Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Five Divisions As The Show Goes On At Antioch Saturday Night

Before I get into the look ahead to this week's race at Antioch Speedway, let me offer a thought or two on car count.

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.