The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

Making friends at the race track


February 29, 2020

Mark La Ciura

With Kern County being a hub of racing, we have five great motorsports tracks in Kern and a great many racers and fans here in Tehachapi. We have Buttonwillow International, Willow Springs Raceway, Kern County Raceway Park, Bakersfield Speedway and Famoso Raceway dragstrip. With the March Meet Drag races scheduled at Famoso Raceway on March 5 - 8, I thought it would be appropriate to touch on one the great many experiences I have had at that track.

I have been a motorsports/aviation photographer most of my life, with one of my first jobs at 17 years of age working with my brother at Orange County International Raceway in Orange County, Calif., from 1979-1983.

Back in 2010, I went back to school to continue my training in photography at Bakersfield College. The professor gave me an assignment to do a photo essay about something I knew, such as motorsports.

So, walking through the gates of the Famoso Raceway (about 16 miles north of Bakersfield) right away I saw from a great distance a car that popped out like no other car there. It was a pretty blue metallic nostalgia dragster, from right out of the 1960s with the interesting name "The Strange Brew." I learned much later that the inspiration for the name was from a style of music created by Eric Clapton.

A young lady driver came over to talk and was very informative about the dragster. She was a true ambassador for the sport of car racing as well as being a fantastic role model for kids and anyone wanting to get involved in motorsports.

Her name is "Eily" which is short for Eileen and I have been blessed to know her for ten years. After meeting her parents, Rick and Dee Stafford, it's not hard to see why Eily is a first class citizen, great drag race, and super fan friendly. Both of Eily's parents have an aviation background, grew up near Orange County International Raceway in Orange County, and are great supporters of their daughter's love of racing.

Eily is originally from San Diego and has a great commitment to drag racing, giving back to the sport and helping wherever she can. Eily has raced for Joel Gruzen who operated "The Strange Brew" for many years. Gruzen has always been very supportive of Eily's racing. Eily has many National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) driving licenses and has piloted many dragsters but my favorite is "The Strange Brew."

Eily Stafford Day got married a few years back to a very nice man, James Day, who is a nitro Funny Car Pilot, so this is a match made on a drag strip.

Eily and James both plan on racing at the March Meet. Eily will be racing the "Killer Crower" dragster, which she has raced for years. For more information on the March Meet, go to


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