Indianapolis of the West-Ontario Motorspeedway: Lost Tracks of Indycar
welcome to another episode. Welcome to another episode of Pit Lane Parlay. My name is host. Mike Jokam my pal frank. Santer joins me as we discuss another long. Lost Indycar venue this week on. -Tario Motor speedway also known as the big O end Indianapolis of the West Frank. Thanks for joining me. Let's dive right in. Where do you WANNA start? Oh well my again. Thanks for having me but Let's just quickly talk about the how short the history of Ontario was talking to track that Broke ground in late. Sixty eight opened up to a lot of fanfare. Nineteen seventy and by nineteen eighty. It was closed shuttered. The only other thing I can compare that to is that Track chicken acid built in Chicago in CICERO That that that failed so quickly and Ontario didn't actually fail and we'll get into that later on but this let's talk about the kind of history and and and how how the came about but there were some different companies out there construction companies and even film ways which is a film company looking to put a racetrack in the greater Los Angeles area. They wanted to have the know like you said Indianapolis of the West and they had a couple of different folks to try it and then the every the film as thing kind of fell through construction company which was Stoltze or stole Stolt Construction Company. They brought the ideas and the plans to this. This guy named David Lockton. The lockton is an agent or he wasn't agent and he represented a lot of former drivers. He was also on the you said drivers board and he was good friends with Tony. Home and So this kind of connections and race and he was kind of intrigued by this idea of building attract out there on the west coast to host major venues racing so with his connections he was able to get guaranteed a five hundred mile. You sack race edition for Formula One and HR race and H R. You know a drag race before he even had a track which the fact that he had all that guaranteed you know if you build them. We will come. They able to Get The financing and twenty five point. Five million dollars. They spent on buildings place and he was able to do this. Through industrial revenue bonds and he was able to make the whole thing tax deductible which is kind of unheard of for a business operating as a for profit organization to be able to do this. Somehow this guy was able to weasel at through the and and to my knowledge is the only time the irs is ever allowed that but so they you know a series of industrial bonds municipal bonds. She was able to go ahead. And get this project underway. They had an eight hundred Acre area to build the track and by the time they got around to start in a lot of it. Had been subdivided parceled out and sold so he had to spend the time to give the options on all parcels which took him a couple of years but he was able to get that done and get the project underway to build the track. Now they've pattern the track after atlas two point five miles around but a couple of important differences the The straightaways were about one lane wider than Indianapolis and the short shoots were. Indianapolis has nine degree banking in the tournament. Flattens out again they. The banking was consistent through the whole short. Shoot so the whole short shoots were backed on on the big O. Which made made the lap times the potential to be a bit faster than even Indianapolis in addition to that Drag Strip infield road course state of the art and sweets grass fans electronic timing and scoring which pretty new thing at the time though and this thing opened up to a lot of fanfare and it was it? Was you know one of the most highly advanced tracks at the time when it opened up in? Nineteen seventy then. They hired Rogers and Cohen which is a Hollywood. Pr Firm to do the marketing and they spent millions of dollars on marketing. The the opening of the track in the first couple of races there they had an ad campaign that could be seen everywhere and they packed the grandstands for the for the first indycar race there which was a five hundred mile race in the once. They Jim mcelwain won that race but they they packed the thing and it was an overwhelming success. With that is after that they didn't keep up the marketing. So so the the the crowds dwindled not hugely so so the first race was great. People love it. It was awesome. They had the sweets celebrity. Was there. James. Garner drove the pace car thing opened up to it was amazing. It was you know like the the best thing that ever hit the west coast concerning racing And then you know from there. They hosted Nhra event they had the NASCAR guys. They're starting in seventy two. They eventually added Another date for the Usak Indy cars which was a They started out as a twin one. Twenty two hundred to one hundred mile races and then in later years it was a two hundred mile race so they they had two dates a year. They had they had nascar out there. They actually had you know people talk about you. Know INDYCAR AND NASCAR SH- sharing the same weekend. They did that. I in Ontario. They had a you know a you sack race Along with you sack stocks and then the next year they had to use sack race along with mass car the Winston West so it was a pretty neat place in its heyday. Yes sounds you know especially that first year they did everything right from hiring. Pr People the stands. Were sold out a couple of months in advance of that first USAK race. Let's see here looking at my notes. Ronald Reagan at the time was California. Governor presented the winning trophy president. Richard Nixon was there. His daughter and her husband were there well. Nixon Nixon's daughter was there. I'm sorry was represented at the event. See the importance of reading what you wrote down. But yeah there were one hundred. Seventy eight thousand seats sold out. There were sold at six weeks ahead of Of the green flag dropping. And you're talking. And they had a board of directors that was just packed with all kinds of names from the business world from the racing world. You had some celebrities there. I know the smothers brothers. Were on the