Thursday, April 29, 2010
It's a stacked card this week with the Super Stocks taking a week off to regroup. The 360 Sprints hit double digits last week and provided lots of thrills and spills. The Wingless Spec Sprints turned in an outstanding performance with a strong car count, and the overall show provided a car count above our expectations. Lots of drivers making season debuts, and that is awesome news.
This week's Over/Under number is 64.
Dirt Modifieds (16), Pure Stocks (12), Dwarf Cars (12), Mini Trucks (10), Four Bangers (8), Nor Cal Hardtops (6). With the weather looking good, I anticipate those numbers should be slightly higher.
Anyway, let's get down to some talk about the racing and the point battles, because good things are happening at Antioch Speedway.
Despite the rains that hit this week, racing at Antioch Speedway will continue Saturday night with a full slate of six divisions that offer something for everybody. The high powered Dirt Modifieds headline the show as they contend for their 21st championship season with a strong possibility that a first time champion could be crowned. Stock Car fans can also take pride in the fact that the fender pounding Pure Stocks are on the card once again. Not to be forgotten are the hard charging Dwarf Cars. The entry level is well covered with the competitive Mini Trucks and the Four Banger divisions. Bringing it home will be the NorCal Hardtops division, which hearkens back to the division that started it all for the track in the 1950's.
When you take a look at the list of past champions in Dirt Modifieds and see the names of Scott Busby, Bobby Hogge IV and "The Rocket Man" Don Shelton, you realize some great drivers have competed in this division through the years. At the moment, it's looking like a good bet that a brand new name will be added to the list of champions, and who that will be is still very much in the air. At the top of the list at the moment is open wheel racer Troy Foulger. After four races, Troy has collected two victories in the Bowers Racing Modified.
You might think that Troy has built a good lead, but that is not the case. With a couple of top five finishes, second generation racer Nick DeCarlo is in hot persuit and trails Foulger by just four points. Following in his father Terry DeCarlo's footsteps, Nick started racing in the Mini Sprints ranks at tracks like Delta Speedway, Vallejo Speedway2 and CORA Speedway and won championships along the way. At Antioch, Nick gas driven Late Models and Dirt Modifieds and came within a shout of the Dirt Modified championship, finishing second. That second is the highest ranking of any of his family members at the track.
Nick and his father both raced last week, but while he was finishing fourth, his dad's race ended with an engine fire as his hard luck season continued. Terry has been switching driving duties with Tom Thomson in the green #39 Hardtop and has two wins in that division, which he used to race in the late 70s at Vallejo Speedway. With the Hardtops coming to Antioch this week, it may be two DeCarlo's going for different feature wins, though it's unclear to this writer who gets to drive #39 this week. Regardless, Nick is fast and getting better with every start in his #17 Dirt Modified. A win for him in the near future seems a very good possibility.
A Petaluma connection fills out there mainder of the top five, and all three drivers are within 28 points of the lead. Jeff Thomas (six points back), Rick Karnes (12 points back) and "Stormin" Norman Beock (28 points back) complete the top five. Boeck is coming off of a strong second place showing last week in front of Thomas. It was Boeck's best Antioch effort so far. As he continues to get lap time at Antioch, this former Petaluma Pure Stock star could stake his claim on the Main Event winner's circle soon. Karnes, son of former Petaluma Super Stock champion Dick Karnes, has won races before, including a Stock Car feature during a very competitive 1984 season at Antioch.
While those three drivers have to be considered contenders, it was "The Outlaw" Kenny Neu debuting a new car and picking up the big win last week. Kenny, who got his start in the Outlaw Sprint Buggies in the 80's and is a former State champion, has racked up two championships and several feature wins at Antioch in the last three seasons. Though he is off to a late start, he is not to be counted out in the battle. In any case, his #99 car is a threat to win in any race he appears.
The Dirt Modifieds have been producing car counts in the 14-18 car range and are a crowd pleaser at Antioch. Regulars like former Street Stock champion Bobby Motts Jr., Gene Haney, Sean Wilson and Sean O'Gara will likely be in action, and you never know what "name" drivers will stop in and race. In recent weeks, four time champion Scott Busby visited, but his luck has stayed home. With over 50 feature wins in the Dirt Modified division at Antioch, nobody has won more races in this class that Busby.
The Pure Stock division has been a wide open and unpredictable battle so far this season, not without it's share of controversy. In the second event, while Melissa Hansen, a champion in two divisions at Antioch, was speeding off to victory, the second place battle took an unfortunate turn as second place Jim Freethy had his bumper hooked by third place Eric Schantin, causing both to spin from contention on the last lap. In the latest race, Freethy appeared to be the winner, but he was disqualified in post race tech. Ironically, this handed the win to Schantin.
One of the faster cars in the field is the orange and white #45 car of Schantin. As this division figures to be one of the closest battles through the season, those ten points lost in his previous crash are the total Schantin now trails Chris Sorensen. Sorensen started out in this division ten years ago and was one of the top contenders before trying his hand in the Street Stocks, where he had some success. Chris won the opener this year and seemed like he had a good shot at #2 in the next race. Unfortunately, he had made contact with Brian Beard on a restart, and the contact resulted in a flat tire a few laps later as he had just passed Hansen for the lead.
While Sorensen and Schantin hold the 1-2 spots, they won't be the only stars shining at Antioch Speedway Saturday night. Paul DeLucca sits in third, just 18 points out, while Michael Rydman and Brian Beard complete the top five after three races. Beard rebounded nicely from his tangle with Sorensen in the second event by grabbing a top three finish in the most recent event. These five drivers have never won this division championship. In fact, only Rich "Mad Dog" Gardner Jr. has won two Pure Stock titles at Antioch.
There is a driver in the hunt, back in sixth, who could become a two time Pure Stock title winner. He's Dan McCown. The McCown family has been a mainstay in this division at Antioch, and three of them are former champions. In addition to Dan, his wife Denise and Daughter Megan Ponciano are former champions, making them the only father-mother-daughter combo to win championships in Antioch Speedway's 50 year history.
This really is a wide open division, and anybody could be the next winner, including regulars such as Garret Mayberry, Pat Gooding and "Smokin" Joe Cancilla. People may ask where the Street Stock division went, but really it's alive and well. We just call them Pure Stocks now.
The Dwarf Cars are back for their fifth event of the season, and the early stages of the season suggest another new driver could be crowned champion. However, the season is far from over. Having missed a race, five time champion Ricardo Rivera has spotted the leaders some points, but he still sets 50 point back in fourth with one feature win to his credit this year. Rivera actually has over 40 of them in his career at Antioch.
This time, however, Nick Squatritto seems intent to bring the championship hardware home with him. With two feature wins aboard his #96 car, Nick might hold a commanding lead. However, this is not the case. Coming off of a feature win of his own last week, the green #55 car of Jerry Doty trails by just four points in the championship battle.
It's still early in the game, and plenty of things can happen. Mike Corsaro rode a top three finish at the previous race into third in the standings, but his #00 car finished out of the running last week. Corsaro is running strong enough that he he could be in line for a win soon, and he may need that. Rivera is only six points behind him in the race for third.
The Dwarf Cars are sometimes the forgotten class on the card in that some people don't expect much from them, but these drivers sometimes end up putting on the race of the night. Others to keep an eye out for this week include Clayton Dortzbach, Joel Osias, Dan Liston and Nick Davis. Liston and Davis both enjoyed top five finishes last week.
The Four Banger division is a work in progress. After being dropped from the program for a couple of seasons, this entry level, front wheel drive Mini Stock class was brought back for a point season last year. The top two drivers from last season, "Pepperint" Patti Ryland and Ken Radabaugh, are both back this season, and Ryland is your point leader after winning the season opener and finishing second to Watsonville visitor Adriane DeSousa last week. DeSousa is currently second in points at her home track Ocean Speedway, meaning it's possible the ladies could win Four Banger championships at two tracks this year.
Ryland leads Dana Anderson by four points after two races and is one of only two drivers in any of the track's division in contention at the moment to repeat as champion. Anderson had a strong run of her own last week by winning her heat race before finishing third in the all lady sweep of the top three in the Main Event.
Track management is optimistic about building a strong car count in this class, which provides an affordable way for the new racer to come into the sport. Last week, two new local area drivers debuted with Justin Silveira and Clayton Groves. Silveira turned in a solid effort with a fourth in the feature and a second in his heat race.
Before the season started, there was talk of getting high schools involved in racing at the track through the Four Banger division, and the Concord High School Minutemen were respresnted by the green #50 car of Groves last week. Groves finished seventh in his maiden voyage behind the wheel. Ideally, the track would love to have all of the high schools in the area represented and establish a seperate deal for them. A series like this would be mutually beneficial to the race track in bringing in new fans and racers and the high schools in promoting school spirit and teaching the students about the dedication it takes to be a racer. Hopefully, this effort will continue to grow.
As for the Four Banger division, it is known that a car count at least in the high teens is available in the area, and it is hoped that these drivers can be enticed to come back and compete in the fun and affordable division. Others to watch for are veteran Frank Rosa, Dominique Myers and hopefully some other drivers debuting new cars.
Rosa, meanwhile, could end up seeing double duty as he also has a Mini Truck. The brother of two time Street Stock champion David Rosa, Frank had a heat race win and finished third in the Four Banger season opener and had a top five run going in his truck the last time out before fading with mechanical woes. It will be interesting to see what Franck can do in his #21 truck if things hold together for him.
