I'm really stunned to hear about the death of Steve Bast. It's a very sad loss of one of my boyhood heroes. I didn't really know him, but as a fourteen and fifteen year old helping other riders in the pits, I got to see him up-close quite a bit. I remember him being quiet, unassuming, and having a subtle sense of humor. On the track, he was smooth as silk, good on the white line or out by the fence, and a fast gater who could also beat anyone from the back. I never saw him pull an unfair move on any opponent. His fans were disappointed after his short stay at Wembley, because we knew he had the ability to compete with the World's best if he had just stuck with it. But he was one of the greats here and won't be forgotten.
These pictures were taken at Irwindale in October 1970. Located about 15 miles northeast of Los Angeles, the original Irwindale Speedway ran meetings on Sunday afternoons during 1970. Promoted by former rider Johnny Gibson, a member of the American test side that toured the U.K. in 1951, the track did not prosper and closed after one season.
I was taking photos of riders, but the backgrounds in this selection give a good view of what the venue looked like. The JAP-mounted rider with yellow leathers and an orange helmet is Scott Autrey, before anyone outside of southern California had heard of him.
A second, more successful Irwindale track opened later a few miles up the road and operated profitably through most of the 1970s.
Click on the pictures to see the full size images.
This article was first published on 1st November 2007
"Thank you for your article on Steve Bast. Steve was a great rider but more importantly........He was a good human being. The world was a better place because he was here. He will be missed."
"Steve was a true American. He brought a lot of laughter into many peoples lives. Thank you Steve for the memories."
"Nice story and great pictures Cary. A classic period and great riders."
"I used to watch Steve Bast at Irwindale 35 years ago, he was one of the best riders and he was one of the nicest guy a person could meet."
"Saw Steve (Bast) race many times. One of the GREATEST. R.I.P."
"Commenting on my own photos after several years: Just look at those skinny boys with their 22-inch rear wheels, straight unsilenced exhausts, nitro-methane, leathers, Barum tires, and Maely steel shoes. God, that was a beautiful period in speedway and motorcycling history. Can hardly believe it was well over half a century ago. I'll never forget Steve Bast and all the other lads from those days. Some are old men, and some are gone, but they'll always be my boyhood heroes. "
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