Merger increases ISC track ownership

Monday, July 26, 1999 – International Speedway Corp. completed its merger with Penske Motorsports Inc., increasing ownership for the Daytona Beach, Fla.-based company to 10 race tracks across the country. The merger moved PMI tracks in Brooklyn, Mich., Nazareth, Pa., Fontana, Calif., and Rockingham, N.C. under the ISC umbrella.

As part of the move Roger Penske, founder of PMI, was named vice chairman of ISC’s board of directors.

Greg Penske, PMI president and chief executive officer, was named to oversee management of the acquired tracks for ISC.

ISC also increased its ownership stake in Homestead-Miami Speedway to 90 percent.

Prior to the move, ISC owned tracks in Daytona Beach, Fla., Talladega, Ala., Avondale, Ariz., Tucson, Ariz., Darlington, S.C., and Watkins Glen, N.Y.

ISC originated in 1957 as Daytona International Speedway Corp. It was formed by NASCAR founder and president William H.G. France.

Another first for Gordon

Sunday, June 22, 1997 – Jeff Gordon helped usher in another era of NASCAR competition in Southern California, winning the inaugural California 500 at California Speedway. It marked the seventh win of the season in just 15 starts for the 25-year-old phenom and one-time series champion.

The first-ever race at the 2-mile Roger Penske-owned facility ended in a fuel mileage battle with Gordon barely having enough to finish the race and drive to victory lane. Mark Martin was forced to stop for fuel while leading after passing Gordon with 17 laps remaining. Gordon beat teammate Terry Labonte to the finish line by 1.074 seconds.

Gordon was the first driver to win at three different tracks when they became part of the NASCAR premier series schedule: he was the first to win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in ’94, the first to win at California and four years later the first to win when the series visited Kansas Speedway.

While the series had been competing in northern California at Sonoma Raceway since 1989, racing had been absent from southern California for almost a decade following the closing of Riverside International Raceway in ’88. Ontario Motor Speedway, located much closer, had been shuttered in 1980.

The first race at California Speedway, which was built on the grounds of the old Kaiser steel mill, drew an estimated crowd of 89,000.

Labonte, Ricky Rudd, Ted Musgrave and Jimmy Spencer completed the top five.

Joe Nemechek won the first NASCAR premier series pole at the speedway. Three drivers – Kenny Wallace, Mike Wallace and Billy Standridge – failed to qualify.  

Driver Robby Gordon, still dealing with burns suffered in an Indy 500 crash, hit the wall during qualifying at California and failed to receive clearance from doctors to continue competing. The SABCO Racing driver was replaced for the race by Greg Sacks.

A memorable debut for Wallace

Sunday, March 16, 1980 – In his first NASCAR premier series start, Rusty Wallace scores a surprising runner-up finish to Dale Earnhardt in the Atlanta 500. The St. Louis native, piloting the No. 16 Chevrolet for team owner Roger Penske, had qualified seventh in the 41-car field.

The 1-2 finish was the first of 16 for Earnhardt and Wallace; Wallace finished second to Earnhardt seven times during their careers while Earnhardt was runner-up to Wallace on nine occasions.

Wallace made one more start for Penske in 1980 before the team owner pulled out of NASCAR and did not return for nearly a decade. The Atlanta win was the second career victory for Earnhardt.