Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I'm sure the fast guys complained a little, but then they drove to the front. Guys like Marv Wilson, J.D. Willis, Dennis Furia, Dana Auger, Mike Gustafson, to name a few. When 1979 came to an end, some of those drivers retired. The era of the Sportsman division was coming to an end, but something pretty neat was just beginning. It was the Street Stock division.
After the Sportsman division feature ended, some people rushed to the exits. What they missed was a pretty good race in this new entry level division that had started at Merced and Watsonville as well. We had drivers like Scott Busby, Keith Shipherd, Julio Jones, Debbie Clymens and Chuck Carter, all battling just as hard as the Sportsman drivers for the win. Dad always wanted to leave early too, but I didn't. I came to watch this division too.
They didn't do a standard point race that year, but Busby was honored as the top performer. Busby, Jones and Shipherd wasted little time jumping up to the Sportsman class, but Carter and Clymens stayed put. Debbie might have won the title that year, but for a hot shot out of Hayward by the name of Joey Rodrigues. The guy was fast, and he won most of the features that year. Carter was no slouch. To me, he was one of the best drivers never to win the championship in his beat up yellow #66a car. I recall a beat up yellow #66m car out of Merced winning a feature at Antioch, driven by Grant Ford.
Vince Mills, Mercury Skaggs, Barbara Skaggs, another Hayward leadfoot, Jeff Rhoton, Ted Ferre and a guy named John Bellando also joined up that year. The class was growing fast and more people were staying to watch that year. 1980 was the first year I never missed a race at the track. I couldn't. I had to be there. As Rodrigues moved up to make a run at Sportsman "Rookie Of The Year" honors, Rhoton was there to take over, battling Dick King for the championship.
1981 was a interesting year for the Street Stocks. We had the Bellando brothers, John and Dave, and the Brown brothers, Bob and Dennis. Ferre was not to be ignored, and there was this very consistent driver named Duane Hodges, another one of those drivers who never won a championship but was still quite good. This was the final year of the Sportsman class, the return of Stock Cars and BCRA Midgets were a regular attraction as well. It was a year of transition.
I was told by John Bellando, nicknamed "Boom Boom" for good reason, that then track manager Paul Bender told him not to be afraid to wear the black hat. He wore it well. I have a Bellando story from an old DCRR I need to dig up. John claimed in that story that he was not credited for all of his points in 1983, costing him the championship to a talented young Santa Cruz racer named Kevin Pylant. A year earlier, a Watsonville regular named Steve Wilson won the Antioch crown. That was a year noted for a fight in the pits and a suspension for the remainder of the season for Bellando.
Let me tell you, John was probably THE best Street Stock driver at Antioch never to win the title and he would be on my top five of all time division greats. Until Troy Shirk came along, John's 17 wins were the most of all time in the division. Of course, David Rosa surpassed Shirk and is still there to this day. I once saw Bellando come back from four laps down to win a 200 lap Enduro. It so happens I kept score in 1983, and according to my stats, he has a point about the championship. Back in those days, I kept track of the race results, but not points. It wasn't until I went back and added things up that I realized he may have had a good argument.
Fact is, there is such a thing as "NASCAR material" as they used to say, and John probably wasn't it. While the black hat might have worked for Bender, for Dennis Huth it was another story. Therefore, John's high water mark in points was second. He did come back a few years later and won a 50 lap Figure 8 race. There was a rivalry of sorts between the Browns and the Bellandos. All four were fast and competitive. Dave may have seemed to be in John's shadow, but he could kick a butt or two on the track and had the wins to show for it.
Bob Brown was more the conservative one on the track in those days. His Brother Dennis was not afraid to let it all hang out. Dennis visited the winner's circle on more than one occasion in bis battered white #27a car and top fived in points in 1982. Bob went on to contend for the 1985 Street Stock title at Baylands and nearly won the 1989 Figure 8 title at Antioch.
1984 was the year B Mains became a regular part of Antioch's Street Stock show. An up and coming racer named Walt Haas stepped onto the scene a couple years prior, but through consistency, he won the 1984 title. In later years, Walt ran Antioch Parts Depot, where many racers went to get parts or engine work. He went on to be a top star in Street Stocks and Modifieds at Stockton and Altamont. In 1984, Steve Huelsmann won many features, but he was no match in the point race to the consistency of Haas.
A big and talented racer named Ed Shepherd burst upon the scene in 1984 and top fived in the points, as did that season's top rookie, Bert Elworthy. Elworthy was good. He won the title a year later before moving up to a successful Late Model and Dirt Modified career. Back in those days, you never knew who would win. It was wide open. This was before the talented trio of Shirk, Bart Reid and Don Shelton took over.
