Road Course Opener

Riverside (CA) International Raceway used to be known as the initial race of each new NASCAR Cup Series calendar. However, the first series race was conducted there in June 1958. It wasn't until May 1961 that the next NASCAR premier division race would be staged at Riverside, won by Lloyd Dane. This was only the 10th road race in NACAR history.

In 1963, Riverside held two NASCAR races, and their January event was the first of the season for the first time, displacing Daytona. Dan Gurney won his first of five at Riverside, including three in a row, 1964-66. He drove for Holman-Moody. Darel Dieringer won the November 1963 race. Gurney was prevented from possibly racking up four in a row due to USAC's ban of the event that year for their licensed drivers. Gurney, who had captured the pole, was forced to withdraw. If you just count the January race, though, Gurney won it four straight.

The 1964 race claimed the life of early NASCAR star Joe Weatherly.

In 1965, as Gurney again lassoed Riverside, he did not earn any NASCAR points since he was entered under his international competition license.

For 1966, Gurney set a new race record for 500 miles at the road course. From 1964 to 1966, he drove for the Wood Bros.

An often-reported erroneous fact on the 1967 race is that Gurney drove for the west coast racing outfit of Bill Stroppe. The truth is, he ran the No. 16 car for Bud Moore.

"I never ran for Stroppe," Gurney told me during his visit here at the Archives last year. "That's a mistake."

The error can be found in several different race rundowns, but the NASCAR Newsletter from 1967 does not list car owners. A back issue of the 1968 Riverside souvenir program proves Gurney's claim.

Parnelli Jones won the 1967 race aboard the Stroppe No. 115 1967 Ford, and Curtis Turner was his teammate in the No. 15 Mercury.

Gurney's last trip to victory lane at Riverside came in 1968, also earning the pole position.

Other drivers who have fared quite well at the venerable past track in NASCAR's history are:

Bobby Allison, with six wins; Richard Petty, with five wins; Darrell Waltrip, with five wins, including two in a row in 1980; David Pearson, with three wins, which were consecutive from 1976-77; Cale Yarborough, with three wins, including two in a row in 1974; and Tim Richmond, with two straight wins in 1982 and two straight wins again in 1986-87.

The colorful Riverside International Raceway was with us from 1957 until 1988, and is a sorely missed element from the west coast.

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