This car was built in 1958 by Roger McCluskey and Hank Henry for the Morales Brothers. Alex Morales was the oldest of nine brothers (Alex, Gil, Chuck, Sammy, Loddie, Bill, Richie, Bob and Louie) and operated Alex Foods, Inc., a Mexican food maker (thus the name “Tamale Wagon”). The Tamale Wagon was a staple with the California Racing Association (CRA), with drivers Chuck Hulse, Billy Cantrell, Bob Hogle, Bruce Walkup and Billy Vukovich. Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt, Bob Mathouser and Rosie Rousell also won races in the car. It was a four-time CRA champion, winning titles in 1959, 1963, 1967 and 1968.
Among the tracks where the car was victorious include: Ascot Park; Vacaville, Riverside, El Centro, Sacramento, Gardena, San Francisco, Santa Maria, San Bernardino, Saugus, Pleasanton, Pacoima and Irwindale, CA; Manzanita and Tucson AZ; and Reno NV. The car was retired after winning its 81st main event on July 27, 1968.
The California Racing Association (CRA) had its roots in the California Roadster Association which began life in 1946. In 1953 the Roadster club started allowing sprint cars into their races and by 1955 the new, less specific name had been chosen. The CRA was a traveling club, but always with its roots in the L.A. area. The CRA developed many drivers who went on to great things in the world of auto racing, including, Bubby Jones, Parnelli Jones, Bob Hogle, Chuck Hulse, Jim Hurtubise, Lealand McSpadden, Mike Mosley, Jimmy Oskie, Ron Shuman, Dean Thompson, Billy Vukovich, Bruce Walkup, Billy Wilkerson and Rip Williams.
On June 1, 1957 the CRA sanctioned their first race at a new track in Gardena, CA. The track’s name was Los Angeles Speedway and Rip Erickson was the first winner. This track soon became the CRA’s home with weekly events for the club. In 1958 a name change was in order and Ascot Park was chosen as the new moniker. Ascot would remain the home of CRA for the next 33 years.
Ascot hosted many types of auto racing competition through the years in addition to CRA. AMA flat-track motorcycle was a wildly popular staple for the two-wheeled fans, as were TT and motocross events. Ascot was a full-service facility, with a ½-mile, ¼ mile, figure-8 and motocross tracks all contained within its boundaries. NASCAR held several Grand National events in the late-1950s and early-1960s. USAC events were plentiful also, with sprint cars, midgets and stock cars being presented by the Indianapolis-based club. Modifieds, supermodifieds and figure-8 competition also found its way to the Gardena half-mile oval.
Master promoter, J.C. Agajanian took over control of Ascot Park in 1976 and his promotions quickly became the stuff of Southern California legend. Agajanian had been promoting special events at Ascot and other venues for a number of years. Ascot and CRA flourished under the flamboyant showman’s control. Because of its vicinity to Hollywood, Ascot was used by the movie industry whenever a race track was required for a movie or TV show.
The end for Ascot came following the 1990 season. The land was in the area was becoming more valuable and land owners decided not to renew Agajanian’s lease at the end of the year. November 17, 1990, the final checkered fell at Ascot for the CRA, with Ron Shuman winning the race. The impression was that the land would be developed, but soon after Ascot’s demolition, those plans fell through. Sadly, Ascot sat empty for many years after the track was closed. It is now home to an auto auction storage yard.
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