First of all...
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Don's California Racing Recollections: Best Of The Blog And Beyond
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IMCA Forces West Coast Sport Modified Tour To Disband
We were prepared to put a blog post out on Friday, but then a huge news story broke. We wanted to see where everything ended up or if there would be a follow up to that news. Therefore, we decided to wait a day. The West Coast Sport Modified Tour was rocked by the news that promoters were advised by Brett Root of IMCA to drop their scheduled dates for The Tour. Tour organizer Brian Cooper was still trying to assess the situation before deciding to pull the plug on this effort.
Cooper and some of his fellow IMCA Sport Modified racers had a vision. They wanted to bring together some of the best Sport Modified racers in the state of California and see who the best driver was. In a meeting held in late 2016, the West Coast Sport Modified Tour was announced. In a similar vein to the Pacific Sport Mod Series, this was intended to make existing IMCA Sport Modified races bigger at the select tracks.
In the face of overwhelming support from his fellow racers and sponsorship money coming in, Cooper set several race dates for 2017. Unfortunately, rainouts claimed many of the early races. The group was so enthusiastic about racing that they even increased car counts on two non series nights to show what they could do. At most of these Sport Modified events, car count reached into the 40's, and they were never below the 30's. It was a close championship race, won by Bakersfield's Nick Spainhoward.
With the overwhelming support given to him, Cooper went about trying to make the series bigger and better in 2018 while trying not to book on top of the race dates of any of the tracks supporting the series. The schedule had reached seven dates as it was announced that an agreement had been made for a return to Petaluma Speedway, a race that got rained out the year before. The first hint that something was wrong was Cooper voicing his frustrations over things going on with critics and behind the scenes.
On Friday, Cooper made an announcement that three of the tracks supporting the series messaged him that they were advised to drop the race dates. While Marysville and Chico, promoted by Dennis Gage, and American Valley Speedway in Quincy, California had not officially given him dates, Petaluma Speedway had. Not mentioned in this announcement was Ed Parker of Merced Speedway, but Parker joined the thread as people were putting in their opinions to thank Cooper for doing what he had done. Parker explained why he had to pull out of the series and why he is a staunch IMCA supporter.
Cooper made the announcement that he would still try to move ahead with the series at all non IMCA sanctioned tracks, which is somewhat limited in California as almost every track that has Modifieds or Sport Modifieds is sanctioned by IMCA. However, the task is not impossible if he were to try to secure a schedule with as many dates as they had last season.
It's not the first time that this group has gotten the attention of IMCA. In a rather scathing column in the IMCA newsletter last year, series such as the West Coast Sport Modified Tour were taken to task for their impact on the regular IMCA programs offered at various tracks in the surrounding areas. It was opined that series such as this one have a negative impact on local race track car counts, which Cooper disagreed with at the time. He pointed out that car counts always increased when The Tour was in town and car counts at his home area tracks were still strong.
The thread that was started on Friday, which has since been pulled down, drew the attention of Brett Root. Root took exception to some of Cooper's comments, and he pointed out that Cooper used the IMCA brand name to start his series without permission. He furthermore said that Cooper's announcement that he would pursue the series at non sanctioned tracks showed that he never had the best interest of IMCA in mind at all.
Not long after Root made his comments, the thread was removed. From a racer's point of view, a series like this is perfect. More money is on the line at each individual race. Cooper had even lined up a point fund, trophy and contingency sponsors. Why would a racer not want to support this if they have the ability to do so? Plus, anytime a race is booked at any of these tracks, car count is likely to increase substantially. As you might expect, most of the racers were supportive of Cooper in this situation
One has to consider the situation for promoters at various race tracks. We are in a time when it is difficult for promoters to get a car count that attracts fans to pay and watch the races. A tour that offers more money gives racers encouragement to commit to the bigger purses and only support their local tracks a few times when it suits them. So, logic might dictate that without the option of the bigger money tour, racers will support their local tracks better. Will that be the case? Racers seem to race whenever they want to, and whereas racers were more interested in being supportive of their tracks 20 or 25 years ago, attitudes have changed.
In the message that Cooper produced that he says was from Gage, it was pointed out that Gage is trying to start a 305 Sprint Car class and is looking to have that sanctioned by IMCA as well. Gage is trying and put anything on his race track to get cars and increase fan interest, and this new Sprint Car division has performed well in the Central and Southern California area. Bottom line, promoters who might be IMCA sanctioned and don't support The Tour also have a legitimate concern that it will negatively impact their car count.
The sad fact in all of this is that Cooper and The Tour were only out there trying to make certain races bigger and better, and fans want to see full fields where drivers have to earn their way into the Main Event. Even at IMCA sanctioned tracks, B Mains are not the norm. From a PR standpoint, some might even say that IMCA is trying to shut down a series that makes racing a little bit better for the fans in California. However, you cannot dismiss the idea that IMCA needs to look out for what it perceives to be in the best interest of themselves and their member tracks.
Peery, Ryland, Corsaro Win Winter Classic
At Antioch Speedway
Antioch, CA...January 1...New Year's Day meant the Winter Classic was happening Antioch Speedway Monday afternoon. Oval Motorsports began their 21st season of promoting the 3/8 mile clay oval with a special four division program featuring A Modifieds, B Modifieds, Dwarf Cars and Hobby Stocks.
The A Modified Main Event was won by Williston, North Dakota's Travis Peery. Peery competed at tracks in Medford, Oregon and Yreka, California before moving to North Dakota. He took the lead from Raymond Lindeman and then had a battle with five time champion Scott Busby during the final 10 laps.
