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Red Clay Report - Bakersfield Nights (Read 2515 times)
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Red Clay Report - Bakersfield Nights
03/23/15 at 1:19pm

Red Clay Report - Bakersfield Nights

Late Model Mark
Pinson, Alabama (March 23, 2015)

When good ole Bakersfield Speedway opened up yet another season on the 14th, it got me to thinkin' about all the great times I had at the track thru the years. This circuit of the Red Clay Report will be about how a typical trip up to the track went.

 The wife and I would have the timing down to a science as we seemed like such creatures of habit when we went to the track. We would tackle any chores or errands early on a Saturday that needed to be done early so we would have time to rest and be fresh for the trip. We would have the ole Dodge gassed up and ready to go, drinks in the cooler for the ride as well. Right on time at 3:15pm. we would turn the key and head out of Granada Hills. We lived at the extreme northern portion of the San Fernando Valley, we would get on the last part of the dreaded 405 Freeway for seconds and then transition quickly onto Interstate 5. Sometimes it would be clear sailing, other times the foul language would come out as there would be bumper-to bumper traffic. Up the hill into Valencia, past Magic Mountain on the gas ready to tackle the grapevine and that big ole hill.

 As we pass the Lake Castaic area the speedometer would climb as we wanted to have a head of steam up that grade. Most times it was clear sailing yet sometimes there was a slug in the fast lane going 45m.p.h. or some old hippie in a VW Bus with peace sign stickers chuggin' up the hill. Once we got to the top we were good to make some time, the miles rolled on past the treeless Angles National Forest, thru Gorman, then to the downside hill of the Grapevine heading into the central valley of the golden state. We would zip down the hill, sometimes passing big rigs with their brakes smoking or on fire, seeing rigs buried in the runaway truck ramps. Then it was a flat run to Interstate 99. The miles would click by, we would see the cotton fields and various other crops growing or being harvested. Next thing we knew we were approaching and the driving thru Bakersfield. Thru town we would exit onto Highway 65 that would take you to Porterville, we would hang a quick right and then drive a few miles to Oildale. A couple of turns later we were at the track!

 It was usually about 4:40p.m. when we would arrive, we would park along the wood fence in the shade in the same spot, it was really a good location for a quick getaway and to see friends walk by too. No matter what time we would get there, there were two older guys who would be first in line, always. The line would form and get long and we would catch up with fans who we had not seen since the last Late Model show at Bako. With comfortable folding lawn chairs in hand the gates would open right at 5:00p.m.  The first priority was to get "our" seats on the top row, under the shade trees. Up the short hill to the top row of the terrace seating the chairs were plopped down and all was ready for the nights action. The next priority was to go down to the beer stand and grab me a 32oz. frosty that at the time was only $5.00 dollars.

 Bakersfield always got things rolling early as they have a tight 11:00p.m. curfew. Hot laps got going and then the blood really got pumpin' when the Late Models rolled onto the track from the middle of the back straight. Seeing Mike Johnson and Steve Drake, Richard Papenhausen,Chet Buckley, and all the others hammer their cars into the turns, great stuff. Then came time trials, the national anthem and then racing. By that time frosty number 2 was gone. Heat races went off and the last frosty was purchased by 8:00p.m. By this time the big crowd was enjoying this show at the Bakersfield Speedway. So enjoyable hanging out with fans who were there in the same spot doing the same thing as us. The mains would be run and most times the Late Model show was a ripper. Seemed like most shows ended at 10:30p.m. and change. As soon as the checker flew we were gone as there was a 100 plus mile drive home.

 As we headed thru the darkness onto Highway 99 thru Bakersfield and then driving all alone we would talk about the nights activities. Sometimes we would stop off at Panama Lane and get some In-N-Out Burgers, other times we would high-tail it home, over the grapevine, thru the hills, down that big hill into Castaic and thru Valencia and then into Granada Hills and home. Most time without a stop we would park the Dodge in the driveway at just before, right at, or just a little after midnite. Already was thinking about the next trip up to Bakersfield Speedway to see the Late Models, as then as it is today, this track is the best Late Model track on the West Coast.  A bucket list deal for me is to go back to California and announce a Late Model show at Bakersfield. Many of those Saturdays on the way home I was thinking about those "Bakersfield Nights." How sweet they were for me, till next time.

Late Model Mark
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