Thursday, July 31, 2008

Why do we race.... Because we can.

This evening my son Will sent me the following article and I thought it good enough to include here. My daughter and sons and I as well as my team mate Jon are truly blessed to live here in the San Francisco Bay area and the opportunities it affords us both in business and in pleasure. While this really is one of the best places in the world to live considering the large array of endless possibilities to do just about anything you can imagine within a few miles of driving, the best part of all is we get to call some of the finest and most historical racetracks our very own and to do with as we please. And don't forget, we have a whole bunch of other state of the art tracks within a few hours drive as well.

The following article written by David Caraviello from NASCAR.COM pretty much tells it like it is.

The fog clears, revealing an unlikely racing hotbed

SAN FRANCISCO -- There is not a more breathtaking urban landscape in all of America than the one that unfolds before you from this city's Municipal Pier, a crumbling old structure curving out into the mouth of San Francisco Bay. But the wood rot underfoot is completely eclipsed by the view, a 360-degree panorama that takes in the majestic Marin headlands, infamous Alcatraz Island, the busy waterfront, and skyscrapers and townhouses climbing toward Nob Hill. And then there's the bridge, that spectacularly understated art deco masterpiece, gracefully spanning the strait for which it is named.

It's an always enchanting, sometimes strange, often eclectic and occasionally tremulous place, an unthinkably dense metropolis perched at the edge of a peninsula that seems much too small to accommodate it. Even stranger is the fact that there's a major NASCAR racetrack only 30 miles north of what has to be one of the least driver-friendly big cities in the world. During the sport's annual pilgrimage to the region, you half expect mandates forcing the Sprint Cup teams to field hybrids, and charging them $40 a night to park in the Infineon Raceway garage.

This isn't Southern California, where car-clogged superhighways rule. Up here, discounts abound for alternatively-powered vehicles. A drive from the airport to the Golden Gate Bridge requires a stop-and-go journey over surface streets. There are two kinds of parking -- nonexistent and exorbitant. Every other word on the radio is "green." Don't even ask about the price of gas.

It's all enough to make you think that the good citizens of the Bay Area are a bunch of Prius-driving, left lane-blocking eco-whackos who equate the internal combustion engine with the Ebola virus. And without question, a few of them are. But out here in the bluest part of the bluest state, where Big Oil is public enemy No. 1 and where protesters have literally lived in trees for more than a year to block the construction of a new sports center at the University of California in Berkeley, there's a little secret -- a lot of people like to drive fast. Very fast. In big, roaring, gas-hoggin' cars.

How else to explain the preponderance of racetracks in this part of Northern California? There's not one but two major motorsports facilities, Infineon up in the Sonoma Valley and the sports-car mecca of Laguna Seca down the Pacific Coast Highway in Monterey. Out in far eastern Alameda County there's Altamont Motorsports Park, which in its 42 years has seen names like Andretti, Foyt and Unser compete on its half-mile paved oval, and still hosts the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Up along the delta in Contra Costa County there's Antioch Speedway, a quarter-mile dirt track which hosts, among other things, the kind of dwarf cars that Sunday's winner at Infineon, Kyle Busch, grew up driving.

Ken Clapp, who has served Infineon Raceway in a variety of capacities was enshrined into the facility's wall of fame.

Farther east is the site of revered old Stockton 99 Speedway, former home to NASCAR's Southwest tour and weekly racing division, and the oldest quarter-mile paved oval west of the Mississippi River until it closed last year. The region stretching from San Francisco to Sacramento is a hotbed of quarter-midget racing, which jump-started the career of Vallejo native and four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon. There are drag racing clubs based in the Silicon Valley. And there are numerous other tracks, places like Placeville Speedway and Madera Speedway and Shasta Raceway, remote enclaves of speed among the mountains and redwoods that draw racers deeper into Northern California or out toward the Nevada line.

Who knew that tony, antiestablishment San Francisco was the hub of a region with such a need for speed? Ken Clapp did. The retired former NASCAR vice president, who was enshrined in Infineon Raceway's wall of fame last weekend, (June 25, 2008)
played a large role in founding the facility 40 years ago, and delivering that first Cup event 20 years later. But the inaugural 1989 race, won by Ricky Rudd, wasn't the first time that NASCAR's premier series had competed in the region. Herb Thomas won a race at the fairgrounds in Merced in 1956. Events were held at Oakland Stadium three times in the early 1950s. And in 1954 the ageless Hershel McGriff won the first of three races contested at Bay Meadows Speedway in San Mateo, one short fuel run away from the intersection of Haight and Asbury.

So the gearheads have always been here, albeit in a diffused state until Clapp and some gutsy investors built the undulating road course at the intersections of highways 37 and 121 that pulled them all together. Clapp, who had promoted hundreds of races at short tracks across the region, knew the market for racing was there, even in an area not necessarily known for it. One of his former weekly series tracks, the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose, had been among the national leaders in car count and attendance. Now, the success of the facility originally known as Sears Point International Raceway speaks for itself. The track owns the record for largest crowd at a single-day sporting event in Northern California.

So sorry, San Francisco. Like it or not, you're a racing town. That sound you hear is an engine rumbling, not sea lions barking or the Pacific breaking upon Ocean Beach. Who knows, maybe that cable car driver maneuvering down Powell Street secretly harbors ambitions of becoming the next Carl Edwards. Maybe that radical college professor who by day rages against carbon emissions sleeps in a Dale Earnhardt Jr. T-shirt at night. In this city, much stranger things have happened.

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