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Willow Springs International Raceway Owner Bill Huth Dies at 91

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 5/15/2015 Alex Nishimoto

Race tracks are an endangered species in Southern California, but there's one track that has stood the test of time: Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, Calif. One of the reasons Willow Springs has survived for more than 60 years is it had an owner who strived to make the track the best that it could be. That owner, Bill Huth, died May 4 at the age of 91.

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Willow Springs opened in 1953, and was purchased by Huth in 1962. Under Huth's ownership, the track grew to include the Streets of Willow and Horse Thief Mile road courses, a paved oval track, a dirt oval track, and a karting circuit, in addition to the original 2.5-mile, nine-turn "Big Willow" course. Big Willow's long front straightaway helped earn it the nickname "the fastest road in the west." Bill Huth (right) with Paul Newman (left)© Provided by MotorTrend Bill Huth (right) with Paul Newman (left)

We spoke to Chris Huth, Bill's son and Willow Springs' general manager, who told us it was that straightaway that originally attracted the former Lancaster speed shop owner to the track in the first place. The original plan was to turn the track into a drag strip, but the stretch he wanted to use turned out to be too short for his needs.

"That's all he wanted was a drag strip. He never intended to open up a road course. The drag strip part wasn't working out because it wasn't long enough. It was 5/8 [of a mile] and he needed 3/4 to run AA/Fuel dragsters. He wasn't quite sure what to do, and then some folks approached him -- [SCCA] Cal Club and the AFM motorcycle group -- and said if you pave this we'll rent it, and we'll guarantee to run X amount of races. That's how it started." MotorTrend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTrend Image

Since then, the track has become a big part of Toyota Prius Gets 'Recycled' by Tank – Roadkill Episode 17" title=""> Motor Trend's testing regimen, with Streets of Willow and Big Willow both used regularly in comparison and track tests. The track has also been a favorite for generations of Southern California-based enthusiasts, thanks to its many track layout options and proximity to Los Angeles. Though Bill Huth may be gone, the family will continue to run the track.

Willow Springs International Raceway Owner Bill Huth Dies at 91

"It's been him at the helm this whole time. We're feeling a little bit rudderless in a way right now because he would call the shots. We all had a say in things, but he would be the one to decide all the stuff…and if you didn't go along with him you would hit the road [laughs]…It's kind of still sinking in a little bit because he's been here so long," said Chris Huth.

Thanks for giving gearheads like us such a great place to play, Mr. Huth.

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 2015 Nissan GT R Nismo© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 2015 Nissan GT R Nismo Willow Springs Bill Huth© Provided by MotorTrend Willow Springs Bill Huth
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