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In Memory Of Dean "The Blinker" Cline
We just got into the year 2019 with the sad news of the passing of Dean "The Blinker" Cline. He is truly a legend of the sport. More than that, he was a gentleman and one of the great ambassadors of auto racing.
Dean was one of the local pioneers racing at Antioch in the 1960s. However, unlike some of the locals who were getting beat by the drivers who came in from out of town, Dean had his days when he outran them all. He went from the Hardtop Claimers to the Stock Cars and the Sportsman division. In fact, he ran in multiple different divisions and was a winner in all of them.
Dean had a knack for building fast and competitive race cars, which obviously rubbed off on his son Lance, who built the successful Cline Racing shop in the 1990s. Though Dean was winning races in impressive fashion, he typically shunned racing for points. For him, it was all about having fun and the spirit of great competition among his fellow racers on any given Saturday night.
Therefore, you don't see a long list of championships associated with Dean. In 1968, he had a huge point lead in the Stock Car championship battle as it headed down the stretch. He ended up selling his car to the driver who was in second, Wayne Price. Price ended up winning the championship that season. Later on in the 1970's, he again bowed out of a point battle and sold his race car while he was the leader. In 1979, he won his lone championship in a very close battle with Donna Walton.
There are only a few drivers who can lay claim to the fact that they won races at Antioch in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980's, 1990s and 2000s. Dean was one of those racers, along with fellow Hall Of Famers JD Willis and John M Soares. In fact, he won over 40 Main Events in his career. In the 1980's, after going from the Sportsman division to Stock Cars, Dean found that the growing Street Stock division was fun and decided to build a car.
There had been concerns about his experience and whether he should be permitted to run the division or not back in 1985 and 1986. To show that it wasn't about him trying to dominate the field or grab a championship, Dean elected to race for no points. He won several races during that time. He also had that trademark that everybody knew him by on his race car.
Dean was known as "The Blinker" because of the red light on his roof. When that blinker was lit, it meant he had his foot to the floor and he was going to the front of the pack. It was all about putting on a show for the fans. In fact, that light could easily be seen as a tell for the driver running behind him. A resourceful driver might use that to their advantage. But Dean saw it as a way to entertain the fans and give them something else to look at. He liked to have that light shining brightly when he was out on the race track.
Dean was more than just somebody who went out there and won races. He was one of the more friendly and popular racers in the group. If he could help you with something, he was happy to do so. He had time to talk to the fans as well. I recall when Dean came back to the sport in one of his son's race cars in the late 1990s. He always made it a point to come up to me and say hi. He was one of my favorite people to talk to.
Though he was getting up there in age, Dean wasn't quite ready to leave. He went from the Pure Stock division to the Mini Truck division, which was just getting started, and he ran competitively there. A run down of the list of divisions in which he competed included Hardtop Claimers, Sportsman, Stock Cars, Street Stocks, Pure Stocks and Mini Trucks. He won races in every class.
In 2018, Dean was inducted along with nine others into the inaugural class of the Antioch Speedway Hall Of Fame. He leaves behind a great legacy of racing that other drivers can aspire to achieve. I hadn't talked to Dean in probably 15 years, but I will always remember our conversations. He may be gone, but he will always live on in the hearts of those who knew him.
Orland Raceway To Hold Benefit Race On Saturday
Orland, CA...When the Camp Fire devastated the town of Paradise, many people were left homeless. There were some who weren't able to escape with their lives. The fire also took a toll on the racing community as several racers, sponsors and fans lost their homes as well. They have been left to pick up the pieces as they figure out what to do next.
In November, past promoter and Mini Truck star Dan Webster begin putting out feelers to find out if it was possible to hold a race at Orland Raceway. What he found was that there were drivers across six divisions who were willing to come race. The race Webster was proposing would be a fundraiser. Drivers would compete for trophies. All money raised through the gates would go towards two organizations that have played a role in helping the victims.
First, the details needed to be hashed out. Promoter Rich Hood was interested in making this race happen, and the Glenn County Fairgrounds was supportive of the idea as well. However, many of the displaced fire victims were staying at the fairgrounds. They had to figure out what date would work. The date in question will be Saturday night, January 5th.
Orland Raceway has booked it's regular Mini Stock, Mini Truck and Pure Stock divisions. Also on the card will be the Sport Modifieds, California Hardtops and Dwarf Cars. It will be six divisions of great racing, and all the proceeds will go to Far Northern Regional (www.farnorthernrc.org) and Northern Valley Animal Disaster Group (www.nvadg.org).
