Video: 1963 NASCAR Riverside 500

Dan Gurney began his ownership of NASCAR at Riverside in 1963. This great short film shows all the action—check it out. 


The Grand National races at Riverside, California were much longer than the NASCAR road course events we know today. This event, held on January 20, 1963, ran a full 500 miles, covering 185 laps on the 2.7 mile course and taking nearly six hours to complete. These were iron men in those big, hulking cars, no doubt about that.

Southern California native Dan Gurney started only 16 Grand National races in his career, but he won five of them, and all the victories came at Riverside between 1963 and 1968. Seldom has one driver dominated one track the way Gurney did here. For this race, Gurney drove the Holman Moody Ford usually wheeled by Fred Lorenzen, and his chief competition included Fireball Roberts, A.J. Foyt, and Parnelli Jones.

Riverside International Raceway no longer exists, unfortunately. It was bulldozed in 1988. While this little film is only six minutes long, it manages to capture a lot of great action at the historic facility. Enjoy.

12 thoughts on “Video: 1963 NASCAR Riverside 500

  1. A big thanks for that, it brings back a lot of memories of seeing these cars as a kid at ” The Milwaukee Mile” at State Fair Park in West Allis , Wis. I built many car models of these types, the ’63 & ’64 # 28 Ford being my favorite. When “stock cars” truly were just that!

    • Back when I was covering Indy car racing, Milwaukee was one of my favorite tracks and towns. I look forward to covering the Millers at Milwaukee vintage event again this year.

      • Excellent, a few years back, it looked like The Milwaukee Mile was destined for memory lane, but it seems to be gaining steam again. Great memories.

  2. Back when stock cars were just that, stock cars. And they were driven by men, not corporate spokesmen;

    “Well you know Bob, our Whoopdee Fizz Diet soda(long swallow out of the bottle), Long-growth Hair care, Gut be Gone diet pill, Vern’s Toe Fungus spray, Toyota(cough cough) was just a little bit off today. The crew worked their butts off, but the best we could do was 39th place. We’ll be back next week and I’m sure we will lap the field at least 19 times”.

  3. And they always thank “the good Lord and the boys back at the shop.” Just once I would like to hear a driver say,”All hail Cthulhu, supreme master of the netherworld.”

  4. The NASCAR season used to start in November, almost immediately after the previous season had finished. I haven’t found anyone who knows why; it wasn’t an exposition of the new models because nearly everyone continued to drive the same car up until the Daytona 500.

    This was the 4th race of the 1963 season. There had been one race each in mid 1958 and 1961, but NASCAR was back for real with this 1963 Motor Trend 500. They undoubtedly were trying to open up new markets and road racing carried more prestige on the Coasts. NASCAR eventually moved to having this race start their season every January and it continued in that capacity up through the 1981 season.

    Ford was deep into their “Total Performance’ campaign and they would win all nine Grand national races from January 1963 to January 1970 using both Fords and Mercurys. This must have been an FIA sanctioned race, as it always drew a lot of drivers from USAC. This helped Ford’s cause tremendously, as they were dominating the Indy 500 and had a lot of superb drivers under their wing. In those nine races, five were won by Gurney, one by Parnelli and one by AJ. The remaining two were one by Darel Dieringer in Nov. 1963 and Richard Petty (he was under contract to Ford that year) in Jan. 1969. Even when they didn’t win, USAC drivers dominated these races.

    The first non-Ford to win a race was Richard Petty (in his usual Plymouth) in June of 1970. One can assume that he had learned something the previous year while driving for Ford. Plymouth/Dodge won the next five races (1970-1972), but Ford had withdrawn from racing in 1971. So had Chrysler, but they still had Petty, and I believe that four of the five winners were built by Petty Engineering. Two of American Motors five Grand National wins came at Riverside.

    After the 1981 opener, NASCAR moved from a January/June to a June/November schedule for the track. The last NASCAR race run at Riverside was run in 1988 and was won by Rusty Wallace in a Pontiac. The track closed in July of 1989 after many noise complaints for area residents. People who were able to buy their house at a discount because it was near a racetrack then complained because there was a racetrack there.

    • Hey Andy, don’t we call that a NIMBY? ( Not in my back yard). I do indeed remember the “Total Performance” schpiel. It must have worked. When I was 9 years old, my friends brother across the alley came home one day with a 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 XL 427 ,2-4bbl, 4 speed. I remember looking at those chrome valve covers and oval air cleaner, and getting a ride in it, being pressed back in the seat. Heady stuff for a 9 year old. (thanks to Flickr member, Alden Jewell for this picture)

      • I think NIMBY usually refers to something not build yet? In any case, Riverside isn’t the first or last place where people moved next to a racetrack and then complained about the noise.

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