During the race season, I have an opportunity to
attend events at a number of different racing venues in southern and central
California. As the season is now
winding down, I thought I would relate some of the programs held at these
different tracks and some of the unique features at each.
The new kid on the block this year has come on the scene with a bang.
This is one of the best, paved short tracks in the country. The facilities are all first class and the initial schedule
was very aggressive. Midway into
the season, it was decided to throttle back the Friday night schedule, because
the southern California traffic nightmares were limiting to both the fans and
competitors. A variety of events
have been offered in both stockcar and open wheel formats.
There are a number of special events such as; NASCAR Winston West and
Featherlite Southwest Tour, plus USAC Silver Bullet series, coupled with a
regular program of NASCAR classes, who competed in point races for track
championships. Other groups that
participated at the track during the year were three different race truck
series, Legends cars, Mini-stockars, American Cities Racing League, Star Mazda
racers and Allison Legacy cars. Irwindale
will be the host for the annual Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix, this year.
This four-year old facility defined the meaning of “State of the
Art” dirt track, when it was constructed.
Many creature comforts were incorporated, such as; plentiful restrooms, a
large variety of food concessions and a clean paved and landscaped access to the
grandstands. The SCRA sprint cars are the headliners and call the PAS
their home. There is also the local
track racing series PASSCAR and Champ trucks, plus annual appearances by the
World of Outlaws and AMA Motorcycles. This
track gained national recognition at their opening for the quality sound and
This was a top-notch facility, when it was created about a quarter
century ago. It still offers good
seating, adequate parking and some outstanding racing.
While the bulk of the racing has been the pavement stock cars, now under
NASCAR sanction, there have been numerous open wheel events, such as;
Super-Modifieds, Sprint cars, Midgets and USAC Silver Bullet races over the
years. Each year, traveling series
like, the Craftsman Trucks, Winston West and Featherlite Southwest Tour, bring
their shows to this half-mile oval. Many
young drivers honed their skills at this track before moving on to various
SHOW: Back in the forties, when
the Midgets were in their heyday, they ran weekly shows at the then, dirt
quarter-mile. Later, the track was
paved and the weekly program was shifted to several classes of stock cars.
Over the years, the types of racers have varied with what is currently
popular, but for the most part, the track and it’s agenda has remained much
MARIA: For thirty-five years,
Doug and Nettie Fort have had one of the crown jewels on the west coast.
As you journey along US 101 on the central coast, you pass by this track,
distinctive with its checkerboard grandstands on the side of a hill overlooking
the third-mile clay surface. Santa
Maria has always been a hometown track, with the majority of competitors coming
from nearby communities. The major
portion of the program has been several classes of stock cars, but they do run a
Dirt Car division and have run a local sprint car series at times.
For a number of years, Santa Maria has hosted the traveling bands of the
World of Outlaws, NARC winged sprinters and the CRA/SCRA non-wing sprint cars.
The track has been popular with the fans and racers alike, because the
racing surface generally stays tacky in the cool, coastal evenings and provides
some outstanding racing action. A
number of drivers have collected their initial victory at this racy little
This third-mile paved oval has served as a home track for the
powerful central valley super-modifieds. A
few years back, they had a regular pavement sprint car series and the midgets
make annual visits here, where they draw good crowds from this hotbed of open
wheel racing. With NASCAR sanction,
some outstanding stock car racing has been presented.
For many drivers chasing regional points, Madera is often a quick
substitute for a rained out show to the north or south.
This racy three-eighths mile, banked clay oval is famous for
providing the best racing, when the World of Outlaws make their swings on the
west coast. When the track is
right, it is one of the best sprint car racing surfaces for either winged or
non-winged cars. Located in the
picturesque Kings County Fairgrounds, it is a pleasant stroll from the parking
area to the grandstands. In addition to the several classes of stock cars that run
regular shows at the track, open wheel fans are also treated to appearances by
both the Rebel 360 winged sprints and Bandit 360 non-wing sprints.
USAC midgets and TQs stop by also. The
local flavor is present as you can purchase Portuguese linguici sandwiches,
which are prepared right under the grandstand, with smoke wafting up to lure the
fans down for a bite.
This track also dates back to the forties and has had varied surfaces of
dirt, oiled dirt and pavement. Currently,
this third-mile clay oval runs the usual local stock car programs, plus serves
as the centerpiece of the Western Late Model Series.
Each year, appearances are made by traveling series, bringing in midgets,
TQs and sprint cars, both winged and non-winged.
Improvements have been made to the track over the decades.
Grandstands, safety fencing, lighting and sound have all moved up a notch
to give the fans a better presentation. About
ten years ago, the track was expanded from a quarter mile to one-third and the
banking was increased. Once the
racers adjusted to these changes, the racing became more spectacular.
Bakersfield Speedway also has picnic areas where fans can enjoy their
soda and hot dog or the track’s famous Tri-Tip sandwiches.
Recently added, was a lanai area with misters, for that welcome relief on
hot summer afternoons.
This track is a newer entry, even though a quarter mile track existed for
some time. The race programs were
confined to fair events, such as destruction derbies and monster trucks.
In 1996, a lease was issued for weekly racing promotions and the track
was expanded to a three-eighths banked clay oval.
Like most other hometown tracks, the backbone of their program is the
local racers with their street stocks and similar classes.
This is also an area where open wheel racing is quite popular, so local
360 sprint car racers were also on the program. Visits by the traveling groups of NARC and SCRA have been
greeted with enthusiasm. The racers
are have been pleased with the racing surface and the pit area.
Tulare, also offers the linguici sandwiches as a specialty.
Another plus is that RV parking is available on the fairgrounds, for
those fans, who choose to spend the night.
Ads declare this to be the “Best
little dirt track in America” and the staff tries very hard to live up to that
billing. The tight little quarter mile provides some of the most
intense racing that can be witnessed. Ventura
Raceway owns all of its safety vehicles, push-trucks and tow trucks, which are
all painted in the speedway color scheme. Personnel
manning these vehicles are employees of the track, so they always have a full
staff and are prepared to handle all situations during the evening.
Aided by the natural moisture of being located right next to the Pacific
Ocean, careful surface preparation delivers an outstanding tacky surface, which
is massaged throughout the evening to keep it at the optimum performance level.
Several classes of stock cars, running under the Ventura Racing
Association banner, plus the popular IMCA modifieds and sprint cars fill the
weekly fare, while a few times during the year, the USAC midgets and TQs, plus
the SCRA sprint cars will compete at this venue. The track is also home for the CDCRA Dwarf cars.
Ventura is very fan friendly and goes to great lengths to make the show a
good as possible for the folks that pay the bills.
There are several other tracks in this area, for
example, El Centro, where the Imperial Fairgrounds has hosted races first on a
mile horse track, which was reduced to a half-mile and later to three-eighths.
Currently the track is not operating.
Tracks that I haven’t visited are asphalt tracks at Blythe and El
Cajon, plus dirt tracks at Barona, Pearsonville, Porterville and Victorville.
Rest assured that if you visit any of these tracks, you will likely see
some form of stock cars, such as; street stocks or mini stocks and late models,
featuring drivers racing for the fun of it.
Many of these classes don’t even pay a purse, but provide an outlet for
guys that otherwise, would be playing in an industrial softball league or going
The short tracks are the heart of auto racing.
This is where all the heroes started.
Take time to visit one of these tracks and enjoy the real grass roots of
the sport. Your preference may be
open wheel or stock cars, asphalt or dirt.
It doesn’t matter, seek out what gives you enjoyment. For me, it has been a lifelong love affair and I’ll take it
all the way to the checkered flag.