Cajon Ramblings – The First Note

First and foremost there is the enduring honesty and integrity of the Brucker family who ran the track for its entirety. No one ever got cheated out of a penny by them. Their word was their bond. Their loyalty was also unending.

That is not to say that I agreed with everything they did over the years. But then again they didn’t always agree with what I wrote either. When that happened, they let me know what they felt and then it was history. This world would be a lot better place if it was filled with people like the Brucker family.

This track and the people associated with it also continually opened their hearts to those in need. Over the years drivers donated their winnings to various causes like ChildrensHospitalor the Burn Institute, supported the community with programs like Racers Against Drugs, Team KIDS, and Racers Reaching Out. On a personal level, the support by everyone connected with Cajon Speedway for Chris Trickle, the kid I came to love, after he was shot in Las Vegasand during his 13 month ordeal until he died will never be forgotten – by me or the Trickle family.

On a much lighter note, no one can ever forget Weird Marvin. Before he became a driver Marvin, whose dad Max Chappell raced jalopies in Balboa Stadium, used to sit in the grandstands in the northeast corner of the track. Up there he was famous for standing on one leg and then trying to put the other one behind his head. He succeeded many times. What is amazing is that he never fell out of the grandstand!

Back in the sixties when the track first opened there was a lady we called “Bombs Away Bertha”. She would come to the races alone, all decked out in a leopard skin dress with a matching jacket and hat. While watching the races, she would drink her beer. When she was finished, she’d toss the can over her head yelling “bombs away”.

There was also Mrs. Kramer, the mother of Bones and Bill, who would bring her baked goodies to the track office every week. She was one wonderful cook.

Listening while Walt Cole told another story was always a treat. A different type of treat, and not as tasty as those goodies from Mrs. Kramer, but certainly just as enjoyable.

And then there was the night Mark Meech’s grandmother read me the riot act over something I had written about Mark. Mark told me to just ignore her comments.

I got to watch the races from the pit tower after it was erected about 1990. It replaced a rickety wooden structure that a mere gust of wind could have blown over any Saturday night. There was no better place to watch the races than the pit tower in turn four. You could see the whole track without turning your head. Nor was there a more fun loving group at the track that the folks in that tower. About the only negative up there was that you could not hear the expert commentary of ace track announcer Tom McGrath, who called the action on the fastest 3/8 mile paved oval on the west coast.

On the track one can never forget the incredible season long battle in 1974 between Ron Overman and Gary Crossland for the championship. The tension built throughout the season and the final night had a climactic finish. Crossland started the final race in 18th position two rows back of Overman. But then Crossland was involved in a six-car accident on the 12th of 50 laps. He returned to action with a badly battered front end with the sheet metal ripped away. He restarted at the rear of the pack and drove with nearly reckless abandon. He crossed the finish line in third place, one position ahead of Overman. But Overman ended up taking the championship by a mere four points.

That battle split up the five championships won by Pat McIntyre. McIntyre clearly cemented his name on the top of the all time list of drivers by earning the titles in 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, and 1977. Those were the heydays of the El Cajon Stock Car Racing Assn. At least sixty super stocks were in the pits every Saturday night and if you blinked when you qualified, you missed the feature. Amazingly McIntyre won 44 features during his career. Certainly several drivers have won more time than McIntyre. But you have to remember when he raced. He always started in the back when any one of twenty starters in the main event could have made their way to the checkered flag first.

The biggest single season accomplished occurred in 1966 when Russ Bullen won seven super stock main events in a row. Again that was when the competition was so keen. Still Bullen just edged out Vance Butler for the championship.

I still cannot fathom that Mark Norris did not miss fielding his super stock at Cajon for 17 consecutive years. It didn’t matter how bent or broken the car went home each week. It was back the next. When Mark was suspended once or twice, the car was still at the track the next week. Yes Ivan Harrison matched that 17 years of 100% participation, but Norris did it when one division raced nearly every single week. Mark’s car was here for 415 consecutive racing weeks from 1971 through 1987.

