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Ontario Motor Speedway


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#1 ehagar

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Posted 11 April 2004 - 21:35

I was wondering if there was any hints that Ontario existed, or has the place been completely redeveloped?

I get the impression that Ontario was ahead of its time. I have a feeling I would rather see that place than Fontana.

Any comments about the place?

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#2 Frank S

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Posted 11 April 2004 - 22:36

Here's a composite made a year or so ago by Tami Bennett:

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The US Geodesic survey satellite photo is from Terraserver, and shows what was there in '96 or so, I think. The overlay is based on a topographical map from the 70s era, I believe. Not as easy to discern the visual aspects as it is from the straight photo, which I have seen but cannot find at the moment. ( Here's a piece of it ) I understand from someone who visited there recently that the ground has not been put entirely to use, and that there is some terrain in the northeast corner that bears resemblance to Turn 2 of the oval.

You could get to what I know about Ontario Motor Speedway from my pages and the links therefrom.

If by "ahead of its time" you mean to suggest the road course was artificial and featureless, Yes, there was a lot of that going on. Professional drivers complained that every turn of some general description could easily be confused with any other of like characteristics.

On the other side, from the grandstand you could see nearly all of either the oval or the road course, and from the infield you could find vantage points that allowed excellent observation of driver technique and car performance.

I aways looked forward to visiting there as a driver or a spectator.

Fontana I haven't seen, although I understand it is just a mile or so east of OMS.


Frank S
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USA

#3 ehagar

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Posted 12 April 2004 - 02:37

Originally posted by Frank S

.

If by "ahead of its time" you mean to suggest the road course was artificial and featureless, Yes, there was a lot of that going on. Professional drivers complained that every turn of some general description could easily be confused with any other of like characteristics.


Thanks Frank.


What I was thinking of was that the Oval was in a market that was ripe for the picking with Nascar... had it survived into the 90s I think Indycar/CART and Nascar would have been big.

I've never seen the place, but I think its a shame that an Indy clone is gone. They don't make circuits like that anymore. 1.5 mile 24 degree banked ovals seem all the rage now.

I've read a few old articles in which AMA (motorcycle) riders speak of the place rather kindly.... but I think that was the prize purse talking rather than the track itself.

#4 Buford

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Posted 12 April 2004 - 09:24

The track made money on a yearly basis but the financing to get it built had such high yearly payments to bondholders and unrealistic profit projections that they kept going into default. What it needed was a refinancing plan into something reasonable but somebody bought it and tore it down. They had some plan for the land but haven't done squat with it. They should have continued to run it as a track for 20 years while they got their act together to do whatever it was they intended to do. The whole thing was an incredible financial boondoggle from start to finish and beyond.

#5 Don Capps

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Posted 12 April 2004 - 11:47

Keep in mind that there was another attempt to place a tack in the Ontario area in the 1955/1956 time period, the Los Angeles International Raceway -- or something similar. However, it fell through after producing a flurry of interest and a great deal of attention. Hence some of the initial skepticism surrounding the early days of the Ontario track in some quarters.

As Buford points out, the financial arrangements always struck me as somehow a bit unrealistic. However, some have always maintained that the actual operation of the track had less importance than its development and construction.....

#6 jonpollak

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Posted 12 April 2004 - 13:29

I loved that place...
Very crucial in the early formation of this race fan.

Questor GP (F5000 vs F1 cars)
California 500 (USAC)
but the thing I remember/can't remember most was California Jam ...the rock concert.

I do remember Shav Glick commenting on how modern the press facilities were....

Jp

#7 Gary C

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Posted 12 April 2004 - 14:56

'but the thing I remember/can't remember most was California Jam ...the rock concert.'
Ah, Deep Purple, one of my early favourites!

#8 doc540

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Posted 12 April 2004 - 16:25

I attended the first Champion Sparkplug Classic in 1972 and witnessed for the first time motorcycle roadracing run counterclockwise using both the oval and an infield road course.

Renzo Pasolini was remarkable aboard a works Harley Davidson road bike, finishing 3rd.

