Dave Wolin Signing His New Book Ascot at Autobooks
Ascot - The story of the iconic dirt track that defined Southern California racing.
Dave Wolin, the author of "Ascot", will be at Autobooks in Burbank for a signing event on June 10th 2023 from 10:00AM to 2:00PM.
By Doug Stokes
Tue, May 23, 2023 07:01 AM PST
From The Author Himself
It began in 1903 as a horse track, then as a one mile dirt track in L.A., then as New Ascot Raceway in East L.A. which became Legion Ascot and finally Southern Ascot in Southgate.
Then, Los Angeles Speedway was built in 1957 on the site of a former landfill just south of Gardena. The promoter got into financial difficulties and it became New Ascot Stadium and eventually just Ascot. Everyone raced there, sprint cars, stock cars, midgets, buggies and motorcycles.
Some 90 Indy 500 drivers raced there. Names like A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Parnelli Jones were regulars. It was said that "if you haven't raced Ascot, you haven't raced". Read the book to see why it closed in 1990. Written in scrapbook style, decade by decade, full of newspaper and magazine articles, photos and stories from those who were there.
The book has 399 Pages - 8 1/2 x 11 - B&W. Published by the Racing History Project and autographed by the author; comes with a DVD of all the photos and newspaper / magazine articles in the book plus an assortment of videos.
The Signing Event
June 10th 2023 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Autobooks - 2900 Magnolia Blvd, Burbank 91505
Notes From Stokes
… And all of the above is correct and true: this is a feisty, tough little (is 399 pages with what must be a thousand photos really “little”?) MOFO (of a book) that triggers memories long dulled by watching racing live, and in person TV racing from four of five camera angles and then again from the blimp or fast-flying drone and over and over in replay.
Truth be told, Ascot was a blink and you’ll miss it/in your face/wall to wall/so’s your old man, dirt racetrack with some very tacky clay that would, on some nights, without even moment's notice, turn into hard, abrasive concrete and cause right rear tire immolation in two laps. It was a “just shut the (heck) up and race dammit!” joint that some seemed to master, but that very few had a real wrap-around view of. That track just seemed to thrive on being mythical, moody, and maybe, on occasion, just a bit on the "rowdy" side(!). It was a place where almost everything often went sideways for even the best of them... and winning was a cause for tumultuous celebration and copious amounts of beer.
It has always been something of and anomaly that no book (until now) had been written about the place where some of the greatest dirt short track racing ever seen had thrilled generations of Angelenos over it’s short, 33-year life.
If you were lucky enough to have been there, I’m sure noise and smells are hard to forget. Chevy V-8s screaming out while being tortured by competitors who had “tipped the can” and doctored the nasty, eye-watering methanol fuel with “liquid dynamite” (nitro-methane) to get a few horsepower over another racer and who’s motor oil spit out on to red-hot open exhaust.
… In case you didn’t notice, this is a book that every LA motorsports fan of a certain age has been asking for for a long time now … a scrapbook of photos and news clips that recount (and remind in a lot of cases) of the glory that was Ascot, where the ambiance was not about the place, but exclusively about the sort racing that went on there for thirty-three years.
Although some raved about the burgers at the infield snack bar, they really were only moderately passable because, if you were in the infield, there was no way to get out while the races where being run.
There was a graveyard (honest) dead nuts (that’s an arcane racing term that means exactly, precisely) named Roosevelt Memorial Park just across Vermont Avenue from the front gates, rumors were passed that the track was the beneficiary of any excess dirt that was generated by that business. So far as this writer knows there never was any confirmation of that.
And then there’s the weather (not for nothing do they call the area “The South Bay”) being relatively close to the Pacific Ocean meant some cool, damp Summer nights and a well-hydrated track, that rarely if ever dusted up. In fact it also often called for warm clothes on almost any night after 8, a fact that became more pronounced as the racing calendar rolled on towards fall, all of which was doubtless good for sweat shirt sales.
Bench seats, no elevators, and basically cultist sections of fans would rule their own territories almost as if it was somehow a birthright. Marijuana possession and smoking was a criminal offense during the time of this track, but that never seemed to hinder the sickly-sweet odor of burning “weed” from being an important factor (either way) in seat location at Ascot.
Like all dirt tracks, there was a cadre lurking down low in turn one, die-hard patriots who wouldn’t be happy watching from the owner’s box (as if Ascot would ever have had one). They wore eye-protection and face masks, loved to be pelted by fast-flying chunks of clay, and did not consider a beer to be a proper drink without (at least) a quarter inch of the track swirling around in the bottom of their beer cup.
And racing... oh the racing! Those who were to do battle and those that flocked to watch the battling on Ascot’s dirt will all tell you all about the epic battles that they sat witness to on the “short” half-mile. Measured on the outermost part of the racing surface (the crash fence) it clocked in as being on the skinny side of an official two thousand, six hundred, and forty feet long. But every foot, no matter what the tape made it, was jam-packed with real racing action at that joint.
The growling motorcycles, the howling sprint cars, the screaming midgets, the high-flying off-road buggies and three-wheelers, the blunt force trauma of the demolition derby cars, the shouting parents of the bike-x kids, even the occasional “over-served” fan who decided to see what kind of a lap they could cut on foot, all conspired to make a very satisfying show at Ascot. It always managed to be that kind of place - the one where (the you know whats) CO-LIDE.
Wolin’s use of photos - and contemporary news articles - pays off in the best way possible for the Ascot legend. There’s a ton of truth in this one. Thanks for all the memories Mister Wolin!
AND … Author Wolin will be on hand at a still-standing legendary L.A. car place: Autobooks-Aerobooks (2900 Magnolia, Burbank) on Saturday, June 20th from 10am to 2pm to talk about Ascot and personalize copies of his book for fans.
About The Author
Doug has a long and wide-ranging history in the motoring business. He served five years as the Executive Director of the International Kart Federation, and was the PR guy for the Mickey Thompson's Off-Road Championship Gran Prix. He worked racing PR for both Honda and Suzuki and was a senior PR person on the first Los Angeles (Vintage) Grand Prix. He was also the first PR Manager for Perris Auto Speedway, and spent over 20 years as the VP of Communications at Irwindale Speedway. Stokes is the recipient of the American Autowriters and Broadcaster’s 2005 Chapman Award for Excellence in Public Relations and was honored in 2015 by the Motor Press Guild with their Dean Batchelor Lifetime Achievement Award. “… I’ve also been reviewing automobiles and books for over 20 years, and really enjoy my LA Car assignments.” he added.