Whether its amateur or professional SCCA road races, AMA
and AFM motorcycle racing, exotic SportsCar sports cars, vintage
cars or the raw power of NASCAR Winston Cup, NASCAR Trucks and
NHRA drag races, Sears Point Raceway has played host to some
of the racing world's top events and its greatest moments.
Racing legends such as Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Dan Gurney,
Kenny Roberts, Shirley Muldowney and Don "The Snake"
Prudhomme, as well as modern day stars including Jeff Gordon,
Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Ron Hornaday Jr., Miguel DuHamel
and John Force, have all left their indelible marks at this unique
and historic facility.
Sears Point is arguably the world's busiest racing facility,
with track activity scheduled an average of 340 days a year.
It is the nation's only high-performance automotive industrial
Under the ownership and vision of Speedway Motorsports
Incorporated, Sears Point is poised to reach new heights in facility
development and in the quality of events it offers fans. What
follows is a brief history of how Sears Point Raceway came to
be North America's most complete and versatile motorsports complex:
The 2.52-mile road racing course was constructed on 720 acres
by Marin County owners Robert Marshall Jr., an attorney from
Point Reyes, and land developer Jim Coleman of Kentfield. The
two conceived of the idea of a race track while on a hunting
trip. Ground was broken in August and paving of the race surface
was completed in November. The first official event at Sears
Point was an SCCA Enduro, held on December 1, 1968.
The track was sold to Filmways Corp., a Los Angeles-based entertainment
company for $4.5 million. From 1969 through early 1970, Sears
Point hosted a variety of events, including USAC IndyCar races,
NASCAR stock car races, SCCA races, and drag races.
Dan Gurney won a 150-mile USAC IndyCar road race with a field
that included Mario Andretti, Mark Donahue and Al Unser. Not
long after, the track closed in May and became a tax shelter
for Filmways after losses of $300,000 were reported.
Hugh Harn of Belvedere and Parker Archer of Napa arranged to
lease the track through Filmways vice president Lee Moselle for
$1 million. Bob Bondurant, owner and operator of the Bob Bondurant
School of High Performance Driving, announced that he would move
his school from Ontario Speedway in Southern California to Sears
Point. The Pacific Region of the Sports Club Car of America announced
it would hold a driver's school and series of non-spectator races
at the track. A work party was organized to help pull weeds that
threatened to take over the track.
Bob Bondurant and partner Bill Benck took over management and
control of the leased raceway from Archer and Harn. American
Motorcycle Association national motocross races in the hills
north of Turn 7 become popular with Bay Area fans, but were phased
out by the end of the decade because of rising insurance costs.
Moselle, a lawyer with no racing experience, comes aboard and
hires Jack Williams, the 1964 NHRA top-fuel drag racing champion,
to be his operations chief, and Art Glattke to handle public
relations. Moselle was under orders from Filmways to clear spectator
restrictions with the county of Sonoma and to build a major-event
schedule. A group calling itself Black Mountain Inc., which included
Bob Bondurant, William J. Kolb of Del Mar and Howard Meister
of Newport Beach, purchased the track from Filmways for a reported
$1.5 million. Two months later, in May, Kenny Roberts did wheelies
on the final two laps while he waved to a crowd of 20,000 for
a runaway victory in the AMA-Sonoma Motorcycle Classic.
The Black Mountain Group took on an additional partner -- the
Long Beach Grand Prix Association -- in hopes of improving marketing
and public relations.
The Long Beach Grand Prix, headed by Chris Pook, decided to rename
the track Golden State International Raceway. The Black Mountain
group obtained an injunction to keep Filmways from claiming the
property after defaulting on payments. Black Mountain claimed
Filmways gave false financial projections when it sold the property
in 1979. Bondurant resigned as president of Golden State Raceway
in a dispute with Pook over the Long Beach Grand Prix's management
plan. Filmways regained ownership of the track and Williams,
Rick Betts and John Andersen purchased the track from Filmways
at an auction for $800,000. The track was renamed Sears Point
Ford became a major sponsor at the track. Williams named Dr.
Frank N. Scott Jr. of Aptos and Harvey "Skip" Berg
of Tiburon as partners.
The track was completely repaved, in part with funds donated
from the "Pave the Point" fund raising campaign. It
was also in 1985 that the first shop spaces (Buildings A,B,C,
and D -- in the main paddock area) were built.
Berg, president of a real estate acquisition and management firm
headquartered in Seattle, took control of the track and became
major stockholder in Brenda Raceway Corp., which controlled the
track until 1996. Berg named Darwin Doll, vice president and
general manager of Michigan International Speedway, new track
One of the most significant moves in the track's history occurred.
