Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Saugus Speedway Racing Program.

Saugus Speedway Racing Program.

Saturday, April 10, 1982.

Blue spot color cover, else black, 28 pages.

Cover: Dan Press.

Special Feature: Saturday Night at Saugus.

Feature: Dan Press Victorious in Saugus Season Opener.

Photos, in order of appearance: Press, Steve Parrish, Loren Spangler, Ron Hornaday Jr., Ron Esau, Bill Sedgwick, Dave Phipps, Ray Hooper Jr., Bob Lyon, Joe Ruggles Jr., Joe Astone; Page from the Past: Don Johnson and crew, Oren Prosser; Rayna (trophy queen), Dave Harrison, Jim Gardella, Pamm Woodside, Jerry Bosson, Rolando Soto.

Previous week's attendance: 4,214 (paid)

Dan Press Victorious in Saugus Season Opener

Super Track Scene (Previous Week's Results) by Lyn Pherigo

Nineteen seventy-eight Saugus Speedway champion Dan Press, inactive most of '81 due to crash-sustained injuries, began 1982 on a high note Saturday night by winning Saugus Speedway's opening night 40-lap Modified main event. In other season-opener action, Bill Sedgwick, Van Nuys, won the 30-lap Sportsman main; Dave Harrison, Sylmar, was victorious in the 25-lap stocker oval event; and Jim Gardella, Valencia, prevailed in the 15-lap figure eight finale.

Starting tenth in the 25-car line-up, Press moved up to fifth by the 20-lap half-way point and took over the lead from Loren Spangler, Northridge, on the 25th circuit. Spangler had held the lead from lap 15 and Steve Parrish, Santa Monica, was the pacesetter for the first 14 tours of Saugus Speedway's flat, third-mile, paved oval.

Spangler finished second with Canyon Country's Harry Brady, third, Ken Davis, West Covina, fourth, Bruce Erickson, Reseda, fifth, and Tom Finneran of Rialto in sixth. They all finished on the lead lap.

Sedgwick took the lead on lap seven in his Sportsman victory and at that point it was Jimmy Menz, Reseda, running second, Dave Phipps, Reseda, third, Bob Lyon, Newhall, fourth, and Brad Miller, Newhall, in fifth. Twenty-three laps later, when the checkered flag dropped, they were still battling in the same order and the only cars on the lead lap.

Sam LaFata, North Hollywood, led the initial 12 laps of the stocker oval main from his pole-starting position before Harrison took over in his winning effort. It was a typical, very-competitive stocker main with 15 of the 24 starters finishing on the lead lap. John Redmond, Saugus, finished second ahead of Ronald Main, Chatsworth, and Dennis Dyer, Acton.

Gardella led all but the initial two laps in winning the figure-eight main. Ken Bosse, Sylmar, was second, Bill McKnight, Northridge, third, Harrison, fourth, and David Hard was fifth. Seven of the eleven finishers were on the winner's lap.

Saturday Night at Saugus

The Track.

"Hey, it's flat." That's the exclamation you're most likely to hear from someone, especially if that someone's a driver seeing Saugus Speedway's very flat, one-third mile paved oval for the very first time. There's not another similar racing facility like it anywhere, and its history is long and colorful.

Racing Program Warm-Ups.

The first activity on the track is practice or "hot-lapping" as it is known to the racing fraternity. While not an official event, it's a very important part in the makeup of a race-night at the "Super Track." You'll notice that many of the cars will run a few laps, then go to the pits, the "garage" area of the speedway, return to run more laps, and they may continue this pattern for some time. They are "fine tuning" all the components to the track and the conditions that exist for that particular night. Some adjustments may be minor; however, sometimes major corrections, including the changing of a complete engine, will take place in this practice time slot, and it's all very necessary in preparation for the competitive action later in the program.


The formal part of almost every racing program begins with the time trials (qualifications). Each car usually receives two chances to "race the clock," and the faster of the two timed laps will be the official qualifying time. Starting positions in the heat and feature races are determined by the time recorded during these laps.

The Line-Up.

All races here at Saugus are generally run from an "inverted" start with the slowest car in the number one or "pole" position and the faster qualified cars to the rear in the order of their qualifying times. Open-comp events, such as the just-completed Saugus Spring Open and the season-ending "330," feature "straight-up" starts with the fastest cars in front. In inverted starts, watch the faster cars work their way through the pack of slower cars, for this is the ingredient that makes "short-track" racing the great spectator sport that it is.

Trophy Dash.

The trophy dash or "fast car dash" is for the four fastest qualifiers in each division and they race for four laps to determine a winner. In open-comp events, it is usually the six fastest cars going six laps, and they start in inverted order also.

Heat Races.

The most closely competitive cars, those with similar qualifying times, are pitted against one another in these short races of 8 laps' duration. At Saugus, the 24 fastest qualifiers are divided into two groups. The 13th thru 24th qualifiers go to the line in the first heat race, and the 12 fastest compete in the second heat race, sometimes called the "fast" heat race. Participation in these preliminary events allows drivers and crews to size up the competition before the feature events and to make changes in equipment or "strategy."

