FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 27, 2023
BEHIND THE WHEEL
FAN FAVORITE “FASTEST PASTOR” DON WICKSTRUM RETURNS FOR 2023 RACE TO THE CLOUDS
Colorado Springs, CO – Seventy drivers from around the world and across the US will converge in the Colorado mountains for the 101st Running of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, brought to you by Gran Turismo, on June 25. Among the field is Pikes Peak veteran, Don Wickstrum also known as Fastest Pastor.
When Don Wickstrum arrived at Pikes Peak in 2019, the first year he attempted to tackle the mountain, he could not have dreamed what was in store or where the 12.42 mile course would lead. He started as a competitor, but his role at the Race to the Clouds has grown in so many ways. Connecting early on with PPIHC chaplain, Layne Schranz, Wickstrum and Schranz shared a common bond through deep faith. Few drivers maintain the enthusiasm throughout race week demonstrated by Fastest Pastor. A talented driver turned mentor, Wickstrum has become a friend and confidante to many, both on the track and at Fan Fest. While his love of motorsports, especially on Pikes Peak, is evident, his passion for life and his faith guide him. Wickstrum has become a true ambassador for the PPIHC, sharing the story of his life, his cancer battle and his Pikes Peak dream in a 2022 documentary film.
In 2022, Layne Schranz made his final run on Pikes Peak following a stellar 30-year racing career. He handed over the honorary role of PPIHC chaplain to Don Wickstrum before the race.
Both drivers are pictured at the 14,115 ‘ summit of Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain after crossing the finish line in 2022.
Popular with drivers and fans alike, Wickstrum shared, “The fans here at PPIHC are like no other, they truly make a nobody like me feel like a rockstar! They have been here for years with us. They’ve laughed, cried, and celebrated with us. They have been with me since day one through both crashes, our first finish, and finally a summit, all while I battled cancer. The PPIHC fans are the best, but honestly they aren’t just fans, they are family.”
Wickstrum also described what he enjoys most about racing on Pikes Peak, “I love my PPIHC Fans and Fan Fest! Fan Fest is like the pre-game party to the race and is a huge focal point for us as we absolutely love the personal setting we have to meet the fans. Over the years we have really built a reputation for having a fun booth – but there’s more to it than just getting a photo or an autograph. We want to talk to you, encourage you, cheer for you, and pray for you. This world is so filled with hate, discontentment, and trials, and we try to bring a bit of hope. We want to let people know they matter, they have purpose, they are more than their circumstances and past, that they have a story that can be used to encourage others, and that they are loved by Christ. I have had so many encounters with people who have touched me deeply, and to see them come in and leave changed is totally worth it. We want everyone to step into our booth knowing they matter. What an energy-filled night so full of amazement!”
While every team knows the importance of sponsors in any racing series. Wickstrum shared the roles his sponsors play in his Pikes Peak effort. “I am so blessed to have the sponsors I have had over the years. I can honestly say I don’t see this happening without them. It’s not the financial aspect some bring but even more importantly, their investment in me as a person, as a ministry partner, as a racer, and as a friend. They come out here with us, they share the experience, but they also offer up support any way possible. I have developed lifelong friendships with our partners. It has been so rewarding and humbling.” Photo by Larry Chen Photo: Louis Yio
Wickstrum’s first two attempts on Pikes Peak didn’t work out as he had hoped. Crashes during early morning practices forced him to withdraw from the event in 2019 and 2020. Undeterred, Wickstrum was back behind the wheel in a new Pikes Peak racer – a 2016 Riley LMP3 sporting #25 in 2021. “I first flew #25 as a rookie – the very first time I ever raced in my life. I picked it because it was my twin’s favorite number and she didn’t think I would do very well, so I thought if I used her favorite number at least she couldn’t cheer against me. That number started it all.”
With a turnaround in luck, 2021 and 2022 saw Wickstrum among the Fast 15 qualifiers and poised to make it to the summit. However, race day weather on Pikes Peak was dismal in 2021 and 2022, shortening the course in 2021 for all competitors, and blanketing itself with fog in 2022. Despite the gloomy weather, spirits were undampened in the Wickstrum pit.
Arriving at the summit of Pikes Peak America’s Mountain in 2022 after four long years of effort and dedication was an awe inspiring moment clocking a 12:09.972 in the Unlimited division. He had finally reached the summit.
Wickstrum’s wife, Mary, chose a name for the car before Don brought it to Pikes Peak, “Gianna”, meaning ‘the Lord is merciful’ in Italian. Wickstrum pointed out what’s new for Gianna in 2023, “A lot! We’ve worked hard on CFD with our crew and Ryan from Zebulon to improve some aero for the mountain. Our guys went hard after geometry improvements to the front end suspension. Shane Tecklenburg from ST Consulting is back with us again and so is Kevin from KSV. We have done quite a bit of testing compared to past years, and we are very pleased with the way things are progressing. We still have a list of improvements we hope to get done, and we will.” Photo by: Larry Chen Photo – Charles Naboy
Get to Know Don Wickstrum:
Pikes Peak Heroes – Bobby Unser, Jeff Zwart, Rod and Rhys Millen, Layne Schranz, Randy Ruyle, and Cam Ingram
Favorite part of the course – The Ws
Most challenging section – Above Boulder Park
“I bought my first car at age 10 ½ and rebuilt my first engine shortly after.”
“I have been married for over 20 years and have 5 kids with my amazing wife.”
Wickstrum was the subject of a documentary film in 2022 by I Am Second titled Chasing Hope featuring his Pikes Peak story, his cancer diagnosis, and how his faith sustained him.
ABOUT THE PIKES PEAK INTERNATIONAL HILL CLIMB
First staged in 1916, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is the second oldest race in America. The invitation-only event, often referred to as The Race to the Clouds is held annually on the last Sunday of June on Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain, near Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. The famous 12.42-mile (20 km) course consists of 156 turns, boasts an elevation gain of 4,725 feet (1,440 m), and reaches a finish line at 14,115 feet (4,302 m) above sea level. The PPIHC’s six race divisions feature a wide variety of vehicles – from production-based Time Attack challengers to purpose-built Open Wheel racers and state-of-the-art Unlimited vehicles. The current race record was set in 2018 by Romain Dumas and Volkswagen in the all-electric I.D. R Pikes Peak – 07:57.148.