Speed racer from Auberry has emotional, record-breaking week at Bonneville

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AUBERRY, Calif. (KSEE) – As a member of the Fresno City fire department, specializing in urban search and rescue, Frank Silva Jr. is always dealing with high-intensity situations.

“You can’t do anything 90%,” says Silva Jr. “You gotta do it 100 percent when it comes to firefighting.”

Which also serves the Auberry resident well in his main hobby — trying to go real fast on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

“It takes about 10 seconds to go a mile at 350 miles an hour,” says Silva, about driving his lakester down the famous Bonneville Salt Flats Raceway in Utah.

And during the annual Speed Week in early August at Bonneville, those miles were going by faster than they ever have before for Frank and his Got Salt Racing team.

“I mean, the word we’re throwing around is fairy tale,” says Brandon Carter, Frank’s crew chief.

“We went a lot faster than we thought we were gonna do,” says Silva Jr.

With Frank behind the wheel of the team’s 2300 horsepower lakester, they broke the record in their class by nearly 10 mph, by averaging over 353 mph, on the best part of two runs down the Salt Flats.

“We had the right recipe,” says Carter. “We had the right people on our team, and we had the right driver in the car.”

A driver who was carrying a lot of speed, and a lot of emotion with him in Utah.

“You know, I had more people come up to me and say, ‘your dad is smiling right now,’ and it chokes me up just talking about it,” says Silva Jr.

Because Frank Jr. got his love for Bonneville from his father, Frank Sr., who was an original partner — and driver — in the 32-foot lakester.

Frank Sr. passed away in 2013, and the record-breaking runs came after his racing team had memorialized him in a special way during a pass at Bonneville earlier in the week.

“One thing that Bonneville racers do that’s pretty special is they call it the last ride,” says Silva Jr. “We ended up releasing his ashes on our first 300 mph run, and it was emotional. I had tears in my eyes.”

“It was a very special and very emotional thing to watch, hard to hold back the tears really,” says Carter.

“I think my dad was in the car with me (on the record-breaking runs),” says Frank Jr. “I mean, I literally had a sticker in the canopy next to me (with a photo of his dad on it) while I was driving.”

Both father and son now own separate records at Bonneville. Frank Sr. set a record in a different class while driving the car in 2011. And don’t be surprised if some other Silva’s — Frank’s three daughters (13, 11, and 8 years old) — try to join that exclusive group someday in the future.

“I hope they do. I would absolutely love it,” says Silva Jr. “If they could reach the pedals, I would think it would be one of the neatest things to watch them go.”

Because the skill and knowledge it takes to set records, and drive safely at Bonneville, is in this family’s blood.

“One thing my dad always said, ‘the pedal goes both ways,'” says Silva. “If it doesn’t feel right, pull your foot out. If they wanna drive it, the door is there, the door is open.”

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