Sears Point signed a five-year contract with the National Hot
Rod Association for the California Nationals. The first event
was held in the summer of 1988. Additional buildings constructed
on the property brought shop space to more than 700,000 square
Berg hired Glen Long, an IBM executive, to be the track's new
president. Mike Yurick was named general manager. The NHRA nationals
were a resounding success, with an estimated 32,000 spectators
on hand to watch Joe Amato edge Dick LaHaie in victory by a one
hundreths of a second margin.
The NASCAR Winston Cup Series debuted at the raceway, with Ricky
Rudd taking the inaugural victory. Sears Point Raceway arrived.
The Skip Barber Racing School replaced the Bob Bondurant School
of High Performance Driving. The NASCAR Winston Cup race drew
70,000 spectators in its second year at the track. The 15-year
association with International Motorsports Association (SportsCar)
GTP series, was suspended. Steve Page, a marketing executive
with the Oakland A's, succeeded Long as track president.
More than $1 million was spent on a beautification project and
construction of a 62-foot-high, four-sided electronic lap leader
board in the center of the road course. A medical facility and
an 18-nozzle Unocal gasoline filling station were constructed.
A major $3 million renovation plan was kicked off that included
posh tower VIP suites and a two-story driver's lounge/emergency
medical facility. Trans-Am and SportsCar races returned to Sears
Point. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is added to the major-events
The Russell Racing School signs a 10-year contract with Sears
Point Raceway in February to headquarter its world renowned driving
school in Sonoma. The Skip Barber Driving School moves to Laguna
Seca. In May of 1996, the NASCAR Winston Cup race drew a record
102,000 spectators -- the largest single-day crowd for a Northern
California sports event. Sears Point Raceway owner Skip Berg
sells the track to O. Bruton Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports,
Inc. in November of 1996. Speedway Motorsports also owns Atlanta,
Bristol, Charlotte and Texas Motor Speedways in addition to Sears
Kragen signs a contract through the year 2001 to joint sponsor
the annual NASCAR Winston Cup event. The event will be renamed
the Save Mart/Kragen 350 for the 1998 season.
Major renovations begin at Sears Point Raceway with the creation
of "The Chute," an 890-fooot high-speed stretch that
will be used for all NASCAR-sanctioned events. The stretch connects
existing Turns 4 and 7 and is officially opened on May 5 by NASCAR
star Jeff Gordon. The re-design of the road course shortens the
circuit from 2.52 miles to 1.949 miles but increases the Winston
Cup race from 74 to 112 laps, provding fans with more action.
The Chute will be used for Winston Cup, Winston West, Southwest
Series and Craftsman Truck Series events.
In June, NASCAR marks its 10-year anniversary with Sears
Point Raceway and Vallejo native Gordon comes away for the victory
in the Save Mart/Kragen 350 Winston Cup race.
Jeff Gordon joins Rusty Wallace and Ernie Irvan as the only two-time
winners at Sears Point when the Vallejo native wins the Save
Mart/Kragen 350 NASCAR Winston Cup race in June.
The first-ever running of the American Le Mans Series takes
place at Sears Point in July as J.J. Lehto and Steve Soper guide
BMW to the Prototype victory. This marks the return of exciting
sports car racing to Sears Point as a main event for the first
time since 1997. The race is televised live by NBC.
Progressive Insurance signs on as the title sponsor of
the AMA Superbike event, which is won by Mat Mladin. The native
of Australia would go on to capture his first-ever AMA Superbike
championship. His only win of the year would come at Sears Point.
NHRA drag racing winners include Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Whit
Bazemore (Funny Car) and Jim Yates (Pro Stock).
Sears Point Raceway gains unanimous approval from the Sonoma
County Board of Supervisors by a 5-0 vote to begin work on a
$35 million Modernization Plan that will transform the facility
into one of the premier motorsports venues in the country. The
comprehensive project will take two years to complete and inlcudes
64,000 Hillside Terrace seats, repaving of both the road course
and drag strip and increased run-off around the entire track.
Jeff Gordon becomes the first three-time NASCAR Winston
Cup winner at Sears Point Raceway, taking the Save Mart/Kragen
In other racing news, Allan McNish sets the fastest lap
ever recorded at Sears Point since the raceway opened in 1968.
McNish, piloting an Audi R8 during the American Le Mans Series
Grand Prix of Sonoma, covers a single lap at 112.440 mph. Doug
Kalitta joins Gordon as a three-peat winner, claiming his third
consecutive Top Fuel title at the Fram Autolite Nationals NHRA