The trucks through the years have provided some stiff competition, and this year is no different. With Gene Haney apparently not defending his championship this season, Tom Brown and Travis Dutra have stepped up in their #99 trucks to try and stake a claim on the title. Brown, who finished third in the standings last season, won the feature last time out ahead of Dutra, last season's point runner up. Both will be fast this season.
The Bunn name has been a factor in four cylinder racing for over 30 years, whether it's been Baylands star David Bunn or Ray Bunn. Ray's #4 truck collected a top five finish at the the opener and sits third in the current standings. Eight points separate the top three of Brown, Dutra and Bunn. As with most of the divisions at Antioch this season, it's anybody's guess who will win from week to week and what drivers will emerge with the championships when it's all said and done.
Two legends of the sport, Pete Paulsen and Dean "The Blinker" Cline, have been known to race in the truck division from time to time. Paulsen was at the race the last time out, but mechanical woes sidelined him before the feature. Other drivers to look for this week include Jim Davis, Dan Wagner, Mike Harmon and Ron Mayberry.
The Northern California Hardtop division is scheduled to make their first of three appearances this week. A former Sportsman and Super Stock star at Antioch and Petaluma, Conrad Cavallero started this division revival with Mike McClure. Rumblings of a Hardtop rival began around 2002 when Chuck Prather started organizing races in California, and then the Bakersfield based Okie Bowl Hardtops began their effort.
It wasn't long before Cavallero and McClure decided they needed to put their effort together. The cars of Cavallero and McClure have special meaning. Conrad's car is a replica of a car Johnny Franklin raced at Vallejo in the early 1960's, and Mike's car is a replica of a car raced by Leroy "Go Get Em" Geving in the 60's. Conrad's brother Carmen came out of retirement with a car of his own, and drivers steadily started getting involved.
Last season, the #6 of Dan Williams and the green #39 of Terry DeCarlo and "The Green Hornet" Tom Thomson were the drivers to beat, claiming four of the five races. Williams won two while Thomson and DeCarlo each claimed one. DeCarlo and Thomson were two of the Hardtop stars at Vallejo in the late 70's. Another star of Vallejo, "The Sun Drop Kid" Larry Damitz made an appearance last season and won the other feature.
Cars fielded by these drivers and others, such as John Philbert, Jack Low, Leland Smith and DuWayne Rottier are a site to see and will bring back fond memories to those who may have been to Hardtop races back in the day. Mini Truck racer Pete Paulsen has a replica car of his 1966 Vallejo Hardtop with the familiar red, white and blue #66 paint job. No word on whether Pete will be debuting it, but he did an outstanding job of putting that car together. It would certainly be a welcome addition to the field.
With warm weather on the forecast for Saturday and six divisions on the schedule, Antioch Speedway will be the place to be for some exciting racing on the John Soares Jr. prepared three-eighths mile clay oval.
Mike McClure #5 (left) and Conrad Cavallero #2 (right) are the founders of the Northern California Vintage Hardtops group. They make their tenth appearance at Antioch Speedway since 2008 this Saturday night.
For more on the Nor Cal Hardtops, check out their Home Page.
For more information on Pete, check out his Home Page.
The Nor Cal Hardtops are coming to Antioch Speedway for the first of three scheduled 2010 appearances Saturday night. This is a pretty nice deal that will bring back fond memories to those who were there back in the day. I never got to see this division compete until my birthday about ten years ago at Sacramento Raceway, but this is a really nice division. As I recall, it was a Cascade Hardtop race, won by Steve Lemley, I'm a child of the Sportsman division, but that's for another post.
Cavallero is racing the #2 car that is a replica of the one driven by champion Johnny Frankling in the early 1960's at Vallejo Speedway. Mike McClure has the orange #5 car, a replica of the one driven by champion Leroy "Go Get Em" Geving in the early sixties. Cavallero and McClure are paying tribute to the classic battles between Geving and Franklin from Vallejo Speedway back in the 1960's. I believe Franklin was the final champion at Contra Costa Speedway in Pacheco in 1960, but I don't have my notes in front of me to verify that. The man was fast though and a threat to win on any given week.
Top Hardtop performers in 2009 at Antioch *
2 Conrad Cavallero 222
57 John Philbert 200
6 Dan Williams 194
39 Terry DeCarlo 140
44 Carmen Cavallero 134
92 Jack Low 130
5 Mike McClure 122
39 Tom Thomson 98
100 Larry Damitz 50
101 Chester Kniss 48
3 Leland Smith 42
7 Bruce Smith 42
77 Charles Mart 40
101 DuWayne Rottier 36
* Not an official point race
1. 39 Terry DeCarlo
2. 101 Chester Kniss
3. 2 Conrad Cavallero
4. 92 Jack Low
5. 3 Leland Smith
6. 1 John Philbert
1. 6 Dan Williams
2. 39 Tom Thomson
3. 2 Conrad Cavallero
4. 92 Jack Low
5. 5 Mike McClure
6. 44 Carmen Cavallero
7. 1 John Philbert
8. 101 DuWayne Rottier
1. 39 Tom Thomson
2. 6 Dan Williams
3. 2 Conrad Cavallero
4. 44 Carmen Cavallero
5. 5 Mike McClure
6. 92 Jack Low
7. 101 DuWayne Rottier
8. 1 John Philbert
1. 6 Dan Williams
2. 44 Carmen Cavallero
3. 2 Conrad Cavallero
4. 5 Mike McClure
5. 39 Terry DeCarlo
6. 77 Charles Mart
7. 57 John Philbert
1. 39 Tom Thomson
2. 6 Dan Williams
3. 44 Carmen Cavallero
4. 57 John Philbert
5. 7 Bruce Smith
6. 2 Conrad Cavallero
1. 100 Larry Damitz
2. 39 Terry DeCarlo
3. 6 Dan Williams
4. 2 Conrad Cavallero
5. 92 Jack Low
6. 57 John Philbert
7. 5 Mike McClure
Dates raced in 2008 and confirmed cars present
6/7/08 Likely hot lapping for coming race
2 Conrad Cavallero
39 Tom Thomson
V8 Mike Henault (feature winner)
2 Conrad Cavallero
92 Jack Low
70 George Connor
6 Dan Williams
39 Tom Thomson
39 Terry DeCarlo (feature winner)
2 Conrad Cavallero
70 George Connor
V8 Mike Henault (Feature Winner)
2 Conrad Cavallero
39 Tom Thomson (Heat Winner?)
6 Dan Williams
3 Conrad Cavallero (Feature Winner)
101 DuWayne Rotter
92 Jack Low
39 Tom Thomson
5 Mike McClure
44 Carmen Cavallero
70 George Connor
6 Dan Williams
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The second involved John Soares Jr. from Antioch Speedway and that possibly that a respected local racer would be involved in running the track. The name of that person I have intentionally left out for a variety of reasons. I still have not received confirmation on that person's involvement, but I suspect he may be there. It would be a good thing if he were involved, but I will leave it out for now and let John reveal things as he does.
I very much hope this all works out and Merced Speedway can get back into action. The fans and racers deserve it.
According to Antioch Speedway Publicist Jack Menges, who broke the story today in an article on the Contra Costa Times website:
Promoter John Soares Jr. announced that all mothers attending the races (at Antioch Speedway) on Mother's Day weekend will be admitted for half price. He also said that he will take over and re-open the Merced Speedway.
This is not the first time a Soares has promoted Merced Speedway. After Bert Moreland stepped down at Merced in 1977, "Dr. Dirt" Jim Soares took over and guided the track through the transition of Sportsman track to Stock Car track.
It has not been made clear as of yet when Merced Speedway will reopen, though I've heard through sources it could be as soon as the Annual County Fair. If that is the case, an announcement will likely be made soon. I'd also expect to hear who will be working with John on this, though if it is who I expect it to be, racers n the area will NOT be disappointed. It will be a good thing.As reported on the DCRR Racing Radio Show last week, the previous management voluntarily pulled their web page down. I surmised it was to make way for the new management. I would also anticipate a new website to premiere in the not too distant future.
As to divisions racing, I don't anticipate much of a change. Dirt Modifieds, Street Stocks and Hobby Stocks will probably continue to be the focus. I'm sure if enough indication of support is offered from the Sportsman drivers, they will continue to run them as well.
If I may editorialize a little folks, I know some people will say "that damned Soares" and be negative. They did it with his dad too, but I'd hold Sr. up against anybody in the sport as one of the greatest promoters in the area. As to Jr., I can only say that you don't go after places like Merced and Hanford because you hate the sport. John loves auto racing. It's his life. He and Donna put hours into Antioch every week, not to mention the money.
I haven't always seen eye to eye with John, but he is the real deal. I have always respected the Soares family and I always will. So, I hope the racers come out and race. Give it a chance. You won't be disappointed, and it certainly will be better at Merced than it has been in recent years.
Oh, and I hope they bring Johnny Sass in to be a part of restarting it. It was to be his 60th season at the track. The man is a Merced Speedway icon and somebody I have a great deal of respect for.
