Gone Racin' at The California Speedway
Roger Rohrdanz and I headed out to the nearly brand new 1/4 mile dragstrip at Fontana, California. This is a beautifully constructed drag strip built in the parking lot of the California Speedway Complex, and operated by Stan Adams and the crew from NHRA. The crew moved the cars through the staging lanes at a steady clip and it was obvious that this crew knew how to put on a safe and professional drag race. Admission costs to race are $10 per car, plus $10 per person. Passengers are allowed and you can expect to make about 5-10 runs per meet. The day started out slightly overcast, but by 10AM the sky was clear, sunny and hot. The dragstrip is a permanent facility with removable concrete barriers, a hundred-foot concrete launch pad, on a well-paved 1/4 mile track. There is a modern aluminum grandstand for the fans, a race control booth and a food trailer on site. The rules require a driver to have a helmet when running faster than 12.99 ET (elapsed time from start to finish), a roll bar for speeds quicker than 11.99 ET, and a cage for times under 10.99 ET. The limit for the track is 10 seconds flat, and if you cheat and run faster than that, the officials will bid you a fond farewell. There is an ambulance with paramedics on hand in case of an accident. The pit area is huge and protected by a sidewalk and grassy median from the staging lanes. Stan Adams, acting track manager, is on loan from the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association), and said that they normally get about 400 cars per meet, half of them imports, with the rest of the vehicles being domestic cars and motorcycles. He went on to state that a good spectator turnout runs around a thousand to twelve hundred paid gate.
Quite a few were first timers to the track. Jennifer Wyatt sat pensively in her Honda Tiburon waiting for her turn to race. Wilson Leung ran a 16 flat in his 2000 Civic and says that the key is to get to the track early. Bryce Tryon and Kody McGinnis raced tandem in a '69 Chevy SS. Along came the bikes and I spoke to Cathy and Joe Silva. Cathy races a 1260 Suzuki into the 10 seconds, while Joe's 1170 Suzuki posts speeds in the 11.40 range. They also race at Rialto, Irwindale and LACR. Billy Bob Jr Lopez, Danny Gonzalez and Alvino Sanchez were hanging out, watching the cars and the girls. They come twice a month and said a firm "NO" when asked whether they ever got involved with any illegal street racing. They said that it goes on around Etiwanda Street, between Fontana and Ontario, but that if you are caught, there is a huge fine, the car is impounded for 30 days, and two points are added on to your DMV record. Spectators are also fined and their cars are impounded as well. He went on to say that on Memorial Day there was a big street race. Some 338 young adults, racers and spectators were caught and spent the night in jail. Many of those caught were now racing at the dragstrip.
David May said that they try to limit the cars to 400 entries. He says that the best way to race is to come early and stay late, as cars leave the track, and the officials will allow "hot laps" due to there being fewer cars. There are seven races in the spring, seven more in the summer, and a final seven races in the fall, in order to work around the CART, IRL and NASCAR Races. Mike and Marilyn Wood work in the tower and explained the functions of the announcers, starters and timing stand. Bill Moyle and his son Dave, were handling the staging lanes, keeping the cars moving along in an orderly manner. They also work at NHRA's Pomona track, and Dave is also a freelance photographer for National Dragster. As the day progressed, more families came, bringing small children, though the majority of people were teens and young adults. Grassy knolls and some trees provided a comfortable place to view the racing, if the stands were not to your taste.
Alicia Murray and Krista Fortner, first timers at the track, were watching the races with other members of the UTI Automotive School. Krista prefers American muscle cars and has a '65 Malibu 383, which has gone 13.40 ET at 104MPH. The O'Bannon clan was out in force. Jack O'Bannon, as many of you may know, is the owner of the O'Bannon/Oakwood Homes Top Alcohol Dragster that is driven by Rick Santos. Oakwood Homes has recently withdrawn its sponsorship of the team. They plan on taking a short hiatus and much needed rest, and then they will look for new sponsors. Sean O'Bannon raced his '66 Nova, while Jack ran his '55 Chevy. The others in this racing family included Kari O'Bannon, Mindy Crandall, Larry Buckelew and Larry Crandall. They have raced at Pomona, Irwindale, Carlsbad, Rialto and now Fontana, and their favorite track is California Speedway
Richard Parks, Gone Racin' can be reached at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM or visit the website at www.oilstick.com