Monday, May 19, 2014

2014 marks new era for the Acres

2014 marks new era for the Acres

By Matthew J. Sullivan

The 2014 racing season at Eureka, California’s Redwood Acres Raceway is on the horizon. It will be the 26th consecutive year of racing on the pavement at the 3/8 mile facility but the first with the new promotional pairing of Blair Aiken and Mic Moulton. The previous 25 years at Redwood Acres Raceway were promoted by Rich and Linda Olson. The Olsons announced their retirement from promoting the raceway during the track’s awards banquet last November.

Many folks may be surprised to know that Redwood Acres Raceway is among the oldest race tracks not only in California but on the entire west coast. The first races at the Acres were held in 1947 on dirt, a year after Merced Fairgrounds Speedway was established and around the same time that Stockton 99 Speedway began holding events. In 1956 and 1957, the track was known as Eureka Speedway and featured a 5/8-mile configuration. The facility hosted two NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) events with Herb Thomas winning the 1956 race and Lloyd Dane winning in 1957. The Acres also hosted the NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model series/Winston West in its dirt days on the familiar 3/8-mile configuration. Bill Amick was victorious in 1964, Harold Hardesty in 1968 and legendary driver, Hershel McGriff won in 1972.

After years of success on the dirt, the cost upkeep and maintenance for the track became too much to handle. Thus the raceway was converted from dirt to asphalt between late 1987 and early 1988 with races being held under NASCAR sanctioning. Between 1988 and 1995, the Acres hosted 7 NASCAR Southwest Tour events and 2 Winston West races. Mike Chase won the inaugural tour event in July of 1988. The next season, Bill Sedgwick won the West race while Chase won the tour race yet again. In 1990, Troy Beebe took the tour race while Sedgwick won the final West race at the Acres. Ron Hornaday, Jr. won the ’91 event over Rick Carelli who won the ’92 event. Hornaday won the 1993 race and after a year away from the raceway, M.K. Kanke won the final tour event in 1995.

Since the track was paved, Redwood Acres Raceway has produced several well-known drivers. Though Jim Walker and Randy Olson had established themselves prior to the 1988 season, they both honed their skills at the Acres for several years and are a huge part of the track’s pavement history. 1997 NASCAR Southwest Tour champion, Bryan Germone ran at the Acres to prepare himself for the tour. Rusty Olson moved from the Acres to win numerous late model events. Paul Peeples, Jr. drove in the mini stock class before winning the 1994 NASCAR Pacific Coast Region title.

More recently, drivers like Derek Thorn, Howard Ford and Jeremy Doss have established their talent by winning features. In 2013, the Acres has hosted and featured late model touring series like the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series and the Pacific Challenge Late Model series. The 125-lap SRL race was won by Jim Pettit, II.

Blair Aiken is a former racer who not only raced in NASCAR’s Winston West and Southwest Tour series but was also a regular open competition racer in Northern California throughout the 80s and 90s. Aiken formerly promoted Ukiah Speedway and along with his duties at Redwood Acres Raceway this season, he also helps in the promotion of Shasta Speedway in Anderson, California. His daughter, Jennifer Aiken will take over the role of business manager for the raceway.

While Aiken will promote Redwood Acres Raceway, Mic Moulton will utilize his established reputation and experience with the track and local racers serving as marketer. Moulton is a native of Eureka and raced at the Acres for nearly 20 seasons in several different divisions while also racing at various speedways throughout the region. His knowledge, insight and connections with local businesses and racing enthusiasts will be beneficial for the track’s success this season and on into the future.

The first action at the track will take place on Saturday April 12th with open practice.

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