Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wingless Spec Sprints Return To Antioch Speedway

Four divisions are competing at Antioch Speedway this Saturday night as the 50th consecutive season of racing continues. Taking to John Soares Jr's three-eighth mile clay oval this week are the Wingless Spec Sprints, Dwarf Cars, Super Stocks and Mini Trucks.

The Over/Under number for this one is 42. For the last two weeks, car count has exceeded my predicted number. I'm pretty sure it can happen again thjs week. The forecast per division is Wingless Spec Sprints (14), Dwarf Cars (12), Mini Trucks (10) and Super Stocks (6).

My first attempt to write this column resulted in an editorial about car counts. I think it's an interesting read, but not for a pre race column. By the way, my columns and reviews on current racing are unofficial and only an attempt to get the word out. They are also a week to week thing. For the official stories, track down a copy of the Antioch Press if you can or read the Who's Hot/Who's Not stuff in the Friday Sports section of The Times.

If you think you can help spread the word with stories about the races, please go talk to John at Antioch and perhaps you can get hired there. Or, simply pick up a pen and piece of paper, start taking notes and write stories every week, posting them anywhere that will take them. Yes, it really is that simple.

The question has been asked if there is any word on Merced Speedway. Of course, last week we caught word through a Jack Menges story (not even sure it was printed in any newspaper) that John Soares Jr, had announced that he would be taking over Merced Speedway. It is quiet at the moment, but that doesn't mean anything. They are still dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's, so to speak. I would anticipate official announcements will be made as soon as Monday night or Tuesday if all goes well. This is something we'll just have to stay tuned on, and that's all I can really say at this moment.

Anyway, the Dirt Modifieds are off this week at Antioch, but they return on the 15th for a $1,000 to win show, based on 18 cars. The odds of 18 cars being there are pretty good. In the meantime, Orland Speedway is running a show for the class this Saturday night. As far as I've been able to tell, this division has never raced at Orland, but it may have visited once or twice before (I welcome any confirmation of this). The track did run a 4 Cylinder Modified class for several years, and they are also scheduled for Saturday.

According to Terry DeCarlo, who has been rallying support for this show, Nick DeCarlo, former Antioch champion Aaron "Crazy Man" Crowell and Late Model star Richard Papenhausen have said they are coming. It has also been reported by Terry that Jeremy Newberry and Matt Petrell gave confirmed that they are going. Not sure if Terry will be racing this as well, but I wouldn't be surprised. Earlier this year. "The Bad Boy" Kent Bickford hinted that he may visit the track, but again, I'm not sure if that will happen this week or not. Hopefully, more of the Chico area drivers support this effort and they can at least pull 8-10 cars. I'm just happy that racing continues at Orland Speedway.

The Emery family and many time champion Josh Jacobo will likely be supporting the Wingless Spec Sprint effort this Saturday at Orland. The division produced eight cars last week, as did the Mini Trucks, but the track had announced during the week leading up to that race that points would be paid towards a division if they fielded at least a ten car field. Personally, I hope they will reconsider that decision and keep points for each division. Points are an important part towards building a program, and even if no banquet is announced at season's end, the drivers will still know what was accomplished in the standings. Plus, I'm sure sponsorship for a an awards banquet could be raised if needed.

At Antioch Speedway, car count reached 17 for the Wingless Spec Sprints last time out. Though some of the names at the top of the list are different than just a few years ago, the competition for the championship is still tough. David Press has won a Watsonville Spec Sprint title and an NCMA Select Series championship, and right now leads the Antioch race with both Tommy Laliberte and 2007 champion "Jammin" Jim Perry Jr. within just six points of him. He was awarded the victory in the season opener after Arvo Backholm was penalized a position for jumping a start.

Press raced Dirt Modifieds prior to getting into the Spec Sprint class, and some fans may recall his run in the 2001 Chowchilla Dirt Track Shoot Out. In that race, Press was side ways in front of the flag stand as the pack came charging to the checkered flag. The resulting carnage send Press rolling and saw his car hit in the roof. Amazingly, he was uninjured, but it remains one of the ugliest crashes seen on one of the area's short tracks in recent years.

