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Riverside International Raceway
Opened: September, 1957
Closed: June, 1989

Riverside International Raceway (Sometimes known as RIR or Riverside Raceway) was a race track or road course in Riverside, California. A driver died during the first weekend after the opening and several more drivers perished while the track was in operation from 1957 to 1989.

Riverside Raceway

1969 to 1989 version of Riverside International Raceway (RIR), the 1957 to 1968 version is shown below

The track was built to accommodate several different races. By closing off certain sections of the track, the route drivers had to follow could be altered. The three options on the Riverside Raceway were the long course (3.27 miles), the short course (2.5 miles), and the NASCAR (2.5 Mi.) course. The original racetrack had a 1.1 mile backstretch from 1957 to 1968. When the track was redesigned in 1969, turn 9 was made wide and a dogleg was added.

The four courses of Riverside[]

Before a racing event at RIR, track crews added traffic pylons to close off sections of the track. Track courses are shown in the illustrations below (the 1957 course is in blue, just like the 1969 course).


The original Riverside course before the 1969 modification complete with the proposed 5.0 mile course


RIR NASCAR course (2.5 miles)

Diagram notes: The long course (shown above before the 1969 version) had the 1.1 mile backstrech. When the 1969 version was built, the dogleg was added as a speed scrubber to reduce speeds when approaching turn 9. The NASCAR course in the middle illustration would not use turn 7. In the short course, the track would use turn 7A rather than 8.



RIR long course (3.25 Miles)

Movies and television[]

RIR was also a prime spot for movie shoots. Parts of the television shows CHiPs, Simon and Simon, Knight Rider, and the HBO program Super Dave Osborne were shot on location at RIR.

RIR was also a location shooting in the following movies: The Love Bug, Roadracers, On the Beach, Speedway, Stacey, The Rockford Files, Thunder Alley, Winning, and The Killers.

Many advertisements are also shot at RIR.

Miscellaneous facts[]

Dan Gurney has won at Riverside in the Grand National Series 5 times.

Footage exists of classic races like the 1986 Los Angeles Times Grand Prix in which the Chevy Corvette of Doc Bundy hit the Ford Probe of Lyn St. James and the Jaguar of Chip Robinson at Turn 1. St. James' car caught fire and Chip Robinson nearly cartwheeled into the crowd. Fortunately, St. James survived the flames and Robinson escaped uninjured within the track bounds.

Sadly, Riverside was the site of the only fatality in IMSA GTP history. In the 1983 Times Grand Prix, Rolf Stommelen's Joest-constructed Porsche 935 lost its rear wing at the Dogleg and hit two freeway-type barriers sending it into a horrific roll at Turn 9.

When the racetrack was proposed in the mid 1950s, Riverside International Motor Raceway (as it was called at the time) was planned to ultimately be 5.0 miles long, but the club extension was never constructed and the track's final length (after Turn 9 was adjusted in 1969 to a 10 degree banked sweeper) was 3.3 miles.

Of all the road course races run at RIR, there was at least one that was run in a counter-clockwise direction sometime in the 1960s.

ESPN taped the June 12, 1988, Budweiser 400 race at RIR and caught racer Ruben Garcia crashing hard off turn 9.

NASCAR lost racer Joe Weatherly at the track in January 1964. For a final tribute, the old version of Riverside Raceway etched on his headstone as a final joke since Joe was a joker.

After 14 years of NASCAR as a driver and later a car owner, Richard Childress won his first NASCAR race in 1983, when Ricky Rudd drove his #3 Piedmont Airlines Chevrolet to victory in the 1983 Budweiser 400k.

From 1981 until 1987, NASCAR's championship race was at Riverside. The USAC Championship Trail also held their season ending race from 1967 to 1969.

Closure and RIR's transformation into a shopping mall[]



RIR short course (2.5 miles)

After former Los Angeles Rams player Les Richter sold the property to Fritz Duda, 1988 would be the final year of racing for Riverside International Raceway. On June 12, 1988, NASCAR held its final race at RIR - a race won by Rusty Wallace (a caution flag was out for Ruben Garcia when he came off Turn 9 and lost control of his car and hit a wall, missing the grandstands). In 1989, after the SCORE International held its last race, the track finally closed its gates after 32 years of racing after Cal-Club racer Mark Verbofsky died and the track ended the way it started: with a dead racer. Fritz Duda turned the "House that Dan Gurney built" into a shopping mall which opened in 1992. The Moreno Valley Mall at Towngate is on the northern end of the former Raceway Property and houses now occupy the southern end of the old racetrack (where Tim Richmond and Dale Earnhardt raced). In a 1994 topographical map, the remains of Riverside's Turn 9 and a wall were still visible. However, today nothing is left of the Riverside International Raceway except for memorabilia from the racetrack. The old Administration Building remained until 2005, when it was torn down to make way for a complex of townhomes.

When Riverside closed in 1988, it followed in the footsteps of Ontario Motor Speedway (in nearby Ontario) which closed in 1980. It was not until 1997, when California Speedway (in Fontana) opened, that a permanent motorsports facility would be again located in southern California.


a shot of RIR in 1989 during the transformation from racetrack to shopping mall, note the new section of pavement for racing to continue

In 2003, the remainder of the old Riverside International Raceway was torn up, the sign that was at California 60 and Day Street was removed to make way for a Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse. The old Turn 9 of the old track is now home to houses and the legendary site of the old Riverside International Raceway where you could have heard the roar of engines is now a shopper's heaven and houses.

Ironically, in 2003, plans were announced in northern California, near Merced, to build a 3-mile road course with a similar design to the famed Riverside layout, with a major difference in a chicane and Turn 9 (the track will be known as the Riverside Motorsports Park).

Races held at Riverside International Raceway[]

  • Drag News Standard 1320 Invitational Drag Racing - Drag News held its FORTH Invitational meet at Riverside Raceway in 1959. Drag Racing ran North on the straight away. Staging was in turn Nine. Drag News held many meets at Riverside Raceway from the late 50's through the 1960's.
  • The NASCAR Winston Cup Series and Winston West: Motor Trend 500, Nascar Winston Western 500, and NAPA 400 (The Cup and West series raced together in those races.)
  • The CART PPG/Indycar World Series (now Champcar): AirCal 500 / L.A. Times 500 (1981-1983)
  • USAC Championship Trail (Indycar) Rex Mays 300 (1967-1969)
  • The Los Angeles Times Grand Prix of Endurance
  • The 1960 United States Grand Prix
  • (Unofficial) 24 hours of Riverside, testing the Chevy Corvair
  • IROC
  • NHRA drag racing in the mid sixties.
  • SCORE International Off Road World Championships, the last one was held in August 1988.


  • Riverside Raceway, Palace Of Speed by Dick Wallen
  • Motorsport Memorial entry on Rolf Stommelen (2005), [1]. Retreived February 1, 2005.

External links[]