Saturday, November 9 - Our original plan was to attend the races in San Bernardino at Orange Show Speedway, a 1/4 mile dirt oval, converted over from a 1/4 mile asphalt oval the previous year. Money woes with the current promoter found him locking the gates at Orange Show and his other track, Victorville, until further notice so that race of winged 410 sprints and wingless 360 sprints was off the calendar. Our alternate plan was to head northwest of Los Angeles to the seaside town of Ventura and the 1/5 mile high banked clay oval located on the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Not a bad backup plan as this bullring is a neat little joint and it would be the first time Pat and I would see sprint cars on this oval. The track is unique as the Ventura County Fairgrounds are located next to Seaside Beach separated by a road and beyond the beach is the mighty Pacific Ocean. From the back of the grandstands you can literally look out upon the vastness of the ocean. Also outside the backstretch fencing are railroad tracks where Amtrak commuter trains pass during the day and evening. A very unique place to view a race.
There are two tracks located at Ventura, one being the 1/5 mile and the other is an inner oval located inside the 1/5 mile. On the inner oval they run a variety of junior classes (none countable in Trackchaser rules). Tonight on the inner oval was two classes of mini dwarf cars, the super chargers (4) and the piston (4) dwarfs. In addition there was a junior midget class with two entrants. On the 1/5 mile the divisions and car counts were as follows: VRA sprints (16), senior sprints (7), Focus midgets (3), hobby stocks (13), sport compact (7) and go-karts (5). The car counts were disappointing and it seems the Southern California sprint car scene in particular maybe in jeopardy as with Victorville and Orange Show closing their doors the Southern California racing community is down to Perris and Ventura which both run on Saturday nights. Maybe just maybe the two remaining tracks can work together to insure that they both stay open by working out a two day racing weekend or running by-weekly if neither want to give up the prime Saturday night race date. But something needs to be done or racing in Southern California could turn out to be a thing of the past and once tracks are lost we know they don’t come back.
Back to the racing on this evening as the kid’s racing started promptly at 5 PM with heat racing and was finished at 5:25, before the scheduled starting time of 5:30 for the 1/5 mile track. The three car heat for the Focus midgets would be first up and we were surprised to hear that one of the drivers was from Andover, New Jersey. Upon further investigation we found out that the driver was 12 year old Calvin Carroll, currently fifth in the Eastern Focus midget points who has raced all over the country on the asphalt ovals but this was his first time on the dirt. On our flight home Pat went to the front of the plane to use the bathroom when a young man in the front row commented on our Lawrenceburg Speedway t-shirt and she started talking with him and his brother and father. Guess what? It was the Carroll family and they were headed back to Philadelphia on the same plane as us. Calvin has a deal with west coast resident and former driver, Brad Noffsinger, to drive his midget in several events. This was one of them at Ventura. Anyhow I would like to tell you that Calvin Carroll swept both his heat and feature but that was not so. The heat win went to lady racer, Courtney Crone, and the feature went to Austin Blair with Calvin finishing third in the feature.
The senior sprints were next up for their heat with Ed Schwarz driving the Cory Kruseman #21K taking the heat win. Two heats were run for the hobby stocks followed by one heat for the sport compact (mini stocks). Two VRA sprint heats were contested for the 360 cubic inch sprinters with Jace VanderWeerd and Greg Taylor, who both spent their summer in Indiana racing there. All qualifying was completed by 6:10 and four minutes later the first of the junior division features was trackside. JD Brown won the super charger mini dwarfs on his birthday and Garrett Egan took the piston mini dwarf feature. The super charger feature was actually pretty good as JD chased his sister, Sandy, for many laps before passing her as they encountered a slower racer. Mike Long was able to hold the perferred groove and hold off the constant pressure from heat winner, Nick Velasquez, to take the win and become the first racer to not sweep their events.
Then it was back to the 1/5 mile where the 20 lap go-kart main was spun off in quick order with heat winner, Matt Jones, sweeping the go-kart division on the evening with the feature win. The Focus midget 20 lap feature was next to the post with Austin Blair winning over Courtney Crone and Calvin Carroll. It was now 6:45 and time for intermission. After the sun had disappeared behind the horizen it began to get quite damp and you could wipe the moisture off the wooden backs of the seats in the grandstand. During the intermission J.C. Agajanian Jr. was interviewed by promoter and announcer, Jim Naylor, with many interesting and amusing stories told about Agajanian Sr. and the entire Agajanian family. J.C. gave out family packs of tickets to some lucky fans whose birthdays were the closest to Jim Naylor’s on the 30th of November. The 45 minute intermission also saw the track crew rework the entire racing surface but I feel that anything longer than a 30 minute intermission is too long. By 7:37 we were ready for the next feature on the card that being the senior sprints. The 20 laps went non-stop in four minutes with Steve Brown winning his first ever race at Ventura over Clif Warren (not a misspelling) and Ed Schwarz in a good, competitive race.
The hobby stocks would also go 20 laps and unlike the senior sprinters would not go non-stop. Five cautions slowed this one but the racing was still good when they were running with Danny Quinn nipping David Heurung at the wire after Heurung led the first 19 laps. Coming off turn four Heurung suffered a flat right rear tire and tried to throw a block on Quinn but Quinn managed to slip by to win with Erine Malone coming in third. The sport compact feature went non-stop in six minutes with Zachary Peterson triumphant. Now we were down to the 30 lap VRA sprint main event and it started off on a sour note. Kyle Woodward, second in points, started second and dropped back a few spots entering turn two. An opening appeared on the inside entering turn three and he dove for the opening but it closed causing him to climb the front end of another sprinter and lightly roll over and back onto his wheels involving five other cars in the process. This ended Woodward’s night prematurely and goes to the old adage that you can’t win the race on the first lap. The racers settled down after this and ran non-stop until lap 18 when third place runner, Troy Rutherford, threw an ill advised slide job on second place runner, Luke Boles, which failed miserably spinning both drivers. Since this was the second incident that Rutherford was involved in their rules state that if you are involved in two mishaps you are done for the evening. Rutherford was over aggressive the entire evening and got his due with this penalty. In the meanwhile Richard VanderWeerd, the twin brother of heat winner Jace, was in command from the beginning and led the final two laps to take his first victory of the year at Ventura in his first appearance of the year over Rick Hendrix who started eighth with seventh starter, Greg Taylor, the current point leader finishing third with tenth starter, Tom Hendricks, fourth and twelfth starter, Kyle Smith bringing it home fifth as the final checker fell at 9 PM.
Overall a good night of racing but the car counts are a big concern for the future of this track. Also the crowd was decent but could have been much better but that is difficult to comment on as it is late in the year and football and other things are taking place also so I am not sure if there summer crowds are better.