A Tribute to Al Hinds - Real Racin' USA

A Tribute to Al Hinds

July 31, 2009

A personal view of the man that brought racing and a  community together in El Dorado County

By Bill Sullivan, Handy Racing Promotions

This Saturday Placerville Speedway will host a very special event with the “Family Chevrolet Tribute to Al Hinds” featuring the Civil War Sprint Cars. This event will pay tribute to the late Al Hinds, the early track promoter here that taught many of us that racing is about more than speed and winning.

Although Hinds was not the creator of Placerville Speedway, he was the second promoter to take the reins back in 1968. Hinds was promoting far more than auto racing in those days. The proprietor of Hinds Machine Shop, which still operates today, Al Hinds promoted a community to embrace the great sport of auto racing, a sport he dearly loved all his life, a sport where many loved him and will never forget what he did for auto racing here.

Growing up in El Dorado County, I was fortunate to have met Al Hinds at a very young age. He and my father were both well known in the business community and he was a close friend of my family as far back as I can remember. Back in those days I knew Al Hinds as the kind man with the funny smile who visited with my father and always managed to make me laugh as a child.

Later in life, I still knew him as the dear man who still managed to make many of us laugh every Saturday afternoon at Placerville Speedway. I had since learned from my father and my employer John Padjen just what contributions this man had made to the sport that all of us make our passionate past time in the town we call home.
During his career, Al Hinds didn’t spend all of his time in his machine shop or on the grader at the track every day. He spent much of his time out in the community educating residents about the sport, its great source of family values and entertainment, and convincing fellow local business owners to contribute to what is known today as Placerville’s only professional spectator sport.

Although I knew him on a personal level before I could even walk, my friendship with Al Hinds became very special when I began working in public relations and announcing for Placerville Speedway. Every Saturday afternoon when I arrived at the fairgrounds I was fortunate to visit with this man whose efforts still inspire individuals like myself working to promote this sport.

Hinds was always the first spectator there, possessing his gold plated lifetime pass that we had presented to him on one fourth of July a few seasons back. To Hinds that shiny little plaque meant as much as an Oscar statue does to an accomplished actor and was a small token when compared to the contributions and sacrifices he made to build the sport of auto racing in El Dorado County.

During the last few years of his life, Al Hinds rarely missed a race at the track just a few miles from his Placerville home. During each visit here he always shared his deep knowledge of the sport, as well as many tales of the early days, with all of us.

Since May of 2004 there has been an empty seat in the grandstands at Placerville Speedway. There has since been an empty place in our hearts following the day we all learned that Hinds had passed away following complications from pneumonia. Just days after the news of his passing reached the racing community, a phone call from Tony Montalbano, the owner of Family Chevrolet in Shingle Springs insured that Hinds name would long be remembered here.
Much like Hinds, Montalbano believes in supporting the community that surrounds his business and a conference call that lasted no longer than five minutes resulted in the inaugural Family Chevrolet Tribute to Al Hinds Civil War race with a  $1000 bonus going to the winner courtesy of the local auto dealer. With the added bonus this race will pay the winner an outstanding $3000 to win in 2006 and is the highest paying victory on the regular Civil War Series tour.

“We are proud to be such a great part of this event that honors a truly special man to the racing and automotive communities of El Dorado County” said Montalbano. “This event has become something very special and we plan on being a part of it for the years to come. This is a great family sport and Family Chevrolet takes great pride in showing our support.”

Only four  different drivers have won this special race in the four years that it has taken place. Roger Crockett of Medford Oregon, the son of 10-time track champion Brian Crockett, won the inaugural event and the event in 2005.

Andy Forsberg of Auburn claimed the win en route to the series championship two years ago and finished second to Kyle Hirst of  Sacramento in 2007. In 2008, David Robinson Jr. of Foresthill was the victor.  Ironically, each of these drivers were barely even born when Hinds owned the operations contract for Placerville Speedway but knew him well through the words of their fathers and visiting with Hinds in the later years of his life at Placerville Speedway.
“I’ve won my share of special races in my career, but that one ranks pretty high on that list of special wins,”said Forsberg. “My mom and dad hadn’t even thought about making me yet when Al Hinds had this place but what he did for this sport is something to never be forgotten.”

Forsberg continued after his emotional victory in 2007. He went on to credit area business owners like Montalbano for their dedicated support year after year.

“Everyone involved with this sport contributes something in an attempt to make it work. Al Hinds gave it his all to bring this track and this town together for the years to come. That doesn’t happen very often these days, just look at Calistoga where they struggle to get local support.  We need people like Tony and Family Chevrolet in this sport to keep it alive.”

On Saturday, Placerville Speedway and Family Chevrolet will present the sixth annual Tribute to Al Hinds.  For the second year in a row the local dealership will host an all day event with the second annual Sprint Car Show and Shine at their lot at Motherlode Drive and Ponderosa Road in Shingle Springs. The event starts at 11 a.m. and will showcase nearly two dozen sprint cars and their drivers. Free burgers and hot dogs will be available for visitors. Some 200 tickets will be given away throughout the afternoon.

This year, Family Chevrolet  adds another feature to the event, live music by Ron Pestana and the Pit Crew. This Bay Area based group of musicians have brought their “Raceday Rock” sounds to racing venues throughout the United States and Australia. The band will perform all of their popular racing hits throughout the day while race fans of all ages have the opportunity to meet their heroes.

For all of us that were fortunate enough to know the legendary character known as Al Hinds, it is with great pride and a heavy heart to pay tribute to this great contributor to auto racing and the dear friend whose hard work and personality will be well remembered by all of us for many years and many checkered flags to come. Al Hinds enjoyed many things he life. He loved racing and he loved a great party. Join Family Chevrolet and Placerville Speedway this Saturday  as we bring the two together in one spectacular event.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:



If you are still using Internet Explorer, may we suggest Firefox for better security and faster browsing. CLICK HERE IT IS FREE!
And for a much faster browser we recommend Google's new browser CHROME. Download for FREE!
This site uses the Thesis Theme for WordPress