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Saugus Gets Revved Up Tonight : Motor racing: Santa Clarita Valley race track to open its 55th season for a six-month run; Ventura begins next weekend.


SAUGUS — The sound of roaring engines returns to local race tracks as Saugus Speedway opens its 55th season of auto racing tonight and Ventura Raceway begins racing next weekend.

The schedule for Saugus' six-month season is similar to those of years past. Six racing divisions--Sportsman, Grand American Modified, Pro Stock, Street Stock, Pro Four Modified and Mini Stock--will highlight the weekly Saturday night program, with monthly train races and destruction derbies added to provide flying-fender finales.

Pat Mintey Jr. of Quartz Hill (Sportsman), Dave Phipps of Simi Valley (Grand Am) and Ed Horst of Reseda (Pro Stock), track champions in Saugus' top three divisions last season, will defend their titles.

Saugus' official season-opening ceremonies are scheduled for April 2.

Saugus will be the site of at least one special event each month from April through September. On May 28, the Winston West Series, NASCAR's most lucrative racing endeavor on the West Coast, will make its only stop of the season at Saugus. The NASCAR Southwest Tour, which typically includes several former Saugus Speedway drivers, is scheduled to visit April 9 and Sept. 10.

The track's annual racing and fireworks show is set for July 4 and the traditional year-end Fall Spectacular will be run Sept. 24. On June 18, United States Auto Club Midgets make their annual appearance. The annual running of the Winston Twin 50s, two 50-lap Sportsman main events with double points awarded to finishers, is scheduled for Aug. 6.

The only significant addition from last season is a six-race Sportsman points series between drivers at Saugus and Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield. The winner's year-end purse has not been determined. The series consists of 75-lap main events at Saugus on May 7, July 30 and Sept. 3, and main events at Bakersfield on April 23, June 18 and Aug. 13.

"The Sportsman guys wanted to do something special," Saugus promoter Ray Wilkings said. "So we decided to put something together."

Track officials have spent the past two months putting things back together after the speedway was damaged by the Northridge earthquake in January. Several structures on the speedway grounds--which also serve as the site of the weekly Saugus Swap Meet--required repairs, including the track's white wooden grandstands, Wilkings said. Asphalt buckled in several areas in the parking lot, Wilkings said, but not within the track's third-mile oval, which was repaved before the start of last season.

"We're getting it together and we've patched everything," Wilkings said. "Luckily, it happened when it did or we would have been shut down for some time."

The raceway at Ventura County Fairgrounds sustained no damage from the quake, promoter Jim Naylor said.

The 7 1/2-month season on Ventura's quarter-mile clay oval is scheduled to include 13 appearances by the USAC Midgets series, as well as the track's regular lineup of stock cars, sprint cars and dwarf cars.

An antique motorcycle flat-track race is scheduled for June 25.

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