In this chapter of the 2013 AMSOIL Great American Circle Track Tour, we visit three dirt tracks. One is in the process of being revived, one is a classic and one is close to the second in that respect. As the season winds down, there are inevitably end of the year special events featuring the top race teams of the region competing. The latter two racetracks we visit fall into that category.
We prefer to see a regular weekly show at these Tour tracks we select, so that we can evaluate how the track operates for the locals who are the primary supporters of the facilities, but there are times when the big shows are all that are happening at this point in our Tour and in the part of the country we have moved into.
I'm not complaining, just explaining how we end up visiting a couple of tracks that are putting on big shows that don't come close to resembling the regular weekly events. So, we'll throw in a bit of history and try to paint the portrait of each track for you.
Southern Oregon Speedway
SOS lies just outside Medford, Oregon, in a fairgrounds park away from the town, enough not to be a problem to the residents. Chuck Prather was the promoter we met at Coos Bay Speedway over on the coast of Oregon featured in our last installment. Chuck Jr., his son, is learning the ropes by promoting SOS, which is also under the management of Chuck Sr.
Here, they also run the rental Sprint Cars we described last month as well as several other classes including Modifieds, B-Mods, Pro Stocks, Dwarf Cars, Street Stocks, Super 4s, and Mini Stocks. The numbers of all of these classes were way down when we visited, but the Chucks were in the process of reviving what I saw as a great facility and a very good and racy track.
The track itself at SOS is a very good one. It has good dirt/clay and no walls around the
I heard from some of the racers that a lot of teams residing in the area around Medford, were staying home due to the economy as well as maybe waiting to see how the new promoters were going to run the track. They might have been disgruntled with the previous promoter.
On the night we were in attendance, there were few numbers of each of the classes and even fewer race fans. But, Chuck Sr. is just getting started and his plans include a promotion that is designed to get the other racers back and bring back the fan base so that this racetrack can live on.
We attended the Louis Vermeil Classic races at Calistoga, deep in the heart of Sprint Car
Calistoga was not on our original schedule, but because of circumstances beyond our control, and an unnamed track that was out of control with its management, we decided to skip the wacked out track and visit a truly historic and wonderful old classic racetrack running, lucky for us, a classic event.
The Louie Vermeil Classic is just that. It is a big Sprint Car race honoring the guy who built the very first race car in Calistoga in 1937, the very same year that racing began at the Napa Valley Fairgrounds. The stories of Louie abound and even my friend Bill Montagne from Alaska has stories of meeting him and remembering things he did back when Bill lived in this area and raced flat track motorcycles and Sprint Cars.
So, here I am, sneaking in on late notice to experience the wonders of Calistoga. I manage to talk my way into a media pit pass and proceed to explore like a kid in a toy store. The track that Mr. Vermeil helped build and promote has grown into quite a spectacle.
I think many of us have heard of Calistoga, but to be here was awesome. There was a defini
The management here, in the name of Tommy Hunt, has poured a lot of effort and money into making improvements to this fairgrounds track located smack in the middle of an historic residential area where the parking is on the streets in front of houses for blocks around the grounds.
There are brand-new fences, added grandstands, new paint, and a sense of excitement in the air that can't be adequately described. These folks just love the racing that goes on here and this weekend is the highlight of the year for fans and racers alike.
What caught my eye was the odd location of the grandstands and the circle of lights in the infield as well as the flagman's stand. They were all placed down toward turn one and were not centered on the front straight, like the track had been much shorter originally and Turns 3 and 4 had been pushed out.
I spoke with several locals and was assured that it has always been a half-mile and maybe because they also ran horse races on this track, the finish line was down toward the Turn 1 end of the straight. It's still odd when I see a finish line that far down the straight past where the drivers must lift in order to slow for the turn. On the last lap, the entry is way late for racers who are competing for position. It can get hairy.
Calistoga will live a long life due in part to its strong growth led by Louie early on, and mostly to the classic races run here that keep interest in the track. And the community supports all of the fair activities because it brings in much needed tourist money to this small community of just over 5,000 people.
Silver Dollar Speedway
SDS is located in Chico, California, just off the I-5 route. Racing in this area had an unusual start. The first races were run at the fairgrounds in 1948, and then moved two more times before the current racetrack was constructed in 1962.
There is a long history of Sprint Car racing in northern California and this week's races reflected that history by hosting three major Sprint Car series in one four day show, The Gold Cup. I attended only the first night run on Thursday night, September 4, since we would be visiting Petaluma that Saturday night. Plus, Chico was a long drive from our KOA in Petaluma.
That show featured the California Civil War Series. The next night saw the USAC Western Classic Series run and Friday and Saturday nights hosted the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars.
The track was a bit slick for the first night of the Cup series races and there were non-winged as well as winged Sprint Cars racing. In the non-wing class, both the heats and the feature races were run in straight line entry fashion with the cars never getting sideways.
Anyone who dared to fly into the turns and go sideways also went backwards in a hurry. That is what makes dirt racing so interesting. The drivers must learn and develop patience for those times when the track just will not give out any bite. It's hard not to try and run wide open through the turns like Sprint Cars can do so well, but doing so is way slower at times like these.
The veterans know that and take it very easy. It sucks as a race driver to have to do that, but the win is just as rewarding. I have seen this phenomenon so much on this Tour. Even with a track that has grip, the line might be somewhere that is uncomfortable to run, but it is still faster and must be used. The high line with the cushion might just be slower and the smarter drivers figure that out sooner than later.
The one unique thing I found at Silver Dollar Speedway was the rule for the non-winged Spr
One thing that definitely stood out was that the non-winged cars rules required them to run starters and batteries. This allowed the show to get started sooner, but after the races began, they were all pushed off anyhow if they stopped on the track. I can't figure out why this rule was instituted and I strongly suspect that it won't be around long.
We will be getting more of our fill of Sprint Cars when we visit Petaluma Speedway on our next stop, then we're on to Nevada and the Battle Mountain Raceway dirt track out in the middle of nowhere, literally. Our third stop after that will be back to asphalt in Roseville, California, and All American Speedway where we are taken very good care of.
We're making our way south through California ending up in Arizona for our last two races of not only this year's Tour, but the last race of the entire four year adventure. But the fat lady hasn't sung just yet, there's a lot more to see and report on.
AMSOIL is a sponsor of the USAC Sprint Car National championship. They have recognized the
As is usually the case with big events, there were a number of old time race cars on displ
PitStopUSA.com, the sponsor for this car, is a local racing parts supplier out of Petaluma
Don't forget to check out the rest of our series on The 2013 AMSOIL Great American CT Tour!
Atomic Motor And Rocky Mountain Raceways
Meridian And Stateline Speedways
Wenatchee and South Sound Speedways
Skagit and Deming Speedways
Evergreen, Douglas County, and Coos Bay
Calistoga, and Silver Dollar Speedways