The Returning Race

Cajon Speedway now joins the likes of Balboa Stadium, Speedway 117, Ontario Motor Speedway, Riverside, Ascot Park, Whiteman Stadium, Saugus Speedway, Corona Speedway, and countless others.

As I’ve written to you before, I was present for the first-ever race at Cajon Speedway when it was a dirt 1/4 mile track.  I had been a follower of the SDRA Modified Sportsman cars for years and naturally followed them when they moved to Cajon Speedway, especially since I lived in El Cajon at the time.

I remember the start of the El Cajon Stock Car Racing Association and the $200 claimers.  When I turned 21 I quickly joined the association and was fortunate that a guy named Fred Thomas allowed me to hang around with his (for lack of a better name) organization.  I remember the transition to “super stocks” and the first night the purse exceeded $3,000 for an ECSCRA event — really a  major event and fittingly the main event that night was won by Russ Bullen who was the ECSCRA president.  

I remember a night when Dick Guest ended up hard into and upon the crash wall coming out of turn 4 in a “Big Wheel” sponsored car.  I believe Dick hit so hard that he actually bruised his heart.

When my father passed away in 1971, Dick was gracious enough to go out to my parents’ home to look at two Datsuns they had and give me a recommendation as to which one should be retained for my sister’s use.

I remember any number of drivers over the years — Dick Fries, Harris Mills, Carol Botten (and his brother Gayle — wondered if they had a sister named “Tom” or “George”), Don Johns, Don Edmunds, Bud Sterrett, Don Thomas, Carl Adams, Gordon Turley (later the starter for ECSCRA), Frank Secrist, Rosie Roussel, Rip Erikson, Dick Zimmerman, Willie Kidd, Gordon and Don Hamilton, Mike Carmichael, Bullen, Vance Butler, Jim Hitt, Jim Whitt (the grandfather of Craftsman truck driver Brandon Whitt), Ed Hale, Ron and George Esau, Richard White, Al McBride, Warren Toles, and hundreds of others — you can tell that I left the San Diego area in 1972 by the drivers I’ve mentioned.

I can remember a Winston West race with Ray Elder, Jimmy Insolo, etc.

I can remember a driver in the SDRA modified sportsmen named Barney White whose father-in-law was, ironically, the coroner for San Diego County

I can remember writing a protest to the ECSCRA board (George Tripes, the ECSCRA President at the time, took a look at it and commented that it appeared as though I was actually learning something in law school!) for Butler and Howard Tipton (car owner/sponsor) after Butler was waved onto the track as an “alternate” at the start of a main event one evening by a guy named “Lucky” who managed the pit activity only to compete and complete the race but later have the points for that evening disallowed since he shouldn’t have been put on the track according to the board.  

It was interesting since one of his challengers for the ECSCRA championship that year was on the board that disallowed the challenge.  Oh yes, had he received those points, Vance would have won the ECSCRA championship that year.

I can remember seeing Billy Vukovich, Jr. and the Bettenhausen brothers — Gary and Merle — in USAC midget races there.  I can remember some CRA shows — the great Dean Thompson, Jimmy Oskie, Mike Shaw, etc. (even though sprint cars really don’t belong on asphalt they were still good shows!).

I can remember the ticket takers at the gate — one guy nicknamed “Frenchie” and the other (I believe) named Bob Alexander — a giant of a man.

I remember an attempt at a summer afternoon of stock car racing early in the track’s life when it was brutally hot, the dust was thick, and the track doctor recommended the consumption of as much liquid as possible, including beer.

I remember Bob Neumeyer working in the office each racing night.  I can also remember Howard Oldham “holding court” next to the concession stand inside the main gate.

I can remember the always friendly and kind Brucker family.  As I wrote you before, I actually directed cars in the parking lot of Cajon Speedway for a couple of years — it gave me a little gas money while in college and allowed me to get into the races for free after I was finished with my parking duties each year.  

I remember both Steve and Kevin as small children and was both horrified and saddened when Steve was killed. I was further saddened earlier this year when I learned of the death of Kevin’s wife although I never knew her. After we moved to the Los Angeles area, I always tried to make it out to the track to renew acquaintances on those Saturday nights when we were back in town to visit my mother who still lives in El Cajon.  I was always greeted in the office with a friendly smile and allowed to walk on in to watch whatever races were left that evening.

I doubt that I’ve visited Cajon Speedway for 12-15 years but I will always have the memories of the people and events that took place there.