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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.