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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.

Daloisio: 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?

Agajanian: 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.

Daloisio: 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 competitors.

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?

Agajanian: 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 books.

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.

Agajanian: That 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 are free.

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.

To keep up with all of the latest Perris Auto Speedway news, photos, gossip and receive special offers, sign up at The PAS Facebook site at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Perris-Auto-Speedway/113876798686480?ref=hl

You can also keep up with the latest news and receive special offers from The PAS Twitter site: http://twitter.com/perrisautospdwy.

Video and DVD productions of all racing events at Perris Auto Speedway are available from Loudpedal Productions. For more information on these productions you can contact them by calling (805) 844-3854, E-mailing mailto:trtruex@gmail.com or you can visit the web site http://www.loudpedalvideo.com/

Perris Auto 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.

racesatthepas@aol.com is the only authorized Internet address to issue official media news released from The Perris Auto Speedway or Oval Entertainment
 
2014 PERRIS AUTO SPEEDWAY SCHEDULE


JULY
19- AMA SPEEDWAY LONG TRACK NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP


AUGUST
16-"CALIFORNIA RACERS HALL OF FAME NIGHT" USAC/CRA SPRINT CARS, PAS Senior Sprints, PAS Young Guns & California Lightning Sprints

23- AMSOIL OILTWINS.COM PASSCAR SERIES Street Stocks, Super Stocks, Modifieds, American Factory Stocks, CDCRA Dwarf Cars

SEPTEMBER
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

OCTOBER
4- SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FAIR

25- "AMSOIL OILTWINS.COM PASSCAR SERIES Street Stocks, Super Stocks, Modifieds and American Factory Stocks

NOVEMBER
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
15- "CHAMPIONS NIGHT" AMSOIL OILTWINS.COM PASSCAR SERIES Street Stocks, Super Stocks, Modifieds and American Factory Stocks

21- TBA
22- TBA
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