Compiled by Retired Dirt Digger North M/C Member Bruce Young
The Beginning of the Legendary Race
1967 thru 1969
We want to preface this story with a BIG THANK YOU to all whom contributed to the story! The compilation and 2 plus year project to establish the true history of this great event as remembered by several of the people whom where there when the idea was born for the Legendary Race Hangtown MX.
Those people are Dave Duarte, Bill Dawson, Bill Groom, Bill Onga, Joe Pyle, Mike McGowen, Ron Keeping again Thank You for all you did !!!
The race Hangtown MX was a works of love by a dedicated group of motorcyclist in Northern California who wanted to see Motocross established in the Sacramento Region. It is a collection of the racers memories who lived it. After many years a few wanted to see the records straight once and for all. Many of us had forgotten a lot but after 2 plus years of phone calls, letters, emails and personal recollections and a lot of hard work here is the true story of the beginning of the Legendary race Hangtown MX of coarse nothing this successful springs up out of nowhere, the original idea sprang from the fertile minds of a special group of people with a passion for off road motorcycling in and around the Sacramento, California area in the late 60’s, here is the story of Hangtown in their own words:
Motocross was being run in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area. There was also some MX events in the Nevada area, but nothing in the Sacramento Region. Most of the races in the Sacramento area where short track, scrambles, and enduro’s being organized by local clubs like the Polka Dots MS, Squaders and some others. Many of the people running these events and living in the Sacramento area had come from So. California or had raced in events there. Many of the Northern California racers had to travel long distances to rae in the most prestigious events of the period such as Hopetown, Lake Elsinore and Catalina to mention a few.
After returning from these events, the local boys began to talk to each other at events over a beer and the IDEA WAS BORN!!! WHY? Why can’t we establish our own major event in the Sacramento region to rival those So. Cal events???
There where three different groups of people whom lived in these areas Rocklin, Orangevale and Placerville and these racers had formed a little groups around the Motorcycle Shops of the day in their areas.
In Rocklin, California they rode or bought their machines from Gene’s Automotive, owner Gene Nunes a established Husqvarna, Suzuki and Penton Dealer. The group of guys from this area where Bull Onga, Dave Duarte, Bill Groom, Marty Devres and others.
In the Orangevale, California area it was Orangevale Motorcycle Center, owned and operated by Marian, Doris and Joe Pyle. It was an established Maico, Sachs, Suzuki and Puch Dealership. From this shop it was the Pyle Family as well as Bill Dawson, Carl Cranke whom where also the racers from that shop that raced in events throughout California.
In the Placerville California area it was the shop Mikes Cycle Shop owned and operated by Mike and Connie McGowen and good friends with Ron and Gloria Keeping who rode and bought machines from the shop. The shop was an established Husqvarna, Kawasaki, BSA, Bultaco and Bridgestone dealership.
What we are trying to point out here is the the three groups of people and the three shops involved at the time of the “IDEA”. Each shop had its own interest in the mind in the process. To sell more motorcycles in the Sacramento area and as well promote a major Motocross event in the area. Each group had their own ideas on the starting of this “BIG” event. But they all rode and talked together in the best interest of all. As your reading this story you will begin to see a pattern, three shops, three groups of motorcyclist, all wishing for the same thing.
About this time line 1967/1968 the two groups from Orangevale and Rocklin formed a motorcycle club known today as the Dirt Diggers North M/C, it was a sister club to the Dirt Diggers South M/C whom organized and ran Hopetown. We will go into the actual club information in the future issue of this story.
The DDNMC first met in Orangevale, California and then slowly moved to Rocklin California at a later date. The club had found that their bank account was not increasing as needed so a way to raise money was looked into, running races seemed a good choice. At first they ran an event in Orangevale and then West Sacramento. These where not big events and did not raise a lot of money because of expenses. Several of the people fore mentioned had just returned from racing the famous Hopetown event and had talked on the way home abput how great it would be to get something going in the Sacramento Region.
Location…..where? this newly formed club could hold such a large event with the hopes of making a few bucks. Many locations where investigated and looked at in the Lincoln, Auburn, Orangevale, West Sacramento and Folsom area. But to no avail. It was about this time that some conversations had begun between Mike McGowen, Ron Keeping, Bill Onga and Joe Pyle regarding just where a big event could be run. Mike McGowen and Ron Keeping suggested a site just West of Placerville on a ranch they had been using as play riding area for their families. It was known as Murray Ranch just ten miles southwest of Placerville off Pleasant Valley Road, and a “DATE” was set to go look at the site.
Bill Onga, Joe Pyle, Marty Devres, Carl Cranke and Dick Mann made a couple trips to the site with McGowen and Keeping to look things over and it was decided the location would work for the event.
A lot of work would have to be done to make a track of the caliber the club was looking for. It had good road access and parking. All looked like a “GO”
Around this same time the DDNMC at their club meeting, a good report was given about the site and an official proposal by Bill Dawson was brought before the club to get things started and move forward for the event and call the event “Hangtown” in reference to Placerville being known as Hangtown in the Gold Rush days. Then the club began the work to get proper county approval from El Dorado County. Several members volunteered to work on Food and Drink concessions. A Track preparation group was formed and other groups to handle logistics, parking, promotion, etc where formed. Everything was set to go as soon as all parties concerned received the prospective approvals. Now we had a name and the date was decided as January 11th and 12th 1969. The FIRST EVER Hangtown Motocross was ready to run and from that point on history was made.
All the club members with contacts with Big Name Riders went to work on getting the word out. The three motorcycle shops Gene’s Automotive, Orangevale Motorcycle Shop and Mike’s Cycle Shop all went to work promoting this new motocross race “HANGTOWN”!!! Everyone pulled together to get commitments from around the motorcycle racing world. This first “Hangtown” was a true grass roots affair.
If one looks at who rode this first event you will see that the representation of the Dirt Diggers North M/C was far and wide and had a lot of friends whom gave commitments to race the first event. Names such as Gary Bailey Sr., Steve Hurd, Dick Mann, Mike Runyard, John DeSoto, Brad Lackey, Randy Lackey, John Green, and many others. The field was set and all that was required was to run the race Rain or Shine and start what is now the greatest club promoted PRO National Motocross known to the motorcycle world industry. “Hangtown” still continues each year, and the event has been run on three different locations for the past 45 years. We will go into detail of the actual event that weekend as reported by Cycle News and the Local News Paper, ie. Mountain Democrat,
“HANGTOWN #1 WAS BORN”
Note: Looking for Hangtown MX photos years 1970 thru 1973 contact Bruce Young
email: firstname.lastname@example.org or ph. 208-571-2823