Anyway, if I hear more, I'll post more. I'm hoping the other name is revealed as soon as possible, because if it is who I think it is, it will be a good thing.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Eventually, when Dwarf Cars started up in the 90's, he did attend a race at Turlock as scheduling allowed. I'm not sure who it was, but somebody organized the division's appearance for during the fair. I think he only attended one of these races, and I believe I still have the story somewhere in my notes, which I'll post here if I ever find it. So, it's kind of cool to me that there is a race in Gary's home tome. Perhaps somebody can have the announcer make a note of it on the PA System this year.
The race date is set for the fair once again this year. Dwarf Car Racing plus Transforming Robots and Monster Trucks: Sunday, July 18: $8.
Joe Martinez at L&J Photography had this post below on his page about the Dwarf Car visit to Turlock from last year, which included a picture. I believe it's people from the BADCA Dwarf Car group organizing this deal. I think it's pretty cool, so I'll mention it here. A winner wasn't mentioned, but I think the point was about putting on a show for the good people of Turlock. I can't help but think somewhere, Gary was smiling down on this show.
The Dwarf Car drivers do battle on the small track in Turlock.
As you can tell from the pictures below it was a tight track and it didn't go with out its fair share of bumping and tangling but all in all it was a BLAST and all the cars rolled back into the haulers in one piece. The big winners of the night were the fans whom got treated to some great wheel to wheel action and were cheering with every rooster tail, spin out, and slide job.
After some mid week rains fell on the one-third mile clay oval, beautiful weather greeted the racers and fans Saturday night at Antioch Speedway. When the checkered flag fell on the five divisions of racing, It was "Cowboy" Craig Smith (360 Sprint Cars), "The Outlaw" Kenny Neu (Dirt Modifieds), Mitch Machado (Super Stocks), Jerry Doty (Dwarf Cars) and Adrian DeSousa (Four Bangers) scoring the victories in their respective divisions.
With several drivers making their first appearances at Antioch, the 360 Sprints needed two heat races to set the grid for the Main Event. A feature winner in the season opener in March, Ryan Risconi won his heat race in front of 2007 Petaluma Speedway champion Shawn Arriaga. "Cowboy" Craig Smith collected the win in his heat ahead of former Petaluma champion Art McCarthy.
The #22b car of Brad Kieben scratched to leave nine cars for the feature. Smith added to his point lead with a feature victory ahead of veteran hard charger Eric Rossi and Arriaga. The McCarthy family fielded three cars in this event, and Adam McCarthy was the top finisher of the family in fourth. Bill Chester made his first start of the season in fifth ahead of Bobby McCarthy and Risconi. Keith Collins returned to the site of his first career feature triumph, but settled for eighth as Art McCarthy rounded out the field.
A solid turnout of Dirt Modifieds required three heat races to set the grid for the feature. Title contenders Nick DeCarlo and Rick Karnes scored a 1-2 finish in the first heat. Sean O'Gara held off Jeff Thomas in winning the second heat. Norm Boeck denied "The Outlaw" Kenny Neu's clean sweep effort as Neu settled for second n the final heat. Neu came back to collect Trophy Dash honors over Thomas.
Showing the form that has made him a two time Antioch champion, Neu became the third different winner in four races with his feature victory. The veteran Boeck was a season best second, and Thomas continued a strong early season effort in third. DeCarlo gained several points to move into second in the standings with a fourth place finish ahead of Karnes. "Superstar"Mike Salazar collected a sixth place finish ahead of point leader Troy Foulger, O'Gara, Dan Dozier and Andy Angelo. Terry DeCarlo's early season bad luck continued as he was sidelined with an engine fire.
Former Sacramento Raceway champion Mitch Machado continues to lead the standings in the Super Stock division, though many time Petaluma champion "The Sundrop Kid" Larry Damitz is not making it easy for him. Damitz kicked things off by winning the heat race in front of previous feature winner "Fast" Freddy Ryland. The Main Event belonged to Machado, who scored the victory in front of "Rookie Of The Year" hopeful Ryland, Damitz and Natalie Perry. A three time champion at Antioch, Mike "The Blue Knight" Gustafson made his season debut, but finished out of the running in fifth. Eric "Bad News" Berendsen's recent slump continued in sixth.
Two heat races set the grid for the Dwarf Car Main Event, and five time champion Ricardo Rivera won his heat in front of Nick Davis. Point leader Nick Squatritto captured his heat race ahead of Chuck Golden. Showing that he is not to be forgotten in the championship battle, second ranked Jerry Doty picked up the feature victory ahead of Rivera and Squatritto. Dan Liston collected a season best fourth place as Davis completed the top five.
The Four Banger division was bolstered by three visitors from Watsonville and two new drivers. Dana Anderson won the first heat race in front of Jim Corwin. The second heat race belonged to point leader "Peppermint" Patti Ryland ahead of the debuting Justin Silveira. Second ranked in a close championship battle at Ocean Speedway, Adrian DeSousa made an appearance at Antioch Saturday night and led a ladies night clean sweet of the podium as Anderson and Ryland finished second and third, respectively. Silveira and Ken Radabaugh rounded out the top five.
Next Saturday night, the 50th consecutive season of point racing at Antioch Speedway continues with a six division show, featuring Dirt Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Dwarf Cars, Mini Trucks, Four Bangers and the first appearance of the Northern California Hardtops. It's sure to be another exciting night of racing.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The top three performing classes at Antioch Speedway thus far in the 50th consecutive season of racing are the Dirt Modifieds, Wingless Spec Sprints and Hobby Stocks. While nothing has been huge, two or three heat races, a Trophy Dash and Main Event are offered up by these classes. This is what you want to see. Fuller fields would be nice, but these divisions are still respectable.
I recall a time when things were beyond great for car count at Antioch. We had enough cars for B Mains in Dirt Modifieds, Wingless Spec Sprints, Hobby Stocks, Dwarf Cars and Street Stocks. The pits were so packed that additional space by the rodeo arena was needed. The stands were fuller. I know some people though the show was supposed to fail, but it didn't. We were doing things right.
I recall at the Awards Banquet, hearing a conversation. A prominent authority person commented that "We only need 15 cars per division. Anything more is too much."
No, it wasn't John who said that. I was outraged by that comment. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a person that told me 12 cars was all the NCMA wanted. Do people really think this way? I want a low car count? Put down the bong and get serious.
Well, I had to respond to this person. I said, "I respectfully disagree with you. If you promote for 15 cars, you'll end up with 12."
I know the flawed logic behind what this person was saying. If you run five divisions and four of them have B Mains, you'd better hustle or races are getting shortened. It always amazed me how Petaluma could run what they did when Baylands closed and managed to get it all done, but here's a crazy idea. If you have that many classes with that many cars, cut back to three divisions per week and run a traditional show for the fans.
The funny thing is that had we done that at that time, we'd still be getting in the area of 70-80 cars for three divisions. Things were that good. That's why when I started on some of my audio show rants and Editor's Viewpoint columns back then, people thought I was crazy or I was "too political and should run for office" and other such comments.
Who could blame them. Even after the peak, it was still pretty good for a few years. But, what goes up, must come down. You have to be ready for that. You have to make the right moves, and if you do mess up as a promoter, you can't wallow in despair. You have to get up and try again. Not everything will be a success, but things will work out if you are genuine and you try.
But, moving on...
There have still been some good races at Antioch Speedway, and I salute the racers who are making it happen and the fans who are still supporting the show. The numbers might be better if more people outside of Antioch knew, but...
I'm not setting the bar too high for the Over/Under number this week. I don't feel that I have done that the last couple weeks, and they were close last week. For this week's five division show, the number is 46. That's Dirt Modifieds (16), Dwarf Cars (12), 360 Sprints (6), Super Stocks (6) and Four Bangers (6).
When John sat down and put this schedule together, or when any promoter schedules for that matter, he looked at car count last year and tried to estimate things. The Dirt Modifieds and Dwarf Cars are about on course. The Super Stocks and Four Bangers have stumbled out of the gate, let's be honest. Looking at my notes, I believe there was only one Super Stock car count under 10 in the last eight races last year, so thinking they could bring 12 cars was reasonable. Four Bangers may have hit double digits last year once or twice, but it's not unreasonable to assume this entry level class could bring 10-12 cars per race this year.
The 360 Sprints are the gamble, but it the past, there have been racers in the area willing to support. Are they still there? Fans like Sprint Car racing, and I believe John felt 10-12 cars were reasonable. So, when this race was booked, I'm sure it was felt 60-70 cars total would be there. Not a huge total, but two heats and a main for most classes.
At some point, the question will be asked. Will the 360 Sprint Cars really support Antioch? I would love for that to be the case. I really would. I believe one reason for this division was the hope of landing a Civil War race or two in 2011. My question, though, is why didn't Antioch get involved in the Wingless Spec Sprint series? That should have happened. I'm proud of what Don O'Keefe Jr. and I did to ensure success for that class in the beginning, but John took the chance and was a leader in this movement. So, I'm wondering what happened. There should be a couple of those 25-30 car shows at Antioch now.
But, anyway, "Cowboy" Craig Smith and the McCarthy clan (Art & Bobby) have given Antioch a few familliar names in the 360's, and Ryan Rusconi surprised with a season opening win. Then we have 2009 Spec Spriny champion "Wild" Bill Aton, who picked up an impressive second at Petaluma's Civil War Series race two weeks ago. Jeremy Burt has been at both races as well as appearances by Devon Ostheimer and Brandon Davis. Smith leads Aton by ten points and Burt by 14 early on.