On a restart with 8 laps to go, Busby used the inside line to take the lead from Peery. However, when Chester Kniss rolled in Turn 4, the ensuing red flag negated Busby's pass. Peery chose the inside on this restart and withstood an outside groove challenge by Busby over the next two laps to hold the lead. As Peery brought it home to victory, 2017 race winner Nick DeCarlo made a late pass on Busby for second. Busby settled for third ahead of reigning track champion Bobby Motts Jr. and Jeff Faulkner.
Fred Ryland took the lead from his wife Patti Ryland early on and won the B Modified Main Event. F. Ryland is the reigning Merced Speedway champion, and he held off reigning Chico and Marysville champion Philip Shelby down the stretch for a well-earned victory. Les Friend finished third ahead of Craig Nieman and Mark Garner.
Reigning champion Mike Corsaro scored an impressive victory in the Dwarf Car Main Event. Two time champion Danny Wagner led the first half of the race before overheating issues sidelined him. During the second half of the race, Corsaro led with Jack Haverty and Michael Grenert in close pursuit. Grenert made a pass on Haverty for second with six laps to go. Two laps later, Grenert made a slide job move around Corsaro in Turn 2, only to drift too high as Corsaro raced back into the lead down the backstretch. Corsaro scored a hard-fought victory ahead of Grenert, Haverty, Chuck Conover and David Michael Rosa.
The Hobby Stock Main Event featured an entertaining side-by-side battle between Chris Long and Orland Raceway star Brad Ray. After technical inspections following the race, Ray was disqualified and Long was elevated to first. Orland Raceway champion Jeremy Langenderfer was riding along in third when he spun on the last lap, handing the position to Chris Bennett. Bennett's third place became second with the disqualification of Ray. Frank Furtado rallied for a third place finish ahead of Chris Brown and Russell Shearer.
The Antioch Speedway 2018 schedule should be made available shortly. For further information on what's happening at the track, check out the official website at www.antiochspeedway.com.
Orland Raceway Season Review
Orland, CA...The second season for Rich Hood as promoter of Orland Raceway brought lots of enthusiasm among the local competitors. Just when it looked like the track was on the brink of extinction at the end of the 2015 season, Hood breathed new life into the place in 2016. Plans were to make things a little bigger and better last season, and Hood even added more races to the schedule.
The track continued to feature the popular Pure Stock division along with Mini Stocks, the West Coast's longest running Mini Truck division, Micro Sprints and Wingless Gas Sprints. Also on the schedule was the popular Fan Appreciation Night where the racers and fans got to interact and the cars were on display prior to the races. The Thomas Schmitke Race For A Cure event continued, and the track added the Battle Of The Axles open comp shows in October. It all added up to a great season of racing on the fast 1/5 mile dirt oval.
Jeremy Langenderfer won many of the Pure Stock Main Events and was a consistent Top 3 finisher. Early in the season, Top 3 Chico Silver Dollar Speedway competitor Shannon Collins missed a race, but Collins slowly worked his way back into contention by season's end. It was close when the final checkered flag flew at the end of September, but Langenderfer won by just 17 points.
Reigning two-time champion Steve Martin was a solid third, and he only missed one event during the season despite some bad luck along the way. Amanda Koop showed much improvement during the season as she finished fourth in the standings, 16 points ahead of 2015 champion Paul Stevens. The Pure Stock division was also the most supported division on the card and continues to be a major hit with the fans.
Though the Mini Truck division doesn't have the count it once had, the drivers who do show up put on some exciting racing for the fans. Keith Ross won the lion's share of the races, while Dan Webster and Olin Crane were frequent podium finishers. As the season wore on, Ross gradually stretched his advantage over reigning champion Webster to 48 points. The past champion Ross was definitely the class of the field in regaining his crown.
The steady William Fogle made all of the races and had a solid hold on third in the standings. Long time competitor Crane continued to field vehicles in both the Mini Trucks and the Mini Stocks and was fourth in the standings. Olin chose not to make a serious run at points but instead concentrated on having fun. Zachary Baker beat past champion Ross Vige by just eight points to finish fifth in the final rundown.
Tom Davis set out to recapture his Mini Stock championship, and he was by far the class of the field. Sean Perry kicked things off with a feature win to start the season, but he found it difficult to evict Davis from the winner's circle on most weeks. Another Main Event winner during the season on multiple occasions was Donovan Chilton. At the top of the list, however, Davis pulled away to a 44 point advantage over Perry by season's end.
Long time Orland competitor John Kirkpatrick suffered from the reigning champion's jinx. He did, however, make most of the races to finish a solid third in the final standings. Jason Libbee wheeled the yellow Ford Pinto for much of the season, but a crash forced him to scramble for a new car to end the season with. Libbee ended up fourth in the standings by just 19 points ahead of the steady Barbara Crane. Crane had an impressive performance a few weeks from the season's end with her season high second place finish.
The 250 Micro Sprint division was the surprise of the season as car count held steady at 6-8 cars per week. However, it was the same old story most of season as Jackie Whitson Jr. won all but one point race during the season. Whitson won the championship by 54 points ahead of the only other driver to win a Main Event during the season, James Barnes. The steady Ronnie Heyer competed in all but one of the events to rank a solid third, while rookie Seth Libbee took fourth in the final run down, 32 points ahead of Jess Garland.
It was a struggle to get the 600 Micro Sprint division going as frequently there were just a few drivers competing. Among the drivers who took their chances on the 1/5 mile clay oval were Steve Harvey, Antonia Boscacci, Tyler Rockwell, Kyra Michelet, Tony Alosi and Rowdy McClennon. Hopefully, the division can rebound in car count as it had much better numbers in the previous two or three seasons.
