By Miranda C.R. White

Staff Writer

REDLANDS - The car's engine starts, the driver has no idea what the car could do, and he still blazes forward over the salt flats.

Mike "200 mph" Brauer, 35, of Redlands set the world record for land speed on Aug. 20, clocking in at 257.427 mph at Speedweek.

The races were held at Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover, Utah, by the Southern California Timing Association.

Brauer described his record run - "from the time the car starts up on gasoline and my dad gives me the nod to pull the fuel lever on, the motor goes silent for a second until the nitro hits the first cylinder and all hell breaks loose.

"The engine starts cackling a beautiful noise," Brauer said. "The butterflies go away, one more tug on the seat belt and I am on my way."

He said that the first mile takes the longest.

"Just after the first mile I shift into high gear at 200 mph and the car starts to hunt around," Brauer said. "I grip the wheel firmly, not knowing what it is going to do."

He said he put one hand on the parachute lever just in case.

"When I go through the last timed mile I pull the chute, and I knew it was a fast pass," Brauer said.

"In minutes I saw flashing lights and horns blowing from the crew. That is when I realized I must have made a record run."

Crew member Lee Nichols said the crew, along with Mike and his dad, Gary, get together on the weekends to work on the car.

"We went to Bonneville this year and we set another world record, which was exciting," Nichols said.

He said this year was the 60-year anniversary of the Speedweek races.

"It was a really big deal and there was a lot of people," Nichols said.

On Brauer's first run, on Aug. 18, he went 227 mph, and then beat that speed the next morning at 232 mph.

"Mike's dad Gary thought we should be running better than that since we put so much into it," Nichols said.

Brauer's dad got on their computer and found a few things they could fix, and after fixing them, they were at 255 mph later that afternoon.

"We set the first wave of the new record," Nichols said. "Wednesday morning we went 259 mph, so that gave us an average of 257 mph for the final record."

Brauer won the race in a 1929 Model A Roadster. The motor is 496 cubic inches, and they were running on nitromenthane, a fuel like gasoline mixed with nitrous oxide that gives more power from each explosion in the engine.

Crew member Dale Peeler said it was a group effort to get the car running well to beat the record.

"We all work on it quite a bit," Peeler said. "In the long run, we just do it because we like to do it."

He said there was hardly any money involved. They might get a sponsorship that will provide for small things like oil.

He said everyone on the team working on the mechanical side has done it for years.

"We get it done and it sits for a bit," Peeler said. "We don't race very much."

When they do get to race, they do it up by El Mirage.

"Bonneville is the long race," Peeler said. "The track at Mirage is a mile and a third long. You need a lot of room. At Bonneville we race 5 miles."

Brauer said the entire trip was rewarding because of his dad's efforts and hard work.

"The maintaining of the car is a full-time job," Brauer said.

He said he also wanted to share the limelight with one of his best friends, Mike Cook Jr., who also set a record.

"Brauer & Sons Racing is looking forward to next year, shooting for 270 mph," Brauer said.

Brauer lives in Redlands with Corinne, his wife of four years. He also has three children, Megan, 6, Haley, 13, and Michael, 20.

"We spend lots of time at Glamis Sand Dunes in the winter time," Brauer said. "We have a sand buggy, a rhino and quads."

They love to spend time traveling.

Brauer's day job is demolition. He works for Penhall Company, a concrete cutting and demolition contractor out of Anaheim.

Brauer said he started driving race cars 10 years ago.

"My dad always had race cars when I was growing up, and that is all I ever wanted to do," Brauer said. "You can say I surpassed my dreams, getting into the Muroc 200 mph club with a speed of 205, getting into the 200 mph club at El Mirage with a speed of 212, and the best one of all, the Bonneville 200 mph club with a speed of 252.

"I guess you can say life doesn't get any better than that."

The car will run in Southern California at the El Mirage Dry Lake Bed in November. For more information, visit S.C.T.A.com.