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West Coast Racing Notebook - December 26, 2008

by Dave Grayson
Friday, December 26, 2008

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THERE MAY BE MORE BAD NEWS FOR THE KERN RIVER RACEWAY IN BAKERSFIELD.

The financing for this super racing facility, located west of Interstate 5 in Bakersfield, appears to have become the recipient of the absolute last thing the project developers needed: more financial problems. The latest round of problems involves a $4.5 million construction loan, obtained this past March from private investors, which has now officially hit a default status. According to published reports, December 10th, in the business section of "The Bakersfield Californian" the notice of default has been officially filed with the Kern County Department Of Records and there are reported arrears on the construction loan payments that are now well above $80,000.

Adding to the problems are the already filed liens and lawsuits by contractors who are seeking restitution for their completed work on the raceway. Those civil suits have been reported to be in excess of $2 million.

The Kern River Raceway was planned to replace the former Mesa Marin Raceway which became a victim of the Bakersfield housing boom back in October of 2005. The project was a joint effort between the Collins family, who originally built and promoted Mesa Marin, and the Destefani's  a well known agriculture business family in the Bakersfield region. The master plan called for a half mile, high banked oval with an integrated quarter mile oval in the middle along with an eighth mile drag strip. The plans also featured a lot of eye popping amenities and was described as a motorsports showplace as well as NASCAR's new home to Kern County. The official ground breaking was held in February of 2007.

Financing for the estimated $30 million project was going to be raised by the Destefani family who were going to raise the investment capital via the sale of a large parcel of agriculture zoned land that they own. Unfortunately the deal fell through, in the spring of 2007,  when the real estate buyer was unable to secure the loan needed to complete the sale. That placed the Collins and Destefani families in a mad scramble to secure the financing for the track. It was at this point that they also fell prey to the mortgage lending crisis that has gripped the entire nation to this day. Construction on the raceway, reported to be approximately six months shy of completion, came to a grinding halt.

What happens next will depend upon the thinking of that group of private investors who provided that construction loan last March. That are well within their legal rights to officially foreclose on the property. That would mean that their original $4.5 investment could make them the new owners of land that was originally appraised at approximately $30 million less that two years ago.

Meanwhile the Destefani family, doing business as Enos Lane Farm Properties LLC, are conducting meetings with current creditors to develop a plan to resolve the debt structure. They still continue to seek that eleventh hour financial miracle that will complete the construction and get the Kern River Raceway operational. But, at this point in time, the operative word here is indeed "miracle."     

THE NEWS IS CONSIDERABLY BETTER FOR THE PROPOSED TULARE MOTORSPORTS COMPLEX.

Citing economic opportunity and job diversity, the Tulare Planning Commission gave a thumbs up to the proposed Tulare Motorsports Park Complex, TMSC, at their December 8th meeting. This action is a giant step towards the future of this complex. Next is winning the official approval of the Tulare City Council which project developers are reportedly expecting.

The lynch pin of the TMSC will be a one mile, D shaped, oval with 24 degrees of banking in the turns that will be able to accommodate every form of stock car and open wheel racing imaginable. The complex will also feature a full sized professional drag strip as well as a state of art facility for road course kart racing. Also state of the art are the proposed amenities for the complex which includes luxurious sky boxes for maximum viewing of the racing. There will also be a full service RV camping area, a recreation building as well as restaurants and retail centers.

Also equally impressive are the names on the TMSC Advisory Board. Some of those prominent names include Rod Johnson the former President of the Pikes Peak International Raceway, Phil Casey a former Technical Director for the Indy Racing League, Davey Hamilton an Indy 500 veteran turned media analyst and race organizer, Tommy Hunt a USAC Vice President and four time National Hot Rod Association champion, and local businessman, Gary Scelzi.

IN MEMORIAM

It was truly sad to learn of the December 21st passing of Ron Hornaday Sr. following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Hornaday was a ferocious competitor during his tenure as a driver. This was especially whenever he rolled his famous #97 Ford onto the track at the former Saugus Speedway. In 1956 he joined the Pacific Coast Late Model Series which over the years transformed itself into what is now known as the NASCAR Camping World West Series.  His highlights in that series included 13 career wins as well as back to back series championships in 1963 and 1964.

After his driving days ended the patriarch of the famed racing family, based out of the Palmdale-California area, turned his attention to mentoring the driving career of his son, Ron Jr, and every stock car fan in the southwest is aware of the championship levels that effort produced.

My heartfelt condolences goes to the Hornaday family during this truly sad time. Racing fans can forward their own sentiments via www.ronhornaday.com.

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