Drag Race Central - NHRA
Mon, 26 Jan 2004, 09:17 AM

Drag Racing in Southern California
By Bob Frey
Photo by:

Gary Mignacca
In just a few weeks the drag racing season will officially get underway, and while the Winternationals will be the real kickoff for the campaign there will be some racing in Southern California a week before that. The California Speedway, actually the California Dragway, will host its first big time drag race of the year when the Winternationals Warm-up Super Series hits the facility. Aimed at giving all of the “Super” category racers a place to practice before the NHRA season gets in gear, it will also be a weekend with a lot of money up for grabs at a track that looks to become a real factor on the Southern California landscape. All of the super categories will compete during the weekend’s activities, including the popular Super “E” 7.90 cars along with Super Comp, Super Street and Pro Gas. The Super Comp, Super Street and Super “E” cars will run their eliminator races on Saturday  while the famous Southern California Pro Gas cars will run on Sunday.  I fully expect that Gary Mignacca, the reigning So. Cal Pro Gas champ will be on hand to open defense of his championship. The race is open to all racers so I’d like to encourage any racers who may be on their way to Pomona to think about adding the race to your schedule. As the expression goes, the drag strip in Fontana is the only drag strip in the country with a super speedway in its parking lot. Nobody hosts a “Super” race like the guys and gals who are involved with the So. Cal Pro Gas association so I hope the event is a huge success and becomes an annual affair. If you’d like directions you can check the California Speedway web site or go to the So. Cal Pro Gas association’s web site to get some information about their race which will be featured on Sunday, the 15th.

Talk of the race at Fontana reminds me of how great drag racing used to be in Southern California, not that it’s not great now but there were so many drag strips in California in the early days of the sport that you could find a drag race almost within walking distance of your house. The list of great California tracks includes, but is not limited to Riverside Raceway, Carlsbad, Salinas, Cotati, Half Moon Bay (can you say Chico Breschini?), Holtville, Inyokern, Lodi, Madera, Redding, Santa Maria and Vacaville. Of course Pomona has to be on the list as well as those famous hot beds of drag racing, Bishop Drag Strip and the Ophir Coachmen Drag Strip in Oroville. Forty years ago, in 1964, NHRA held divisional or regional races at San Diego Raceway, the Inyokern airport, Kingdon Dragway, Fremont, Pomona and Half Mon Bay. Thirty years ago Irwindale, Bonneville and Sacramento were on the schedule just to give you an idea of some of the great facilities that have been a part of the California drag racing scene. Racers like George Bolthoff, Gas Ronda, Jack Williams and others roamed the drag strips of California in those days accompanied by some of the great sportsman racers like Mike Schmitt, Ed Weddle, Roger Caster, Dave Kempton and the legendary Hoefer Brothers. Were they the good old days? Maybe, maybe not, but it sure was great racing in and around the many strips of California.

Ed Sigmon
Getting back to the upcoming event, the Southern California  Pro Gas Association holds a number of races around the So-Cal area during the season and it’s populated by a really dedicated group of racers. The “Pro Gas” movement actually started in California back in the late 1970’s and a number of the racers who were competing then are still involved with the group. Some of the early members of the association included Rick Webb, Mike Meziere and Bob Tietz who was the first ever Pro Gas winner. With the success of the Pro Gas circuit in California, the “Super” categories really did take off and eventually ended up as part of the NHRA national event schedule. By the time Super Gas was a part of the regular national event tour the Pro Gas folks had already crowned a couple of champions. Ed Sigmon, one of the guys who probably raced at most of those California tracks that I mentioned earlier, was the first circuit champion, while Gary Mignacca, the current champ, had already won the title twice before doing it again in 2003. When you look at the caliber of racers who are active in Southern California you can imagine what it takes to win one of these championships and the winners, past and present, have a great deal to be proud of.

During the formative years of the Pro Gas activity I was working at Atco Dragway in New Jersey where I kept hearing a lot about these “bracket racers” out west. Little did I know at that time that these guys and gals were on the cutting edge of racing and little did I know how much impact they would have on the future of the sport. On behalf of all of the racing fans across the country I have to say “thank you” to the pioneers of the Pro Gas movement.

Rick Webb
As we wait for the official start of the 2004 season you may want to check out the web site for the association, it’s www.socalprogas.com where you’ll find a nice history of the association as well as a list of their previous winners along with some information about the upcoming events. This is a very dedicated group of racers and they take a lot of pride in how good they are at racing, and I’m sure they’d love to see some of the out of town racers stop by for their big opener. However, I feel compelled to warn you that if you are just stopping by, please remember to bring your “A” game because noting else will do when you mix it up with the racers from Southern California. After all, isn’t that the way that it’s always been?...For more information you can contact Doug Crumlich at 949-254-4664, or e-mail him at at ibdragin@aol.com.

Update on Fontana Schedule…

The race schedule at Fontana will feature Super Comp and Super “E” cars each running two separate eliminators, one on Saturday and another one on Sunday. The Super Street cars will compete on Saturday only while the Super Gas cars will race for eliminations on Sunday only.

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