As race cars zip through the streets of Long Beach this weekend, we take a look at some of Southern California’s long-lost raceways.
First in Southern California
When the first Ascot Park opened in LA in 1903, horses, cars and motorcycles all took part in the races. The first auto race was held in 1907 and the last in 1919.
Built in 1924, the Legion Ascot Speedway closed in 1936 after the grandstand burned down. The speedway was near what is now Lincoln Park, just east of Route 5 and a few blocks north of Route 10.
Legion Ascot Speedway was a 5/8 mile banked dirt oval. The truck had a deadly reputation and in 12 years he had 24 fatalities, earning him the nickname “Killer Truck”. This may be why the track is also known as the first track to use safety helmets.
Women were banned from racing by the AAA in 1909, but some found ways to compete.
The most famous of the four Ascot Racecourses is Ascot Park, which opened in 1957.
The track has hosted all kinds of races for 33 years, from sprint races to figure 8s. Daredevil Evel Knievel performed his first public stunt when he jumped over his six cars on a motorcycle. In 1967, Knievel made his first national television appearance with Ascot, on ABC’s show he flew 15 cars. “The wide world of sports.“
By 1910, vehicle speeds exceeded 80 miles per hour.
The Los Angeles Motordrome in Playa del Rey was an elevated wooden board truck that opened on April 8, 1910. It wasn’t the first racetrack in LA, but it was the first in the world. The one-mile oval can accommodate 12,000 spectators and was designed by velodrome (bicycle track) engineer Jack Prince.
The track was about 45 feet wide. It is estimated that more than 2 million square feet of lumber were required. Sportswriters nicknamed the truck “Paipan”.The track was estimated to have a slope of at least 18 degrees (by 1912 Prince owned a St. Louis track with a slope of 62 degrees). Motordrome enjoyed his successful three years, hosting both auto and motorcycle races.
A fire under the Playa del Rey track in August 1913 damaged it so badly that the owners chose not to rebuild it.
Motordrome wasn’t the only LA truck abandoned due to fire.
When you think of Beverly Hills, do you think of racing cars? If it was 1920, it might be. Prince designed a 1.25-mile wooden railroad track with a 35-degree bend on the vast plot of land where today’s Beverly Wilshire Hotel is located.
The track accommodated 50,000 to 70,000 fans, and the winner of the first race in 1920 covered 250 miles at an average speed of 103 miles per hour, faster than the winner of that year’s Indianapolis 500.
The Beverly Hills Speedway closed by February 1924 when the land value increased due to real estate development. The track’s owner built a new venue in Culver City that opened in December 1924 and with property values rising he lasted until 1927.Just as the Los Angeles track gave way to development, so did the San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The grounds of Riverside International Raceway and Ontario Motor Speedway are occupied by shopping malls, warehouses and residential properties. The Riverside track was open from 1957 to 1989, and the Ontario track opened in 1968 and closed in 1980. Opened in 1997, Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway is located about two miles from the old Ontario Motor Speedway.
fight to compete
Perris Auto speedway Built in 1996, it is a half-mile clay oval in the Lake Perris Fairgrounds. Truck and other companies around it are in a legal battle with the state over the Peris Dam construction project, so there’s a campaign called #saveperris.
strip it off
Drag racing has its roots in the Southern California desert, beginning in the 1930s. After World War II, it became so popular that the National Hot Rod Association was founded by Wally Parks in 1951.
The Santa Ana Drag Strip, now located at John Wayne Airport, was recognized by the National Hot Rod Racing Association as the first commercial drag strip in the country.
The drag strip opened on June 19, 1950 and ran until June 21, 1959, with racing from dawn to dusk on Sundays (except Mother’s Day).
The Strip charged an admission fee and allowed most people to enter the competition. Some people came by personal vehicle. Others customize their cars specifically for racing on Sunday.
https://www.dailynews.com/2023/04/14/a-look-back-at-some-of-southern-californias-lost-race-tracks/ Looking Back at Lost Southern California Racetracks – Daily News