After power washing, an oil-based semi-transparent wood stain from Armstrong-Clark in “Amber” color was applied to the redwood shade structures.

There are pergolas, big pergolas, and then there are Sonoma Raceway pergolas.

“These are mega pergolas,” says Martin Olhiser, senior advisor to the team behind their construction and maintenance at the raceway facility, located about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, in the heart of California wine country.

There are five redwood pergolas on the raceway grounds. The first one was constructed in 2015 and each one is a popular gathering spot for racing fans of NASCAR, NHRA, and many other motor sports held on the 2.52-mile, 12-turn course.

On a big weekend, the facility will draw up to 100,000 fans. The grounds are adjacent to numerous hillside vineyards, and close to San Pablo Bay. It’s a gorgeous setting. Unfortunately, finding shade on a hot summer day can be challenge. Strategically located pergolas are the welcome solution.

Redwood Beauty and Durability

One rectangular-shaped pergola, for example, measures nearly 117 feet in length, covering an expanse of 3,516 square feet. In total, raceway pergolas offer about 9,000 square feet of shaded area.

“No 2x4s or 4x4s were used for these pergolas. They’re made with big pieces of redwood, 6x6 posts, 3x6s, 3x8s, 3x10s, up to 20 feet in length, and 3x3s on top. They’re massive,” says Olhiser

The pergolas are made of redwood, prized for its beauty, stability, and extreme durability. “Redwood is ideal for outdoor use. It’s naturally durable and less prone to the dimensional changes you expect with other wood types,” explains Charlie Jourdain, business development manager at the Mendocino Companies, a large privately-held forest products company and owner of Humboldt Sawmill.

Humboldt Sawmill is a large producer of sustainable, young-growth redwood and Douglas fir lumber products, harvesting trees on 440,000 acres of Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC® C013133) certified timberlands. The company is a raceway partner and supplies the redwood used in pergola construction.

Like New Magic

Several redwood shade structures located at Turn 2 on the Sonoma Raceway road course were power washed and refinished in preparation for the 2021 racing season. Turn 2 also features the “Real. Strong. Redwood Deck”, a special reserved ticket area at the track.

When left unfinished, redwood weathers to a soft gray patina that blends beautifully with the surroundings. However, filming of a TV production required restoration of an older, prominently situated redwood pergola and seating area just above Turn 2 to like-new condition. Full restoration required just two routine steps:

  1. Professional light power washing with water. No additives of any kind. No bleach. No detergent or TSP (trisodium phosphate) required.
  2. After drying, hand application of an oil-based transparent stain (amber color) with brush and roller.

Bottom line: Nothing fancy, just a light professional power washing and staining.

Transformative Result

The effect was transformative. Raceway officials are delighted with like-new finish. The maintenance work illustrates the ease, speed, and simplicity of a redwood investment.

The result is a refreshed, beautiful, shade-covered area at Sonoma Raceway ready to welcome back race fans after a year of limited in-person events. Humboldt Sawmill has been affiliated with Sonoma Raceway since 2015.

Today the natural beauty of redwood is emerging as the raceway’s look. The redwood pergolas are just the start of a planned expansion of shaded areas across the grounds, including the construction of a large stone-and-redwood visitors’ center.

“Redwood is the perfect aesthetic for our fans, partners, and stakeholders,” says Matt Ellis, business director of Speedway Motorsports, the raceway owner. “Humboldt Sawmill redwood is a great addition to the race day experience.”

Sun-soaked race fans agree. “The pergolas are packed all day with people,” observes Olhiser.

Learn more about Humboldt Sawmill redwood.