Shelton actually ran his first race in 1984 is Rob Waldrop's old car, which was nicknamed "The Tank". This was also the year a racer named Joe Morganstern came out and won a B Main and feature in the same night before selling the car to Kelly Daukrsch (I'm sure I butchered the spelling here). Kelly's dad Gary was a Stock Car racer at Antioch in the 70's. IN 1985, we had a string of several different winners in a row to start the season. How many, I don't recall at the moment, but it was high. Shelton, 1987 champion Steve Wagerman, Jim Robbins, Ron Murray, John Humphrey, Duane Hodges and John Keith were among them.
Humphrey was a bit of a local celebrity in that he ran Destruction Derbies and was on TV 20 at one point, dressed as Darth Vader for a Derby. John and Brian Keith were another brother duo at the track, and both had their moments. John had a car that was so beat up that even Bellando drove it in hot laps one night and remarked he was amazed he could win with it. John won several races and is another one of those great racers to never win the title.
The early years of the Street Stock division were an interesting and wide open time. I don't now how many people even remember them, but I do. The division was a doorway for people to get into the sport. Some hit, some missed. It was always nice to see drivers move up and become stars in other divisions. Sometimes things got a little crazy, but it was never boring. Well over 100 drivers won at least one feature, and it was nice to watch the division become something people wanted to stay and watch.
Talking about this makes me nostalgic, and I could go on and on, but I'll end it here. Until next time...
My brother was a Mike Green fan, my sister was a Dennis Furia fan. I still recall the arguments me and my brother had over Green versus Mello and who was better. Mike definitely had the better stats. People didn't understand why I cheered for a B Main guy like Len. To me, he is my hero in racing. I can't explain why really. He just became my favorite driver. Boy, when he won that championship, coming out of nowhere, it reinforced my belief that anybody can accomplish anything if they try.
That's my belief, and it got me places in racing. I can remember the final race of Len's championship season. Len could still lose it to Richard Johnson with a bad race, but he was running up front. It just so happened that Green was behind him in Dana Auger's car, a much faster car if I recall. My brother joked it would be funny if he took him out. What I didn't know until a few years later is Mike would have had reason to. He and Richard were friends and Len was not a popular guy. I think me and his wife were his cheering section.
It was a few years later when I talked to Mike and he recalled that race. He said the thought crossed his mind to take him out, but he didn't. That's not Mike's style, and I respect him for that. Always have. He always fielded the nicest looking cars and would settle for second or third and a car that was still in one piece. Sure, he could have won more, but finishing races was important to him. It was in 1989 when I wrote the column that got me kicked out of the pits. The Editor's Viewpoint.
That dam column was sometimes an albatross around my neck. I mean, people loved it. Sure, I get in trouble calling it like I see it, but what the heck. I edited myself many, many times, because I thought I'd gone too far. I'd worry about how much trouble I'd get into for my latest opinion. And, yes, I would get into trouble. People, for the most part, agreed with me and told me so. When I'd get tossed out of the pits, they'd say, "Freedom of the press."
Yeah, sure. To some, I guess I was a spokesman for the little guy, for the racer. To management, I was a pain in the ass. The second offer I had to work in racing was an easy gig. Bert Moreland let me into the pits for putting up the flag and knocking the dirt off the front stretch fence before the races. It got me into the pits for the first time at Antioch. The first time for me in racing was Baylands when I was 15 and Al Norstrom used to sneak me in in his van. Al gave me my first opportunity to really understand the sport and basically took me into his home there for a few years.
The third time I was given an opportunity in racing, the late George Stiles hired me as a score keeper to work with Sharon Smith and Julie. I had already pissed Sharon off before when I had been giving racers my recaps, and they would argue with the posted finishes and get them changed. To me, it wasn't personal. I was just trying to help the racers. But, I can see where she would not like me or want me around. I was moved away from scoring and put on timer/scoreboard duty within the first month or so, and I did not care for that.
I believe I was the last person to run the timer two cars at a time, which was challenging. But, I was good at it. The last straw for me came when I had a different leader on the board than they had on their score sheets about ten laps into a Street Stock feature. Brynda happened to be there. I can't recall the racers involved, but I think one was Ron Parker and the other Brad Coelho. Well, Brynda tells me I have the wrong leader. I'm frustrated at that point. Turns out I was right. I quit that night. If I wasn't going to be used properly, what's the point? This is supposed to be fun.
