INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS AGAJANIAN GRAND MARSHAL OF U.S. SPEEDWAY
MOTORCYCLE LONGTRACK CHAMPIONSHIP!
(Perris, CA, July 16, 2014)
This Saturday night, July 19th, when Perris Auto Speedway
hosts the American Motorcycle Association sanctioned United
States Speedway Motorcycle Longtrack Championship, the track
will pay homage to Chris Agajanian of racing’s famous
Agajanian family. When Perris promoter Don Kazarian named
Agajanian as Grand Marshal of the event, it had to do with his
lifelong dedication to the motorsports industry and also of
his promotion of the Speedway track known as Ascot South Bay
Stadium from 1985 through 1990. Chris took some time off a few
weeks ago from watching World Cup Soccer to talk with PAS
announcer Scott Daloisio. Here is what he had to say.
Daloisio: Next spring it will be 30-years since you introduced
“Thursday Night Rock N’ Roll Speedway” at Ascot South Bay
Stadium. At the time Costa Mesa was a nice facility as it
remains today, but the other facilities on the Southern
California circuit were rough. Yours was a jewel. Sensational
lighting. Crystal clear sound system bought from the Beach
Boys. Bleachers and bunting from the Olympics. Forgiving
walls. Lush center green and fabulous food. It took Speedway
to a different level. Why did you want to spend the extra
money to make it so nice?
Agajanian: Scott, I can’t
believe it has been 30-years and I appreciate you saying that.
It was a fun deal. The Olympics had just went through town
(1984 Summer Games) and we had that land on the north side of
the Ascot half-mile to develop. We developed a slick track, a
radio controlled track and a bicycle motocross track. We
wanted to do a Speedway track so we put in that 5,000 seat
stadium. We were concerned with the crashwall so we had all of
the posts stuck in foam and had an energy absorbing wall. I
knew how hard it was to entertain the crowd. They just had to
be treated well and entertained constantly. The bikes would
roll up and the music would go down and the race would go off.
You know, Speedway is the perfect venue for a show like that
because it is just those short blasts. There is a start and a
win real quick and then you are lining up the next race. It is
hard to believe that it has been that long. It was a lot of
fun. We were able to get it on TV as well.
TV was one of my next topics. You started on KDOC channel 56.
Then you went to Prime Ticket and finally took Speedway across
the nation on ESPN. You allowed the riders and their sponsors
to go from being exposed just to fans in Southern California
to millions of viewers across the country. That was a
tremendous deal for everyone.
Agajanian: Yeah, that was
pretty cool. To do that was a stretch for us because what we
had to do was buy the time (on TV) ourselves and then sell the
advertising. I think we did around 100 shows. You were there
Scott. You were working on the show. So was Bruce Penhall,
Larry Hufman and Terry Clanton. Terry would call the live
event and Larry would call it for TV. And, who was the girl
who was in the back in the pits? She was a local disk jockey.
Daloisio: Rachel Donohue.
Agajanian: Yeah, there
you go. She was a disk jockey on a local radio station. It was
just a lot of fun.
Daloisio: Let me back track a
moment and go back to the stadium. You not only went the extra
mile for the fans, but you went the extra mile for the racers
and their crews. Every race, you gave everyone in the pits
free Dodger Dogs, pizza and drinks. No other track did that.
Not sure if you know how much those guys and girls really
appreciated that. Nobody else did and when I talk to some of
them today, they still mention that.
Agajanian: I just
knew those guys were the show. They were working and they were
the entertainment. You have to take care of the entertainment.
You would see those guys back there and they were working hard
and getting ready and they were forgetting their nutrition. It
was convenient and it was a deal for them to have food and
drinks. I am glad to hear they enjoyed it. Thanks for
mentioning that Scott. I know they appreciated it. They would
come up and thank me. You cannot ignore one side. The fans
expect the riders to do their best job so you had to help them
(riders). And, they did do a good job. They were really into
it. It was quite a show. The riders loved rolling up to the
tapes knowing the TV camera was on them and there was a big
crowd. It was exciting times.
