ROSAMOND, California -- When the Willow Springs Speedway, in Rosamond, California, presented the second race of its 2005 season on April 23d the fans were treated to a surprise appearance by the Western Racing Association, WRA, and their fabulous vintage race cars. Nineteen of them showed up to race on the speedway's quarter mile oval.
Azuza, California's Rick Mastroleo and San Diego's Gordon Menzie won feature events but this group isn't really about winning and losing. The WRA is a non profit group dedicated to the preservation of antique automobile racing and fellowship. Most of its active members have been involved in racing for many years and created the rise in popularity of midget racing at tracks all over the country.
The WRA's racing shows are often referred to as "the moving museum" because of the immaculate vintage race cars that they drive. They reflect the open wheel style of race car that was so popular back in the 1930's, 40's and 50's.
Every detail to insure the authenticity of these vintage cars are carefully attended to. This is especially true with the engines. Quite a few of them are original Ford passenger car V8/60 flathead engines that were popular from 1937 to 1940. Many more of them are Meyer-Drake Offenhauser engines, the very same ones that completely dominated midget racing from 1937 to 1962. There were also Model A and B Ford Conversion engines that were enhanced by a famous medicine used by mothers all over the country way back when. Castor Oil was placed in the gas before modern day alcohol enhaced fuel was available.
The WRA's history as a sanctioning body is equally impresive. The group sanctioned sprint car event prior to World War Two. However, according to their historical records, the group relinquished their California Corporation Permits in 1959 and their drivers and team owners moved on to other series such as the United States Auto Club. In 1982 former WRA members decided to reincorporate to its presents non profit status. Walt James, very well known for his prowness as a sprint car driver, was the new group's first President and served for three years. He was followed by Indianapolis 500 veteran Cal Niday who also served for three years.
To this day Walt James is dedicated to the WRA and serves as one of its chief administrators. In his young 80's, a recent medical procedure has sidelined his status as an active driver but, be rest assured, this is likely temporary and he wll soon return to the track with his fellow drivers. James is the curator of the moving museum. He can, without a second's hesitation, tell you literally anything and everything about the vintage cars, and their drivers, that race in the WRA shows.
These shows include yearly visits to race tracks up and down California as well as some visits to speedways in Arizona and Nevada. Everywhere they go the WRA creates a huge impact with the fans who seem awe struck at seeing the vintage cars on the track.
The WRA members are also busy away from the track as well paticipating in many community events. One of there favorite activities is visiting the campuses of local school districts. In addition to displaying their cars, they also participate in red ribbon anti drug programs by handing out information warning young people about the danger of drugs.
Another big part of this successful opeation is the people involved with it. Most of the drivers appear to range in age from approximately 60 to 80 but age in not the common denominator here. It's their true love of what their doing. You can hear it their voices and see it in their eyes when they talk about their cars. They love it when the race fans visit the pit area to meet them especially the young kids.
To see vintage race cars in a motorsports museum is awe inspiring. To see them in a moving museum where the cars are actually racing on the track is amazing. You can check out the Western Racing Association's official website to see if they're making an appearance at a track near you. Make it a point to see their racing and make it a point to meet them. You'll find the experience truly remarkable.