One mistake and Press will be surrendering that point lead. Laliberte has been impressing in recent weeks with his ability to put his car up on the outside and pass cars. This paid of with a feature win recently, but he has also ended up on his lid. Tommy is one of the more exciting drivers to watch in the Spec Sprint division and should be considered a threat to win the championship.

Perry, meanwhile, has done just about everything in open wheel racing. The son of Jim Perry and nephew of Earl Perry, both of whom raced at Vallejo Speedway, Perry Jr. racked up several feature wins in San Jose Super Modified action and was runner up in points there twice. His decision to join the Spec Sprints in 1999 meant stiff competition for the rest of the pack, and he immediately started winning. If he's not leading the all time win list in this class, he's probably second to two time champion Darrell "The Hammer" Hanestad. I really need to update my winner's lists.

Press, Laliberte and Perry may be at the top of the point list, but they aren't the only drivers to watch. Several others will be there to contend for feature wins, including 2008 champion "Bullet" Billy Macedo, Rick Sharp and recent winner Jeff Kindt. You never know who will show, and Ryan Bernal and Adam Kaeding have been fast when they've appeared this season. At this point, Press, Laliberte, Macedo and Kindt are feature winners after four races. It's possible a fifth winner could emerge by night's end in the highly competitive division.

It's true the Super Stock car count has been less than desired so far. It's also true that two of the drivers contending for the championship are former Petaluma and Sacramentp champion Mitch Machado and many time Petaluma and Vallejo champion Larry Damitz. Machado leads Damitz in a close race, 210-202. Machado accounts for two feature wins this season, while Damitz has one. Damitz also picked up a Hardtop win last week. If both drivers continue to support this class, it's likely this battle will go down to the wire.

Only 20 points off the pace and on a quest for "Rookie Of The Year" honors is "Fast" Freddy Ryland. Ryand was runner up in Pure Stock points in 2008 before winning that title last season. He also scored a surprise victory in the third race of the season ahead of "The Mean Kitty" Natalie Perry. Ryland might be the sleeper in this battle, but his accomplishments in Pure Stocks proves that he should not be counted out.

Eric "Bad News" Berendsen got his start in Pure Stocks, where he was a feature winner, before moving up to Modified Street Stocks. His first two starts in the Super Stocks this season were good, but his luck has nosedived with two DNF's since then. Eric will be out to change that this week. After his shakedown run last time out, three time Antioch champion Mike "The Blue Knight" Gustafson should have things dialed in for this race and could make a run at the feature win. Perry, Lloyd Cline and hopefully others could be on hand for this week's race.

Nick Squatritto may be the point leader in the Dwarf Cars, but Ricardo Rivera demonstrated that he is still the driver to beat when he collected his second victory of the season last week. Both drivers account for two feature wins, and Rivera has over 40 of them in a career that has earned him five championships in the last six years. Squatritto stayed with him the rest of the way for a close second and leads one time winner Jerry Doty by just six points. Having missed one race, Rivera trails by 46 points, though he is far from out of it.

Mike Corsaro leads Clayton Dortzbach by six points in the battle for fourth. Both drivers have made every race and have had some top five Main Event success. Dortzbach came back for a fourth place finish last week after spinning early. The two could make a run for a feature win at any time, as could Corsaro's teammate, Charlie "The Hammer" Correia.

As usual, this division put on a good show last week, and that's expected to continue when the cars take to the track this week. Others to watch for include recent top five finisher Dan Liston. Joel Osias, 2008 Dirt Modified champion Rob Norris and 2008 Dwarf Car champion Ed Johnson.

With the 2009 Mini Truck champion Gene Haney moving up, last year's 2-3 drivers, Travis Dutra and Tom Brown, have made their presence known in this years battle. Actually, Brown has impressively won the first two features and leads Dutra by eight points in the early going. Mini Stock veteran "Rockin" Ray Bunn had a disappointing effort last week, but still ranks third by four points over last week top five finisher Frank Rosa. Can Brown get three in a row, or will somebody snap his winning streak? We'll find out Saturday night.

Jon Haney stepped into the #45 truck for his season debut last week and chased Brown to the line for second in his heat race. Through the first half of the feature, it looked like Haney could pick up the win as he led the way. However, Brown erased a big lead and would force Haney to settle for second again. If this effort was any indication, however, Jon could be a threat to win come Saturday night.