Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Word About Voting And A Trip Down Memory Lane

I was taking a walk up the hill today. Well, I do that every day to try and stay in shape. It's nice to walk down roads that didn't even exist a little over a year ago. Boy are they building houses and condos here. Not sure who can afford them, but at least people still have jobs building them, so that's a good thing.

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...