I focused in on the magazine and learning how to do it right and make it better. That was my second year doing it weekly and the first under The DCRR name. In 1989, I got myself into trouble with that damn column of mine. Rich Richards, a man I respected because he ran one of the best local teams and was an advocate for the racers. He'd call it like he saw it. Buzz Enea had stepped aside as driver after 1988 and Rich needed a driver. This is the brief period before the successful teaming of Richards and Keith Brown.
Mike Green happened to be the driver, and he had a bad night. Brynda had made her son Rod the chief steward, and Rod asked Richards why he was hiring drivers to take out the out of town drivers. Really, that's more of a Terry DeCarlo thing, hehe. Just kidding Terry, but Terry never took any crap. If you gave it, you'd better be ready to receive it. I grew to respect Terry because he's basically a good guy, just don't think you're gonna knock him around and get away with it. Not gonna happen.
Quick side story. Terry had his run ins with racers, two of them were the Gates brothers of Watsonville. Well, the brothers were no pushovers either, so they'd give it back and it continued. Terry and Al Nordstrom brought cars to Watsonville one night. I recall Al's car was running pretty good at that time and he was battling for a top ten when he got stuck in the middle of a payback moment.
What I found interesting about DeCarlo was that he did get respect from one racer, Jim Pettit II. When Pettit came back to Antioch after briefly racing at Merced, DeCarlo ended up with Pettit sponsorship. I'm not saying Terry did anything for Pettit as far as problem's with Pettit's rivals, but Pettit and DeCarlo never had any problems with each other. For the record, I don't think Terry went looking for trouble with anybody, but like I said, there were a few drivers who expected any car with the "a" on it to be a push over. That's probably why Richards chose not to have an "a" on his car.
So, anyway, Green was accused of taking out the out of towners, and I knew Mike better than that. I wasn't gonna let a comment like that slide by, so I basically slammed Rod for saying that about Green. It was brutal, popular, but brutal. I could have phrased it differently and probably should have, but I don't regret my decision at all. I'd write it again. Sadly, Mike retired after that. He was one of the best racers Antioch Speedway ever had that didn't win a championship in my opinion.
It was the second time my magazine had gotten me into trouble. In 1987, Moreland confiscated the 20 or 30 Xeroxed and hand written copies I had made. It wasn't because I had written anything bad, but because I might have. This was late in the season and featured a cover story on Jim Pettit II. In those days, I'd hand wrote the magazine, sell what was needed to print next week's issues and whatever was left got spent having fun.
I was gonna make a name for myself in racing. Nobody was gonna do it for me either. If I got kicked out, I'd come back next week, talk to the drivers in the parking lot and after the races and just keep doing what I was doing. I didn't care. I had a right to publish the magazine, and that wasn't changing. I look back now and think maybe I spent too much time on this and in the end it wasn't worth it. As a body of work though, I'm proud of what I did, successes, mistakes and all.
People might ask me why I didn't just come back in 2002 when I was kicked out again for an opinion in that damned opinion column. I had a right to. I was a paying customer in the grandstands and honestly wasn't selling magazines on the premises at that time. I could have won. There was nothing wrong with my opinion in that magazine and most people agreed with me. So, why not fight?
I've seen people take a stand at the races. Lonnie Fish was vilified for standing up on the safety issues at the track back in 1996. I looked at that with great interest, but Brynda advised me to stay away from it. Out of respect to her, yes, I said respect, I left it alone. But, if you look at the bid proposals in 1997 and how they were graded, Lonnie's efforts helped change track promoters. Was it what tipped the scales? Maybe not, but it helped. I find it interesting that all the people who loved the previous management remained silent when it could have made a difference.
Back in 1996, I think, Jerry Caton was standing up for a purse increase for Street Stocks. At Antioch, the drivers had an informal meeting in the pits, to discuss taking a stand. Track management noticed and called the pit meeting early to break it up. I could name names of who were the first to fold like cheap umbrellas, but I'll just say I stood there with David Rosa and Larry Cates who were like, "What can we do now? The others are gonna race."
One night I happened to go to an NCMA race instead of Antioch. I come back and Jerry Harless was in the parking lot by his trailer. I asked what had happened. He told me that everybody was going to take a stand in the Modified division about a rule change, but he was the only one standing.
It's like this one episode of a show called Are You Being Served. The employees at the department store are upset about what management has done, so they go to their leader of the men's department, Mr. Granger. Now, he's not the kind who likes to rock the boat, but they convince him to go to management's office on their behalf. "We're right behind you, " they say.
