Our journey continues with a stop on the Pacific Coast and a stay in Moss Landing right on the Monterey Bay, south of San Francisco. It's a short jump from there to the dirt track at Ocean Speedway for a Friday night show. Then it's on to the valley for the first of two asphalt tracks, Madera Speedway located near Highway 99, one of the main thoroughfares through central California and the San Joaquin Valley.
After a side trip to Yosemite National Park, we continue south to the new Kern County Raceway Park located just outside Bakersfield. This speedway basically replaced the previous asphalt track in the area named Mesa Marin, which I visited a few years before it was sold to land developers and torn down.
These tracks represent three of the last five racetracks for this year, and for the entire AMSOIL Great American CT Tour. We are still a long way from home, but each track we visit and each new area we see is very exciting and each has its own flavor and mood.
We were lucky to have scheduled this great dirt track on the weekend of the third annual memorial Pat Pettit Shootout Modified races. It was officially named the IMCA Xtreme Motorsports Modified race and the winner took home a whopping $15,003. That guy was Bobby Hogge IV from Salinas, California.
Since we were there for the Friday races and needed to get to Madera for their Saturday night race, we missed his performance. But, we did get to see some very competitive preliminary races, as well as the heat races. Ocean began in 1960 as Watsonville Speedway, a quarter-mile clay track. An early favorite was Ray Elder who ended up running in NASCAR against the top Cup teams through the late 1960s and into the 1970s.
Ocean Speedway was hosting the annual Pat Pettit Shootout Modified races. This was a two-d
John Prentice took over as promoter in 2006 and renamed the speedway Ocean. He welcomed us with open arms and put us right in the middle of the action in the pits. This is a very well laid out facility and a lot of cars showed up for this $500 to start race.
There is a muffler rule in effect, something I think many tracks need, if not all tracks. The cars sound cool, even with the mufflers and more and more of these places are being surrounded by civilization. There would be less need for ear plugs too, especially for the kids.
The classes running at this event included the IMCA mods, IMCA Northern Sport Mods, American Stocks, and the Four Bangers. The main event running on Saturday night is a 50-lap race. In the IMCA Modifieds, if you bring out two cautions, you're black flagged. In the Sport Mods, any contact and you are black flagged.
The track was plenty moist with the area having had lots of rain recently. It eventually w
The pink balloons flew along the back stretch bleachers at Ocean. This is a charity event
This dirt truck was nicely finished out and was one of the best looking stocker trucks we’
These are excellent rules and the program moved along very quickly. Not only do the drivers know they can't get away with contact, they know it will end their night. It really teaches these drivers how to race clean. We need more of that discipline.
Other events run during the year at Ocean include Winged and Wingless Sprint Cars, as well as Dwarfs cars all running normally on Friday nights. For you traveling teams who want to taste the competition at Ocean, be sure to visit the many seafood restaurants along the coast of the Monterey Bay and maybe do some whale watching. The unique submarine canyon just offshore from our RV park in Moss Landing is just the place to do that.
Madera Speedway is located within the District Fair grounds and so there is plenty of oppo
Lying just off of Highway 99 south of Sacramento and midway to Bakersfield, Madera is a 1/3-mile, high banked asphalt track. It is officially named the LoanMart Madera Speedway and that is important because it means it has local title sponsorship.
This is another of the few west coast tracks that I have been to before. I remember that the track is very racy and setup is very important. We settled in to our spot in the pits and before any cars had a chance to go out onto the track, a storm blew through with high winds and destroyed many of the canopies before anyone could react.
Once everything dried out, we were able to get the show going and the feature was a 100-lap Late Model race. On other weekends, classes include Winged Sprints and Super Modifieds, SW Tour Trucks, Northern California Modified Association Sprint Cars, USAC Midgets, and Legends of the Pacific.
The classes running on this Saturday night included the Open Late Models, Legends of the Pacific, Toyota sedans, Hobby Stocks, Modifieds, and the Super Toyotas. The last class was comprised of purpose-built cars that had to retain the dimensioning and design of the stock Toyota model they were based on, but could be built out of round tubing.
In the afternoon, a strong thunderstorm rolled through the speedway and the very high wind
Of course, the Super Late Models were there and always put on a great show at Madera. I vi
These purpose-built four-cylinder cars are designed and mandated to fit the chassis suspen
General Manager Kenny Shepherd runs a very good show and there were a decent amount of cars, but in line with most asphalt tracks we have been to in the last couple of years. The facility is a part of the large Madera District Fair grounds.
One thing I really like about the management at Madera is their community involvement and charity work. Among others, there are two new charities for 2013 and they are the Madera Rescue Mission, and the Honor Flight Network. The Charity they are currently expanding their relationship with is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California.
