Riverside International Raceway

Riverside International Raceway

Motorsport venue
Name = Riverside International Raceway
Nickname = The dusty place

Location = California 60 and Day Street Moreno Valley, California
Broke_ground = January 1957
Opened = September 22, 1957
Closed = July 2, 1989
Owner = (1983-1989) Fritz Duda
Operator = (1983-1989) Fritz Duda
Construction_cost= $625,000
Architect = William L. Duquette
Former_names = Riverside International Motor Raceway (1957-1960)
Events = NASCAR Winston Cup
Winston Western 500 (1974–1987)
Budweiser 400
Los Angeles Times Grand Prix
Formula One
United States Grand Prix (1960)
IndyCar World Series
AirCal 500 / L.A. Times 500 (1981–1983)
Capacity = Varies by race and track layout
Layout1 = Long Course
Length_km = 5.3
Length_mi = 3.3
Layout2 = NASCAR Course
Length_km2= 4.22
Length_mi2= 2.62
Surface2 = Asphalt
Turns2 = 9
Record_time2 = 118.484 miles per hour [cite episode |title=ESPN Speedworld |network=ESPN |airdate=1988-06-12 ]
Record_driver2= Ricky Rudd
Record_team2 =
Record_year2 = 1988
Record_class2 = NASCAR
Layout3 = Short Course
Length_km3= 4.09
Length_mi3= 2.54
Layout4 = Drag Strip
Length_km4= 0.7
Length_mi4= 0.4
Layout5 = Oval
Length_km5= 0.8
Length_mi5= 0.5
Surface6 = Asphalt

Riverside International Raceway (Sometimes known as RIR or Riverside Raceway) was a race track or road course in Riverside, California. The track was in operation from September 22, 1957, to July 2, 1989. The original course design proved to be dangerous, and it was partially reconfigured in 1969.

The track was built to accommodate several different races. By closing off certain sections of the track, the route drivers had to follow could be altered. The three options on Riverside Raceway were the long course (3.27 miles or 5.25 km), the short course (2.5 miles or 4.16 km), and the NASCAR (2.62 Miles) course. The original racetrack had a 1.1 mile backstretch from 1957 to 1968. When the track was redesigned in 1969, turn 9 was made wide and a dogleg was added to scrub speed from the race cars.

The six courses of Riverside

Before a racing event at RIR, track crews added traffic pylons to close off sections of the track. Track courses are shown in the illustrations below (the 1957 course is in black, while the 1969 course above is in blue).

Diagram notes: The long course (shown below before the 1969 version) had the 1.1 mile backstrech. When the 1969 version was built, the dogleg was added as a speed scrubber to reduce speeds when approaching turn 9. The NASCAR course, 1st design on the right (light blue illustration), would not use turn 7. In the short course, the track would use turn 7A rather than 8. The NHRA drag strip only used the backstrech from the runoff to the Bosch Bridge. The Oval (early '60s) used turn 9, ran counterclockwise, uphill for turn 1&2 and then there was a downhill turn for 3&4.

Movies and television

RIR was also a prime spot for movie shoots. Parts of the television shows "CHiPs", "Simon and Simon","The Rockford Files", "Knight Rider", and the HBO program "Super Dave Osborne" were shot on location at RIR. The failed television pilot "Riding With Death" (featured as an experiment on the television show "Mystery Science Theater 3000") also contains footage of racing at RIR.

RIR was also a location shooting in the following movies: "The Love Bug", "Roadracers", "Fireball 500", "Grand Prix", "On the Beach", "Speedway", "Stacey", "Thunder Alley", "Winning", and "The Killers".

Many advertisements are also shot at RIR.

Miscellaneous facts

The first weekend of scheduled races in September 1957, a California Sports Car Club event, John Lawrence of Pasadena, California, lost his life. Lawrence, a former Cal Club, under 1500 c.c. Production champion, went off at Turn 5 (later designated Turn 8). With no crash barrier in place, and no rollbar on the car, the MG A he was driving went up the sand embankment, then rolled back onto the track. Though Lawrence survived the incident, and appeared slightly injured; he died later at the hospital of a brain injury.

