NASCAR & Auto Racing

Placerville Speedway still revving after all these years

It costs as much as $12 to see a summer Hollywood blockbuster that lasts perhaps two hours and another $3-$4 to see the same flick in 3D.

That makes the $15 Alan Handy charges race fans for five hours of motor sports entertainment at Placerville Speedway seem like a bargain. And there’s a free bonus: the smell, the sound and sometimes even the mud that assault the senses.

Those are just some of the reasons the speedway has been popular since 1965. On Tuesday, Handy, the speedway’s promoter, and his race crew were honored by the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors on the 50th anniversary of racing at the track.

“The proclamation and the honor was much appreciated,” Handy said. “But I also congratulate the community because the Placerville Speedway is one of the most successful tracks in the state.”

The grandstand area was built in 1956 and opened in time for the 1957 El Dorado County Fair. It has hosted a variety of events, including El Dorado High School football games, until Fair manager Warren Jewitt and racing promoter Bruno Romani constructed a clay racing oval around the football field. The first race was June 18, 1965, and there’s been racing there almost every weekend, March to November, since.

The track was known as Hangtown Speedway until 1982 when then-promoter John Padjen changed the name to Placerville Speedway to better reflect the surrounding community. Padgen is Handy’s father.

“Placerville Speedway was one of the best things to happen to this county and is a great source of family entertainment,” local racer “Gentleman” Gene Gillihan was quoted in the proclamation. “After they built that track, people took an interest in racing as families. It really involved the community from Day One.”

Handy said there are many racing families that call Placerville Speedway their home track, and there are quite a few four-generation families who put race cars on trailers and haul them to the pits just north of the animal barns on the fairgrounds. That means there’s no shortage of those willing to help get cars ready to race and no shortage of support in the grandstands, where it’s common to see sections of fans wearing T-shirts with colorful pictures of their family members’ cars.

Said Handy: “(The track) is a good little gig. It’s grass-roots racing.”

BMR meet and greet

Bill McAnally Racing drivers Chris Eggleston and Brandon McReynolds will attend an open house Thursday 4-7 p.m. at the team’s headquarters at 900 Riverside Ave. in Roseville.

Eggleston, of Erie, Colo., is the K&N Pro Series West points leader through the five races, two of which he won. McReynolds, of Moorseville, N.C., is ninth in points and has one victory. With the three wins in five races, Roseville’s Bill McAnally leads the owner standings.

Eggleston and McReynolds will sign autographs and fans can tour the garage and the team’s race car haulers, fabrication and wrap shops.

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Cardinale honored

Former Sonoma Raceway spokesman John Cardinale will be inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame on June 25 during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR weekend at Sonoma Raceway.

Cardinale joined the raceway in 1998 and later became vice president of media and community relations. He died in 2013 at 47 after a two-year battle with gastric cancer.

Cardinale was known for his creative media stunts, including driver ride-alongs with the California Highway Patrol and driving race cars across the Golden Gate Bridge. He also helped create and produce the raceway’s community events, including food drives, blood drives and holiday parties for families in need. Cardinale was named NASCAR Track PR Representative of the Year in 2009 and posthumously received the National Motorsports Press Association Spirit Award in 2013.

Joining Cardinale in the 2015 West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame class are Jerry Baxter (crew chief at Kyle Busch Motorsports), late NASCAR driver Jason Leffler, late team owner Warren Razore, former Dale Earnhardt crew chief Doug Richert and team owner and race promoter Jim Williams.

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Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at or @editorwriter001.