Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'll Tell You What Bothers Me

I'm siting here reading a lot of arm chair promoter's comments about how messed up Antioch Speedway is. They complain and complain and complain about it. It never ends. I see one guy. He was complaining about Brynda back in the day. Now he's complaining about John. I don't see a lot of solutions being offered up. When Brynda was out and John was in, I don't recall ever seeing him offering to help. Maybe I missed something.

Figure it out folks. At least you have a track. It may not be perfect, but at least it's still there. Do you want to see it closed? Take a good hard look, because it can happen. Down the road a ways at Merced, we lost a track with a longer history than the one Antioch had. Sure, it didn't have the car count Antioch had, but racers and fans still called it home. It meant something to them.

It meant enough to a guy like Tom Sagmiller that he stood up and tried to do something about it. He was a racer seen as "hot headed" to some people, but judge a man by his fruits. He tried to bring change to the track. When he was not on the outs there, he did things to help promote it. When he finally realized he couldn't do anything, he got investors behind him and founded Chowchilla Speedway. And then, he opened on Fridays and ran that night for a few years so as not to hurt Merced Speedway.

I'll tell you what bothers me. Merced Speedway is closed, and I hear all of this sniveling and crying at Antioch. Cry me a river people. I really don't care. Is Antioch perfect? No. It's far from perfect. But, at least it's still there. At least you have a track to race on. At least you have a promoter who has made improvements. Has he made mistakes? Yes. Will he make more mistakes? Yes. But at least he's there.

Merced lasted for 25 years under Chuck Griffin. Sure, he screwed up. Sure a lot of racers refused to race there because of him. His effort to make the track bigger created conditions that scared off some racers because of that inside back wall. But, at least he opened the gates each week, and people had a place to race. They may have bitched about Chuck, but at least they had a place to bitch about. Now, it's gone. The time for placing blame is over.

What bothers me is there is still a facility to hold races on, an amazing grandstand for the fans and the track will be silent. Nobody wants it now. I have heard of one interested party who wanted to come in and spend big dollars on the place to turn it into something special. I even heard talks of paving the place, which makes me want to throw up. But, at least somebody was interested. Apparently the fair board wasn't.

I hear talk of people wanting to go to the Antioch Fair Board Meeting over what's been happening lately. Fine, do it if you feel you must. It's your right. I'm looking for the outrage in Merced. Those people lost a race track. Unless somebody gets really stupid, the gates will open at Antioch this season, and they already have a schedule.

I would love to see a Save Merced Speedway effort by the fans and racers. If investors can create Chowchilla Speedway, they can do it in Merced. I'd love to see people go to the meetings there and voice their disapproval. If it's going to be a soccer field now, as rumored, then so be it, but otherwise people should be outraged. Chuck may not want the place, but it doesn't have to be over.

Where are all the people who wanted Chuck out of Merced? You have your chance now. Make a move. What are you waiting for? Has everybody lost the desire to do anything at this point? That's just sad, but I guess I understand.

At this point, maybe the track won't be a Late Model or 410 Sprint Car track, but so what? It was good enough for IMCA Modifieds, Street Stocks and Hobby Stocks before, so why not now? Open the gates, and you're already one step ahead. People couldn't use Chuck as an excuse not to race. All of those cars parked in the garage can come out and race again. It's safe now, right?

Forget any grand plans for big facility improvements at the moment, pursue the contract, open the gates and go racing. I don't know if any one individual would want to do it without being given the green light to do everything they want, big changes and a guarantee for 10 years due to big investments. That likely won't happen.

But what about a group effort such as RACE at Chowchilla? Investors and people pitching in? I remember that spirit at Chowchilla. It was something to see. It was something special. It mattered. Bring that spirit back to Merced Speedway, where there is a great tradition of racing. Where "Action is the attraction" as Johnny Sass would say. A track where family and community matter.

I guess it just bothers me that Merced Speedway is going dark after all of these years. The track of George, Ted, Vic, Dennis, Vern, Larry, Ramie and so many other greats. The races on TV are not personal, and more like reality TV. There's something phony about it to me. But you can be a part of a place like Merced Speedway. You can be a part of something special. People have a chance to make a difference now, so what are you waiting for?