Tuesday, November 20, 2007
That said, the book that I intend to release next year needs to stick to facts and avoid that sort of commentary where possible. There will be opinion in the book. I don't believe it can be avoided. But, I don't want to dwell on the things that were wrong or are wrong, in my opinion, with racing. I want this book to be a celebration of what is right with racing. The past champions, the close point battles, the big name drivers and contenders and some of the people who made it all happen.
Specific looks at important periods in racing. The Sportsman division. The beginning of the Street Stock class and what it meant. Late Models and the golden age of that class. Dirt Modifieds. The unity that existed between the tracks and the great series we had because of it. The State and Regional champs that came from that. Wingless Spec Sprints. Okay, you'll get observations of things during these times. It simply cannot be avoided. But, I want to keep it as light as possible. There are people and decisions I disagreed with. I don't want my opinions to overpower that too much.
Basically, where things happen, such as the death of Late Models as headline class, the birth of Dirt Modifieds, the end of what was once Barkhimer's huge racing empire, the whole Merced-Chowchilla thing and other things, I will attempt to stick with the facts as I know them and try to leave my opinions out as much as possible.
What this book needs to be is a celebration of racing at my area tracks, Watsonville, Antioch, Merced, Petaluma and Chowchilla. A look at the past 30-40 years at these tracks. A look over at San Jose and Vallejo and also Spec Sprints. There has been much good associated with these tracks. Many good times. Many good people. Many unforgetable memories. I want to focus on that. I want to celebrate the sport the way it deserves. So, that is my goal at this time.
Now, could a book be fortcoming where I do get more into details and opinions? Lord knows I've been there and I've seen quite a bit. I'm sure I could piss off a few people with such a book. Maybe it will get written in time. But, I do have this blog if I feel the need to go to controversial places on occasion. I just want the book that is fortcoming to be about a celebration of the tradition of racing in my area.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Saturday, October 20, 2007
My work space for writing is a mess. The light in the room isn't working right. The chair is broken, but I still use it. There's not enough room on the desk. So, what else is new? This is the way I ran the magazine for years. It just makes me cranky. It's not in my budget or space limitations to do much about it, so it is what it is.
EA Games bought Bioware. Huh? What's this got to do with racing? Well, something and nothing. I like Role Playing Games, like Dungeons & Dragons and Bioware made Baldurs Gate and Neverwinter Nights, among other titles. They have been assimilated by the EA borg. What does this having to do with racing?
EA screwed up a community I once enjoyed being a part of, Simulated Auto Racing. You see, for a couple of years, I wrote stories and did videos with commentary for Sim Racing. It was a way to excersize my creative skills and I had fun most of the time. I won't get into it all here (perhaps another time), but here's how EA screwed up.
There was a little game called NASCAR 2003 made by Papyrus. It kind of killed my dirt track sim racing fun, but, let me get back to the point. N2003 was a good game. If you did need a mod to play in somebody's servers, it wasn't a big deal to get the download. You didn't have to join communities you had no interest in to download what you needed.
EA made their crappy NASCAR games that nobody in the Sim Racing world, at least nobody that was respected in the community, cared about. I didn't think they were that bad, but... Anyway, EA and Papyrus both made NASCAR games with the license they paid for. You know, Hasbro had a cool game called NASCAR Heat too, but...
Anyway, one day, EA decided they wanted an exclusive deal for NASCAR Sim Racing, a game everybody automatically hated before they saw it, but... The exclusive thing just pisses me off, because if $$$ hungry NASCAR had been paying attention or at least gave a damn about the community, they would have realized that N2003 by Papyrus was vastly more popular. Even 4 years later, NASCAR Cup racers still play using that game. But, NASCAR got greedy and basically shafted the computer Sim Racing world.
NASCAR Sim Racing bombed, Papyrus was put out of business and what was left of Papyrus got lawsuit happy with the community that was modding N2003. You see, that new company, iracing, was gonna make an even better game one day, in their dreams maybe, but that still hasn't happened.
Well, EA continued to blunder with the NASCAR Sim Racing game. The patch to fix the bugs never came. Well, it did, but it didn't fix enough. They pulled their server from the net, meaning no more online play for the games, then put them back up a couple months later as the little community that supported it got pissed. But, basically, EA makes console NASCAR games and gives the computer gamer the finger. NASCAR could care less it seems.
Basically, the EA Borg mentality screwed up a community I loved, and with the purchase of Bioware, another good company will bite the dust. Thanks EA.
Sim racing lives on, of course, with another game that encourages modding. But, this is where I take my leave of the deal. From the outside looking in, there are many things I don't like about what I see, but if people are having fun with it, that's all that matters. I don't know why NASCAR has to be so greedy as not to get a good game made. I also don't know why we can't get a decent dirt game made.
I'm not talking about join this group to download this and obey 15 rules or your gone. We have that now. If my computer were able to handle it, I might partake a bit, but... I don't want the little game that could. I want the fun game that is. Get it off the shelf, install it on the computer and play.
I know nobody plays Dirt Track Racing 2 or NASCAR Heat anymore, but I'd love to find a few fools who just want to have fun and would play for the heck of it one night. Saturday Night Speedway or Sprint Cars: Road To Knoxville would be fun too.
Anyway, are you still here, or did you check out on me when I started ranting about companies that make games for pretend racers?
Surely I have more to say than this?
Well, if you are, here's a bit of news. I have looked into the possibility of making the book that is unwritten at this moment available in at least one book store. I kind of like the thought of people being able to go to a book store and order a book that talks about the California race tracks that I loved. It's an accomplishment that I never thought possible. As things come together a little bit more, I will say more. It will take a small investment, but I think it may be worth it.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
My time in racing began at Antioch Speedway in the late 70's. The good old days for me. Nothing ever quite compared to those days. The Sportsman division had guys like "Chargin" Marvin Wilson, J.D. "You Betcha" Willis, Dennis "Foot In It" Furia, Gene Millard, Dana "Always On It" Auger, Mike "The Blue Knight" Gustafson and so many others. Len Mello was my favorite. Here are four shots I scanned last night. I remember when Dave Gonderman won his first feature. I liked that white Mustang he ran the next year and won with. Mike Green was my brother's favorite driver, and I remember him being consistent, having a pretty car and not being too aggressive..
