Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Looking Back: Taking A Stand For Antioch Management Change

Sitting here bored on a Sunday, so I thought I'd post something. I've been a part of some things in racing I'm very proud of. Just to be a kid in the grandstands, unaffiliated with a racer, to become track announcer and be a part of helping make things better, I really am lucky. In terms of money made and status in life, maybe not so much.

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.