This one comes from 1998 and the May 9th edition of The DCRR. Track management had just changed and we were in the beginning of what was a special season. People thought new Antioch Speedway promoter John Soares Jr. would fail. Instead, we had a season that led to many people coming back in 1999.
The skies were cloudy, it had rained the night before and it even sprinkled off and on all night, but the show went on at Antioch Speedway under the All Pro Series banner. It was a night that left some fans scratching their heads in wonder. The Pure Stocks and Modified Street Stocks put forth their usual solid effort, while the Dirt Modifieds seemed intent to make up for the cancellation of the Destruction Derby by staging one of their own. The only problem is that with all the money the drivers spend on their cars, it was a costly Derby at that. In fact, it will end up costing drivers even more as fines and even a couple suspensions will be handed out as this is being typed.
Just a week earlier, the Dirt Modifieds put forth one of their better main events in a while with only a few caution flags and a late challenge from Dan Gonderman on Don Shelton. Gonderman seemed to be gaining on Shelton there at the end, but settled for second in the 25 lapper. “Donny just wouldn't give up on that top (groove), “ claimed Gonderman. “It was going away. I don't know. A couple more laps and maybe we would have made it.”
Shelton maintained that he was just being careful at the end. “It was a lapped car, “ said Don, who finally gunned it and got sideways on the front stretch lapping the slower car. “I got caught up to a couple cars. I don't know who it was and I really don't want to name names. They were kind of in the way and I couldn't get around them. I was trying to save it. I figured if I got second, I got second. I just didn't want to lose and crash the car or anything. It's brand new, so I don't want to wreck it.”
Don is pleased with the way things have gone so far in the Gary Dauksch-owned Pro Chassis, which had him ranked a close third behind Bob Newberry and Gonderman going into the fourth night or racing. “We're happy, “ Shelton admitted. “I don't like the way it handles yet, but we'll get it. Making me happy is the hardest thing for them guys to do. They're trying to change me to make the car work better. We're fighting each other is all we're doing. We're having a good time. Between Tom and Gary and all the guys that come out and help me, we have a strong team. That $600 (for the win) here and there helps out a little bit. It's a lot better than last year when they were paying $400 or something to win.”
It’s been a long time since he has run for points. In fact, it goes back to the Street Stock days when Don ranked second in the standings in 1991. Is he thinking about points and a championship this time around? “We'd like to try to run for points, but there's 20 something races left, “ Shelton admitted. “You can’t run for points until there's like five or six to go. You can't come out every week expecting to finish just to get some points. You've got to try and run and get wins. That's what I'm trying to do. It's been a long time since I've won a main event. I want to win some more. Towards the end, of the season, if we're close, then we'll start point chasing. There's a different way of doing it. People have their way about doing it. I'm gonna point chase it my own way. We're just gonna take it one week at a time. We've been fortunate. We got wrecked the first week, but we got a top ten out of it.”
There’s been a lot of talk about the competition level in the Dirt Modified division this year, and Shelton feels it’s more competitive than ever right now. “I'm running with the same guys I ran with last year, “ said Shelton, a 13 time main event winner in his days in the Street Stock division. “Granted, there's a lot of guys that ain't out here, but who's to say they're gonna do any better where they're at. They could come out here and win like Scott (Busby) did the first week, but he started up towards the front. It was a short race and everybody crashed. He was lucky enough to be there. I'm not saying he wouldn't have won that race, don't get me wrong, but it was an 11 lap race. That wasn't fair for anybody, but it was the first time we tried to do this (after all the rain).”
“The second week, Keith (Brown Sr.) won, “ Don continued. “He's been running good for years. He runs good all the time. You can't take anything away from him. He does what he needs to do to win. There's probably gonna be eight to ten cars that have been here every week that can win a main event. Last year, there wasn't that many. That makes it more fun for everybody, because you have a better chance. There's not a couple guys here that have more money than they know what to do with and can just go out and kick everybody's butt every week. You've got guys like Keith, (Bob) Newberry, (Terry) DeCarlo, Dan Gonderman and people of that caliber.”
