21 Mar 19
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Short track racing has always been popular and well attended in Southern California. The center was the half-mile Ascot Speedway in Gardena, run by the late J.C. Agajanian. The track opened in 1957 and remained active until 1990. The sport suffered for six years until Perris Auto Speedway opened March 30, 1996, in Riverside County.
Since its opening, PAS has operated under Oval Entertainment and the Kazarian family on the SoCal Fairgrounds, a stretch of 18 years. And, if Oval Entertainment has its way, the family will have another 20 years after president Don Kazarian signed a 20-year lease extension for the dirt track earlier this week.
“I am very pleased to sign this extension that ensures dirt track racing will continue at Perris Auto Speedway and in the City of Perris for many years to come,” Kazarian said. “I want to thank the fair board for working with us all these years and for helping us get this extension done.
“We have a great group of racers and a wonderful group of fans who I am sure are very excited about this news. We will have lots of exciting things coming up for both. Right now, it is full speed ahead as there will be a lot of work to do in the next 20 years.”
The clay oval has a international reputation. It is home to the USAC/CRA and SCRA Sprint Car Series, as well as the PASSCAR Stock Car Series. In addition, the track has hosted Nights of Destruction, modifieds, late models stock cars, trucks, full and ¾ midgets, off-road racing, motorcycle events and go-karts. PAS also hosts the most prestigious non-wing sprint car race in the nation, the annual Budweiser Oval Nationals in November.
Next on the schedule for track will be the annual visit of the World of Outlaws on March 30. It’s the lone Southern California appearance for WoO in the annual “So Cal Showdown,” and the card will also feature USAC/CRA Sprint Cars and The PAS Senior and Young Guns in the quadruple-header show.
As a member of John Force Racing, Robert Hight has seen his boss win several memorable NHRA drag races. On Sunday in Gainesville, Fla., High won the Funny Car title at the 50th Gatornationals – his second of the season and 47th of his career.
“This is huge. This is my fourth time winning here now. This is a big one. The 50th, there will only be one of these,” said Hight. “It seems like my boss, John Force, always wins the big races. We’ve had a 50th anniversary race for NHRA at Pomona in the summer and the big race with Winston Showdown Battle back in the day when he ran the Superman car.
“He just seems to win all the cool races, but I finally got one. This is a cool race to win and especially with everybody at this race. Anybody of ‘who’s who’ of drag racing was at the event. A lot of the people I’ve looked up to growing up as a kid were here and, now, I’m here holding the trophy and they’re watching me. It’s kind of a cool thing.”
Saturday’s card at Irwindale Speedway will feature Spears Southwest Tour for super late models and Spears modifieds (formerly Lucas Oil Modifieds). The feature is The R. J. Allen Inc. 100, with a purse of $25,425 for the Spears SW Tour 100-lap race.
The race will be divided into two 50-lap segments, but the race winner will be the driver with the best average finish. The tiebreaker, if one is needed, will be the driver who finishes in front after the second segment.
Race entries will include 2018 Irwindale winners Eric Schmidt and and past series champion Derek Thorn. In a twist, past Spears champion M. K. Kanke will compete against his son Cale.
The new Spears Modified Series will open with a pair of 40-lap races. Trevor Cristiani debuted in the series in August with a win, won a non-points race earlier this year at Kern County Raceway in Bakersfield and will compete against Ryan Partridge of Rancho Cucamonga. The series has scheduled nine races at five speedways in California, Arizona and Nevada.
Also competing will be the touring West Coast Pro Trucks
An autograph session is set from 5:45 to 6:30 p.m., with the first race at 7.
— The So Cal Oval Karters kick off the 2019 season Saturday afternoon at Patton Speedway in Warner Springs, the first of 12 for the season. The card will feature the five regular SCOK classes – KT100, F200, Open Class and Senior and Junior Clones. Defending champs Thomas Southern (KT100 and Open), Steve Juillerat (F200), Mike Demello (Senior Clones) and Shane Holt (Junior Clone) will be in action. Gates open at 9 a.m. and the first race is at 11. Admission is $10 and free for children 5 and younger.
— Doug Nunes won the Lucas Oil POWRi California Lightning Sprint Car Series opener at Bakersfield Speedway. Defending champion Jarrett Kramer was second, with A.J .Bender, Bobby Michnowicz and Eric Greco rounding out the top five. Sixteen-year-old Dalton Sexton was the race “Hard Charger,” finishing 10th after starting 17th.
— Grand Prix of Long Beach winners Sebastien Bourdais and Will Power will be inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, a City of Long Beach and Grand Prix Association of Long Beach joint project, at 11 a.m. April 11. The 14th Walk of Fame induction ceremony is held on South Pine Avenue in front of the Convention Center. “Sebastien Bourdais and Will Power have truly earned their place on the Motorsports Walk of Fame,” said Mayor Robert Garcia, who will be presenting medallions to the honorees. “It is a privilege to welcome them back to Long Beach and honor them for all of their outstanding achievements in the racing world.” Bourdais won three consecutive races (2005-07) and Power is a two-time winner (2008, 2012).
— The NTT IndyCar Series will be in Texas this weekend for the first of two races, the IndyCar Classic at the Circuit of The Americas, a 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course outside Austin. The race is scheduled for 60 laps and 204.6 miles. Josef Newgarden of Team Penske won the season opener at St. Petersburg to become the first driver to open the season with back-to-back wins since 2010, when teammate Will Power won races at Sao Paulo and St. Petersburg. Since 2012 , the series has averaged nine different race winners per season, including a record-tying 11 winners in 2014. There were eight different winners in the 17 races of 2018.
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— Danica Patrick will join NBC Sports’ inaugural coverage of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26. The former IndyCar and NASCAR driver will serve as a studio analyst on race day alongside Mike Tirico.
— The late Edward (Ed) Justice Sr. was presented the Founder’s Award at the recent International Drag Racing Hall of Fame ceremony in Ocola, Fla. Don Garlits, who runs the museum, presented Lynn Prudhomme with the Patricia Garlits Memorial Award, given annually to a woman involved with drag racing who has exhibited a selfless devotion to the growth and betterment of the sport. Others inducted included “The Texas Whips,” William and Curt Carroll; Gary Rupp and Pat Dakin, who raced as the Rupp & Dakin Top Fuel team; the Salt Lake City, Utah-based Iron Horse team of Dan Richins and Rex Pearmain; Mike Lewis; and Ted Dzus Jr, also known as “The Quarter Turn Man.”
Louis Brewster can be reached at email@example.com.