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Now in its 58th season, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West can be traced back to 1954, when NASCAR came to the West Coast and began sanctioning the Pacific Coast Late Model circuit. The series visited tracks such as Oakland (Calif.) Speedway; Balboa Speedway in San Diego, Calif.; Bay Meadows Speedway in San Mateo, Calif.; and Carrell Speedway in Gardena, Calif.
Nine races were on the series schedule in 1954, with the first event being on the half-mile Oakland Speedway, which was known as “The Oakland Wall.” While Hershel McGriff won the pole position, it was Dick Rathmann who came through the field to win that first race in a 1952 Hudson.
Through the 1960s and 1970s the series visited fewer and fewer dirt tracks. The final race on a dirt track was in 1979. The circuit has continued to evolve, with various changes taking place during the 1980s and early 1990s.
|RECORD BOOK (1954-2010)|
|ALL-TIME TOP 10 SERIES DRIVERS|
|YEAR-BY-YEAR TOP 10|
|MOST POPULAR DRIVER|
|SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE YEAR|
|ALL-TIME RACE RESULTS|
Through its years, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West has had several titles. In addition to being known as the Pacific Coast Late Models it was called Grand National West, Winston West Grand National, and the NASCAR Winston West Series. In 2003, it was joined with what had been known as the Busch North Series and together they comprise what is now known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series.
Competition for drivers has stretched beyond the United States, meanwhile, with racers from the West Coast participating in NASCAR events in Australia in 1988 and in Japan in 1996, 1997 and 1998. And in 1999 the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West became the first in NASCAR to hold a championship race outside of North America – with the season finale at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.
The names of many talented drivers, meanwhile, have been associated with the West Coast division through its history. In terms of overall victories, Jack McCoy leads with 54, followed by Ray Elder with 47 and Hershel McGriff with 35. When it comes to championships, Elder leads with six (1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974 and 1975), followed by Bill Schmitt (1977, 1979, 1989 and 1990) and Roy Smith (1980, 1981, 1982 and 1988), each with four.
Elder’s team also made a significant mark in the racing world by becoming the only West Coast team to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (then Grand National) race. Elder won the Motor Trend Riverside 500 on Jan. 10, 1971 at Riverside International Raceway and a year later won the Golden State 400 on June 18, 1972 at Riverside.
Notable competitors in the early days included Lloyd Dane – who won the first championship in 1954 – as well as Danny Letner, Parnelli Jones, Marvin Porter, Bill Amick, Eddy Gray, Scott Cain and Ron Hornaday Sr. Other talented drivers included Chuck Bown, Jim Insolo, Jim Robinson, Rick Carelli, Derrike Cope and Chad Little.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West history is tightly interwoven with that of the current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Here, Hershel McGriff, center, chats with NASCAR Hall of Fame members Bill France Jr., left, and Richard Petty, right. File Photo