May 14th, 2023

What I saw at the 3rd Annual Pine Mountain Hillclimb

What I saw at the 3rd Annual Pine Mountain Hillclimb

Story by Chris Polhamus, Pineville, KY

After a fun-filled Fan Fest on Friday night in downtown Pineville, including Governor Andy Beshear's proclamation marking Saturday April 22 as SCCA Motorsports Day. The Fan-Fest is a family-friendly celebration of the Hillclimb. Local vendors and restaurants were packed with locals and those of visiting from out of town. It’s a chance for the public to get up close and personal with the drivers and their cars. There were 3 live bands, inflatables for the kids, and a Hot Wheels race in the middle of it all!

The paddock is the heart of any motorsports event and at an SCCA Hillclimb, its open to spectators. This year's event offered 2 spectator areas, the first is just above turn 1, and the second is at the upper paddock and has a great view of one of the fastest sections of the course. Spectator Transportation was provided by Bell County with a pick-up location in downtown, a drop at the start line, and, between runs, a stop at the upper paddock. Summit Racing was in the main paddock selling all the essential fluids from Lucas, all the required safety gear (arm restraints were a hot item), fittings of all kinds, substantial spare parts, lug studs and wheel nuts, as well as lanyards and drink coozies. Summit Racing provided canopies for every worker station, soft coolers for all workers and numbered corner markers; all very welcome additions!

Saturday morning, day 1, began wet and in the 50's after rain the previous night. At 8:35 the first car was on the 1.7-mile-long course and the first run group (cool cars) was done by 9:30. After a quick grid swap, the second group (hot cars) took to the hill about 15 minutes later, finishing at 10:15, this was a smaller group as the road was still a bit damp in spots. In what would become the most efficient turn around in recent Hillclimb memory, group one was able to make their second run before 10:30. By the time the lunch truck arrived to make deliveries to the workers, both groups had an opportunity for 2 runs. The road started drying and those who sat out the first opportunity took their first look at the road at speed. Lunch was a quick 30 minutes before the call to grid to begin 3rd runs of the day! At about 2:15 all drivers had made their 3rd attempt. Second runs of the afternoon, 4th of the day, began with reports of rain on top of the mountain but it remained sunny, but chilly, at the start line. As the course dried the times got faster! After the 3rd runs, there were 22 drivers under the 2-minute mark, many clustered around 1:55, with the top 5 being under 1:50 and FTD at 1:45 with FTD reported to be 1:45. Shortly after 4:00 we heard the good news of “1 More Run”! By 5:00, all drivers had an opportunity for 5 runs and the drivers took full advantage! By the end of the day, 72 drivers had braved the mountain and 31 were under the 2:00 mark, with FTD standing at 1:45.

At the conclusion of the day's competition, it was dinner time. As the drivers converged at local restaurants, such as The Butcher's Pub, the workers were treated to a catered dinner in the Bell Theater, courtesy of Backroads of Appalachia and the drivers. The food was provided by Leonz House of Steak and Subs and included steak, grilled chicken, grilled veggies plus beer, water, and soda.

Sunday, day 2, began cold and with terrible news. During the night, someone had taken the scoreboard and its generator. The organizers decided to press on without the scoreboard, but while testing timing, it was discovered that the fiber optic cable that connects the start and finish lines for the transponder system, was cut! A call went out immediately to locate someone who could fix the cable and in the meantime a plan was developed to run manual, rally style timing; a stop watch. It was decided that the first runs of the day would be unofficial and not count towards finish order, and so first car of day 2 was off the line about 9:30. That group finished just after 10, with the second group starting unofficial runs at 10:15. A car going off and needing a tow, along with the arrival of a local fiber repair tech, resulted in an early lunch. During lunch, the timing cable was prepared so we went back to timed, official runs. Just before 2:30 it was announced that there was time for “1 more run”, and a few drivers really took advantage chasing their top time of the event. Sunday's competition runs ended with 4 total, 3 of them timed, for 9 total runs, 8 timed for the event. A huge thanks to Kevin Greer and everyone who scrambled to get timing running again with only a 1 hour start delay!

The award ceremony started at 4:30, hosted by Jon Krolewicz, our announcer for the weekend, with help from Andrea Wolfe. The awards were handcrafted by local artists and sponsored by Summit Racing, Backroads of Appalachia, and Grassroots Motorsports. Trophies are awarded for positions 5 and up, if there are enough drivers in the Appalachian Hillclimb class. Those who place 3rd or higher also receive a $100 Summit Racing gift certificate! There were 5 trophies awarded for all classes except for the sole driver in Special Limited. Geoff Zimmer took Fastest FWD in his VW Sciocco with a time of 1:51.923. Tracy Gaudu took home Queen of the Hill in her Corvette with a time of 1:53.968. King of the Hill was decided by the very last run where Justin Reed, in his DF Goblin, took King of the Hill, with a time of 1:40.608, beating Martin Donnelly and his Cross Kart by 0.243 of a second! It was an exciting finish to a very memorable 3rd Annual Pine Mountain Hillclimb. The next event is in Norton Virginia on June 2-4, and the Appalachian Hillclimb Series will return to Pineville in April 2024 and 2025! Thanks to everyone for a great weekend!!