Spreading The Word, Missing Gary Jacob, Chowchilla Car Count Concerns And Antioch's Big Show.
Not feeling all that great today, so we'll see how much I end up writing. It's been an interesting and exciting week for racing. We had a huge Dirt Modified race at Antioch that by all accounts seems to have been a big success. Chowchilla seems to have growing concerns about cost to go racing there for some racers, which is being addressed by management. Tony Karis continues to have an amazing racing radio show on KNRY 1240 AM every Wednesday night from 7-9 PM, but you don't hear a lot on the web about it.
Quite frankly, I'm amazed by the apparent apathy out there. Ten years ago, we'd have been all over that show, especially when you consider all the Watsonville racers interviewed and news items such as the San Jose Speedway petition and the revelation that USAC is working to bring back NARC. I don't know what I expect, but it's not complete silence. I would think somebody would say something, but this page seems to be the only place talking about Tony's show.
There's apathy out there. I don't know why, but there aren't too many people talking. The All Spec Racing forum is dead with very little Antioch talk out there. Dirt Stars has some Watsonville talk, but you'd think there would be more. You'd think people would be talking about the news coming from Tony's show. The crickets are chirping. Most of the talk out there is from the racers at Bakersfield, Santa Maria and the tracks down south.
It's just an observation, and I'm not trying to be critical.
It's been four years since Gary Jacob passed away. You'll notice what's not being covered or what's not being covered adequately. Not too many people have answered the call. Gary was all too willing to jump in anywhere he was needed and the news flowed more freely thanks to him. It's not so much me wondering where the next Gary Jacob is. Gary did a lot more than most people would want to. But people could still be the Gary of their track. I notice one track where people constantly complain about the coverage there, but nobody is stepping up to show how it's done.
This is why a guy like Tony Karis is so important. Right now, Tony Karis and Harlan Osbourne are my two favorite people covering racing. Harlan has been on the scene at Petaluma for at least three decades and knows that track's history. I hope they appreciate what they have there. If that track ever chose to start a Hall Of Fame, and they should, Harlan would be somebody I think could offer a lot of input.
As for Tony, what can I say? The man writes race reviews for two newspapers in the Watsonville area, announces and has his weekly radio show. This is a man trying to create more buzz and excitement for the great tradition of racing that Watsonville is. This is what is needed in the sport. Getting people to talk about racing and look forward to the next race is what it's all about. I hope Watsonville appreciates what they have.
Let's face it. Gary Jacob gave so much of his time to the sport. It was an important part of his life, and he was always looking for the next race. He was always looking to make sure stories went out about any track he could. Nobody wants to do that anymore. I understand. It's work. He did it for free, and people don't want to do that anymore. I'm still not even sure why I do what I do here. I'm just doing it. One thing is for sure, the sport still greatly misses Gary, and it hasn't been the same since he passed away.
So Chowchilla had some drivers sitting out in protest last week. It all centers around money, the cost to get in and the purse. You hate to see that happen, but if there's one place in California where the racers will put their words into action, it's the Chowchilla-Merced area. It's happened several times before. It's a tightrope. Management has to pay the bills, but if a racer can't afford to go racing, they won't. Without the racers, THERE IS NO SHOW.
Fortunately, management met with the racers during the week. I don't know all of the details and I'm not asking, but I am happy to see that this happened. This is a situation that can not go unresolved or there will be no show there. The racers there won't put up with it. Hopefully, things can get back to normal going forward.
What I will say is I know Merced Speedway management is sitting back and watching things and taking notes. When you are reopening the gates at a place with a 60 year tradition in racing, you are going to do what you can to get cars, so an unresolved situation at Chowchilla would be exploited by the track down the road. In that regards, it's no different than when Tom Sagmiller opened Chowchilla ten years ago and built up a show there rather quickly.
What I'd really like to see is both tracks coexist down there and do something like what Porterville and Bakersfield did back in the day. Work together and build a good show for both places. At least I'm not hearing anything negative regarding the track management's there and their feelings towards the other place. That's a good start.
John Soares Jr. has stepped up big this year as far as I'm concerned. The show goes on at Antioch, Merced will have a 14 week season starting July 18th and there's still that little matter of restarting Racing Wheels Magazine, which John bought during the off season. People wonder why I didn't come back this year, but it wasn't because I don't like John. I respect John and his family's legacy in the sport. John is committed to this thing.
I'm not sure what is going on with the Late Model Tour. I hope things are alright. John did not want to let go out the big date on Sears Point weekend, so when the Late Models were dropped, he put the money up for the Modifies. $20,000 plus for a purse, which I think makes this the biggest show for the division in the state this year, and 52 drivers competed. John and the crew had to be happy with this one.
It also serves to show the great potential Antioch Speedway still has when an effort is made. The track itself seems to be just fine, but some of the divisions could use some fine tuning. The Modifieds have demonstrated with this race and the $1,000 to win race before that that they are the clutch division for the track. Basically, if you want a big show with one of the track's regular divisions, do it with Modifieds. Perhaps with the right promoting, the Spec Sprints could do something too, but I'm not sure if that will happen.
But anyway, it was great to see the stands so full for a race at Antioch Speedway and that many cars for just ONE division. To put it into perspective, that car count outdrew the five division show from the previous week, so there's work to be done. But, a race like this shows just what Antioch is capable of and could be a great motivator for John and the crew going forward. As we start the second half of the season and prepare for Merced's reopening, we'll see what other things John has in store for the racers and fans.
I was stunned to see the Wingless Spec Sprints join with the CRA Sprint Cars this last weekend and run as competitively as they did. Ryan Bernal, a former champion in Spec Sprints, beat the CRA point leader in his heat race at Ocean and finished fifth at Petaluma. The only thing that kept Ryan from a top five in the feature at Watsonville was he ran out of fuel. Carter Train and Mark Chaves Jr. ran 1-2 in the B Main at Watsonville.
I believe there were eight Spec Sprints among the 26 car field at Watsonville. This division still amazes me, and I'd be lying if I said when Don O'Keefe Jr. and I put the rules together for John at Antioch that I saw this class racing with the wingless 410's and doing it so competitively. All I wanted was an affordable Sprint Car class that the average racer could get into. Well, last weekend was another moment where Spec Sprints really shined. It makes me very proud of these racers and proud to have done what I did to get things off the ground.