As to the racing this season, Jim Karsten of Stockton topped the list with four dash wins, while Bill Stegman led the field in a V-8 powered 36 Ford Coupe picking off three mains and eight main top fnve's. The top stat producers were Stegman, Pete King of Rio Vista, Van Martin, also of Rio Vista, Doug Noland of Modesto, and Tony Bonifolo of Stockton, with Stegman taking the season championship title, over Gentry, Bonfilio, and Ross.
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Yet another year of change took place in 1954 as Bob Barkhimer brought his tracks under the NASCAR banner. Barkhimer's involvement at the time ranged from management, to outright ownership, of 21 tracks in California and Oregon, but NASCAR felt that would be too much for them to handle so he was told to pick his ten best for the transition. Five of the original are still in operation today, Stockton, Madera, Merced, Watsonville, and San Jose.
As close as the parties involved can remember, this was also the year that original investor Stanley Moore sold out and the speedway partners remained as Billy Hunefeld (60%) and Barkhimer (40%)
81 cars were on hand for opening day in 1954 with a season high set on July third of 93. This was without a doubt the worst season for reporting I ran up against, with most of the season 'stories' unable to qualify as a 'paragraph' in today's editions. Only two time trials were listed for the entire season with Marshall Sargent of Salinas posting a 19.24 followed by a late season entry of 19.20 by Bill Stegman.
Buck Wenzel of Stockton, Doug Noland, Bob McMillian, Bill Stegman, and Ray Bishop of Stockton were the top stat producers of the year with a steady performance by Manual Sanchez of Ripon earning him the 1954 season crown. Modesto's Doug Noland took the state Jalopy title in overall track to track action.
Yet another of the early racing era sanction wars took place this season as members of the Westem Auto Racing Association (W.A.R.A.) convinced Hunefeld they could field stronger car counts and better crowds.
Another example of the fine reporting of the day was evident with the opening day story showing a crowd of 4,200 to be followed two weeks later with a story claiming the largest crowd of the season at 3,400, and a story another two weeks later proclaiming a "packed house" of 1,600 (and you wonder why I look a little battered after 26 years of research!)
May 31st., was a day of sorrow for 99 Speedway fans as they learned of the death of Stockton's first main event winner, Billy Vukovich, (left) in practice for that years Indy 500.
Buck Wenzel set two early season track speed
records, but Joe Giusti wound up with the best of the year and the all time Jalopy best of
18.48 on June 25th. Wenzel insured his place in Stockton history by becoming the frst
Jalopy driver, and second all
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