Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Editor's Viewpoint

(Well, not really, but I thought it might be nice to use that as a title for this blog post)

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.