Friday, February 20, 2009

Orange County International Raceway, Irvine

The million-dollar Orange County International Raceway opened in Irvine in 1967 as the first quarter-mile "supertrack" in drag racing. It closed in Oct. 1983.
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There are at least a couple good histories of the OCIR available online, including on on the NHRA website, and another at a website called Competition Plus.
Chris Epting visited the site of the old OCIR and took the photos below. He writes, "I was doing a Forgotten O.C. segment today [for KOCE-TV] at the site of the O.C. International Raceway. It was hard to find a trace of ANYTHING - but the Sand Canyon Ave. gate is still there. ...It's on Sand Canyon right by the entrance to the 133, between Laguna Canyon Road and Burt Road"

"In this shot, [below,] I lay out about where the track sat," writes Chris. "The red dotted line shows the location of Technology Drive."

22 comments:

walterworld said...

Cool post!

I'll keep this former 'top-fuel' location in mind the next time I'm cruising south on 5.

Viewliner Ltd. said...

Visited there many times. Great historic drag race info. Good to see it again.

Craig McCracken said...

I forgot all about the place, I there quite bit during the mid to late 70's Found a great little website that tell the history of OCIR with alot good photos too from the grand opening to tearing it down. I luckly walk into this on googles. Type in OCIR-CALIFORNIA DREAMIN, there is one photo at starting line advertising KEZY-1190AM (LOL) Ever done anything on that. I grew up 2 blocks away from KEZY.

Thanks again

Craig McCracken

Captain said...

If you look at the sat view in Google Maps, there appears to be what might be a remnant of the old strip in the dirt area just off the cul-de-sac of Technology Drive.

Lori Oberscheven said...

What a priviledge to have gotten my first whiff of nitromethane at OCIR! The nights we spent at that great little track left me with a love of horsepower, muscle cars and drag racing that I still can't shake at 51. I seem to remember entering the facility from a one-lane bridge or overpass - everybody better be coming or going at the same time or somebody was outta luck. I lived close to Dyer and the 55 and if I wasn't at the track I could hears the cars running at home. I nearly cried when I heard OCIR was gone.

Anonymous said...

I remember fondly the Bug-In (VW events) that I attended there from 79 through the last days. I also remember watching OCIR slowly fade away through the years that I lived in the area: 133 went in, Technology drive actually had development - right where we used to show off our VWs.

Awesome memories, but I guess in the big pucture, it's still progress (to shut the place down)

Chris Jepsen said...

D. Gillespie (Dgillespie at veachracing dot com) just sent me an email, reading (in part):

"...Have been seriously considering doing an in-depth video documentary on OCIR, but am in the process of seeing how much good photography exists (which I'm allowed to use). Interestingly, I have some aerial photos of the 1st commercial drag strip in the history of the sport, Santa Ana airport.

"...My core question is whether the photo of OCIR on your website hints of the existence of more such photos of the track?"

I've got little to nothing. Can anyone out there help this guy?

Anonymous said...

This story is impossible to prove, but the weekend before they tore up the track at OCIR, I was driving by, and noticed the back gate was open. I drove in and had a look around, and then made a few passes down the 1/4 mile in my 1982 AMC Eagle SX/4. I remember there was a lot of rubber in the traps from the burnouts they did in the last big party, and they had already started ripping up the stands. My times weren't good, but I had a lot of fun for a few minutes. As I was coming down the return lane, a woman security guard suddenly zoomed up behind me and pulled me over. She was pretty peeved, and wanted to know how I had gotten into the track. She lectured me about how there was no insurance, and I had to get out. She escorted me to the open gate, and locked it behind me as I left. I always wondered if my Eagle was the last car to run the 1/4 mile at OCIR, as they started tearing up the strip during the following week. I also wondered if I should have asked the woman security guard to lunch.

Christine Miller said...

I have a photo of my dad; John Miller; in his car "The Motion Machine". It was a gold colored Blue Oval/Ford Anglia with lettering exactly like on the coupe on this page. Kenny Youngblood did most of the lettering in those days.

In the background of the photo you can see part of the wall painted with "Orange County Speedway".

Anonymous said...

Wow!!! I bearly remember going to this track with my dad back in the "Good Old Days" when he and my Mom were still together. Latley I have been remembering the good things he and I did and reading some of the post that you all left brought a lot of memories back and a few tears to my eyes. I loved going there with my dad and watching the cars race and DONT forget the Jet cars I seem to remembere alot of jet cars at this track. I remember one time a pair of Rocket cars were staged to go down the track and my dad a big shutter bug was back behind the staging lanes and of course I was at his side. All of a sudden this lady started to talk to me and told me to stand behind a truck with her so that I would be sheilded. The cars took off and sprayed rocks and dirt all over the truck her and I were standing behind. Next thing I know Don Galits it yelling at her and telling her to get in the truck so that she could pull him into the stagging lanes. I WAS STANDING THERE WITH GARLITS WIFE AND SHE WAS LOOKING OUT FOR ME and I didnt even know. Well Thanks guys for bringing back alot of memories!

