Wednesday, May 12, 2010

$1000 On The Line In Dirt Modifieds At Antioch

I thought I'd put up another pre race Antioch post. Hard nothing better to do, so I figured why not? Still a week to week thing. I have no doubt people are reading at this point, but other than one Hobby Stock racer, I'm not sure who at Antioch is looking.

With Memorial Day Weekend offering a big money race for Dirt Modifieds at Santa Maria and a special race at Calistoga Speedway that already has 50 pre entries, John Soares Jr. elected to keep Antioch Speedway dark that evening. This Saturday night, however, he is offering a $1,000 to win race for the UMP Dirt Modifieds, based on an 18 car field. He should get that at least, and it could be huge depending on what sort of supporting mood the racers are in.

Over/Under Number 48

That's UMP Dirt Modifieds (20), UMP Hobby Stocks (12), Mini Trucks (10) and Four Bangers (6).

The last couple of weeks have seen the track go over that number, which is what I'm looking for this week as well. But honestly, if the Dirt Modifieds and Hobby Stocks deliver the way they have been this year and the trucks maintain what they have, it should be good. I'm at a loss as to what is going on with Four Bangers, but I hope for the best this week.

Antioch Speedway was coming off of a week of amazing Main Event action last week in which Tommy Laliberte (Wingless Spec Sprints) and Ricardo Rivera (Dwarf Cars) both made late passes for the wins. With the shape that Soares has been keeping his three-eighth mile clay oval in this season, it's no wonder the racing has been so good. The Dirt Modifieds have been putting on some good races as well, though their most recent outing likely had the drivers thankful for a week off to repair their cars.

Nick DeCarlo showed everybody that night why he should not be ignored in the championship battle when he finally won his first Main Event. Some are wondering why Nick doesn't get written about very much after being the point runner up last season and currently second this year, but the reality is racing in general isn't getting so much press on the short track level. Anybody watching can plainly see that this kid is a star on the rise as he trails two time winner Troy Foulger by just two points in the hotly contested championship battle. In fact, both drivers were top 20 in their region in UMP Modified points going into the break.

Foulger and DeCarlo can expect competition in the battle for the bucks this week as there are sure to be at least a few drivers looking to make a run for it. One driver who could be a threat is the #73 of four time track champion Scott Busby. Nobody has more wins in this division's history at Antioch than "The Buzzman" through the years. Mechanical gremlins have kept him from finishing in his visits so far, but that should not be considered an indication that he's lost a step. At any time, Busby is due for a win, and it could be this week.

Busby was among the first drivers to compete in this class when it was added at Antioch in 1990, and Joe Carr won the first division title when the class ran for points for the first time at Petaluma in 1988. Since then, Joe has been a threat to win in his #12 car wherever he goes. He was the early point leader with a feature win before his own mechanical problems struck. Joe seems to have opted out of running for points at this stage, but he will be a threat to win if he races this week. Two time division champion "The Outlaw" Kenny Neu can be counted as one of the top contenders as well, having a win to his credit already this year.

There's really no telling who may come out of the woodwork for a run at the money. In recent seasons, the money has attracted the attention of stars from the Marysville-Chico area, such as "Rockin" Randy McDaniel, Ryan McDaniel and Duane Cleveland. All three are champions in their area and not to be taken lightly if they run the big money race.

The big money doesn't mean that somebody will show up and collect the prize. It could be a track regular who goes home $1,000 richer. Quietly hanging in there in the championship race back in third and fourth are Jeff Thomas and "Stormin" Norman Boeck. Thomas is only 14 points out of the lead, while Boeck is just 28 point back. Boeck is working on his second top five season at Antioch having ranked fourth last season. A win in this race wouldn't just be good for the money, but could vault one of these drivers further up the point ladder as well.

