It was a beautiful April evening in Ventura. It was warm, the sun was setting behind me and a slight breeze kept the air moving as I watched 16 sprint cars whiz by in front of me in upwards of 65 miles per hour. Sliding sideways around the corner they tore after each other, dodging and darting for a qualifying place that would allow them into the main event, to take place later that night.
I was at Ventura Raceway, and I, along with my girlfriend, had ventured down for the evening to check out the dirt track racing 35 minutes south of I.V. On the night that I visited, the track was featuring several different racing classes, ranging from a kids racing class to a senior sprints class. Over the course of the night I saw a 5-year-old child race, as well as men in their 70s vying for the win in Ventura.
A couple years ago, when I was first invited by my girlfriend’s family to checkout the Petaluma Speedway, a track near to my hometown up north, I was extremely wary. My friends and I used to sit around and blast NASCAR for its apparent stupidity, what with its seemingly infinite waste of gasoline, money and endless left turns. The prospect of taking time out of what I then considered to be a very important schedule, to go see cars do the same thing, bored the crap out of me. However, I was eventually persuaded by my girlfriend (as guys with girlfriends often are) to go along. When I arrived, I was shocked to find that not only was the racing interesting, but, it was amazing. These little cars that looked weightless, flying around at 70 miles an hour and then hurtling themselves sideways into a corner, were incredible. I couldn’t wait to go back.
Since moving to I.V., I haven’t been able to satiate my hunger for fuel-wasting circle driving. I consistently drive by the Santa Maria Speedway on my way back and forth from San Luis Obispo but was dismayed to find that they are experiencing legal troubles. I was forced to take my quest elsewhere and went south to the closest speedway I could find, in Ventura.
The night that I visited yielded some epic racing. There were several divisions, the most notable were the ones featuring sprint, midget and dwarf cars. These three cars, despite their less than complementary names, are actually some of the most exciting cars that I have ever seen. Sprint cars particularly, which were the biggest on the track that night, are very exciting. In order to keep the cars on the track, and maintain high enough speed for racing, the drivers are forced to begin a normal turn, and then, when the momentum takes over, throw the wheel hard to the right in order to continue sliding sideways. It’s an inexact science, with some drivers preferring to stay low on the corners and others preferring to make their moves on the outside. Midget cars are essentially smaller versions of the sprints but are no less exciting. During the main event there was a collision that left one driver flipping multiple times though the air directly in front of the grand stand before coming crashing down on his side. Fortunately, he was ok and returned in the next race in his sprint car. Last, but not least, are the dwarf cars, which look like 50s roadsters, except they are only waist-high.
The night is guaranteed to interest you. If you are not a car person, never fear. There will be enough thrills, chills and spills to keep you interested. Not to mention the damn cute kids class slamming into each other like bumper cars. If you aren’t sure if you’ll like it, I encourage you to give it a try, at least once. It is relatively inexpensive and, if you like it, can become the gateway drug to racing.