But, I also remember the budding Street Stock class we had back then. Keith Shipherd, Scott Busby, Julio Jones, Joey Rodrigues, Debbie Clymens, Chuck Carter, Robbie Waldrop. There were some talented drivers in that group, let me tell ya. Some people were getting up and leaving during the Street Stock main, but that was a highlight of my night back then. I remember Carter in that yellow #66a car. Won several features, but he didn't move up like most of the others did. Clymens gets praised as a pioneer for women, and she should. But, there were others before her. Donna Walton and Dean Cline had a close battle for the 1979 Stock Car crown.
Anyway, just wanted to share this picture. I'll stop here. I have three other posts up today, and I want to keep them on the main page.
This one I will share. One of my proudest accomplishments in racing was putting the Wingless Spec Sprint class together. Never would have happened without Don O'Keefe Jr. Don saw an opportunity to do something that made a difference in the sport. This photo is from 1998 at the Antioch Speedway Awards Banquet.
Interesting that I lobbied John to do points and awards the top NCMA racers that year. Of course, certain people decided to get stupid about things, so John dropped it top ten to top five trophies for the NCMA. I couldn't believe the grief I got over doing points, especially considering I was asked by a top NCMA official to do it.
Anyway, by then the WSS class had been announced to the world and we had a roster of 12 committed drivers. That grew substantially during the off season as Don answered all the rules questions and I did the hype. I intend to share a few of those hype stories here in the future.
I have heard some rumblings of what is going on, but I have not spoken publicly about it due to request. Well, that, and personally, I don't know how happy some people will be if what I've heard comes to pass. Well, if the track reopens, that's still a good thing, and secondly, I won't comment until I know more. If what I hear actually happens, I'll have to consider whether saying anything is even worth it at this point.
Anyway, Tom posted this:
I WILL BE POSTING THE TRACK CHAMPIONS AND THE FREEDOM SERIES Champs very soon. We would also like to do some sort of banquet me and Cindy will be doing this out of our own pockets so it might be a pot luck but it will be fun!!!
I say this:
Okay people. What's done is done. Now is one last time to celebrate Chowchilla Speedway and what Tom & Cindy brought to it. Now is the time to end that era in style and respect. The racing under the RACE banner may not have ended as we'd have like it to, but the party and final banquet can be different. Whatever the future holds, just remember:
#1 There would be no Chowchilla Speedway without Tom & Cindy and the investors taking the chance. Seriously. Who would have done something so crazy other than Tom?
#2 Seven full seasons and half of the eighth (2000-2007). All the racing. All of the divisions. The first time champions. The legacy!!!
#3 Right when we lost San Jose, we gained Chowchilla. The Steitz Race was saved, and we had some huge events. I'm lucky to have announced two of those.
#4 Open Wheel Round Up. I remember planning that with Tom. 32 carbureted Sprints that year, and THAT race opened the eyes of many promoters and racers alike.
#5 The laid back, friendly atmosphere. It really was a fun place to be. They kept it affordable, they kept it friendly. It wasn't a place where they would get in your face, unless you really did something really stupid. It was a place where a racer could get a second chance.
#6 Do you need more reasons? I mean, come on. Just opening this track, let alone holding some of the biggest races of the year, was a miracle at a time when we needed one.
So, what's my point? This is a chance to thank Tom & Cindy and get together one last time as supporters of their version of the track. Personally, I think the biggest award ought to go to them in thanks.
Anyway, where the Chowchilla supporter comes in is you can help them put this thing together. Donate $5 (or more) if you can (This is not a crusade I am leading, but most of the people who would donate know the address they send for Chowchilla memberships and that sort of thing. Of course, if somebody wanted to lead this effort, I say go for it).
Sponsor food or whatever. Make this a party nobody will forget. Well, that's my opinion anyway. If you want to make this happen in a bigger and better way than what's being proposed, get involved. Tom & Cindy aren't asking, but it would be a great way to show appreciation.
People are always bitching and complaining about things in racing, but Tom was somebody who had the guts to actually do something about it. I will always respect him for that. Thanks for giving the racers Chowchilla Speedway Tom.
The stands are packed. You know what was really cool? These people stayed for EVERY race. It was past midnight when we left, and people had to work the next day. Nice to be among such die hard racing fans!
Below is the track. I'm no Joe Martinez, but I think the pictures give you a little idea of what they have there. The neat thing about Indiana is that you can find a race there every day of the weekend, and sometimes during the week, if you want it. California could learn a thing or two about how to appreciate the great sport of auto racing. By the way, there were California racers there!
Here's the track from Turns 3-4 to Turns 1&2.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
I played this song for Mel Maupin at the track after the races I think the week after he died. I can't listen to this song without thinking of Mel, Jackie and the love ones we have lost in recent years.
After a race in September at Chowchilla, Tom surprised me with a birthday cake. The only promoter to ever give a damn about my birthday actually. I still have the Mark Martin hot wheel from the cake and the purple luggage bag they gave me carried my luggage to Indy. I call it my Sagmiller Bag. If you could have seen the bags I used to get my stuff to Chowchilla, you'd understand why they gave me that bag. Tom & Cindy are two of the nicest and most caring promoters I've ever met in racing.
If I could have walked the fence after 2001, I never would have left. I loved it in The Valley that much. It was a refreshing change of pace for me, even with the cloud of "the feud" hovering over everybody's heads. Sadly, it didn't work out that way. Merced didn't need me, which I found out just before getting on a train to come to Merced for the 2002 opener. I was crushed, because I really loved Merced. I parted with Chowchilla, not on the friendliest of terms, and I admit I could have left in a better way. I was leaving either way though, but I regret being a bit of a jerk about it.
That damn feud!!!
What's really telling to me is how Tom & Cindy have remained friendly even after some of the things that happened. I probably didn't deserve their friendship.
I will always remember the good times. We did some great things together. All I ever wanted was to see Merced AND Chowchilla get bigger and better and work together.
Fact is I have been swamped with game related stuff, blogging about Gencon and finishing up the Basic Charts Edition of my game, which I hope to have soon on Lulu.com. I also want to turn my attention to a book I wrote during a three year period after leaving racing. It's been setting for a while, and I'd like to publish it on Lulu before the year is up. Lots to do, not enough time. I still insist on keeping limited computer time and making sure to get out and walk every day. Very important to me.
The book, Lord willing, will begin in 2008. More in a moment, but here are a few pictures from a batch that I hope to put up here when I get more time.
