|"The original owner's name was Durham
Jones, presumably deceased. The plant was leased to Bill Taggart and Jim
McCombe from 1968 to November, 1972. McCombe posted something on a racing
forum last month, so perhaps he can be tracked down. There is also mention
of a "Pat Patterson," but I can't
tell if he was involved directly with the track or was a NHRA supervising
One site lists the oval as 1.0 miles
(but see below) and the road course as 2.1 miles.
In addition to racing, the track was
available for testing purposes and none other than Kellison (!) used the
track to test his cars. That was a bit of a surprise to me..... the
Kellison plant was in Lincoln, and I had assumed he used the local airport.
So, among other things, time to track down a Kellison expert.
Now, more recent postings on the SCCA-San
Francisco website show that up to a year back, they had been looking at
the property, mentioning it still had a "valid use permit," but that the
property owner wanted $3,094,000 for "5 parcels" of land, I'm guessing
which included the entire race plant. SCCA voted to drop the project citing
lack of funds.
One thing I've thought about off and
on was whether this place was built on an airstrip (when you look at the
front straightaway, it almost looks like a landing field). I found a website
dealing with abandoned airfields in California (Dann, I note your name
is very prominently mentioned), but I found no indication this particular
piece of land ever had a landing strip.
I found some websites having old racing
programs, one showed a cover only (shown below, it's rather nicely-done),
but another showed the entire program, and the 'big time" SCCA names which
jumped out at me were mind boggling, starting with Dave McDonald and his
So, is Vaca Valley Raceway just some
local venue? Nope, from what I now see, this was a Big Deal and Big Time
Finally, when did it get started? Read
the newspaper article below, July 5, 1958 was opening day----I wish I could
have been there. Note the claim this was the first plant in the nation
to incorporate an oval, a road race course and a drag strip, all in an
obvious attempt to attract as many different types of racing, including
motorcycles, as possible, rather than being just a single or dual-use facility.
So, now we got some names, start and
end dates, but there would still be a lot of slogging in the future to
fill in dozens and dozens of blanks.
Hum, "only" $3,094,000 and I can have
my very own historic race course."
The Reporter, June 13, 1958:
Vaca Valley Raceways opens for first event
"July 5 will mark the opening of the
new one-half million dollar Vaca Valley Raceways when the San Francisco
Region of the Sports Car Club of America will sanction two days of sports
car road races on Saturday and Sunday during the coming Fourth of July
This new racing facility, located on
a 200-acre site three miles east of the Nut Tree restaurant off Highway
40 near Vacaville, is the second track in the state to be built for sports
car racing, Laguna Seca being the first.
Now under construction by Syar and Harms
of Sacramento, the raceway is the first in the nation to incorporate a
mile and a quarter oval, a 4,500 foot drag strip and a sports car road
track. Indianapolis type cars, sprint cars, midgets, dragsters, and sports
cars, will compete at this new western race center.
Unique in design the sports car section
features a three-quarter mile straightaway followed by a 1,000 foot diameter
banked turn, then into a 185 degree horseshoe curve. A series of six additional
turns with varied straightaways will complete the 2.1 mile course.
The sports car track was designed in
cooperation with the Sports Car Club of America for maximum driver and
spectator safety. According to Harry Burdg, of Vacaville, general manager,
this will not only be the safest but the fastest track in the nation and
he expects 30,000 fans to bear him witness come July 5 and 6.
Parking for over 15,000 cars, sanitary
facilities, concession areas, and grandstand seating, a rarity of sports
car race enthusiasts will assure spectator comfort during the two day event."
(3-16-09) From Royce
Ratterman (Grua, Norway): Owner - Sept.
"Thought you may be interested in the
second Vacaville Reporter Newspaper article (you already have the first
Durham Jones was my Great-Uncle, married
to my maternal grandmother's sister. My dad is actually the original owner
with Harry Burdg. He gave his portion back to 'Uncle Durham' after some
time had passed (and track deaths) since uncle Durham was the one who gave
him and my mom $50,000 for a belated wedding gift to do the investments.
Uncle Durham inherited $9 million in 1950 I was always told as a kid.
Some man named Cavanaugh from Concord
was one of the last newpaper articles in my dad's scrapbook. Cavanaugh
(spelling?) was killed in his home-made racecar at Vaca Valley."
The Reporter, Sept. 7, 1956:
300 race at track's opening!
"To the delight of several thousands
of spectators who bronzed under the sun most of the day, more than 300
of the hottest hotrodders in California and Nevada turned out last Monday
to inaugurate the Northern California Drag Strip, six miles northeast of
The success of the venture, the product
of owners Royce Ratterman and Harry Burdg, points to the certainty that
drag racing is here to stay.
No accurate count was taken of the number
of spectators who witnessed the events during the day, but state drag racing
officials pronounced it one of the largest turnouts for drag racing in
Shortly after 1 p.m. Vacaville Mayor
Albert Porter cut the ribbon of the strip to signal the start of elimination