Arakel ‘George’ Zarounian was born into an Armenian farming family in the central California tow...n of Goshen, California on December 28, 1920, the first of their four children. George was in love with automobiles from an early age and built his first midget race car while still in high school. Following his service in the United States Army during World War Two, in 1948 Zarounian opened his first car dealership starting with just one car.
George whose trademarks were cigars, black Cadillacs, and cowboy hats opened his Cadillac/Oldsmobile dealership in Visalia in 1954, and while the automobile business remained a constant throughout his life, Zarounian was a prolific entrepreneur with many successful businesses that included tomato packing, restaurants, and real estate investments.
Zarounian Motorsports, which included George’s son Gary, was dominant for two decades on the West Coast with Hall of Fame driver Ron “Sleepy” Tripp. They combined for more than eighty USAC Western States feature victories and seven season championships in ten years - 1983, 1985, 1987, 1998, 1990, 1991, and 1992. In addition the Zarounian team scored eleven feature wins in the United States Auto Club (USAC) National Midget series as well as fifteen USAC Silver Crown victories.
Zarounian cars won the Belleville Midget Nationals three times; twice with Tripp and once with Jack Hewitt as the drivers while the team used three different engines – VW, Cosworth and Arias - and two different chassis - Beast and Edmunds. The “who’s who” list of drivers who drove the Zarounian #67 cars through the years includes Donnie Beechler, who won the 1995 Chili Bowl Nationals for “GZ,”, Tony Hunt, Ed Carpenter, Kasey Kahne, Steve Knepper, Bud Kaeding, Dave Strickland Junior, Jeff Gordon and the California father and son of Ken and Chad Nichols.
George Zarounian died on January 3, 2014 just a few days after he celebrated his 94th birthday. The inscription on this National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame member’s grave marker truly sums up how he lived his life “I did it my way.”