An unusual pair of entrepreneurs in Garden City will be taking their vegetable oil-powered pickup to the Bonneville Salt Flats in August to see if they can repeat their 2011 feat of breaking a record for speed.
Six years ago, Dave Schenker, Patrick Johnston and their Boise State University student club, Greenspeed, engineered a 1998 Chevy S10 truck to break the world record by traveling 155 miles per hour on vegetable oil at an event run by the Southern California Timing Association.
The Greenspeed club has since become Greenspeed Research, a nonprofit run by Schenker and Johnston, who studied together in Boise State’s mechanical engineering program. The two recently expanded their engine shop in Garden City to accommodate their consulting business, GSE LLC; an internship program that now hosts three students; the solar go-kart program that Johnston oversees as part of the nonprofit; research on the Chevy that they race at Bonneville Salt Flats in August; and work on another truck that they aspire to race at the annual Baja 1000 in Mexico.
With this complicated array of projects before him, Schenker is focused right now on the Bonneville test in August. As driver, he’s come within six miles per hour of the 215-miles-per-hour record, and hope to beat it at this year’s time trials, which will be held August 12-18 on the dried lakebed on the Nevada-Utah border.
Schenker’s not doing all this to promote vehicle racing, or even to promote the use of raw vegetable oil as a fuel. Instead, his complicated quest is fueled by a desire to promote the refined version of vegetable oil, called biodiesel, and to provide educational alternatives for people who, like him, don’t find the classroom to be the ideal arrangement for learning.