Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Saugus Speedway Chronology.


From the souvenir booklet, "A Tip of the Hat to Saugus Speedway Champions," published in 1982. Marshall Wilkings, promoter and general manager; Lyn Pherigo, publicity and program director.

19271 Roy Baker, brother of shoe magnate C.H. Baker, builds "Baker Ranch Stadium," a completely enlosed rodeo arena seating over 18,000 fans1.
1930 Baker, caught up in the Great Depression, sold the stadium to cowboy actor "Hoot" Gibson. Gibson drew the Hollywood crowd to the stadium and used it as a movie set, or leased it to other companies making films. Rodeos were the main attraction with such Western stars as Harry Carey, Tom Mix, William S. Hart and John Wayne looking on.
1934 Gibson sold the ranch to Paul Hill, operator of the Western Livestock Stockyards.
1937 Year of the big flood! Water rushing down Soledad Canyon filled the stadium and ranch house with debris. The cleanup effort was just too much for Hill, and so the bank took the property back.
1937-38 Purchased by William Bonelli and renamed Bonelli Stadium.
1939 "Big Bill" Bonelli started auto racing. Its flat dirt oval was tested by the top drivers of the late '30s and '40s. Sunday afternoon crowds of 10,000 to 12,000 watched as "open wheel" greats such as Troy Ruttman, Bill Vukovich St., Allen Heath, Walt Faulkner, Johnny McDowell, Jack McGrath, Mel Hanson, Danny Oaks and many other fine drivers dueled in the dirt. Many of these fine drivers sat on the "bricks" at Indianapolis each Memorial Day.
1940-41 Was regular stop on United Racing Association circuit. Johnny Parsons was the champion in both years.
1942 June 30th: Last race due to war. Track lay idle during '43 and '44.
1945 Sunday, September 9, 1945: First post-war race on the West Coast. That first race in 1945 found the late Billy Vukovich grabbing the first checkered flag to be waved in post-war auto racing. Nine race meetings were held during the year and the championship was won by Vukovich.
1946 Dirt track paved for first time, but pavement was later torn out and track was reverted to dirt.
1947 Midget racing, the new sensation across the country, continued to draw large crowds through 1946, but in '47 the big roadsters roared onto the scene. They were the chief attraction until 1950, when the midgets made a comeback.
1950 The years had taken their toll on the original stands, and it was in this year that the backstretch stands were replaced by "importing" stands from the famous Gilmore Stadium when it closed down in 1950.
1951-55 The midgets and roadsters shared the track about equally with occasional rodeos and circuses.
1956 Track paved for second time. This pavement was destined to last many years longer than that of 1946.
1957 First "stock car" racing event ... which was promoted by Tony Coldeway, who later formed the Pacific Racing Association. Only 23 cars, $99 claimers, were on hand for that first race and the spectators numbered 523. Many said it wouldn't last. That was nearly 25 years ago.

Updates:
1995 Auto racing discontinued; owners say grandstands are unsafe.
11/9/2012 Last of the grandstands removed.


WEBMASTER'S NOTES

1. This 1982 chronology actually says 1924 and 12,000 seats, but it is incorrect. According to contemporary reports, the construction of the arena was announced in December 1926 and completed in 1927, and it seated 18,000. [BACK]

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