So, I have to wonder who else wants to step up and run Antioch? Since lengthening the track, the Sprint Cars are really getting around this place. This will be a big test on Antioch as Petaluma is offering up the division as well. However, there are other cars out there, so I'm anxious to see who will come. 10-12 cars is possible, but it could end up being six again. Last I heard, the Arriaga family and Keith Collins were still in the area, so we'll just see. It's early in the game.
McCarthy and Smith have been in the game for a while and are usually very competitive. So, hopefully this division will put on a good show and grow in car count. At this point, it doesn't hurt to just run the races scheduled and see what we have by season's end. If it grows into something, it will be a nice attraction for Antioch Speedway.
The Four Bangers are seriously underachieving at the track right now, and I'm not sure why. Is it because of past controversy in the class? Is it the lack of somebody like Lance Cline behind the scenes pushing the class? What's the deal? I'm on record as not being a big fan of the class, but honestly, it should have the biggest car count at the track. A six car show this week will be an improvement from the five car race won by defending champion Patti Ryland last time, but we should be seeing double digit counts.
When I spoke with Jim Robbins last year, he voiced his concern over car count in this class. He was fielding two cars at some races last year to try and help out. I know the "X Man" would love to get the Figure 8 back out at the track again, but the Four Bangers can use his cars now if he still has them. Put enough cars on the track, and this division will put on a show for the fans. Plus, Ryland needs the competition. I'm guessing Dayna Andersen, last race heat winner Frank Rosa, Ken Radabaugh and Dominique Myers will be back for the classes second race of the season. Let's get those cars out there.
I hate to keep beating the drum of car count, but the Super Stocks need get get those numbers up. The Sportsman divisiion was dropped for 1982, and even they were fielding more cars than the Super Stocks are now. Granted, this field includes former Sacramento Raceway champion Mitch Machado, a many time champion Larry Damitz, 2009 Hobby Stock champ Fred Ryland and Eric "Bad News" Berendsen. Presently, Machado leads Damitz by 8 points and Berendsen by 12 in the championship battle after three races.
I know the cars didn't just disappear, and there are some good racers from last season still yet to make a 2010 apperance. Not the least of which is three time Antioch champion Mike "The Blue Knight" Gustafson. With tax season done now, perhaps we'll see his blue #2 car this week. What became of 2009 champion Danny Mendes? Ranked third last year, it appears as if Steve Perry has put Natalie Perry behind the wheel of the #40 car, where she finished second last time out. Lloyd Cline has also been supporting the cause this year after a fourth place season last year.
Drivers like hard charger Jeremy Petrell, Matt Petrell, Frank Furtado, Alan Beasy, Clint Cardona, former Limited Late Model champion "Leadfoot" Lori Brown, former Street Stock champion Todd Gomez and Bruno Korbmacher all have yet to make an appearance after racing last year. So, the question is, will these or other drivers be coming out, or is this another division that may have run it's course. This one appears to be in the driver's hands. A 10-12 car show is possible if people decide to come out and race.
The Dirt Modified division is still a big attraction at Antioch Speedway, and they continue to deliver the excitement. Troy Foulger continues to impress in the early going after posting his second straight feature victory last time out. He now leads Joe Carr by ten points after Carr finished out of the running to relinquish the point lead. Joe hasn't been a serious point chaser in recent years, but hopefully he will continue to make things interesting in this championship battle.
Waiting in the wings, though is third ranked Nick DeCarlo. The DeCarlo family has been a force at Antioch Speedway for almost 30 years, though they have never brought home a championship trophy there. Nick, however, has won championships in Mini Sprint racing on the one-eighth mile tracks at Delta Speedway and elsewhere He could be the one to finally put the DeCarlo name on the Antioch champion's list. First things first. Nick will be looking for a feature victory, and it could be this week.
The division is fielding counts of 14-18, and there are some quality racers among the pack. Four points separate Rick Karnes, Jeff Thomas and Bobby Motts Jr. in the battle for fourth, and any of these drivers is capable of grabbing the checkered flag in the Main Event. Scott Busby has been at the last two races, but misfortune has struck both times. The man has four division championships at Antioch, and it would be a mistake to count him out of any race he is in. Look for another thriller this week, and it's anybody's guess who takes it home this time.
In a bit of a surprise, the two champions the Dwarf Cars have had at Antioch during the past six season, Ed Johnson and Ricardo Rivera, both missed the action last week. This dropped Johnson out of the lead as Nick Squatritto used his second feature win to take over first by four tallies in front of Jerry Doty.
Squatritto received his toughest competition last week from the team of Charlie "The Hammer" Correia and Mike Corsaro, who grabbed the 2-3 finish. Corsaro now finds himself in third in the standings after three races. Clayton Dortzbach and Joel Osias are now in fourth and fifth, respectively. Squatritto will be out for win #3, but racers like Correia, Johnson and Rivera will likely be there to stake a claim on the winner's trophy themselves.
The weather is supposed to be nice for the weekend, so here's hoping for lots of season debuts, some good racing and a good night all the way around for everybody.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Of concern with the Four Bangers is not just the fact that car count is low, but racing hasn't been that competitive in two of the three features. Five cars started last week, but one finished. It's hard to call for the plug to be pulled on a class. I'm still disappointed at the cancellation of the Sportsman class in 1982 and the Late Models in 1994.
At some point, questions have to be asked. Is a division becoming a drag on the program? The Four Bangers should be fielding more cars. Even with the decision to drop the class a few years back, it is in its second season now. Five cars is really unacceptable. I don't understand why a class of this caliber is struggling so badly. So, what to do? Drop it? Run them with the trucks? I doubt anything will change now on the schedule, but a car count increase is needed to justify this class in the future.
Fact is, we really have too many divisions. Perhaps the time has come to start focusing on building car count in the classes that are at least getting some support. It's hard to say, because this isn't the 1980's or the 1990's anymore. We're lucky to have this form of racing anymore.
I've really been out of the loop over the past couple years, occasionally checking on the numbers. I was aware of the merger of Limited Late Models and Modified Street Stocks. The Street Stocks officially ended at the end of 2008 at Antioch as far as I'm concerned, but it was a heck of a 30 year run. Pure Stocks carry on that tradition now.
The track had been doing a Late Model effort, which was pretty cool. Unfortunately, car count never quite took off, though fans still enjoy an eight car division when it's Late Models we're talking about. A promoter must look at the numbers and justify the purse. Late Models don't come for free, so a decision was made top drop the class.
Problem was, the Limited Late Models took a serious turn for the worse during that two year span. This was a class a few years before that that could deliver 16-18 car fields and had Watsonville and Chowchilla joining the party. So, another decision needed to be made. This decision was to merge this class with the Modified Street Stocks, creating Super Stocks. Seemed like a good decision at the time.
When you look at the numbers back in 2008, though, Street Stocks were getting 12-14 cars some nights. It could get low, but drivers were supporting this class much more than the Limited Late Models. I have to wonder, and this is just me thinking out loud. Did the merger kill both divisions and should it have happened in the first place? Almost all of the Street Stock drivers from two years ago are gone.
What's done is done. You can't go back and change it, but it is important to look at decisions and the results of those choices so we can learn from them. Eight drivers have raced in the first four Super Stock shows. I'm not sure if two of those drivers shared the same car, but I'll call it eight cars. It's a six car per race show. What do we do about it? This class does get paid, though it ranks fourth, I think, in the pecking order. Could those resources be put to better use in another division?
The real concern is what is the next big thing for the track? We are down to one Stock Car class if the Super Stocks go down, and my friend Joe Martinez brought up an interesting point. This is a class using 30 and 40 year old cars. I never really thought about that, but he has a point. The class still puts up an acceptable car count, but it's better days are a few years behind it too. What do you do? Take the Super Stock resources (increased purse) and put them towards the Pure Stocks in the hopes of attracting some cars out of the garages and back yards? Will they come?
I have also heard the concerns about the Dirt Modifieds. People are worried it may be next, but the class still looks viable for the next 3-5 years, and it is over 20 years old now. It's had a good run. How long of a run did the Sportsman class have before it ended? How about the run of the Stock Cars when they were headlining the show at so many tracks? No doubt about it. 20 years is a good run.
One thing being proposed by some is bringing the Sport Mod class to the track, but this seems like something that will simply divide car count. Merced did it when they were at 16-20 IMCA Modifieds, and the IMCA Modifieds slowly faded there. No, the thing is to nurture the Dirt Modifieds and keep them going for as long as possible and support it. As long as it's double digits, it's acceptable. More cars would be better, but I can't help but wonder if those regular counts in the 20's can happen these days with all of the things going on in the world today.
This is the type of concern promoters have to deal with in this day and age. I think the belief is now that you can't go back to a three division show with a shorter season and everybody having open shows at the end, but I'm of the opinion we have too many divisions. This isn't something unique to Antioch.
I ask what the next big thing in racing is? We had the Hardtops, Sportsman class, Stock Cars, Dirt Modifieds and even the Wingless Spec Sprints made a splash. What's next? Is there anything next? Add the growing problem that some people are having even being able to work on their cars in their own garages. Some places are worse than others for that.