Daloisio: A junior rider
got hurt bad on one of the other tracks on the circuit and
most of the other promoters panicked and said no more juniors.
You went the other way on it and gave them a separate night to
race. Two of the riders, Billy Hamill and Greg Hancock, began
to shine at South Bay Stadium on those nights and went onto
become world champions. Without you stepping in, that may have
never happened. It has to be satisfying knowing you had a hand
in their development.
Agajanian: That is the whole
thing. Just like in Indy Cars where they have the Indy Lites.
NASCAR has the Nationwide and ARCA Series. You have to support
those up and coming guys and we had a racetrack. They were not
at any other event on Friday nights so it was terrific for
them to come and race and get in a lot of laps. Also, we had
go karts and Brian Huerta raced at our track. He actually owns
the #98 racecar (Indy Car) that we co-own with him that won
the Indianapolis 500. It is funny how that all comes around.
You mentioned Billy Hamill and Greg Hancock. These guys were
up and comers and yeah, it is self-satisfying to know you
helped them out when they were on their way up the ranks. What
else can you do? You have a racetrack and there are not a lot
of other racetracks they can practice on. So where else can
they go? That is why you do it.
Daloisio: Another thing
you did was the “USA vs The World.” You would fly in some of
the world’s greatest riders like Hans Nielsen, Peter & Phil
Collins, Kelvin Tatum and others to take on the local stars.
How hard was that to put together?
Agajanian: It wasn’t
easy and Ivan Mauger assisted me on that. It was kind of a new
realm for me. Harry Oxley had done something like that before
and I wanted to do something special for the fans at South Bay
Stadium. We had to arrange to get them here (the riders) and
had to prove they were coming and get them their visas and
other stuff. We had to arrange to get their bikes here. It was
a real pain, but it is great seeing all of those European and
world guys there competing against the USA. It was a well
celebrated event and it was televised. It was kind of an
endeavor getting it done, but it was a fun event to do.
Daloisio: I know back in those days you always had
something going on. What are you up to these days?
Agajanian: Well, these days I like to say I am semi-retired. I
say semi-retired because I always have some kind of project. I
should be having fun fishing somewhere, but I am working with
a company that is launching a new energy drink. It is called
“Ernegee.” We are actually a sponsor of our racecar. The #98
car that races in all of the Indy Car Series races. I am doing
work back and forth to Las Vegas on a Beatles project that I
really can’t speak much about right now. Of course I have a
head gasket that has four electrodes in it. It actually burns
the fuel more efficiently instead of having one spark plug in
the center. It puts the electrodes around the cylinder. It
really reduces the smoke on the 2 stroke engine and works on
the 4 strokes, too. It is a patented product. That takes a lot
of time. There is the EPA to deal with and all of that other
stuff. So that is basically what I have been up to.
Daloisio: Are you looking forward to being at Perris Auto
Speedway for the Longtrack Championship?
Yes! It was quite an honor when Mr. Kazarian called me. You
know, we are related. Not through my father’s side, but
through my mother’s side of the family. There are Kazarian’s
in my mom’s family. We have a big wedding we are supposed to
be going to, but I am not going to do that. I am looking
forward to being the grand marshal and seeing the Longtrack
Speedway. It is going to be exciting. I guess I will be
sitting up in the press box with you. I remember I sent you up
in the Goodyear Blimp one time and you got some really good
aerial shots of Ascot that you have sent me copies of.
Daloisio: Yep! Sent me up there to shoot Ascot. Those were
great times and it seems like just yesterday, doesn’t it?.
Agajanian: Yes, it does and they were fun, busy times.