So, he reluctantly goes, and management singals him out. He's in trouble. He's looking for the others to back him up for taking a stand for everybody, but they did not. "We're right behind you, " says one of then, and the under his breath adds, "just not so close."
My buddy Don O'Keefe Jr. found that out the first year of Wingless Spec Sprints. Let me tell you, I get credit, and I appreciate it, but without Don, this thing is dead. Don took that division on his shoulders. Ego? I'm not gonna tell you Don's the best racer in the world, but if this was all about a championship to him, he would have won it no problem. He wanted a division and looked out for the little guy. He spent time going to other racer's houses to get their cars ready, and they won features on more than one occasion. Why? Because it's Don, and that's the kind of guy he is.
On that day in 1999, officials were telling him and others what they needed to do with their cars, but they didn't know the rules. Don could quote them any rule without the book, and they didn't know what they were talking about. Well, Don figured out that if somebody didn't take a stand on this, things would go down hill fast. Sure, it's a success now, but people have no idea of the things going on behind the scenes to destroy it before it started.
So, Don loads up his car and heads out to the parking lot. The guys in the pits are clueless. It's a "More points for me" or "That's just Don" mentality. Sometimes you've got to stand up for what's right, even if the people who will benefit don't act like they appreciate it. Well, John Soares Jr. and Don discussed things and Don came back and raced. It was about respect for the division, not individual ego.
So, as I'm having Steve Sutherland escort me from the grand stands, telling me I need to retract that column and offer a written apology, I'm just in shock. Hey, if I wrote a story that was about the races or whatever but not an opinion, and I got out of line, I could see the point. This was JUST MY OPINION. That's all. And others agreed with me, which is why drivers started leaving en mass that year. Now, I bear no grudge with Steve, because he's just a guy trying to keep the peace, not looking to take any stand. I would bet he volunteered to escort me off the premises because he thought it would be better coming from him.
As I walked out of the parking lot, I realized this wasn't fun anymore. I just wanted to have fun, not feel like a crusader. I didn't have it in me to fight any more. This was the man I stood up for kicking me out. How did it come to this? Well, partly because we both had people in our ears bad mouthing the other person to us, and we didn't communicate. People took delight in that. That's part of it anyway. As I say, when you get something you want in life, you'd better believe there is somebody there waiting to try and take it away from you.
I walked down L Street and racers waved at me through the fence. Yeah, funny joke guys. By the way, my comments on track conditions needing to be improved was about making it better for you, but go ahead and laugh. Funny, huh? I recall a meaningful conversation with Bob Brown, who left Antioch within a few months or so after I did. I told him I was done crusading at Antioch. I could fight, but why? I thought I was past that after John got the track.
I only went to Chowchilla because there was something so special about it. Tom and I are a lot alike in some respects, and he poured his heart into that track. I was content to spend the rest of that year at Chowchilla and start going to Merced. That first night at Merced was extremely sad. We're talking four Street Stocks, four Pure Stocks and 10 IMCA Modifieds. It brought a tear to my eye, because the place has a richer history than Antioch. I resolved to use me efforts to help rebuild things, and by season's end, it was not bad.
I'm not gonna tell you it was the best racing, but it was good. In about a two year span, the track was making a nice comeback, and I was happy to be a part of that. As is always the case, though, somebody will come along and try to knock you down. It never fails. I don't know why it has to be that way, but it does. I couldn't take it any more. It's why I left. I forgot why I was doing it in the first place and just reacting over and over again.
Let me tell you something. There is enough ugliness in this world. Look around. Compare things to ten or 20 years ago. I'm not talking technology wise, but humanity wise. Look around and think about it. So, when I get to the races, I want to enjoy myself, make things better where I can but not be on a crusade for a cause. I felt like it was a pointless endeavor. Making Antioch better, Tom versus Chuck, who will run Watsonville, the fall of dirt NASAR, lack of track unity. In the end, who cares? If it's meant to be, we will find a way.
I really hope I didn't bore you too much. This wasn't what I intended to write, but it's what came out.
I didn't appreciate it then. Yeah, the battles between guys like Ted Montague, Rick Bussell, Floyd Alvis, Bobby Morrow, Tim Joyce... Okay, there was good racing, but I had a Stock Car mentality at the time. Well, the Sportsman division will always be my favorite. Maybe it has something to do with it being the first division I saw as a child and being awe struck by it. Can anything that comes after compare to those memories?