In the UMP Hobby Stocks, word came out that the "Team Mighty Mouse" #33 car will be earning points towards their car. What had happened what the Team #99 car of Jim Freethy and Jack Jonker had requested their points be earned towards their car prior to the season, and that request was granted by track management. I'm not sure if Melissa Hansen and Brad Myers had requested the same, but in the interest of consistency and fairness, it was granted after the last race. This decision gave the #33 car of Hansen and Myers a two point lead over the #00 of Chris Sorensen.

What will be interesting is to see is how this will effect the strategy of the#33 team. The plan going in was for the two to alter weeks as the driver. The rookie Myers does have a fourth place finish, while Hansen, who has a championship each in Street Stocks and Pure Stocks, has won the two races she started. I believe Myers is slated to drive this week. How will that strategy play out as the season goes down the line? If points are needed at a crucial time, will the experienced Hansen take the wheel? One thing is certain, the two are engaged to be married, and the track has never had a husband/wife team win a championship sharing the same car during the season. I'd like to see if they can do it by sticking with the original plan. If Brad focuses in on finishing and gaining experience, while Melissa does what she does best, they should do just fine.

You can believe that Sorensen and third place Eric Schantin, who is just four points out, are not just going to sit there and let Team #33 win it all. Schantin has one win to his credit this year, as does Sorensen, and Eric is coming off of a second place finish last time out. Schantin showed much improvement throughout last season before ending the season third in points behind second place Nick DeLucca, and he has every intention of improving on that ranking this year. This is a battle that could last all season, and it's anybody's guess how it will end.

Taking over for Nick DeLucca in the #24 car this season is Paul DeLucca, who sits in fourth in front of Michael Rydman. Both drivers have each earned a top three finish so far and should not be counted out in the battle for Main Event victories. They will need good runs this week. After failing to start the season opener with mechanical woes, former champion Dan McCown is just seven points behind Rydman and 15 behind DeLucca in his quest to move into the top five.

Tom Brown and Travis Dutra enter the fourth race for the Mini Trucks in a tie for the lead. This comes after Dutra snapped Brown's two race win streak with an impressive clean sweep last week. With 2009 champion Gene Haney focusing on Dirt Modifieds, Dutra and Brown figured to be the drivers to beat in this year's battle, having ranked second and third, respectively, last season. That has been the case so far, though another Haney has entered the fray this season.

Taking over in the #45 truck this season is Jon Haney. Haney missed the opener, but his two top three finishes since then have already launched him into fifth in the standings, 38 points behind "Rockin" Ray Bunn and 24 behind Dan Wagner. Haney is running so strong lately that it seems only a matter of time before he makes his first trip to the winner's circle. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him shoot up to third in the standings in the near future. Mini Stockbveteran Bunn's #4 truck hasn't been running all that well lately, but he's won his share of races in the past and will be a threat to do it again when he gets his truck dialed back in.

Wagner is running the #11d team truck with the #11g of Greg Williams, who is ranked back in eighth. After both drivers experienced problems that kept them out of the feature in their first appearances, veterans Dean "The Blinker" Cline and Pete Paulsen both made the call for the race last week. Neither made the top five, though Cline came from last to second in his heat race to earn a start in the Trophy Dash. With over 40 wins in his career at Antioch, you better believe that Cline could be a threat to win on any night he is in action.

The Four Bangers struggle to gain a car count, but there have been three winners in three races as defending champion "Peppermint"Patty Ryland, Adriane DeSousa and Clayton Groves each have a win. Ryland missed the most recent race, enabling Dayna Anderson to take a 16 point lead over last season's point runner up Ken Radabaugh. These two drivers will be looking to add to their point effort by becoming the fourth different winner this week.

Groves, meanwhile, was part of the first high school, Concord High, to answer the call and get involved in the Four Banger class. The Concord High School Minutemen now have their first win at Antioch Speedway, but the question remains. Will another high school step up and answer the call? There are well over a dozen cars in the area, and the track is hoping to see more cars in action this week and in the weeks ahead.