The stench of oil permeates the air. The sounds of engines nearly deafen. Cars pass by at speeds that would cause whiplash.
Yet the raceway in Buttonwillow is so much more than burning rubber.
“The camaraderie is special,” said Les Philips, president and CEO of Buttonwillow Raceway. He described it as family friendly community.
He said excitedly, “We can get anyone involved; even older ladies have been here.”
A notable local also cut his teeth at Buttonwillow Raceway: Kevin Harvick, NASCAR and Daytona 500 champion.
Long before Harvick was a NASCAR champion, Phillips said he remembers the sound Harvick’s car made on each turn at Buttonwillow, which indicated that he knew what he was doing despite never being on the track before.
Celebrities and high-speed professionals that have driven at Buttonwillow Raceway are Brad Pitt, Channing Tatum, Paul Walker, Eddie Van Halen, Kate Upton, Justin Verlander, the Andretti racing family, Danica Patrick, Christian Bale and the Mears racing family.
Someone that knows the raceway well is Business Development Manager Mike Miserendino.
“It has a great mix of high and slow speeds. It has unique challenges,” he said. He added, “It can be run both ways. Some people try to run it the same way when reversed.”
He said with a laugh that people find out that when reversed, the track becomes more difficult with every turn.
At 8 years old, Miserendino learned the ropes in go-karts, and began racing competitively at 16. He was at the groundbreaking for Buttonwillow in 1994 as an attendee.
“It’s fun (here), I get to do both (racing and work),” said Miserendino, a member of the Sports Car Club of America. Racing is in Miserendino’s blood. His father, Tom, who has raced for the SCCA since the 1980s, competes in Europe.
Miserendino, a Buttonwillow Raceway park employee since 2011, coordinates the track events and races Spec Racer Ford (generation 3) competitively on the weekends. Miserendino is a five-time national champion yet is pleased with his day job.
“The next day is never the same. Generally, people come here to have fun,” said Miserendino. Familiar faces return to Buttonwillow because of their traditions.
“We have people who have been coming since we opened. It’s possible for anyone to get out here,” said Phillips.
Performance driving clinics are available for all cars. Sessions are priced at $195, which includes lunch and a $15 gift shop card. Dec. 8 is the next available session day. Rental helmets are $15.
All vehicles are welcome for open testing and track rental.
Opening in 1996, Buttonwillow Raceway Park offers multiple options to accommodate those that wish to test their driving abilities – a west loop (1.86 miles), east loop (1.06) and combined (3.1) raceway with 40-plus configurations.
“Our customers come from everywhere,” said Phillips.
Manufacture clients such as Ford, Lamborghini and BMW have all taken a spin at Buttonwillow Raceway to test their latest and fastest vehicles.
No tickets are usually required for most spectators – just sign in at the front gate. During special events, ticket prices range from $10 to $40.
For more info, visit buttonwillowraceway.com. ￼