Money is the thing. The field at Antioch now is made up of people on a tighter budget, and Don is no exception. “We've got X amount of dollars to play with, “ Shelton noted. “We've got to pay our bills, and if we've got any money left to go play with the race car, let's go play with the race car. That's just the way you've got to do it. You can't have a car budget. All I've got is $10,000 to spend on the race car. If you've got it, go ahead and play with it. We don't have a spare motor or anything. So, that money I got last week is gonna go towards putting a motor together. You can see in the back of the truck, we don't have anything. We've got a couple jugs of fuel.”
Point leader Bob Newberry is on a tight budget as well, and in the past, that has kept him out of the action. This year has been a complete 180 for Bob, who is more closely resembling his Street Stock self, when he was a title contender and a big threat to win main events. So, how does this complete turnaround feel? “Good, “ Newberry admitted. “It's shocking. It's nice to finally have my luck change and to be able to get into the car and feel confident that I'm gonna be able to finish a race with it. We've learned a lot and changed a couple things on the car. It seems to be working, so we're not gonna make anymore changes on it. If we need to go another step higher, than that's what we'll have to do. The way everything is going right now, I'm just ecstatic to be doing as well as we are. It's a five year old car, and it's just awesome.”
Like Shelton, Bob is enjoying the competitive level at Antioch Speedway under the All Pro Series banner. “With everybody we have now, it's anybody's ballgame, “ said Newberry. “You bobble in the corner, and there's somebody right no your tail end that's gonna take your position away. There's still a couple guys out here that are learning about the Modifieds and trying to get them to go around the corners and setup and all that, but hey, we were all there at one time. Right now, it's anybody's ball game. It's just amazing that I'm able to be in the front.”
Kent Bickford may not have been talking about winning a championship in the Cline Chassis he co-owns with Bob Jones, but he did expect to be top ten competitive. However, the first three weeks have been a struggle. “Two weeks ago, that was kind of a freak thing, “ said Kent, a two time top ten ranked driver in Dirt Modified points at Antioch. “We took the lead on the first lap, only to get caught in (Bert) Elworthy and (Mike) Murphy's wreck at the beginning. Last week, the game plan was since we had to start in the back, just sort of cruise along and finish the deal. That's all we were doing. Then, there was that big pileup in the corner. I actually got it stopped before it hit anybody. Then, Ed Daviess came in there and tore the left front off and that was pretty much it for the night. I don't know. It's just one of those things. It's got to get better, because if it gets worse, I won't be here.”
It’s been a crazy season so far for Mark Garner in his new Cobra Chassis, but he came into the night ranked in the top ten. Though he’s had his struggles in the main event, Mark has won a pair of heat races so far and felt he was getting things dialed in. "We're getting all the bugs worked out of it, “ claimed Mark.
“It's starting to come around. It looks like we've got the brake problem worked out. We're getting there. We're staying out of trouble. We're not getting blasted anymore. The track is a little bit wider, so there's more room to race around people. The car is starting to come around. Hopefully, he'll (Bart Reid) be able to sell a few cars and we'll be able to sell this one here. This is a good Cobra Chassis. If I can sell it, I'll buy another Cobra.”
Mark’s two heat race wins have come ahead of top five ranked Dave Rosa, and he admits he enjoys racing with the two-time Street Stock point runnerup. “I like racing with David, “ Garner admitted. “Some people don't like racing with David. They say he doesn't know how to drive a Modified, but he's doing a damn good job. I like racing with him. There's only a few people out here that I have trouble with, but me and David run great together.”
While Rosa is hoping to stay in the top five in the standings, veteran Mel Maupin would just be happy with another top five feature finish. Mel had a rough debut in the season’s third event after placing second in his heat race. “The track has really changed a lot since the last time I was on it, “ said Maupin, a former top twenty competitor in Stock Cars, Dirt Modifieds and Sportsmans at Antioch Speedway. “The setup on the car was way off. I was trying to drive down low, but the way the track is packed now, I think the fast way around now is up a little bit. About halfway through the heat race, I started pulling up a little bit, trying to hold on to Tryon a little bit. I switched some weight around a little bit and changed things around a little bit. I think it might help a little bit. I think it took everybody a few weeks to get the hang of the new track.”
