Thursday, March 11, 2010

Continental Divide Raceways, Castle Rock, CO

For years I've heard the rumor that there was once a "real racetrack" in Castle Rock but that it had closed many years ago.

Recently I learned the racetrack was called Continental Divide Raceways and was located just 4 miles south of downtown Castle Rock. It was a 2.8 paved mile road course, 0.5 mile oval and 1/4 mile drag strip that opened in 1959. Racing continued until 1979 and reopened in briefly in 1981. The land was sold for development and although little has been developed even now, the asphalt surface was plowed up to ensure cars would not return.

Using Google Earth I was able to find the location of the track. Although the pavement is long gone, the location had a distinctive grandstand cut into the hillside which is still visible. Finding the grandstand showed where the drag-strip was and it too is still visible.

Events held at the track include USAC Road Racing Championships, USAC Stock Car and Indy Car events, and SCCA Trans Am.

As early as 1960, USAC held a Road Racing Championship event at the track. Carrol Shelby in a Scarab Mk II held off 35-40 other drivers for 36 laps to take home $900 in the Continental Divide 100. Attendance was recorded as 8,500. Here is an interview with Carrol Shelby discussing the 1960 race at CDR

Though lightly attended compared with the Riverside and Laguna Seca events, the 1961 even still attracted Ken Miles and Bob Holbert and their Porsche 718 RSs and collection of other including Ferrari 500TR, Maserati Tipo 61 and something called a Devin Volkswagen.

By the mid '60s attendance had climbed to over 10k for major road racing events.

The Rocky Mountain 150 held July 7th 1968 attracted Al Unser, AJ Foyt, Lloyd Ruby and Mario Andrett. Ronny Bucknam lead from pole until a half-shaft failure on lap 23 gave the lead to A.J Foyt who held it to the end.

An entry list for the first of two SCCA Tran-Am races held August 26th, 1967, is a Who's Who of American Motorsports:

Mark Donohue, Peter Revson, Dan Gurney George Follmer, Jerry Titus and Milton Minter were all there. Titus took the win in 1967 and Donohue won in 1968

Evel Knievel performed at CDR July 30th 17972.

The last recorded race I find is a Winston West event August 15th, 1982 won by Rick McCray

According to the Chicago Herald-Tribune Driver Jim Mulhall of Littleton was killed on June 8th 1969 at the 1969 Formula A Grand Prix, in a accident that later took the life of mechanic Michael DesJardins.

According to witness Paul Bredenberg;

"I was also at that race. We went to the '69 and '70 Indy car races and the '69 First (and only) Annual Denver Post Grand Prix for SCCA Formula A cars. The Post GP was the eventual demise of the track. The dragstrip was used as the front straight ("The Andretti Straight") and the return road was the pit road. They were separated by a row of 55 gallon rain barrels that were to be filled with water and cabled together. Jim Mulhall was a small-time local Corvette racer who had a chance to drive one of the Indy cars that day. It was a Halibrand Shrike chassis and was offset for oval track racing. It was a yellow #77.

During the race, an absolute DELUGE hit the track in the form of a typical spring storm. Cars tried to stay out on their dry tires but it was senseless to do so. Mulhall's crew signaled him next for rain tires on the next lap. He took one hand off the wheel to signal that he got the message off the board, hit a puddle and aquaplaned 270 degrees, so that the back of the car headed towards the barrels at about a 30 degree angle.
Mulhall's car hit the barrels at about 155 mph.

Guess what? Somebody forgot to fill all of the barrels with water! Barrels went flying into the pit area and the cable snapped and hit Mulhall's helmet, breaking it into several pieces. The car went across the return road, hit the Armco barrier and slid to a stop almost at turn 1 ("Foyt's Corner") with a smashed barrel underneath it. Mulhall died on the way to Swedish Hospital without regaining consciousness and three people in the pits were hurt.

After the lawsuits flew and damages were paid, Sid Langsam lost his heart for the track, and then later was diagnosed with cancer; I think it was prostate cancer, but I'm not sure on that."

Today, the Colorado Region of the SCCA give an award for outstanding contribution to racing in Colorado called the Sid Langsam Award.

Here is a video by the Castle Rock Historical Society showing some great period racing at CDR

Here is video of a sprint car race on the CDR oval in 1960


Anonymous said...

I raced there in 1967 when I was stationed at Lowry AFB, I had a 57 Chevy. I'm still an active NHRA racer today, older, grayer, bigger, but still enjoying every minute. Terry the Texan

Anonymous said...

I raced there in 1967 while stationed at Lowry AFB, drove a 57 Chevy. I'm still an active NHRA racer, older, fatter, grayer, but still loving it. Terry in Texas

Bryan Finch said...

I raced there in the late Seventies, it was a great track! It was a nice setting up against the Rockies. A real brake eater for us sports car guys! Truly a shame when it closed, a lot of us SCCA guys cried when they closed it, and like some many other tracks, plow it under for homes! They never did much with the area after they plowed the track under,its sad that someone didn't try to save it. That track was more fun than SCR in Denver, and way more fun than race track at La Junta,Co and PMI in Pueblo,Co put together.

Anonymous said...

My brother, Dave Stuessi, and I, Wes ("Skip") Stuessi, lived in Greeley, Colorado in 1963.
In late 1962 Dave bought a new 1962 Corvette, Sateen Silver with a black interior. 327 cubic inch fuel injected 360 horsepower engine.
We towed Dave's Corvette to CDR 5 times, Julesburg, Colorado, Cheyenne, Wyoming, and once each to Scottsbluff, Nebraska and Garden City, Kansas during the 1963 NHRA season (May to October).
With Dave driving, and I assisting as mechanic, we won the A Sport class 7 out of 9 times.
At CDR 4 times Dave was in the final race for Top Stock Eliminator; all 4 times he lost by a few feet to a lightweigh 1963 Plymouth 2 door sedan with the 426 cubic inch wedge engine, driven by a guy named Decker (last name)running in the new that year NHRA A/FX (A Factory Experimental)class.
At Scottbluff, which was approximately 1500 feet lower than Continental Divide Raceway's dragstrip, Dave recorded his fastest ever ET (elapsed time)
of 13.13 seconds, at 103.13 MPH, while winning Competition Eliminator. He consistently ran 13.30s at 98 MPH at CDR.

On Sunday July 4th, 1970 driving his 1969 Plymouth notchback coupe with a 440 cubic inch engine (50 of which were modifyed by the Hurst Corporation to run in NHRA's Super Stock F Automatic class
(SS/FA) Dave raced his way thru a field of 40+ cars to win Super Stock Eliminator at the first Mopar Mile High Nationals (which was later moved to Bandimere Raceway just east of Morrison, Colorado).

Dave passed away in 2006; he and I had tons of fond memories of Sundays at CDR, drag racing,
and attempting to predict whether the day's racing would conclude before a late afternoon rainstorm came barreling down out of the Rockies.

Wes Steessi Reno, Nevada

Anonymous said...

Some of the information given here is slightly incorrect. Jim Mulhal was a personal friend of mine. He was a small time racer but never raced a Corvette. At least not that I know of and not of his own if he did. When I first met him he was racing a Lola Mk.3 Formula Junior. He bought the Shrike after selling the Lola.
My mother was the communicator on turn one when Jim had the accident. My dad was the Chief Communicator in the control tower and between them they handled the entire inncident as far as safety equipment and personnel were concerned.
I still have most everything printed in the news papers concerning the accident. I also have a small photo of the car afterwards. It was hardly damaged at all.