The Central Coasts’ racing community is tuned up and ready run in the Santa Maria Raceway’s biggest weekend of the year.
The 23rd annual Danny and Sandie Simkins Memorial celebrates the lives of two of the Raceway’s legends Friday through Sunday.
Danny Simkins was a 10-time Late Model season champion, still a track record. For years, his wife Sandie managed the East-West Street Stock competition – a series of races between Bakersfield and Santa Maria drivers.
“Danny won his final race in 1993 about six months before he died from cancer,” said Santa Maria Raceway General Manager David Castaneda. “He was mainly a Late Model racer. Those Late Model cars are similar to today’s Pro Stock cars and Danny also drove Stock Cars.
“Sandie basically ran the East-West Street Stock until her death in 2011, also from cancer.”
The Simkins’ son, 45-year-old Billy, is keeping the tradition alive.
Billy Simkins is the defending Simkins Memorial Pro Stock champion.
He broke through for his first Simkins title when he won the Memorial’s Sport Mod title in 2015.
“I went so many years without ever winning the Simkins. I didn’t think I’d ever win it,” said Billy Simkins in a telephone interview from his Bakersfield business – Bakersfield Tuff Magazine. “Then to win it two years in a row in two different cars is pretty cool. Winning the race that’s dedicated to mom and dad has meant the most to me.”
Billy Simkins will try to defend his championship this weekend.
Simkins has been racing on the Santa Maria track for more than two decades and says he’s thrilled the track honors his parents and helps keep their memory alive.
“It’s pretty cool. What dad did was pretty significant, winning all those championships and racing after he’d been diagnosed with cancer,” said Billy Simkins. “Dad’s story is such an inspiring story and I’m glad people remember him, remember both my parents.
“And my mom was way more than someone who ran the East-West series. She helped save that class from dying off. And she never missed one of my dad’s races or one of my races. Mom really had a love for the drivers and the races.”
Billy and his wife Nicole are making sure the Simkins family legacy lives on.
Their 13-year-old daughter Sunnie is a veteran Mini Dwarf racer who just moved up to the Mini Mods class.
“Our other daughter Sammie is only three so she’s not ready to get behind the wheel yet,” Billy Simkins. “And Nicole is just like my mother. We’ve been together a long time, more than 21 years, and Nicole has never missed a race. I couldn’t do it without her – just like my mother was for my dad.”
The Raceway will be open for practice Friday from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m.
There will be free admission to the grandstands that night.
Saturday and Sunday will feature racing in six different divisions with 12 champions crowned over the two days of racing.
“We’ll be running Late Models, Pro Stocks, IMCA Modified, IMCA Sport Modified, Rugged Radio’s Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks each day,” said Castaneda. “The winner’s purses will be more than double the payouts of our regular race weekends.”
Castaneda expects more than 120 cars to come out each day to take part in the Memorial.
“The prize money is certainly a factor but it’s really more about honoring Danny and Sandie, honoring the Simkins family,” said Castaneda.
On Saturday and Sunday, the gates open at 3 p.m. with qualifying starting at 4:15 and racing kicking off at 5 p.m.
“It’s a great family weekend,” said Castaneda. “We have on sight camping, the pits will be full – it’s the biggest racing weekend on the Central Coast,” said Castaneda.
For more details, go online to santamariaraceyway.com