Wingless Sprint Cars have been a part of the Orland Raceway program for just about every season since 2001. However, they were dropped from the program in 2016. An effort was put forth by the Jacobo Racing Team to get the class back and running under gas power. The change from alcohol to gas prevented several 2015 competitors from racing. Josh Jacobo won many of the races, while other hard chargers in the field included past Mini Truck champion Mario Romano, Rob Worthington, Josh Tucker and David Johnson.
A field of nearly 30 Pure Stocks competed in the season ending $1,000 to win Battle Of The Axles race, and local ace Paul Stevens held off Placerville star Scott Grunert and Susanville star Richard Longacre to win that race. Olin Crane won a wild Mini Stock race by gaining the $500 victory when the leaders tangled late. Tom Davis settled for second ahead of Shawn Merritt. The Mini Trucks had a season high 12 truck field, and Dan Webster bagged the $500 prize by holding off Keith Ross and Lanny Roan for the victory. Donnie Case won the $1,000 prize in the Destruction Derby that ended the evening.
A Wingless Sprint event two weeks earlier paid $500 to win, and it was Josh Jacobo scoring the victory in that race. Whitson won the 250 Micro Sprint race that night. After making an appearance back in August, the California Hardtops returned as part of the Open Wheel Battle Of The Axles night. The August event was won by Dave Reed. The October race saw Jason Clifford score the victory. For updates on the happenings at the track, go to www.orlandraceway.com.
2017 Orland Raceway Points
Jeremy Langenderfer 602
Shannon Collins 585
Steve Martin 491
Amanda Koop 445
Paul Stevens 429
Earl Adams 413
Brad Ray 390
Keith Ross 309
John Camper 278
Frank Leonardo 260
Keith Ross 690
Dan Webster 652
William Fogle 581
Olin Crain 432
Zachary Baker 292
Ross Vige 284
Jeremy Callen 160
Nicolas Siemens 125
Nate Skaggs 119
Jake VanTol 115
Tom Davis 680
Sean Perry 636
John Kirkpatrick 594
Jason Libbee 452
Barbara Crain 423
Dustin Hills 329
Donovon Chilton 202
Steven Spears 157
Paul Stevens 128
Sean Merritt 99
Jackie Whitson Jr. 685
James Barnes 631
Ronnie Heyer 519
Seth Libbee 381
Jess Garland 349
Jackie Whitson Sr. 341
Dave McKinnon Jr. 293
Pax Gonzalez 251
Scott Halloway 230
Monica Aldrich 136
Steve Harvey 184
Antonia Boscacci 105
Tyler Rockwell 105
Norman Harley Rose 100
Colby Greg 100
Kyra Michelet 94
Marty Plum 83
Tony Alosi 55
Rowdy McClenon 52
Maril Michelet 49
Wingless Gas Sprints
Josh Jacobo 106
Mario Romano 106
Rob Worthington 90
Josh Tucker 51
John Irwin 49
Gregory Gebhardt 40
Audry Webb 39
Merced Speedway Releases 2018 Schedule
Merced, CA...Promoter Ed Parker led the way for California tracks as he released his 2018 schedule for Merced Speedway in December. As has been the case since Parker took over the track prior to the 2016 season, careful consideration was put into the booking of the schedule. Knowing the times we are in now, drivers aren't able to run heavily booked schedules, and Parker takes care not to overbook any of his divisions.
Once again, Merced Speedway will feature the IMCA sanctioned Modifieds (15 races) and Sport Modifieds (14 races). The Hobby Stocks (16 races) and Mini Stocks (13 races) will both return as anchor divisions, and the California Sharp Mini Late Models (11 races) and Valley Sportsman division (7 races) will also compete at several races. Furthermore, Parker announced at the end of the 2017 season that the Mini Late Model division will have a championship season in 2018.
Another thing that sets Merced Speedway apart from some tracks are all of the special events booked throughout the course of the season. Among the highlights in 2018 will be the annual Ted Stofle Classic on April 28th. IMCA Modifieds and Sport Modifieds headline this one, along with the Hobby Stocks. This race pays tribute to one of California's all time great Stock Car drivers, six time Merced champion Ted Stofle.
Also on the schedule will be the Western States Dwarf Car Nationals on June 15th and 16th. A car count exceeding 60 cars competed in their event at Merced in 2017. The Timmy Post Memorial Race will happen once again on June 30th, headlined by the IMCA Modifieds and Sport Modifieds, along with the Hobby Stocks and Mini Late Models. Legends Night remains an important event on the schedule, this year it's taking place on August 12th. While we've heard no confirmation of the beginning of a Hall of Fame, the racing event will include the Valley Sportsman division, Hobby Stocks, Mani Late Models, BCRA Midget Litess and the Legends Of Kearney Bowl Super Modifieds. Parker was negotiating the possibility of adding Hardtops to this event.
The Matt & Glass Cancer Fundraiser event will again close the regular season on September 22nd. IMCA Modifieds, Sport Modifieds, Mini Stocks, Hobby Stocks and Mini Late Models will all be a part of this race. When racing returns in October, the track has two big special events planned. However, Parker has also taken care to not book on top of two of Watsonville's big events. Merced is dark at the end of September to avoid conflict with the Pat Pettit Memorial Shoot Out Race in Watsonville, and Merced also dark dark the first week of August to not run against the Mike Cecil Race in Watsonville.
on October 5th and 6th, Merced Speedway plans to end the season in style with a two day event. On Friday night, IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks are all part of the event, and Saturday night is the John Fore Jr. Memorial Sport Mod Race, which will include all four divisions on the card.
