Friday, October 31, 2008
If you are really craving a look at some cool Hardtop photos, check out Don O'Keefe's page, which is linked on the right. There are tons of photos and some stories as well, along with plenty of links. As far as I can tell, Don was about the first person doing a page to remember the Hardtops of California, and now there are other cool pages out there as well. This is very important. Why?
Because racing should honor it's past and the great tradition that it is.
As far as the California short track scene is concerned, it has failed miserably for the most part with exception of a few places. One of my disappointments was I was unable to get John to sign off on an Antioch Speedway Hall Of Fame night. Would have been great for the track, and my sister and I were willing to put the whole deal together with a pre race picnic induction ceramony at the fairgrounds as BCRA has done for years for their guys.
Don't want to go off on a rant here.
The California Sportsman effort at Merced has wrapped up it's 10th season of the old 1970's style racing (Congratulations to new champion Mark Odgers). Don and I had frequent discussions after Merced got going on the subject of Hardtops. I made a trip to Sacramento Raceway on my birthday about 6 years ago for a Hardtop race there.
Over the last couple of years, Hardtops have made a comback in California, first with Chuck Prather's goup in the Sacramento area, then with Okie Bowl Hardtops and this year with the NorCal Hardtops. Let me just say there are some nice cars out there and more coming.
The NorCal Hardtop page is here:
I have grabbed 7 pictures in the hopes of spreading the word about this cool Hardtop effort. The first 5 are from http://sports.webshots.com/album/567294173CYjwov and were posted by
The last two are from http://rides.webshots.com/album/567276779RtkygO and posted by hotrodbob46
With Antioch Speedway's website being run by a new webmaster, results aren't as easy to come by. I tracked down some of the more recent results and thought I'd post them here just in case anybody was interested. Looks like the season may have ended with some good car counts.
Following are the final results for races held at Antioch Speedway on Oct. 11.
DIRT MODIFIED: Heat winners — Brian Pierce, Scott Busby, Duane Clevland, Kellen Chadwick. (B Main First Flight) Richard Papenhausen, Ty Duggins, Jimmy Coppin. B Main (Second flight) — Nick Caughman, Travis Perry. Main event — Ryan McDaniel. Kenny Neu, Nick DeCarlo, Pierce, Jerry Movrich.
SUPER STOCKS: Heat winners — Jeff Oschowka, Jermey Petrell. Doug Haigo. Main event — Olashowka, Mitch Enos, Ricky Thatcher, Eric Berendsen, John Haney.
PURE STOCKS: Heat winners — Fred Ryland. Billy Barnes. Dave Lincoln. Main event — Megan Ponciano. Ryland, Joshaua Davis. Dan McCown, Brian Beard.
Following are the results from the Sept. 27 races at Antioch Speedway.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I voted absentee yesterday to avoid the lines on election day. Sometimes I wonder why I bother. I guess maybe because I still have a right to, but I wonder sometimes what difference it really makes. Don't want to go there. I wrote a book about some of my thoughts on things anyway.
What I do want to say is vote, because you can. And vote for what you believe in. If you don't like what you hear from either party on the news, do some research on the other candidates that they don't show on the news. I know, I know. If you don't vote for one of the two, you throw your vote away. WRONG!!!
You throw your vote away only if you can register to vote and don't or if you are registered to vote and don't. So, whatever you believe in, take a few hours to get informed and vote, because you still have a right to.
Are you as bored as I am with NASCAR? I don't even watch. It just isn't racing to me. I could enjoy Cup racing 20 years ago, but The Chase has ruined it for me. The passion is gone, but they have a guy leading it now who they like, so that's all that matters. I happened to be watching a NASCAR Now show on ESPN (I miss the days when Speed Week actually covered the whole world of racing).
What I saw was a report on an unbelieveable ending to an ARCA season. The point leader got taken out by the guy in second. His championship hopes were killed, so he came back out and took that guy out, handing the point lead to the guy in third. This is right out of Days Of Thunder and totally a Saturday night dirt track move.
Stuff like that isn't really cool, but it does get people talking and keeps them coming back. Back in the mid 90's, Antioch had a similar deal where David Rosa and Phil Torres were battling for the championship under the back drop of a full moon. David had the car to beat all year long, but he stumbled down the stretch. This allowed the consistent Torres to close the gap.