Here's Don. No pictures please. The man in the background is Jason Holt, top 5 in Sprint Cars at Gas City. Don's been working with him on setup. The kid has a lot of potential, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear about him getting a feature win soon. I have pictures from Gas City and Kokomo I hope to share soon.
Don has a nice shop, and here are his Midgets and Sprint Car. It's been a bit hard to make it all go with all the things going on. I know when Don gets back behind the wheel again, he will be ready to have fun and the time will be right. I think if I were mechanically inclined and were looking to get into racing as a crew member, this would be a good team to learn with. Always did like the presentation of this team.
Ken posted some nice comments to my last post. I'll respond here.
A comeback to racing for me?
Never say never, I suppose. However, I don't have the plans. I've been thinking of going to the fairgrounds in Antioch to say hi to everybody and see who I recognize. I don't know that I could afford to put the magazine back together again. I know racing in California needs it, but it's not an easy deal. I did it for 18 years, so I know. This kind of stuff gets frustrating to see though:
I think it's great that two tracks so close are running Late Models. Hopefully cooperation will continue between the tracks. It's an old point of mine, but we need tracks working together, now more than ever. Jim has done great things at Petaluma since taking over. I see he's trying to get car count. Some may say taking cars from Antioch, but I don't know. Jim always was a Dwarf Car guy. Spec Sprints? I say go for it Jim. You'll get cars, and it's a nice substitute for nights 360's aren't there. And what a 360 car count. But, what do I know?
Antioch? John still has the potential to do great things. He's done so in the past. There have been moments this year. It's up to him to inspire the troops. It starts from the top. It's been almost ten seasons for him, but Antioch has failed to match what was there those first three seasons. As long as it stays open, that's the main thing. I'll always remember the good times, and there were a lot of them.
I'm still bummed out about Chowchilla. What can I say? I can point out decisions I felt were mistakes. but what's the point? There were almost eight seasons there, two of which I was a part of. The good times should be remembered. I hear rumors of what may happen next. Some won't be happy. I can't say more. If it reopens, perhaps as a Friday night venue, at least it will still be a place to race.
I'm sure Tom needs a chance to rest and soak it all in. Reflect on the good times. You didn't fail my friend. You went further than anybody ever thought you could. When things really clicked, Chowchilla was THE place to be for a race. Others talk about doing it. You made it happen. even if another person takes over, would there be a track there if not for you? I don't think so.
Here's another way racers can pick up the ball for Tom and Cindy and celebrate what was. There were point races that ended when the track closed. How about somebody attempt to set up one last Chowchilla awards banquet? Doesn't have to be fancy. I think Tom and Cindy deserve an award for what they brought to Chowchilla. Just my opinion. It may not lead to them being in charge at the track again, but it would be a nice send off and THANK YOU for all they did.
But back to the question. Am I interested in coming back? It's not at the top of my list of things to do. If I had the right offer, perhaps. Things have changed, and I'm not where I was then. I don't look at things as I once did. I don't know if I have the passion I once did. The b.s. still bothers me, even now, and people don't need to hear about that anymore. Plus, like I said, I can't afford the magazine. So, I don't know if a return is in the cards.
I tell you something that is needed, a good web page. I'm proud of the DCRR-LOK web connection of the last two years I was in the sport as well as the CRO that Joe, Lynn and I did together. We kicked butt. I don't think it's being done well right now. Just my opinion. There are some nice efforts that give a little here and there, but not as a whole.
Of interest to me is:
Wingless Spec Sprints
Unifying said tracks and groups!!!
I know, I can't let it go. I never will either. I want the the primary classes unified and under the same set of rules and points for State Points. It probably will never happen. I want a Civil War (Carbureted Sprint Revolution) for the Wingless Spec Sprints. I tend to repeat the same messages. I know it's old, but it's how I feel. We used to do things like that about 20 years ago.
For a web page, news on the tracks mentioned, race results, points, schedule listings, track announcements, audio, video and pictures. The problem is that it takes work, and there's very little return, if you do it right. It can be done, and it can have a positive impact on the sport. I found that out with CRO, and it continued with the DCRR page.
The best that I can hope for at the moment is the book I'm working on. It may be two books as I may need to do a separate one for carbureted Sprints. What I am looking at now:
Antioch, Watsonville, Merced, Petaluma and Chowchilla histories, going back to the late 60's.
Point standings, pictures (lots of Antioch right now with some Petaluma and Watsonville.
A look at some of the people that made it happen, promoters, track managers and people of interest.
A look at some of the stars back in those days, Sportsman and Stock Cars.
The evolution of the Street Stock and some of the stars that came out of that.
The Dirt Modifieds.
Tracks now closed, Vallejo, Baylands and San Jose.
That's some of what I'm looking at for one of the books. The carbureted Sprints would look at:
California Dirt Cars
VMRC (before it got crazy) and the Merced Cal Mods.
Yreka Sportsman Sprints
Orland, Marysville, Placerville, Chico, Watsonville, Chowchilla
The stars through the years, lots of pictures, lots of point listings.Just wanted to let you know what's being considered. I may get a little busy. If I get too side tracked from here, I'll dig up some old stories from the archives to share with you.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Several California racers were here. Thomas Meseraul actually stopped by Don's shop and recognized me from when I was the publicity guy at Altamont. He was racing Midgets this week and looked good at Kokomo. Gas City wasn't as kind to him I'm afraid. A young man by the name of Brad Sweet was there. The kid narrowly missed victory at Gas City on Friday. Leading the 30 lapper for 29 1/2 laps. It was neat seeing this kid race here after I had announced some of his wins from Antioch in BCRA Midget Lites a few years back. I won't be surprised to see him go further in racing.
At Gas City I was in the pits, and at Kokomo I was in the stands. I have several pictures from the digital camera. I'm no Joe Martinez, but I did okay for a cheap $10 camera. When I get back home, I may post some and offer a few more details from the races. I took the bus tour of the big speedway in Indy, plus the museum, more pictures. It's been a blast.
Don and I have talked a lot about the old days, the good times and the bad. Remembering Jim Booth, Darryl Shirk, Mel Maupin, Pops Soares, Jackie and others. The beginning of the Spec Sprint division and the challenges we had. Racing and just life in general. It has been great seeing my best friend again. I'm not overstating the positive impact Don and Linda have had on my life. They have helped open doors for me that I never would have otherwise gotten through. What can you say about people like that? I'm a writer, but words escape me to describe the appreciation, gratitude and just the joy of having such a friend.
