My favorite race track remains the Riverside Road Course in Riverside CA. It no longer exists thanks to some stupid politicians and greedy developers. That may be a little harsh in that everyone is entitled to do what they want with their own property but the loss of Riverside Raceway was tragic. I have attended many races there as well as at other tracks all over the Country from Daytona to Sears Point (Sonoma for you youngsters) and I prefer Riverside if it still existed. The photos on this page were taken from Hemmings Daily.
The following video has a lot of classic drivers and race cars from the first Motor Trend 500. Including Fred Lorenzen and Dan Gurney (Race Winner). Many of the shots were taken from the top of the stands in, if I remember correctly, turn 9. This is the same location as where my seat was. My very favorite memory from just about any race I have been to was the first lap of the 500 when those big heavy NASCAR race cars came shooting up the “S” curves beating and banging for position for the first major turn at the top of the hill.
Dan Gurney was successful at everything he ever raced and in these days he raced Fords. He won NASCAR races but only at Riverside. His skills as a road racer translated well from Indy cars and Sports Cars over to the big heavy Stock Cars. It was this kind of skill and these wins that helped Ford Motor Company to put his name on the 1969 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler and Spoiler II. His dominance at the Riverside Raceway was, I am sure, part of the reason that the Gurney blue and white cars were originally distributed on the West Coast while the red and white Cale Yarborough cars went mostly to the Southeast. It should be noted that both cars were sold in all areas of the County.
The Cup drivers were not yet familiar with road courses so the race field on such tracks would often be supplemented with “road course ringers”. Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones just to mention a few who saw limited NASCAR activity for such events. Regardless of their background every driver had to fight that big brut of a car in on that narrow track. Life was different then and racing was different. For some of us it was better. Fred Lorenzen drove this #28 Ford in the first 500 but he helped set up Dan’s #21 Ford. At latter races Gurney’s number would be 121 when the regular Wood Brothers driver would be behind the wheel of #21. If you would like to own your own #28 Fred Lorenzen Ford check out our Diecast in our Online Store.
One example; in the mid 80s just before the track was to be closed I attended a Motor Trend 500 and watched as the rising star Tim Richmond spun and damaged his car beyond repair. He ended up on the inside of the turn just above the “S” curves where I was sitting. It was a hot dry CA day. The dust was blowing and the sun was blazing. Tim got out of his car to a roar from the fans in the stands on the other side of the track from where his car ended up. Tim was a very popular and extremely talented driver who could have been another super star possibly as bright as Dale Earnhardt.
Tim looked around waited for a break in the race car traffic and then, much to the disapproval of the NASCAR Officials in the turn, bolted across the track. He quickly found a hole in the fence and climbed up into the stands and found an empty seat. Instantly he was given a cold beer and was just another fan (a fan getting lots of attention I might add) watching a good race! Think you will ever see anything like that at a NASCAR race today? Think not!