board there and the mothers whose a racer in his spare time was on Roger. Penske Pat Patrick. You know all these all these guys did eventually formed. Cart were part of the board of directors at Ontario. Yes they really at least started out in in a strong fashion before we continue on with kind of. I guess how it fell. Apart at some point there were some other pretty cool events that took place. They're evil jumped over a record. Nineteen cars drawing a crowd of fifty thousand people that was the day prior to one of the NASCAR races there in nineteen seventy one and there was also some movie still near the evil knievel movie. And there's a few others that I can't find chips the TV show some wisdom there. There was a league actually the the Ontario Job was filmed for the evil can movie that they filmed so they use the actual actual footage of the actual jump and that evil knievel movie were I believe it was George. Hamilton played evokes an evil. You know but I mean I made my age fifty evil knievel just cool. I don't care what anybody even even those like me. Who are not quite fifty other other thing. They had a concert somewhere between three and four hundred thousand people parts were televised on. Abc Earth Wind and Fire Lack Sabbath deep purple nugent. Yeah you had aerosmith. Yeah I mean some amazing amazing bands that my co host map probably has never heard of but just in general. That's a huge concert. Really really cool to see so with that being said I'll say one more thing here and then we'll kind of talk about how the short history of Ontario started to take a turn for the worse but just like I normally do running through a couple of winners here. Aj for one in just about everything he entered in here whether it was a a now they call it. Nascar K N N pro. Wests the USAK races Let's see who else Johnny Rutherford Wander number of races ear. Like you fung Bobby Bobby I wanna I WANNA say. Aj One like five or six indy-car races there plus two of the NASCAR races. There five you sex and the first to NASCAR races as well as the I. Two K N N pro series racist. Whatever it used to be called back in the day I do not know. I'm just going off of Racing Winston West back in the day with his now what they call the Canaan but the goal of Ontario when they opened it was to be the first place to host. All of the major series. They wanted to host You know an HR NHRA drag racing of the stock cars the indy cars and they want to host Formula One. They wanted to have the Ontario. The you know the Formula One Grand Prix. Usa West and they had that lineup for nineteen. Seventy two. I believe but they wanted to do in what they call an audition race. I see just to see if the track was going to be suitable for Formula. One cars now we had already established David. Lockton was an agent right and he represented a lot of these formula. One drivers he had a lot of connections. He was able to pull this thing off and it was. It happened in seventy one. And it's called the quest or Grand Prix they. It was a non points paying race for Formula One but they were able to attract all the big formula. One teams over. You know Ferrari terrel Lotus All those guys were there. You're talking to you. Know Emerson Fittipaldi. Jackie Stewart Jack. Eeks you know all the big names of the day in Formula. One were there to round out the field they brought in the USAK guys. So you're talking you know. Aj foyt and Mario and I misspoke. I'm sorry Aj foyt and Mark Donohue Sweet savage was in that race. So they they brought you said guys over now. Kind of straddling. Both sides was Mario Andretti. Was well known as you sat guy but he was running Formula One of the time so he was entered as a formula one driver for Ferrari but he was You know very much favorite here in the states Indy five hundred winner in sixty nine. So when they they pull this thing off a they put the USAK guys in formula five thousand cars which are a little bit down on horsepower to the Formula One cars but but it's more of a similar car. They you sat cars. They felt would not be really strong. It's true the road core sections of the track that that being said the use that card probably would have blown away the foreign cars on the On the bank parts of the oval so for whatever reason they decided on these formula five thousand cars for the Usak guys but I mean we always talk about you know Formula One versus Indycar. Who's going to be faster and a head to head race? This actually happened? They did this thing But because of the fact that the Formula One cars hold so much more fuel than the Formula. Five thousand cars they they. They had a bit of an imbalance there. The where the the the formula five thousand cars would have had to pit for the former one cars. Not so they did the race in two heats so that There would be no feeling so they so they especially had You know too many races there and it was. The whole thing was just very the formula. One guys of course dominated qualifying. Jackie Jackie Stewart up there near the front and you know I think the highest qualified you said I might have been Mark Donohue. I've just trying to remember here. I don't have any notes in front of me. But he was maybe ten or eleven so but when they when they started this thing they did the traditional indycar rolling start. You've got these former one. Does the front so when they drive? Green flag these guys know what to do. If never done a rolling start. There used to the Formula. One Star where they so as just Kinda like all somebody GONNA do. Some they're still kinda going pace lap speed right so finally from fourth place. Jack EEK says I don't know what to do mash. The Gas Pedal Johnson to lead the race. Now the race was a little problematic. Here and there We had there's a lot of a lot of attrition. A lot of attrition in the race. Some mechanical some devastating crashes Swede savage crash pretty hard and ended up missing a few months racing after that but at at the end of the at the end of the day it was Mario Andretti who ended up winning both heats of the thing which made it a smashing success because hey you know here. We are former formula. Lumpkin