Tag Archives: Paso Robles

Classic Cars Invade Central Coast – Labor Day Weekend

Once again, classic cars will grace the city of Paso Robles this Labor Day weekend, with the Paso Robles Classic Car Weekend event scheduled for two days, August 29th and 30th (Friday and Saturday). Net proceeds will go to local charities.

Golden States Classics Car Show - Downtown Paso

The Golden State Classics Car Club puts on the event with help from the city of Paso Robles. The club was founded in 1986 by nine individuals interested in preserving and enjoying all types of antique classic, and custom cars, and trucks. There are now 120 members in this family-oriented car club organized for the purpose of promoting interest in the preservation, and/or modification of all classic automobiles and trucks. The Chamber of Commerce had helped organize the show in the past, but Golden State Classics Car Club and the city will co-host the event this year.

Friday night, starting at the Paso Robles Event Center from 21st Street., the cars of the show will cruise up to and along Spring Street (24th to 6th St.) from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Saturday, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:oo p.m., over 300 cars will be laid out across the Downtown City Park featuring 1979 and older vehicles. There will be a raffle and silent auction in the park during the show with awards at around 2:00 p.m. Saturday.

The club has encouraged its participants to tour all over town through Sunday, so expects classics cars at any turn.

Daryle W. Hier







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Bobby Unser’s 1981 Indy 500 Win Cost Him Career

Bobby Unser

Three-time Indy 500 winner and two-time series champion, Bobby Unser

You would think that winning the most famous race of all – The Indy 500 – would have kept one of the sports elite and successful drivers going for more, but Bobby Unser’s victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway would be his last.  To add more oddity to the situation, Unser wasn’t declared the winner of the race until October of that year, roughly five months after the race ended.  On top of that, the victory had tied him for second on the all-time Indy 500 winners list with three.

I’m talking about Bobby Unser for a variety of reasons but primarily because one, we’re in the month of May leading up to qualifying and running of the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ and two, I saw the legendary driver in person with the car he won Indy back in ’81 (he also had the pole that year).

Here in wine country, we have an excellent warbird and car collection called the Estrella Warbird Museum and Woodland Auto Display.  We had a huge spectacle of our own this past weekend out at the airport (Warbirds, Wings & Wheels) and here, in the middle of wine country on a beautifully clear day with temps in the 70s, was a racing legend.

One of the greats

Bobby Unser’s career actually took off while winning one of the oldest racing events in the United States: Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.  Bobby is the winningest driver of the event.  He also drove sports cars including for the Arciero Brothers who went on to wine fame here in Paso Robles.

He started his IndyCar career in ’63.  From the pole, Unser won his first IndyCar race in ’66 at where else, Pikes Peak which was part of the circuit from ’65-’68. His first win on a road track happened the following year when he won a double-header at Mosport in Canada – he was on the pole both times.  Bobby’s first circle track win came at Phoenix in ’68 and yes, you guessed it, he won from the pole.

1981 Indy 500 winning car

Bobby Unser won the pole and eventually the Indy 500 in 1981 with this Penske-prepared #3 IndyCar that gave Unser his third Indy 500 win and also his last career victory.

Win, lose, win

Rain had made a near nightmare of qualifying for the Indy 500 in 1981 – yeah, us Californians say ‘what’s rain’?  Yet, the rain wasn’t the biggest story that year.  Obviously known for his ability to win from the pole, Bobby appeared to do just that at Indianapolis in ’81.  However, shortly after Unser had drank the milk and taken all the pictures and accolades, controversy dampened his victory.  Officials penalized Bobby’s Penske-prepared Cosworth-powered #3 Norton Spirit for passing cars during a caution.  He was dropped one spot into second and Mario Andretti – who was racing Formula One full-time – was awarded the win the next morning.  Car owner Roger Penske immediately appealed the penalty and after nearly five months a decision was finally rendered giving back the win to Penske and Unser.

The fact that he lost endorsements because of the long ordeal had left a disdain of sorts with Bobby, so he retired. The two-time IndyCar series champion joined the television booth and was an accomplished color commentator for many years.

