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El Toro Speedway

Orange County Speedway aka El Toro Speedway

Poster from Ron Jones Jr. son of Ron Jones who built the El Toro Speedway which was originally named the Orange County Speedway!

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Greetings from El Toro, California

From the travels and adventures of the “World’s #1 Trackchaser”

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El Toro racing 1

 El Toro Speedway  – Lifetime track #62

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite all-time tracks!

The tiny little El Toro Speedway was one of my favorite tracks in the mid-70s.  It’s main advantage for me was the track’s location.  Of all the places we’ve lived across the country the El Toro Speedway was the closest track to any of our houses.  El Toro was only about five miles from our home in Mission Viejo, California.

 

 

El Toro aerial 

Gene Serrano photo.  Aerial photo of the El Toro Speedway 2-13-78.

 

 

The track was at the intersection of the I-5 Santa Ana Freeway and the I-405 San Diego Freeway.  Locals call this intersection the “El Toro Y”.  The El Toro Speedway was just across the freeway from the famous Orange County International Raceway.  Despite living so close to the OCIR I only visited this dragstrip once.  However, it was a most memorable event.  On the night I was there they had a jet engined dragster “burn down” a hapless old junker.  They also had a guy with a “jet pack” on his back fly off into the air.  For it being the 70s that was pretty impressive.   OCIR held races as a drag strip from 1967-1983.  Unbeknownst to me, until I did some research for this post, there was also a two-mile road course at OCIR.

 

 

El Toro racing #35 

Gene Serrano photo

 

 

We lived in Mission Viejo from 1975-79.  It was during this time that I saw the El Toro Speedway race several times each season.   According to the “History of American Speedway” the track was in business from 1956-78.  I loved seeing the racing at this little 1/5-mile dirt bullring.  The track was located at the bottom of a natural bowl.  Spectators sat high above the track on the natural hills that dot this part of the SoCal landscape.

 

 

Thanks to Bob Bogan photo collection.

Thanks to Bob Bogan photo collection.

 

It was here that I saw my first ever competitive woman race driver.  Stevie Cederstrom became one of my favorites.  She could easily run in the top ten and ended up winning some events.  The wheel to wheel racing was outstanding and it was so close to home.

 

 

El Presley death 

However, it is not the racing that is my most significant memory from visiting the El Toro Speedway.  That memory happened on Saturday night August 16, 1977.  After a good night at the El Toro Speedway races I was headed home on the San Diego Freeway.  What did I hear over the car’s AM radio?  Elvis Pressley had died at the young age of 42.  Everyone remembers where they were when certain historical events occurred.  I know where I was the night Elvis Pressley’s death was reported.

 

 

 

El Toro racing 2

Gene Serrano photo

 

 

 

Gene Serrano photo

Gene Serrano photo

 

 

 

Gene Serrano photo

Gene Serrano photo

 

 

 

Gene Serrano

Gene Serrano photo

 

 

 

 

Gene Serrano photo. Tom White flipping at Ascot 9-21-79

Gene Serrano photo. Tom White flipping at Ascot 9-21-79

 

 

Gene Serrano was a big fan of the speedway.  He sent me so many great photos from racing at the El Toro Speedway.  Thanks, Gene!

 

 

You might have remembrances about this track.  If so, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.  If you have any photos from back in the day, send them to me at Ranlay@yahoo.com.  I’ll try to include them here.


Comments

  1. My dad built the track and operated it from 1964-69. It was not built in 1958 as stated above. The original name of the track was Orange County Speedway, later changed to El Toro Speedway after OCIR opened. I worked there as a teenager from day one helping my dad prepare the track, picking up trash, etc. Originally we ran micros and tq’s and motorcycle flat track on the tenth mile oval and go carts on the asphalt course. Later my dad built a 1/4 mi. oval and we ran midgets. It is true that many big name drivers either started their career there or passed through.