Ascot was quite a busy place. We would have Motocross at Ascot
on Wednesday night. Speedway on Thursday. Fridays we would
have Midgets and Sprint Cars on Saturday. On Sundays we would
have Figure 8’s and Demolition Derbies. It was known as the
busiest racetrack in the United States because of how many
events we were doing. We would start in late February or early
March and we would end in November on Thanksgiving. It was
unfortunate that Ascot closed down. It was not anything to do
with the success of the track. As you know it was quite a
successful racetrack. Even now days with all of the X Games
stuff, the Lucas Series, Monster Trucks and other stuff, there
are so many events that could be held there. It could do
better and better I am sure. It was just a lease problem. We,
the Agajanian family, tried to buy that property for many
years. We just were not able to put it together. The lady who
owned the property at the time just did not want to have a
racetrack there I guess. So, she would not renew our lease and
unfortunately it (the property) sat there vacant for years.
Now it has turned into an auction for used cars from
dealerships. When you trade your cars in they go there and get
auctioned off. It (Ascot) was grandfathered in. It is
unfortunate. There is virtually no way that you could build a
racetrack like that in Los Angeles now with all of the
environmental impact studies and such.
Having said all of that, no one can deny that Ascot did have a
great run, correct?
Agajanian: It was a wonderful
33-years from 1957 to 1990. It was something like 22 drivers
who raced at Ascot won the Indianapolis 500. You had Mario
Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones and the Unser’s in sprint
cars & midgets and then you had the likes of Bruce Penhall,
Jay Springsteen, Sammy Tanner and Scotty Parker racing
motorcycles. In the stands you had people like Steve McQueen
and James Garner watching the star racers. Ascot had an
unbelievable racing history. There was also tragedies there.
That is the one thing I hate and despise about the sport we
love so much. You would lose friends and you would lose
Daloisio: Talking about the darker side
of the sport, technology in safety has come a long ways since
then, but when it came to safety, your father was at the
forefront on making things better.
Agajanian: It is
interesting. I think the best safety technology was put in
place by my dad and that was the hay bale. Those hay bales
saved a lot of people’s lives in the old days of racing those
big motorcycles on that tacky, clay surface on the track. When
they headed for those walls, they were solid walls. When they
put hay bales out there, they did help out quite a bit.
Daloisio: Any promoting in your future?
Promotional stuff? Nothing that I can announce. I am pretty
much out of the realm. I leave that to the younger guys now. I
just had my 65th birthday and I am enjoying life. I have a
little grandchild. My daughter Alexandra is 31 and my son Adam
is 30. Laura (Chris’ wife) is doing well and we try to take
off and go to Utah. We have a place there and we try to go to
it every chance we get and enjoy our time. I don’t want to
start doing promotions Scott. I will leave that to you and the
rest of the gang out there.
Daloisio: You just aged me
a lot saying your kids are 31 and 30. I remember them in your
office at Ascot sitting on the floor working on their coloring
Agajanian: Yeah, exactly (laughing). How time
flies. We have to enjoy every minute. I remember going to
Ascot on a daily basis and I remember working on the
scoreboard at Gardena Stadium. We would be standing up putting
the numbers on the scoreboard. You had to put them in
backwards because the people in the grandstands had to read
them. I was 7 and my brother Jay was 8. My other brother Cary
was in the front office working with Bob Basile. We would be
in the back of that scoreboard putting the numbers in. All you
had to do was fall off and you were in the middle of the back
straightaway (he said laughing). When Ascot opened we started
working there. I sold programs there and I was probably
8-years-old. I sold programs every Friday night for the
motorcycle races. It was a wonderful, wonderful opportunity to
grow and talk to thousands of people and yell out, “Programs”
to them as they were walking up. It built a lot of personality
in you. You learned a lot and I am living proof that you could
grow up eating hot dogs (laughing). That is for sure.
Daloisio: Great to visit with you Chris and we look forward to
seeing you at the United States Speedway Motorcycle Long Track
Championship this Saturday night, July 19th, at Perris Auto
Speedway. Only the second time it has been held in Southern
California since Ascot closed in 1990.
is going to be terrific. I am really looking forward to it
Scott. Thanks a lot to the Kazarian’s and Perris. This is
going to be a fun, fun event and as I said, I am really
looking forward to it.
