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In Memory of John Padjen

Russell Motorsports Inc. and Placerville Speedway would like to send its condolences to the friends and family of long-time track promoter and National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Inductee John Padjen, who passed away at the age of 87 today. Padjen was an icon of the California motorsports landscape, spending time operating Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, West Capital Raceway in Sacramento and Placerville Speedway among others.

The management group John Padjen Motorsports also operated the Golden State Challenge 410 Sprint Car Series and the California Sprint Car Civil War 360 Series at times over the years. In his career it’s estimated that Padjen promoted over 3,000 shows, including a trio of World of Outlaws events at Bakersfield Speedway in Oildale and of course the crown jewel of California events during his tenure, the Gold Cup of Champions.

It’s safe to say that all involved in California open wheel dirt track racing owe a debt of gratitude to the efforts that John, along with wife Robbie put in during their many years involved.

As son Alan mentioned,

“Above and beyond all the awards John received, the thing he enjoyed most about it all was the people. He loved hanging out and talking with fans and racers before, during and after the events. That meant more to him than anything. He had such a passion for Chico, Placerville, the Gold Cup Race of Champions and everything he was involved in. Family was especially important to him. He loved his granddaughter Chloe. I know that we will all miss him, but I'm happy we were able to get to Placerville Speedway one last time this past Summer."

Another interesting tidbit from Alan was the playful nature of John, which included the time that now Placerville Speedway Promoter Scott Russell’s Sprint Car ended up in the pit area bleachers after a night of shenanigans. “I had got done grading the track around 3am and was finally in bed when I received a phone call from John around 5am. He said he had something to show me and when I finally spotted the car in the stands, we both started laughing our heads off. That was another thing about my pops, he liked having a good time and enjoyed when others did as well.”

In the early 1980’s, John Padjen came aboard Placerville Speedway to help rescue the community icon that was beginning to struggle in the way of management efforts.

Already a successful motorsports promoter in Sacramento, Dixon and Chico, Padjen moved in and helped mold the foothill race facility into the successful, competitive track it is today. Padjen established a consistent Saturday night program to improve safety and visibility for both drivers and fans. He also chose to change the name of the track from “Hangtown” to Placerville Speedway, so the sport became associated with the community.

During his reign, which spanned more than 20-years, Padjen and his staff improved the racing program to new levels. His watch had been witness to many of the track’s notable events. During Padjen’s term, technology launched new divisions and canceled others. The year he took over the track was the first year that Sprint Cars raced on the weekly program, which of course continues to be a mainstay till this very day.


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