Fontana: Strong road racing tradition continues

Grand American 400 continues strong Southern California road racing tradition. FONTANA, Calif. (June 2, 2003) -- California Speedway is the new home of a strong Southern California road racing tradition that dates back to the 1950s. The...

Grand American 400 continues strong Southern California road racing tradition.

FONTANA, Calif. (June 2, 2003) -- California Speedway is the new home of a strong Southern California road racing tradition that dates back to the 1950s. The Speedway, located in Fontana, will host the 2nd annual Grand American 400 Rolex Sports Car Series race on June 6-8. Last year's Grand American race ended a 14-year absence of championship sports car competition from the Southern California area.

For three decades, Riverside International Raceway hosted world-class road racing. The circuit, located 25 miles southeast of Fontana, opened in 1957, with Richie Ginther, Carroll Shelby and Dan Gurney among the early standouts there. Riverside also hosted America's first Formula One race in 1960, won by Stirling Moss.

Former Los Angeles Rams standout Les Richter took over operation of the circuit in 1962, and began hosting the highly successful Los Angeles Times East vs. West race, featuring America's top sports car racers.

Over the years, the Can-Am, Trans-Am, Camel GT, Formula 5000 and Indy Cars were among the major series competing at Riverside, showcasing all of the stars of American sports car racing. The NASCAR Winston Cup Series found its western home at Riverside from 1963 through 1988, with road racing legends Dan Gurney (a five-time winner), Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mark Donohue among the winners.

One of those legends was current Rolex Series star Hurley Haywood, who won the last sports car race at the circuit, an IMSA Camel GT race, in a Group 44 Jaguar.

"Racing in Southern California was huge, and I remember them packing every square inch of Riverside with fans," Haywood said. "It was a wonderful venue to race at, and they had very enthusiastic spectators. Hopefully, we can capture some of those folks for our race at Fontana."

Riverside eventually fell victim to housing development, leading to a hiatus in Southern California road course competition. That tradition was revived when California Speedway was built in the late 1990s, with Richter overseeing the construction of the world-class facility.

Richter hadn't forgotten his road racing roots. A road circuit incorporating portions of the oval and infield was added to the facility in 2001, with the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series christening the circuit's new road course last year.

This weekend, the old and new will come together, when the brand-new Daytona Prototypes race for the first time at California Speedway in the Grand American 400, beginning another chapter in the exciting legacy of sports car racing in Southern California.

Haywood, a two-time 2003 winner in the Rolex Series, will drive the familiar No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche FABCAR, teaming with J.C. France in the Grand American 400. One of their top rivals in the Daytona Prototypes class is David Donohue, whose father Mark won a Can-Am race at Riverside in 1973. Finishing a career-best second in that race was Haywood.

Tickets are currently on sale for the Grand American 400 at California Speedway and can be purchased online at www.californiaspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at 800-944-RACE. Additional information is available on the Grand American website at www.grandamerican.com.

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Series GRANDAM