Robin Sis doesn't spend a lot of time looking at the flying dirt, dust and rocks she leaves in her wake.
The young chariot racer is too busy trying to make sure the team of horses she is driving remains true as it streaks down the 440-yard dirt straightaway at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena exceeding speeds of 40 mph.
"It's a real adrenaline rush," the 29-year-old Sis said. "You just try to hang on and get the most out of your team."
Over the years Sis has learned to hook her elbows over the edge of her Fiberglass chariot before the start so that the acceleration of the horses rushing out of the gate doesn't leave her on her backside.
But by the time Sis reaches peak speed, maybe halfway down the track, she will have forgotten the impulse to just hold on to the chariot. Instead she will use her whip to push the team faster and to reach the finish line before her opponent, who is just a few feet away in another lane.
Sis said the sport of chariot racing has been a part of the Yampa Valley since the 1950s when the drivers made chariots out of 55-gallon steel drums that had been cut in half, and were pulled down the track by a pair of ranch horses.
The sport has changed over the years and today drivers pilot state-of-the-art Fiberglass chariots, which are pulled by a pair of well-trained racehorses that live to run at breakneck speeds.
This Saturday and Sunday at noon, Sis and the other drivers will bring their horses to the arena to race. But they also want to expose a whole new group of fans to the excitement of chariot racing.
"Our sport is dying," Sis said. "It's still pretty strong here in Steamboat, but there are fewer and fewer drivers every year."
She said the chariot racing event during the annual Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival is always a fan favorite when the horses run on snow. Sis said the organizers of this weekend's event are hoping to duplicate the success of the Winter Carnival in the summer when the horses run on dirt.
"We tried it on the Fourth of July in the past," she said. "But this will be the first time we've had chariot racing on the holiday in a couple of years."
Sis said chariot racing tends to be a family affair in the Yampa Valley. She is the daughter of Ed and Kathy Duncan, who will be on hand this weekend running their teams.
Sis said her family has been racing for as long as she can remember. She picked up the sport herself a couple of years ago.
Other Routt County drivers will include Shane Yeager, Dick Green and Scott Tuthill. There also will be drivers from Denver and Wyoming.
Saturday's rounds will be preliminary heats and on Sunday the fastest teams will be pitted against one another in a true test of speed. Racing will begin at noon both days.
Sis said the races will last a couple of hours and spectators should bring plenty of sunscreen and water. There also will be betting for fans who want to get more involved with the action on the track.
--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or