Today as part of Jeff Gordon’s last year running the full Sprint Cup schedule, Jeff visited the track where it all started, the Hayer Memorial Speedway (formerly the Crackerjack Track) here in Rio Linda, California. Joining Jeff was his wife, Ingrid Vandebosch and children Ella and Leo.
Jeff arrived around 1pm, and toured the track, visited with people involved in his racing history here in town, signed a few autographs for the young drivers and watched a little racing after daughter Ella waved the green flag to start a race. It was fun to watch him walk onto the track, reach down and give the surface a little feel. He said he wanted to feel how the track had been prepared. I think he was getting in touch with his history.
He was amazingly courteous and took time to speak with most people who grabbed his elbow. One person he met with was Rio Linda resident Cheryl Hayer Decristofaro, who is the granddaughter of Roy Hayer who built the track, and also the granddaughter of James Paniagua, who built Jeff’s quarter midget race car.
“Rio Linda was the first place that I ever drove a race car on the track, and I won a lot of races there and made a lot of friends. I don’t know what life would be like for me today if it weren’t for Rio Linda,” said Gordon.
Later, he hosted a short media session. I asked him how he played a part in saving the track from being bulldozed in 2007, when Sacramento County wanted to create a buffer zone between the Dry Creek Parkway and the Rio Linda Airport.[
In all, it was a very good day for our little town. We should be able to celebrate Rio Linda like this more often.
Jeff will be racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota SaveMart 350 on June 28th at Sonoma Raceway. This will be his last Cup Series drive in Northern California.