(9/23/2021 – Alex Nieten)… There is perhaps no greater ally to 410-winged sprint car racing along the west coast than Peter Murphy.
The NARC-King of the West Fujitsu Sprint cars are set for their first of three visits to the Murphy-promoted Keller Auto Speedway in Hanford, CA this Saturday. The state’s premier 410 series won’t have to wait long to return with the following two trips slated for next month on October 9th and 29th.
The trio of NARC events comes on the heels of Hanford hosting the World of Outlaws just this past weekend, all combining to create a hefty schedule of 410 action. The west coast has notably shifted in the direction of 360s in recent years, but if Murphy has his way, more tracks in the region will feature heavier slates of 410s in the future.
“Nothing compares to 410 sprint cars,” Murphy said. “I’m in the position now on the west coast to really make a difference. I’m going to do my best to make something happen.”
The former racer out of Australia took the reigns of Keller Auto Speedway last year. In Hanford, he’s already made many improvements to the facilities that have been widely applauded by both racers and fans. He’s also ensured that Keller Auto Speedway hosts plenty of 410 races, going beyond the usual NARC-KWS and World of
Outlaw shows that many western tracks limit their 410 events to.
In another move, it was recently announced that in a joint effort with Kevin Rudeen and Mike Anderson, Murphy would be helping with the promotional efforts of Washington’s Skagit Speedway. The group coined Fifty Five Promotions has already begun working on new bleachers and improving parking. The biggest announcement, though, was that the historic Dirt Cup would be returning to 410s with more than $150,000 in purse money for the finale and awarding $50,000 to the winner.
Since 2014 Murphy has held the Peter Murphy Classic at Tulare’s Thunderbowl Raceway as a way of giving back to the racing community that helped him following a career-ending crash. Thanks to Murphy’s hard work, the event has already blossomed into one of the most prestigious in California, offering $11,000 to win and $1,000 to start.
When it comes to decision making, Murphy draws much inspiration from some of the more notorious promoters across the country such as Steve O’Neal at Port Royal Speedway.
“If you’re striving to be the best, you’ve got to look at what the best are doing,” Murphy noted of his developments at both Hanford and Skagit. “Between them (Port Royal), Knoxville, Eldora and Williams Grove they’re probably the best.”
Fortunately for Murphy, he’s developed relationships with those operating the famous tracks and often follows their advice.
“I’ve become friends with Steve O’Neal,” Murphy said. “I’m friends with John McCoy at Knoxville, and I’m friends with Tony Stewart, although Tony is not the promoter at Eldora.
People like that, you’ve got to watch what they’re doing and try to emulate what they do. They’re doing it, and they’re doing it well, so I’ve got to try and learn from what they’re doing. They’re just good people, and like I said if they’re where you’re striving to be, see how they do it.”
It’s no coincidence that Murphy listed two tracks in the state of Pennsylvania when identifying the top four circuits for sprint car racing. Like California, the eastern state has long been a hotbed for sprint cars but hasn’t seen the recent 360 shift like the Golden State. Murphy knows Pennsylvania is the standard for 410s, and he hopes California can reach a similar level to benefit the drivers in offering a place to better hone their abilities.
“Pennsylvania has their stuff together,” Murphy said. “Pennsylvania has a strong 410 car count. They’ve got the numbers. We have talented drivers in California… If we don’t do something to help the 410s, we’re not going to be able to give these people the opportunity to become racecar drivers.”
As far as how Murphy envisions the transition happening, nothing is concrete quite yet. He’s made the moves mentioned above and will continue to make what he believes the best choices as he sees fit into the future.
“I’ve got somewhat of a plan,” Murphy explained. “But, if you’re a racecar driver, from lap one to lap 30, the track changes and you have to learn to adapt. You can have a plan on what you think the track is going to be like and where you’re going to run, but it’s going to change and you’re going to have to be able to adapt to what is going on. It’s no different than what we’re doing. If we want to succeed, we have to adapt to the world.”
Murphy has hinted at one potential step toward his ultimate goal of revitalizing 410 racing. The Dirt Cup return to 410s was already mentioned, and in his new role with Skagit he also hopes to bring NARC-KWS back to the Pacific Northwest. If accomplished, it could help widen fan support of 410s along the coast and give the northern competitors another opportunity to work on their 410 programs. For it to work, Murphy points to the importance of teamwork.
“This is just in my head right now,” Murphy said. “But this is the idea, already Oregon tracks want to be involved, so that would give the guys with King of the West something to do on the way up (to Skagit). We have to work together to make this right. If we work with Elma and Cottage Grove and maybe Medford and whoever else wants to be a part of it, it’ll only make everything better. We’ve got to work together.”
While there isn’t a set-in stone plan to guarantee a resurgence of west coast 410 racing, one thing is for sure. Peter Murphy is certain to be leading the charge of any efforts toward that future. Whether it’s been his own driving, determination to see The Peter Murphy Classic succeed or what he’s now working on with Hanford and Skagit, Murphy continues to display his diligence and dedication toward ushering west coast 410 racing to a new heyday. If the standing room only crowd at this past weekend’s Tom Tarlton Classic hosted by Keller Auto Speedway is any indication, the future is bright.
“To make it bigger,” Murphy said, summing up his hopes for 410 racing on the left-coast. “I’m trying to bring it back to what it was. Going back to Pennsylvania, what they do is what we need to do. I think we have everything in line to where it could happen.”