amazing sights I've ever seen!

Grown men at a car meet...WEARING PANTS INSTEAD OF SHORTS!!!



There are far more shorts in these photos than pants, but what's wrong with shorts to begin with?


If you gotta ask...


sometime you do so you can hear the entire idiotic reasoning behind a statement in full.


I am. What's your answer?


Amazing scenery!!!!!!

Constant hearing all this bad press about America atm but seeing stuff like this clears the imagination of your great country.

Love it

Car shows have been cancelled since March in Melbourne Australia n there no sign of them coming back anytime soon


What's in the press, even what we see here, is representative of an incredibly tiny percentage of this country.


I live an hour from there! Hit me up next time you come out!


Hello Rushton,

your article and pictures hit me big time. Having just returned from my first proper road trip this year that took me, amongst other places, to the Nürburgring, Zandvoort Racetrack, Louwman Museum etc. I can relate to your text extremely well. It also made clear to me that the thing I had missed the most was the ability to travel - which in Europe means crossing various country borders within the same day, depending on where you go to or come from. Positive thinking helped - the mandatory test on the way back to Bavaria turned out negative.

Keep doing what you do - follow your dreams and hunt that speed!
Best regards, Sebastian.

PS: Seeing the bright green SAAB in your pictures made my smile even bigger - having finished such a machine just yesterday while watching the 24h Nürburgring live stream.


Thank you for your kind words. I believe that was a 200mph+ Saab!


... all that camping gear fit in the Mustang?!


There is a surprising amount of room in those cars!


Man I need to go to Bonneville someday


Best IATS article... Cheers!


Rushton, I really enjoyed your article on your travels to the speedflats. What a cool and adventurous excursion! I traveled last October to Bowling Green in our corvette grand sport to the museum anniversary gathering. We we allowed to run our cars unrestricted on the corvette test track. One of the best trips and fun events ever. As you age, you will never regret these experiences. They will be highlights of your life. Thanks for your article.


Great write up and stunning images Rushton. I'd love to get there one day.
Awesome effort


I've stood right next to that sign, wish I would've been able to see some of these beauties!
Awesome story, road trips like that really do scratch the itch.


All those old people and no masks in sight!


There's always somebody. It's an outdoor event. The fact (reports from experts on the subject, anyway) that UV light and heat from the sun makes it difficult for a carrier to transmit the virus while outdoors, combined with the statistics that prove the virus has a serious impact only on an incredibly small percentage of the people who get it, show that a mask should remain a choice. If attendees were worried about the health risk, they're free to wear a mask or... I don't know, not attend a large gathering? Clearly they feel that it's not OTHER peoples' responsibility to look after THEIR health, and vice versa.


And yet 200k people have died unnecessarily in the US alone, people's grannies, uncles, aunts, all gone because people can't stay the eff home or at least wear a damn mask. There is a global pandemic happening right now but oh well....


Darrell & I enjoyed reading your article & seeing the pictures. Having previously watched “The World’s Fastest Indian” your article even made it seem more like a real place. Thought maybe you caught a picture of Anthony Hopkins on his bike! Keep pursuing your adventures.


Beautiful coverage of a great event. Bonneville is truly God's own racetrack.

Here's the build thread on the "Virginia HAMB Special", the red, white & blue Ford pickup racing in the XO/PP class. Caution, it's 27 pages long:


Great Speed Week coverage and exceptional writing – you've got a bright future kid. And thanks for shooting our 61 F100 Unibody pickup – XO?PP is certainly not the fastest class, but it's a total grass roots effort and we're having a blast. Hit me up on IG at d.russ.custom _ I have a connection with a well known high end car mag you might like to submit a writing sample to. Cheers! –Dave Russell, Driver, 640 XP/PP Virginia HAMB Special