The last two years of DCRR
The Sweet 16 State Point Race
Getting Wingless Spec Sprints started
Going to the RPM Workshop twice (would have been three if I hadn't have been stubborn and burnt out at the time)
And so much more
When I have had times of indecision or self doubt, it's been Don more than anybody who has been there. Through good and bad. So yes, it's great to see him and be a guest in their home. It's been a time also to reflect on things and consider the future. I haven't changed my plans on the book. It's going to be a 2008 project, and I've gotten more ideas while discussing it with Don.
We also checked out some old videos of racing Don has. It was neat looking at some of the early WSS videos. I feel lucky and blessed to have been a part of that deal, which heads into season 10 next year. Don had another video that was neat to see. Len Mello, well the #4a car anyway as it might have been Buzz Enea driving, beat Scott Busby in a dash at Petaluma. Seeing Len win the championship that year had a profound effect on me.
As a fan, I tend to root for the underdog, and Len was definitely that. He was a B Mainer when I started attending the races back in the late 70's. I was laughed at for cheering for him, but I never gave up. I didn't hop on a more popular bandwagon. When '81 came along and he won it all, it hooked me on racing. I still remember being in the infield after the finale, talking with him for an hour or so. He was my hero. Not long after that, I started keeping score of races and then writing.
I've been lucky to have been involved with racing for over 25 years before retiring. I was burned out. There were a few things that finally pushed me to make that decision, but really, it had been brewing for a few years anyway. I needed to step away to deal with the emotion of it all and put it all into perspective. This is another thing that Don has helped me with.
I've been lucky to have been given the chance to do so much. I announced, handled track publicity, did a magazine, had a nice web site, met a lot of great people and made many friends, helped start a division that is still going strong in California and so many other things. Whatever I did, I tried to do with helping the sport in mind. I probably pissed a few people off. Heck, I know I did. It wasn't personal. I made my share of mistakes and I still do. Okay, it's starting to sound like a Sinatra song. Bottom line is I'm proud of my body of work and grateful I got the chance. Just some kid sitting in the stands who loved the sport.
So, where does that leave things now? Should I come back to racing? Where do I even go? Well, at this point there are no plans to come back. Should the right offer present itself, who knows? I have no plans and expect no offers. I'm okay with letting it stay where it is. But, there is the matter of the book, or books as it may be. I really don't know. But you see, there is still a problem. Tradition is getting buried at some tracks in California. It's gotta stop.
I don't own a track. I don't have the money to build a Hall Of Fame for Northern California racing. So, the next best thing I can do is begin to tell the story, or the stories that I know. The champions, the stars, the also rans, the tracks, the point battles, the pictures. They can do what they want now, but history is there. It's story needs to be told before it's all forgotten. Tom Motter did it with an excellent BCRA book, so why not another book for the tracks? Perhaps more than one. I'm a fan of carbureted Sprint Car racing, and there is a lot of ground that needs covering from these last 20 years.
I still have boxes of statistics, pictures, old programs, old DCRR's and other magazines. It's there to be used. At one time, I considered throwing it all away. If somebody had suggested that five or six years ago, I probably would have slapped them. A couple years ago, I thought about it, seriously too. Well, I think I'll keep it all, though I could really use the room.
I am working on another project that will require my time for the next several months. I could push it aside, but I really don't want to. I did that 20 years ago, but not this time. I have another book that I need to publish as well. This stuff will get done, and then I can get into the racing project. Honestly, I doubt the book will take long to put together once I get started. However, editing will be handled differently than it was with the magazine for obvious reasons. I want a clean and nice looking book that the racers can be proud of.
The process has already begun for this book, but it will only proceed at a pace that doesn't take away too much from the other project. This is one reason for this blog. I wanted to begin to talk a little bit about what I'm thinking about. You will continue to see ideas and old stories posted here as well as an occasional rant or two. I'll try to be nice though. That's one reason I want to stay away from certain current topics.
Anyway, I need to end this post here. Until next time...
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Saturday, August 4, 2007
I noticed a story from the Fresno Bee. Check out the link here:
The story mentions that we've had too many tracks closing lately and we have. It sucks, and I'm tired of it. But, I want to grab one point here, ask a question and make a suggestion, if I may. Not trying to offend, but I gotta be honest. I've seen Tom and Cindy take money out of their own pocket to help get a person to race or to help others. This is not a comparison to other promoters, but I know what Tom and Cindy try to do for the community.
In the early days, there were $5 and then $6 adult tickets to spectate. No membership requirements to race and other stuff. Why? Because Tom and Cindy wanted to make a track for the racers and the fans to come and have fun, and be able to afford to do it often. In this economy, that's a risky way to run a business. Some would say crazy, but I would say caring. They care about the racers. When times got bad around here, Tom was the only promoter I ever worked with who called or e-mailed to see how I was doing.
So, here's the thing. Well, let me quote the story here:
Cindi Sagmiller said car counts and attendance have been down this season. She listed the high cost of fuel as the main reason and also said RACE LLC is about $2,000 behind on its lease payments to the fair board. "Yes we're behind. But we're always behind," she said. "I can't see that as a reason for closing us down."
So, I gotta ask. Is this purely about money or is the fair board trying to make a statement? If it's a statement, I suppose they'll just be jerks if they want to be. If it's money...
I don't doubt that at times money has been tight there, but the fair board has gotten their money in the end. It just took certain shows to do it. How easy do you think it really is to run a show down there? Look at car count and attendance numbers at Chow and the closest track to them, and I doubt you can say either track is getting rich. That's not really my point. I'm sure the Chow fairgrounds is making more money with that track than they would without it, and the town has an attraction there that has to help the local economy at least a little bit every weekend.
But, here's the thing. The effort to do right by the racers has probably contributed a little to the late payments. If they went after more money from the drivers and fans, it might not be that way, but then again, perhaps the track wouldn't be there.
Okay, get to the point Don. Sorry, I tend to ramble.