Let's face it, all of these tracks are in this together. I was called "too political" ten years ago when I was talking about this track unity stuff and warning of declining car counts, but take a look around. It's time for promoters to check the ego at the door and start working on reestablishing the sort of thing we had with NASCAR from the 60's through the 80's. Not only universal rules, but universal points too. Share the cars during the season to create bigger shows.
And, really focus on building and maintaining two or three divisions between the tracks. Every track is unique and has their own thing. Petaluma and Watsonville, for instance, run Late Models. Antioch runs Mini Trucks. Chowchilla has the Sportsman class. If it works at one track, let them do their thing. When the NASCAR "Barky Legacy" tracks began to fall, one of the problems was Merced had a class that worked for them (Cal Mods) that NASCAR didn't particularly care for. If it works for them, let them have it.
But, between the area tracks, (Petaluma, Antioch, Watsonville, Chowchilla and Merced) there are Hobby Stocks, Dirt Modifieds and Wingless Spec Sprints. All even have a four cylinder class of one type or another. Start there. It's up to the powers that be to make it happen. Guys like Barkhimer, Moreland, Soares Sr. and Piper aren't here to do it, and there is no NASCAR for these tracks. NASCAR doesn't care about these tracks. IMCA? Um, I don't think so.
No, this will take promoters working together and forming their own group. Okay, you can stop laughing, I'm being serious. Really. I know what people will say. You can't get them to work together, and I understand the concern. I have a hunch, though, that seven years after the last time I brought this up, promoters are seeing the signs and may be more receptive. I also don't believe they should wait until Reno in December to start having informal discussions, and perhaps the first formal meeting should not happen in Reno. I name the five tracks, but if others want in, why not?
Fact is, some in the racing community view California as a joke. It's not. It has a great tradition in racing and one worth standing up for. So, why couldn't promoters create their own sanctioning body? It worked in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It's something to think about while we're contemplating the future.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
The 50th consecutive season of racing at Antioch Speedway continued Saturday night with a four division show featuring Wingless Spec Sprints, Dirt Modifieds, Dwarf Cars and Hobby Stocks. When the checkered flag fell on the feature events, there were two repeat winners and two drivers collecting their first wins of the season.
There were 17 Wingless Spec Sprints in action, and four drivers collected the preliminary victories. 2008 champion "Bullet" Billy Macedo won his heat race ahead of Tommy Laliberte. Former BCRA Midget racers Scott Dupont and Tom Dupont ran 1-2 in their heat race, and former Petaluma Speedway champion Terry Schank Jr. held off two time Antioch champion Scott Holloway for the victory in the third heat. Ryan Burnal won the Trophy Dash ahead of Macedo.
Coming off of his closes second place finish a week earlier that moved him into third in the standings, Laliberte became the fourth different feature winner in as many races. The veteran Schank chased him across the line in second as Ryan Bernal rounded out the top three. After rolling his car twice last week, "Jammin" Jim Perry Jr. rebounded nicely with a fourth place finish ahead of point leader David Press. The championship battle is close as Press leads Laliberte by four tallies and Perry by six.
In the Dirt Modifieds, Troy Foulger continued to impress by winning his heat race ahead of Petaluma visitor Oreste Gonella and then scoring a Main Event victory. It was the second straight win for Foulger, who is the new point leader after this effort. Nick DeCarlo came back from a disappointing run last week to finish a strong second, followed by "The Richmond Rocket" Bobby Motts Jr., Norm Boeck and Shawn O'Gara. Incoming point leader Joe Carr won his heat race ahead of Gene Haney, while Jeff Thomas held off Boeck in winning his heat race. Foulger has assumed the point lead by ten over Carr and 18 over DeCarlo.
With one win in the books already, Nick Squatritto returned to the winner's circle with his Dwarf Car feature victory in front of open wheel veteran Charlie "The Hammer" Correia, Mike Corsaro, Sonny Calkins and Jerry Doty. The top three in the heat race was identical to the Main Event, and Squatritto now holds a four point lead over Doty in the championship battle.
In the Hobby Stocks, 13 cars were in action. The Team 99 car appeared to have scored the victory in the feature. The team is switching drivers every week, while earning points for the car. Last week, Jim Freethy had a second place run going until he and third place Eric Schantin locked bumpers and spun in Turn 2 on the last lap. Listed as the driver again this week, Freethy lost the win to a post race disqualification.
Ironically, this handed the win to Schantin, who becomes the third different winner and remains a strong contender for the championship. Brian Beard bounced back from a disappointing finish last week by placing second ahead of Chris Sorensen, Dan McCown and Mike Rydman. Heat wins went to McCown and Natalie Perry. Sorensen holds a ten point lead over Schantin with Paul DeLucca 18 point back in third.
Five divisions compete next Saturday night, headlined by the Dirt Modifieds, 360 Sprint Cars, Super Stocks, Dwarf Cars and Four Bangers.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Seriously, though, would it kill The Times to print a little more about Antioch Speedway than that? This is the 50th consecutive season at the track, and nothing. Disappointing, especially when they couldn't even get the Who's Not part right. It was Trevor Press guys, not David. David is the point leader after all. That would seen pretty hot to me. But anyway...
Saturday night is a four division show at Antioch, featuring Wingless Spec Sprints, Dirt Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars. I have a few ideas I thought I'd throw out there for the heck of it as well, so let's get to it.
The over under number on car count is 52 for the show at Antioch. Dirt Modifieds (16), Spec Sprints (12), Hobby Stocks (12) and Dwarf Cars (12).
Idea for a race, the John Soares Classic, honoring the Late John Soares Sr. The man deserves a race in his memory, and a big one. I'd prefer a point race, but one that any out of towners can run if they are legal. I'd like it to be 100 laps. Maybe have the top two in the previous four features automatically qualify for it, the way we did back in the day. The race could go to the Dirt Modifieds. Like I said, 100 laps. Make it special. take a break at 50 laps if we must. I could make a case for Hobby Stocks too. Doesn't the man who started it all at Antioch and Petaluma deserve a big race in his honor? He's an Antioch Speedway Hall Of Famer as far as I'm concerned.
The Dirt Modifieds are performing well this far. Car counts aren't at the level of the mid 1990's or even the early part of the 2000's, but it's in the high teens. The racing has been very competitive, and quality names are in the field. Joe Carr and Troy Foulger are the feature winners. If not for Troy's last turn pass last week, Carr would have both wins. Now, Joe is not a hard core point chaser, even though he has won championships in the division at Petaluma. He is an original in this division. He leads Foulger by eight points. Will he continue to run for points? If he does, watch out.
If this is the same guy I'm thinking of, Foulger has a Sprint Car back ground, and that experience should serve him well in Dirt Modifieds. It would be a mistake to take this man lightly. Don't have notes in front of me, but for some reason I'm thinking third place Rick Karnes is a former champion at Petaluma. I know his father is a former champ there.
Kevin Fitzgerald was back last week, and the former Pure Stock champion put up a good effort until his spin in Turns 3 & 4. Looked like he and Carr were fighting for the same piece of real estate on the inside, and there wasn't enoigh room down there. I'm not sure if there were any hard feelings on that, but both drivers were doing the same thing when they held the lead.
The one thing I liked was seeing Kevin back out there racing. He pretty much started racing there after I left, but I will say this. If you want to make a mark in the racing world, you've got to get out there and do it. Roll with the bad times and your time will come. When the time comes where you want to do something for the sport, you will have people's respect and people's support. So, I hope Kevin keeps coming back, and I'm sure he'll see the winner's circle if he does.
Scott Busby was there last week as was Terry DeCarlo and last year's champion, Kenny Neu. Could have sworn I saw a picture of "The Superstar" Mike Salazar out there as well. Having racers like them in the field is a good thing. A better thing would be putting the word out so people would know about it. I see former Petaluma Street Stock runnerup Jeff Thomas and Nick DeCarlo make up the remainder of the top five at the moment. The field is competitive and it's anybody's guess who will make it to the winner's circle this week. Perhaps a third different winner?
I have all of these crazy thoughts about racing and was thinking about that Figure 8. It's just a rumor at this point, but if they are serious about it, I'd start advertising it now and taking pre sign ups. Make it a special race for late in the season, get a sponsor and do it up right. A $500 to win 25 or 50 lap race.
I think this is one reason John bought Racing Wheels. It's not so much about the Figure 8, but having a magazine distributed across the West Coast that advertises big races and helps drum up support. It sounds like a good idea, but in this age of the internet, can it even work? More importantly, who will write for it? I guess all of that remains to be seen.
Tommy Laliberte had the fastest car in the Wingless Spec Sprints last week. If not for problems in traffic, he probably would have won by a good margin. But stuff happens in racing. Jeff Kindt grabbed the checkers, and the crowd saw a close, three car finish between these two and Adam Kaeding. Point leader David Press (148), "Jammin" Jim Perry Jr. (140) and Kindt are the three different winners at this point in the season.
Over the past few years, the roster has changed substantially from what I remember. However, drivers like those named above and 2008 champion "Bullet" Billy Macedo and Rick Sharp are keeping things interesting. One thing I've loved about this division since we put it together is that you never know who will get one of these cars. Count has been a little lower that I thought it would be, but at any time a 20 car show is possible. Maybe this week? I'm hoping Tyler Henriquez and Perry have their cars back together after flipping last week. Will we see another new winner? Stay tuned.