Merced Speedway will be active from the first play day on March 10th all the way to the October 6th race, and among the highlights of the season will be visits on Easter Weekend, March 31st, by the IMCA RaceSaver Sprint Cars. The BCRA Midgets will be back for a visit on April 21st as part of a special open wheel night of racing that also includes 360 sprints, Ford Focus Midgets and Valley Sportsman. BCRA Midget Lites will be there on May 12th along with their visit on Legends Night on August 12th.
It all adds up to an exciting season of racing at Merced Speedway. There will be 6 track championships on the line at Merced Speedway. Randy Brown is anticipated in a quest to win his third straight IMCA Modified championship. The competition will be tough, can he do it? Fred Ryland is the reigning IMCA Sport Modified champion, Kodie Dean is the reigning Hobby Stock champion and Chris Corder is the driver everybody is gunning for as he has won three of the last four Mini Stock crowns. Jeff Bristow is the reigning Sportsman champion, and we'll be looking to see who the first California Sharp Mini Late Model champion will be. There will be lots of excitement each and every week, and Parker and his crew endeavor to make each night special. As always, the schedule is subject to change. For further information, go to www.racemerced.com.
The Editor's Viewpoint
This is a bit long, but It's our official statement on thongs as they are now.
As I sit here writing this, 2017 is a memory. It's 2018. I've been enjoying the downtime. When I get in the middle of racing season while maintaining two racing blogs and handling official publicity duties up here, it gets pretty stressful. I think sometimes my automatic pilot kicks in and I'm just maintaining everything without too much mental effort. With the experience that I have gained through the years, it's not really too difficult to do this, but it does take a lot of time. It also helps me keep my mind off of things that still get me pretty angry when I think about them.
I had hopes, however misguided, that a change was coming for this year. It was a change that I was hoping for. In truth, I wouldn't be in the situation I'm in now if I had a choice. However, sometimes in life we take the hand that we've been dealt and make the best of it. That's really what I've been trying to do for these past two years. I have to cut myself off when I start talking about these things on this blog as I really don't want to go there. At times it's very difficult, and I will write whole colulmns that never see the light of day.
Unfortunately, the change that I was hoping to see never came. One thing I will say is I figured I had one shot at it, and I'm proud of the fact that I took it. It almost didn't happen. Thanks to my friends back in my old home area, I was able to make a trip. It was great seeing everybody, and it was good to at least have a certain face-to-face conversation that I've been wanting to have for over two years now. Maybe it didn't work out as I had hoped, but at least I tried.
When I left California after my November visit, I left with an offer. If I go back about 15 or 20 years, this offer would really be a dream come true for me. You see, I labored for 18 years maintaining The DCRR as a printed racing magazine. I put a lot of work into it. Technology and what was available to me changed during that time, and that made things easier towards the end. A lot of work went into putting those magazines out, and I don't think some people really understood that. It became a 40 hour plus per week job, and I assure you it didn't pay like that. If not for my father, I never could have done it.
I was offered the opportunity to revive Racing Wheels Magazine. This was an offer first given to me at the end of 2009 by the magazine's current owner, John M. Soares. I really couldn't tell you why John spent the money on a magazine that had died. The internet had swept through everything, and gradually the racing fans stopped reading. Why pay any kind of money for a printed magazine when many of the results you wanted we're at the click of a button? Of course, a lot of the color behind the statistics was gone as there became fewer writers, but you had the information as far as who won and what the point standings were.
I think John is probably a dreamer like me. He thought that maybe he could bring this paper back. Wheels had changed ownership during its later years before it went out of business. One of the bright ideas they came up with to try and save things was to print pictures in color. The problem was, that added to the cost at a time when sales were declining. Do I blame them for trying? Absolutely not. They had to do something. It also didn't help when their #1 writer, Gary Jacob, passed away.
John went for it, but he really didn't have a plan as to how to bring it back. He did have all of the computers, subscription lists and whatever they had on file. Unfortunately, all of that burned when John's house burnt down. When he offered me the deal, along with things that I would have liked to have heard from him last year, back in 2009, I declined. I won't lie and say that the idea of bringing that magazine back wasn't tempting, but I wasn't really in a good place mentally when it came to coming back to the sport in 2010. I don't think I fully realized how many friends I had until I came back in 2015.
I play a lot of things over in my head these days. It's hindsight. You know, you look back and wonder what would have happened if you had taken the left road instead of the right road? Most of the time, I look back believing that I took the wrong road, so I wonder at times what would have happened if I had come back prior to the 2010 racing season. I spent a lot of time talking with Jim Robbins back in 2015 about that, and he was constantly reminding me of what I should have done. Yeah Jim, I know.
The biggest obstacle in 2018 is the fact that I am living in Oregon, sort of out in the boonies and without easy access to places that I would need to keep a magazine going. Back home, I knew the location well and could even travel by bus if need be. Usually, I had rides. This is the biggest obstacle for me when it comes to bringing back the magazine. Another problem is I travel back and forth to the race track once, sometimes twice a week before race day. That takes five to six hours of travel time each day, and the day is Wednesday. In the racing magazine publishing business, Wednesday is a big day. It's mailing day.
I know fully well that there are people out there who miss Racing Wheels Magazine. The reason John would even make an offer like this to me is because he saw the work that I put forth in covering sometimes 6 to 10 race tracks per week on my two blogs last year. My racing media endeavor was certainly handling the coverage of the races pretty well, but it was severely lacking when it came to rewarding me financially for my work. Lacking? Who am I kidding? I'm spinning my wheels. The biggest motivating factor to me continuing this effort is the fact that I don't have to think about things in my life that are depressing me while I do what I do to at least keep a roof over my head. I think about what I'm going to do if the track I'm at doesn't work out, and I still don't know.
