Ascot Park will stage its annual "Salute to Indy" sprint car race Saturday night when the California Racing Assn. machines return to their home track after two weeks in the Southwest.
Although many tracks salute the 500, probably no other speedway has had such a close tie as the half-mile oval at 183rd Street and Vermont Avenue.
The key figure in the relationship between the two tracks was the late J. C. Agajanian. For 36 years, until his death in 1984, Agajanian was either an owner or a sponsor of a 500 entry. His cars won in 1952 and 1963. Since then, his sons, the current operators of Ascot Park, have carried on the tradition and this year are sponsoring Tom Sneva's Indy entry.
Another factor was the great number of former CRA drivers who went on to compete at the "Brickyard" in the years when the sprint car ranks provided many drivers for the Indy cars.
Of this year's 33 starters, 13 of them, headed by pole sitter Rick Mears, have raced at Ascot.
The most interesting combination in Saturday night's 50-lap race is a driver who has competed in an Indy 500 and has a victory in the "Salute to Indy," and a car owner who has trouble deciding whether his Indy entries give him as much fun as his sprint car.
The driver is Bubby Jones, 44, of Glen Avon, and the owner is 78-year-old Alex Morales, the patriarch of CRA sprint car owners.
Morales will also have two drivers Sunday in the 500, three-time Indy champion Johnny Rutherford and second-year starter Rich Vogler. Incidentally, Jones will probably get more of his personal attention this week since Morales still works on his sprint car.
Another person with interests in both races is former Lt. Governor Mike Curb. Curb sponsors the sprint car driven by current CRA point leader Brad Noffsinger and is also the owner of the Indy entries to be driven by Ed Pimm and 1983 winner Sneva.
Eddie Wirth of Hermosa Beach, the 1985 CRA champion, is the defending champion in this race and will try to take home the $3,000 top prize.
MOTORCYCLES--One of the most competitive seasons of speedway racing continues tonight at Ascot Park's South Bay Speedway and Friday night at Orange Country Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. In seven programs this season at South Bay, no rider has been able to win more than once while only Brad Oxley and John Sandona have been two-time winners at Costa Mesa. John Cook of Costa Mesa, who returned from British League racing last week, is scheduled to compete at both tracks again this week. Cook was supposed to stay for just one week, but reports are circulating that Cook is having problems with Ipswich promoters, his home track in England. . . . American speedway riders Shawn Moran and Bobby Schwartz finished second in the Intercontinental World Pairs speedway semifinal in Lonigo, Italy, and have advanced to the final at Pocking, West Germany, on June 15. England edged the U.S. team, 49-41, followed by Australia and Italy, which also advanced. . . . The weekly CMC motocross program will be held Friday night at Ascot Park.
STOCK CARS--The NASCAR sportsman cars, street stocks and Figure 8 racers will compete in Saturday night's program at Saugus Speedway. In five sportsman events held so far this year, no driver has been able to win more than once. Hobby and foreign stock cars will compete at Saugus on Friday night. . . . Ascot Park has a pair of events during the holiday weekend. Sunday night it will be another of the popular Enduros for factory stocks with a starting field of 99 going for 250 laps on the quarter-mile oval. Monday night's racing at Ascot will feature the Curb Motorsports NASCAR Winston Series pro stocks along with Figure 8 and oval Bomber cars plus a demolition derby. In the Winston series, Marcus Mallett and Jerry Meyers go into the program tied for the series lead. . . . Cajon Speedway in El Cajon holds its ninth annual Ted Kallos Memorial race Saturday night with veteran Ed Hale trying for his third win in this race, which honors the only driver ever killed in the 26-year history of the El Cajon track. Hale, who won his 50th career victory last week, won both the 1983 and 1984 Kallos events. Kallos was killed in the final race of the 1977 season. . . . Bakersfield Speedway will award $1,000 to the winner of the 50-lap Memorial Day race Saturday night.
MIDGETS--Rusty Rassmussen and Robby Flock will square off Saturday night with the Western States/United States Auto Club midget series point lead at stake when the series makes its first-ever appearance on the fifth-mile Ventura Raceway track. Rassmussen holds a two-point lead over Flock with 1984 series champion Tommy White third after his victory at Santa Maria on May 10. Defending series titlist Sleepy Tripp has yet to win this year and is a distant sixth in the standings. A 35-lap main event headlines the program.
NECROLOGY--George Hurst, 57, an automobile racing engineer who invented the "Jaws of Life" used to remove drivers from wrecks, died last week at his home in Redlands.