For about three years now, the great people in media relations at Sonoma Raceway have been very kind to provide me and my wife (aka “The Boss”) with media credentials to cover the racing events at Sonoma Raceway. Every once in a while, I get the question from a reader, “Hey, the NASCAR race isn’t in Rio Linda. Why is it on your page?”
It’s a fair question, so let’s get into it here.
First and foremost, we don’t live in a bubble. While my website is primarily about the important information we need in Rio Linda and Elverta, we don’t spend ALL of our time within our community. We shop and dine in Natomas and North Highlands and we work at Amazon, or Sacramento International Airport, or Downtown Sacramento, or thousands of other places. The same thing can be said for entertainment. I cover occasional events of regional interest that attract people not only from here, but over there and over there as well.
Not only do I cover the Toyota SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, when I am able, I also cover the IndyCar race, which became the season-ending IndyCar Championship race last year.
The genesis of this coverage has local roots. In the case of the Toyota SaveMart 350, I was offered the opportunity to interview Jeff Gordon when he visited the Roy Hayer Memorial Speedway (also known as the Crackerjack Track) before he retired back in 2015. That opportunity turned into media credentials for the race, and Diana Brennan and her staff have been very generous with their time and providing access since then.
Not only do we attend the race on Sunday, but we are invited to the Media Luncheon each year in San Francisco, on the Thursday before the race weekend. Last year, the guest drivers were Kurt Busch, Eric Jones and Daniel Suarez. This year, the guests will be reigning NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Champion Martin Truex Jr. and Bill McAnally Racing driver Hailie Deegan.
Hey, look at that… Another local connection. Bill McAnally Racing is based nearby in Roseville.
I also cover the Monster Energy Aftershock music festival each year in October. Aftershock takes place at Discovery Park, but in 2015, they changed venues for a one-off event at Gibson Ranch. Unfortunately, traffic issues and noise complaints saw the event move back to Discovery Park in 2016, but I still request media credentials because it’s a HUGE local event, and there’s always the chance that they do return to Gibson Ranch. (I though Gibson Ranch was a better venue, and a little more traffic planning could have made a big difference.)
Another reason I choose to cover NASCAR in Sonoma is our rich history of racing right here in Rio Linda.
In 1954, Erwin Hayer‘s father Roy Hayer told Erwin to grade a flat dirt track out of the family’s farmland at what is now the northwest corner of 10th and G Street, just across the street from the Rio Linda Preparatory Academy (Rio Linda Jr. High). Three years later in 1957, they moved the track west to a plot of land next to Dry Creek, where it’s been ever since. To this day, it’s the only dirt quarter-midget track operating in California.
In 2007, Sacramento County wanted to bulldoze the track and use the land as flood protection. Jeff Gordon stepped in and offered $50,000 to the county to keep the track open. The track is now operating on a 99 year lease with the county.
Many accomplished, professional, championship drivers have turned laps at Rio Linda.
Of course Jeff Gordon got his start here. Do I have to list his accomplishments? Member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Four-time NASCAR Cup Champion, 24 Hours at Daytona winner, USAC Midget Champion, USAC Silver Crown Champion, Daytona 500 winner, Brickyard 400 winner… I could go on.
Jimmy Vasser once raced here. He is the 1996 IndyCar World Series Champion.
Mike Bliss turned laps here. He is the 1993 USAC Silver Crown Champion and the 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion.
Johnny Anderson once raced here. He is now a member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.
Paul McMahan has been competing in the World of Outlaws sprint car series for nearly 20 years. He got his start here too.
There are many others. We’re pretty sure Elk Grove NASCAR Cup series driver Kyle Larson turned a few laps here. Pretty sure. Jimmy Sills, who is also a member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame still lives in the area. Drivers who got their start in Rio Linda have gone on to drive at some of the most famous tracks across the country. Places like Knoxville, Ascot, Riverside, Baylands, Laguna Seca, Bristol, Darlington, Talladega, Daytona, and yes… Sonoma.
Racing is a part of our collective Rio Linda culture and history, and something we should be proud of. From tiny acorns, mighty oaks grow, and from a tiny little quarter-midget track in a sleepy rural Sacramento suburb, Champions grow.
So reach down and pull them belts tight one more time, because next week is NASCAR week at Rio Linda Online.