You know, the third year I was score keeping as a fan, which would be 1985, I was given my first offer to be a part of something. BCRA needed score keepers and were offering $50 a night to do it. I didn't have a ride, but they even had that covered. I declined. Couldn't leave Antioch Speedway for that. That's what I really wanted, to be a part of that.
But, BCRA has never forgotten their roots. This is a group that once upon a time sanctioned race tracks and had a Hardtop series that rivaled anything else back in the day. I actually have a bunch of stuff about that in my notes. Pictures and stories.
At one time, BCRA held the London Bash and Hall Of Fame Picnic at Antioch, then it moved, then it came back in the late 1990's. I really feel the racing got better in BCRA when they took off the wings. Just my opinion. Anyway, in 1999, they had the picnic there, and I got to thinking. Why not an Antioch Speedway Hall Of Fame? BCRA has a rich history that they honor every year, and so should Antioch. This was my thinking.
What you have to understand at that time is that Jackie and I were doing a lot of stuff for the track to help make things better. This was never about the money for either of us, which is a good thing. Also understand that in 1999, by mid season, things were starting to unravel. People were talking behind people's backs and games were being played. John had reason to be grumpy, though I think he forgot that most people were supporting him and wanted him to be successful.
I had things being said to me, but all I wanted to do was the best I could. I was announcing, doing points, doing new souvenir programs every week and other little things here and there. Jackie was in change of bringing in advertisement, which she did very well, selling magazines and programs, being a sort of "unofficial" hostesses for the races as people loved talking to her and went to her for help sometimes, and she did whatever was needed to help.
1999 should have been my best year, but it was down rght miserable. The beginning of the end. By 2000, I was looking for anything that could bring back the fun feeling that made it all worthwhile, which led me to Chowchilla. But, that's for another time. Jackie and I were quite serious about a Hall Of Fame Picnic, and we could have pulled it off too without John having to lift a finger, just run the races that night and we'd do the prerace barbecue like BCRA did.
Furthermore, the Antioch library had a display case at the entrance, and on the day I finished researching Antioch Speedway history, I discussed the possibility of doing a display for a month on Antioch Speedway, past champions, pictures, an overhead shot of the track and that sort of thing. It was a go. For the Hall Of Fame, I went to people who had been a part of the track for 20-30 years to get their opinions, and I had a list of 10-12 drivers, all of whom I feel are very deserving.
I went to John for his opinion, and he didn't like the list. Fine. What does John think? He never gave me his thoughts on who belongs. I sensed at that point I needed to drop it. I didn't feel like it was appreciated. If you don't have that, what's the point? So, the display case and the Hall Of Fame never happened. It's a shame. Antioch Speedway ought to do a better job of honoring it's past and keeping the community aware that it's been active weekly for 50 straight seasons now.
To this date, Harvey Mason and Darryl Shirk are the only racers in the track's Hall Of Fame, though this fact isn't quite known to most people I'd bet.
If I were to induct people, I'd start with John Soares Sr. Wouldn't have been possible without him. I think Bill Brown and Gary Pacheco should be in the first year. Jimmy Stewart, champion the first two seasons, should be in. Probably put Dave Logan in as well. All of this would be open for discussion. Thing is, if you don't get in the first year, there's always next year. This would be a part of the tradition.
I think the BCRA has this right. The sad thing is, I don't think it matters to most people. Maybe I have an antiquated way of looking at it. Maybe all that really does matter is what happens week to week, not the past. Maybe it's just a Saturday night short track and nothing else. Then again, maybe not.
Actually, what brought up this line of thought was something I read in John Kelley's MotoRacing magazine recently. BCRA is apparently working on rules for another Midget division, and the name listed as helping with that is Rick Young. I'm not sure if this is the Rick I'm thinking about, but Rick Young had a CMA Modified in 1994. This was when Mike Johnson and I started the California Modified Association, a rival for the NCMA that nobody thought would even get off the ground.
We started it to get better purses, bigger car counts and more respect for this form of carbureted Sprint Car racing. This is something I've always been for. Well, Mike fielded three cars from his own garage, but his buddy Steve never produced the two cars from his garage that we had hoped for. This made Rick the only CMA member with his own car outside of Mike's garage, but Ruck struggled to put it together. I think he was hoping for some guidance from Mike, but I don't think Mike was particularly helpful.
Rick made a race or two, but the car didn't run that well as I recall. I think if he had the help, things would have been different. He wanted to help promote the cause and get CMA into Sacramento Raceway. One day he came out there for some hot laps. Anyway, I'm not sure this is the same guy, but I do wish BCRA well in their efforts to keep things going into the next decade.