    • Hey Ron, My Dad also built the track, his name was Ralph. My brothers and I would go down every saturday. I still remember the pungent smell of asphalt and wild grasses. What great memories, sitting between my dads legs in a go cart that seemed only inches from the ground. Would love to see any group shots of the original crew that owned and built it, if you have any please share them!
      Mark Rodgers 714-351-5865

  2. I worked the concession stand on Friday and Saturday nights when I was in high school in the early 1970s. They ran motocross and tt on Wednesday night’s Micros and tqs on Fridays and 1/4 midgets on Saturday. There were a lot of well known racers that used the track for “tuneup” races . We had a blast working there.

  3. My Grandfather and Father took me to see the races at El Toro when I was a kid in the early sixties!! They lived on the old Moulton Ranch, my Grandfather being one of the full time cowboys on the ranch from the 1920s to the 1960s.
    The Moulton Ranch comprised of what is now Lake Forest, El Toro, Aliso Viejo, parts of Laguna Niguel, and Laguna Hills.
    In the 1930s the Moultons leased ranchland to the Etcheberria family, who were Basque farmers. They grew wheat, beans, and other stuff. In the
    1950s one of the daughters, Rose Etcheberria, married Johnny Notary, who owned the El Toro Garage. My father was a mechanic for the City of Laguna Beach and him and Johnny were friends. We used to go to the ET Garage on Saturday afternoons to have a pop and they would talk shop and I remember all the midget and sprint cars all over the place and the view from atop the hill down to to speedway was fantastic!!! I suppose the Etcheberria connection made it possible to have the speedway there!! I have some neato photos that John Notary’s daughter gave me of some 50s-60s 1/4 midget racing at El Toro and an aerial view of the track in 1978, right before it was torn down…and….a cool one of Tom White flipping the El Toro Garage #35 at Ascot in Sept. 1979!! I can mail you a set if interested!! Your sight sure stirred up some good memories for me of El Toro Garage & Speedway……as does going to the races at Santa Maria Speedway!!!…It’s similar to El Toro!!!

  4. Raced motorcycles on the TT track there once in 1973. Future world champ Wayne Rainey was there that night. Was fun but in the first heat race I went straight when I should have gone left onto the TT course….. : P

  5. I worked at the track and raced flattrack and TT from 73 to 78. What a great little track it was for racing. We had a lot of fun and the parties after were great too. Flagged many a micro and TQ race there as well.

  6. My ex father in law D.J. Scott ran the El Toro track for a few years. Raced there with my late brother in law Ty Scott

  7. Was a fun track, started out in micro midgets there. Beat out Tommy White for rookie of the year in the micro’s in 1973 at El Toro. Knew and raced against Ted Hughes, Bob Marcus, Paul Knierim, Tommy White and a bunch of others.

    We also regraded and ran on the speedway track at OCIR one season before they bulldozed it. Still have my key to the OCIR gate off Sand Canyon. Those were some fun times.

    • Mike white tells me you might know what ever happened to Paul Kneirum’s original #27 micro midget car. I’m told you have the body mold and maybe some of the bodies? I’m really interested in the original Ducati car.

      • Jon,

        Sorry about being so late on this. I have one of the re-pop fiberglass bodies Paul made and the chassis for it from the Whites. Last I heard the original aluminum Ducati car was in Arizona. Paul had a friend there that also ran Ducati powered micro’s. If I can find his name, I’ll send it.

    • these guys and gals were always the ones to beat, I remember growing up watching these guys, and Im from Texas, but we all knew when Notary or Ted Hughes had a car in town. John Notary had some dirty drivers, lol, but Jon Rahe was probably one of the best and cleanest, and Stevie Cederstrom was one of the fastest females ever, great memories of all these guys from southern Cali.

    • This is Carl Berg’s son, Dave, and daughter, Susie. I just saw you at Bobby White’s funeral. Remember the parties on top of the hill at our house next to the El Toro track? How are you? How’s Chris doing? What are you doing now? No radio control? Do you ever go out to the races at Perris. Me and my brother Jimmy sit in the farthest stands in turn 4 at every sprint car race. You should come out there sometime and bench race with us. Hope to see you there. The next race is April 12 at Perris and they’re having World of Outlaws and USAC/CRA the same night. Should be a good show. We sit in turn 4 because when it’s dusty, the dust cloud goes down the front straightaway. Tell Chris to come out too.

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