KENNEDY: Checking Out Victorville
LOS ANGELES — I attended the first USAC race at the Victorville track on the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds premises March 26. It was a winner. Raciness of the three-eighths-mile clay track, competition, car count and attendance all were excellent. The track is a bit larger than the third-mile Bakersfield and Santa Maria clay tracks. Victorville Speedway — newly renamed Victorville Raceway Park — by new promoters Steve and Jill Quercio, of nearby Oak Hill, signed a longterm contract with San Bernardino County Fair management to promote 34 events at the facility.
A press release stated they have promoted monster truck shows at Victorville for more than years, so they know how to market motorsports in the high desert area. They also promoted concerts and operated several race tracks that had stock-car and drag racing.
Two more USAC-CRA sprint-car races at VRP have been replaced by open competition non-winged sprint-car races thanks to a disagreement between Quercio and USAC regarding the amount of the purse to be paid for the events.
The VRP grandstands hold 3,500 persons according to a PA announcement during the March 26 race. It added that USAC 410 race attendance was the largest crowd for an oval race at the site. The largest crowd ever was about 4,500 for a holiday monster truck event.
The VRP covered main grandstand reminds me of the Imperial County Mid-Winter Fairgrounds near El Centro and the Tulare and Hanford three-eighths-mile clay fairground tracks. Open bleachers near the first and fourth turns also offer excellent sight lines.
The sound of engines reverberates off the grandstand roof and back wall as they do at Imperial, Tulare and at the one-mile Cal Expo covered grandstand in Sacramento. It adds to the sensation of speed at sprint-car races.
John Aden is a high desert resident and the VRP track preparer. He is a veteran sprint-car driver and builder of the 777 sprint-car chassis that he sells to customers. Aden mounted the track grader and reworked the VRP clay prior to the March 26 feature. The track had outside and inside grooves and facilitated passing all 30 laps.
Time trials took much longer than expected because two veteran drivers took spectacular flips in the third turn. First Danny Sheridan flipped and eight qualifiers later Seth Wilson suffered a broken kneecap when his No. 1x flipped.
He underwent surgery soon at a hospital near his current home in Las Vegas. Seth is the grandson of USAC veteran midget driver and 1950s-60s Indianapolis 500 veteran Dempsey Wilson. With open competition sprint-car racing at the Victorville track since 2008, Seth had won main events and was considered one of the drivers to beat at VRP. His first lap time held up fifth fastest time.
The new VRP promoter had an action-packed 30-second TV commercial and a quarter-page local newspaper ad in weeks leading up to the March 26 USAC-CRA race. The ad campaign worked and it appeared many new high desert residents were in the grandstands. The only admission price to the grandstand was $20 for adults and less for children. There were no lower ticket prices for seniors or active military on March 26.
A track rep told me those ticket prices are planned for future races. Pit passes for non-members were $50 and $40 for members, but pit passes came with a track meal, an unusual offering at California tracks.
VRP did not have a printed program for sale to all the new sprint-car fans. A printed program would be a good idea for future VRP events for sprint car and/or midget events. Local ads in the program (as on the VRP billboards), could cover the printing cost along with the $4 or so program cost. That would be another income source if done correctly. The VRP promoter stated he does not reap any profits from sales at food or beverage concessions. A printed program could advertise upcoming VRP events, include the schedule so spectators could make plans to attend events/races of interest to them.
The new VRP website is informative. VRP promoter Quercio has stated he plans to cooperate with other area promoters, such as Donnie Kazarian at Perris, to avoid race date conflicts with similar cars.
The March 26 A-main winner received a beautiful USAC trophy made from two pieces of solid billet aluminum about 16 inches long and 20 pounds. It’s a definite keeper.