Northern California Auto Racing Alumni

Chico – Anderson
Preserving the Past and Capturing the Future

From the San Diego Racing Association Program
Courtesy Tommy Herseth

They say there’s nothing new under the sun but racing fans here on the coast are buzzing it up about the newly innovated “wing”.  The “wing”, which you’ll be viewing tonight, is just about the most controversial subject since Christine Jorgensen decided to change sex. This aforementioned controversy, as you may well guess, exists for the most part in the pits. Some owners curse the day it was thought up, while others hail it as prop which is surely to be used in the future of all auto racing.

Like many of you, tonight will mark our introduction to the thing. Since last the Modified Sportsmen appeared here it has become a top subject of discussion wherever and whenever racing fans congregate. Veteran Rosie Roussel, who will pilot Tom Jackman’s beautiful buggy tonight, claims he nearly ran his car through the crash wall last time out here when the eventual winner, Jimmy Wood, passed him on a turn enroute to the checkered flag.  According to Roussel, Wood went by so fast he resembled a fugitive missle from Canaveral. So enticed was he by the sight of the fleeing vehicle that he, Roussel, nearly came face to face with disaster when suddenly he realized that he was just inches away from the boards.

This was the introduction of the “wing” to west coast patrons, tonight marking its sophomore debut. We saw the finished job atop the cowl of Ben Sander’s speedy racer one hot day this summer while the cars were in line to enter the Clovis Speedway. The “wing”, however, was barred in that meet. Later we heard that Wood had broken every existing track record with the “wing” in Phoenix. How does it work? What is its function?

Let’s take the last question first5 Its function, it seems, is to hold the car solidly on the track in the turns. It is customary for a driver to take a car into the turn as far as he dares, to back off as he manipulates the vehicle into a broadside, to point and once again punch the throttle coming out. The “wing”, they tell us, affords the driver the opportunity to take the car some 50 to 75 feet farther into the turn than his competitor. No broadside is necessary since the car gets the necessary “bite” without crossing up. This, then, is the secret of the gadget.

As to now it works, your guess is as good as mine since we know little or nothing about the science of aerial engineering. It’s a paradox any way you come to look at it. On paper, it seems that a “wing” stationed in that position would work the same as an airplane. In short, tend to make the car airborne. But according to those in the know it works quite the opposite.

To sum it up, Wood employing the “wing”, is strictly the driver to tab for the winner’s circle tonight. Jimmy, winner of the Arizona championship and adjudged its most popular driver, actu-ally resides in Ramona, California. He prefers the going on a half mile oval or longer and has driven but few shorter tracks this past season. He is a capable chauffeur, possessing a keen sense of timing and distance. It has always been our opinion that Wood could make it big driving any type of racing equipment.

Other notables trackside tonight include drivers Dick Fries, the newly crowned 1962 SDRA Champion, Roussel, who finished up a few scant points off the total accumulated by the latter, Jack McCoy at the wheel of Maj Majors’ torrid Buick Special and Harris Mills, a veteran who has the knack of being close when the checkered flag is hoisted.

Tonight’s meet carries the sanction of the San Diego Racing Association, with President “Chuck” Morris calling the shots from the infield. It is being billed on an open competition basis and seasonal points, therefore, will not be awarded to contestants. Most of the talent you’ll be viewing will be via San Diego and it pretty much goes without saying that the bordertown lads look forward with eager anticipation to the mile track such as Ascot. To us, Ascot reigns in a class of its own.


Jimmy Sills

Jimmy Sills of Elverta, California began his racing career near his home town in 1973 at West Capital Raceway. Behind the wheel of a dirt super modified, Sills learned the ropes of auto racing early and won his first heat race, trophy dash, and semi-main event just five weeks into his rookie season. One week later the second generation driver became the first rookie to win a main event at the Sacramento track that was so famous for it’s tough caliber of competition.

From the early days of his racing career, Sills has had the desire to travel to other areas of the country in an attempt to do nothing more than win races. His goal was reached early when in 1974 he won the Northwest Dirt Cup driving a modified against a field of competitive sprintcars. As the Dirt Cup grew into one of the country’s most prestigious events he continued to dominate it in 1980, 82, 85, 86, and 89.

Once it became obvious that he had the skills to make auto racing his profession, Sills began traveling to the Midwest and the East Coast where the odds are often just as high as the winnings. Scoring victories at various tracks far from home, it took little time for Sills to earn the respect of his fellow racers and car owners alike. Just a few of his early career accomplishments include back to back victories in the Jayhawk Nationals in Kansas City in 1982-83. One year prior to that he won preliminary events at the Knoxville Nationals. In 1988 Sills became the champion of Ohio Speedweek and has since captured a multitude of victories racing with the World of Outlaws in Sacramento, Chico, California, Mesquite Texas, Knoxville Iowa, Rapid City South Dakota, The Indy Mile and in Elbridge New York. During the only full season Sills spent with the Outlaws he finished fourth in the season standings.

