Speed demons!


Driving out to Altamont Motorsports Park on the night after a full moon, just a few days before Halloween, even my metal-maimed eardrums could faintly hear the sound of Mick Jagger's famous plea for peace, uttered from the Altamont concert stage in 1970's Gimme Shelter: "Who's fighting, and what for?"

The cars that go boom.

Well, I'll tell ya, fighting on Oct 27 were some 50 roached-out, jerry-rigged race cars, hellbent less on victory than on the glory of completing 300 laps -- or in many cases, somewhat less -- at the track's annual Pumpkin Smash.

What about them pumpkins? The reason for the season, no doubt -- hundreds of orange mofos gave their lives valiantly for this event. The asphalt was luridly smeared with pumpkin guts and gallons of soapy water. Facilitating and maximizing smash-ups never looked so festive...nor made onlookers long so much for pumpkin pie.

Look past my pumpkinhead and check out them pun'kins on the track!

At first, it was hard to pick favorites among the contenders. Clever frontrunners included a bright yellow "Queen Bee" outfitted with a giant crown and a stinger out back that periodically spewed -- uh, could have been fake blood or maybe Kool-Aid. There was the rock 'n' roll homage "Rocket 88," featuring a Crayola-shaped roof ornament pointed towards the heavens. Several drivers took the Halloween theme to heart, strapping light-up Jack O' Lanterns, plastic skeletons, and one stuffed black cat -- dig that animated tail -- to their rooftops. The Pepto-pink "K13" car featured a skeleton pirate rising from the rear, red cape streaming behind.

Rocket 88!

As the race progressed into the night -- remember, I said 300 laps, plus a pause for a costume contest, which featured no less than three pint-sized Spidermen and a woman horrifically made up as "roadkill" -- the superior drivers (most of whom were maneuvering the more unremarkable-looking cars) emerged. Tires squealed. Bumpers dragged on the ground, creating worrysome (yet crowd-pleasing) trails of sparks. High-speed fender-benders led to hoods folding like paper, and cars locking together, becoming conjoined-twin monster cars that cleared everything in their paths. Smoke and steam and dust erupted with volcano-like ferocity. Between coughs, the masses cheered.

Speed is all ya need...

Despite being high on exhaust fumes and miniature Hershey bars, there was no question I'd stay to see the checkered flag. (Who won? Not the Queen Bee, alas...though its driver got mad props from the audience when she had to abandon ship near the end of the race.) See you next year, race fans!

Zoom-tastic photos by Kal Spelletich

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