Two late arrivals on the night were Phil Pedlar and Gregg MacElhenney. Pedlar had spent most of the day putting a motor in his Carr Modified to go racing and arrived late. MacElhenney, a former crewman on Dave Zahn’s Street Stocker, was making his Dirt Modified debut in the former Chris Elby Harris, but he would not make it out of the B Main.
The format for the night called for four heat races, and Gonderman picked up the first heat in a flag to flag run ahead of the returning Kenny Neu and Newberry. Bickford picked up the next heat ahead of rookie Jason Mincey to at least temporarily end his slump. Keith Brown Sr. was in his usual form with a win in he next eight lapper ahead of Garner and Shelton. Jim Tryon picked up another heat race win in the third ahead ahead of Ed Leis and Terry DeCarlo Sr., but it was Brown Sr. edging Gonderman in the dash. Pedlar’s poor heat race effort put him in the B Main, which he ran away with. Meanwhile, rookie Ed Daviess won an entertaining last lap duel with veteran Maupin for second and Keith Brown Jr. also transferred.
There were only two leaders in the 25 lap main event as Neu led the first six circuits before Shelton took over. Newberry ran second for most of the race to finish there behind Shelton. Debi Clymens was a career best third ahead of the hard charging Maupin (fifteen cars passed) and the debuting Brian Curran in the Gary Michelson car. The bigger story was a complete disregard for each other that some of the drivers show by spinning each other out. The worst incident was Gonderman’s rollover on the back stretch, which resulted in no injury. The rough night of racing is sure to see some fines levied against some competitors.
As it turned out, the Gonderman incident happened on a restart that had Brown Sr. in the pits. No laps were scored, but under All Pro Series rules, a driver automatically loses a lap if he or she doesn’t take the green for the restart, even if that lap doesn’t count due to a red flag condition. Brown raced hard, thinking he was still on the lead lap and took second from Newberry with an aggressive pass in Turns 1 and 2, apparently finishing there. After the race, things got a bit ugly in the pits with a confrontation between both drivers and pit crews. Promoter John Soares Jr. wasted no time reacting to the situation as he suspended both drivers for two weeks.
This is not the first time serious title contenders in Antioch’s premiere division have come to blows, but this is the first time in a long while that something has been done to deal with it. Newberry ended the night with a six point advantage over Shelton, 130-124, as Brown ran third, but the two week suspensions are sure to shake up the point battle and may have eliminated both drivers from contention.
Over in the Pure Stock division, rookie driver Donny Babb held a slim lead over Trevor Clymens in the battle for the championship. Babb would be a late arrival on this night after flying in from San Diego. However, a week earlier, Babb was the first one across the finish line for his second win of the year. Trevor was disappointed to lose, but the second place finish he earned kept him in the battle. “I got whooped, “ Clymens admitted. “It hasn't been too bad a year so far. We got off to a real good start. We'll see what happens. The only way to win anything is to finish the race.”
Meanwhile, Chris Lancaster was trying to get back on the right track, and his heat race win and top five feature run in the division’s third race was a good start. However, he couldn’t help but be a little discouraged by his bad luck in week two. “Things are good except for week two, which destroyed the season so far, “ said Chris. “I jumped in the car (before the main), I shifted, the transmission broke and the shifter wouldn't work. Everything else was great, and the shifter wouldn't work. So, that's one night. You give me that night back, and I'm somewhere near the front (in points). That may have destroyed the season. Other than that, right now, we're not quite as fast as some of them are, but we're working on it. Hopefully, we'll run a little quicker.”
Though Babb was in the process of building his rookie point lead with that second win, fellow rookie Robert Taylor was making his move into the top five in the standings with an impressive sixth place run from the back of the pack. “That was a blast, “ Taylor admitted. “I don't know how many (consecutive) green flag laps of racing we had. That's when I actually did some full speed passing. That was kind of fun, instead of passing on a restart or something like that. It's a lot different. I had a lot of fun. I'm starting to drive it into the corners a lot harder. It's fun, a lot of fun.”