The Restorer said...

I worked OCIR in HS as a parking attendant around '81 or '82. Didn't pay much but all inclusive pit passes made it all worth it.

PS. Wow, KEZY. That was so long ago. Didn't Rita Wilde work there before going to KLOS?

Vandit One said...

Chris I have a few shots, one in particular was one of Wild Bill Shrewsberry's Berry Wagon.The Wheel Stander. Get with me if your interested at vanditone@gmail.com

Thanks Steve

Wally said...

My Uncle,Raymond "Bernie" Bernell Pifer,died this morning at the age of 74 yr(Sep,19,1938-July 26,2012).He was an MBA graduate of Pepperdine University,Malibu CA.As a teen he and my other two uncles Bud & Bob(Reilly) Shaped glassed surfboards and repaired boats and cars(corvette's).In their 20's they were the founding members of the Southern California Corvette Club.Which raced at the old El Torro airfield the original Orange County raceway,The first official drag strip in the world and birthplace ot the N.H.R.A.Later it was moved to Sand Canyon and was renamed the Orange County International Raceway.He was an avid fisherman and all around outdoors men,owning one of the first Motorhomes,36'Commander.Camping in the mountains,deserts and trips to Baja were always in order.He is survived by his three son's,Jeff,David and Chris Pifer,and Sister's Donna and Geraldine...Rest in peace,Uncle Bernell!

7e2b4f62-56e7-11e2-97e1-000bcdcb5194 said...

I too made a "Last Pass" after finding an open gate...well, a torn down section of chain-link fence. A guard chased me out as well. Looking back what I WISH I had done was snag that piece of plywood with "Yes, we're closed. It's all over" spray painted on it boarding up the tower door. THAT is drag racing history right there.

g-stubz said...

Many memories of Bug-Ins and partying in the parking lot the night before. Tire fires and a baja bug flipping over mere feet away from our tent. A very good friend of mine who went to the races with me more than once from the mid '70s to the Last Bug-In was struck and killed by a vehicle while crossing a street in a cross walk 12/22/12. You will be missed Linda Heilman. I have quite a few photos from these events: drags, car show & slalom.

Anonymous said...

I CAN REMEMBER GOING TO SOME OF THE EVENTS AT OCIR,SUCH AS THE FUNNY CAR 500,THE WEDNESDAY NIGHT GRUDGE RACING WHEN THE MARINES FROM EL TORO AND MCAS TUSTIN WOULD BRING OUT THERE PERSONAL CARS,AND THE WHEEL STANDERS,"WILD BILL SHRUESBERRY,WE SEEN EDDY HILL,AND SHIRLEY CHA,CHA MULDOWNEY RACE THERE,MANY MEMORIES.

Anonymous said...

I saw Evel Knievel jump at O.C.I.R. The thing that made it even more cool was my dad had to collect a past due tax bill from him. My dad took me with him and we met Evel at the Royal Inn in Anaheim before the jump and then followed him to the track and I watched him jump 13 Mack trucks from the stairs of the tower. This was before Snake River and Evel was at the height of his popularity. Super nice guy.

Don Kirk said...

A couple of years before the strip opened, a Founding Father's membership meeting was held in the Anaheim High School Auditorium. I not only attended, but joined, as I felt that having the drag-strip was a benefit to the county. As a founding father member, I moved from OC in 1980; and did not know until recently that shortly after I left, it closed. There again, I was employed twice at El Toro Marine Air Station and worked directly in sight of the drag-strip and now both are gone. What a shame. Donald (Don) L. Kirk - grew up in Anaheim

Kari said...

My father raced at OCIR in early 70's, he drove a '66 Dodge Charger. Remember running around playing at race track as my father raced every Saturday until I was about 10yrs old. Have great memories.

Walker said...

Does anyone here remember the day (May 19, 1971) that the Bad News Coupe had its fatal crash that day. Heber Stillman Pond was behind the wheel. Any possible pictures or memories - anything - would be of interest to me. Please contact me. diamondbackdemo@att.net

Anonymous said...

does anybody remember,fast ray?? sat nite fever? i think it was original anglia,h&m performance,hathorne,ca.moved to harbor,city. mid 70s?

Len Clark said...

ror lolrnenAfter my tour in Viet Nam I was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin Cal.(LTA) around 7 miles north the Orange County Race Way from Dec.1966-To June 1968..The place with the big blimp Hangers .. I was at the Orange County International Raceway the first weekend it was open ..Me and some Marine buddies went to at least 20 events up to June of 1968 when I got out of the Corps.. I remember allot of great races!! The one Moment that still sticks in my head is watching Wild Bill Shrewsberry run whole quarter mile on the rear wheels in his LA Dart!! Also at the same event Wild Bill Shrewsberry was riding passenger in a wheel stander truck standing up waving at the crowd threw the open windshield while it went down the track on the rear wheels. That was Cool! ..I believe the truck was the Chuck Wagon! I can say I have lots of fun memories of the Orange County International!! ....Len Clark of Somonauk Ill.