Saddlemen

Sammy Tanner and Ronnie Jones to be “Bookend” Grand Marshals at AFT Final at the So Cal Fair

| 20 September 2017 2:00 pm

AFT American Flat Track Series
Final Round: The Southern California Fair at Perris Auto Speedway

Courtesy of the Southern California Fair
PERRIS, CA, JULY 29, 2017

Sammy Tanner
Carl Wuersch, CEO of the Southern California Fair, is pleased to announce that legendary motorcycle racer Sammy Tanner has been named Grand Marshal of the American Flat Track final, slated for October 7. The race will take place at Perris Auto Speedway during the 104th annual Southern California Fair at the SoCal Fair and Event Center.

Sammy Tanner (seated, center) with owner Jimmie O’Dell (in the white BSA jacket) after winning the AMA Five-Mile National at Elkhorn, Wisconsin, in 1966. Photo by Jack Hall

Sammy Tanner (seated, center) with owner Jimmie O’Dell (in the white BSA jacket) after winning the AMA Five-Mile National at Elkhorn, Wisconsin, in 1966. Photo by Jack Hall

A native of Texas, Tanner began racing motorcycles as a youngster, and he carved out not only a very successful career as a racer but as a showman as well. In the 1960s, his name was synonymous with winning, and by the time his legendary career had ended, he had amassed more than 400 victories. Among them were seven Grand National triumphs. Included in the GN wins were four at the track he first came west to race on, the legendary Ascot Park in Gardena, California. He was the only rider to win Nationals at Ascot on two different bikes (BSA and Triumph). Another of his seven first-place GN finishes was on the famous Springfield Mile, aboard a BSA in 1964.

“Sammy is going to be our grand marshal for the American Flat Track final,” Wuersch said. “It will make a great show for us to have him here. When I made up the list of people I thought we would ask, he was at the very top. I have known him a lot of years. I think everybody pretty much knows Sammy Tanner. He is a name in the industry that is tops, and he was a sensational rider. His career as a racer ended years ago, but he has stayed involved with the sport and has always tried to make it better.”

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In addition to his prowess as a flat-track racer, Tanner also had a few goes at road racing and speedway. He dabbled in sprint cars in 1959, and seven years later he was lined up to drive for now National Sprint Car Hall of Fame car owner Bruce Bromme Sr. However, seeing a fiery sprint car crash at Springfield changed his mind.

Always the entertainer, Tanner never raced the Bromme sprinter, but he did race against a sprint car in a rather rare event. It was a special match race that pitted Tanner, on his motorcycle, against rough-and-tumble Don Hawley, who was driving a sprint car. Tanner had another motorcycle racer booked to take on Hawley, but when he could not get insurance on the other rider, he went ahead and did it himself.

These days, Tanner is still busy working with and supporting racers of the two-wheeled and four-wheeled varieties. He has been an Arai helmet distributor since 1979 and has helped thousands of racers realize their racing dreams. Tanner’s website can be found at http://sammytanner.com/

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Ronnie Jones
Wuersch has also announced that AMA Flat Track Hall of Fame racer Ronnie Jones has been named co-grand marshal of the American Flat Track final on October 7. The historic race will take place inside the Budweiser Arena at Perris Auto Speedway during the 104th annual Southern California Fair. Jones will join fellow legend Tanner, who was named grand marshal of the race in July.

Ronnie Jones (center) poses with “Miss Winston” Lynn Griffis (left) and promoter Chris Agajanian (right) at Ascot. Photo courtesy of the Ronnie Jones Collection

Ronnie Jones (center) poses with “Miss Winston” Lynn Griffis (left) and promoter Chris Agajanian (right) at Ascot. Photo courtesy of the Ronnie Jones Collection

The race is a throwback to the days when the AMA Grand National Series used to close its season at the legendary Ascot venue in Gardena, California. Tanner was named grand marshal for this event, as he won the first-ever National race at Ascot. While talking with Chris Agajanian, son of famed Ascot promoter J.C. Agajanian, an idea was presented to Wuersch.

