Thursday, August 30, 2007

Remembering Jackie

It was two years tomorrow. I still miss her. Her time on this planet was way too brief.

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.

Walking The Fence

In 2001, I was one of four people able to "walk the fence" between Chowchilla and Merced and work at both tracks. Flagman Doug Laidlaw and Joe & Lynn Martinez were the others. We all cared about one thing, supporting racing. Eventually, we all got knocked off that fence. I had a lot of fun at both tracks. I was helping both tracks. If I couldn't get track unity, I was gonna try and make Chowchilla the place to be on Friday and Merced the place to be on Saturday. I think I had a positive impact on both places.

Photo by L&J Photography

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.

Photo by L&J Photography

Johnny Sass is holding a microphone for Jack Stanford in this Merced photo. Jack was the big IMCA star at the time, before Ramie Stone took over. He won the CRA State point race that year. Ramie won the DCRR Sweet 16 State race a year later, and Johnny Sass gave those points a big mention in the Merced program. Can't say enough about Johnny and his willingness to welcome me into the booth. He is a legend in the business as far as I'm concerned and one of the people I still look up to for all he has done for racing and Merced Speedway in general.

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.

Just an update

Back from Indy for a week now. I've been meaning to update the blog, but my game book and blog have been the main priority, as you know. I don't plug it here as these are two different things. It's kind of fun to blog and I may even start a third blog unrelated to the game or racing. If I find the time.

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 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.

DCRR Racing News? I always appreciated having the name on Don's Sprint Car. It's still there, and I need to get busy putting more racing stuff together.

The start-finish line at The Brickyard. Had to get a picture of that. I have more to post when I have the time.

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:;action=display;num=1188114899

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:

WSS Antioch


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

Greetings From Indy

I'm here at Don's house and figured I'd post a quick mention that I have been to my first two races in almost four years. I guess it took me leaving California to finally get me out to a track. Actually, this is racing country. I'm impressed with the way people treat racing here. The big Indy newspaper here actually had results of several tracks from the weekend. Imagine that. There are several tracks within reasonable distance here too. The people here love racing. How much? The fans stayed to watch the races at Gas City and Kokomo after midnight. And, Kokomo was on Sunday.

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

Chowchilla & Other Stuff

No news has come in concerning the closure of Chowchilla story, save Tom Sagmiller announcing that Kings Speedway will be the site of this years big George Steitz race. To me, it's good and bad news. It's good that the Steitz Race tradition continues, but it's not good news for Chowchilla. When you are sending probably the biggest money maker of a race to another track, the outlook for reopening in 2007 does not look good. Hopefully, I'm wrong about that, but time will tell. I was hoping Tom would have posted something by now, but there's probably a good reason he hasn't.

For seven years, Chowchilla Speedway has been offering racers and fans a great place to race and building memories. If that's where it ends, it's a shame it had to end, but there's a lot to be proud of. I wanted to take you back to a story from 2000 that ran in the Merced Sun-Star, but my blog is having format issues. I recall back a year or two before the track opened. I was corresponding with an insider to Tom's effort to bring change to the racing scene. I actually have some of those e-mails in a file.

In fact, I was looking through my files as I gear up for my trip. It was a trip down memory lane for me. I may be posting some of these files here on the blog. I have some interviews and other stuff I ran in the magazine. There are pictures that I forgot I had scanned. Some of the early WSS stuff. The first file of the rules typed for the class is on disk. Interviews in Q&A form with Andy Archer, Don Shelton and Donny Babb. A Jim Booth story. Lots of stuff actually. I'll be sorting through it all.

I found some News & Rumors columns that Don had written. Vintage photos from the early 70's and early 80's. Some of this stuff may eventually find it's way back to Don O'Keefe's site. The last Editor's Viewpoint from the DCRR in 2003 and other Viewpoint columns. Lots to look through, but we're a ways away from getting started on the book. Right now, it's sort of a trip down memory lane, and I look forward to sharing this stuff with Don in Indy as we recall those times.

Stay tuned to the blog as some of this stuff will likely get posted. By the way, I do intend to offer some newly written posts about days gone by in racing, but I'm not sure how much time I will be spending on that in the next couple of weeks. Plus, I'm still working on other writing projects.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Chowchilla Speedway Story In Fresno Bee

I don't know how much I really want to get into this stuff here, but I can't really help it. This is important to me. I'd rather be talking about my memories in racing, but there's a problem. I WANT PEOPLE TO HAVE MORE MEMORIES OF THIS TRACK! Sorry, I shouted there.

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
Freedom Series
Buddy's Race
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

Preliminary Work On The Book Has Begun

I really wasn't planning to get into this project too much this year, and I'm still not. However, I needed to gather information to update my records. As you know, I will be heading to Indy next week, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm also looking forward to talking with Don about the project and getting his input.

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.