During his racing career, Sills has traveled as far as Australia 16 times and New Zealand 5 times. Such treks resulted in none other than victories as Sills brought home checkers in the Pan Pacific Championship, the Wornambol Classic and the Queensland State Championship.

During his career, Sills has illustrated he is a versatile driver on tracks of every size and every surface. Additionally he has successfully displayed his ability to adapt to different types of machines. From midgets, motorcycles, super modifieds and sprint cars to the powerful championship dirt cars of the United States Auto Club, a series Sills has faired very well in.

Sills was first introduced to the champ cars in 1989 on the one-mile dirt track of the California State Fairground in Sacramento. In his first race of the season, Sills placed fast time and fell out of contention in the feature event only due to mechanical woes. That same season Sills went on to earn Rookie of the Year honors in the traveling series.

After making his USAC debut, Sills became a dominant force in the series the following year. After a breathtaking victory and the setting of a new track record in Sacramento Sills continued his record setting efforts at events in Milwaukee and Phoenix Arizona. The fruits of his labor led the 42-year-old racing veteran to his first Silver Crown championship in 1990.

The next two years, mechanical woes would prevent from Sills from defending his title. However, with consecutive victories in Sacramento, and several bridesmaid finishes, he managed to finish second and third in the season standing. In 1994, Sills returned to the held of the Silver Crown series with the second championship of his career. This title came after posting wins in the Hulman Hundred and the Hoosier 100 at Indianapolis as well as his record breaking third and fourth victory in Sacramento.

Since joining the USAC Silver Crown series, Sills has increased his victory list by far. In addition to winning the prestigious Bettenhausen 100, he has placed new track records in Springfield and Duqoin. When ESPN announced they would broadcast live midget racing from Ventura, Sills decided the exposure would be beneficial and took to the wheel in front of race fans throughout the country. Every event that Sills finished in the broadcast series, he did so in victory circle.
Jimmy Sills won’t give up. When Roseburg Oregon held sprint and midget car races on pavement, Sills gave it a try and won both events in one day. In addition to four wheeled machines Sills has tested his talents on those of a two wheeled nature as well. Racing an outdated ’86 Yamaha, he dominated his class in both events he competed in.

After winning his 2nd and 3rd Silver Crown title, Sills was invited to test with the International Race of Champions at Daytona International Speedway. In his first big track effort, Sills clocked times equal to IROC regulars Ken Schrader, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Steve Kinser. Due to his success, he has been invited by series coordinator Jay Signore to participate in future test sessions.

Jimmy won another USAC Silver Crown Title in “96” along with several sprint and midget features. In “2000” Sills concentrated all his efforts toward making the best oval track school in the country. After not racing for three years he went to the Chili Bowl in Tulsa Barely missing a win in the opening night feature. Later that spring Danny Lasoski invited Jimmy to drive his car at Sedelia MO. and Knoxville, IA. He finished third at Sedelia and won the masters classic at Knoxville twice in 2003 and 2004. If a race sounds like fun to him you might see Jimmy strapping into a race car somewhere, otherwise he will be at his school teaching someone the better way of driving an open wheel car on a dirt track.

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Donald Ray Porter was born April 19, 1931, in Hammond, Indiana, and moved to Redding shortly after World War II with his parents and family.

He graduated from Shasta High School in 1949. Don liked automobiles and worked various auto parts houses like CP&E and Rother’s until he opened his own auto repair shop. He took in a partner, George Duncan, and Don went to racing cars. He raced hardtops, sprint cars, super modifieds, and NASCAR late models.

In 1958, Don started promoting auto races at Shasta Speedway, and later on with partner Jack Frost they promoted auto events throughout Northern California. Don won many racing championships as both a driver and a car owner. In the late 1970’s Don got out of promoting and racing cars and worked his own auto repair shop until he retired. In his later years Don enjoyed having coffee with family and friends at the Snack Shack.

In September, 2010, Don was honored with a Founders Cup Trophy from the Northern California Auto Racing Alumni Hall of Fame.

Don is survived by his daughter Cindy Markham and husband Larry from Redding, his daughter Susan Nelson and husband Jim from Portland, OR, his grandson Ryan Porter from Redding, and his brother Nick Porter and sister Karen Sander, both of Redding.

There will be a celebration of Don’s life at his brother Nick’s house Wednesday November 3, 2010 at 5 p.m. – 3199 Sacramento Dr

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