Of course no one who was at the track will ever forget the first Boat Trailer Race. That event was so wacky. Everyone was in stitches when it was done. That track was littered with parts. One of the track’s caution lights was knocked down. The event was never matched.

Other memories include the “Ground Effects Dinosaur” driven by Mike Hagerman. That Chevrolet Nova was one heck of a race car.

We cannot ever forget Ed Hale for several years wearing a tuxedo each week over his driver’s uniform. He was sponsored by Bob Coffman Formal Attire. Earlier in his career, Ed had brought out a station wagon super stock with the driver’s cockpit where the middle seat of the car would have been. Ed raced anything and everything, won in them too, and really earned his nickname “Smilin Ed”.

Ed ruffled some feathers over the years. He and John Borneman (the elder) never did get along. I doubt if they ever sat down together, drank beer, and talked. But on the track Ed was the hero. John was the villain, not that that bothered him. The louder the fans yelled, the more John loved it.

The most unlikely main event winners may well have been the track’s last. On October 9, 2004, Cajon ran a 150-lap factory stock enduro. No one knew at the time that it would be the final stock car event held at the track. Robert Hughes and Tom Jaggi were not exactly household names at Cajon Speedway. Both were regulars at the 3/8-mile paved oval. Hughes never qualified for a main event in the factory stocks. Jaggi never finished better than 12th in a main event the street stocks. But when the checkered flag fell on the race that fateful October 9 evening, they took the checkered flag in first place and split the $1000 first prize money.

There are many other things I will never forget.

Jack McCoy won the first main event; that was a San Diego Racing Assn modified sportsman race. That race came just two weeks after Balboa Stadium closed down when the Chargers came to town. I have never forgiven the Chargers for “kicking” auto racing out of Balboa Stadium.

That year, 1961, I started high school at Monte Vista in Spring Valley . Our first football game was played in the infield at Cajon Speedway. We beat Poway 27 – 6 and then didn’t win another game for two years. In fact Monte Vista won only two football games during the four years I was there.

In 1962 Mike Emery won the first stock car race at the track. If only we had known then what a long and glorious history he was starting.

A 21 year old kid named Chuck Allen won the 1964 SDRA championship. Chuck lived in Pt Loma and had attended Dana Junior High where one of his physical education coaches was Earle Brucker Jr., the founder and long time promoter of Cajon Speedway. Chuck was my favorite driver in those days. It seemed like brothers Les and Herbie Crawford did everything in their power to keep Chuck from winning the championship, but in the end Chuck pulled it off.

Who can ever forget the night that John and Debbie Borneman got married at the track?

Then there was the night Hal Shuster was trying to load his racecar on the trailer after the races. Hal gunned the motor; the car shot up the trailer, and landed partially on the trunk lid of Hal’s Cadillac.

Stu Peace did his part for “men’s lib” by racing with the powder puff a few times. The women beat him too.

Speaking of the powder puff, John Borneman and Ed Hale had nothing on Barbara Baxter and Holly Stahl.

There were the many Saturday afternoons sitting on lawn chairs in the pits before the racing started talking with Ron and Dee Cable about anything and everything. There were no secrets at Cajon Speedway.

I’ll never forget the always long phone conversations during the week with my buddy Mike Mendenhall. And there were the many nights spent in Mike Hagerman’s shop over on Magnolia and in Larry Hageman’s Lakeside garage.

There are also a few things that I wished we could have seen too.

John Tipps should have gotten a ride in a NASCAR late model sportsman. It would have been interesting to see the all time street stock king of the track compete against Cajon’s best.

Dave Arce should not have had to wait until this year at Orange Show in San Bernardinoto win his first main event. He showed so much grit and determination over the years at Cajon that it is a shame he never made it to victory lane.

It also would have been great to see Ron Overman win a late model sportsman championship. I still cringe when I think of him still competing. Ron should be enjoying his senior years participating in his other favorite sport – bass fishing

And so Cajon Speedway is history.

After the races, Ed Hale was famous for saying, “We had fun.”

Yes, we did Ed. We all had a lot of fun for 44 years at Cajon Speedway.

Thanks for the memories.