Legacy of Speed

It was exactly 80 years ago that Calistoga’s horseracing track became the Calistoga Speedway, a half-mile oval that’s seen thousands of races featuring open-wheel sprint cars zipping along at 100 miles per hour.

And if there’s one man the speedway owes its legacy to, it’s Louie Vermeil. Between the 1940s and 1980s, Vermeil was instrumental in building up the speedway and the sport in California, forming the Northern Auto Racing Club (now the Golden State Challenge Series) and making Calistoga the home base of sprint-car racing for over 25 years.

This weekend, the speedway hosts its 10th annual Louie Vermeil Classic, a celebration of the man and a showcase of some of the best sprint-car drivers of yesterday and today.

On Friday, Sept. 1, the Calistoga Speedway Hall of Fame dinner will induct new members to the association for the sixth year. Inductees this year include sprint-car figures like 1975 NARC Rookie of Year Rendy Boldrini and 1987 NARC car owner champion Jack Gordon.

On Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 2–3, today’s top talent takes to the track for the year’s only showcase of non-wing, traditional sprint cars, with wine and beer tasting, auctions, autograph signings, live music and more.

Napa County Fairgrounds, 1435 N. Oak St., Calistoga. Friday, $55; Saturday–Sunday,
$10–$35; kids five and under, free. calistogaspeedway.org.