Torres was normally a very clean racer, while Rosa was more aggressive. However, it was Torres who made a bump to pass move cutting slightly into the infield to do this. Rosa had one more shot coming out of 4 on the last lap. He went for it, but fell just inches short at the line.
It wasn't over there. Being on the inside, Rosa took Torres right out the exit gate in Turn 1 at full speed in a spectacular crash through the fence. David always has maintained publicly that his throttle stuck. Did it, or was he just unhappy with the bump to pass move and the fact that he lost the title by such a slim margin? It's a racing memory most people who were there won't forget.
The interesting side note to that was Tom Manning was Chief Steward and a law and order guy in his second year in that post. He cleaned things up with a hard line approach. I've always believed he would have made the call, but as track manager Brynda Bockover said, they didn't have to after that crash. Tom just smiled at me when I asked him back then, but I know he would have done the right thing had the crash never happened.
But who knows? Moments like that are what add to the mystique and make the sport so special to racing fans. The ups and downs, the come back stories, the first time wins and on and on. Rosa had been kicked out of the track at the end of a season that had seen him make Top 20 for the first time in his career after he fought the track champion for wrecking his car (Maybe I'll do a post about that driver as there's a lot to say of that controversial figure).
I saw David go from a C Main racer who ran Figure 8 races to get more track time. His first Top 5 finish was in the 8. Under the guidance of Tim Martin, David grew into a title contender. I have respect for him, because he overcame a lot and became a champion and the all time winningest driver in Antioch Street Stock history, going back over 25 years.
I meant to to acknowledge another milestone last post. This is the 20th Anniversary of not only the NCMA and DCRR Racing News (It was Antioch Speedway Magazine before that), but the Dirt Modifieds. At Petaluma Speedway in 1988, John Soares Sr. had his first full season for Dirt Mods (won my Joe Carr if my memory serves).
That's right folks, IMCA didn't start the Dirt Mod effort in California and neither did NASCAR. It was John Soares Sr. at Petaluma. In a trip back east in 1986 or 87, "Pops" was watching the class and decided he should bring it to California. The first Petaluma Dirt Mod races happened halfway through 1987.
It's at this point where the Dirt Mods cross paths with the NCMA. In 1987, one of the Dirt Mod car builders was a man named John Procopio. John had been crewing for Al Nordstrom for a few years and decided to get in on the ground floor of the new class. There was a growing interest in getting the class at Antioch, and then Antioch promoter Bert Moreland had John bring his car out for a demo at the end of 1987.
As the story goes, and I had heard this first hand, Dirt Mods would get a 12 race deal in 1988, but Moreland was released from Antioch in favor of the late George Styles. Styles had earned a lot of respect in NASCAR as a guy who could get things done and turn things around. He relocated from Nevada for this job.
It's at this point that a Concord based California Dirt Car racer named Mike Johnson entered the picture. Mike had raced a hand full of races at Santa Maria in the division's first year in 1987, finishing as high as second. After a special Dirt Car race was arranged for San Jose with Styles and Rick Farren among those in attendance, Styles was convinced to give California Dirt Cars a chance.
This led to animosity by those who felt Dirt Cars had stolen the spot from Dirt Modifieds, which some thought of as the second coming of Antioch's beloved Sportsman class of the 70's. I was among those for a while at least. It wasn't until a conversation with Mike a few weeks into the season that I was convinced I should support this cause, which I did for several years.
Mike held a meeting at a Concord pizza parlor that had about 100 people, and he gave a presentation on this class. While Petaluma was already in double digits with it's class of Dirt Mods for the first full season, only two cars showed up for Antioch's California Dirt Car class on opening day. Oh, and by the way, unbeknownst to Styles, Johnson had formed the NCMA in his garage before the season started.
Now, Johnson had to deal with a lot of crap that year There are stories I could tell you and some rather interesting quotes. Meetings at that time in the NCMA could get vocal. I really credit Jim Booth with getting the NCMA on the right path. One of the things Johnson had to deal with was comments from those who said he only did the NCMA to get himself an easy championship. There were also very real threats to sabotage the division.
One night, Procopio (with Keith Brown driving) and John Buccellato managed to get invited to race at Antioch against the NCMA in their Dirt Mods. Buccellato was involved in a crash with Hall Of Famer Darryl Shirk that saw Shirk knocked unconscious, and Brown lost the main event by mere inches to Johnson. Some wonder what could have happened for the Dirt Mods at Antioch had Brown won.
