Funny how no one associates NASCAR with California.
Yes. We (and I say we, your lovely hostess, NASCAR history aficionado, is out here in the Golden West) out here on the left coast are often left out of NASCAR history. California is a weird blip on the NASCAR modern map. One road course and (now) one oval race each season.
Sears Point ahem, “Infineon” has the distinction of being the first NASCAR race I ever attended and Fontana’s first races were my second. But what is really interesting about California, is that NASCAR was out here by 1951. That is pretty impressive.
In 1951, three California race tracks debuted on the NASCAR schedule. Interestingly enough, one of the tracks was on the site where the Oakland Raiders now play. The Oakland Stadium was a 5/8ths and then a 1/4 mile paved oval. The track was torn down in 1955. Two quirky facts about this track that caught my eye in my “History of the American Speedway”. The first fact notes that Oakland Stadium was perhaps the first track with a concrete crash barrier. The very first Safer Barrier, it would seem. And the second fact mentions that the last race at the track ran with dirt corners … I’m super curious now and I think that I know who I can ask. I will get back to you!
Where else did NASCAR run in California?
Riverside International is a given. People still talk about that road course. The track had several configurations and claimed the Clown Prince of NASCAR, Joe Weatherly in 1964.
Marchbanks, Ontario, Riverside, Eureka, San Mateo, Merced, Lancaster – how is it that once upon a time? NASCAR once flourished in California and now seems to be an anomaly. The Southern California market mistreats it. The fans are subjected to a strange combination of sushi, sea lions and Hollywood stars instead of instead of hot dogs and racing legends.
It kills me to drive past the towns and suburbs in California and know that there used to be a significant stock car racing presence here in this state buried under those ‘cookie cutter’ homes of the ‘burbs.
See you all in Fontana!
I know the track gets a lot of flack, and it isn’t my favorite. But it _is_ close enough for me to drive to. Seven hours, not that bad, right? Always worth it to see racing live.