Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ramona Drag Strip / San Diego Raceway

An email about the Willie's Pie Wagon kicked in my mental time machine...

Back in the 1960s with it's grand opening in 1963 and operating until 1966, Ramona Drag Strip was the place to race in San Diego. It was called San Diego Raceway and drew nationally known drag racers to run the strip. The venture was put together by Paul and Bob Darrough who leased the land next to the Ramona Airport, Lou Castenagna and Ray Richards also came in as managing partners. This was an effort to get kids racing on the streets like El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego to take it to a track.

The effort was successful as attendance varied into the thousands as kids came to watch or take part in the racing with special events, such as match racing with well know drivers or jet-engined cars drawing as many as 7,000 spectators. A new track in Carlsbad, called Carlsbad Raceway basically closed the doors on Ramona's strip.

This was nostalgia racing at it's best, no line-locks or computers doing the work. If you ran an automatic, belly up to the line, plant one foot on the brakes, the other on the accelerator, watch the count down on the Christmas tree and let her rip.

A fan favorite was the Willie's Pie Wagon running a flathead.

Two Hemi Rails. Image via Schneider Cams

San Diego Raceway. Image via Schneider Cams

San Diego Raceway. Image via Schneider Cams

In the later years the name was changed to San Diego Dragway. Notice the Drew Ford sign from La Mesa, CA.

San Diego Raceway. Image via Schneider Cams

Related post: Ramona Drag Strip, As Talked About, The Accident, Some Rare Images

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  1. Cool blog! When I was about 7 I had a brother-in-law who helped build the rear-engined roadster shown above. He was a good guy who picked me up super early in the morning, then we went down to the shop on 35th and University where the car was worked on, loaded it up and out we went to Ramona where it ran like a top throughout the day. I still remember Joaquin Arnette's name as the main guy on the team and can see his name listed on the car. Jim Weir was my B-I-L. Hope he's still out there doing his high-horsepower thing. Good times.

    1. Thanks Gary...I'm always looking for cool ol' photos.

    2. Here's one for ya'. Can you remember the Dodge Chargers Racing Team? Charlie Allen brought one of the 3 cars that were built to my high school in '65. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10201349629126037&set=a.3410800152097.2161414.1332797390&type=1&relevant_count=1&ref=nf

    3. That's a very cool shot at Ramona!

    4. Willies Pie Wagon was my dads race car along with his partner Willy Wilson.They owned T&W Garage in Vista. They also had the Twister. Ive been looking for old photos of his car for years.
      Thank you for the post

      Rick Lopez

    5. willy was the first person I met in drag racing when he was with the twisters. Also raced against his flathead fueler with my supercharged chevy gas dragster many times especially at ramona