Traditional Sprint Car FanSite

See You At The Races!!!

Racing Scene - CRA Reunion
by Tim Kennedy

Los Angeles, CA. - The 13th annual California Roadster Association reunion/luncheon took place Saturday, January 13 from 11 am to 3 pm at Knott's Berry Farm Resort Hotel in Buena Park. About 150 persons attended according to event organizers Walt and Dottie James. Emcee Walt James, 83, introduced participants and the 2007 honoree-Jack Brunner, 82, who spoke briefly about his auto racing involvement and driving career. "I started racing in 1946 and was a commercial fisherman for three or four years. I raced into the 1960s." Brunner spoke about laying out and building famous Ascot Park Raceway as a copy of the closed Carrell Speedway, which was located at Artesia Blvd and Vermont Ave., two blocks north of Ascot Park in Gardena, CA. Ascot, opened in June 1957 as Bill
McKay's Los Angeles Speedway. Brunner had construction equipment and McKay hired
him to layout and build a half-mile clay track. "It was built on a closed garbage dump next to the Dominquez Channel beyond the third turn and that is why the north turn (turns 3-4) was tighter than the south turn (1-2)," he added.

Brunner, who has not been seen at races for many years, attended the October 21, 2006 Legends of Ascot event at Perris Auto Speedway as one of the Ascot legends honored during that annual luncheon held  before a USAC/CRA sprint car race that evening. During 1946 Brunner raced a CRA roadster (the No. 29 Tony Gonzales car pictured on the CRA reunion admission ticket). When California Roadster Assn became the California Racing Assn in 1957 Jack raced sprint cars and became the 1961 CRA driving champion. He drove the No. 14 Durr Bros. Chevy owned by the Ascot Park concessionaires Ken and Bob Durr, and later Clarence "Pop" Miller's car during his championship season. He won two features for the Durrs including a 25-lap main event at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix on May 27 and a 100-lap main at Ascot on May 30.  One of the Durr brothers died and the car was parked. Jack won another 100-lap Ascot main on July 1 in his new ride, the "Pop" Miller No. 8 Chevy. His career-year was remarkable for his consistent top finishes. Jack bought the Durr Chevy from Durr survivors and made a tour of the IMCA circuit in the Midwest with Jim Bartosh as his crewman. Jack also served as a respected member of the CRA board of directors. Jack, who raced out of Gardena, has lived in Vista (San Diego County) for decades. He still operates a big crusher as owner/foreman of a firm that crushes slabs of concrete into base material for construction/repair of highways.

The 12 prior CRA Reunion driver honorees were: Dick Vineyard (1995), Troy Ruttman ('96), Jim Rathmann ('97), Chuck Leighton ('98), Don Freeland ('99), Ken Stansberry ('00), Rosie Roussel ('01), Dick McClung ('02), Dick Hughes ('03), Howard & Jack Gardner ('04), Gene Ellis ('05) and Chuck Hulse ('06). Ruttman, Rathmann, Freeland and Hulse are Indianapolis 500 veteran drivers. Ruttman (1952) amd Rathmann (1960) are Indianapolis 500 winners. Past CRA Reunion honorees Stansberry, Roussel, McClung, Hughes, the Gardner brothers, Ellis and Hulse attended the 2007 CRA Reunion.

The second presentation of the Walt and Dottie James perpetual trophy again went to three persons. Honorees were Louie Senter, Hila Sweet and Don Weaver. Their names will be placed on plaques along with Ed Justice, Wilda Kindoll and Evelyn Pratt, the initial honorees at the 2006 CRA Reunion. The James perpetual trophy is kept on permanent display at the Justice Brothers Car Care Products headquarters/race car museum on Huntington Drive in Duarte.

