For the last 60 years Fontana, California, has been known primarily for its steel mills, factories, and truck stops. Sure, back in the late '60s through the early '70s drag racing had a home about 60 miles east of Los Angeles at Fontana Drag City. But up until the mid-'90s the only sound of revving engines came from the Santa Fe train yard, or diesel trucks huffing their way north on the Cajon Pass.
All that changed in June of 1996 when California Speedway opened its doors to the flourishing racing sanctioning body known as NASCAR. Before then, Californians had to travel east to Phoenix, Arizona, to get their fix of the left-turn-only circuit. During this time Winston Cup Racing was becoming huge, and new racing stars were developing literally overnight.
This was great for the roundy-round fans, but the straight-line racers were left out in the "Fontucky" cold ("Fontucky" [Fontana+Kentucky] was coined by people living west of the 15 freeway who think they have more culture than their neighbors just east of the 15 freeway. Fontana folks: feel free to send hate e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org).
In February of 2001, San Bernardino County officials were seeking a street-legal dragstrip in hopes of providing street racers with a place to drag race-legally, and more importantly, safely. In June of 2001 Speedway President Bill Miller, NHRA founder Wally Parks, and President Tom Compton announced plans to construct a dragstrip to accommodate NHRA's Street Legal Racing Program.
This was great timing for the Southern California drag racing community, as Pomona Raceway's Street Legal Program had been shut down years earlier due to strict noise constraints by the nearby City of La Verne and its local blue hairs.
Within about four months, Parking Lot No. 1 at California Speedway was transformed into California Dragway, a first-class drag racing facility dedicated to serving Southern California's local drag racers. The strip was originally built for street racing. However, due to the lack of dragstrips on the West Coast, NHRA decided to include the track as a legitimate stop on the Division 7 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
In late 2005, the folks at California Speedway shocked the local drag racers by announcing the closure of California Dragway in order to make room for a Speedway expansion that included new eateries and open areas to create a more fan-friendly NASCAR experience. Unfortunately that area was pit space for the dragstrip. Suddenly the property, over 500 acres, got a little tight and drag racers got the bad end of the shrinking real estate.
For a few months it appeared that quarter-mile racing would once again be taken away from Southern California. Fortunately for the thriving drag racing community John Force regularly used the strip as a training ground for his three daughters to gain seat-time in their respected Super Comp and Alcohol dragsters. His influence, with the help of AAA, convinced California Speedway to consider building another dragstrip along the outskirts of the north parking lot. Within a few months a new, and even better, dragstrip was in place and Street Legal drag racing was up and running once more.
Roger Gustin and the racing regime at the Super Chevy Show series saw the new, first-class facility as the perfect venue to bring in their specialty brand of Bow Tie drag racing and their car show.
If there were questions of whether or not the Super Chevy Show could draw a crowd of drag racers, show cars and fans at the new facility for a successful event, well, those questions were ultimately answered early on Saturday morning. Throughout the weekend the show car area was at near-capacity, there were hundreds of drag racers enjoying runs down the smooth-as-glass quarter-mile strip, and the grandstands had a healthy flow of fans enjoying the California sunshine and some good old Chevy-style drag racing.
The well-prepped Auto Club Dragway provided plenty of bite for the always-exciting Aeromotive Nitro Coupe Challenge, and was the perfect stage for some head-to-head all-Chevy bracket racing. It's no surprise that Gustin and his team put on a quality, fan-friendly event, and it proves that the loyalty of Chevy fans and enthusiasts are as strong as ever.
We were surprised by the number of drag and show cars there, especially for a first-year event. Sunday saw an extra 30 show cars arrive, making a fine event even better. With a little luck, the turnout should be even greater next year.