The track still has an awards banquet to come, which will happen in early February. But Saturday's big race is expected to draw a good turnout of race cars across all divisions. The gates will open at 1 p.m. with racing set to start at 2 pm. Adult tickets are $8, ages 7 to 12 are $5 and children 6 and under are free. Concessions and beer will be available. There will even be a live band.
2018 was a banner year for Paul Stephens, who used consistency to outrun Chico champion Jeremy Langenderfer for the Pure Stock championship. Langenderfer was last year's champion and won more races in this division than anybody this season. Past champion Steve Martin was not too far behind Langenderfer in third.
An equally exciting battle was taking place in the Mini Stocks, where Tom Davis managed to just barely hold off the impressive Barbara Crain to repeat as champion. Likewise, Keith Ross outran Dan Webster to win the Mini Truck title once again.
When drivers from divisions featured at various other tracks heard that this race was being scheduled, they were all asking if they could be included. The California Hardtop drivers regard Orland Raceway as one of their favorite places to race, and such notables as Jason Armstrong, Ken Clifford and Joe Shenefield immediately got on board with supporting this event.
Several competitors from the Dwarf Car and Sport Modified divisions also asked if they could come race. The Sport Modifieds made a pair of visits to the speedway this year and are hoping to be on the schedule some in 2019. The Dwarf Car division hasn't been seen the one-fifth mile dirt oval in over a decade, but several competitors are anxious to make their return.
Fans wanting to satisfy their need for speed have an opportunity to do so on Saturday night. You might require a jacket and some hot cocoa, but there will be plenty of great racing action to see. Drivers will be coming from throughout California and Oregon to compete. The best part is that this event will help people in the community who are in need. For further information, check out Orland Raceway on Facebook.
McDaniel, Nation, Palmer, DePriest Win New Year's Event
At Stockton Dirt Track
Stockton, CA...January 1...Ryan McDaniel kicked off the 2019 racing season in California with a $1,500 victory in the 30 lap Dirt Modified Main Event Tuesday evening at the Stockton 99 Dirt Track. A strong turnout of 26 competitors we're on hand for this event. The third generation competitor and 2018 Yreka champion was the winner of his heat race, and that gave him a start at the front of the pack for the Main Event. McDaniel charged ahead at the start, followed by Bobby Hogge IV. Hogge surrendered second to four-time Antioch champion Troy Foulger on a lap nine restart. Hogge headed pit side during a lap 11 caution period with a flat tire. McDaniel continued to lead Foulger and Bakersfield standout Robby Sawyer on the restart. However, Hogge rapidly worked his way through the pack and was back to third by lap 18. Hogge moved past Foulger for second on a lap 25 restart. However, there was no stopping McDaniel as he scored the impressive victory ahead of Hogge. Foulger settled for third, followed by Duane Cleveland, Antioch champion Nick DeCarlo, Anthony Slaney, Josh Combs, Buddy Kniss, Raymond Keldsen Jr and Raymond Lindeman.
The 26 competitors were divided among four eight lap qualifying heat races, and Foulger won the first heat in front of Kniss. The second heat race win was scored by Kellen Chadwick ahead of Quincy champion Jeff Olschowka. McDaniel collected the third heat win ahead of DeCarlo, and the final heat race victory went to Hogge in front of Cleveland. The remainder of the field was filled by the 12 lap B Main, and Mitch Machado won that race ahead of Keldsen, Lindeman, Shawn DeForest and Thomas Martin.
Santa Maria and Bakersfield star Jason Nation won a thrilling 25 lap B Modified Main Event. The race was led impressively by Brent Curran from the start with Nation and Doff Cooksey in pursuit. Cooksey briefly took second from Nation on a lap two restart, but he surrendered the position back to Nation on a lap six restart. The lead three drivers ran in that order for most of the race. As they came up on slower traffic on the final lap, Curran saw his pace get slowed, allowing Nation to race by for the thrilling $500 victory. A disappointed Curran settled for second, followed by Cooksey, Tommy Fraser, Kenny Shrader, 2018 IMCA State champion Austin Manzella, Jared Mounce, Guy Ahlwardt, Bubba Nelson and Chris Falkenberg.
The B Modifieds had a strong turnout of 25 competitors, and they to ran four qualifying heat races. Curran won the first eight lap race ahead of past Antioch and Merced champion Fred Ryland. The second heat race win was scored by Bakersfield star Michael Johnson ahead of Ahlwardt. It was Fraser out running Nelson to win the third heat, while Keith Brown Jr picked up the victory in the fourth heat ahead of Nation. Chris Sieweke turned in a dominant performance in winning the 12 lap B Main by half a lap in front of Jason Ferguson. Rookie Cameron Swank settled for third, followed by Kyle Wood and Falkenberg.