Ron Schnars took a positive step that night with his second place finish in the heat, and he was hoping that finish would signal good things to come. “That was a fun race, “ said Ron. “It felt good. Last year, it was just worrying about learning about how the car handled and what the dirt track was like and having fun with it. This year, I kind of have it figured out. Jack's (Aiello) doing a real good job of setting it up. He sets it up and I aim it.”
Meanwhile, Issac Neiger was making his first career start in the former Tom Flanary car, most recently owned by Ron Brown. As for what he hoped to accomplish on this night, Neiger hoped to keep it simple. “I don't want to crash too hard, “ said Issac. “I don't want to spin out too hard and crash. That's about it. This is my first race, my first car. I've been wanting to race for a long time. Finally, the opportunity came up and here I am”
Lancaster opened the night for the Pure Stocks with a heat race win ahead of Terry DeCarlo Jr., who seemed to be having some mechanical problems all night, and Joel Kramasz. Trevor Clymens won the next heat ahead of Matt Wacht and Tommy Clymens Jr. After taking a couple weeks off, Fred Baker came back and won the third heat by holding off teammate Babb and Mikey Slaney. Wacht appeared to be on his way to the dash win, but Babb passed him late for the victory.
In the main event, while Babb and Tr. Clymens would lose laps, Baker would settled into a comfortable lead with Taylor second. Lapped traffic gave Taylor a shot at Baker on the last lap, but Baker held on for the win. Meanwhile, rookie Mike Palladino snuck up on a third place finish from the back of the pack. Palladino made a late pass on Clymens Jr. for third as Schnars impressed with a career best fifth. Hard luck racer Wacht and Lancaster were sixth and seventh, and a check of the points after the night found Babb leading Tr. Clymens by 15 points, 117-112.
In the Modified Street Stock division, Daniel Hodges came into the night holding a slim point lead over Lori Brown and Rob Waldrop. Meanwhile, Todd Tadiello is still trying to come back from his disqualification of the second week, and he got that effort started off right with a second place finish the following week. Though it was gratifying for Todd to come back so strong after the DQ, he couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. “Too bad I couldn't do a little better, “ said Todd. “I was hoping to end up winning it, but we got second. That was sure nerve racking, because I sure wanted to try and win it again, just to prove a lot of people wrong, that I can win. I'll take a second. We'll get a win. It's just gonna take time. I'm hanging in there. I know when it's my turn again, It'll come around.”
Todd came into the season with one of the nicest looking cars out there, complete with a Late Model style body. It was the culmination of some hard work during the offseason. “It's mostly new, “ Tadiello explained. “We redid a lot of things. We cut a lot of weight out of it and made it so it would handle a little bit better than it did last year. We put a new frame under there. I wish I could have kept my (Late Model) body on there. It just goes to prove the body doesn't make the car fast.”
Right behind Todd at the finish was the much improved Charlie Bryant. Charlie came into the night as a top five ranked driver, giving him high hopes of achieving some career firsts. “We keep making little changes, getting a little bit faster, “ said Charlie. “I messed up a little bit last week. A couple of times I hurt myself. We keep plugging along here. We'll get up there eventually and win one of them I think. I had second there for a while. I had nothing for the 49 car (Jim Woodward), the one that got shut down. He was real fast. He was real smooth. Todd (Tadiello) is real fast, and he's gonna be hard to beat. Hopefully, one night, we'll get lucky and get one. I'm just looking for one.”
Second year Antioch racer Jim Capoot opened his season with a top five finish in the opener, but his heat race win in week three was only his second Antioch heat win. Jim is hoping the win was the first of many wins to come. “It was great, “ said Jim. “We won a heat race at the end of last year, but this one was pretty cool. Well, we have a first, two thirds and a boo-boo last week, and that's only in two nights of racing. We're gonna be missing a lot of racing this year because of commitments. I think we're gonna be competitive when we are here. That's something where these guys worked hard on the race car along with Scott Busby telling them what to do, sort of. It made a whole world of difference on the car.”
