NDOT Management Havoc Hits The Open Road :: The EDJE
This 1996 Dodge Viper flipped and burned in Nye County 44 miles south of the starting line early in the race resulting in a delay of more than four hours. Driver Jerry Moll, of K&N Engineering, Inc., was not injured. Image Credit: Ely Times
NDOT Management Havoc Hits The Open Road
The 2008 running of the Nevada Open Road Challenge did not go as smoothly as most people would have hoped ... for an open road rally event held in two locations, that has been staged by the same event organizers (sometimes as many times as three times a year) for 21 years.
The problem with this last weekend’s event wasn’t so much a problem that a Dodge Viper managed to leave the open road and flip over about half way through its run, NO, the problem was mainly that the Nevada Department of Transportation decided that they would take control of the event from the event organizers and sponsors that had overseen the management of this open road rally event since its inception back in 1988.
The Nevada Open Road Challenge in May and the Silver State Classic Challenge held in September, is a car rally event held on a 90 mile stretch of a little traveled open road from North near Lund to South near Hiko on Nevada Highway 318.
In previous years, the rally organizers would work with individual police and highway agencies and the state of Nevada so that the roads along the rally route would be properly shut down and signed and patrolled for the safety of the racers and other people in the area. For twenty years, everything went off without a hitch.
This year’s event, however, had problems due to the lack of communication and understanding by the Nevada Department of Transportation which over-reached and assumed responsibility for the management of the rally. The hope is to have an error free event.
This hope turned out to be wishful thinking … and the problems began early after a fifty-six minute delay created by the NDOT. It was soon followed by a flip-over crash of the Dodge Viper driven by Jerry Moll, of K&N Engineering, Inc., a sponsor of the event. Only nineteen cars of the 143 cars wanting to rally on the open road were able to start before the NDOT took assumptive control of the race course and the time management of the rally.
This edited & excerpted from the Ely Times -
Race promoters accuse NDOT of unnecessary cancellation
By JOHN PLESTINA - Ely Times Reporter - Published on Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Backers of the Nevada Open Road Challenge are blaming the Nevada Department of Transportation for more than five hours of race delays Sunday and the cancellation of parts of the 21st running of the race, resulting in 41 drivers never leaving the starting line.
Several drivers said they spent thousands of dollars bringing cars and crews to Ely from other parts of the United States and one crew and car that did not race came from Europe to compete in the Silver State Classic Challenge-sanctioned speed event that runs about 90 miles along Nevada 318 from a starting line south of Lund to Hiko.
The SSCC and others are saying that NDOT officials made decisions about delaying the race after a crash and the continuation of the race was in jeopardy. NDOT's role was to close the highway and keep it closed until the race was completed.
The view standing on the eastside of Highway 318 looking South from Preston, Nevada toward Lund. Highway 318 tracks along the westside of the Eagan Mountain Range at the northern end of the rally course down to the Pahroc Mountain Range near Hiko. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2008)
“I got there yesterday afternoon and I was pretty shocked at what a fiasco it was,” Ed Spear, White Pine County Tourism Director, said Monday.
“It appears from what I have seen that NDOT made the errors.” Spear said.
Those errors included a failure by NDOT to post signs in the Alamo area alerting motorists of the Highway 318 road closure. That caused a 56-minute delay in starting the race. He also chided NDOT for mistakes that led to a four and a half hour delay following a crash and not allowing the race to be completed.
Spear said NDOT's mistakes in handling the event delayed portions of the race, and reflected badly on Ely and White Pine County. Those mistakes have a negative impact on tourism in White Pine, Lincoln and Nye counties and the state.
“The Nevada Department of Transportation needs to issue the permit and let the promoter run the race,” Spear said.
He took it a step further. “I believe, from day one, the NDOT has not liked this race.” Spear said.
Teaveling North of Hiko near "The Narrows" along the southern half of the Highway 318 as it tracks along the Pahroc Mountain Range on the East side of the open road. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2008)
“The racers know there is an inherent risk in racing,” Spear said, adding that the SSCC does an incredible job with safety.
He said both sides should discuss the issues. Spear said if it becomes necessary, legislation could resolve future problems with NDOT related to the race.
About 40 miles from the starting line south of Lund, SSCC President Steve Waldman saw smoke in the distance. “I realized it was Jerry Moll. I could not stop. I was not allowed to stop. We immediately red flagged the event.” said Steve Waldman, President of the non-profit Silver State Classis Challenge.
Kathleen Weaver, NDOT's assistant district engineer in the Ely Office and Randy Hesterly of NDOT in Elko, were in charge for the NDOT at the event.
The race organizer said the NDOT representatives didn't like the response to the crash by race personnel. “They told the race director they were going to stop the race,” Waldman said. “They could have discussed it with me” but did not. He said NDOT claimed race communications were not running well. That is a claim Waldman said was not true.
“Then they proceeded to tell me it took too long for us to get to the cars (crashed vehicle and two others that had broken down). They have no idea how to run an event and they proceeded to tell us how to run an event,” Waldman said. “We have been running it for 21 years and very safely.”
The delay following the crash lasted just over four and one-half hours. “They held up over 500 people from 9:39 (a.m.) until 2:10 in the afternoon when the event resumed.” he said.
The race resumed with starts for less than a half hour. Then NDOT stopped any further drivers from starting the race to complete it by the 4 p.m., the road closure time limit. NDOT did not agree to any additional road closure time.
“NDOT never, never communicated with us,” Waldman said.
“Forty-one cars did not start. People who came from Texas, people who came from Norway, Pennsylvania and on and on did not start the event,” Waldman said.
“It cost us thousands of dollars extra,” he said of costs for hourly employees and to keep ambulances stationed along the race course.
We don't want incidents. If the car breaks down that's fine. If the car flips that's fine. We are interested in the person inside the car,” Waldman said of safety taking a high priority.
Weaver (NDOT's assistant district engineer in the Ely Office) did not return two telephone calls from the Ely Times on Monday.
To be honest, what happened on Nevada Highway 318, Sunday, May 18, 2008 would be as ridiculous as the state of Indiana Department of Transportation managing the track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Indy 500 come May 25, 2008. There is a HUGE difference in focus and background understanding between transportation/road engineers and motorsports competition event specialists.
We, at The EDJE, talked with Steve Waldman before posting this review of the events of last weekend, and he insists, the Nevada Department of Transportation is there to observe that Highway 318 has been prepared according to the agreements with the state, issue the permit, then let the race organizers with the 500 participants, course workers, and safety personal aided with a communications network, ambulances, and aircraft run the event.
In the twenty previous years the event has been held, everything operated perfectly, primarily because the NDOT recognized their role. Issue the permit to the race organizers because all of the road qualifications had been met, get into proper position (preferably, next to the race organizer), then get the "H-E-Double-Toothpicks" out of the way, stay OFF of the road, and let the people who spent their hard earned tourist money (about 50 million dollars estimated over the years) to come and rally on the open road, RALLY!
... notes from The EDJE