“I was talking to Chris Agajanian and mentioned to him that Sammy Tanner, the winner of the first National at Ascot, was our grand marshal for the race,” Wuersch said. “He came up with the idea of adding Jones as the co-grand marshal, as Jones won the final National race at Ascot, in 1990. It is a perfect idea. We now have the guys who bookended the rich Grand National history at Ascot being honored at our race. Hopefully, we are starting a tradition here that will go on to be as long as Ascot’s.”

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In addition to his famous 1990 Ascot win, Jones won nine other AMA Grand National Championship races and stood on the podium 32 times from 1980 through 1995. He placed among the top 10 in points in the series in 11 consecutive seasons and scored Grand National points in 21 consecutive years. The Oklahoma-born racer also scored wins in three of the four dirt-track disciplines: short track, TT and Half Mile. While he never posted a win on a mile track, he came close, finishing second five times.

Jones retired from full-time competition at the conclusion of the 1999 season, but he continued to race select events through 2014. During his most recent campaign, he set a record by scoring AMA Grand National Championship points 35 years after his rookie Expert season.

In addition to Tanner and Jones, a bevy of flat-track superstars from years gone by will not only be attending the race, they will be available to the fans to sign autographs, pose for photos, and talk about their careers.

The race will honor the late Skip Van Leeuwen and will be a salute to Ascot. Popular rider Sonny Nutter, who raced against Van Leeuwen at Ascot, will don Van Leeuwen’s old leathers and go for a couple of memorial laps on the famous Riverside County half-mile clay oval.

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The race will honor the late Skip Van Leeuwen and will be a salute to Ascot. Popular Sonny Nutter, who raced against Van Leeuwen at Ascot, will don Van Leeuwen’s old leathers and go for a couple of memorial laps on the famous Riverside County half-mile clay oval.

The race will be the 18th and final round of the 2017 AFT Championship series. Starting at Daytona in March, the series will have made appearances in 13 different states by the time it reaches the So Cal Fair and Event Center in October. However, it will be the first time since 1990 that it has appeared on a race track other than a horse racing facility in Southern California. Fans can get a sneak peek at the exciting action they will see in October at the fair by watching previous rounds on the NBCSN.

Tickets for the race, which will feature the best flat-track racers from across North America, are already on sale online. Reserved seats for the race are $20 and include a free ticket to the annual fair. General admission tickets are $5 and require the purchase of a $10 fair admission ticket. Advance tickets for the historic race are available 24 hours a day at http://bit.ly/2sVZ2Zg. Fans who ride a motorcycle to the race will receive free parking on the fairgrounds.

On race day, the gates will open at 11 a.m. and open practice will begin around 1 p.m. Qualifying will be at 5, and the first race will roll off the line at 7.

The Southern California Fair is located at 18700 Lake Perris Drive in Perris, California 92571.

For further information, contact the SoCal Fair at 951/657-4221 or via e-mail at info@socalfair.com.

Before and after the race, fans will be able to enjoy a day and night at the Southern California Fair that will include carnival rides, great fair food, livestock, midway games, music, displays and more.

To keep up with the daily happenings of the SoCal Fair and Event Center and AFT, fans can use the following social media links…

Website: http://www.socalfair.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/socalfair/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/socalfair
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/socal_fair/

To keep up with the American Flat Track Series, check out…

Website: http://www.americanflattrack.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmericanFlatTrack/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmericanFlatTrk
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/americanflattrack/

About American Flat Track
The American Flat Track Series, which matches the top flat-track racers on oval and TT tracks, opened the campaign at Daytona International Speedway in March and will feature races in 13 different states in 2017. Fans can get a sneak peek at the exciting action they will see in October at the fair by watching previous rounds on NBSCN.

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Category: Announcements, Dirt Track, Flat Track, National, Riders, Riders All

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