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Now and Then

| Community | January 31, 2019

by Linda Pedersen

SCV Newcomers who motor past the Santa Clarita Swap Meet on Soledad Canyon Road may not be aware of its storied history as a popular sports venue. The scrub brush adjacent to the Santa Clara riverbed was first developed as a rodeo arena in 1927 by the brother of a successful shoe magnate. It reached the height of its popularity in the 30s when cowboy actor Hoot Gibson used it not only as a rodeo attraction, but a site for Hollywood movie venues, as well.

Plagued first by the financial setbacks of the Depression and later by the 1937 floods, the site was forced into bank ownership. Local Republican politician William Bonelli breathed new life into the dirt arena by turning it into an auto racing attraction in 1939. Weekend crowds flocked from all over Southern California to watch their favorite drivers circle the dusty track (the track was paved twice, once in 1946, then again in 1956).

Dave Reeves was the picture of speed and agility during a Pit Crew Contest in the 1990s at Saugus Speedway.

It was on that track in the early 80s that a young racing fan named Dave Reeves took his place beside the rumbling car engines, grasping his newly acquired pit crew pass. Born in San Diego and raised in the San Fernando Valley, Reeves’ fascination with all things automotive began at an early age. As a toddler, Dave accompanied his father into the pits during pre-race festivities.

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The senior Reeves, who eventually owned his own salvage yard, had a passion for racing and working on cars that just naturally led him to volunteer for pit crews in venues all over the state. That same passion enveloped Dave as the youngster stood next to the car drivers before the races, then later sat in the stands watching his father work on the cars during pit stops.

“I did the usual high school things as a teen,” said Reeves, “skating by in classes, playing basketball, and working at an assortment of jobs to earn spending cash, but every extra second was spent working on cars and watching or participating in the local stock car racing venues.”

In the mid 80s, Dave began building race engines, working for a professional who had developed a NASCAR-recommended restrictor plate engine for Chevrolet. (The device limits the power output of a motor to help safeguard against out-of-control speeds). That experience led to associations with Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress, and the chance to attend NASCAR races all over the states and in Canada.

In the early 1990s, Dave graduated to a paid track position as a weekend crew chief at the Saugus Speedway and got the chance to drive in some of the officials and mechanics races. Then in 1994, Reeves worked on the Hobby Stock car driven by local resident John Schultz, who won that year’s Saugus Speedway championship. It was at the victory banquet held at the Odyssey Restaurant that Dave first met Schultz’s sister Cindy, and was impressed not only by her beauty, but her shared passion for the racing scene. Two years later, Dave and Cindy married and set up housekeeping in the Santa Clarita Valley. The couple has spent the years since organizing their time around Dave’s work in the salvage business, his venture into his own business in 2008, stock car racing, community activities, and raising four sons, Sean, Zack, JohnMichael, and Jeremy.

Business Owner Dave Reeves

As Dave’s business, Reeves Complete Auto Center Inc, grew, so too did his involvement in stock car racing, taking him to championship races in Bristol, Charlotte, Daytona Beach, Pensacola, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

While stock car racing ended at the Saugus Speedway when the grandstands were condemned in 1995, Reeves continued to participate in local races held at tracks in Irwindale and Kern County. His twenty-year-old son JohnMichael, who works with Dave at his Auto Center, followed his dad into the pits, working as a paid crew member.

In 2015, Reeves began sponsoring stock cars in the Southwest Touring Series and Modified Series. He became a personal endorsement sponsor in 2018 for racer Derek Thorn, who drove a Sunrise Ford to a championship in the NASCAR K&N Touring Division. He has also sponsored Linny White in the Spears Southwest SRL Tour, and Rod Johnson Jr. (grandson of Donnie Johnson, owner of one of the cars driven by Saugus Speedway legend “Roarin’ Oren Prosser”) in the SRL and Modified Touring Divisions.

In addition to stock car racing, the Reeves family is also passionate about community service. Dave and his sons are the first to volunteer at SCV Rotary fundraisers that support both local and international service projects, and Cindy is the event coordinator of vendors at the annual Indian Powwow held at Hart Park. Youngest son Jeremy is currently serving a church mission in Calgary.

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About Linda Pedersen

Linda Pedersen is a 50-year resident of the Santa Clarita Valley. She has alternated being a columnist and feature writer with volunteering in the community.

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