All the Dwarf Cars ever do, it seems, is go out and race. They don't get a lot of love. You don't hear people saying how much they want to see them race, but when the race is on, there's plenty of action and excitement from them. They are the pleasant surprise of the show and have earned a place on the roster. Antioch used to have more of them until Peatula opened it's gates to this division and there went the regular B Mains. Before people think I'm ripping on Jim, let me point out that I know how near and dear this division is to his heart.
What is left is still generally a 12-16 carshow and a competitive field. I don't have point totals in front of me, but Ed Johnson leads Jerry Doty and Ricardo Rivera going into this race. Interestingly enough, Rivera has won five of the last six titles in this class with Johnson the only other champion during that time. You're not going to hear a lot of talk about where Ricardo ranks with other multi champions on the track's all time list, but it's still an impressive accomplishment. The man can drive.
Nick Squatritto has impressed me in the early goings. He's been doing a lot of racing at Antioch and elsewhere so far this season. I'm not sure where he's going to end up in the standings (currently fourth), but I have a feeling he'll be picking up his share of wins. I love that you still get visits by open wheel veteran Charlie "The Hammer" Correia, top guns from the BADCA and Antioch stars like fifth ranked Dan Liston, Tony Carmignani and Bob Acardo. Don't be getting up for a drink when the Dwarf Car feature is on the track or you could miss a hell of a race.
Really, there is not a dud division on the card this week. You want Street Stock racing at Antioch Speedway? Well, you have it. It's called the Hobby Stock division (one of three divisions at the track with a full Top 20 point listing). The racing can be just as good as the Street Stocks were. Chris Sorensen might have been just a little too aggressive last week or it could have been two for two in the win column, rather that a pit stop with a flat tire. He's still tied with Paul DeLucca for the point lead (96) after two races. DeLucca only got his second place finish last week after second place and third place crashed on the last lap, but you can bet he'll still take it. That's racing.
"Mighty Mouse" Melissa Hansen dominated the Main Event other than the challenge from Sorensen. You can not underestimate this lady, a two division champion, when she us behind the wheel of the familliar #33 car. I'm not sure if she's driving this week. Brad Myers was in it for the previous race, and despite having to pit with a flat, came back to grab a top five finish that night. Not bad for his first race. I would guess he will be a contender if he does drive this week.
Eric Schantin sets ten points behind the leaders in third. Like Sorensen, Eric probably wishes he had a "do over" last week. While battling with the #99 car, he hooked bumpers and both cars spun. The points he lost from what would have at least been a third place finish are why it's not a three way tie for the lead now. You never know if ten points will make a difference down the stretch. By the way, Jim Freethy was driving the #99 car, but it looks like the points for the car will be a team effort. Team #33 would be leading right now if they combined points in that way.
Joe Cancilla made his season debut with a third place finish, but late in the race, the #98 car was smoking. I think we can start calling him "Smoking" Joe Cancilla. Has a nice ring, don't you think? Anyway, it was a good run for him. I'm not sure if he's related to Butch and Ron Cancilla, who ran Street Stocks for a bit in the 80's, but the car number rings a bell. Anyway, the Hobby Stocks will be offering up plenty of good racing with drivers like former champion Dan McCown, Brian Beard, Pat Gooding and Mike Rydman in the field. Rydman was in a different car (#56) after driving the #57 car that I believe may have come from the Odgers Racing Team up in Mariposa.
This is another divsion you don't want to ignore, because you never know what's going to happen. There's lots of wide open excitement on tap when the Hobby Stocks are on the track. This is one reason why I'd love to see a 100 lapper for this division some time. This division has never had one at Antioch and even the Street Stocks didn't have many in their long history there. Me and my crazy ideas. You know Merced had the Ted Stofle Classic, an 89 lapper in honor of his number, for many years. How about a 98 lapper for a former Stock Car champion, Willie "The Silver Fox" Myatt? I know, crazy ideas. Can't can't, can't.
Since we're on ideas that can't happen, in an effort to get drivers to race, 20% or 30% discounts to any drivers coming out for the first time this season? Get them out there and put on a program that makes them want to return at full price next race. Goofy ideas for the fans like bring a ticket stub from last week for a $2 discount or bring Antioch Speedway memorabilia and get a$2 discount. Or giveaways to the first however many fans to show up. I know. Can't, can't, can't.
I'm just thinking about how to get more cars or fans out there and firing things up. This is the track of Jimmy Stewart, Gary Pacheco, Bill Brown, Dennis Furia, Mike Gustafson, Jim Pettit II, Troy Shirk, Bart Reid, J.D. Willis, Scott Busby, Bobby Hogge, Don Shelton, Richard Johnson and so many others. It matters.
As I look at the numbers, I still see the potential of Dirt Modifieds, Wingless Spec Sprints, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars. The cars are out there. I think they can be lured back if the effort is made. We need to start looking at running traditional three division programs again and building up car counts in those classes that show signs of life. I'm talking time trials, dashes, heats, semis and features. If not enough cars are there for semis, do what was done in the 80's, run final heats for a few bucks more. Do match races, mechanics races, woman's (non regular competitor) races and that sort of stuff. Sure, car count won't be huge, but you've got to start somewhere and build.
At what point do you start trimming the fat at the track and focussing in on the divisions that are performing? I hate to use the word cut on any division, but five or six cars? I'm a fan of the Super Stock division, but they need to do better than six cars. And the Four Bangers? Five cars after all of this time is almost unacceptable. Their only excuse is decisions that track management has made with them in the past, but come on. That was then. This is now. I'm not trying to be a jerk. I like Super Stocks, actually. I'm just saying. I've got a column yet to debut, talking about had the 1981 season for the Sportsman division happened last season, they would have been allowed to return this season.
We're all hoping for something from these classes. We've got a Mini Truck division that sort of delivers and a Four Banger division that is struggling. What do you do? You know, there weren't huge fields at Antioch from 1985-1987. Stock Cars (12-20 cars) and Street Stocks (22-30). Probably around 40 cars per week, and we didn't mind. We liked it, because it mattered. It was a structured program. Now, a third division at that time may not have hurt, but all of these division choices at this point only fragments your driver base and creates smaller fields. What do you do? Who gets cut and who stays?
All I know is the divisions scheduled for this week are doing okay, and you can throw the Mini Trucks in with that if you want to get technical. Anyway, I'm becoming "The Editor" again, and I don't want to do that. People get upset with me when I do that. Hopefully, more Super Stocks come back, because there were more last year, and the Four Bangers start adding cars every week too. What really matters is that good racing happens at Antioch Speedway on Saturday night. There should be plenty of that, and as always, I'm hoping for the best and a good, safe night all around.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Okay, it's been a little over 20 years since we had all of that. Has it really been that long? Where does the time go?
As it came to a close, the legacy that Bob Barkhimer started had Antioch, Watsonville and San Jose. We know the rest of the story. When the contract was up at Antioch, a new promoter won the bid and elected to leave NASCAR. San Jose closed within the next couple years and Watsonville left next.
As the 90's were coming to a close, NASCAR had 100 tracks and a very nice Regional point system. So, what happened? Obviously, there was a reason that all of these tracks left.
It's really very simple. NASCAR no longer cared enough about these tracks to try and make it work. Oh sure, there are some tracks left, but it's not anywhere near where it once was.
Times have changed. Let's take a look back.
In the 40's, Northern California had BCRA. Why does that matter? You know that "Hall Of Fame" that BCRA has? Well, Barkhimer, Bert Moreland, Jerry Piper and John Soares are all in there. They got their start with BCRA.
Before NASCAR was the big deal, it was BCRA. They sanctioned Midgets, as they still do today, and the legendary Hardtops. They sanctioned several tracks.
When "Barky" and Piper left, they founded the CSCRA and started sanctioning races themselves at many tracks. In fact, there were over 20 at one time. During the early 50's, the CSCRA and BCRA sanctioned just about everything and you could race about every day of the week and sometimes twice in a day.
Barkhimer met with Bill France Sr. and soon brought his tracks into NASCAR. You might say he brought California into NASCAR. That's not just the tracks for the big tour that became the Nextel Cup that we know today, but those little short tracks where the racing dreams are born.
Promoters like Soares and Moreland helped it grow in those early days. There was a Hardtop circuit and a Super Modified circuit, and drivers competed up and down the state.
It's my belief that it's these little Friday and Saturday night tracks that helped make NASCAR who they are, and Bill France and Bill France Jr. knew that. Not everybody could attend a Cup race or be a competitor on the circuit, but they could do the next best thing and go to their local NASCAR track. It mattered.
The golden age continued through the 80's, but things would decline from there. Why did it have to happen.
For several reasons, really.
For one thing, the sanctioning fees weren't getting any cheaper. After a while, promoters began to wonder if the cost was really worth it. It's not as if that many drivers at any track were reaping the benefits.
Plus, the Winston sponsorship was gone by the late 90's, and that sponsorship paid the point funds for the Regional point races.
Also, NASCAR was shifting it's emphasis to running more night races for it's top two series. This move has not been a good one for short track America.
It's my opinion that NASCAR has lost touch with its roots. It's kind of like the man who dated and even married a supportive woman. She is there for him, helping him achieve his dreams, and when he does, he leaves her for another woman.
The short tracks deserved better than that.
Now, I'll be the first one to admit I've been a critic of NASCAR through the years, but you'd be a fool not to realize what that banner flying over the race track meant.
