Tuesday, June 9, 2009

From The DCRR Archives - Chowchilla Speedway 2000

What I remember most about the 2000 season was the fun I had at Chowchilla Speedway. Things in 1999 ended on a rather frustrating note and I was not a happy camper at that time. Maybe the writing was on the wall and I was on my way out anyway, but I never expected I would find my smile at a track in Chowchilla of all places. But from the moment I got there and this radical promoter named Tom Sagmiller was talking on the pit PA system and telling people there was a $25 fine if you're not having fun, I was hooked.

Tom did things differently. A $5 adult ticket for the weekly show. Needing point fund money, he shaved his head for donations. On a rainy night, he was about to cancel a show. I recall him asking the fans if they would like the drivers to come back and mud pack the track and race. They loved the idea of course, and the drivers came out and did just that. Tom was always doing things like that that were outside the box. I'm of the opinion, though, that his particular style was needed or it never would have flown.

Tom also liked to come into the California Racing Online chat room and talk with whoever was there on our weekly chats. The Hobby Stock $500 (40 cars the fist year) and Open Wheel Round Up were born in that room. I have respect for Tom and Cindy and what they did at Chowchilla, and they are two of the nicest people in the sport. Did you know that at a time when he and the Merced promoter weren't getting along, Tom let me stay at his place an extra night and even drove me to Merced Speedway so I could announce report there?

Anyway, here is a story from the 2000 Chowchilla Speedway Awards Banquet:


CHOWCHILLA, CA...NOVEMBER 12...Just a year ago at this time, the work crews were just breaking ground on the new race track at the Chowchilla Fairgrounds. Now, roughly 250 drivers, crew and officials gathered to honor the accomplishments at the First Annual Chowchilla Speedway Awards Banquet. It was a happy occasion for all who worked so hard to make this dream a reality.

After the Chowchilla Speedway tradition of the invocation before the event, done by Steve Stone Sr., and a delicious roast beef dinner, it was time to get into the awards ceremonies. Handling the Master Of Ceremonies duties were Promoters Tom & Cindy Sagmiller. Charlie Ruth received the "Best Idea" award for providing the inspiration that led to the effort to open the track. Charlie, Kenneth Stone, Leonard Burnett, Perry Thomas, Tom Sagmiller, Mike Bettencourt, Roy Hart, Mark & Regina Fleming were acknowledged for their investments that made opening the race track possible.

Over 30 special awards were then handed out to all the track officials, sponsors and investors for their very important contributions to this special season. The investors had the guts to take a chance on the track when some people were saying it wouldn't happen. Many of the sponsors and track officials worked during the weeks leading up to the season opener and throughout the year to make sure things went off as planned. The track officials worked on a volunteer basis to help the track get started. Without the support of all these people, the 2000 season at Chowchilla Speedway would not have been possible.

A few special awards were then handed out to the drivers. Monty Tomlinson Jr. received the award for "Having The Most Fun" every week. His crew then received the "Golden Wrench" award, and it was pointed out that Monty was the only driver to race regularly at both Chowchilla and Merced this year. Popular Hobby Stock racer Craig Tatum received the award for "Most Dents On A Race Car", and it was jokingly pointed out that Craig had managed to hit every car in the division at least once. The "Most Confused" award went to veteran Larry Folker for the time he spent in a Street Stock before returning to the Modified division, where he has won several championships. Brad LeDuc received the award for "The Most Air Time" after his crash off of Turns 3 and 4 nearly landed him in the airport next door.

"Rookie Of The Year" awards were next, and Brad LeDuc (Winged Sprint), Red Williams (Hobby Stock), Steven Williams (Modified) and Nathan Corn (Street Stock) collected that hardware. The "Most Improved Driver" plaques went to Phillip Lust (Street Stock), Brian Folkner (Modified), Roger Dory (Hobby Stock) and Joshua Lefler (Winged Sprint). Though there were several Mini Stock drivers during the last couple months of the season, only three time feature winner Bob Terry actually joined the track's R.A.C.E. Association, and he was crowned champion. Terry actually beat a field of Hobby Stocks in his Little Truck at the season opener, and he plans to return next season as the division is expected to grow considerably.