Camping for all events at The
PAS is available for $25.00 per night. The campground will
open at noon on Friday. Tailgating in the spectator parking
lot will begin at 1:00 PM for all PAS events as well.
Spectator gates will open at 5:00 PM for Saturday’s Longtrack
race and the first race will be at 7:30. Adult tickets are
$20.00. Seniors 65 and older get in for $15.00. Active
military members with proper id, teens 13-18 with their school
id and kids 6-12 get in for just $5.00. Children 5 and under
Perris Auto Speedway wants to thank its
corporate sponsors for the 2014 season. 1-800LoanMart, 777
Racecars, All Coast Construction, Amsoil, Ayers Hotel and Spa,
BlueLine Rental, Budweiser, CamGuard, Champion Towing, City of
Perris, Daytona Boat & RV Storage, Edelbrok, Engine Pro, HD
Industries, Hoosier Tires, K&N Engineering, Marjon RV, Pacific
Coach Works, Pep Boys, P.I.P.E., Pepsi-Cola, Pick-A-Part Auto
Salvage, Running Waters Hospice, Scott Sales, Shaver Racing
Engines, Sherwin-Williams, Sprint Car Driving Experience,
Square H, Swedish Speed, Town and Country Golf Carts, Trench
Shoring, United States Army, US Foods and Valley Auto Salvage.
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Speedway is located on the Lake Perris Fairgrounds (home of
October’s Southern California Fair), approximately one hour
east of Los Angeles and one hour North of San Diego. To get to
the track, take the 215 freeway, exit on the Ramona Expressway
and go three miles east to the fairgrounds.
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2014 PERRIS AUTO
19- AMA SPEEDWAY LONG TRACK NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
16-"CALIFORNIA RACERS HALL OF FAME NIGHT" USAC/CRA
SPRINT CARS, PAS Senior Sprints, PAS Young Guns & California
23- AMSOIL OILTWINS.COM PASSCAR SERIES Street Stocks, Super
Stocks, Modifieds, American Factory Stocks, CDCRA Dwarf Cars
6- NIGHT OF DESTRUCTION IV Demo Cross, Figure
8's, Trailer Figure 8's Spectator Racing
13- "GLENN HOWARD CLASSIC" USAC/CRA SPRINT CARS, PAS Senior
Sprints, PAS Young Guns & California Lightning Sprints
20- AMSOIL OILTWINS.COM PASSCAR SERIES Street Stocks, Super
Stocks, Modifieds and American Factory Stocks
4- SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FAIR
25- "AMSOIL OILTWINS.COM PASSCAR SERIES Street Stocks, Super
Stocks, Modifieds and American Factory Stocks
5- Budweiser Oval Nationals Practice
6- 19TH ANNUAL BUDWEISER 360 OVAL NATIONALS - Presented by All
Coast Construction -USAC West Coast & Southwest Sprint Cars
7- 19TH ANNUAL BUDWEISER OVAL NATIONALS - Presented by All
Coast Construction -USAC NATIONAL & USAC/CRA SPRINT CARS, PAS
Senior Sprint Cars & California Lightning Sprints
8- 19TH ANNUAL BUDWEISER OVAL NATIONALS - Presented by All
Coast Construction -USAC NATIONAL & USAC/CRA SPRINT CARS, PAS
Senior Sprint Cars & California Lightning Sprints
"CHAMPIONS NIGHT" AMSOIL OILTWINS.COM PASSCAR SERIES Street
Stocks, Super Stocks, Modifieds and American Factory Stocks
26- Turkey Night Grand Prix Practice
27- AGAJANIAN PROMOTIONS AND PERRIS AUTO SPEEDWAY PRESENTS
74TH RUNNING OF THE TURKEY NIGHT GRAND PRIX - USAC NATIONAL &
WESTERN STATES MIDGETS
Note; Schedule is Subject to Change