Well, the NCMA voted to outlaw the Dirt Mod from future races. Within a year, they also outlawed Santa Maria's bigger wheel based California Dirt Cars as the NCMA went down the old Super Modified chassis path for a while. Procopio lobbied unsuccessfully to get a special demo race for the class at Antioch that year where he said 10 cars would appear. The class didn't finally get it's first season at Antioch until 2 years later in 1990.
The NCMA rose above the problems to have 20 seasons with lots of good racing memories, and the Dirt Mods basically unseated the Late Models as headline class at several tracks. It all started in 1988.
I go on and on, and I'm probably boring you again. I don't write in months, and then two long winded posts.
I'll just wrap it up with this. I think John's son Jim Soares has done a nice job of turning things around at Petaluma. This year, car counts looked pretty good, and it really amazed me what he did with Spec Sprints. Over at Antioch, John Soares Jr. completed his tenth anniversary season as promoter. The "Sons Of Soares" are still continuing the family legacy.
Just one question boys:
We don't have a race for Barkhimer or Moreland, which we should. I leave you out of this, but John is your dad. Where would you be without him? He is worthy of a big race, and I'm not really talking open show. Back in the day, we used to have 100 lappers, they were part of the point deal and they were special. How about a John and Gladys Soares Menorial 100 for your mom and dad? Just a thought
That's all for now. Until next time...
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
It's been a while since I've posted anything here. Sorry about that. My mind has been elsewhere. Plus, I haven't been to a race since I visited Don & Linda in Indiana last year. For the most part, I haven't even been tempted, other than a Freedom Series race at Antioch, a trip to one of Jim's Petaluma shows or the big Spec Sprint bash at Chico. It's been five years since I attended a race here in California. Will I finally go next year? Can't really say for sure. It's not something I think about that much, but anything is possible.
I made AIDS Walk in July. I even participated in Trans March a month earlier. I'm proud to have been a part of both events. I didn't made "Star Walker" for AIDS Walk, but I raised over $300 for the cause, was among thousands of others walking through Golden Gate Park that day and I enjoyed the 6 mile walk. I walk a lot anyway, so 6 miles is no big deal.
Special thanks goes to Don & Linda O'Keefe for their sponsorship and helping get me going. I've been wanting to do the walk for a few years now, and their support is what put it all in motion.
Belated Happy Birthday wishes are in order for Don and an old friend, Dan Nordstrom. Their birthdays both came within the last week of this writing, but I'm lagging and it's taken this long. Really don't know where my head's been at lately. I can't state enough the support Dan's family gave me early on when I was just getting started as a racing reporter. Dan's father and former Stock Car and Sportsman racer Al used to sneak me into the pits at Baylands back in 1984 and 85. And me and Dan used to have a lot of fun hanging out back in the day.
I see Don has been racing more this year and making plans for Chili Bowl '09. This is just awesome news to me, because I know how much he's been itching to get back behind the wheel, only to have one thing or another stop him. Don & Linda are enjoying life in Indiana, and I'm so glad they are. Sometimes a change of scenery can be just the thing a person needs in their pursuit of happiness.
I don't have to tell you how my friends Don & Linda have supported my efforts to be a part of helping the sport of racing. DCRR would have folded two years earlier if not for them. Some may think that would have been a good thing. Can't say I blame them for that as I was pretty grumpy the last year. I'm sad to see nothing other than John Kelley's MotoRacing magazine is left standing in the age of the internet. The sport really needs a weekly publication on the dirt track level. There are still plenty of things happening.
This year marked the 10th season of Wingless Spec Sprint racing at Antioch (Thank you Jim at Petaluma for understanding what we were saying with "Spec" and keeping that in the name at your track). Ten seasons at Antioch, and a new champion crowned this year. I'd say it was a success. It could have been more successful under different circumstances these past few seasons, but the show went on regardless.
I'm proud of what Don and I accomplished putting the class together. He had the rules covered and I had the hype. If a racer sneezed, I wrote about it to get the word out. It's no different than what I was doing for the NCMA before that. People won't give a damn if they know nothing about what's happening. That's a problem at some tracks these days. No publicity.