If this is about money, I'm sure there are racers and fans who would donate to the cause to help Tom and Cindy out. Say what? Look, I'm not suggesting Tom go to the racers with his hat in his hand. I don't think he would, and he probably wouldn't like the suggestion even being made. I don't even know if it would work. On the net, we have a thing called paypal, and somebody (not me) could set up a fund explicitly for the $2,000 needed.
Who would pay? Anybody who cares about getting the track back open and supporting promoters who have supported them. If you had fun there and could donate to the cause, do it. It would be up to the people. Would this work? I don't even know. We only know what the newspaper reported, and Tom hasn't made an official statement. I'm just throwing this out there while there's still a chance.
The weekly fun
The Steitz Race
Open Wheel Round Up
Dykstra/Odgers Memorial Mechanics & Ladies Race
And so much more
It's worth trying to save. Isn't it? Well, enough of my rambling. I just hope this story ends with good news.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
I have one of those usb flash drives to move info to my laptop to allow me to consider book ideas on the road. I already have a good idea what I want to do, but there is room for more input. It's looking like possibly two books, but we'll see what we come up with. The plan is still a 2008 start date for the book, but the better prepared I am, the quicker it will go.
I'm still stunned by the Chowchilla news and hoping something good will happen in the next day or two. It can't end this way. There is room for change, but not closure. What else are they gonna do there in Chowchilla anyway? I'm hoping they will work it out and that Tom and Cindy can get back to business. From the looks of it, there are a lot of fans who feel the same way.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
CHOWCHILLA SPEEDWAY WAS CLOSED FRIDAY BY THE FAIR BOARD . I KNOW THERE ARE A LOT OF RUMORS ALREADY GOING AROUND BUT IF YOU ALL WAIT FOR A DAY OR SO CINDY AND I WILL POST AN OFFICIAL STATEMENT. AND ANSWER EVERYONES QUESTIONS. IT HAS BEEN A GREAT 7 YEARS AND A SHAME IT HAD TO END THIS WAY
That post was from Tom Sagmiller
I can't believe what I'm seeing. I hope this isn't the way it ends. I'm composing my thoughts on this and will probably add something more to this post.
Where do I even start with this? There is so much about Chowchilla Speedway that I loved. It rekindled my interest in racing and kept me involved in the sport. This track must be a part of my book for all the good that came from there. I was well aware of Tom Sagmiller. I knew of what went down in Merced. Not getting into it now, but I'll admit one thing. I felt that Tom was a kindred spirit when it came to standing up for what's right and just taking a stand. Enough said.
The track opened in 2000, and Don O'Keefe Jr. and I showed up to support George Terry and the Greer's Winged 362 Sprints effort. It didn't look like your typical track. It was low buck. But there was something about this place. Then, a guy came riding by on a golf cart and said, "$25 fine if you're not having fun." That was the mantra of Chowchilla Speedway, have fun. I was hooked. I had to get down there. This was also the night in which my partnership with Joe Martinez and CRO was born.
For the rest of the season, I took a train, hitched a ride with anybody from Antioch I could get to go. I had to be there. I was not happy with things at another track I was at that year (not getting into that here), but I was loving what I was seeing in the valley. Chowchilla was the racing equivalent of the Field Of Dreams to me. If you build it, they will come. I wanted to help make it grow.
Tom believed in giving everybody a chance. There were some racers who had messed up at their track, but Chowchilla became a second chance. Tom believed in making things affordable. How's $5 spectator tickets and no membership required to race grab you? At that point, it was about having fun, not about beating people over the head with rule books and making the racers OBEY.
And guess what? Car count grew. Hobby Stocks went from single digits to B Mains in a year and the Modifieds had a car count from the start that rivaled other area tracks. Even the carbureted Sprints hit double digits by season's end. I did my best to spread the word in newspapers and racing publications. The people came. It was not uncommon for a racer to tow 2 or 3 hours to race, even for less money than their home track. Why? It was fun, and Tom treated the racers with respect.
Chowchilla changed the landscape of racing in the area. Tom green lighted two races, the Hobby Stock $500 and Open Wheel Round Up, based on conversations that took place in the CRO chat room. Both races were successful. Other area tracks ended up starting Hobby Stocks based on Chowchilla success.
And, you can forget about some plot to put other tracks out of business. Anger may have played a part in opening Chowchilla, but it was business time when the gates opened. The track chose Friday nights to not conflict with others, and I witnessed Tom altering programs to help tracks that didn't want him in business, just because it was the right thing to do. Bear in mind, you are talking about a low dollar track losing money by doing that.
2000 Chowchilla was a miracle in a time when we lost San Jose Speedway. We needed something positive like Chowchilla. This gave berth to the racer's question, "Just where the hell is Chowchilla anyway?"
By mid 2000 or so, George Steitz, God rest his soul, decided he wanted to keep the big San Jose race alive, and he wanted to do it at Chowchilla. Tom could have easily done this race himself. His reputation at the time was growing, but there was a respect for George. The partership paid off in a huge car count close to 200 that year. Man, cars were parked in the field across the street, and I had to walk all over to get the names to announce that weekend. Still a fond memory, and I still have my hat for that race.
By the end of 2000, it was time to plan an even bigger 2001. Tom adjusted Mini Trucks to be a Mini Stock class, gaining cars. Chowchilla locals poured into the Hobby Stock class, Street Stocks maintained and Modifieds got bigger. IMCA still sucks, but as Tom so aptly put it, "Who needs the IMCA." Okay, that was unnecesary, but IMCA could have stepped up here and been a mediator, intead of the second rate, wanna be NASCAR but can't even be WISSOTA organization that they are, in my opinion.
I was and still am proud to have been a part of the crew for those two seasons. Still have two plaques to comemorate it. Tom and Cindy took me into their home that second season, and didn't complain that I went to Merced every Saturday to help that track out. Yes, I was staying at Tom's house and helping BOTH Chowchilla and Merced, and he supported it. If things had remained that way, I don't think it's a stretch to say I'd still be involved in the sport. I loved it down in the valley.
Chowchilla had a laid back, have fun mentality. People were nice. Come race time, it was all business, and the racing was good. Tom may not have received any awards for running Chowchilla, but those first two seasons rocked the racing world. I fondly recall the after race meals and discussions of what to do next. Those were some great times. If I played any part in helping Tom get things established, it was my pleasure and honor to do it.
7 years is not enough for Tom & Cindy to run that place. It's just not. There's a passion there to run a fun, family friendly place. I'm not sure why it would close now. I have ideas, but I won't speculate. Hopefully, things can be salvaged, and more racing history can be written in Chowchilla. It truly was a great place to race.