Just the fact that it was NASCAR and part of the Weekly Racing Series made it special. It gave it more meaning to fans and racers. It's hard to explain why. It just did.
Universal rules. A driver knew that the Street Stock or Late Model they had was legal at the other tracks. It was track unity.
Getting promoters these days to agree on anything is next to impossible it seems. But it happened under NASCAR. Barky made it happen, and those in charge after him still kept it going for years until it started falling apart in the 90's.
The Regional points gave top drivers the opportunity to compete against other top drivers in their region and across the country for bigger championships.
There's also the insurance. NASCAR had a top notice insurance policy for the racers.
Also, the possibility of appealing official decisions to NASCAR. Sometimes mistakes are made, and it was nice to have the option to go to the people at the top for a second look.
All of that is gone, and I can't help but wonder why it had to happen. I think greed had something to do with it. I'm not pointing any fingers, but I will say if NASCAR wanted it to stay together, they could have found a way.
Will we ever get it back?
It's hard to say at this point, but it doesn't look like it.
Oh sure, people will point to other organizations, such as IMCA. I don't want to offend anybody, but it's not the same. It just isn't, and it never will be anything close. It's not that they are bad either, so don't think I'm saying that. There are a lot of things I could say about IMCA, good and bad, but at least they are there.
But, NASCAR could have it all if they wanted it. They could put it back together.
You have the top three touring series on TV. The Regional touring series are still there, but the weekly short track program is lacking.
Why does it mater? For the reasons I have laid out here, but it would be good for NASCAR in the long run too. Short track racing is important to the health of the sport, plain and simple, and NASCAR should care about that. Fans of the local tracks become fans of the product on TV too and loyal supporters.
Not everybody can make it to a Cup race and not every racer will make it their either. But they can be a star at the local level and do it under a NASCAR banner. It can be profitable for both the track and NASCAR if it's done right.
I'm of the opinion NASCAR would need to appoint people to positions for the Weekly Racing Series and set up offices in several areas to help oversee the regions. The goal would need to be to lure tracks back into the fold.
I'm sure cost of sanctioning would be a concern, luring sponsorship money, ascertaining what divisions are viable for sanctioning and that sort of thing. If they wanted to do this, they could.
But, it's probably a pipe dream. Most of the leaders who made it happen before are no longer with us, and I'm just not so sure there is that type of leadership anymore. I suppose you never know, but it seems like there are too many who are out for themselves and not enough wanting to play for the team.
It's a shame. The sport will continue. Though tracks will continue to close, others will survive, and the show will go on. It could be so much better.
I feel for racing fans today, especially the newer ones. If they think things are great now, they would absolutely love the sport 20 or 30 years ago.
But, who knows? Anything is possible. As long as people still have places to go racing, anything is possible.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Cloudy Skies hovered over Antioch Speedway as the 50th season of racing on the quarter-mile clay oval went on as scheduled. When the final checkered flag flew on the evening, there were six new feature winners added to the list of 2010 winners.
The Dirt Modifieds are in an early scramble to determine who the contenders will be for the division's 21st championship, and there are some hard chargers at the front of the pack. Troy Foulger gave some early indication at the previous race that he would be a force by collecting a Trophy Dash victory. This time around, Foulger stepped it up a notch by holding off Joe Carr to claim the Main Event win. However, wasn't done there. The impressive Foulger won his second Trophy Dash of the season and a heat race to score a clean sweep and climb into second in the point standings.
A two time Petaluma Dirt Modified champion and respected car builder, Carr used his second place finish and heat race victory to maintain a 14 point lead over Foulger after two races. Jeff Thomas grabbed a third place finish ahead for former Antioch Street Stock champion Bobby Motts Jr. and Rick Karnes. Former track champions Scott Busby, Aaron Crowell and Kenny Neu were all in action but had problems and failed to finish inside the top ten.
In Round #3 of the 12th season of Wingless Spec Sprint racing at Antioch, it was an opportunity for drivers to make up some ground in the standings as the incoming leaders had problems. Previous winner Jim Perry Jr. flipped in preliminary action and would end up a disappointing seven in the feature. Meanwhile, Jeff Kindt made the most of his opportunity by grabbing wins in both his heat race and the Main Event. Only a second to 2008 champion "Bullet" Billy Macedo in the Trophy Dash blemished his otherwise perfect evening. Tom Laliberte chased Kindt across the line for a second place feature finish as Adam Kaeding placed third. Kaeding also collected a heat race victory. Incoming point leader David Press and Macedo rounded out the top five. Press now has an eight point lead over Perry after three races.
After the domination shown by point leader Mitch Machado and Larry Damitz in the previous two Super Stock races, Saturday night was a night for others to shine. Eric "Bad News" Berendsen continued an impressive start to his season by winning the heat race in front of Machado. However, the faeture event belonged to 2009 Pure Stock champion "Fast" Freddy Ryland. Looking for "Rookie Of The Year" honors, Ryland ran a good race to claim the checkered flag. After her struggles in the previous race, Natalie Perry turned things around nicely with an impressive second place finish in front of Machado, Berendsen and Damitz. Machado's lead over Damitz after three races is a slim eight points with Berendsen 12 points back.
In the competitive Pure Stock division, now in it's 16th championship season at Antioch, former Street Stock and Pure Stock champion Melissa Hansen returned to the division she got her start in and collected victories in her heat race and the Main Event. Paul DeLucca ran impressively in second to move into a tie for the point lead after two races. Chasing Hansen and DeLucca to complete the top five at the finish were Joe Cancilla, Dan McCown and Garrett Mayberry. This may have been Cancilla's best finish to date. McCown won his heat race to make this a nice rebound from the previous race, where mechanoical problems saw him scratch after winning a heat race. DeLucca and Chris Sorensen are tied for the point lead after two races.
The tenth season of Mini Truck championship racing at the speedway kicked off with some competitive action, and when it was all said and done, Tom Brown, last season's third ranked driver, beat Travis Dutra, the runner up last season, for the Main Event victory. Brown also collected the win in his heat race. Dan Wagner placed third ahead of Jim Davis. Ray Bunn had a respectable outing with a fifth place feature finish and heat race victory.
Defending champion Patti Ryland opened the new Four Banger season with a Main Event victory ahead of Dayna Anderson. Frank Rosa won the heat race in front of Ryland before finishing third in the feature, followed by Ken Radabaugh and Dominique Myers.
Racing continues next Saturday at Antioch Speedway with Wingless Spec Sprints, Dirt Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars all on the schedule.
Note: Details have emerged on the Super Stock feature. Fred Ryland started in the third row outside and outside front row starter Mitch Mahchado raced into the early lead. Larry Damitz was running second but slowed dramatically entering Turn 3 on the opening lap as Ryland made contact with him. Natalie Perry and Eric Berendsen raced by for second and third as Machado already held a big lead. Damitz circled the track slowly for a lap before pitting, and Eric Berendsen and Ryland tangled in Turn 4 to bring out a caution flag. The yellow flag saved Natalie Perry a lap as she had been passed just as the yellow flag flew and the track does not race to the caution flag. Berendsen joined Damitz and Loyd Cline in the pits, and Machado picked the outside on the resatrt. Unfortunately for Machado, mechanical problems struck in Turn 2 as Ryland raced into the lead ahead of Perry. With Machado out, Ryland took command on the restart and sped to a convincing victory, lapping second place Perry with five laps to go. Machado was scored third ahead of Berendsen and Damitz.
A few details are in on the Mini Truck feature. Pete Paulsen scratched prior to the race, and Mike Harmon, Garrett Mayberry and Greg Williams were sidelined from the feature early. Tom Brown charged out to an early lead, leaving the battles for second and fourth. Travis Dutra had his hands full holding off Dan Wagner for second, while Frank Rosa waged a fierce battle with Jim Davis and Ray Bunn for fourth. Rosa held fourth until about the halfway mark when Davis and Bunn raced by for fourth and fifth. By then, Dutra had a good hold on second and was steadily reeling in leader Brown. On lap 18, the lead duo caught slower traffic, and Brown made the right move on the inside through Turns 3 and four. From there, Brown brought it home to victory with Dutra settling for second. Wagner finish a strong third as Davis held off the challenge of Bunn for fourth. Rosa's truck faded late with problems, but he still took a checkered flag in sixth.
A few details are in on the Pure Stock Main Event. Melissa Hansen charged into the lead at the start ahead of Dan McCoun, Brian Beard, Jim Freethy and previous winner Chris Sorensen. Working the outside, Sorensen charged past Freethy for fourth on lap three, and a caution flag flew after five laps for debris, wiping out almost a full straight lead for Hansen over McCoun. As Hansen remained in command on the restart, Sorensen raced into third and made a bold inside move on Beard for second in Turn 3. Contact between the two saw the left side of Beard's car get into the air as Freethy and Eric Schantin gained second and third. The yellow flag reshuffled the lineup as there is no racing to the caution flag, putting McCoun in second behind Hansen on the restart. Sorensen was still third at that point, only to be passed by the dueling duo of Freethy and Schantin. Charging down the front stretch on lap seven, Freethy made contact on his inside pass of McCoun for second, leaving a three abreast battle behind him for third in Turns 1 & 2. Sorensen made the outside work to quickly take third ahead of Schantin, but Hansen was already a straightaway in ahead in first. Mike Rydman and Pat Gooding tangled in Turn 4 for a lap 12 caution flag. On the restart, Sorensen rode the outside groove around Hansen to claim the lead, but he quickly lost the lead with a right rear flat tire as Hansen led Freethy and Schantin. Hansen again pulled away, leading a side by side battle between Freethy and Schantin for second. Joe Cancilla and Paul DeLucca waged a good battle for fourth. Cancilla's car began to smoke a little as he lost fourth to DeLucca on lap 18. Working Turn 2 on the last lap, contact between Schantin and Freethy saw the two hook bumpers and spin. This gave DeLucca second, but Hansen would cruise to an impressive victory. Cancilla nursed it home to a third place finish as McCoun and Garrett Mayberry rounded out the top five.
