Codie Vahsholtz has enjoyed a successful career as a motorcycle racer. His resume includes three championships and three class records in the famed Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
On June 27, the 30-year-old Woodland Park native will start a new chapter when he gets in a championship car for the 99th running of the Race to the Clouds.
“A lot of things are much easier to control on a motorcycle,” said Vahsholtz, who will compete in the Open Wheel division in his father’s 2013 Ford Open. “On a motorcycle, you can manipulate your body. But in a car, you’re strapped in. I’m still getting used to it.”
Unlike most “rookies,” Vahsholtz is not going in wet behind the ears. He has a long pedigree. His father Clint and grandfather Leonard have more than 60 combined years of Hill Climb experience and are seeing to it that Codie has every advantage.
“It’s not fair to go in blind,” Leonard said. “I had to do it blind (in 1977) because I was a rookie the first year I raced. But I did OK.”
Leonard did more than OK. He drove a car, truck or SUV in the Hill Climb every year from 1977-2008. When he retired, he held the record for most class titles with 18.
The 73-year-old patriarch of the family is in the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame, Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame and Pikes Peak Hill Climb Hall of Fame.
Clint, 50, a Woodland Park High School graduate like his son, exceeded his father’s accomplishments with 24 class championships. Clint became King of the Mountain in 2020 when he raced up the highway in 9 minutes, 35.49 seconds in his 2013 Ford Open, setting an Open Wheel record.
“At this point, Codie is very handy in the cockpit,” Clint said. “We’re doing a little bit of coaching up front, but he’s starting to really get it figured out. He’s going to be a threat to win his division.”
Codie’s division includes Basalt’s Paul Dallenbach (two-time King of the Mountain and second overall in 2020) and local favorite Dan Novembre (seventh overall last year).
The Vahsholtzes’ Ford — Leonard owns the car — is equipped with a 402-cubic-inch, 850-horsepower engine that runs on methanol.
“We have better brake pads that are more efficient and a package that is more figured out because we knew we had a rookie driver,” said Leonard, known as “Pappy” by his family.
Codie’s lower-hill practice times are faster than Clint ran.
“Codie weighs 118 pounds and Clint weighs 180,” Leonard said. “That makes a difference.”
Codie’s goal is to have a division podium finish and be in the top 15 overall.
Like Codie, Clint competed in motorcycles his first four years (starting in 1992), winning three times and setting two pro records. He switched to stock cars in 1996 and won 21 titles in 25 attempts. The only time he didn’t make the summit was 2008 when his engine blew up.
Codie competed on Pikes Peak for the first time in 2011. He won championships in 2013, 2015 and 2017, setting a pro record each time.
Clint decided in January that he was not going to race this year, choosing to focus on training, preparing and helping his son.
Codie was forced to transition to cars or watch as a spectator. Hill Climb officials discontinued motorcycles following the 2019 event when motorcycle racer Carlin Dunne — a Ducati teammate of Codie’s — was killed near the summit.
“I came to the conclusion that I’d like to see Codie in a car,” Clint said. “He said, ‘Yes,’ and here we are.”
Vahsholtz family legacy
This is the 45th consecutive year at least one Vahsholtz will compete in the Hill Climb. The family has a record 45 class championships. The Unser family has 38.
The Unsers, who include the likes of the late Bobby, younger brother Al and Al Jr. — nine Indianapolis 500 victories between them — started competing in the Hill Climb in 1926 with Louie. He won nine King of the Mountain titles (Bobby won 10) between 1934 and 1953. Louie’s great-nephew, Al Jr., is the last Unser to win the overall championship (2004).
Pikes Peak is unofficially known as Unser Mountain, but perhaps Vahsholtz Mountain is more appropriate?
“We’ve had our share of success,” Clint said.
Leonard’s wife, Barb, joined her husband in being inducted into the Hill Climb Hall of Fame for her ground-breaking work with timing. She will again be involved in that capacity this year with Clint’s wife, Shelly, and Clint’s daughter, Carli.
Clint’s older brother, Ben, is the engine specialist on Vahsholtz race cars.
Codie and his better half, Kristen, have two children who may follow in the family tradition — daughter, Willow, 7, and son, Oakley, 3.
“I’ve been doing Pikes Peak since I was a brand-new baby,” Codie said. “My kids have always been involved with the race. We’ll see what happens.”
Clint plans to race in the 100th Hill Climb in 2022. He will be aiming to pick up victory No. 25 and maybe even a second King of the Mountain title.
Leonard, no doubt, will be heavily involved, though he will likely try to minimize his role.
“All I do is build the motor, or when they need stuff, I help them out,” Leonard said. “I’m a firm believer that you don’t (boast). Get the job done and it will talk for you.”
The Vahsholtzes have had a lot of help during their successful careers. Joe Lyons is Codie’s crew chief this year and Steven Brady is the crewman.
The title sponsors are Yokohama Tires, Phil Long Dealerships, Ducati Austin, Canyon Signs and Hammers Construction.