I used to joke that there should be a statue of Tom at the entrence to the track, hat on backwards and pointing the way to Chowchilla Speedway. Inscribed on it:
Give us your tired, disenfranchised
suspended and downtrodden,
leave your troubles at the gate,
come join us for the race
don't forget to smile and remember
it's a $25 fine if your're not having fun
Something like that. It's been a while since I spoke the words.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
In no particular order of importance...
1-The Sportsman division ends, Stock Cars take over
I loved the Sportsman division. It hooked me on the sport
2-Rick Farren gets Cars Inc./West Coast Speedways
This had a huge impact on things
3-John Soares Jr. gets Antioch
It didn't fall apart. In the beginning, things were great
Don and I worked hard on this class, and it made Sprint Cars more affordable and attractive to those who otherwise never would have driven one.
5-Bert Moreland adds Figure 8 to Antioch
Attendance went up and what a wild time it was.
There goes the track that would run anything. Petaluma gained for a while.
7-San Jose Closes
Not another track. This one hurt.
410 Sprint Car racing in Califiornia hasn't been the same since.
Tom who? Is he crazy? Oh man, this place is awesome!!!
10-Busby books West Coast Nationals at Antioch
83 Modifieds, still a track record. Directly responsible for #11.
11-Late Models dropped, Grand American Modifieds get Regional points.
At Antioch, the quality of the racing went down. But, man, the car count.
12-Street Stocks added to Antioch
From Busby, Shipherd and Rodrigues to Bellando, Feree and Hodges to Shirk and Rosa. Great division
13-Petaluma All Pro Series
The craze of adding divisions to boost pit count begins and spreads to other tracks.
14-California Dirt Cars come to Santa Maria
The modern Spec Sprint movement in California can be traced to this.
15-Rosa and Torres go over the fence at Antioch on a full moon night
You had to be there. Crazy night.
16-Darryl Shirk asked to leave Street Stocks at Antioch
Won 5 in a row and 7 out of 8. Son Troy took the point lead when Darryl began his reign of domination in the NCMA.
17-Madness at Baylands, Pettit wins Regional title
Jim Pettit II didn't let this one slip away.
18-Pettit-Wills-Byrd battle at Antioch for two seasons
Byrd wins two titles by 10 points total, nifty speedo buttons have a button for sale that reads, "Today is Thanksgiving, stuff a Byrd."
19-Tom Sagmiller kicked out of Merced
A year earlier, he was champion. If this hadn't happened, would there be a Chowchilla Speedway?
20-Mike Chisholm dies in a car crash returning from the races.
Perhaps the best Super Stock racer ever at Petaluma and Vallejo. Wasn't long after that when Petaluma went from Super Stocks to Late Models.
21-Altamont reopens under new management.
About 1997 or so, and the track has remained open.
22-Stockton 99 Speedway Closes
End of an era.
23-John Soares Sr. Retires
It was the end of an era, but son Jim is carrying on the family tradition and rebuilding the program.
24-The Steitz Race Begins
This big show at San Jose drew the biggest car count in the state. Nobody seemed to care about the yellow-checkerd finishes. More than a race, it was a gathering.
25-Bruce Paulson debuts FasTrack on Public Access TV
A show covering Bay Area racing.
26-Racing Wheels Folds
The end of an era. Did the internet kill the weekly publication?
27-CRO Is Born
L&J teams with DCRR and rocks the racing world.
28-Brian Holden-John Keldsen Fued At Antioch
The track's inability to control this sutuation had much to do with the end of the class, which had big car counts until the end.
29-Brian Davis dies at Chowchilla
Brian loved this race and supported every Figure 8 he could.
30-Rick Petruzzi Biggest Villain In Antioch History
The guy would get booed walking in front of the grandstand
31-Butch Althar Replaced By John Meyers At Antioch
Butch was one of the best and a true professional. Thus began the announcing career of Meyers.
32-Larry Folkner refuses claim by Merced Promoter, forfeits point lead.
What is going on down there?
33-The Civil War Series is born
Huge car counts occur when promoters work together.
34-Mike Johnson founds NCMA
Bumps the Dirt Modifieds off Antioch agenda for two years.
35-Official Deciscions Decide Championships
Three that come to mind were Don Shelton at Antioch, Scott Busby at Watsonville and a point audit in 1990 moves NCMA title from Jim Berryhill to Scott Holloway.
36-President Jim Booth turns the NCMA around
Berryhill, Murch and Moore leave NCMA in the point controversy. Booth would do much to get things under control and build the NCMA.
37-Tryon, Olibas & Others Form POSSE
After Petaluma dropped Super Stocks, POSSE was formed and was big for a few years. Mark Keys scored a huge upset win in his Stock Car at Merced.
38-John Soares Sr. Wins Antioch Bid, Throws It Back
This led to a brief period when we didn't know if the track would open in 1987.
39-Club Mentality Gains A Foothold
NCMA, SORA, Northern Stars, PCDCRA, NCDCRA and others form clubs and get dates at tracks looking to add divisions without having to promote traveling classes.
40-CarQuest Late Model Tour Formed
The Bay Area racers gained a place to run their race cars when Sandy Bainton formed a new tour for them. Only Petaluma included a regular spot for the class in the Bay Area.
Okay, that's a lot more than 20. Needs a little bit of work too, but I had this idea in my mind for a couple days and wanted to put it out there. There are a lot of other things that could be on this list that aren't coming to mind as I stare at the screen. It's a work in progress.
The newspaper article was interesting. She gave up a high paying job to do this. It takes courage to do something like that. Having done my racing publication for 18 years, I can tell you that the money isn't always there, but if you love doing it, who cares, right? Anyway, it does mention Antioch Speedway too, which is the most publicity the track has gotten in months. I'll include a link to the story, but read it while you can. I'm sure the link will change within a week or so.
Antioch did get a little ink in this weeks motorsports column, mentioning Kellen Chadwick's Late Model win. Usually, the "pros" get all the ink, and the locals get nothing. I'm, not sure who, if anybody, is sending info to the papers for the track. I noticed Dennis Daniel got a story printed in the latest issue of John Kelly's publication, MotoRacing. Kelly may have the only California based paper these days covering the local tracks. I know the news is a little older when it hits the mail box, but it's still better than nothing.