After three races, Billy Fraser was the rookie point leader in the former Tom Flanary Cline Camaro. How does he like the division so far? “I like it great, “ Fraser admitted. “I've raced Go-Karts in the past and Quarter-Midgets and this is a lot tighter competition. You go out there and might bang a little bit. You don't have to worry about hitting tires. You go out there and really race hard. Go-Karts are a real fun thing to get into. It was a great start for going into this. I could feel the competition of people around me, and it prepared me well to come out here.”
Did he have any thoughts of winning the rookie title coming into the season? “I just came out here to get some laps, “ Billy replied. “With no experience out here before, I just came out here to get some laps. Whatever happens happens really.”
Not too far behind Fraser is Dennis Moore in Dan Newberry’s old Cline Camaro. It’s been an exciting first three races for Moore as he learns the ropes in the division. “I like it a lot, “ claimed Dennis. “It's been going pretty smooth so far. I'd like to win the rookie title, but I don't know. I'm just happy, finally, to get my car working right. I'm going to Busby (Motorsports) Monday. He's gonna help me set it up, put the weight jacks in it and stuff. We're gonna go with that. It's all new to me. I'm learning everything. I hope to get it set up right so it'll work better. The car is running good. We're just getting it set up right.”
A little further down in the top twenty is fellow rookie Al Munthar. However, Munthar is taking a beating, but he’s not getting discouraged. “I'm having fun, “ said Al. “I love it, even though I've been getting beaten up too much. I'm just trying to get into it. It's hard. The car has been beaten up big time. I bought it like that. Every week, we try to fix something and try to eliminate problems every week. Hopefully, I'm not doing the same mistakes over and over. I've been breaking mufflers every week, but hopefully not any more.”
In a few other Street Stock notes, Tom Flanary was on hand and said that he’ll be doing his next effort in a Cline car without the backing of Dave Valentine, who owned his car last season. It should be ready in the next few weeks. Brian Curran, who was driving the Gary Michelson Dirt Modified to the best finish it ever had, said his Cline Camaro is for sale. Dave Rosa, meanwhile, said there was a good chance Carrigan Brown will have his car ready for Dave to drive this week.
In the first heat race, Rob Waldrop used a pole position start to score a win ahead of Lori Brown and Bob Motts Jr. Capoot scored another heat win in front of Bryant and Fraser. The final heat went to Chester Kniss ahead of Mike Mendenhall and Chris Davis, but it was Bryant continuing his string of impressive efforts with a first career dash win ahead of rookie Mendenhall.
With his pole position start, Fraser got to lead his first three main event laps before Kniss took over ahead of Waldrop. Waldrop was the first to a lap 14 yellow flag to gain the lead he would take to the checkered flag. Kniss had second until cutting a tire as Capoot raced by at the checkered flag. Kniss settled for third ahead of Moore and Davis in the former Dave Rosa car to complete the top five finishers in the well run event. Waldrop used the win to gain a 16 point lead over Kniss, 118-102.
The Dirt Modifieds, Street Stocks and Pure Stocks will be back for Round 5 of their All Pro Series championship point races this week. Joining them for their first event at Antioch this week is the NCMA Modified division. The NCMA was scheduled to race Merced last week, but many of their racers arrived at the track in time to get rained out. The two events run so far have been won by early season point leader Scott Holloway and former club champion Duane Watson.
There is a buzz in the air in the NCMA about racing at Antioch, and the drivers can’t wait to get on the track for their first race on their home track. Defending NCMA Antioch champion Stan Cargo is expected to be on hand for the show along with defending overall champion Del Quinn, Holloway, Watson, Ed Amador Sr., Don O’Keefe Jr., Bill Felver, Andy Archer, Henry Mitchell III, Mike Lokmor, Jim Booth, Jeff Pike, Jim Janssen, Warren Dorathy and several others. It’s sure to be a show you won’t want to miss!