Traditional Sprint Car FanSite

See You At The Races!!!

 The Friendly Little Track By The Sea
by Norm Bogan

If you could pick a scenic location for a racing facility, the Fairgrounds at Ventura, California would be near the top of the list.  As you sit in the grandstands, you can look to your right and watch surfers riding the waves of the Pacific.  To your left, is a background of mountains, covered with many spanish style, white stucco and red tile homes, interspersed with tall palm trees, while in the foreground, the Coastal Amtrak trains sweep by and blow their whistles.  In front of you is one of the best maintained racing facilities in the country.

Motor racing has been an event at this locale since about 1910, when there was a half-mile horse track, used for motorcycle races.  In the 1960s, Johnny Mantz, Indianapolis veteran and winner of the first Southern 500 stock car race, established a 1/10 mile track at the fairgrounds for speedway motorcycle racing.  After Mantz's death in an auto accident, Harry Oxley and Mike Doyle, operated the track, running Speedway Bikes. Jim Naylor took over operations of the Fairgrounds track, from Doyle, in Mid-1977.   Jim continued the Speedway Bikes on Tuesday nights and added the local TQ association on Friday nights.  In the early 80s, Go-Karts joined the TQs. 

In 1985, the track was enlarged to 1/5 mile with Street Stocks added to the racing program.  In 1986, TQs and Midgets under the USAC banner, begin to campaign at Ventura.   Prior to the 1991 season, the track was expanded to nearly a quarter-mile, the roof was removed from the stands, new lighting was installed and a press box was built.  All this was in preparation for the ESPN "Thursday Night Thunder" series of televised USAC Midget races.  It had always been Naylor's dream to run the powerful Sprint Cars on his track and in 1993, an exhibition race was held.  Additional banking was added prior to the 1994 season and for the past three seasons, Ventura has been a regular stop for the SCRA Sprint Cars.    

Jim Naylor and his staff, Bev Blackwell, Cliff Morgan and many other loyal subjects, take great pride in their track.  They keep the facility neat and clean, all their track equipment is painted alike, labelled and numbered.  They have their own fire truck, tow truck, grader and other support equipment.  The safety crew is all outfitted in Simpson fire suits. 

Ventura's regular program consists of Street Stocks, Pony Stocks, I-4 Modifieds, IMCA Modifieds and IMCA sprints.  During the year, they have special shows featuring Dwarf cars, Legend cars, USAC Midgets and TQs, SCRA Sprints, antique flat track motorcycles, Go-Karts and Mini-Sprints.  From 1988 to 1992, Ventura ran Stadium Motocross and Off-Road events featuring Class 10, Unlimited 1600 and Baja Bugs.  Originally, Stock cars ran on Friday nights, Go-Karts and TQs on Saturday.  In 1994, the programs were switched to exclusively Saturday nights. 

The staff has worked hard to produce a show that will draw the fans, reward the sanctioning bodies and make the Raceway a profitable venture for the Fairgrounds.  Through his efforts to provide a showcase for the USAC Midgets on television, Jim Naylor was commissioned to travel with a contingent of USAC TQ competitors to Paris, France to help develop a show in Europe.  He helped to build and prepare an indoor track for this exhibition race.  For his efforts, USAC awarded him with "Race Organizer of the Year" in 1991 and the Jim Blunk Award for "Support of the Midget Series", in 1993.

As you arrive early at the Raceway, you observe Jim Naylor perched aboard the grader or in the water truck, preparing the track for that night's competition.  If you speak to him, you become aware of his burning desire to make everything as perfect as possible and you realize that he is the ultimate race fan.  During the racing events, Jim takes his place in the announcer's station and calls the shows with enthusiasm, which endears him to the paying fans.  He has a great zeal for auto racing and has surrounded himself with a nucleus of key people, who also, are first and foremost, fans.  The mix has provided a well run facility, which has been a favorite for the race attendees, over the years. 

Ventura Raceway operations personnel, functioning as Raceway Pro-Motions, are very aware of the competition for the "sports dollar" and do their part in the entertainment business, to create continuing good product for the fan. In 1994, Ventura was the originators, on the West Coast, of the IMCA Sprints for the lower budget teams. They also offered a venue to the fledgling SCRA Sprints Cars.           

The management team has also been active in the community, getting many local businesses involved as trophy sponsors, advertising on Raceway billboards and in the racing program.  Over the years, a number of fund-raising activities have been supported by the track, to help offset medical expenses for several injured drivers. 

Drivers who started at Ventura and moved on to national prominence are P.J. and Page Jones, Jay Drake, Cory Kruseman and Kara Hendrick.  Some of the national stars who have raced at Ventura, include; Stan Fox, Rich Vogler, Sleepy Tripp, Kenny Irwin Jr., Jimmy Sills, Mike and Pat Bliss.  Tony Stewart and Stevie Reeves, both clinched USAC National Midget Championships at Ventura. 

Ventura Raceway offers a variety of shows over the year, so pick out something that appeals to you or just do it on a lark and take in a Saturday night show at the friendly little track by the sea.    






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