As for Dennis, I have to give him a lot of credit for hanging in there at the track and keeping an excellent web page with the points and results. If not for him, we'd have no information on the track. I know that there were people trying to stir things up about me when times got bad. With Dennis, I recall him speaking up for me when I got tossed from the pits back in the 90's, and I also recall him saving much of my racing data when I had a hard drive crash at no charge, I might add. The guy does care about the sport, and he's found a way not to burn out on things at Antioch Speedway. Dennis will be one of two officials, to my knowledge, who have been at Antioch through the entire era of John Soares Jr.
The Fairgrounds in Vallejo had a race during the fair, an enduro race. Steve Hazelton was the promoter. Here are a few excerpts from his e-mails about the event.
I want to thank all the competitors and crews that participated in our first event. From the beginning we all knew it would be a bull ring, but competitors got more action than they ever could have experienced on a quarter mile. I named the event "Commuters Dream" for a reason.
I did not have enough rules and entry forms for the fans when I went to the bleachers at the break. Every one can relate to being stuck in traffic and being frustrated. These are the participants I am looking for.The arena is safe and fun. It takes a combination of driving skills, car endurance and luck to win. Every one was competing on the same surface.
It got dry quick in the first heat and every one stayed low in the dry dirt. I made sure it was wet on the bottom for the second heat, and the action was great. Nick King did a great job of turning Virgils Volvo around on the back straight near the end of the race.Unlike the Derby last night, all drivers got out of their cars with a smile on their face, asking when the next race is.
First place went to Nick King from Sebastopol, followed by (2) Timber Cookson from Windsor, (3) Dave Vaaler from Vallejo (4) Virgil Breachar from Vallejo (5) Regina Holloch from Sonama.The new season will be posted as soon as I have a contract from the fairgounds which should be in the next two weeks. I am as anxious as the racers to get started on The Commuters Dream Season.In the mean time find me a commute DJ or two that wants to experience the ULTIMATE COMMUTE DREAM.
Some of Steve's Comments about trying To Make The Race Happen:
Saturday, the 14th was our next event, the "Commuters Dream" endurance race. The effort to get cars built for the event was a real struggle. Round table conversations with Joe Barkett, and fair dept heads about future events, was passed on to racers. This information convinced racers to invest in a car for the event, and future events. I worked for a car count to put on a good show for the fair. I rustled up 12 cars, but my target was 20. Now, over 40 local cars are being built by people in, real estate, restaurants, and businesses from A to Z, who have heard about the Commuters Dream, and want to be a part of it, at the fairgrounds.
My responsibility was to put on a show that attracted people to buy tickets on line, and also attract people attending the fair. Bobbie and I dedicated ourselves to putting on a competitive and entertaining events for the people attending the fair.
I invited Kenny Lewis, founder of "STOP THE VIOLENCE TRACK MEET" to attend the event as my guest. I interviewed Kenny at the intermission, and asked why there were not any African American competitors? I asked, don’t Black people drive cars, work on cars, and have a fun time racing cars, as a tongue in cheek question.
Kenny said "Black families and society want to know how to get started in this family fun". My response was, "this is the purpose of Vallejo Speedway 2 at the fairgrounds".
An element of our future program is to focus on Diversity and Gender neutral competition, to present to the community. Kenny said "We need to talk after the fair".
Filipino, Hispanic, Asian, African American, and all communities are invited to attend any future events. Information can be found at; email@example.com
We want to thank the Solano County Fairgrounds, and the SC Board of Supervisors for the opportunity to again bring motorsports to the fairgrounds, the place Jeff Gordon started years ago. There are so many young kids and teens looking for motorsports activity in Solano County, and Vallejo. We are here to serve the community.
I worked for a car count to put on a good show for the fair. I rustled up 12 cars, but my target was 20. Now, over 40 local cars are being built by people in, real estate, restaurants, and businesses from A to Z, who have heard about the Commuters Dream, and want to be a part of it, at the fairgrounds.
I wish Steve luck on this project. The more race tracks the better.
I should point out that this post had more to it, but I edited my comments. They dealt with the nature of my departure from the sport. I am saving them, perhaps to be posted later. This was not the time. I added Steve's Vallejo information instead.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I don't even know where to start. Don is a friend who has been there for me when things have been bad and when they've gotten good. When things did start falling apart, Don never once said to hell with this guy, I've got better places to be. He was one of the few who said how can I help make it better. DCRR the last two seasons it ran, the Sweet 16 State point race and other stuff would not have been possible without the support of Don & Linda. That simple.
This is why I was so excited when I heard that Don got out there and raced a couple weeks ago. He deserved it. He deserved to have that moment of satisfaction. He's certainly helped me and so many other people have better situations, whether they be a magazine, a new division to race or a better running race car. I really can't say enough. I can't wait to get back there and tell old racing war stories. I'm starting to make early plans on the first racing book that I will start writing, and Don has always has great insight into what works.
Being able to put the Spec Sprint division together with Don is in my top three of proudest achievements I've had in the sport of racing. We're coming up on the 9th year anniversary of us sitting at a pizza parlor near where I live and writing out the rules and making a plan to make it all happen. The stories I can tell you, and probably will at some point. We intended to have 12 cars opening day that next year, and we did. Limited Late Models, Dirt Modifieds and Pure Stocks each only had four cars when they debuted at Antioch. Still very proud of that 12 car count too.
I'd like to think Don and I had something to do with the success. We had to handle a lot more than some may realize. If I had it to do all over again, I would. Even knowing how things ended for me. I was asked by a lady who has done great things in spreading the Spec Sprint word, Debbie Shipherd, what I thought of the Spec Sprints now? Well, I wanted to think about it for a bit, but I didn't need to.
The fact is, I'm proud of this class. I think things could have been handled better by certain promoters, but overall, I love the choices the drivers have. They don't have to go to the same track and put of with the same b.s. if that track, or group, can't their act together. They have choices. Some of these places are doing well with the class. Some will get better if they hang in there. Glad to see Tom Sagmiller at Chowchilla is doing his own class. If he hangs in there, it will get better.
Tom is the man who booked the fist big Spec Sprint bash, the Open Wheel Roundup. Still can't believe I got a Stock Car guy to give this one a chance, but we pulled in 32 Spec Sprints and over 130 open wheel cars for that event. This is another thing I'm proud of being a part of. Glad that Tom is still holding this show every season too.
