Friday, March 22, 2013

A Brief Look At The Old Champion Speedway In Brisbane, CA

  "Champion Speedway was patterned after the famous Ascot Park in Los Angeles, and Included a ¼ mile oval on the inside of the bigger track, " 
From The Jim McLennan page.

One of the tracks that is getting lost in the sands of time is Champion Speedway in Brisbane, California.  The location of the track is not far from Candlestick Park, where the San Francisco 49ers still play football for a little bit longer anyway.  There is a nice little story about the building of this dirt track on the Jim McLennan web page (scroll about two thirds of the way down).

They had a dirt oval track and a one-eighth mile drag strip and held many events at this facility.  The track featured Hardtops, Stock Cars, Midgets and Sprints Cars at one time or another and held some of the biggest open wheel and Stock Car races in the state.  This included NASCAR and CRA sanctioned races.

In fact, NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model races were won at Champion Speedway in 1964 by Ron Hornaday Sr. and by Marvin Porter in 1965. 

I don't have too many details from the past on this track, but I have some.  I did an interview in the early 90's with Jerry Garner, who raced at this track in the 1960's.  Jerry told me stories about racers like Joe Roletto and George Tietjen.  If I manage to dig this story up, maybe I'll add it to this post.  I also found a forum with some information in one of the threads.

Ed Jacobs ran a Dirt Modified at Antioch and Watsonville in the 1990's, and his parents gave me several issues of Racing Wheels.  His mother covered the races at Champion Speedway, so I got some information, especially on the 1966 season.  What's interesting to note is Gene Hoffman was the Limited Sportsman champion in 1966.

Gene's son Howard actually raced Late Models for a brief period at Antioch in 1986 and 1987 in a Ford Thunderbird.  Following Gene in the Top 5 in 1966 were Jim Burdick, Richie Smith, Butch Bishop and Joe Roletto.  Bishop also won back to back Petaluma Speedway titles in 1963-64 and was also the champion at Alviso Speedway during that time, beating Roletto by just one point for the 1963 championship.

It's sad to me that so much racing history here in California is fading into obscurity.  Either tracks close and nobody keeps the history or tracks have been open for years and the track management hasn't bothered to keep the records.  I guess the history may be nice, but it doesn't pay the bills.  For a while though, Champion Speedway had some great racing, or so I've been told.  I just wanted to put that on the record here.