Sadly, he died in May, 1973 at Monza in a horrific crash which also took the life of Jarno Saarinen.

#9 cabianca

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Posted 23 April 2004 - 04:25

The present Fontana (California) Speedway exists just a few miles down the same Freeway going East from Los Angeles. Cheaper land, more profit.

#10 R. J. Moss

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Posted 23 April 2004 - 05:00

I attended many events at OMS including the first day it opened for practice for the very first California 500 in 1970. Kevin Bartlett made a slow lap as the first on the track officially. I also attended the Questor Grand Prix, one Cal 500 and a combined USAC Champ Car/ Stock Car event in about 1975 I believe. It was truly state of the art in 1970, my only other "Big League" racing experience having been many many visits to Riverside which was always primitive in comparison.

The financial failure described above is quite accurate. The track was in poor shape by the time I attended the California 500 in 1979 and already started the slide that resulted in its closure not long afterward.

Had it survived into the NASCAR boom to come it may well have been an example of rather poor racing as evidenced by many Brickyard 400's. In any case it may not have been any less exciting than California Speedway (Fontana). I attended NASCAR and CART races from its opening until 2001 and finally gave it up as just too much effort and money for the dull races it produces. The track is just too wide, smooth and fast for real thrills and the track's acquisition (from Penske) by International Speedway Corp. resulted in a noticeable decline in concern for the paying customer. Not to mention an inexplicable return of multi-hour waiting to enter and exit, worse by far than any previous year except for the opening in 1997. I will take the twists and turns of Laguna Seca, Infineon and Long Beach any time.

#11 Jim Thurman

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Posted 24 April 2004 - 01:41

Finally found a chance to reply to this thread...

The story of OMS is a complicated one. Like Don mentioned, there were plans for a track near the site as far back as the 1950's - even slighty pre-dating plans for Riverside International Raceway.

The usually outstanding 8W site does have one thing wrong in the write-up, Questor Corporation did not build the track, they simply sponsored the non-championship F1/F5000 GP. And the corporation went bankrupt shortly after, which as much as anything else, led to scrapping of plans for a championship GP.

I'll have to check, but I believe the Stolte Corporation was involved in contstruction of OMS. TV production company Filmways was to have been involved, but wound up out of the loop and instead was involved in the building of Sears Point International Raceway, which had it's own dramas and shaky history.

I have to laugh disgustedly and shake my head when a newspaper writer or someone in the racing media points out the uniqueness and "newness" of local governments financing a superspeedway (like Kansas Speedway)...because that is precisely what happened more than 30 years ago with OMS. The city of Ontario held a bond issue vote, which passed and led to construction. The city made a deal with operators, and that's the beginning of the problems. The annual lease was supposedly $2 million dollars...a year!. This was based on expected TV and radio income, and was a patently unrealistic figure.

Several people of note were involved with various groups operating the track, including John Cooper, Tony Hulman and Parnelli Jones. One of the first things that the IMS group did was re-negotiate the lease terms down to half. But, as Buford mentioned, each group still took on the previous operators debts, making it extremely difficult. In late 1980, Standard Oil of California bought the track and announced racing would continue, but soon announced the track would be torn down. I've often wondered what was behind that sudden turnaround.

The track itself was not an exact replica of IMS, being wider, having banking on the short chutes and a slightly elevated backstraight (which improved viewing).

There are so many myths about the track's failure and so many erroneous reports when it comes to OMS.

One of the big myths is that OMS was never supported and had no attendance. True, crowds fell off the last year or two, but for the most part both the California 500 and Times 500 NASCAR race had crowds better than most races of the era - probably more than any events other than the Indy 500 and Daytona 500. Dick Berggren often cited the estimated 15,000 at the final race (the November 1980 NASCAR race) as an example of how little interest there was, and how different it would have been a few years later thanks to ESPN's increased televising of NASCAR Cup races. What he fails to mention were the estimated 50,000 at the same race as far back in 1975 and the estimated 56,000 plus for the same race just a year earlier. He also fails to note that the 1980 race was run in gale force winds that cut down on the crowd and postponed the supporting Grand American race a day. But, he probably doesn't think the weather is ever bad in Southern California either (and since he thought all racetracks in California had closed by the early 90's and thought they closed for reasons that did not happen, his beliefs don't count for much :D. One of the most ridiculous and wrongheaded columns I've ever read and something he never corrected).

