In the early 1900s the town of Fontana, California, was known for diversified agricultural commodities, including citrus, grapes, grain and poultry. From the early 1940s on up to the late 1970s the city had bragging rights as the leading producer of steel in all of Southern California. Fontana has since become known for the sound of 770hp V-8 NASCAR engines rocketing insanely modified stock cars down a smoothly paved blacktop oval at speeds of over 200 mph.
Suffice it to say in previous decades this place was hardly known for anything fast. In fact, in the 1970s its most famous export, rocker Sammy Hagar, could still drive 55, most likely because his car at the time could only go so fast.
Sure, there was Fontana Drag City, a popular Inland Empire dragstrip that was in operation throughout the 1950s and 1960s. However, the city's drag racing heritage has slowly diminished since the strip's closure.
In November 1995 initial construction of California Speedway was under way, and the once-flourishing Kaiser Steel Mill of previous decades was being renovated into just another piece of Fontana history.
Being that California Speedway sits on over 500 acres of land, the NHRA took notice and submitted a proposal to the County of San Bernardino with intentions of building a quarter-mile dragstrip to accommodate the NHRA Street Legal Drag Racing Program. (Pomona raceway hadn't held organized street racing events for years due to noise complaints by the blue hairs of La Verne, so this was a great opportunity to get local street racers off the streets.)
In June 2001, Bill Miller, then president of California Speedway, announced plans to construct California Dragway (aka Auto Club Dragway), a quarter-mile dragstrip that would provide a safe racing environment for the SoCal drag enthusiasts. The strip held its first street legal drag race in parking lot 1 on September 8, 2001.
In order to make room for the growing needs of NASCAR to incorporate a more fan-friendly experience, the dragstrip has since moved to parking lot 8, which is located on the northern end of the property.
Local drag racers had to sit tight for a few months until the new strip was built. Fortunately, this proved to be a blessing in disguise as the newly constructed California Dragway was built under the watchful eyes of California Speedway's Director of Operations Mike Yurick and Dragstrip Operations Manager Dave Danish. These two have been involved in the construction and resurfacing of some of the smoothest dragstrips on the NHRA circuit, so there was no doubt the quality of the new facility would be first-rate in every aspect.
The Gustin brothers, more commonly known as the owners of the Super Chevy Show drag racing series, had been using Pomona Raceway as their West Coast stop for many years prior, but word of California Dragway's re-opening, along with the track's positive feedback from the racing community, influenced Roger Gustin to give Fontana a go.
There were some concerns from the local Chevy contingent that the Fontana facility might not draw the number of cars that Pomona had in years past. Well, all those anxieties were put to rest by early Saturday morning when the pit area had to be expanded to an overflow area in a nearby parking lot. The dragstrip's staging lanes looked like a big city traffic jam on a holiday weekend.
The car show area was near capacity on Saturday, and by Sunday morning the same area showed about a 25 percent increase in car count.
The quality of show cars in SoCal is always top notch and this particular Super Chevy Show weekend was no exception. In fact, the editorial staffers of Super Chevy and Camaro Performers magazines had a difficult time deciding which cars to shoot for car features due to the number of quality Chevys on the property.
As mentioned earlier, the California Dragway surface possesses the same superb quality of any dragstrip in the country, and those words were echoed throughout the weekend by many of the drag racers who participated in the first-ever Super Chevy Show held in Fontana. From the DOT class, all the way up to the participants of the Aeromotive Nitro Coupe Challenge, the feelings were mutual. This is a fantastic facility and those in attendance witnessed some of the most competitive and exciting drag racing the Super Chevy Show series has seen on the West Coast in years.