Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Good Old Days: Bobby Hogge III is Antioch Champ

Another series I'd like to do is The Good Old Days. This will be where I talk about moments that I recall of excitement and drama from racing's past. Let's go back to the Late Model division in 1985 at Antioch Speedway. To be honest, I am more fond of the late 70's and early 80's and the Sportsman division, but I have realized over the last few years how special the Late Model era of the 80's and early 90's was. I will probably talk more about those days in the future, and I'm sure there will be fond memories and a little controversial opinion thrown in. If you read The DCRR during the 18 year run, I'm sure that won't surprise you.

To be honest, I wasn't a fan of most of the (circle) cars in those days, because I felt there was favortism shown to some of them. I still believe that to be the case to an extent, but I also grew to realize as I started to talk to these racers that they were very talented and earned much of what they got on the race track. The one racer from the (circle) group I was a fan of was Jim Pettit II, who since married a cousin of mine. I sat near his dad in the stands and we talked often. He bought some of my first magazines from me and encouraged me as a writer.

I won't get into the night Jimmy supposedly lost his brakes and the result was Alan Nordstrom crashing into the wall in Turn 2 after leading much of that race. Al was a good friend of mine and I got to learn much about the sport through him. I'm sure this will come up more in the future. As I recall, I burned a hat I had of Pettit's at Baylands not long after that, but that's another story. Pettit has won many championship's in his career, and I'm glad I still have one of his hats from that era. Oh, the memories...

You know, I believe Hogge drove Nordstrom's car one night as he needed the points. And Hogge is the point of this post. If you think Bobby Hogge IV can drive, you should have seen Hogge III. That man could drive, and when he used his patented "thread the needle" between two cars move, wow! I am surprised he didn't crash more than he did. Did you know Bobby raced a Sportsman at Watsonville before he got into Late Models. I think he even raced Sprint Cars. He won a Sportsman feature once and was quoted as saying he had more money in the trailer for that car than the race car itself.

Yep. Bobby could drive. There was a time when Bobby was either winning or blowing motors, and if not for that, he would probably have a few more championship trophies on the mantle. As it is, he is a Bay Area Racing Hall Of Famer as far as I'm concerned. You know, I recall the last season Len Mello, an all time favorite of mine, raced. Len was kicking butt in a 1986 Late Model race. He led by a half lap before a yellow flew about halfway through the race. Len finished second to Bobby Hogge III. Yep, Bobby could drive man.

Anyway, back in 1985, we were coming off of the Pettit-Byrd-Willis championship battles of 1982-84. That's for another time as it is a post in itself, but the Championship line reads Byrd 1982-83 by a combined 10 points over local hero Willis, but Willis rebounds and wins it all in 1984. Those were the days.

With San Jose not getting Regional points for Late Models, Ed Sans Jr. had won three championships in a row 1982-84, but no Regional points. Hogge had raced a full season in 1984 at Watsonville, at least I think, but he was just getting into the groove. Pettit switched to Merced in 1985, Byrd was primed for a Southwest Tour move and Willis teamed with Bruce Curl Sr. Rule changes drastically effected car count, again another story.

So, the battle was on between Hogge and Sans, but Sans missed a race or two at the start. Wasn't long before The Sanman had climbed his way into the top five and second, but Hogge was the leader. At the finale, Sans won the feature. May have been a sweep, but I'd have to look at my notes to be sure. That's when disaster very nearly struck Hogge. Hogge looped it in Turn 4 and was facing the wrong direction. Plus it was the last lap.

Now, Sans was fast that night, but enough drivers were on the lead lap, that this spinout could have cost Hogge everything. I believe there were 11 drivers on the lead lap, so Hogge could have lost the title by a few points. However, this was not to be. Bobby put it into reverse, drove it backwards down the straightaway and the rest is history. Your Antioch Speedway 1985 Late Model Champion: Bobby Hogge III.

They even had a stripper in the Hogge pits after the races, or so the legend goes, but that's another story.