The second major event at the track, in November 1957, was a sports car race featuring some of the top drivers of the day, including Carroll Shelby, Masten Gregory and Ken Miles. Another driver entered was an inexperienced local youngster named Dan Gurney, who had been offered the opportunity to drive a powerful but ill-handling 4.9-liter Ferrari after better known drivers like Shelby and Miles had rejected it. Shelby led early but spun and fell back. Gurney assumed the lead and led for much of the event. Shelby, driving furiously to catch up, finally overtook Gurney late in the race and won. Gurney's performance caught the eye of North American Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti, who arranged for Gurney to drive a factory-supported Ferrari at LeMans in 1958, effectively launching the Californian's European career.

Footage exists of classic races like the 1986 Los Angeles Times Grand Prix in which the Chevy Corvette of Doc Bundy hit the Ford Probe of Lyn St. James and the Jaguar of Chip Robinson at Turn 1. St. James' car caught fire and Chip Robinson nearly cartwheeled into the crowd. Fortunately, St. James survived the flames and Robinson escaped uninjured within the track bounds.

The track was known as a relatively dangerous course, with its long, downhill back straightaway and brake-destroying, relatively slow 180-degree Turn 9 at the end. During the 1965 Motor Trend 500 NASCAR race, Indycar great A.J. Foyt suffered a brake failure at the end of the straight, going end-over-end at high speed. Crash crews assumed Foyt was dead at the scene, until fellow driver Parnelli Jones noticed a twitch of movement. Ford factory sports car driver Ken Miles was killed there in a testing accident in August 1966. In December 1968, American Formula 5000 champion Dr. Lou Sell crashed and overturned in Turn 9 on the first lap of the Rex Mays 300 Indianapolis-style race, suffering near-fatal burns. These accidents and others caused track management to reconfigure Turn 9, giving the turn a dogleg approach and a much wider radius (a water improvement also closed the raceway for a few months).

Nevertheless, in 1983 Turn 9 was the site of the only fatality in IMSA GTP history. In the 1983 Times Grand Prix, Rolf Stommelen's Joest-constructed Porsche 935 lost its rear wing at the Dogleg and hit two freeway-type barriers sending it into a horrific roll at Turn 9.

When the racetrack was proposed in the mid 1950s, Riverside International Motor Raceway (as it was called at the time) was planned to ultimately be 5.0 miles long, but the club extension was never constructed and the track's final length (after Turn 9 was adjusted in 1969 to a 10 degree banked sweeper) was 3.3 miles.

Of the entire road course races run at RIR, there was at least one that was run in a counter-clockwise direction sometime in the 1960s. In the spring of 1966 Dan Gurney tested his first Eagle racing car on a shortened, counter-clockwise version of the track (to accommodate the car's Indianapolis-specific left-turn oiling system). The test led Gurney to propose to track president Les Richter to hold an Indianapolis-style race there. The Rex Mays 300 served as the season-ending USAC Indianapolis-car race from 1967 to 1969.

ESPN taped the June 12, 1988, Budweiser 400 race at RIR and caught racer Ruben Garcia crashing hard off turn 9 and his car went through two cement barriers before coming to rest near a catchfence where fans were sitting. No fans were hurt during the incident.

NASCAR lost racer Joe Weatherly at the track in January 1964. For a final tribute, the old version of Riverside Raceway was etched on his headstone as a final joke since Joe was a joker.

After 14 years of NASCAR as a driver and later a car owner, Richard Childress won his first NASCAR race in 1983, when Ricky Rudd drove his #3 Piedmont Airlines Chevrolet to victory in the 1983 Budweiser 400k.

From 1981 until 1987, NASCAR's championship race was at Riverside. The USAC Championship Trail also held their season ending race from 1967 to 1969.

Riverside was home to track announcer Sandy Reed and (along with former LA Rams player Les Richter) Roy Hord Jr.

NASCAR Car owner Rick Hendrick drove a select few races at Riverside in his own cars. In the final race in 1988, he got out of the car and let Elliott Forbes-Robinson take over.

