The nearer Riverside International Raceway comes to closing, the more popular it becomes.
The Winston Western 500 stock car race, final event of the year's professional racing schedule, attracted a record crowd estimated at close to 65,000 earlier this month.
This weekend, the California Sports Car Club has scheduled its 15th annual enduro championships for Riverside's 3.3-mile course, and the response was so great that the two-day program was expanded to three days to accommodate the nearly 300 entries.
The Cal Club's only current national champion, Victor Van Tress of Westchester, will drive in Saturday's three-hour enduro for small-bore engine showroom stock cars, but his red 00 Peugeot, which won the Showroom Stock B class in the Sports Car Club of America's Valvoline runoffs at Road Atlanta, will only be on display.
Van Tress and his partner, Tom Hughes, who usually drive their co-owned Peugeot to races and then race it, will be in a Honda CRX for the season finale. Van Tress and Hughes are survivors of the old Mulholland Boys gang, who learned to race while terrorizing motorists on the famous hilltop highway.
Both Saturday's and Sunday's races will have LeMans-type starts. At the drop of the green flag, one driver must run across the track and touch his car before it can be started.
"Tom fell down running to the car last year," Van Tress said. "So I'm going to give him another chance Saturday."
Jim Gurney, son of former Indy car and Formula One star Dan Gurney, will drive a Datsun in Saturday's race. Also entered are Indy PPG pace car driver and actress Sandra Bartley and her boyfriend Tom Marx in a Nissan 200 SX.
Five-time national champion Tom Foster of Hickman, Calif., and his driving partner, Chuck Billington, of Modesto, will be favored in Sunday's three-hour enduro for big-bore production cars.
Foster and Billington finished 1-2 at the Road Atlanta runoffs, driving Tracer TR-2s in C Sports Racing class. Foster, whose family owns the Foster Farms chicken company, has won the last three season-ending Riverside enduros.
Their toughest competition is expected from the Kendall family of La Canada, with father Chuck and sons Tom and Bart sharing the family Camaro. Also in the race will be baseball star Robin Yount of the Milwaukee Brewers, in a Sports 2000 Swift, and father and daughter David and Kandice Elsebusch in a pair of matching TR-Spitfires.
A 1 1/2-hour enduro Friday will feature open-wheel Formula cars, with Fords, Atlantics, 440s and Super Vees all going at it at the same time.
Brian Ongais of Long Beach, son of Indianapolis 500 veteran Danny Ongais, will be one of the drivers to watch in his Formula Ford. Young Ongais won his class title in the Road Atlanta nationals, defeating Dave Weitzenhof, a tire research scientist from Bath, Ohio, in one of the closest races of the meeting. SCCA technical inspectors, after more than 24 hours of discussion, disqualified Ongais on a technicality and awarded the gold medal to Weitzenhof.
"It was one of those nit-picking things that didn't have a thing to do with the car's performance," said Jim Snelling, a fellow competitor and Cal Club spokesman. "Instead of using a new carburetor, Ongais had one that was rebuilt and the inspectors claimed that it had been polished too finely."
It was the first time in 19 years that a Formula Ford winner had been disqualified. Former Formula Ford winners include Skip Barber, who conducts his own driving schools; Dennis Firestone, a five-time starter in the Indianapolis 500; R. K. Smith, builder of the Swift machines that dominate Formula Atlantic; and Scott Atchison, winner of this year's Bosch Super Vee championship.
MIDGETS--Three drivers in tonight's 100-lap Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ascot Park will be trying to emulate the success of their fathers, grandfathers or both in the season-ending United States Auto Club championship event. P. J. Jones' father, Parnelli, won in 1964 and 1966 and Johnny Parsons' father, Johnnie, won in 1955. Billy Vukovich's grandfather, Bill, won in 1948 and his father, Bill Jr., was a three-time runner-up, in 1966, 1968 and 1971. Parsons will be making only his second start since being injured severely in a crash during practice at the Indianapolis 500. . . . Former Turkey Night winner Kevin Olson will attempt to hold his USAC championship lead of 47 points against defending national champion Rich Vogler. Only one race remains after tonight's marathon, a 30-lap main event Saturday night at Imperial Raceway in El Centro. The standings:
NATIONAL SERIES--1. Kevin Olson (Rockford, Ill.), 592 points; 2. Rich Vogler (Indianapolis), 545; 3. Terry Wente (St. Peters, Mo.), 527; 4. Dan Boorse (Milwaukee), 478; 5. Mel Kenyon (Lebanon, Ind.), 445.
WESTERN STATES SERIES--1. Sleepy Tripp (Costa Mesa), 1,008 points; 2. Rusty Rasmussen, (Fresno), 883; 3. Wayne Bennet (San Pedro), 716; 4. P. J. Jones (Rolling Hills), 578; 5. Mario Bringetto (Fresno), 576.