Placerville star Jason Palmer picked up the victory in the 20 lap Bomber Main Event. The 2017 champion settled into an early second behind fellow Placerville regular Dave Silva on a lap two restart, and he charged by for the lead on lap 5. Ryan Peter slipped past Silva for second on lap 12 and took up pursuit of Palmer. However, Palmer set a rapid pace and won by a good margin ahead of Peter. Jim Brookshire outran Brad Myers in a close battle for third as the final lead lap finishers. Jerry Crawford, Craig Tatum, Josh Leach, Ken Winland, Tyler Finklea and Silva rounded out the Top 10. Peter and Palmer each won eight lap heat races.
Merced Speedway star Sean DePriest emerged as the unlikely winner of the 20 lap Basically 4-Cylinder Main Event. Multi-time Merced Speedway champion Chris Corder, who started his racing career at the pavement track in Stockton, set the early pace ahead of Jeremy Tjensvold and Petaluma Speedway champion Tom Brown. Brown moved into second on a lap eight restart, but he surrendered the position to DePriest a lap later. Corder was running strong in the lead until busting a ball joint on lap 19 and falling back. This allowed DePriest to move into the lead and gain the satisfying victory. Jennifer Corder was second, followed by Kelly Campanile, Roberta Brose, Joe Flowers, Chris Corder, Kate Beardsley, Brown, Tjensvold and Bill Bryan. Eight lap heat race wins were recorded by DePriest and Brown.
The Stockton Dirt Track will host another January event on the 26th. The Winged 360 Sprint Cars will be in action for a $3,000 to win race. Joining them on the card will be the B Modifieds, Bombers and Basically 4-Cylinder cars. For further information, go to www.stocktondirttrack.com.
The Editor's Viewpoint
I just wanted to post a brief note. I debated whether to put anything up right now as I am still waiting for news on certain things and enjoying the down time. Soon, I'm going to be working on the season recap articles for both of the blogs. However, after the recent news of the passing of Dean Cline, I'm going ahead with this posting.
I had heard that Stockton was hiring somebody to cover their event, but I have seen nothing as of press time. I watched the live scoring, so again I have attempted to put a live scoring article out. They have a lot of good things planned in Stockton, on both dirt and pavement, so it is my hope that they hire somebody. I don't quite understand why race tracks don't feel it's necessary to hire media people to spread the word. It's only going to help them.
I've seen it proven over and over in my time in racing that when you have somebody out there engaging the fans with information about what's going on, fans are more inclined to come out and watch the races. What it means is publicity people help make race tracks money. Often times, the promoters don't want to put the investment into hiring somebody to do the job. However, this is one of the positions that you have on your staff that, if filled properly, leads to more money coming through your gates.
I anticipate the DCRR Racing Media effort continuing in 2019. I will be evaluating each track that we covered last season and deciding what to do on a track by track basis. As always, I'm on a year-to-year basis with the racing media effort. Bear in mind that my absence from the sport beyond 2019 does not necessarily mean that this blog will not continue. It also opens up the possibility of me having time to really work on books. But in the meantime, it looks like I'm still going to be busy with the media effort throughout 2019. Hopefully, we'll make a difference here and there.
I have basically decided to put this post up because of the news of the passing of Dean "The Blinker" Cline. He was a great racer, but more than that, he was a great person. My desire to get the ball rolling on the Antioch Speedway Hall Of Fame last season was in part due to making sure that people like him were honored for their great contributions to the sport. I'm very proud to have seen him inducted, and more so that though he was unable to attend, he received his award and was told how much he meant to so many people.
As I think back on the great career that the Dean had, I can think of nobody better to have a special race for in his memory. Antioch Speedway ran a special Hobby Stock event last season for 50 laps. Coincidentally, Dean's car number throughout his career was 50. Also, he ran the fendered Stock Car class at the track for many years. I think it would be a cool idea to rename this race, which is also likely to be the one that's part of the new Hobby Stock Challenge Series, the Dean Cline Memorial. Just a thought. Then again, I'm for remembering all of the greats in any way that we can.
I don't want to run long on on my comments here, but I would like to organize a committee to expand on the Hall Of Fame at Antioch Speedway in years to come. I took some criticism for taking the bull by the horns and getting this thing started myself. What gave me the right and all of that stuff. Fine, I get it. Other people need to be involved in this, and it was never my desire to be the lone voice. Furthermore, I don't even know where I will be in regards to the sport years from now, so having other people involved in this is essential to keeping it going. As I proved this last season, it doesn't have to be overdone to be successful. It just takes some effort. With a few people behind the scenes doing it, it will get better.