Another common error is the location. Many think that the Ontario Mills Mall was built on the site, while it actually was built across the street from the Eastern end of the track site.

As far as personal memories, I attended qualifying for the inaugural California 500 (but unfortunately, in the heat of the mid-day so I only saw LeeRoy Yarbrough on track), the Questor GP (including practice day), the '72 California 500 and the '74 & '75 Times 500 NASCAR GN race. Early on, the track seemed poorly prepared with refreshment stands poorly stocked, but by the time of the NASCAR races, the current operators seemed to really have it all together. It was a state of the art facility. Another feature it had early on was computerized scoring via wires imbedded in the track.

I recently checked and it's interesting to note there are youth soccer (football) fields built on the site, known as Ontario Motor Speedway Soccer Fields. So, at least the name lives on.

It would be interesting to get the story of all of those involved as to what they think happened. As far as I know, most of them are still with us, though the mayor of Ontario when the bond issue was proposed passed away in the last year or so.

A book screaming to be done...

#12 Jim Thurman

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Posted 24 April 2004 - 01:46

Oh, and don't forget California Jam II ;)

The last time I was there was in early 1978 for the Human Powered Vehicle Speed runs.

#13 Phil Harms

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Posted 24 April 2004 - 11:56

Originally posted by Jim Thurman
Oh, and don't forget California Jam II ;)

The last time I was there was in early 1978 for the Human Powered Vehicle Speed runs.


Was California Jam II the day-long rock concert?

Bob Russo was the PR head of Ontario for the ten year duration. He indicated that had the city permitted one rock concert a year, Ontario would have made money and would have survived. OMS tried or planned several things to keep the track open. Such as a RV trade show, using the main stretch as the display area. Seems like there was a church convention at one time.

The point was that the city would only let them run 2-3 races a year and nothing else. That killed it.

#14 Pikachu Racing

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Posted 24 February 2008 - 04:51

http://sports.espn.g...ryan&id=3257430

How accurate about the history of Ontario? Look under Ontario Motor Speedway.

#15 Hugewally

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Posted 24 February 2008 - 06:01

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#16 Mike Summers

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Posted 24 February 2008 - 06:32

Ah yes, OMS. I was a budding AMA Novice roadracer back then. Went there for the first time in 1971. The road circut was a bit difficult as it all looked the same. But then again, all I was used to was Vaca Valley Raceway, Orange County Raceway, Carlsbad and Riverside. I remember being there for two days of practice and qualifying before I knew there was a mountain range right behind the track. Damm smog.

Came back in 1972, again as a novice. I had just broken my collarbone at Talladega and really should not have been riding. I think I threw myself on the ground in one of the first practice sessions. The medics were really worried about my collarbone so they sent me to the hospital for a check. I landed in the bed next to Jarno Saarinen and his beautiful wife. Most of Yamaha was there in the ER checking on their World Champion. Problem was, they all left at the same time and no one was there to get them back to the track after he was stitched up. I got cleared and helped arrange for him to get to the track. He was very nice and gave me two of his "Jarno Saarinen Marlboro World Championship" stickers. Very very nice man. Not long after that he was gone.

I have some old pics of the riders introduction.......oh my what a lineup.

Mike Summers

#17 Jim Thurman

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Posted 24 February 2008 - 20:00

Originally posted by Pikachu Racing
http://sports.espn.g...ryan&id=3257430

How accurate about the history of Ontario? Look under Ontario Motor Speedway.


Somewhat. Unfortunately it falls into stereotypes and half-truths (why does this only apply to California?). I'll have to contact Mr. McGee and also post something on it here when I have more time.