Semi-Main Events.

Special "consolation" events for those cars not qualifying fast enough to make the 24-car starting line-up are called semi-mains. It gives those drivers a chance to experience competitive driving, and for many it is their first time in a "door-handle to door-handle" race.

Main Events.

The feature events and the longest on the night's racing program. The Street Stocks lead off with their customary 25-lap "running gun battle;" then it's those spirited Sportsmen for a 30-lap showdown. When the Modifieds aren't scheduled, the Sportsman main is a 40-lap affair.

The Modifieds, the premier racing machines at Saugus, take to the asphalt next for their 40-lap feature event of the evening. It is a sight to behold when 24 fast, roaring Modifieds charge out of turn four and take the starter's green flag and the beginning of forty laps of short-track racing at its best.

After the oval stockers, the Sportsman and the Modifieds have finished, then and only then, the infield is cleared and the "wild and wooly" figure-eighters take over for 15 laps of criss-cross madness. You can't believe the near-misses and the excitement created by the 30 trips through the intersection by each car. The maneuvering and control as these expert drivers weave their way through the "X" will keep you on your feet most of the time, and the memories of their daring will remain long after tonight's action is over.

That's what a night's racing is all about here at the "Super Track," — that is, unless it's the last Saturday of the month, because on the last Saturday of each month, we have a special added attraction.

Giant Destruction Derby.

Picture, if you can, 40 to 80 D/D (derby demolition) cars lined up, awaiting the starting signal, then crashing and banging into each other until there's a winner: the only one still able to move under its own power.

Well, there you have it. What Saturday night at Saugus Speedway is all about. There's really another part to this story — that's about the fans of Saugus Speedway, and we'll save it for later. It's a long story, 'cause Saugus fans are the greatest.

About Saugus Speedway.

The future Saugus Speedway was built originally as a rodeo arena in 1927 by Roy Baker, brother of shoe magnate C.H. Baker.

Roy Baker purchased the 40-acre property east of Bouquet Junction in 1923 for the purpose of breeding and selling show and pleasure horses. To that end he imported saddle brood mares from Kentucky and studded them with a pedigreed, chestnut-colored saddlebred stallion named Peavine McDonald (b. 1910), which sired five pedigreed mares and four pedigreed colts between 1920 and 1936. Baker advertised that he had 2,500 acres of grazing land and also offered training and boarding services for outside horses.

Probably to attract horse buyers to his ranch in faraway Saugus, Baker staged rodeos. Some references suggest he built a 12,000-seat arena in 1924, but this is dubious. (Promoter Bob Anderson organized a local rodeo in 1924, but its exact location is unclear, and it wouldn't have had grandtands.) Anderson did hold the annual rodeo on Baker's property in April 1926. That December, Baker and Anderson started construction on a new stadium, complete with partially covered grandstand seating and a quarter-mile oval track. When it opened May 1, 1927, it seated 18,000 fans, and thousands more had to be turned away for lack of room.

Over the next decade, ownership of the arena would change hands three more times.

As with a majority of the American populace, Baker was hit hard financially by the Great Depression of 1929 and was forced to sell the stadium to cowboy actor Hoot Gibson in 1930. Gibson continued to hold rodeos at the stadium and drew a Hollywood crowd including famous actors such as William S. Hart, Harry Carey, Tom Mix, and John Wayne. He also used the stadium as a movie set or leased it to other companies for film making.

But Gibson felt the effects of the Depression, as well. In September 1933 he appeared in a Los Angeles courtroom and pleaded poverty, saying he had no assets with which to repay a $2,500 loan. He testified that he owned a one-third interest in Hoot Gibson Inc., which owned the Saugus rodeo, and that it was in arrears.

In 1934, Gibson sold the stadium to Paul Hill, owner of the Western Livestock Stockyards, who continued to call it the Hoot Gibson Rodeo. As with his predecessors, however, the stadium brought Hill financial hardship when it was hit by the Great Flood of March 2, 1938. Heavy rains that year caused a river of water to flow down Soledad Canyon and filled the ranch home and arena with mud and debris. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, the "old buildings ... collapsed during the March floods" and the arena was built anew.

Nonetheless, Hill lost the ranch sometime after the April 1938 rodeo. According to Reynolds, the property was repossessed by the bank. In 1939, ownership passed to William Bonelli, and it was renamed Bonelli Stadium.

Bonelli, a professor of economics at Occidental College, continued the annual rodeo tradition for a number of years but introduced auto racing in 1939 on a more frequent schedule; ultimately auto racing became the primary draw and Bonelli renamed the arena Saugus Speedway. Occasional rodeos and circuses continued until at least the late 1960s, auto racing until 1995. The facility was sometimes used for concerts before the grandstands were removed in 2012 (the originals had been replaced in 1955). The venue continues to host an outdoor swap meet.

Download individual pages here. Program book courtesy of Terry Johnson 2018.
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