When you bring up Racing Wheels to longtime competitors, they will talk about how they would like to see it again. On Facebook, there are certain people who post clippings from old magazines every week. Racing Wheels was THE magazine, and there are over 40 years of archives because of them. John doesn't have any of that anymore, and my collection extends from the mid 1980's to about when the magazine folded, in addition to some miscellaneous magazines from the 1960's and 1970's. One of the things I would like to do in reviving the magazine is a "blast from the past" section where great articles, including those by my mentor Gary Jacob, would be included.
How do you revive this magazine when you don't have any of the information from when it last was in circulation? Also, what sort of style do to you use if you were to revive the magazine? Also, wouldn't reviving the printed magazine with some sort of online aspect to it be the way to go? My mind has been going over all of this this since I left California on my visit. I literally waited until the last day of the year to finally make my decision. Can I make it work from Oregon? I already answered that with an unfortunate no.
First, you have to comb through the magazines from the last few years, specifically when it comes to who was advertising with it. How many of those people are still in business? Would any of them be interested in a return? Then, you need to start some sort of subscription campaign via social media to see who might be willing to subscribe. Then, you have to come up with a game plan as far as when you will print. Will it be monthly? Bi-weekly? Weekly? These are very important questions, and I thought about all of them. Who will write for you? There are still a few talented writers, but can we secure them when more than likely they're going to have to volunteer their stories as there won't be enough money to pay everybody?
The format question is an important one. When I returned to Antioch Speedway in 2015, the track's webmaster and souvenir program designer, Mike Kord, delivered a printer to John's office that was capable of colored print and mass printing. This would be booklet form, and that's what John was recommending. For the longest time, over the years since John offered me this gig the first time, I thought that maybe a booklet form was the way to go for the revival. I still feel if it's the only choice due to cost, it would be the way to go.
However, I am convinced that it must be in newspaper form, and it must go as closely to style as the original Racing Wheels as possible. I understand that it's not within John's budget to buy a printing press, so the alternative is to find out if you can use somebody else's, and how much would it cost? Sometimes you have to print so many copies per issue to secure a certain deal, as was the case when I was doing my old magazine. As it turns out, there are places near Antioch that do this sort of thing, and I had people in mind to talk to. And, there's even the possibility of some trade out between us and them that would be mutually beneficial. So, my preference would be to go with a newspaper format. John and I had both agreed that printing bi-weekly would probably be the way to go.
There are a couple of things going on right now that catch my eyes. The battle for net neutrality and certain corporation's desire to start charging people for every little place they go to on the internet means that printed media isn't completely dead. If the internet goes badly, a lot of people will lose their interest in it. I see the internet going in a place similar to what we had in the beginning when there was America Online. You go to certain hubs, and they put out the content in each genre, sports, entertainment, news, etc, that they think you should talk about. Facebook is the place in which everybody currently congregates.
I also see an all-powerful monolithic motorsports internet entity developing very steadily. I'll leave their name out of this, because I'm not a fan of them and do not wish to give them more publicity. They started as a web page designing company, and they bought the site at which many race tracks would post their results and point standings for all to see. This company is getting their hands in the cookie jar, so to speak, as they are helping tracks sell tickets and merchandise. Therefore, they are starting to get a better understanding of how much business the race tracks do. It's brilliant, from their perspective, and there are other ways for them to expand.
I admit I go into conspiratorial realms sometimes, but when I was doing one of my non racing blogging sites a year or so prior to coming back to the sport, I came across news of an artificial intelligence program that could write stories. As those programs develop, this particular website could go so far as to automatically generate articles for race tracks within minutes of the final checkered flag. Sounds far fetched, but there are already artificial intelligence written stories being used by news sites. It's not going to be here, it's already here.
The internet is still at odds with the printed media, and so therefore while it's still somewhat free, it must be used in a revival of the printed magazine. I've spoken with my friend Paul Gould numerous times in recent years about the fact that we could use both internet and printed formats. Paul has been an advocate of just using the internet, and I have been using the internet with my blog site. The thought occurs to me. Racing Wheels has been dead for about 13 years, while my own racing news site has been alive and covering racing regularly for the past three seasons. So, I've already had people asking me why would I even consider Wheels. I think if you've read my articles through the years, you know the answer. I love racing tradition, race nights honoring past greats with special races and Hall of Fame nights. If I wasn't this type of person, I doubt you'd be reading this blog now. It never would have been created.
I actually have given thought to how the internet could work and not be counterproductive to the printed magazine. I'm not going to get into what I'm talking about here as I may use it in regards to my own efforts. It's best to keep that stuff private, but suffice it to say, I think I had a plan that would benefit the subscribers to the printed format. So, every aspect of bringing this magazine back has been played forward and backward in my mind since the offer was made to me.
I had heard rumors in the weeks leading up to my trip that an offer was going to be forthcoming that would lead me back to Antioch. I don't have to tell you what my answer most likely would have been, but it starts with a y. I've heard they need of a new announcer that brings some enthusiasm back to the airwaves on race night. I know that Mike, who has done a fantastic job of keeping the programs and website and standings, is looking for somebody to step up and take over for him. It is largely because of him that I volunteered as much for Antioch Speedway as I did last year. So yes, I was ready to dive in to all things Antioch Speedway in a way I did 20 years ago.