Anyway, Don and I had several fires to put out that first year from people who would see us fail, but the proof is in the pudding. Look at the roster of new Sprint Car racers and returning veterans. Guys who never thought they could do anything winning their first races. 12 cars opening day, never anything less at Antioch that year and 29 total cars. Enough for a B Main opening day the next year.
Petaluma, Chico, Placerville, Marysville and Watsonville joining Antioch with their own classes. Open Wheel Round Ups at Chowchilla. Big shows with huge fields (52 cars this year) at Chico. Would this be happening had we not started Spec Sprint a Antioch?
Now, I'm not about to put down the NCMA. They still live, and it's 20 years old this year. There are things I didn't like about what they did on their path, but I respect that they made it here through all the tough times. They aren't the carbureted Sprint Car class that started it all, but they are the one that made it (Santa Maria Dirt Cars and Merced Limited Sprints both folded).
So, congratulations to the NCMA on 20 years and all the exciting races that you've had. Here's to the future.
As I said, I haven't been to a race here in 5 years, but I do look at the numbers and names. Many new faces among some familiar ones. I don't think the sport is where it could be, but we are in tough times. We're lucky it's here at all, so enjoy. And, you really never know. The promoters may hit on something that will get big and create new excitement. As long as tracks are open and trying to do something, there is a chance.
I did notice a couple things that brought a smile to my face. While looking through results in my local newspaper not that long ago (We get results sometimes, but no stories), I say Hardtops had visited Antioch and an old Hardtop, Sportsman and Super Stock racer named Conrad Cavallero had won. I though that was cool to see him and the NorCal Hardtop effort putting on a show.
Secondly, Mark "The Missle" Odgers is the Sportsman champion at Merced. Yes, the Sportsman class still lives there, and it's Mark's first championship.
Actually, Mark is listed as the point leader at Chowchilla before the plug was pulled on CCMR's first season trying to promote there. They made it to August, but I don't know if the drivers there will be honored in a banquet for their accomplishments.
Now, I think the Chowchilla Fair Board needs to understand something. Making a track even happen at that place in 2000 was an absolute miracle. What Tom and Cindy Sagmiller did probably couldn't have been done with ANY of the other promoters in the area. Why? Because Tom & Cindy bucked the trends and what other promoters considered "the way to do things".
Why? They had to, or they would have failed at the start. They had plenty of bumps along the way and made mistakes, but their successes far out weighed those mistakes. A lot of racers considered Tom & Cindy friends (I know I do), because they know they were appreciated. It was nothing for a racer to drive 3 hours or more just to get there, losing money in the process. Why? Because they knew a fun time as waiting for them when they got there.
It ain't the money. It ain't the winning. It ain't any of that in the long run. If it ain't fun and you don't feel like you are among friends, you ain't staying.
Now, Tom & Cindy kept the Freedom Series alive this year at Antioch, and from what I see, it was a success. The George Steitz Memorial Shoot Out at Hanford is next. They need their track back. I read Ken Bonnema's comment on a forum that the Chowchilla Fairgrounds will only have one shot at this, and I agree.
What I'm trying to say is they need to look at what they had and realize they did make money with Tom & Cindy. Maybe not as much as some of the other tracks, but more than they had before the track opened. Tom has kept the big races alive and in the people's minds. The racers still remember him and they will support him. Any promoter that comes in there expecting a "traditional" show will fail, because that's not what this place is all about. Tom & Cindy know what it takes and they put their hearts into that place.
Bottom line is the fairgrounds needs to get on the phone with Tom and made a deal and make it happen. Otherwise, I don't see that race track having much of a future, and that would be a shame.
I haven't been doing much with the book at this stage. I was working on other projects, but recently not doing much at all. I have decided, due to the lack of information from places I need information from, that the history covered in the book will go to 2007. Antioch is a central part of the book (not the only part) and information has sort of dried up since Dennis Daniel retired as Antioch Speedway Webmaster. I can't understate how important his work was on that page. We may have disagreed occasionally, but I respect his work, especially on the web page.
I wrote a couple blogs a year or so ago that were controversial but covered topics I wished to clarify. I may dig them out and post them for some offseason material if anybody is reading. And if you did read this and care to reply or just say hi, post a comment. It's nice to know if anybody is reading.
Until next time, my best wishes to all of you.