When the word Pomona is uttered around a car guy the first thought is drag racing, right? After all, the Pomona Fairplex has been home to the NHRA’s brand of motorsports entertainment for decades upon decades and what else would we think of. How about road racing and to an even lesser extent, dirt track racing. While the dirt track lived two lives and operated for a longer total amount of time than the road course, we have some really awesome 1960 corner burning footage to show you from the archives of the McDonald family. The video below will feature a couple of guys prominently Dave McDonald being the lead. This video was taken on the weekend of March 3-5, 1960 and it shows an SCCA event being run on the temporary road course at the Pomona Fairgrounds.
Here’s a course map of what the 2-mile layout looked like –
The route was made of of access roads, parking lot areas, and the long straight is the drag strip that runs right along the road just like it does today. The road course was run between 1956 and 1961. It was laid out with pylons, hay bales and whatever else could be used for temporary walls and barriers that would let racers know where the course actually went as it moved through some of the more open and undefined sections of the Fairplex property.
This gets us back to a couple of the famous names that you will see in this video. Dave McDonald is the guy most often shown racing in the Don Steves Chevrolet sponsored Corvette. McDonald was competing at just his third ever race here and he managed a third place finish on Saturday and retired early on Sunday. He would go on to rocket up the charts as one of the premier driving talents in the country before losing his life in a horrifying crash during the 1964 Indy 500 while driving a car designed and sponsored by Mickey Thompson. That is a whole different story in an unto itself but his early passing is one of the great loses in 20th century American racing history.
The second guy we’ll see a little later in the video is Max Balchowsky. More importantly perhaps than Max himself we see his famed “Ol’ Yeller” special which he built several of over the years. This series of homebuilt cars used Buick power and some really budget minded but effective garage engineering to beat the snot out of Ferrari, Maserati, and other internationally known sports cars at races all over California. By today’s standards the car may look a little awkward pulling into the pits but no one was more surprised to see it than those racers he was blowing by in expensive exotic cars from places around the globe.
So while Pomona is certainly most famous for drag racing, the Fairplex has had all kinds of mechanical mayhem foisted upon it over the decades. Enjoy this walk down memory lane.