Racing has been part of my life ever since I can remember. According to my parents, the first word I ever spoke was ‘car’. I remember waking up in the middle of the night when I was four years old or so and trying to watch a VHS recording of a NASCAR Winston Cup race my dad had recorded only to give up because I could not get the darn thing to work. I remember when our entire family went to the inaugural Winston Cup race at Sears Point even though my younger brother and I had chicken pox. I remember standing next to Dale Earnhardt’s show car that was at the track and getting my picture taken next to it.
My home track is Redwood Acres Raceway. It’s a 3/8-mile paved oval in my hometown, Eureka, California. The facility itself is over 60 years old making it one of the oldest short tracks in the west coast. From its inception until 1987, RAR was a dirt track. Before the 1988 season, the track was converted to pavement and has been that way since. I take great pride in “my” track and am very appreciative of the promoters, Rich and Linda Olson who have promoted the raceway since 1988. As far as I know, no other track in this country can say they have had the same promoters as long as RAR has. Considering that Eureka is a rather remote place in comparison to other cities/race tracks, I feel it says a lot, especially since so many racing facilities all along the west coast have closed in recent years.I have a lot of memories about NASCAR races of years past. Being an Earnhardt fan, most of my good memories are of victories by both Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. However, the majority of my favorite memories I have of racing come from the countless first hand experiences that I have had watching lesser known drivers put on shows just as good, if not better than what is shown on TV.
While RAR holds many memories for me, other tracks in this region have many memorable races as well, specifically Shasta Speedway in Anderson, California. From the time I was six or so until 16, my grandparents would take me to the open competition races at Shasta every spring for the Laura Robinson 100 and every fall for the Tri-Western 100. These races were some of the best of the year as drivers from all over the west would converge on the then 1/3-mile paved track (Shasta has since been converted to a 3/8-mile speedway.) Open comp races were the premiere races through the mid-1970s through the 1980s up to the mid-1990s. Thanks to my grandparents I was able to watch many of these events at places like Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Oregon, the new defunct Silver State Raceway in Carson City, Nevada and All-American Speedway in Roseville, California.
Nearly all of drivers who I remember watching in these races never made it to “the big time” but in spite of that it does not mean they were less talented or that the racing was not as good. I was able to see many great drivers race like Jim Walker, Roger Gannon, Billy Clarkson, Jeff Rogers and Robert Sprague. My grandparents and I always pulled for Walker who is a short track racing icon in the west but primarily were at these races to see Randy Olson. For me, Randy ranks right up there with the Earnhardts and Lake Speed among my favorite drivers of all-time. He was always a threat to win in every single race he entered at every track and I remember watching him do things in his car that other drivers could not do.
As I’ve grown up, I realized just how much fun and how much I miss the kind of racing I saw. I watch today’s races and while there are many talented drivers, they just don’t measure up to the races and drivers I saw 15-20 years ago. I very feel fortunate I was able to see as much racing as I was as a youngster. I wish that and still try to get in contact with people who might have video footage of these old races, just so I can see them again and reaffirm my feelings and emotions about the subject. Hopefully one that that journey will be complete.