CaliforniaState University, Northridge Art Galleries latest exhibition celebrates the “Kings of Speed: Ascot Raceway 1957-1990.”
The exhibition showcases a selection of vehicles, including sprint cars, midgets and motorcycles, all integral to the legacy of Ascot Park in Gardena, Calif. Historic objects including posters, helmets, leathers, trophies and other memorabilia generously loaned by the Agajanian family will be on display.
The exhibition will open Aug. 27 and will run through Oct. 13, 2018. A reception is scheduled to take place from 2 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8. The university’s Art Galleries are located on North University Drive (Plummer Street), at 18111 Nordhoff St. in Northridge.
“We have some very rare and very collectible sprint cars and midgets,” said John Parker, the exhibition’s curator, “as well as a lot of flat-track motorcycles and speedway bikes that all competed at Ascot.”
Several of the bikes celebrated on display won nationals at Ascot, Parker said. The “Tamale Wagon” — a celebrated sprint car on display at the exhibition — is the 1978 championship car that won the California Racing Association title.
“The man behind that car is named Alex Morales,” Parker said. “At the end of World War II, Alex – with a wooden pushcart in downtown Los Angeles, where the first Sears and Roebucks building was — used to push this cart and sell his mother’s handmade tamales. From very humble beginnings, he grew that into a million-dollar Mexican food company. Every year as a car owner, he would build these brand new, beautiful cars with fast motors, great paint jobs and lots of chrome. He always called his race cars the ‘Tamale Wagon.’
“In open-wheel racing, when cars like the ‘Tamale Wagon’ touch wheels, they start flipping and crashing,” said Parker. “So, it’s very rare to find a car that campaigned all through the year of 1978 in such great condition.
For 33 years, Ascot was the busiest racing venue in the world, hosting an endless array of weekly races. Ascot Park Raceway ranked behind only the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Daytona International Speedway as the best-known racing facility in the country.
J.C. Agajanian, one of auto racing’s greatest car owners and promoters, hosted midget, sprint car, flat track and motorcycle races at Ascot. Race car drivers Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Rick Mears and Al Unser; and motorcycle racers Kenny Roberts, David Aldan, Skip Van Leeuwin and Wayne Rainey, as well as many others, thrilled crowds at Ascot over the years. Motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel performed his first nationally televised jump at Ascot.
A major art exhibition space in the San Fernando Valley, the CSUN Art Galleries are located just 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. The Galleries have mounted more than 500 exhibitions since 1980, with annual gallery attendance averaging 25,000 visitors.
Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. on Thursday. More information and press images are available upon request; call the Art Galleries at (818) 677-2156 or visit www.csun.edu/artgalleries.