Details have emerged on what looked to be an action packed Wingless Spec Sprint feature. Jeff Kindt held the early lead over Adam Kaeding and Tom Laliberte. Tyler Henriquez spun out of fourth in Turn 3 and did an easy roll to end his race on lap three. Laliberte made a strong move to take over the lead, and held it on another restart ahead of Kindt and Billy Macedo. Kaeding and Jim Perry Jr. ran close to the leaders in fourth and fifth. Kaeding made a low pass around Macedo in Turn 2 of the sixth lap for third, and Perry followed closely into fourth. Meanwhile, Laliberte had nearly a straightaway advantage on Kindt as he closed in on slower traffic. As all eyes were on Kaeding and Perry in the close batle for third, a slower car gave Laliberte problems in Turn 3 of the 11th lap, causing him to spin. Kaeding slowed entering the turn to avoid Laliberte and Perry rolled trying to avoid contact with Kaeding. Kindt led Kaeding and Macedo on the restart as Laliberte restarted in the back. As Kaeding gave Kindt all he could handle in the battle for the lead, David Press moved by Macedo with an inside pass for third on lap 16. Laliberte managed to move back into fifth by then and joined the third place battle. A Trevor Press spin in Turn 4 brought out a yellow flag after 18 laps. Laliberte raced past Macedo for fourth on the restart and rode the outside on lap 21 to take third from D. Press. As Kindt continued to hold off the advances of Kaeding, Laliberte moved up to challenge the leaders. You could throw a blanket over the lead trio as they battled fiercely for the lead over the final few circuits. Laliberte put it up on the high side in a last attempt to race by the two cars in front of him in the final turn, and he beat Kaeding back to the line. However, it was Kindt taking the checkered flag ahead of Laliberte, Kaeding, D. Press and Macedo.
More information has emerged on the Four Banger feature. Defending champion Patti Ryland and Ken Radabaugh led the pack on the front row with Dayna Anderson starting in fifth. Ryland charged into the lead from the start as Frank Rosa raced past Radabaugh for second. Anderson settled into third on lap two and began working on Rosa for second. On lap eight, an inside move on the front stretch gained Anderson second from Rosa. Ryland pulled away to a half lap lead at the checkered flag. Anderson was a solid second as a struggling Rosa managed to hold off Radabaugh for third.
Finally got word on the Dirt Modified feature, which was probably the race of the night. Scott Busby and Nick Caughman Jr. shared the front row of the feature, but the race had to be restarted when contact in Turn 3 sent Busby spinning and resulted in a pileup. The returning Kevin Fitzgerald led Troy Foulger and Joe Carr on the restart. The three cars battled closely up front with Carr taking second from Foulger and using an outside pass in Turn 2 of the fifth lap to take the lead from Fitzgerald. Jeff Thomas was running fourth as the lead four cars ran in close formation during the first half of the race. Around the 10th lap, Fitzgerald slipped past Carr on the low side in Turns 3 & 4. Carr made a move on the inside on the front stretch on lap 12,. but was impeded by traffic. A yellow flag waved for Terry DeCarlo, who retired to the pits. With five laps remaining, Fitzgerald led Carr, Foulger and Thomas on the restart. Foulger made a move on Carr on the inside, but Carr still held second at the completion of the lap. Carr kept it on the outside and made a move around Fitzgerald exiting Turn 2. As they hit Turn 3, the two drivers fought over the inside groove with Fitzgerald spinning in the incident to end his race with mechanical problems. Carr led Foulger and Thomas on the restart. Carr ran low entering the final turn and pushed high on exit, allowing Foulger to move to the inside. In a drag race to the checkered flag, Foulger collected the victory ahead of Carr. Thomas was a solid third ahead of Bobby Motts Jr. and Rick Karnes.
Friday, April 9, 2010
On the bright side, Jack Menges is doing some work for the track and has articles in the Antioch Press, for whomever might actually get that paper. Better than nothing, I suppose. At 82 years old, Jack is still doing his thing and is featured in a story in the Antioch Press this year. I always liked the man, and I am happy to know he's doing better.
The over/under number for Antioch tomorrow is 70. I'm guessing Dirt Modifieds (14), Wingless Spec Sprints (14), Super Stocks (8), Hobby Stocks (12), Mini Trucks (12) and Four Bangers (10). I'm not expecting less than 70 cars and hopefully a few more.
A few questions I'm interested in.
Where are the other Super Stocks at? I'm expecting at least one more season debut this week, but this division is capable of producing double digits now. Can't let Machado and Damitz dominate things, can we? Who will be the first to break their hold on feature wins? "Bad News" Berendsen is looking good, but Fred Ryland already looks like he's getting things down. As tax season is almost over, "The Blue Knight" should ride again soon in the #2 car, so keep an eye out for Mike Gustafson. Hopefully, Ron or Lori Brown is back soon and Jeremy Petrell as well. So, I'm interested in what car count will be.
Will we get a battle in Dirt Modifieds this year? Come on guys, step up and go for it. Don't let the title be a foregone conclusion going into the last month. Hopefully, "The Piledriver" Dan Gonderman is back after his rollover on that restart. I saw the clip on YouTube, and it looks like the driver on the inside got into him a little racing for the lead on the restart. I'm curious who our contenders will be after the first four or five races. Is Aaron "Crazy Man" Crowell pursuing his second division championship? By the way, this is the 21st season of championhsip points for this class. 21 years. Who was that first champion, anyway? Answer in a moment.
I'm also wondering about the Wingless Spec Sprints. "Jammin" Jim Perry Jr. has one championship to his credit in this class, but I'm not sure there is a driver in the division at Antioch with more feature victories than him. Maybe Darrell Hanestad. I'd have to check the notes. Is "Bullet" Billy Macedo back in the hunt for a second title. As with the Dirt Modifieds, I'm hoping to see some competition for this one down the stretch as the track is holding it's 12th season for championship points in this class.
Four Bangers, where are you? "Peppermint" Patty Ryland won the title last year. Is she looking to repeat? I'm not a big fan of drivers sticking around to dominate this particular class, but she really didn't last year. She was just one of the drivers trying to give the class a boost who made every race. In fact, former Figure 8 champion "Wild" Jim Robbins had a couple cars out there in an effort to try and help car count last season. It should be more competitive this season, and I'm hoping for more cars. This class has lots of potential. I just hope that if the cars come, track management has the good sense to let it grow and don't start "tweaking" things. It would be nice to have a class with a car count big enough for B Mains, and this class has that potential. Remember B Mains?
By the way, it was former track Stock Car and State Sportsman champion "Rapid" Richard Johnson who beat 1981 Stock Car champion Bruce "The Phantom" Curl by the slimmest of margins to win the 1990 Dirt Modified championship.
Mini Trucks will compete for their 10th track championship season. Has it been that long. The division has actually produced a solid truck count in the last year of 14-18 trucks per race. Can't complain about that. Don't really have a lot of questions here, just hoping for a good show once again. Does Dean "The Blinker" Cline still have a truck, or Pete Paulsen, for that matter? It would be nice to have a couple legends in the field, even if only occasionally. I understand Pete has a Hardtop, and maybe the fans will see it when that division comes to town.
The Pure Stocks have held 15 championship seasons, and amazingly, only one driver has been a repeat champion in that time. The 2009 champ, "Fast" Freddy" Ryland, has moved up, and I'm not sure if any former champions will be in the field. I've seen the videos on YouTube, and the racing has been pretty good in this class, even if car count has been down in the 10-12 car range. I'm hoping it will be a little better. There are some good drivers in this field, and I'm wondering who will rise to the top. Chris Sorensen returned for a victory in the opener. I saw the in car camera on Brad Myers, who charged back from a flat tire to finish fourth that night
It's a six division show. Yeah, that's a little too many in my book, but for the car count the as it is, I guess it's necessary. It's a good variety though, so it should be a good show. Who will be there Saturday night? Will there be any new cars? The season is still young, and I'm sure there will be plenty of surprises and excitement on tap.
By the way, the only two time Pure Stock champion? The "Mad Dog" Rich Gardner Jr. Interestingly enough, we do have a mother-father-daughter combo who have each won championships in that division. Denise McCown, her husband Dan McCown, and, most recently, daughter "Mean" Megan Poniciano. Dan McCown was at the opener and won his heat race, but mechanical problems saw him scratch for the feature.
Hopefully, we'll get some results for this coming race. Still waiting on the full finish for the Dwarf Cars from last week. Oh well, at least we got a top three. Better than nothing, I guess.
For those attending, have fun. Hopefully it will be a fun and safe night for all competitors involved.