Stars of all kinds

Now at the age of 80, Unser seemed to be in good spirits and was very lively with the crowd, even if he had to sit most of the time. It was great to see him among the many stunning cars and warbirds of all sorts including a T-33 which was the trainer for my favorite jet, the P-80 Shooting Star, which I believe was the United States’ first jet fighter.

By the way, the airport originally began as a P-38 Lightning training site during WWII.  The P-38 happens to be my favorite airplane of all-time and the number one ace of WWII – Major Richard Bong – flew a P-38.  Yeah, some folks think it was the P-51 Mustang or F4U Corsair, but no it was the more versatile Lightning.  I was looking forward to seeing the masterful aircraft however; I was disappointed they didn’t have anything more than some models.  They’re very rare but I was hoping … oh well.  Still, these stars of the sky were a treat, along with the more grounded stars.

Old Classics - Warbirds, Wings & Wheels

There were classic cars everywhere at the Estrella Warbird Museum & Woodland Auto Display

It may be a little much to say the delayed Indy win in 1981 cost Unser his career but it certainly tainted the situation and probably led to an earlier retirement than he was ready for.  In any case, my day was great as I love flying, cars and of course motorsports; so it was nice to do something away from the usual wine business which is everywhere here in wine country. Being at the airport with Bobby Unser brought out the nostalgia in me – which isn’t hard – and the story of his last Indy 500 is always worth telling.

Not that I don’t love the wine business and especially wine barrels, which brings me to an interesting situation …

Daryle W. Hier





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California Needs Drag Strips: The Answer? Central Coast

In a state where drag racing was born due in part to dry lakes racing and the regions fervent support and love of the automobile, there seemed to be a quarter-mile drag strip in every corner of California.  Starting with the innocuous Goleta, there may have been nearly 100 drag strip facilities dotted throughout the state from Fremont to Fontana and Saugus to Santa Ana (pictured).Santa-Ana-drags

Population up, drag racing down

However, with the onslaught of population and the crush of urban development – along with noise activists – tracks disappeared.  Everywhere you looked, there were abandoned strips that sometimes sat vacant for decades afterwards.  Famed tracks like Orange County eventually became a plot of commercial highrises while Irwindale turned into a brewery and Lions, well, sadly it’s just a storage yard.

In a century of growth, the greater Los Angeles area in Southern California went from roughly 200,000 to 20 million (source US Census).  At the advent of the Roaring 20s, the state as a whole grew from about 4 million to almost 40 million.  Yet today, we have literally a handful of quarter-mile drag strips to pursue the thrill of drag racing.  That’s dangerous for our streets where especially the young head out to street race illegally.

Centrally located

What’s needed is to build in an area where urban sprawl doesn’t have an effect on a potential racing facility.  Also, would it be nice if it was centrally located so both the southern and northern folks can meet without having to drive half a day.  That can happen right here on the Central Coast.

National forests like Los Padres take up much of the land from Santa Barbara to Monterey plus with vineyards helping to insulate itself from population growth, much of the towns of the Central Coast will likely never see any population explosions.  Such are these reasons and more that many of us live near or on the coast of Central California.


Regions like the Santa Ynez Valley northwest of Santa Barbara are perfect for drag racing.

The Santa Ynez Valley in inland Santa Barbara County is one of many excellent locations with idyllic small towns geared towards visitors for the vineyards that could also entertain racers and their fans.  Just north is Santa Maria with farms and wide open spaces, yet has many hotels due to being the biggest city on the Central Coast.  In San Luis Obispo County, there are several locations though don’t expect anything in the city of San Luis Obispo – it’s loaded with small-minded no-growth activists who would squash any idea of a race track.  However, in what is called the open rolling hills of ‘North County’, from Atascadero to Paso Robles, there are many potential locations for drag strips.


The idea of bringing safety to the Central Coast by keeping illegal street racers off our back roads should be met with open arms.  Additionally, the income from having one of the only quarter-mile strips in California would be welcomed during this continuing elongated recessional period we’ve had the last several years.

Among the beauty that this region is known for, the centrally located towns of the Central Coast, sitting between two giant metropolitan areas, would be ideal for a quarter-mile drag racing facility.  I got the ball rolling, now who’s ready to step up and make it happen?

Daryle W. Hier 



Decorative wine barrels from Paso Robles wine country.

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