All the drivers who were members received trophies and point fund money, and each champion received two jackets in different styles. 16 year old Doug Fisher received the 13th place Hobby Stock trophy and is expected to return in a new car with his sister Amy also getting a car. Kevin Anderson was 12th, Red Williams' crew chief Jaye Aguero was 11th and Scott Van Gelder tenth. The Ford driving Dale Falkenberg was ninth, and both he and wife Tami are planning to field cars next year. Billy Alvis was eighth and two track racer Dan Holcomb seventh. Roger Dory was sixth and Chowchilla based rookie Craig Tatum received the fifth place trophy. Two time winner Sydney Finn was fourth, and Charles Seals enjoyed one of his most successful seasons in third. Five time winner Jerry O'Hagan, who also won the preliminary feature at the big open show, received the second place trophy and is already being tabbed as the driver to beat in the 2001 championship race. Seven time winner Red Williams won the championship in an impressive rookie season to receive the big trophy and jackets. He sold his car to Jay Connelly and is building a Street Stock for next season.

16 year old Joshua Lefler picked up the seventh place trophy for the Winged 362 Sprint Cars. The steady Joe Diaz Jr., who has sold his car to Jim Myers and is looking for another one, finished sixth. All of the top five point runners won at least one feature, and veteran Roy Winters finished fifth. Brad LeDuc claimed the fourth place trophy. Roy Greer ended up third behind his father, two time winner Richard Greer. George Terry, who led the effort to get the carbureted and winged Sprint Car effort going in Chowchilla, won the track championship to receive the big trophy and Jackets. George is hoping to have a new car for next season.

In the Street Stock division, Kevin Pugh earned the 13th place trophy. Robby Jeppesen settled for 12th, Dennis Corn was 11th and Larry Folkner managed a tenth place trophy in the short time he competed in the division. Speedy Davis sold his car to Andrew Krumm during the season and debuted a new car to maintain ninth in points. 65 year old Al Loewen finished eighth and "Mr. Excitement" George Lefler, who definitely lived up to his nickname, finished seventh. Sixth went to Merced champion Ramie Stone, who had some impressive results in his Chowchilla visits and intends to race here full time next year. Phillip Lust grabbed the fifth place trophy and brother Jimmy Lust was fourth. Monty Tomlinson Jr's solid season, which included two feature wins, earned him third place. The consistent Nathan Corn used his two feature wins and six trophy dash wins to finish second. Steve Stone Sr. proved to be the man to beat and won the championship jackets and trophy with ten heat wins and eight feature victories. In receiving his trophy, Steve was quick to give credit to his pit crew and said he couldn't have done it without them.

Monty Tomlinson Jr. received the 18th place Modified trophy for his two appearances in a car that was last run on the asphalt of Madera. David Jelen was 17th, Michael Jiminez 16th, Chowchilla's Wayde Stockton 15th, former Hanford champion Jimmy Reeves 14th, Mike Dinublio 13th, top five Merced racer Troy Stone was 12th and Robby Jeppesen 11th. Late starter Larry Folkner managed to climb to tenth in points and impressive rookie Steven Williams grabbed the ninth place hardware. Early season point leader Bob Hotchkiss was eighth with Merced champion Jack Stanford seventh. Jack plans to race more at Chowchilla in 2001. Brian Folkner struggled at times but still managed to earn a sixth place trophy. Veteran Bob Williamson was fifth and Chowchilla's Dennis Clay fourth. A one time feature winner, Dennis plans to build a Street Stock for next year, but if he can land the sponsorship he may stay with the Modified. Two time Merced champion Paul Stone, who had two feature wins this year, finished third and plans to have a new car for next year. Two time feature winner and six time dash winner Fred Lind earned the second place trophy. Six time winner Mike Johnson won the champion's jackets and trophy, and he is preparing for a move up to Late Models next season.

With plenty of good food, conversation and awards, a good time was had by all. It was the perfect way to wrap up a fun and exciting season at a new track that everybody worked so hard to make reality. Promoter Tom Sagmiller is now working on the schedule for an even better 2001 season under the Racing At Chowchilla Enterprises banner.