Demystifying Willow Springs in a Dodge Challenger Hellcat

How did California’s road-racing culture come to be? That question deserves a 707-horsepower answer.

Willow Springs

First there was Riverside, the departed test track where Carroll Shelby benchmarked the original GT350 Mustang. Then Sonoma Raceway, IndyCar playground and high-water mark of NASCAR’s road course tour. Laguna Seca, which needs no explanation. And, of course, there’s Willow Springs. But when did California become the focal point of American motorsport? Why? How did desert wastelands, like Willow’s hometown of Rosamond, morph into world-renowned speed destinations?

We sent DRIVE host Mike Spinelli, and a 707-horsepower Dodge Hellcat Challenger, to find out.