KENNEDY: Checking Out The Flat Track Bikes

The American Flat Track series visited Perris Auto Speedway to wrap up the season last Saturday. (Rob Hargraves Photo)
Tim Kennedy

LOS ANGELES – Perris Auto Speedway became Perris Motorcycle Speedway for one night on Saturday, Oct. 7.

The touring American Flat Track (AFT) series visited the Riverside County half-mile clay oval for the first time in the track’s 22-year history. The race marked the first SoCal visit by the AMA National Championship circuit to a track other than the Fairplex in Pomona since AMA raced in 1990 at the half-mile clay Ascot Park in Gardena.

The AMA two-wheel equivalent to the World of Outlaws sprint car traveling series attracted an almost full house (estimated 6,000) at Perris. Ticket buyers to the fair for an additional $10 were admitted to the PAS grandstand for $5. Persons arriving on motorcycles received free parking near the entrance.

A large number of fair-goers took advantage of the offer to watch pro motorcycle racing on dirt once they heard the motorcycle engines during late afternoon practice and qualifying. Radio commercials on local FM stations and newspaper ads attracted additional spectators.

The 104th Southern California Fair (Sept. 30 – Oct. 8) was in progress and helped swell the spectator count. The SoCal Fair started in 1913 as the Riverside County fair and moved to several sites in the country prior to making the Lake Perris Fairgrounds its home in 1987.

The SoCal Fair Board of Directors, along with the AMA sanctioning body, promoted the season finale in Perris. It required big bucks to host the premier dirt track two-wheel racing sport. Riverside Harley-Davidson and other local firms came on board early to help make the event financially feasible.

Races took place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Three main events included 8 laps for 12 of 20 Hooligan Class riders, 15 laps for all 18 Single Cylinder (450cc) riders present and a 25-lap feature for 18 of the 27 Twin Cylinders (650 to 999.9cc) riders present.

After interviews of the top three riders from the second feature, an interesting exchange followed. Fair Board CEO Carl Wuersch used the pit mic and asked the large crowd if they wanted to see AMA racing return to Perris. Fans cheered loudly and voiced their approval. He told the crowd, “This is the first year we have had AMA at our fair and we hope to have them back many more.”

Co-Grand Marshals for the AMA Perris event were famous AMA riders Sammy Tanner and Ronnie Jones. They won Ascot’s first and last AMA Nationals. Tanner won the inaugural 1959 feature and Jones won the finale in September 1990. Both men were interviewed at the starting line prior to the first race. Tanner, 78, is the Arai helmet distributor in SoCal.

Other AMA racing legends introduced were Dallas Baker, Everett Brashier, Don Emde, John Hateley,Tom Horton, Chris Kaman, Eddie Mulder, Danny Perkins, Eddie Wirth and C. H. Wheat.

Perris was one of the first-time sites this year for AMA National Championship racing. Others were half-miles Williams Grove Speedway (Pa.), Calistoga Speedway (Calif.), plus Buffalo Chip Campground (S.D.). The Perris race, like the Sacramento mile during the California State Fair, had operating ferris wheels within view of the track.