When the Amsoil USAC/CRA Sprint Cars hit the track at Perris Auto Speedway this Saturday night, June 29th, all the usual stars will be on hand including six-time champion Damion Gardner, Brody Roa, Jake Swanson, Austin Williams and R.J. Johnson. However, much of the spotlight will be on Senior Sprint Car driver Tobey Sampson who will start his last race at The PAS before moving back to his native Moore, Oklahoma on Sunday.
Sampson’s twisted journey to Southern California began in February 1995 when he left Oklahoma and moved to Indiana to further his racing career. Nearly two years later he followed that up by heading west to Southern California. It ended up being a change that would see the second-generation racer stay in So Cal for almost 23 years.
“The main thing I came to California for was to build sprint cars,” the now longtime Torrance resident said to Michele Spencer and Dave Stall on last Sunday’s “Racer Radio Show.” “I left Indiana after two years and came out here to work for Clark Drake. I got to chase my dream of building cars. I have lived here in Torrance at Rickie Gaunt’s old house for 20 years and have been fixing sprint cars here in the garage. It has been good.”
Sampson started his own company, Okie Racecars, building racecars after his move to So Cal. However, he may have become more famous for fixing cars as he mentioned above. He became known as the go-to guy to straighten bent sprint car and midget chassis’ for drivers from one end of California to the other. The best part of all was the price the man known affectionately as the “Smokin’ Okie” charged. It was usually as he says, “beer money.” A small handful of dollars and a six-pack of his favorite barley beverage. Good news for drivers in Oklahoma is the fact he plans on doing the same when he gets back home.
“All my buddies back in Oklahoma have been asking me if I am going to repair their cars when I get back there,” he laughed. “Yeah, why would I quit? The main reason I always wanted to do it (straighten bent cars) was for the vintage cars. The vintage thing back there has been taking off pretty good. I have already got guys back there who have asked me to do some restoration stuff. I am really excited to get to do that.”
The car Sampson will be driving on Saturday is the last one he repaired for Cory Kruseman. Sampson specifically wanted to be in that one for his bon voyage race on Saturday.
“My friend Rickie Gaunt stopped by the other day and told me Kruseman called him,” Sampson laughed. “He said Kruseman told him he has eight sprint cars ready to go in the shop and he (Sampson) wants to race the one that isn’t ready. It is actually the last car I fixed for Cory. It is the biggest fat boy car he has got cockpit wise. I said, “I fixed it and that is the car I want to drive. Get er’ done.”
After his last race at The PAS on Saturday, Sampson and his son Tyler, a past football player at Torrance North High School, will hop in his truck and begin their journey to their new Midwest digs. His daughter Hailey, who graduated from Torrance South High School earlier this month, will be staying in Southern California and will attend El Camino College in the fall.
While his legion of friends in California are happy that he will be going back home, it is going to be very hard for them to see him go.
“It is going to be very strange on sprint car nights not to see Tobey in the pits,” promoter Don Kazarian said. “Everybody loves him and his kids. It is not a stretch to say he is probably the most popular person down there. You start smiling when you see him, because you know he is going to say something to make you laugh. We really hate to see him go and everybody is going to miss him.”
While Sampson is excited to be going back home, he is sad about leaving all the friends he has made over the past 23-years in California. Those who know him well, could hear it in his voice as Sunday’s radio interview came to an end. And, for once, he almost seemed to be at a little loss for words.
“Saturday at Perris is going to be a bittersweet night,” Sampson slowly said at the end of the interview. “It has been my home track for 23-years now. You know Donnie and Kim (promoter Don Kazarian and his wife) and the whole gang out there. I love em.’ It is going to be an emotional night for me.”
Not only will it be an emotional night for Sampson, but it will also be a highly emotional night for all his friends. Dirt will be flying during the races, but when the motors go quiet after the final race, tears will be flowing freely in the pits.
Spectator gates for Saturday’s race will open at 5:00 P.M. and the first race will take the green flag at 7:00.
Tickets are $25.00 for adults. Seniors 65 and over get in for $20.00. For active military with proper id and their spouse or date, it is $5.00 each. Teens 13-18 with their school id and kids 6-12 get in for $5.00. Children 5 and under are free. Parking on the fairgrounds is $8.00.
Camping on the fairgrounds opens at noon on Friday. Tailgating on the grassy area outside of turn four begins at 1:00 P.M. on Saturday.
Advance tickets for all Perris Auto Speedway events are available 24-hours a day online at https://bit.ly/2Aa50Lj or by calling 1-800-595-4849. If you do not wish to buy tickets in advance for any race, there will be plenty of tickets for everyone at the ticket window on race night.
Perris Auto Speedway is conveniently located on the SoCal Fair and Event Center (home of October’s Southern California Fair), approximately one hour east of Los Angeles and one-hour North of San Diego. To get to the track, take the 215 freeway, on the Ramona Expressway and go three miles east to the fairgrounds. For directions on MapQuest, the address to enter is: 18700 Lake Perris Drive and the zip code is 92571.
Perris Auto Speedway wants to thank its corporate partners for the 2019 season. All Coast Construction, Austin Hutchinson Realtor, Battery Systems, Brass and Bass Firearms & Fishing Supplies, Budweiser, Bud’s Tire Pro, Chris’ Hauling, City of Perris, Daytona Boat & RV Storage, Ed Moore Bullet Proof Driveshaft, Flowdynamics, HD Industries, Hoosier Tires, Inland Rigging, K2 Displays, Living Water’s Hospice, LKQ Pick Your Part, Luke’s Transmission, Pepsi-Cola, Pole Position, PrintItNow.com, Rainbow Bolt & Supply, Shaver Specialties, Square H, Sunoco Race Fuels, Sunstate Equipment, Trench Shoring, Varner Construction, VIA RV Service and Vista Paint.