say hey we won this thing and then you guys can say our guy won this thing. Unfortunately attendance at the thing wasn't great and it didn't. It did not lead to a permanent Formula One day which is what they hope but it is one of the more interesting footnote races in History. Just a a trophy race and non points race but at some very unique. This never happened before. Or since you know. Other than like the things in the fifties when they brought some Roadsters out out the Monza. But it's just an interesting little footnote in racing history that happened out. Antero yes A cool event to read about. I haven't really looked. I would love to see some footage of it. The race was what nineteen seventy one? So I'm not sure if it's it it exists. I honestly I've never seen any. I've seen some still photos and even then not tons of them but I don't know if it's a thirty two or not because I've looked forward haven't found anybody out. There listening knows anything. I know our buddy. Jason True is a Californian who is big into the racing scene. So Jason may be if you know something definitely just shoot us a message and let us know all right cool so now you mentioned like even evil stuff and the concerts and whatnot bays all these events. Were kind of you know after the first year with all the big successes. They still didn't recoup enough money to To kind of even out what they spend on building the track and on marketing. So that's why they started bringing these concerts. There were two of them. They called California Jam and like you said they they got nearly half a million people in there for these concerts evil knievel they brought the Nascar car's in there two days a week but they still weren't making money But the interesting thing is that we talked about the finances for the track earlier. These industrial bonds are I. Guess I'm not a finance guy but but I imagine they're like stocks. They can be bought right. The price for the boss dropped to. I believe as low as thirty cents a share you know which which allowed for the Chevron Land Company just Kinda jump in there by the majority of the shares and do a land grab so pretty much you know. It's like one day locked in is the primary and the next day. Oh by the way we own your track and we're close. Yeah which is talking about these tracks. Oh you know. The real estate became warned. You know and the crowds were down. This is more of a thing that the the company running it was insolvent and they the way they finance the thing which was clever very clever the way they got it done but it left them open to that land. Grab or hostile takeover. Whatever you call it. And then they began dismantling the track in nineteen eighty after just ten years. How that's Yeah I I also am not a finance person if my wife or my brother was Awake right now I would. I would call my brother ask my wife but that is not possible at the moment. I don't understand it either. Very very interesting. How you know. It's it's not. The typical land development like most of these tracks have been but is there anything left of what used to be Ontario speedway or is it completely gone from top to bottom. I WANNA say there's like little bits here like part of the front straightaway and I know just like Riverside. There's a housing community that is have some street names that are named after racing things like. There's a Ferrari Lane and and those sort of things there but I think largely it's Even from Overhead it. It's Kinda hard to pick our track used to be. There's a giant Hotel There Hilton Hotel. There's a outlet mall sorta thing there. There's some housing communities but it's all it's all been built over and it's just all the grandstands were you know portioned off. Most of them are not believe the in Salinas of the State Fair area. So it's yeah after all this time is Kinda hard to pick out his anything there but all that land has been redeveloped. You know we know that the real estate properties in the Los Angeles area or high so yeah but budget shop shopping in a shopping and housing. That's the way it goes but yeah no this talking about Ontario has been very interesting to me. Who before you and I talked about last week I knew it existed. I knew it was A very beloved track didn't I didn't realize it was there and gone before it even had a chance to have a long legacy but I actually just came across the concert poster which has like an Indycar a guitar with an Indycar Kinda combination. It looks really cool. I'll put that on social media when when we released this episode but Frank. Thank you very much again for educating everybody one thing we need to mention before before we go out is when Ontario was put on the sex schedules third five hundred mile race because they had pocono and they had Indianapolis so this was the what you call the triple crown when they first put on. Tehran had three five hundred mile races. Actually I I WANNA say Ontario came first and Pocono is the third but they had the triple crown and the only guy win the triple crown happened in nineteen seventy eight and that was Alex so and we and we miss the days when you know. We used to have three three three five hundred mile races. Because I'm sorry was replaced with Michigan and then Michigan replaced with Pocono. Replace Fontana but Yeah that that. That mythical triple crown that all oval track Lovers would like to see was was alive and well. We're not areo but still there at act. Yeah the good old triple crown days Do like reading about the three five hundred mile triple counting type events within the county year so we will wrap it up with that to discuss our Ontario Motor speedway history again Franken. Oh I mentioned a minute ago but thank you very much for helping me out through this. It's it's been a treat and guys we will be back with probably at least one or two more these. Before a two thousand twenty indycar season gets underway. So thank Frank. Thank you very much and I look forward to doing. Another one of these with you soon. All right well thank you. Mike and Really appreciate you folks to tune in and listen. Thank you very much. Thanks everybody for listening.