Overall, I still love this class. Things could be a little bit better if certain leaders would try a little harder. I still think there should be a Civil War type series. The NCMA did okay with the Select Series, but it didn't quite hit the mark. But overall, I still like what I'm seeing. I still like it when I see the class referred to as Spec Sprints, because there is a reason they were called that. That's for another post.
When I get to Indy, it's gonna be great to see Don again. It will be like old times again. I've missed having my old friend around here.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
But back in 82 or 83, the track needed something. Charlie Zeno, God rest his soul, was getting up in years and the publicity was lagging at the track. Lots of misspelled names too. I'll say this about Charlie so people don't think I'm bashing him. I liked the guy, and we always got along well. I would give him any information I could to help improve a story. He helped me get the word out about the NCMA in its early years, him and Jerry Gandy. I did a lot to get the word out for that club, but I'm drifting from the subject. Fact is, Charlie's Antioch Speedway stories in the late 70's were an inspiration to me. Lots of info back then, and coupled with Harry Osboune's announcing, those stories got me excited about the Sportsman division.
So, in the early 80's, I was making up my own programs (not for sale) and I began score keeping to keep track of it all. About 1984, I wrote a story about Antioch Speedway officiating for my English class at school and got a B. I had to retype it, but the teacher was impressed. It had an effect on me as I had never really been complimented on anything like that. I started to think I could write. In those days, I had been introduced to Al Nordstrom by his daughter Mary. Actually, I was invited to go to Baylands with Al. This is another subject in itself, but it's worth mentioning as I got a chance to see the behind the scenes part of racing.
There were two racers before Al that I got to hang out in their garages. Street Stock racer Dennis Brown and Sportsman racer Marion Heaton. At Marion's house, I got to meet guys like Dan Hatfield, Rick "Doc" Brophy and Dave "Ozzie" Oswald. Oswald had a beautiful #03a car that he bought from Rich Oagle. Just the prettiest paint job until a night in 1980 when he crashed with Nordstrom, ending a top ten season for Dave. I still remember Dave flipping off Al after he got out of his car.
I have to admit to not being a fan of Al in those days, but I didn't know the man. He seemed like one of those guys getting in the way all the time. As fan you can think things like that without really knowing everything, but if you get lucky enough to get to meet these people, you learn more about them. I'm proud to call Al a friend. The man opened up doors for me to get into the inside of the sport. Just some kid from the grandstands.
I got to go places with Al, and I got to be in the pits at Baylands. I wasn't 16 yet, and Al sneaked me into the pits with him in that van of his. When I think back to what a risk he was taking doing that.... The man helped a lot of people in his days, and two or three went on to get cars of their own. I went on to announce and do a magazine, among other things. I was very fortunate.
Back in 84, I had a knack for getting drivers finishes changed based on my scoring. Al benefited, the late Rich Richards and others as well. It got to the point where racers would ask me where they finished, and if the officials didn't match, there would be an argument. Amazingly enough, I helped get several drivers better finishes that way.
It served to build a reputation I desired as a person who was for the racers. The late Sharon Smith, God rest her soul, and I butted heads on more than one occasion over this. I recall our first meeting in 1983 when John "Boom Boom" Bellando came up to the booth after a race to get his finish. He was leading, if I recall correctly, drove up onto the Turn 4 wall on the last lap, rolled over and still finished sixth. I told him I thought that was where he finished, and Sharon told me I should never do that as it could create problems. I told her that I said I wasn't official. Maybe I should have listen to that advice, but I didn't. Had I listened, perhaps I might have began a path to a better position in NASCAR, or perhaps I wouldn't have experienced what I have been lucky enough to have experienced. I don't regret my decision.
So, in 1985, I began hand writing an actual magazine called Antioch 85. Real clever name there. Anna Temple, God rest her soul, was the main buyer. She encouraged me to sell them and have a little confidence in what I was doing. For the next couple of years, I did Antioch 86 and Antioch Speedway Magazine. It was in 1987 when I had a run in with the late Bert Moreland, God rest his soul. Why Watsonville doesn't honor him with a race is beyond me. He deserves one. Bert had given me my first shot at being in the pits at Antioch in 1985.
Back then, my job was to bang the dry dirt off the front fence and put up and take down the American Flag. He gave me an opportunity in 1986 to write a story on Jerry Garner for the newspaper, but he didn't use it. Garner had a great start and led the points early, but I believe the team ended the season with Jimmy Ford as driver when Nick Burcher decided to switch drivers.
In 1987, I had a magazine I was particularly proud of with a cover story about Jim Pettit II. I had recently upped my printing to 20 issues as I was selling them out at ten. Still hand written and copied on a cheap copier. Bert seized all of my copies and told me I couldn't sell them. This had nothing to do with anything I had written, but the fact that there could be something controversial in them. I was just a little bit pissed off at this decision as it cost me money. The next magazine's existance depended on the sales of the previous one back then.
At that time, I wasn't even that controversial that I recall, but don't worry. I would soon get very controversial. A few years later, when Bert got the shaft from NASCAR as seemed to happen to the old timers around here, he remarked to me at Petaluma that he shouldn't have done that to me and that I was good for racing. That meant a lot to me and still does. Guys like Bert Moreland and John Soares Sr. paved the way for this sport here in California as far as I'm concerned. I always thought it was pretty darn cool that Soares Sr. made sure his old friend Moreland had a job at his track for as long as he wanted.
In 1988, I decided to take on a new name, but what? I wanted to expand the magazine's range beyond Antioch. I had gotten a new type writer from Gary Jacob, God rest his soul, and I was up to 30 printings per week that year on some weeks. My humble town decided to have a vote to change the name to Bay Point which passed, and there was talk about changing this side of the hill from Contra Costa County to Delta County. I thought it was gonna happen, and I liked the name. And so, Delta County Race Report was born.
Over the years, it changed a few times, and there are some stories behind why it happened. The last name was Don's California Racing Review. The DCRR went through a few twists and turns from 1988 until the creation of this blog. It was sold and repurchased. There was the web site that helped lead to an really awesome web site, there was a simulated racing league, a state point race, articles that got me kicked out of the pits and so much more. I just realized how much I have written here, so I'm going to end it here. If you want, I can continue in another post.