Thread: In Remembrance... The Ghosts of old race tracks
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Old 05-21-2009, 12:41 PM   #12
Mitch G.
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Age: 60
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Default Re: Ghosts of Race Tracks gone by.

O.K. some us strayed away from Lakeside, and Englewood, and Colorado National Speedway. My dream was to to to Ascot Park, Gardena CA. I had read about the CRA (California Racing Association) sprint cars, and the legendary dirt oval. I went for the first time in 1976 ....... WOW! Nowhere, ever, did sprint cars "back in" to the corners like the hero's of the CRA. I became hooked for life, even when owning and driving my own midget at Lakeside, and Raceland, and CNS, I dreamed of running a sprint car at Ascot. I never did, but I went out there many times, and attended the last ever sprint car race, and midget race held in November of 1990. Here is a couple of interesting shots from Gardena, CA.

This is Carrell Speedway, a 1/2 mile dirt track very successful from 1940 to 1954, this is 1954. If you look at the drive in theater just to the right of the speedway, to the right is a dark grove of trees, and a salvage yard. The white letters are hard to see, but it says "Future Ascot park site",
and that's where the great Ascot Speedway was built. Carrell Speedway suffered parking problems, and drainage trouble, and gave way to development in 1954.
In 1957 Ascot was built on an old land fill, it was a huge success, this is where legends were born, Parnelli Jones, Jim Hurtubise, Chuck Hulse, Bobby Unser, A.J. Foyt at ran midgets, and sprints many times at Ascot. In the photo below, you can see Ascot, this is 1962, you can see the drive in theater below and to the left of Ascot, and if you look carefully you can see half of the old Carrell Speedway oval under the words "Carrell Site", they built a street right through the middle of the track, and houses exist where the other end of the old 1/2 mile used to be.

[I]Ascot was a hit from 1957 till 1990, but alas the Agajanian family had let a developer buy and hold a option on the land. Land in So.Cal became way to valuable, and the new owner closed the track down, it sat vacant for years not making anybody any money, but was finally turned into a auto auction site.[/I]
I've highlighted the above few sentences because I need to correct my posting. I merely repeated what I've heard, and or read in the past, since Ascot was my personal favorite, and in my opinion the greatest dirt track in American history, I felt in necessary to update this post. I've had the great pleasure, and honor of being contacted by Cary Agajanian, the son of the legendary J.C. Agajanian, and he wanted me to set the record straight about the closing of Ascot Speedway. It's a long story, and deserves it's own thread, but for now, I'll write a quick recap of what happened. The land was owned by a Mr. and Mrs. Ziegler, it was a landfill, as far back as the 1930's, but some hopeful business men talked Zeigler into a lease on the property and built LA Speedway (by 1959 it became known as Ascot), it had it's ups and downs, by the 1970's it became obvious to the land owners, that only J.C. Agajanian (who would bring USAC national series to the speedway on special occasions), and his ties to USAC and legacy of successful auto racing promotions coast to coast, could stabilize, improve, and grow the speedway. With the lease in default, Agajanian stepped in, and the rest is history. J.C. Agajanian passed away in 1984, but Cary and his brothers, Chris and Jay, kept the legend going. The lease was up in 1990, Mrs. Ziegler decided to accept the rather "overly optimistic" offer by a land developer, over the existing arrangement with the Agajanian family, who were trying frantically to extend their lease, or even buy the property outright. The new lease holder tore the track down, only made Ziegler a couple payments, and went bust. Mrs. Ziegler wanted the Agajanian family back involved, but the city of LA had "grandfathered" the speedway into it's zoning laws, and would never again allow a race track to be built on that land, with the track torn down, it was a lost cause, this was as painful to the Agajanian family, as it was to it's legions of fans across the US. Again, I want to thank Cary Agajanian for being so gracious with his time, and to contact me and give me the important, and accurate history we try to put forth on our pages. And I'm still in depression over the closing of Ascot, it's why I drink so much.

Last edited by Mitch G.; 01-10-2011 at 05:28 PM.
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