Time once again for, Who's Hot/Who's Not...
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.