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The Ascendent Family

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The Vahsholtz family

Auto racing is a string of barely contained acts of aggression, conducted on the edge of a razor blade to the accompaniment of deafening thunder.

Then there’s Pikes Peak, which adds thousand-foot drop-offs, snow, fog, cold, lightning, and frost-heaved pavement. It’s racing, alright…as conceived by Dante.

The three generations of the Vahsholtz family—Leonard, Clint, and Codie—together have an astonishing 45 championships on the Hill. They’ve won—and set records—in motorcycles, stock cars, sports cars, trucks, and open-wheelers.

Patriarch Leonard, 72, Raced to the Clouds for a record 32 consecutive years, collecting 18 class wins along the way. Son Clint, 49, has 24 total wins, culminating in 2020 when he notched his first overall win. Grandson Codie, 29, has three wins—all coming on two wheels and each setting a new record.

Excellence under such adverse conditions requires painstaking preparation. Each of the 156 turns must be memorized, along with every crack, pothole, and hump on the way to the 14,115-foot summit. Leonard insisted his scions drive the 12.41 miles at least 150 times before competing. Clint remembers riding blindfolded up the Hill with his dad, who would pull over and ask him where they were.

Still, preparation can’t eliminate all risk. Codie’s Ducati teammate Carlin Dunne was killed in 2019. Three bikers have died since 2012, and motorcycle competition is currently suspended.

Why do it, then? “I’ve known everyone since I was a little, little kid. I don’t think a lot of families get to experience that,” says Codie.

Leonard adds, “There are people who’ve focused only on racing, and family was part of it, but most of them are divorced, and we’re still hanging together.”

Clint sums it up: “With the Vahsholtz family, it’s a ‘must-do’ situation.”