Time trials keep fans out of harm's way

A few bricks may have shaken loose on the American Engineering Testing building Sunday in Duluth, but Garfield Avenue appeared little worse for wear after dozens of hot rodders strutted their stuff.

A few bricks may have shaken loose on the American Engineering Testing building Sunday in Duluth, but Garfield Avenue appeared little worse for wear after dozens of hot rodders strutted their stuff.

The Kia of Duluth Car Show and Time Trials in Lincoln Park went off with rumbling horsepower and spewing exhaust and no major glitches.

Organizers said more than 1,000 people paid $5 each to see the event, billed as Duluth's first-ever time trials on a city street.

If the fans have anything to say, there may be a second time trial next year.

Some 74 drivers paid $50 each to race against the clock between rows of industrial buildings along Garfield. The fastest cars covered the course in less than sevenseconds.


There were hot rods from the 1930s and street cars from the 1990s, with a heavy dose of 1950s classics and '60s and '70s muscle cars. Mopar, Ford, Chevy and even Datsun and Honda fans all got to cheer their favorites.

A few cars lost their straight lines, but none came even close to losing control or hitting the temporary concrete barriers erected for the event. Several of the drivers are regulars at Minnesota dragways while others had raced at other venues but were testing drag racing for the first time.

Motorsport fans seemed to love the event's speed, gleaming paint jobs and power -- if not the unusual viewing area. Spectators had to remain behind the starting line, which made viewing tough for some. Many peoplecouldn't see the far end of the course, which extended along the industrial corridor toward Goodwill Industries.

"I love the muscle cars, you bet,'' said Loren Olson of Duluth. "It's a damn shame they didn't put up some bleachers or something. But this is great anyhow.''

Tammy Wait, Olson's high school sweetheart and significant other, agreed.

"They've been doing this [racing illegally] down here on Garfield for years anyway, they might as well time them and sell tickets,'' she said.

Olson, a 1972 Cloquet High School graduate, said the cars (and some pickups and panel vans) racing the clock Sunday afternoon reminded him of his prized muscle cars from35 years ago.

"I had a 440 Super Bee and a 383 Barracuda, and those cars got me in more trouble than at any other time in my life,'' he said. "But, man, what a great time it was.''


Judy Alderson of Carlton came with her son and his family to see what the event might offer, including rows of gleaming classic cars on display. Many fans weren't sure what to expect with the cars motoring down a city street.

"I love the old cars, mostly,'' said Alderson, 66. "But the racing is fun, too.''

Jodi Wilken of Sartell, Minn., came with her family, which has been drag racing for 16 years, mostly at Brainerd International Raceway. She vowed to bring a big group from the St. Cloud area next year. She liked that the Garfield Avenue event drew a mix of old sportsters, muscle cars, dragsters and imports.

"This is awesome. I'm glad we came,'' she said. "We'll definitely be back ... If they can get some stands up here and maybe along the start of the track, this is going to be a huge event next year. This is going to be a big deal for Duluth.''

Event organizer Ryan Kern said attendance and the event were good for a first-year effort, but he hasn't yet committed to holding the event again next year.

"We had to comply with a lot of safety issues, and that's fine, but there are some things we can do with bleachers, maybe behind the starting line, next time. We just didn't know what to expect,'' Kern said.

Kern said he staged the time trials in part to help plan for and promote his July 2008 air show in Duluth. The air show will feature a car show, drag racing and jet-powered trucks racing jet planes down the runway. Duluth police and the city administration allowed the Garfield Avenue event only after strict safety measures that required extra police, fire and safety crews to be on hand and allowed no spectators in harm's way.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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