CRA Reunion attendees were introduced by emcee James. Alphabetically, they included DRIVERS: Bob Behrens, Chuck Conrad, Billy Cruce, Bob Edmison, Gene Ellis, Howard & Jack Gardner, Bill Gerard, Skip Hedrich, Bob Hogle (1963 & 68 CRA champion and a SDRA modified champion), Steve Howard, Jerry Hudson, Dick Hughes, Chuck Hulse, Dee Jones, Dick McClung, Ray Miscevich, Jim Murphy, Jimmy Oskie (1969,74, 76, 77 and 79 CRA champion), Rosie Roussel, Ken Stansberry, Don Thomas (1966 CRA champion, Fred Thomson, Ed Van Eyk, Don Weaver, Billy Wolfe and Jim Wood. CAR OWNERS: Jack & Jim Badger, Ralph Baiza, Greg Cunningham, George Glover, Tony Gonzales, Milt Green, Marshall Hansen, Bob Kappmeyer, Chet Knox, Jim Ruth and Louie Senter. OFFICIALS: Rusty Espinoza, Ed Hudson, Bob Falcon, Richard Parks, Don Read, Neil Sachs, Ron Schwarze, Dr. Sid Senter (track doctor), Ray Vodden, plus Dave & Lois Ward. MANUFACTURERS: Nick Arias, Andy Casale and Ed Iskenderian. MEDIA: Jim Chini, Scott Daloisio, Ralph Foster, 92, Chris Holt, Tim Kennedy and Jeff Sharpe. WIDOWS: Louise (Jim) Culbert, Joyce (Tony) Farr, Ginnie (Johnny) Moorhouse, LaVerne (Louie) Unser, Gussie (Don) Urgo and Manon (Dempsey) Wilson. Numerous fans also attended, including long-time Jimmy Oskie pit man Tad Kitano, 91. Usual CRA Reunion attendees unable to attend this year because of health reasons included Ed Justice, Wilda Kindoll and sprint car/midget driver Tony Simon, the 1972 Turkey Night Grand Prix winner. Midget race driving great/1945 Turkey Night Grand Prix winner Danny Oakes, 96, died in a rest home on January 13, the day of the CRA Reunion.  Racing official
Mark Dearth, 101, also succumbed since the 2006 reunion.

Prior to the CRA Reunion conclusion Hila Sweet spoke about the 15th California Racers Reunion on Sunday, May 6, 2007 from 11 am to 3 pm. The site again will be Joe's Garage, 36 Auto Center Drive, Tustin, CA. The Joe McPherson-owned racing car museum is one of the best race car museums in the area and contains 40 to 50 Indy cars, sprints and midgets. Honorees at the May 6 reunion will be sprint car driver Bob McCoy, of San Diego, author Joe Scalzo, photographer Greg Sharpe and racing artist Joe Henning. Tickets ($30) are available from Hila at 20701 Beach Blvd, Huntington Beach 92648 or by calling (714)374-7672.

Chet Knox, owner of the Magic Muffler sprint car raced by Nick Valenta and Roy Prosser to three CRA championships, also spoke. Knox said he is planning to write a book about personable Walt James from his days as a race driver to his 21 years as CRA president (1950-70) and president of Western Racing Assn vintage car association (1982-85). Walt still drives his No. 15 CAE-built sprint car in WRA vintage events at numerous tracks. Walt built the Whiteman Speedway race track in Pacoima, CA in the 1960s, and more recently he also built the Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway in Blythe, CA. The dirt track at Willow Springs in Rosamond is another of his projects and is named for him. It is the site of the annual vintage car gathering and "play days" every Thanksgiving weekend. Knox, owner of Autobooks/Aerobooks on Magnolia Blvd (east of Hollywood Way) in
Burbank, requested stories about Walt to include in his book.

CRA Reunion attendees also browsed tables of racing books, artwork, CRA scrapbooks, racing photos and memorabilia on tables in the room. They also read through historic racing programs from various now gone race tracks, such as Carrell Speedway (1949), Huntington Beach Speedway (1940s), Riverside International Raceway (1950s), and more recent tracks such as Ascot. A table also had for sale tee-shirts listing past CRA Reunion honorees and some are still available from the James'. Bench racing and talk about past racing memories continued well after ceremonies concluded at 2:45 pm.






Get your own FREE Guestbook from htmlGEAR