The year is 2019, and we’ve been transported back to the glory days of NASCAR by the sport’s current resurgence. Just when we thought the glory days were over, they’ve been replaced by something even more exciting.
One of NASCAR’s most historic tracks, Fontana Speedway in California, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and as part of the festivities, the legendary short track is holding a three-day Festival of Racing. Hosting more than 20 NASCAR-related festivals and events, fans can sample the flavors of different times and enjoy the spectacle of the races.
The First Season Of Fontana Speedway
If the first season of NASCAR was 1911, then Fontana Speedway’s first season would’ve been in 1912. As one of the original ‘Triple Crown’ tracks, the one-mile road course in Northern California is among the most historic tracks in the sport.
The first season of Fontana Speedway was a veritable odyssey. The tracks that year were New Market Square in Cincinnati, Ohio; Ocean Park Speedway in Oakland, California; and Wabash Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. The season culminated with the prestigious Indianapolis race, which was won by George Robertson, driving a steam-powered New Market Square Blue Bug.
The Indianapolis schedule was so grueling that few drivers lasted the entire season. It was a major step forward for NASCAR as a sport, but many doubted its long-term viability. Most notably, the AAA (Auto Racing Association) doubted the Indianapolis race would last. They were wrong. Over the next several years, the Indy car race became an annual event.
NASCAR’s Glorious Rivalry
Not only is Fontana Speedway one of the sport’s most historic tracks, but it’s also one of its most competitive. When the sport saw the opportunity to expand in the early 1920s, the California track was among the first to open its doors to the public. Attendance soared as a result, and by 1923, the year of NASCAR’s first national championship, more than 16,000 people were in the stands to watch the racing. Since then, the crowds have only gotten larger and more passionate, creating what many consider to be one of NASCAR’s most exhilarating spectacles.
It’s not just about the races, either. The track also hosts various events throughout the year, including car shows, swap meets, and concerts. The celebration of historical racing extends beyond the racetrack, with tours of the surrounding community following the races. In addition, Fontana is one of the few remaining original wooden racetracks in existence, so fans can actually walk around and get a feel for what it was like back in the day. After the last race, the entire track is closed so that it can be preserved for future generations of racing fans.
NASCAR Returns, But In A Different Form
When NASCAR returned to the U.S. in 1933, it did so with a bang. The first NASCAR Cup Series event featured more than 30,000 fans in the stands, a record for the time. It also featured a unique form of entertainment that had never been seen before. The vehicles were primitive by modern standards, but the action was incredible, as drivers risked their lives daily to win.
The cars were also incredibly dangerous. Drivers used crude oil as a form of traction to improve their odds of survival. One such driver was Joe Boyer, who drove from Georgia to California before the start of the season to be closer to his patients at the time.
While it is an incredible feat that NASCAR was able to stage a season almost 70 years ago, it’s also rather crazy how far the sport has come in such a short period of time.