As KSBY celebrates 70 years, we’re looking back at Central Coast history.
Not only did KSBY News go on the air in 1953, but back then, the Atascadero Speedway was the place to be on the weekends.
Although the speedway closed down, there is an online community keeping the legacy of the track up and running.
“On a warm summer’s night, you can still hear the ghosts of the cars racing around,” said Joyce Rabellino, who founded the Atascadero Speedway Facebook group and lives where the track used to be.
A newspaper clip at the Estrella Warbirds Museum dates Sunday, Sept. 6, 1953, as the grand opening races for stock cars, hardtops and jalopies.
“Roy Guy and Lester Guy (brothers) along with Elmer Lee, the owner of the property, built the Atascadero Speedway,” explained Tim McCutcheon, a former pit crew member at the speedway. “Roy and his brother Lester run heavy equipment, so they did the actual grading and you know, graded the hillside down and graded where the stands were and then graded the actual track and brought in clay and made a good clay surface.”
The speedway closed down after two decades, and a bird’s eye view today of the intersection of Carmel Road and Santa Clara Road is very different.
KSBY News asked Rabellino to help picture where the speedway was located in relation to her property.
“Right now we are in the pits,” Rabellino said. “This would be full of cars and mechanics, all wearing white pants. That was mandatory because of the visibility.”
After learning about the speedway, Rabellino created the Atascadero Speedway Facebook Group to keep its history alive.
“Just seemed like it got to a point where people needed to remember,” she said.
The stories are quite fascinating.
“In high school, my dad was a security guard for the track, and we used to go with him to the track,” recalled George Westlund, who used to frequent the track as both an attendee and photographer. “We'd sit up in the dirt above corner number four with a blanket, which was not only to keep warm but also to protect us from the clods of mud that came up.”
Dick Woodland raced in Atascadero around 1963 and 1964.
A replica of his 8 Ball modified car is at the Estrella Warbirds Museum.
“The chassis and body is 32 Ford, so you had to nudge the frame, and I would call boxing stiffened by welding plates along the inside,” Woodland explained.
Rules were a little different back then.
“Basically a button shirt, modern t-shirts with the cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve and you know, Levi's,” Woodland recalled with a laugh.
Tammie Elliott Wenter’s ties to the speedway run deep.
“My dad started racing in '64 here at Atascadero Speedway, and then in '69 to '71, my dad was the manager of the speedway,” she said.
She shared a photo of a little girl in a poofy dress.
“That's me as a trophy girl in 1965 for Corky Miler, who was actually the manager of the track when the track closed in '73,” she explained.
As she got older, Elliott Wenter took on other responsibilities.
“When I was 10 and 11 years old, I sold programs at the track at the north gate with my grandfather who sold tickets at the gate,” she recalled.
Mike Keller visited the Atascadero Speedway when he was 11 years old and was inspired to become a racer.
“I got to watch Red Mulligan and Corky Miler and all those guys race Super Modifieds and it was, that was my first experience,” he said.
It wasn’t just cars. A video from 1969 shows motorcycles racing on the dirt track
Westlund shared some photos he took in 1972 while on assignment for KSBY News.
“My first job out of high school — I got a job at KSBY in the production department, and I was going to be going to the races one night and they asked me to get some pictures for the news, so I grabbed one of the station's Nikons and headed up to the track and actually spent most of the night in the infield,” Westlund remembered.
The Atascadero Speedway became more than just a social spot. McCutchen grew up there.
“Probably when I was 13, I started cleaning the stands on Sundays and then after that, I graduated to coming in and working in the pits,” McCutchen said.
He became part of the Speedway family after founder Roy Guy Sr. took him under his wing.
“Roy Guy Sr. became like my second father. I’d lost my dad, so Roy Guy Sr., I called him papa,” McCutchen added.
The speedway closed down in 1973 after the property was sold.
But 1973 is a year McCutchen will never forget.
“Roy Jr. and Bobby Roy's younger brother, myself and several other guys built a new super modified after a mishap with the previous one. We raced for the last championship at the speedway and won the last championship.”
Although the speedway is physically gone...
“You see the grandstands were back on the hill […] the announcer's booth was right up there by the tree line, and the snack bar and restrooms were up in that corner,” Rabellino described.
Its spirit lives on.
“It was the place to go Saturday nights. It was a gathering place. It was a fun place,” McCutchen said.
“The noises and the excitement — it just, it overwhelmed you is what it did,” Keller added.
The Atascadero Speedway Facebook Group remains active with over 1,100 members who post stories, photos and newspaper clippings.
Rabellino told KSBY News she hopes all the materials she has compiled can be exhibited at a museum one day.