But I have to be honest with you, I never thought I'd get rich. Actually, the only reason I ended up doing what I did in racing is because people liked what I did. As somebody who didn't have a a lot of confidence or self esteem, when people are telling you you are doing a good job, it resonates with you. So, this is where I focused my attention. My life revolved around the sport.
Why take a vacation? What can be more fun than a day at the races? Well, I missed weddings, missed a lot of nights where I could have hung out with other friends. Then again, it didn't matter. I hear certain people on TV or radio or the net, and they're gonna "save the world" or whatever. Well, I really believed I was gonna save racing. If only they would just listen to me, hehe. Yeah, what do I know?
I could tell you an interaction I had with Antioch management in 1999 that just pissed me off, but I won't just yet. I stand by my decision to back John Soares Jr. for track promoter based on what I knew at the time and my beliefs at the time. What happened to the man since then, well, I don't know. I know some of the stuff he dealt with back in 1998 and 1999, especially, and it can change you. I'm not making excuses here.
Most of the people were trying to throw love his way, but the vocal minority can get to you. I know. The hate thrown at me was a factor in my departure from the sport. Not the only reason and maybe not even the main reason, but a factor. Anyway...
Looking back, Brynda Bockover wasn't a bad track manager at Antioch. She really wasn't. People need to understand she had her hands tied at times, and she had to follow the plans of her boss. This meant not always running things the way she wanted to. I'm not even going to presume to speak for her. It's not my place to do that. One thing that would have been different had she had her way was there would have been more Late Model racing. There were things being discussed back then.
I'll never forget her asking me to sit on a story I was prepared to write about the Late Models. The next thing I know, the local newspaper ran a similar story. That annoyed me a bit, I'll admit. She was constantly referring John Cardinale, Tim Tyler and others to me for information, even though I never was officially employed by her. I merely was allowed in under my press credentials. I helped these other reporters because I wanted to help the sport. It'd like to think their stories were better partly as a result.
Plus, I have a lot of respect for Cardinale. Class act there. Tyler, on the other hand, stepped all over himself in the end. Why? I don't know. It was speculated that he was paid by track management, but that's just speculation. Tim felt he needed to use the newspaper to come out against Soares, and that's what he did. It was quite brutal, and words he wrote had a direct bearing on what went down in the 1999 Dirt Modified point race. I'll leave it at that by just adding, local newspaper coverage began it's decline at the point Tyler was removed, and now we have nothing.
By the time the 1997 awards banquet came down, former Antioch management knew where I stood and were none too happy with me. I can't blame them. As an editor, I endorsed their competition and worked to help make it happen. Bockover had made the comment to somebody, maybe Scott Busby, that she couldn't understand why I could do that after all she had done for me. How could I? In a way, she was absolutely right. In a way though, I felt I was never given my shot. Knowing me, though, I'd have just pissed them off eventually.
I can admit I am too much of an activist. It absolutely pisses me off when I see somebody getting screwed over. I had been kicked out, allowed back in, kicked out... You get the picture. All because of my Editor's Viewpoint column. The upside is I became a voice for the racers, but the downside is I was screwing myself as far as ever having a chance to move up the ladder. But management didn't buy magazines (they got free copies), it was the racers and fans who did. So yeah, under the circumstances, she did do what she could for me.
The late Mike Conley, Jim Robbins, Andy Faust and a few others controlled the Figure 8 scene. You didn't mess with them, particularly Mike. Conley did many motors for the racers, they were good and he gave them a good deal. My nickname for Mike was "The Master Of Disaster" because he did some things. Oh my. He was one of the nicest guys out there, but those poor officials. To give you an idea, when Mike came back to the track in 1987, he walked up to me and asked if I was a writer and told me he wanted to write a book about all of the cheating he was gonna do.
Now, Mike, Jim and Andy didn't just go out there and do things. They planned them, while considering how officials would react. There was an architecture in their plans. The night they took out Bob Brown and cost him the Figure 8 title, Mike walked up to an official and told him he was gonna get Bob. While the officials were watching Mike, somebody else got him. Always a method to the madness. I don't care what the official reason was, Brynda dropped the Figure 8 because they could not control it. It was totally out of control.
Now, chief steward Ken Taylor had a problem with the Figure 8 gang, and it got worse when apparently Andy Faust slammed Ken's son Chuck Taylor in hot laps the year after the Figure 8 was dropped (1991). Andy was fined and suspended. Thing was, Faust had it all on tape. He was not going to go down without a fight. He claimed he went into Turn 3 too hard on the wet low side and accidentally slammed Chuck's car, severely damaging the car.