I don't think racetracks and sanctions in general do much for the community in this respect from what I have seen. Hey, it's not all about the money fellas, we all need to give back and support important causes in our particular areas.
Madera also has available company- and group-based specials that include many participatory functions such as handing out the trophies, group seating in special covered areas, selecting one in the group to announce “drivers start your engines,” waive the green flag at the start of the races and if someone in the group sings, they can sing the National Anthem. How cool is that.
Every track in this day and age must be creative and reach out to the population in their area and become a part of that community in order to survive. Besides that, it is the right thing to do. They must show their concern and willingness to give back. In doing so, much will come their way in the form of fan support, racer participation and many other good things.
Kern County Raceway Park
This new facility was built as a replacement for Mesa Marin Speedway, which was closed in October 2005. The opening day was May 18, 2013, just four months prior to our visit. The track is a half-mile asphalt main track with a quarter-mile oval inside along the front stretch for the smaller divisions.
It's very fast and sports a 13-degree banking angle with a raised backstretch. There are 5,000 seats currently with a potential for more than 15,000 seats. Truly the owners planned or hoped for much bigger events possibly connected to their NASCAR sanctioning.
There are 21 VIP suites situated within a four story control tower and concession building. A 250-person banquet hall sits on the second floor of the tower that can host corporate functions during the races or at other times.
There is a large paved parking area, TV quality Musco lightning and other features that might come in handy should they draw a nationally televised event sometime in the future.
Like any new business, and racetracks are no different, there are bugs to be worked out. This area was without an asphalt racing facility for almost eight years, so getting the fans to come back and reestablish their loyalty will take time and effort.
One thing that was strange was the $5 charge for parking. I know of no other racetrack in America including the big track at Daytona that charges for general admission parking. If you bring a motorhome, you have to pay $25 and there are no hookups available. These guys are going to have to get a little more fan friendly than that if they are to survive.
I liked the speed of this track and it all looks great. I really hope they can put together a working plan to attract both fans and races to make this a success. A lot of money went into the construction of this track and now it is time to do some planning.
Maybe they can consult with some of the other tracks we have visited where everything is well thought out and running smoothly. The “build it and they will come” movie dream just does not work in the real world.
The track is running a winter series that will include many of the normal cars that will run in the regular season. Those classes include the NASCAR Pro Late Models, Late Models, and Spec Modifieds running on the half-mile track.
For the quarter-mile track, the classes include the Mini Stocks, INEX Legends and Bandolaros, Mini Dwarfs, Quarter Midgets, and Karts. These classes are way too slow and not built correctly for the very fast half mile portion of this racetrack.
This Bandolaros cars run on the smaller quarter-mile track in front of the grandstands. He
This team is hard at work repairing a bent rearend that happened when it got too close to
The safety equipment at every track is something we review and notice often. Whereas some
The feature event on this night was the NASCAR Late Models and it was a 50-lap event. I had talked to Brian Richardson earlier in the day and he expressed how much he liked running here and how difficult it would be to beat the seven time winner, David Mayhew.
In the race, Brian did run down Mayhew and pass him with 16 laps to go and motor on to win on a night that was his daughter's 13th birthday. It was significant that she had agreed to celebrate with her friends at the racetrack watching her daddy race. It was a fun thing to watch.
Our Next Stops
We changed our original schedule a bit to include Havasu 95 Speedway in Lake Havasu, Arizona for their season opener, running through the winter months. Then we'll be doing our very last stop at Central Arizona Raceway located in Casa Grande, Arizona, before heading home for good.
Our trip south from Washington State to California was a great experience with all of the Sprint Car racing and side trips we made to places like Yosemite, Mount Shasta, Monterey Bay, the Redwood forest, and the huge Sequoias. We drove our bus down roads that weren't meant for large vehicles, and survived. We fought wine country traffic on a Sunday, and we ran canyons where the rock walls stuck out farther than the white line marking the edge of the driving lane.
We blew a left front tire doing 70 mph, were shut out of the Grand Canyon later on because of the sequester. We drove dune buggies on the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and made our way to the top of Crater Lake. We camped at the foot of Mount Shasta, visited the Olympic National Park as well as taking a trip to Mount Rainier, a magnificent sight.
All in all, the entire trip down the west coast from Deming Speedway at the far northern end south to Bakersfield was quite an adventure. The variety of landscapes, people, racetracks and opportunity for adventure are something Karen and I will never forget. See you next month for our last races and a wrap-up of the four year journey.
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 Speedways
Southern Oregon, Calistoga, and Silver Dollar Speedways
Petaluma, All American, and Battle Mountain
Ocean, Madera, and Kern County Speedways