It didn’t seem likely that this event could ever have happened. The idea was in actuality a creative ruse, nothing was really supposed to come of it. But minutes after posting a photo of a drawing scrawled on wrinkled paper showing riders towing logs behind bikes in front of hundreds of screaming fans that had flames added to the logs in an attempt to garner more attention, the fire chief had called and demanded more information. “What was the fire chief doing on my blog during the middle of the day anyway?” I wondered.
Seven years later and the Hailey FD as well as the majority of the Sun Valley area has embraced the Sheeptown Drag Races. It’s a fairly simple event: fill up a single elimination bracket for head to head drag racing on bikes. The bikes tow logs. The logs are soaked in diesel. It’s free to enter and literally no clear rules exist. Once you make it to the round of 16 the logs are lit afire and the crowd begins to twitch in pleasure as if some connection to the primordial being has been set aflame.
Perhaps there is one rule: you have to select a stage name, a nomme de guerre, for entering. With the drag race lights running from green to yellow to red to signal go, a complete lack of prize money, zero sponsors and general order of chaos ruling, it is easy to miss the serious competition for bragging rights which lives behind the curtain. True, the Sheeptown Drags is not likely to end up on the list of top ten festivals by Bicycling Magazine, but it does have fire.
The bracket filled quicker than the Hailey Fire Department could forget to bring the fire to light the logs this year. So after a bit of kids racing and a short break in the action the HFD returned with a drip torch and the the racing heated up quickly. Some reliable names from years back like HTFU, EuroTrash, and el Chupacabre (the 2012 champ) were back in action. But some new flesh had arrived as well. Ginger Rogers, Strava-osterone, Canadian Sweatseedo and the man who would be king, Dang Ol’ Dangus were on the docket.
With no rules, no entry fee, no sponsors, no prizes and certainly nothing resembling anything really formal, the level of competition is actually quite startling. Chains break, challenges are thrown down, and dogs run and hide for cover as the night starts to wind itself up in volume and intensity.
The round of 16 brings out the pyromaniacs. Back in the early days, Chris Pilaro would reach for a can of raw unleaded and watch in glory as the fuel exploded under the match. The Sheeptown Drags are indebted to Pilaro and our thoughts and prayers are with him. The times have changed but the purity of what fire does to humans has not and the crowd starts to twitch with pleasure as the flames are skidded down the tarmac.
As the night wore on it was obvious that some of the riders were out for blood and Smokey the Bear and Powerhouse Girl Band were immersed in a battle royale while Dang Ol Dangus was marching his way from the other side of the bracket.
With the night turned to black and the drag racing elevated to art form the last races of the night went into the Powerhouse Bar where many a beer was tipped back and the cheeks glowed from the confluence of cold and flame. Dang Ol Dangus would be champion and his legacy to be tested in the coming June, always the third Thursday in June.