I won't lie to you. I was just a little bit disappointed that Racing Wheels was the only offer made to me. On banquet night, I couldn't really have the discussion I wanted with John because people kept interrupting. I tried, but my ride was getting impatient and wanted me to go. Can't I have 5 more minutes? This is my wife on the line man. I did get a conversation with Donna, and I said things that I felt needed to be said to her. I really do wish the best for her. I have said before that I think the world of her. The woman behind the man and somebody who has meant more to the racing program at Antioch over these last 20 years than people may realize.
As luck would have it, John happened to be at the race track when I made a last ditch effort to see him the day before Thanksgiving. I walked there in the hopes that he'd be preparing the track for that Saturday's play day, and I was right. I was a little bit disappointed when his right hand man, Jay Banks, was there in the office when we were talking. So, I couldn't say all that I wanted to say, and John was no more forthcoming with any offer than he was at the banquet. The most we talked about was Racing Wheels and why it would be a good thing. I understand why he wants to bring it back, and I think I could do it under the right circumstances. It was a good conversation, but I still left the track disappointed that I didn't hear the offer I was hoping for.
One of the reasons I write things like this and never post them is because I know there are people who will say I'm being ungrateful, or I compain too much. Mike McCann has given me an opportunity to come up here and have a roof over my head. That's the main reason I came, because I didn't know where I would be staying otherwise. Though I can get motivated in the moment and do what needs to be done as a racing publicist, I at times would rather not be doing this anymore. I'm not a fan of where I see the sport heading or where it is now, but the dreamer in me always hopes we can bring change to things.
Though I have met some really nice people here, we've had a few accomplishments we can be proud of and there have been some good races, I'm not really happy to be here. I look at it more as maintaining an existence than living a life. But, in order to live a life you can be happy with, you must first at least exist. Giving up is not an option. If not for Mike, I would not have this chance. I am relied upon to do a lot of different things at the race track, and I think I've done pretty well. Put it this way, I've done my best. I'm proud of my effort. I ended the 2017 season feeling like I had fulfilled two years of good service, and if there was an opportunity for me to leave, I was ready to do that. I won't get into business up here, but I do worry about the future, or if there is one after the coming season. A lot depends on the racers themselves.
Answering John's proposal in many ways feels like closing that final door on everything for me regarding Antioch Speedway. At least ways, I don't see me coming back as long as things are what they are. I know it sounds crazy, but in the back of my mind, I really felt like there was a chance that it might happen one day. It almost made me not want to answer the proposal. Once I realized that I couldn't do it from here, I knew the answer was no. But, I owed him that answer. I won't say that Racing Wheels Magazine will never come back. It most certainly could. But it will take a lot of work, and it will take money. To John's credit, he was willing to invest money into it, and me being me, my mind was coming up with ideas to lessen The financial damage as much as possible.
I've also given thought to the possibility that what I and others like me do doesn't matter. I am somebody who has tried to keep history. In recent years, I've gone so far as to grab the final point standings from various race track's web sites before those tracks wipe it from their memory. I have grown to realize that promoters are more focused on the bottom line. Did we make money tonight or not? What did we do that made money? What did we do that failed? Did we make money this month? Did we not? You get the picture. Further down the line of importance you will find the actual records of what happened on race night, the drivers who won and lost.
I'll give you another example. When I went to Santa Maria Speedway in the early 1990's, they had a display that listed the past champions and that sort of stuff. At Antioch Speedway, other than a souvenir program that listed last season's points, you didn't see the records. The promoter would probably be hard pressed to name the champion from five years earlier. 10 years earlier? Forget about it. Not important. Is it important? Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't. I always thought it was. It matters to the people who were making that history, I suppose. It's a negative line of thinking, but sometimes I go there.
It amazes me to see websites where they wipe out the history from that season to clear things up for next season, as if they're going to run out of room. Or, race tracks are trusting secondary sites to keep those records for them. Antioch had a really good website that was archiving history for about a decade before the webmaster got mad at the promoter and wiped things clean. It takes up so little data to have records on your website that it's silly to not keep them. A goal that I had when I did the website up here was to start archiving the history and doing my research. I've made much progress in that endeavor, though there's a little bit more to go.
I have this romantic notion of how the history matters to a race track. The greats of the day inspire the greats of tomorrow. Just as the greats of yesterday inspired the greats of today. Listing all of the champions for fans to see, honoring the greats on Hall of Fame Night and doing that sort of thing is important. It also shows people in the surrounding community that this race track has a history. It has mattered to people for years.
Up here, We had Hall of Fame night for the first time last year. The Deatherage family has been involved in Historical Night at Cottage Grove Speedway for well over a decade, and they began a tradition of making display boards with various clippings and pictures from different eras of the track's history. They started with three of them for us last season, and it was an interesting sight watching some of our older fans look at these clippings and talk to each other about what they were reading. I'm sure they were remembering those times at the old race track. It matters to them.
I think the one thing I can be proud of in my time in the sport is that I think I have helped make things a little bit better than they were when I got here. I probably cover some of this in my book, Just A Kid From The Grandstands. By the way, I should have a pdf version of that, which will be much cheaper for those who want to read it. I need to get my rear end in gear and make that happen. There are things that I can point to and be proud of. 18 years of printed magazines. The past three seasons with all of those race result articles on my blog, including being put into printed media at various times. The role I played with Don O'Keefe Jr. in starting Wingless Spec Sprints for John at Antioch. Can you believe the division will be starting its 20th season this year?