I feel very fortunate that people have expressed an interest in being a part of the nomination process and helping keep this thing going in the years to come. Somebody else will eventually be leading the charge, or so I hope. There are many great racers at Antioch Speedway who deserve to be honored. I don't know what 2019 will bring for the Hall Of Fame, but I have certain ideas of who should get in. Other people do as well. My hope would be that some point in August would be the time to add the next group of inductees. As things are still up in the air at Antioch Speedway, I'm not going to speculate any further.
Just a note on the race at Orland Raceway this Saturday. I understand that despite the threat of rain coming, the track intends to run this show. It doesn't look like it's a question of if there will be rain, but when there will be rain. We can discuss the varying degrees of rain, but it certainly makes it a challenge to try to run a race on a dirt track. Sometimes, strange things happen. I recall the race at Chowchilla Speedway where Tom canceled the show during the night. Due to the reaction of the fans, he got the drivers to come back out and finish the show. Can Orland get away with such a thing? I don't know. It's definitely being held for a good cause, and I just hope for the best. Rich Hood has already shown a willingness to do good things for his community, and I would love to see this be another case of that.
Though there are probably a few other things I could say in this column, my intent was to be brief. So I'll leave it at that. Until next time...
Plenty Of Things To Be Excited About
At Southern Oregon Speedway
White City, Oregon...We're a couple of months into the offseason, and it won't be long before the 2019 season will be upon us. But before we get there, there will be an awards banquet celebrating the 2018 season. This will happen at Los Arcos Restaurant in Medford on January 26th.
Once again, the Top 10 drivers in all of the track's regular divisions will receive trophies, and "Rookie Of The Year" winners will also be honored.
All in all, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the 23 year old racing facility. When it was built, the people and the racers flocked to the speedway be a part of the excitement. Huge numbers of fans spectated some great racing excitement, and seeing more than 100 cars in the pits was common when things really got going during the first 10 year period.
By the time KJE Enterprises entered the picture to begin promoting in 2016, the speedway was far from those glory days. The previous half dozen years weren't anything to brag about, but at least racing was still continuing on the 3/10 mile clay oval. Promoter Mike McCann set about adding new attractions to the schedule and new divisions to give the fans more variety to enjoy. In these past three seasons, we've seen an increase in attendance and car count. Though it's not on par with those early years, it's certainly better than what the fans were seeing in the immediate years leading up to McCann taking over.
There were a few occasions when long time fans even had to admit that they hadn't seen numbers like this in years. The Roger Haudenshild Tribute race had nearly 100 cars. The R Charles Snyder Salute had well over 100 race cars in the pits as the biggest car count the track had seen in over a decade. The season finale tipped in at 80 competitors, prompting some people to wish the season could go on for just a few more weeks.
There were certainly some moments to be proud of. A future column will review the season itself, but we can take a look at some good moments we had at the speedway in 2018. It may not seem like much to some, but Albert Gill winning his third IMCA Modified championship was quite an accomplishment. Gill was faced with the pressure of needing to make the Main Event in the star-studded R Charles Snyder Salute. He did so by impressively winning his B Main, thereby punching his ticket into the show. He has won all three of his championships in the last five years.
David Hibbard blazed a trail in the Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Car Series by winning five Main Events in the first six races. By the time the season finale came along, he didn't have to be there to win the championship. David has been a leader in the revival of Sprint Car racing in the area, and he is the first to admit that it's great seeing so many young, up-and-coming racers on a roster that continues to grow.
Another David who has the respect of his peers is Bobbio's Pizza Mini Stock champion David Steele. David carried a nice experience advantage over his fellow competitors as he was on a quest to win his first local track championship and take his seat atop the track's all time Mini Stock Main Event winner's list. He accomplished both tasks. To show you how impressive he was, Steele won nine Main Events, and his two worst finishes were second place.
It's not often you miss a race and are still able to win a championship. It becomes even more of a challenge when you're trying to dethrone the reigning champion. Second-generation competitor John Dees was a model of consistency with five second-place feature finishes during the season and one win. When John again picked up a second place finish in the finale, he accomplished his Late Model championship winning goal.
Rookies usually spend the season learning, and we get a sign of what they can do with a couple of nice moments during the season. However, Bree Tritchler accomplished something some drivers race their whole careers and don't get done. She won the JOAT Labs Hornets division championship on the strength of five second place finishes and one victory. She needed her second place finish in the season finale to close the deal.
