Dirt Empire Magazine - February/March - Volume 1, Issue 1

Page 40



STANDING THE TEST OF TIME By Mark Sublett • Photos by M&M Photos IN THE GOLDEN STATE, raceways are plentiful but few have the history of Petaluma Speedway. Last year, the track celebrated 60 years of racing but it has been seen at the site for much longer - 84 years in fact. The first recorded automobile race at the site where the speedway sits was in 1936 when local racing legend Ed Normi won the 30-lap race held at Kenilworth Park’s one-mile horse racing track. In 1948, a remodel of the grounds saw the current grandstands built where racers in the 1950s and 1960s competed on a quartermile dirt oval although configurations as large as 1/2 mile to 5/8ths are remembered over the years. Accomplished racer turned promoter Johnny Soares came along in the early 1960s and built the track to its current 3/8th mile configuration and racing has been the Saturday night attraction ever since. Petaluma Speedway is located 40 miles north of San Francisco and 20 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. It is known for its native adobe clay surface. The dark, almost black, surface is so tacky it tries to


pull your shoes off when walking across it and provides all the traction racing cars can handle. The cool moist marine air that rolls off the Pacific Ocean nightly provides just the right environment for a dust free racing surface. Decades ago, during a building boom, developers needed a place to dump that local adobe clay and Soares used it to his advantage. He allowed them to dump their dirt in exchange for the use of heavy equipment that was used to build

The local racers are loyal and one current streak that dates back 40 years shows just how loyal. up a hill on the backstretch where the pit grandstands now stand. He also built up the banks in the turns and built the on and off chutes we see today. The track has always hosted the best racing divisions available while supporting


a strong weekly division. Petaluma currently runs 360 winged sprint cars, wingless spec sprints, dirt modifieds, super stocks, mini stocks and 600 micros as their track divisions with visits from the ASCS National Sprint Car Tour, Sprint Car Challenge Tour, King of the West/NARC 410 Sprint Cars, USAC/BCRA Midgets, USAC CRA and USAC West Coast 360s on their schedule yearly. The local racers are loyal and one current streak that dates back 40 years shows just how loyal. Shawn “Iron Man” McCoy has over 800 consecutive starts and has not missed a super stock race since the 1980 season. He doesn’t see himself hanging up his helmet anytime soon as he just drove to a second place finish last July 11th, finishing one spot behind winner Steve Studebaker who has been racing at the track himself since 1983. THE SOARES LEGACY At an early age Johnny Soares fell in love with his lifetime partner Gladys and the two married in 1938. They had three children, John M., James and Joyce. John and Jim