In 1959, Frank Adams gave his nephews a go-kart. His wife worried about the kids driving it in the street, so she asked Frank to build a track on their land in Riverside, California. In the dirt he mapped out what would become Adams Kart Track, initially just for the one kart. But the track proved to be one of the more interesting things found roadside in the Inland Empire, leading passing motorists to ask if they could run on it. By 1960, word-of-mouth made it a viable business.
This story originally appeared in Volume 9 of Road & Track.
Six decades later, the track, now called Adams Motorsports Park, still stands in its original layout. Frank’s grandson Troy Adams owns and operates the circuit, which has become one of the nation’s most significant cradles of racing talent. Active alumni include NASCAR Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed, factory BMW driver Connor De Phillippi, and IndyCar star Colton Herta. In 2002, four drivers who learned the ropes at Adams started the Indianapolis 500. In 2004, alum Buddy Rice won.
Some success is owed to the unique layout Frank carved into the dirt in 1959. Two banked “Monza”corners are highlights of a distinct track with hard braking zones, fast exits, and technical on-throttle sections that encourage car control and racecraft in young drivers. The track teaches nuance as much as it benefits talent, preparing drivers for the next levels of racing.
“It’s not all about horsepower. It’s about teaching how to brake and get off the corner,” Troy Adams says. “It’s a lost art in today’s racing.”
Adams sees the circuit’s inviting atmosphere as another strength. As a Black-owned track in the Sixties, Adams Motorsports Park was, from its earliest days, more diverse than the national racing scene it fed into. It’s a unique strength, Troy Adams says, one that makes the track a “melting pot” in an industry where racism is still a problem. George Mack, the second Black driver ever to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, came through the track on his way to making the race in 2002.
The track also benefits from its proximity to Troy Adams himself, a working driver coach and mentor to young racers in the region. A former aspiring racer, he teaches them about the challenges they’ll face both on and off track. One of his recent clients, Creed, has parlayed those lessons into eight wins and a championship in NASCAR’s Truck Series. Troy’s 11-year-old son, Truly, is part of the mentorship program, too, hoping to join the list of names that have made careers from lessons learned at Adams Motorsports Park.