Ken figured it was payback against him through his son for his calls a year earlier, and Andy claimed it was an accident and explained it with video evidence to anybody who would listen. I went to his house, listened and reported it (on page two of that DCRR if I recall). The next week I was taken aside by Bert Bockover and "explained" the situation. The racers laughed. It was funny, me being in trouble (I need to do a column about being in the dog house).
Well, back in those days you could go to NASCAR, so Andy did that. He won his appeal and was back at the track. Was it an accident? Don't bet the ranch on that one. It's all water under the bridge now.
So, it's all getting real in 1997. John has made it known to me he is bidding for the track. It's a secret until he tells me to go with the story, so at that time I am talking about an "anonymous bidder" who has big plans for the future. Adding to my pressure was the fact that my stories aren't getting printed in Racing Wheels even though I was sending them. Gary Jacob, who was a major contributing writer for my magazine, rewrote my stories and got them printed in Wheels, without my name on them. So, Brynda had a legitimate complaint about wondering where her ink was.
At Altamont, where I was a free lance writer, Andy Herbst was told he needed to fire me. Well, he didn't do it. About the man who asked that I be fired he said, "He's a jerk." Who is that man, maybe I shouldn't say, but I will say he doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those of Bob Barkhimer, John Soares Sr. or Bert Moreland. I'll leave it at that.
So, I put my ass on the line for John. No regrets, mind you, though his comment that day in 1999 upset me. Brynda didn't know what to do. I was told by somebody, maybe Busby, that she was considering bidding a higher bid for the track that year, because she was concerned that her bosses bid wasn't high enough, but she refrained from doing so. That had to be a difficult position for her. What if she had done that? In the end, she lost.
So, I'm sitting at home a day or two before the final banquet of the old management. Who should call me but John Soares Sr. He thinks it would be a good idea if I go to the banquet. Um, sure Pops, that's exactly what I need to do. They're gonna kill me there. Well, he thinks it would be a good idea to have a voice there to reassure everybody that the track is gonna be okay. Later that day, John calls me and pretty much says the same thing his dad did. Um. okay, anything for the team, but I don't feel good about it.
So, I show up. No ticket, not sure I'll get in and only looking to talk to anybody with questions. I am told by Brynda I'm not welcome there. She's a lady, and I won't repeat her words. So, I'm heading out. I don't want problems, but who do I see but Brad Coelho. He has an extra ticket. Oh goody. I'm told by somebody else from the old team I'm not welcome, but I go in anyway and stand in the back. I'm answering a lot of questions. No, people, the track's not closing.
I'm in the back drinking beers with Mike Conley, while people keep mentioning Conley's Machine Shop to the chagrin of the old management, occasionally hearing a plug for The DCRR as well. The minute it's over, I'm out the door. I'm not feeling too safe here. I was told Mike was flat out threatened. Don't know if that's true or not, but I can't blame them for being upset. The show was over for them, and the track was going to change. Racing in Northern California has changed since then.
What upset me about that day in 1999 was John and I were talking about how I was threatened by the old management and could have been kicked out. He pretty much said I'd had it coming to me. Had John lost the bid, I would have been kicked out. The only reason I didn't get kicked out in 1997 is probably because Brynda didn't want negative backlash from the racers. Maybe that's it. A year later with a five year deal, my ass is gone. I guess maybe I felt John should have been more sympathetic to the fact that I had done this to support him.
Fact is, the old management wasn't perfect. I'm not the only person who had doubts about certain point races and what really went down, but every track has that. It did seem back in those days that if you weren't one of "the boys" you didn't get the breaks. But I'll be honest.
The races had a bigger feel to them back in those days. We had the Antioch race, plus the bigger state and Regional point deals. NARC Sprint Car races. Time trials to set the grid, complete with slow, medium and fast heats, which Brynda believed in and I agree. The West Coast Nationals blew the lid off of the Dirt Modified deal. The NCMA and ,in a way, carbureted Sprint Car racing lives in part because of her.
Heck, Bert Bockover attempted to eliminate the specter of favoritism for yellow flags in the main event by having a designated area where all drivers who got flat tires would get the same treatment and chance to get back for the restart. The downside was the Dirt Mod 30 lap features became yellow flag fests, but the intent was good.
Anyway, I'm not sure what brought all of this on, but I'll end it here. That's all for now.
