Damion Gardner. Mike Grosswendt Photo.

By Scott Daloisio

(Perris, CA, May 17, 2021) This Saturday night, May 22nd, Perris Auto Speedway will host one of the nation’s oldest sprint car races when the 70th running of the Salute to Indy returns after a year in hiatus due to the COVID crisis. Headlining the racing card on the famous Riverside County half-mile clay oval will be the popular 410 cubic inch Amsoil USAC/CRA Sprint Cars. The PAS Senior Sprints will also be in action. Spectator gates will open at 5:00 P.M. with racing at 7:00. Due to COVID mandates, tickets must be purchased online at the following link There will be no walk-up ticket sales for this race.

Damion Gardner will be going for a record-tying fifth victory in Saturday’s Salute to Indy. Mike Grosswendt Photo.

The “Salute to Indy,” which is a tip of the hat to the Indianapolis 500, dates back to 1948 when Dempsey Wilson captured the inaugural running of the now prestigious event. From 1948 through 1990, the race was contested in all but five years. After legendary Ascot Park closed in 1990, it was put on ice until The PAS hosted it in 1996. Since its rebirth in the Inland Empire, the famed race has taken place each year with the exception of 2008 when it was canceled by rain, and 2020 when it was wiped out by COVID.

While this weekend’s affair comes 73-years after the race was initially held, it will be the 70th running. You may be wondering how that can be as the race did not take place 12-times since its introduction. The answer is a simple one. Some years in the 1970s and 1980s, Ascot held multiple races over Memorial Day weekend and each race was called the Salute to Indy. In 1971, 1978, 1981, 1982 and 1983, there was two Salute to Indy races. In 1980, three editions of the race took place on the revered grounds located at 190th and Vermont in Gardena, California.

Over the years, National Sprint Car Hall of Famers Dean Thompson and Bubby Jones recorded the most Salute to Indy wins with five victories each. However, all of Thompson’s wins came in years when the race was held multiple times. In addition, three of Jones five triumphs took place when the race was held more than one time per year.

Only two drivers have won the race four times. One is National Sprint Car Hall of Famer Billy Wilkerson and the other is eight-time USAC/CRA Sprint Car champion Damion Gardner of Concord, California. Unlike Thompson and Jones, Wilkerson and Gardner’s triumphs all came when the race was only run one time per year. Wilkerson’s victories came at Ascot in 1968, 69,’ 72′ and 73.’ Gardner’s triumphs came in 2003, 04,’ 14,’ and 17′ and all were at The PAS. A win on Saturday by Gardner would tie him with Thompson and Jones for the most wins in Salute to Indy history. In addition, if Gardner wins on Saturday, it will be his 98th victory in combined SCRA, and USAC/CRA competition. That would tie him with racing great Cory Kruseman. In the all-time history of the original CRA, SCRA and the Current USAC/CRA dating back to 1946, only Thompson with 105 wins, and Rip Williams with 104, have more victories than Kruseman and Gardner.

“Had Damion Gardner not spent six years racing with the USAC National Series in the Midwest, he probably would have more wins than any other driver in the Salute to Indy,” PAS promoter Don Kazarian said. “He will have a lot of extra incentives to win on Saturday. In addition to tying for the lead in all-time wins for the Salute, and tying Cory Kruseman for third on the all-time West Coast victory list, he also has new sponsor Performance Online on board. He wants to get a first win for them.”

In addition to Gardner, two other past winners of the Salute to Indy will be in action on Saturday. One is Yorba Linda’s Matt Mitchell and the other is “The Big Game Hunter,” Austin Williams, of Corona. Mitchell sipped the traditional chocolate milk that PAS winners get at the Salute to Indy, in 2011 and 2013. Williams did likewise when he crossed the finish line first in 2016 and 2018.

Saturday will be the 24th edition of the Salute to Indy at The PAS. As mentioned earlier, it was not held in 2008 due to rain, and in 2020 when COVID intervened. Other years in the race’s history that it did not take place were 1950, 1951, 1960, 1965, 1970, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1995.

Saturday’s show will include qualifying, 10-lap heat races, a 12-lap B Main event and a 30-lap A Main for the USAC/CRA drivers. The Senior Sprint Cars, for drivers 40-years-old and over, will contest an eight-lap heat race and a 20-lap main event.

COVID rules will still be intact on Saturday. In addition to no walk-up ticket sales, all fans will have to wear face coverings and distance from others not in their group in the grandstands. PAS concessions will only be available via the “FanFood” app. The app is a free download from the App Store. Fans will order and pay for their food order from their seats. When the order is ready, they will receive a text to pick up the order at the designated station nearest where they are sitting in the grandstands.

Online tickets for 2021 Perris Auto Speedway races are on sale at Fans will be able to purchase tickets online at the above tix link up until 7:00 p.m. each race night. The entire 2021 schedule is available at the bottom of this release.

Fans can stay up to date on track and driver news on The PAS social media efforts at the links below.


Twitter: Perris Auto Speedway on Twitter.



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 the following corporate partners. Ahern Equipment Rentals, All Coast Construction, Anderson Chevrolet, Battery Systems, Budweiser, Bud’s Tire Pro, Chris’ Hauling, City of Perris, Communication Innovations, Daytona Boat & RV Storage, Ed Moore Bullet Proof Driveshaft, Flowdynamics, HD Industries, Hoosier Tires, Inland Rigging, Living Water’s Hospice, LKQ Pick Your Part, Luke’s Transmission, Moose Racing, Pepsi-Cola, Pole Position,, Rainbow Bolt & Supply, Rugged Radios, Shaver Specialties, Square H, Sunoco Race Fuels, Trench Shoring, Upland Rock, Varner Construction and Vista Paint.

Video and DVD productions of all racing sprint cars events at Perris Auto Speedway are available from Loudpedal Productions. For more information on these productions you can contact them by calling (805) 844-3854, E-mailing or you can visit the website LoudPedal Productions.

DVDs of all the PASSCAR/IMCA racing and Nights of Destruction at The PAS are available from Fourvideos. For more information call (714) 225-9500. is the only authorized Internet address to issue official media news released from The Perris Auto Speedway or Oval Entertainment.