I do want to point out in the photo that was posted (thanks hugewally :up: ), the Ontario Mills Mall is across Milliken from the OMS site. Again, not on it, across from it.

Too bad so many people haven't paid attention or don't pay attention, it still persists that the Ontario Mills Mall was built on the OMS site.

Nope!

#18 Hugewally

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Posted 24 February 2008 - 21:11

Ontario Mills Mall, probably the only place I've ever seen where the local cops rountinely run radar speed traps in the parking lot... :eek:

And while the mall isn't on the old speedway property, the Hooters restaurant is! :clap:

#19 philippe7

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 07:24

Originally posted by Mike Summers
Ah yes, OMS. I was a budding AMA Novice roadracer back then. ( ......) Came back in 1972, again as a novice. (........ ) I have some old pics of the riders introduction.......oh my what a lineup.

Mike Summers


Mike, why don't you join the fun on the "Motorcycle Racing Nostalgia " thread ?
http://forums.autosp...&threadid=75658

We would love to have your input there ! So you were entered in the race reported below ? ( page from the late Pat Evans's scrapbook, courtesy of his brother Sean )

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#20 Mike Summers

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 07:17

So, can you carry over the your thread to that forum??? I did not want to post and have people think I was coming from no where.........

Yea, I think Pat did win that race. I think I finished 10th........licking my wounds all the way. I had won the round at Laguna Seca and was on the victory dinner podium with Cal Rayborn and Gary Fisher. I still have the Saarinen stickers and have a couple of the Evans Construction "panic button" stickers.....see if his brother remembers those!!!!

I have boxes of that stuff, I am old and have been around for awhile. Maybe you could help walk me through posting pics......I have some great stuff from Ontario. Pics of the riders into, Peter Williams and the Norton, stuff like that.........just wanted to add a note............David Watkins, mentioned in the article you posted, was a great good old boy from Texas....and funny as hell. At Laguna, I think he finished third.......with a artificial leg from the knee down. After the race he came over to me "hell, you guys were goin so fast I ground off part of my foot tryin to keep up".........sure as hell, he ground off the side of his artificial foot cause he could not move around that well on the bike.........funny guy.

Mike Summers

#21 philippe7

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 07:48

Originally posted by Mike Summers
So, can you carry over the your thread to that forum??? I did not want to post and have people think I was coming from no where.........

Yea, I think Pat did win that race. I think I finished 10th........licking my wounds all the way. I had won the round at Laguna Seca and was on the victory dinner podium with Cal Rayborn and Gary Fisher. I still have the Saarinen stickers and have a couple of the Evans Construction "panic button" stickers.....see if his brother remembers those!!!!

I have boxes of that stuff, I am old and have been around for awhile. Maybe you could help walk me through posting pics......I have some great stuff from Ontario. Pics of the riders into, Peter Williams and the Norton, stuff like that.........just wanted to add a note............David Watkins, mentioned in the article you posted, was a great good old boy from Texas....and funny as hell. At Laguna, I think he finished third.......with a artificial leg from the knee down. After the race he came over to me "hell, you guys were goin so fast I ground off part of my foot tryin to keep up".........sure as hell, he ground off the side of his artificial foot cause he could not move around that well on the bike.........funny guy.

Mike Summers


Mike , please do come and post on the motorcycle nostalgia thread , the current stories there are very centered on british national racing, with many former racers participating, but the american 70's period that you took part in is a facinating one, which we have already discussed at lenght in the other thread, in particular when Sean Evans joined us - check out this post and many others afterwards

http://forums.autosp...ans#post2107720

Regarding posting pictures, you can use the Imageshack website, the "how to " basics are in this post
http://forums.autosp...ack#post2767804

the imageshack website is at http://imageshack.us/

#22 snettertonesses

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 19:34

I attended the 71 NASCAR race at OMS
51 cars started i think
Pedro Rodriguez was a notable entrant
I recall AJ Foyt and Fred Lorenzen having a great race, swapping the lead back and forth.
OMS was wide and i presume as smooth or smoother than Indy which has produced a good race or two. I don't think the facility PREVENTED good racing.
Maybe i'm just mis-informed but i always assume great races are brought about by the circumstances of equally matched cars and drivers or, mis-matched cars and drivers.
Another plus at OMS, real low fences seperating the pits from the infield.............