The most humbling thought that comes to my mind is something you might see in a movie. What would the world have been like had you not been there? We all make an impact on people we may not really understand. I don't know that there would be a Wingless Spec Sprint division had Don and I not did what we did. Without it, certain people wouldn't have won championships or had Main Event victories, and look at the tracks that have run this class. Look at the Hunt Wingless Spec Sprint Series now. That's a thought that puts me back in line when I wonder if maybe I shouldn't have ever been involved in the sport in the first place. Plus, all the good friends that I've made through the years.
I can only say that in 2018 I will continue my efforts on the blog. I will do my best. I'm not going to guarantee anything beyond that, but you'll be able to find most of what you've been seeing these last two years on the blogs. I would say to any track that likes the extra effort I make to get them more exposure that it would be nice to have a tip thrown in the tip jar every once in awhile as a thank you. It's not that I'm doing this for money, because I haven't made much since I came back. But, everybody understands that people have bills to pay and need money for certain things sometimes.
I will be at the race track this year, so my commitment to racing in 2018 is set. Since I'm going to be covering the race track up here anyway, and I enjoy certain other tracks that have meant a lot to me through the years, I'm just going to keep writing. It helps take my mind off of things I don't want to think about, and it's not like I have anything else going in my life. I might as well just keep writing.
John made the decision to run a New Year's race. The New Year's Bash has been renamed the Winter Classic. This is three years in a row the name has been changed, so if the goal is to run a New Year's race, maybe keeping a name brand that people can identify with would be a good thing? I'm not really 100% behind the idea of racing in January, other than the indoor venues. We have enough trouble keeping a car account during the actual racing season without giving drivers one more race to worry about. I make the joke To Mike and Don sometimes that perhaps we ought to run a Salute To Jesus 100 on Christmas. Yes, there's nothing sacred anymore.
Regardless, I always wish for the best for Antioch Speedway. I have endeavored To show my support for what John has done for that race track over these past 20 years. When he opened up the gates on New Year's, he began his unprecedented 21st season of promoting that race track. Nobody has promoted Antioch Speedway longer than him. Love him, hate him, but he is dedicated to this. Yes, I know that we're going to have people who are going to complain. That's just the way it's always been. There's nothing new in that.
I see the social media meme that speaks to how they say the negativity is killing racing. Reality is, social media is a part of it now. It's not going away. When you watch certain reality programs or sports on TV, they encourage you to get on social media while it's happening and put in your two cents on whatever is happening. So, that mentality eventually found its way to local dirt track racing. It's always been there. You've always had fans or racers who bitched about the place, but they didn't have a platform before. They would simply bitch to whomever would listen and come back again next week. If it was too much for them to deal with, they took a little time off. The only thing that has changed is the fact that we have the internet and social media now.
I believe what's hurting racing is what's actually hurting the world in general. People are just angry these days, and they need to take it out on something. They'll go into a situation that isn't 100% to their liking, and, if it's even 80% of what they like, they won't focus on the things that they like. They will focus on the 20% that they don't like. Somebody has to answer for that, or so they think. Maybe one night went bad, and in their minds there was favoritism against them. Whatever the case, it's a selfish, me me me attitude, and it's not good. This is what's hurting the sport.
What do you do about it? I'm the last person that's going to tell somebody that they don't have the right to their opinion. If you're not happy, you're not happy. I just think that if it's so bad at this place that you claim to love, then walk away. Stop spreading your hate. These places are supposed to be fun. The racer against the promoter mentality is not new either. There have always been people complaining about the greedy promoter. You would hear the term boycott thrown around. And at times, the driver's did boycott. Look it up. They even boycotted the great Bob Barkhimer once upon a time by declaring WAR on him.
The successful race tracks are the ones where the racers buy into it. And, there are cases where tracks and aren't doing as well as those successful tracks are doing. The difference is the racers are buying into the successful tracks. They're not buying into the track that isn't doing so well. If the racers don't get on board, it doesn't matter what you do. You're doomed. And, race tracks are fighting the idea that there are other things for people to do. It's real effort to work on a race car. It always has been, and the successful teams are the most dedicated teams. If you're not winning, it's easy to cut back on your racing schedule. It's easy to come up with plans to do something else.
Race tracks have even cut back on how many races they will give a particular division. They had to do that due to car count drop off as the season went on. Even when they do that, car count still slips. In certain divisions, racers will only come out when the purse is high enough. That track might even increase their pay to $1,000 to win one night. What usually happens is car count increases for that night and drops off the next week. Back in the day, racers wanted to be Saturday night racers at their home track. Now, some racers want to be pros and run a circuit. Good for the racer, bad for the track that can't pay its bills because it can't get the racers.
Racing is in a world of hurt. I've been telling people this for a few years now. They should enjoy the tracks they have now. We're going to start losing them. It's just a matter of time before some tracks we know and love will be gone. We just watched Chowchilla Speedway get leveled due to some very poor promoting in 2017, and we also lost Rocky Hill Speedway in Porterville. Perhaps that one will open again someday? Petaluma Speedway, Ocean Speedway in Watsonville? Those two tracks are on borrowed time folks. We can start losing them very soon, and there are people who want to make that happen. It all comes down to how badly people want their race tracks. A promoter can only do so much. A promoter is going to screw up. Without racers, there is no racing, and I see the mentality of some racers actually using their support as a weapon against the track.
That isn't particularly aimed at one track. I've witnessed it up here, and it's part of the problem we face in trying to turn around a program. The "us versus them" mentality was almost encouraged by previous promoters even going back to the older track that no longer exists up here. You breed the mentality into the racers to be standoffish, and they will be. Eventually, their desire to teach the race track a lesson will result in no race track at all. Then, who are they going to blame?