The SODCA Dwarf Car division, which had their banquet back in October, fielded some of the biggest car counts at the speedway all year. A nice mixture of veteran competitors and newcomers gave them full fields most of the time. The competition was so tough that there were roughly a half-dozen drivers with a shot at the championship going into the finale. However, it was third generation racer Josh King using a second place finish in the final race to hold off Chad Cardoza to reclaim his position at the top of the point list. Young Michael Johnson was the top rookie of the season and won his first heat race late in the year as one of the track's rising young stars.
Another division putting some of their best car counts ever on the track this year was the IMCA Sport Modifieds. It seemed like everybody was getting a car to run this class, and it was a wide-open battle. Past Mini Stock champion David Marble kicked things off with his first win in the division and backed it up with several Top 5 finishes. By the time the season finale came along, he had secured the championship over the rookie Branden Wilson. Marble now has a Sprint Car as he looks forward to his next challenge.
Since the Valley Store All Late Model Lites were brought back to the roster in 2016, Charlie Eaton has been one of the most consistent drivers. It seemed like usually he was finishing second or third, but this year, he took it up a notch with a division leading three wins to write his name into the record books as a Southern Oregon Speedway champion.
The R Charles Snyder Salute stands head and shoulders above the other races as the marquee event of the season. The community seemed to band together to help make this show even bigger. Sponsorship grew the IMCA Modified winner's prize money to $5,000, while the IMCA Sport Modifieds were racing for $2,000 to win. In fact, the Sport Modifieds fielded over 50 cars for the two-day event. The Modifieds checked in at over 40. Guy Ahlwardt came from Antioch, California and surprised the Sport Modified competitors by holding off local ace Jorddon Braaten for the impressive win. Bobby Hogge IV won the Modified race.
The track hosted one of the biggest races of the year for the Winged Sprint Car class in Oregon. Roughly 20 competitors checked in to run the Ironhead Nationals, and Summer Thunder Series competitor Garen Linder returned to his hometown to score an impressive $2,000 victory.
When you're talking about impressive victories, the race of the season for the Sprint Car class happened in the season finale. Outlaw Kart star Tanner Holmes was running fifth on lap 18 when the teen leadfoot noticed the groove on the outside was faster. He moved up. A series of passes put him in a position to make a last-lap pass on the front stretch to take the win away from race long leader Mike Wheeler. Holmes won the last two Main Events for the class.
The biggest Wingless Sprint Car race in the state also happened at Southern Oregon Speedway. Defending Herz Precision Parts Cascade Wingless Sprint Car Challenge race winner Geoff Ensign left little doubt when he battled Shawn Arriaga early on before pulling away to the $3,500 victory. Another talented up-and-comer, Jeffrey Hudson, won a three-car battle late to finish a $1,500 second.
Nick Trenchard has a knack for winning when the money is on the line. The Sixth Annual Rodger Haudenshild Tribute race was paying $2,000 to win for the Modifieds. Trenchard defended his win in the previous race with another triumph. In the companion Sport Modified class, it was Californian Fred Ryland winning the prize, which was over $1,000. Dr. Scott Lenz left with more money when he won the Calculated Comfort Outlaw Pro Stock portion of the show.
Dwarf Cars took center stage to kickoff August as nearly 60 competitors showed up for the annual WSDCA Dwarf Car Nationals race. Ryan Diatte was the star of the weekend in the Pro class as he won both the Preliminary and final Main Events. It was 2016 race winner Tim Fitzpatrick coming back to win the Veteran Main Event finale. Another local star, Brett James, won the Sportsman Main Event. Southern Oregon Speedway also got to be part of the Dwarf Car Speedweek as the opening race win went to Camden Robustelli. Several members of the PHRA came to town, giving them a field of roughly 40 competitors.
Southern Oregon Speedway also proudly hosted the second annual Southern Oregon racing Hall Of Fame. This event was created to pay homage to some of the all-time greats of Southern Oregon racing. This year, Bruce Rayburn, Dave Duste Sr, Dane Smith, Dick Wallace and Rick Hunsley where all inducted at the August event.
These are just some of the things to be proud of from 2018. It was a team effort. Of course, numbers wouldn't be up if it wasn't for the great support of the fans and all of the competitors who came out to be a part of the show. Numbers were looking particularly good in Dwarf Cars and Sport Modifieds, and the Modifieds had their best season in four years. With a boost from several Outlaw Kart competitors, the Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Car division had its best year since the class was restarted in 2016.
There's still much work to be done to get things where everybody really wants to see them, but plans are underway to make 2019 the best season in years at Southern Oregon Speedway. The first order of business will be the awards banquet, which again will take place at Los Arcos Restaurant in Medford on January 26th. For further information, go to www.southernoregonspeedway.com.