#23 T54

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 20:58

Like Mike Summers, I raced for several years at OMS, running in AFM and CMC motorcycle racing. I LOVED the place, it was so hard to learn! The corners were flat and featureless, sure, but it was a tough and interesting track. I was lucky enough to win my lot of races there in the smaller displacement races but had much less luck with the bigger bore classes, and have great memories. I remember the Bondurant Racing School there, with a Lola T70 MKIIIB and a GT40 is I recall correctly, as school cars!
While lots of racers "dumped" over the tightening-radius corners, I never fell over the years. Probably not pushing hard enough!
My good friend, Frenchman journalist Christian Lacombe and I took great pictures at the AMA "200" for 750 bikes (and 1 liter if you drove a Harley, all things being equal! :lol: ) the year King Kenny took the win with the TZ700, and still have them. I will eventually scan some and post them in the bike thread. It is a who's who of the best of the best then.
I also attended all the USAC Indy races there since the opening (got free passes from my friends at AAR :) ), and attended the 1979 "500" race with Jim Busby in the Jorgensen Steel lodge. We were both in shock to see how the lower turbo boost mandated by USAC had made a farce of the racing, the cars crawling down the main straight like modern Indy Lights... flat-out all around. Pretty stupid indeed and shortly after, CART was born. I also remember the day of glory for Dan Gurney in 1974 when Unser won the 500 with the Eagle after so much crummy luck in 1972 and 1973. I was there in Victory Circle and also have great pictures.
It was really sad when OMS closed down. Of course, California Speedway is not much else but a modernized OMS really, just a couple of miles east. What a waste of money it was, and the managers of the city of Ontario showed how stupid politicians can be. But the memories remain.
Regards,

T54
AFM #224

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#24 philippe7

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 21:32

Originally posted by T54
My good friend, Frenchman journalist Christian Lacombe and I took great pictures at the AMA "200" for 750 bikes (.....) I will eventually scan some and post them in the bike thread.


Yes, please !!!!!! :wave:

#25 T54

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 23:18

I will put some in the bike thread as soon as possible but I have already promised to put the Rondeau pics and I had no time... :(

#26 jm70

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 00:13

I have good memories of that place. I worked almost all the races held there, at least of the 4 wheel variety.
Probably the best was the Friday of the Questor race. Had the good fortune to meet and chat with Henry N Manney III, for some time.
Drove my first Solo 1 event there, Frank S was probably there that day. Think I ran all of them. Still have a certificate for a lap record in my class.
I remember one NASCAR race when all the corners were told to watch for pop rivets on course in the early practice. You must remember that the Observation posts were on the outside of the oval. Bit had to spot, but we all had binoculars.
Another even had Evel Knievel as the pre-race show. That man spent more time getting ready to do a show than anyone else I can remember. The course had to be staffed while one guy on a bike fooled around for about an hour. All for a 30 second jump.
As I recall the race with Fred Lorenzen was a come back deal for him, and I expect he was paid well, trying to draw a crowd. And for the most part, the crowds were good. As said before, the "note was too large to tote".

#27 Graham Clayton

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Posted 11 June 2014 - 12:00

Here is a July 2013 video showing the current site of the speedway:



#28 chr1s

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Posted 12 June 2014 - 22:48

I saw the site of the speedway back in 1989 and there was nothing left then! I knew little about the place apart from reading the race report from the Quester Grand Prix in an old Motorsport and that, bizarrely, it was where Williams first tested the FW07!

I  was working in California at the time and decided to go to Ontario to see the track.  I had no idea then that it had closed but i began to realize  that somthing was wrong by the reaction i got from people when asking for directions! When i found it, the entire area, which was vast, looked like the "turn 3" part in the vidio, none of the buildings in the film where there back then, but there was no sign at all that a race track ever existed, which was strange.