I attended four of four events, the first in 1993 when Mike Johnson and I were putting the CMA together, and years later with Don O'Keefe Jr. The last year, Stewart acknowledged DCRR Racing News as the magazine I represented. The previous times it was my Racing Wheels credentials that got me in.
Now, this was a big deal to me, because they didn't have to let some publisher of a small magazine in for free. But he did. I was honored to be there. These meetings often served as the place for some of the biggest deals for the sport, and the fans came out the winners more often than not. So, I'll just offer my condolences to the Reamer family. It's people like Stewart who helped make the sport of auto racing a better place.
It's nice when we have history books for racing fans to look back on the past and celebrate it. Yes, I know I should get my butt in gear and put that book together. There is the 50 Years of BCRA History book and Bob Barkhimer's book.
I noticed in MotoRacing that photographer Dennis Mattish has put a book together called The History Of San Jose Auto Racing 1903-2007. It's hard cover, 288 pages. It's $69.95 plus $10 for postage and handling. You can order direct from the author:
Dennis Mattish Photos
2070 Ulster Drive
San Jose, CA 95131
I should point out that Dennis is a very talented photographer and his work has been featured in several publications. It's nice to see something being done to honor the great racing heritage of San Jose.
Finally, congratulations are in order to Kenny Shepherd and the crew for a successful completion of the 2009 Chowchilla Speedway season. While I'm still not thrilled that Tom Sagmiller isn't the man in charge, it's nice to know that they found somebody who could make it through a whole season like Tom did for so many years. Plus, Tom did bring the Freedom Series back to Chowchilla for it's finale this year. Anyway, here's a press release for Chowchilla that I received:
Chowchilla Speedway Media Release – October 7th, 2009
Matt Speed – Media Relations / Short Track Management, LLC
The 2009 Chowchilla Speedway Champions are Announced
The audit of every driver and every point earned by each driver is now complete and the 2009 championship points are certified. The Champions will be honored at the 2009 awards banquet on November 7th.
The Western Modified Champion is Alex Stanford, Mike Villanueva is second, Robbie Jeppeson was third with Ray Mayer, and Bill Egelston completing the top five. Sixty Eight different drivers competed in the Western Modified Points Championship during the 2009 season at the Chowchilla Speedway.
Mike Shepherd is the Super Stock Champion; Mitch Enos is second with Steven Hannah, Donnie Shearer, and Roy Hart Jr. making up the top five in the points. Thirty Six different drivers competed in the Super Stock Points Championship during the 2009 season at Chowchilla Speedway.
The Hobby Stock Championship was a barn burner to say the least and when the smoke cleared it was Jarod Fast with 541 points and Danny Roe with 540 points. Jarod Fast is the Hobby Stock Champion for 2009.
Roe was the point leader all the way up to the final main event, Fast had won two races in a row to get close to Roe in the points. Fast won the final race making it three in a row, Roe finished third but the car he barrowed for the main event was found to be 120 pounds light in post race inspection. Roe was penalized one position per pound the car was found to be under weight; he earned one point for the race for what would be 123rd position. He retained his points for the heat race and trophy dash due to the fact he was in his own car.
Had Fast not won all three of the final main events, or even finished second in one of them Danny Roe would be the champion, but Fast matched his name and got a hot hand at the right time, the same time that Roe hit a tough patch in his season. Shannon Marlow, Shannon Porter and Robby Laquaci made up the top five in the points. Forty Five different drivers competed in the 2009 Chowchilla Speedway Hobby Stock Championship.
Kathy Evans is the 4-Banger Champion, followed by Paul Thornburn, David Cox, Greg Mead, and Joe Willoughby for the top five. More than forty different 4-banger drivers competed in the 2009 championship at the Chowchilla Speedway.
Tim Prothro is the 2009 Sportsman Champion, Mike Shearer, Justin Shearer, Mark Odgers, and Mike Henault made up the balance of the top five. Seventeen different drivers competed in the Sportsman class in 2009.
Chris Koontz is the 2009 Spec Sprint Champion, with a hard charging Christian “The Weasel” Hickman finishing right behind him. Twenty Four different drivers competed in the Spec Sprint class in 2009.
The Chowchilla Speedway features the Chowtown Pacific Dirt Nationals presented by Richwood Meats on October 16th, 17th and 18th. Three nights of spectacular main events featuring the Modifieds, Western All Star Super Late Models, Super Stocks and the 4-Bangers. Click on this link for more information.
For more information go to www.racechowchilla.com.