Riverside was the opener to the NASCAR season before heading to Daytona for the annual Daytona 500

One of the roads alongside the Moreno Mall is called Andretti Road, a reference to Mario Andretti, who won multiple races at Riverside.

Use in Gaming

The track was used in Sierra's NASCAR legends and later was converted to NASCAR 4, NASCAR Season 2002 and 2003.

The 1969-1989 version was also used in the game Grand Prix Legends

Closure and RIR's transformation into a shopping mall

After former Los Angeles Rams player Les Richter sold the property to Fritz Duda in 1983, 1988 would be the final year of racing for Riverside International Raceway. On June 12, 1988, NASCAR held its final race at RIR - a race won by Rusty Wallace (a caution flag was out for Ruben Garcia when he came off Turn 9 and lost control of his car and hit a wall, missing the grandstands). In 1989, after the SCORE International held its last race, the track finally closed its gates after 32 years of racing after SCCA Cal Club racer Mark Verbofsky died and the track ended the way it started: with a dead racer. Fritz Duda turned the "House that Dan Gurney built" into a shopping mall which opened in 1992. The Moreno Valley Mall at Towngate is on the northern end of the former Raceway Property and houses now occupy the southern end of the old racetrack (where Tim Richmond and Dale Earnhardt raced). In a 1994 topographical map, the remains of Riverside's Turn 9 and a wall were still visible. However, today nothing is left of RIR except for memorabilia from the racetrack. The old Administration Building remained until 2005, when it was torn down to make way for a complex of townhomes.

When Riverside closed in 1988, it followed in the footsteps of Ontario Motor Speedway (in nearby Ontario), which closed in 1980, and preceded by Ascot Park in 1991.

In 2003, the remainder of the old Riverside International Raceway was torn up, the sign that was at California 60 and Day Street was removed to make way for a Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse and the old Turn 9 of the old track is now home to houses.

Ironically, in 2003, plans were announced in northern California, near Merced, to build a 3-mile road course with a similar design to the famed Riverside layout, with a major difference in a chicane and Turn 9 (the track will be known as the Riverside Motorsports Park).

Races held at Riverside International Raceway

*The NASCAR Winston Cup Series and Winston West: Motor Trend 500, NASCAR Winston Western 500, and NAPA/Budweiser 400K (The Cup and West series raced together in those races.)
*The CART PPG/Indycar World Series (now Champ Car): AirCal 500 / L.A. Times 500 (1981-1983)
*USAC Championship Trail (Indycar) Rex Mays 300 (1967-1969)
*The Los Angeles Times Grand Prix of Endurance
*The 1960 United States Grand Prix
*(Unofficial) 24 hours of Riverside, testing the Chevy Corvair
*NHRA drag racing in the mid sixties.
*SCORE International Off Road World Championships, the last one was held in August 1988.
*IMSA and SCCA car races
*Rex Mays 300
*AMA motorcycle racing



*"Riverside Raceway, Palace Of Speed" by Dick Wallen
* Motorsport Memorial entry on Rolf Stommelen (2005), [http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=228] . Retrieved February 1, 2005.
* Motorsport Memorial entry on Billy Foster (1966), [http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=464]

Video footage of Riverside

* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nne1vb8jzAo Video game footage from Grand Prix Legends]

External links

* [http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/Riverside_International_Raceway/ Riverside International Raceway's Yahoo! Group]
* [http://home.san.rr.com/fsheff/rirpicts.htm Riverside International Raceway's Picture Pages from Frank Sheffield, a former RIR corner worker]
* [http://www.racingclassics.com Dick Wallen's Racing Classics] - Contains videos and books related to Riverside Raceway.
* [http://forums.atlasf1.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=27844 The Riverside Today message board at AtlasF1.com]
* [http://terraservice.net/addressimage.aspx?t=1&s=12&lon=-117.27881499&lat=33.93140308&alon=-117.27881499&alat=33.93140308&w=3&opt=0&qs=Day+Street%7cMoreno+Valley%7cCA%7c&addr=Day+St%2c+Moreno+Valley%2c+CA+92553 The old Riverside Raceway property back in 2002]
* [http://www.racing-reference.info/tracks?id=022 NASCAR track history at racing-reference.info]

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