Auto racing brings magic to Calistoga, along with international racing champions. Since 1938, sprint car stars have been racing here due to the fact that the Calistoga Speedway at the Napa Valley Fairgrounds offers the best half-mile dirt track west of the Mississippi.
Eighty years of racing has brought many racing stars and benefactors to Calistoga, beginning with football legend Louis Vermeil.
Recently, Roy Wilhite, board member of Northern California Auto Racing Inc., a non-profit tax-deductible charitable organization, visited Calistoga with the idea of establishing an Auto Racing Hall of Fame and Museum. He indicated it may be possible to showcase some of these amazing cars on a rotating basis at the museum, once a good location is decided upon. The Auto Racing Board is currently visiting several different raceways before it makes its final decision. Fortunately for Calistoga, David Abreu of Abreu Vineyards is an ardent supporter of the idea and hopes for a decision favorable to Calistoga. Along with Wilhite, he feels it would be a win-win for any town welcoming these great racers.
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Recently, the Labor Day Calistoga Speedway Hall of Fame dinner event at the Fairgrounds brought out major racing stars, often only seen on TV. Over 400 dedicated fans and supporters honored Billy Albini, Marvin Faw, Ted Finkenbinder, Rich Govan, Wally Talbot and the Tiner Family in recognition of their enthusiastic support for sprint car racing.
Sprint cars are open-wheel vehicles that must be pushed to start in order to minimize the weight of any non-essential component, including the 10-pound ignition system. The cars must weigh at least 1,500 pounds including driver and gasoline, and each car is strictly weighed before racing. These powerful little cars have 900 horsepower engines that can cost up to $100,000 for the engine alone. As one driver said, “These are serious cars.”