Monday, March 22, 2010

A Few Opening Day Notes

The early reports from the opening of the 50th season at Antioch Speedway have been encouraging. Sounds like there was a good crowd with a solid field of Dirt Modifieds and Wingless Spec Sprints. Super Stocks were a little light, but more should be forthcoming. The 360 Sprints made their first of several scheduled appearances along with the Dwarf Cars. No publicity of the outcome has appeared in The Times as of yet, but there was a small hype story leading up to the race.

In the hype story, John Soares Jr. indicated that he might add more dates for the 360 Sprint Cars if car count was strong enough. Now, I have heard that John was hoping to land a Civil War date or two, but was unable to. This is likely due to the fact that he didn't have his own class. The Civil War relies on each of it's tracks to have a division and for all tracks to be dark to the class on the night the series is at whatever track it's scheduled to appear.

Basically, it's about tracks working together, which has made this series something to see since Day 1. When John first got Antioch, he was given one of his dad's dates at Petaluma. Back in the mid 1990's, Brynda Bockover experimented with adding the class at Antioch with some good results. Fact is, there are drivers interested in this class in the area, and cars will come. Is it a 20 car show now? Probably not, but 10-12 is totally doable if booked properly. I can't blame John for giving this a shot. Racing fans love Sprint Cars.

Now, having said that, it is a shame to me that Antioch and either Petaluma or Watsonville wasn't included in the Spec Sprint series happening at Chico, Marysville and Placerville. I'm not sure why, but it should have happened. This series will be huge if they get the right tracks involved in it. I have always believed this. And, Antioch should be included. After all, we got the ball rolling there in the first place.

Anyway, according to Debbie Shipherd, there were 12 Spec Sprints at Antioch and David Press (a past Watsonville champ if I recall correctly), picked up the feature win ahead of Arvo Backholm, Rick Sharp, Tommy Laliberte and Tim Green. Backholm actually finished in 1st but was penalized 1 spot for passing before the cone on a restart.

Former Petaluma champion and car builder Joe Carr picked up the victory in the Dirt Modified feature ahead of rising young star Nick DeCarlo, and former champion Arron "Crazy Man" Crowell. Former Spec Sprint champion Dan Gonderman led much of the way until a rollover ended his run. Fans collected over $500 for Gonderman for the "Rollover Fund".

Former Petaluma champion Mitch Machado picked up another win in the Super Stock Main Event ahead of ageless veteran Larry Damitz. Second generation racer Eric "Bad Boy" Berendsen grabbed the third and final podium position.

These results are unofficial from the Late Model Racer message board. I'm sure results will appear on the Antioch page soon.

What's The Deal With The Figure 8

Now, before I close this, I hear Jim Robbins has been talking Figure 8 at Antioch again. Jim has never dropped the ball for the Figure 8. He's never given up, and I doubt he ever will. The report I got is that John was asking for 12 cars. That's a nice round number, but I'd start with 10 if it were my call to make. Either way, two things have to be established. Well, maybe three.

What will it pay? The purse needs to be laid out now. If Jim is spear heading this thing, I'd advise him to get sponsorship now. Make it special. Make it big. Get a Keldsen involved. Gillespie would be nice too.

What are the rules? People need to know what the rules are for the cars.

When will this happen? My advice would be to set a date for later this season, July or August. Don't worry about series or any of that stuff. Much too soon for any of that. Make a race happen first.

Personally, I felt the plug was pulled much too soon on this the last time, so getting drivers to get on board now may be difficult if you are talking series, but a race may be possible. We gave it a shot seven or eight years ago. Car count wasn't great, but the crowd response was good. I felt we were building towards something. John had a decision to make and he chose to focus on other things. I can't blame him for that, but given time it would have worked.

As I was getting rid of more extra magazines from 2002 today, I noticed Jim Robbins on the cover of one issue for a Figure 8 win and Cliff Hampl on the cover of another one. Robbins, Hampl, Cody Frades and the late Brian Davis were feature winners that year and 18 different competitors participated in that short season. Robbins was crowned champion. As I said, fields were usually 5-8 cars, but the crowd was enthusiastic about it.

Will this Figure 8 thing happen at Antioch again? Who knows. But if people want it, now is the time to step up. John is looking for things that will put people in the grandstands and create new interest in the track. If a Figure 8 will do that, then I have no doubt John will get behind it.