What's my point in all of this? People have to decide how badly they want to see things thrive. I will continue to have this blog up for as long as I can have a blog, and I am committed to doing what I can to help the cause throughout the 2018 season. I will make no commitment beyond that. If an opportunity presents itself either way, I'll be taking it. If it leads to a racing situation I'm happy with, I'll be going there. If it leads to me departing from the sport, I have no problem with that. I can only tell you that I'll do my best while I cover the sport.
Schedules are being released, so the news on that front will be heating up in the weeks ahead. Word I got was that John is getting closer to releasing the Antioch Speedway schedule that should hit all the marks the fans and racers expect from the track. John usually likes to wait until the other tracks book their schedules before announcing his. It's an effort to try and not book over the other track's big dates.
The Dennis Gage tracks in Chico and Marysville just released their schedules as I am writing this. Of note is the fact that the Winged Street Stock division has been dropped from the Marysville schedule, and the Winged Economy Sprint division has been dropped from Chico. Chico has also dropped the 410 Sprint Cars in favor of the 360 Sprint Cars, and they, along with the Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks, IMCA Sport Modifieds and Wingless Spec Sprints are the core classes with special events along the way. Marysville will again feature Winged 360 Sprints, Wingless Spec Sprints, the newly named Crate Sprints, 305 Sprints, Hobby Stocks and Sport Modifieds. I believe IMCA is sanctioning the Sport Modifieds at both of his tracks and the 305 Sprints as well, though I haven't heard confirmation. Both tracks have nice looking schedules and appear to be trying not to book over the big dates at other places. It also looks like the California Hardtops and Nor Cal Dwarf Cars will get dates at both places.
Placerville Speedway continues to feature the Winged 360 Sprint Cars, Pure Stocks and Limited Late Models on their new schedule along with some Little Truck races and visits from various groups, including the BCRA Midget Lites and Nor Cal Dwarf Cars. The Hardtops will be racing there as well, and the big races the fans have come to expect from Placerville are also part of a nice looking schedule. Scott Russell will again bring the fans at various tracks his Sprint Car Challenge Tour, thanks to some great sponsorship from Elk Grove Ford and Abreu Vineyards, among others. However, the aforementioned Gage tracks remain on board with the older Civil War Sprint Car Series.
When it comes to schedules, I have to give a tip of the hat to Ed Parker at Merced Speedway. Since he's taken over this race track, he has endeavoured to make a schedule in which his local drivers have an easier time supporting, while trying to work with Ocean Speedway in Watsonville and other tracks. Again, I am seeing IMCA Modifieds and Sport Modifieds will be back along with Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Valley Sporstman and California Sharp Mini Late Models. All of the traditional big races are back with a few surprises as highlighted in another column on this post. When it comes to people I would nominate for Promoter Of The Year, Parker has to be on that list. He's already one of the best in the state.
Further north, there's been speculation surrounding Siskiyou Motor Speedway in Yreka. We mentioned last year about missing funds from the SCMA's treasury. We heard that the association was anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000 in the hole. We've also heard rumors regarding the contract the association may or may not have with the fairgrounds. However, all of this is just speculation. Here is what we know at this point.
The Outlaw Kart group broke away from the association to keep things going in the event that the association did fold. Therefore, the summer races in 2018 should go on, run by a separate group. In fact, they are in the midst of a winter indoor racing series that will continue for the next couple of months. The association put out feelers on where everybody stood coming into the year. Where it is, they intend to keep IMCA sanctioning for their Sport Modifieds and will also have Modifieds. The McDonald's Mini Stocks will continue to be a part of the program, and the track is considering reviving the old Street Stock/Sportsman division. They are trying to find out who still has cars in the area that are willing to race. Word also was that they are working on dates for the visiting Outlaw Pro Stock Association and Southern Oregon Dwarf Car Association, while they have been penciled in for 360 Sprint Car Speedweek and IMCA Wild West Modified Speedweek events.
In short, whatever rumors may be circulating regarding Siskiyou Motor Speedway, the association is treating it like business as usual and attempting to put together a 2018 season. Until we hear otherwise, that's what we have to go on.
An intriguing bit of information further north at Willamette Speedway in Lebanon, Oregon finds that not only is Jerry Schram adding the IMCA Sport Modified division to the 2018 roster, he has also decided to add IMCA Stock Cars. Jerry is apparently concerned with the direction his Street Stocks are going with their rules and is looking to keep things alive in the future. IMCA is willing to allow the Camaros and Firebirds to run with the metric cars during a grace period of another year or two before everybody must be completely compliant with IMCA rules. They have done this with other tracks in the past. Schram will be releasing an IMCA Wild West Modified Speedweek schedule soon, and Willamette will also be part of the 360 Sprint Car and Limited Sprint Car Speedweek.
Southern Oregon Speedway should be announcing their schedule shortly, but the first order of business will be their January 20th awards banquet, honoring the Top 10 drivers in all of the regular divisions. No divisions are being dropped from the 2018 schedule, and all of the big events that were featured in 2017 will return. Some other big things are being planned as well, and local Sprint Car driver David Hibbard has purchased the ISCS name for his Sprint Car group that he plans to run select races at three different venues in 2018. The chosen tracks are Southern Oregon Speedway, Coos Bay Speedway and Cottage Grove Speedway. Though Southern Oregon Speedway doesn't use the limited name, they will be part of the Limited Sprint Speedweek Tour.
It's January, but the next couple of months should go by rather quickly. California tracks will be roaring with the sound of engines in February, and it will just get louder in the weeks that follow as more and more tracks open. In other words, get ready, racing season 2018 is just about upon us.