Steamboat Springs Bob Ely's blue 1969 Ford mustang rested along the sidelines after setting the fastest time for the closed-circuit road race at the Mustang Roundup Solo II racing competition Friday.
Ely is one of 350 Mustang owners who came to Steamboat for the event sponsored by the Sports Car Club of America.
Ely said Mustang owners arrived early Friday morning to get their cars ready for the speed trials. "These people get more excited than any people I know," he said.
Firefighter Mahlon Miller brought his restored 1969 red, white and blue Mustang to compete. He said driving a Mustang appeals mostly to outdoorsy people who like an adrenaline rush. He said with car racing there is a better chance for spectator involvement because race drivers often give spectators a chance to ride along.
"I want people to experience the fun I'm having," he said.
The Mustang race competitors are far from being exclusive to men.
"The women that are running they're darn fast," Miller said. He said some of the women competitors have been finishing with the fastest times. "That is neat," he said.
The custom paint job on Miller's car resembles the American flag and was something Miller designed prior to the Sept. 11 attacks. Since then, he's added FDNY license plates as a tribute to the firefighters. He said he put an extraordinary amount of time into restoring his car which was originally salvaged from an impound for $500 before getting crushed. He said the floorboard was completely rusted out and the entire engine and body needed restoring. He said he finished painting the car last week.
Miller, like many Mustang race competitors, began his hobby of car racing in high school.
Robert Blaes bought his 1968 Mustang when he was a junior in high school and has continued racing in the car ever since. Last year he placed third in Steamboat's Mustang Roundup. This year, he has had some decent times but is mostly out to have a good time. Robert's wife, Kerri, also competes in the events. She said she started competing four years ago but had to quit for a couple of years when she had her children. Robert Blaes said the car-racing events are fun for the entire family.
To get ready for the event, the Blaes family worked for six hours for the past few days to get the Mustang up and running.
Getting a car primed for a race is a constant task for most competitors.
Ely, who competes in national competitions, said finishing well is dependent mostly on a driver's ability, although having a well-built car is necessary. He said racecar drivers learn to manipulate and drive their cars at top speeds, but it takes time for them to get acquainted with the capabilities of each car.
Ely has competed in his blue Mustang for the past 22 years and said the excellent build of his car helps compensate for any mistakes made in his driving. Ely said driving his mustang on a track is one of his greatest outlets.
"The sport rewards intricacy rather than pure power," he said.
Racecar drivers are naturally competitive and shouldn't be underestimated when out on the track, he said.
"Once (he or she) gets off the course, there is a tremendous amount of camaraderie," Ely said.
Rick Walford, chairman for the event, said he designs the course to be safe for the novice driver and at the same time challenging for more experienced drivers.
"Solo is considered a high obstacle course that deals more with car handling and fine-line driving," he said.
He said solo racing contributes to grass-roots motor sports, and some people chose to stick with it while other move onto professional solo racing.