A VIEW FROM THE SKYBOX
Or how creating the 20th anniversary poster landed me a pass to the best seat in the house

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Auto Club Speedway 20th Anniversary Race
Story and photos by Hector Cademartori

INTRODUCTION: Motorsports artist Hector Cademartori has been commissioned by Auto Club Speedway to design and paint many of the official NASCAR and IndyCar event posters and other projects for some 19 years now.

His latest was for the the NASCAR race at Fontana that also celebrated the track’s 20th anniversary. The people at Speedway (after seeing the detail that Hector had put into the 27 side view illustrations of the winners of all the NASCAR races in their 20 years of existence) realized that in this day and age everybody would think that it was executed using some sort of digital system. So they produced a video showing the artist using 800 year old technology: brushes, a ruler, and a compass on the project working in his small backyard studio at his home in La Verne.

And … before you think there’s something wrong with our math, the reason that the speedway had 27 winners in 20 years is because from 2004 through 2010 they hosted two “Cup” races per year.

Hector’s stunning art work for the 20th anniversary event also earned him an invitation to the track’s Presidential Suite located high over the Start/Finish line on the Skybox level. He watched the race from there …

HERE’S HECTOR’S STORY: The view from the top is breathtaking to say the least and the fans showed up for the celebration filling the grandstands to the brim …

It was most interesting to hear the compliments that the drivers paid to the racetrack. I still remember when California Speedway, as it was called when Roger Penske built it, was criticized for the smoothness of its pavement which was the reason for boring racing conditions with basically one groove to use. Well … like good wine, 20 years later the surface, never repaved, has developed cracks, seams and bumps and now there are four racing lines, from the wall all the way to the apron. And they use all of them! Watching the close-ups on the TV monitors in the suite, I was surprised how much the cars jumped and moved, something that we often can’t see watching the cars at speed.

The drivers flat out love it.”If everything’s smooth and if everything’s neat and a perfect situation anybody can go out and get around a race track pretty good. This separates the men from the boys”, declared the great Richard Petty who was in town for the anniversary and who’s seen a race or two (maybe three) in his life.

“What an awesome race track. It’s so much fun. You can run anywhere you want and the racing is great” said Joey Logano. “I love race tracks like this”, said emphatically Kyle Larson. It really seems as if the old “Fontana Parades” are a thing of the past.

Speaking of young mister Larson, the Chip Ganassi/Target driver won both races, the XFinity Series’ Service King 300 on Saturday and the Monster Energy (which replaced Sprint as the series’ title sponsor) NASCAR Cup Series’ Auto Club 400 on Sunday. After two second place finishes in the previous two race he and his team were on their game and not looking for “runner-up” honors on this particular Sunday.

This year the races run under the new rules which divide the race in three segments, but don’t ask me to explain the details here. NASCAR designed this new system with the intention of making the races more interesting. The jury, however, is still out regarding its effectiveness and, as always, time will tell.

The Agajanians, a racing dynasty. Left to right: Josh, JC Jr., cousin Sam Kaskanyan, yours truly (not a racing dynasty), Jacob and Cary

During the weekend many personalities came to the suite to enjoy the food, drinks and the spectacular view. Among the visitors was vintage racer, motorsports supporter and competitor Tom Malloy along with members of the Agajanian family, a true racing dynasty which keeps growing. The Agajanians will field an entry in this year’s Indy 500 with the intention to repeat their victory of 2016 with Alexander Rossi.

Coincidentally, both the Malloy and Agajanian families go way back in the racing world. Tom told me that his father, Emmet Malloy, leased a piece of property on the corner of Vermont and 174th in the city of Gardena from Judge Frank Carrell and built a half-mile dirt oval: Carrell Speedway in 1940. Emmet Malloy gave rights to JC “Aggie” Agajanian, to promote races there, which he did from 1947 to 1954.

Carrell Speedway became a popular racing spot and was located not far from another historic location: Ascot Park, only a few miles to the south also operated by the Agajanians. The track hosted many different types of races until 1954. That year, the Department of Public Works told the lease holders that the state had purchased the right of way going through the speedway and built the 91 Freeway. Emmet Malloy and “Aggie” Agajanian had a close relationship as race car owners in many racing circuits, including the Indy 500.

The iconic number 98 has been the Agajaninan family number in all their Sprint, Midget and Champ cars. They’ve won four Indy 500’s: with Troy Ruttman in 1952, Parnelli Jones in 1963, Dan Wheldon in 2011 and last year with Rossi.

Among many other events they have been the promoters of the famous Turkey Night Grand Prix. Visiting with them is a lesson in racing history and I really wished that I had much more time to listen to their stories … maybe at Long Beach.

And before I go, I’d like to raise my glass and propose a toast to Auto Club Speedway … HAPPY 20th … here’s to 20 more … and thank you for your hospitality during the weekend. Cheers! -HC

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