When Brad Noffsinger of Huntington Beach was voted California Racing Assn.'s Rookie of the Year in 1979, Jimmy Oskie of Downey had just won his fifth sprint-car championship.
Now Noffsinger, 26, is enroute to his first championship, but Oskie is still in the picture.
Both drivers will return to Ascot Park in Gardena next Saturday for Fan Appreciation Night, when cokes will each cost a dime and hot dogs 25 cents, with Noffsinger in Jack Gardner's Qhrike/Rodeck and Oskie in Bill and Connie Hicks BJ/Ralph Tracy.
Noffsinger is on the verge of becoming the youngest CRA champion since a 24-year-old Oskie won his first title 19 years ago. Oskie is now 41 and hasn't won a championship since 1979.
It might be said that Oskie, who started driving sprint cars in 1963 and hasn't won a main event since 1983, is getting too old for the sport, but he disagrees.
"You get more experience with age," said Oskie, and know better what you can and can't do. You feel a lot braver at 21 than 41. I keep watching Bubby Jones, and know when his reflexes start going, it's time for me to quit, too."
Jones, 45, of Glen Avon, won back-to-back CRA championships in 1983-84, and is second on CRA's all-time list of wins with 72, 31 less than retired Dean Thompson of Carson. Retired Bob Hogle is third with 63 wins, five more than Oskie.
Actually, Oskie is having a pretty good season this year. He's in the top five after finishing in second place once, third place twice, and fourth and fifth places four times each. Last year, Oskie was 14th in the final standings, and, in 1984, lost fifth place in the final program.
Oskie says that sprint-car equipment and even the drivers' strategies have changed drastically since he started.
"The tires used to be narrow," said Oskie, "and the driver had to have more finesse, more tricks, like Hogle. He was more foxy. He'd use his head a lot to beat guys. Nowadays, the engines and cars are so hooked up, you go all out.
"It used to be you could sit back and pace yourself more about 10 years ago. Someone who was running hard would drop out, because the parts weren't as good back then."
Besides 1969 and 1979, when Oskie won six features each year, his other championships came in 1974 (eight wins), 1976 (five wins) and 1977 (11 wins). Three of his championships, 1976-79, came behind the wheel of the JFK car.