Thursday, July 8, 2010

Antioch Speedway Back in Action Saturday Night

John Soares Jr. is a busy man these days. Think what you want about him, and I know people will, but he is all in when it comes to racing. As he contemplates what to do with Racing Wheels Magazine and prepares to open the gates July 18th at Merced Speedway, he continues to guide the good ship Antioch Speedway, now in his 13th season at the helm. Consider this. The only person to promote the track longer that John now is the man who opened it to weekly racing in 1961, his father John Soares Sr.

On Saturday, a five division program is set to run. It was originally to be a seven division show, but something very interesting happened along the way. John has been trying to establish his own 360 Sprint Car program with a limited schedule, but in the interest of working with other tracks, he removed both the 360 Sprints and Wingless Spec Sprints from this date.

Now, I'm not trying to read too much into this, but the closest track to Antioch, Petaluma Speedway, has both divisions scheduled for Saturday. John's brother Jim Soares promotes that track. Perhaps this is a sign that the Soares brothers are working together? I, for one, hope so. If they do work together more in the future on letting each track have access to more cars during the season, the real winner will be the racers and the fans, and that, in turn, is a positive for BOTH tracks. Just a thought.

Anyway, it is a five division show, and I'm setting the over/under number at 62. I probably should aim a little higher. I believe the Dirt Modifieds will be crashing down the gates to get in. The Dwarf Cars should also be big, but every time I expect that car count to be big, it falls short. So, 62 is where I'm putting it, but I expect it will be higher.

On the card for this one are, Dirt Modifieds (20), Super Stocks (10), Hobby Stocks (12), Dwarf Cars (12) and Mini Trucks (8).

Is DeCarlo Ready For A Championship On A Bigger Stage?

Young Nick DeCarlo is a champion running various classes on the smaller tracks of Vallejo, Dixon and Stockton. Over the past couple of years, "Quick Nick" has made his presence known at Antioch, and he was second in points last season. That is the highest ranking of any of his family at the track, and he is sitting in second once again. Earlier this year, he finally grabbed his first UMP Dirt Modified feature win, and at the recent race at the track, he got into a Hardtop and beat his father Terry DeCarlo for a feature win. Both had to have ear to ear smiles as they ran side by side for several laps.

Nick might be leading the points, but for one problem. Troy Foulger has made his presence known at the track with several impressive drives to net him a six point advantage. Despite Foulger having more feature wins, it remains this close due to DeCarlo's consistency. Consistency will be the key as the division begins it's stretch run to the final checkered flag of 2010. There are seven races left, and every one of them will count. Foulger seems like he may be the driver to beat, but it doesn't matter what was done before this point. It matters what happens next.

To that end, Jeff Thomas sits within shouting distance, 30 points out of the lead. Jeff has yet to win this year, but his ability to grab top five finishes has him in contention. Can he take it up a notch and grab that first win? Only one driver has more that one feature win in the first six point races, and that is Foulger with three. DeCarlo, Joe Carr and two time champion Kenny Neu each have one. The duo ranked fourth and fifth in points, Norman Boeck and past Street Stock champion Bobby Mots Jr., are two others looking fir that with. Both have top five feature finishes this year.

More Cars=More Competition In Super Stocks

Mitch Machado is the man after eight Super Stock races. Half of the feature wins belong to him, as well as a 30 point lead over Larry Damitz. As car count has increased over the last three races, so has Machado's point lead. However, the competition is getting tougher, and it was Mike Gustafson, a three time champion at the track, winning the most recent feature. The other wins belong to Damitz (one) and Rookie Of The Year hopeful Fred Ryland (two). Ryland only trails Damitz by ten points for second, 40 points out of the lead.

But, the interesting thing now is that the competition is getting tougher. Two time Street Stock champion Michael Newman and one time Street Stock champ Todd Gomez have made their season debuts in the last two races, as has another past Limited Late Model champion, Lori Brown. After scoring a few top three feature finishes in a row in Mini Trucks this season, Jon Haney finally brought out his Super Stock. As car count grows, the competition gets tougher, and Machado will have a harder time getting wins. Knowing the competitor that he is, he wouldn't have it any other way.

While Eric Berendsen sits comfortably in fourth at the moment, a battle is brewing for fifth. Currently, Natalie Perry leads Lloyd Cline by six points. Cline was a top five driver in the class last season. While these two maybe haven't been the fastest in the field, their support of the division has been very important while car count was down to six.

Also In The Field In The Hobby Stock Division

Before we get into the championship battle, which is closer than it looked last time, let's look at some racers further in the pack in the Hobby Stock division. You need ALL of the drivers to make a show in any division, and the support of racers like Wes Bentley, Pat Gooding, Randy Metzler and David Smith has made a difference. Bentley, who is a heat race winner this year, finished sixth in the most recent race and is ninth in the standings coming into this race. Gooding's top ten finish in the latest race moved him into tenth in the standings. A rookie this year, Smith has struggled a bit in 12th in the standings, but the more lap time he gets, the more he will be somebody to keep an eye on. Metzler hasn't made all of the races, but he's run strong in the last two events.

Meanwhile, the teamwork of two time winner Melissa Hansen, who I believe is slated to drive this week, and one time winner and rookie Brad Myers, has the #33 car leading two time winner Chris Sorensen by 22 points in the championship battle. Sorensen has been running strong lately, and he should not be counted out as the battle hits the stretch run. Other winners in the first seven races are Eric Schantin and Jack Jonker. Jonker's Team #99 teammate Jim Freethy actually crossed the line first the night Schantin got the win, but was disqualified in post race tech. This has left the Team #99 car a bit behind the leaders in the standings, but they have just moved into the fifth position following Freethy's third place finish in the most recent race.

A past Pure Stock champion, the steady Dan McCown is 27 points out of second in the third spot after a slow start. Had he just been able to start the season opener, Dan would likely be second. He is coming off of back to back top three finishes in search of his first win of the season. Meanwhile, Mike Rydman is still fourth in the standings, and drivers like him, Joe Cancilla and Paul DeLucca are others to keep an eye on in the quest for victory this week.

Watch Out Nick, Here Comes Superman

John Meyers calls him Superman, and with five Dwarf Car championships in the past six seasons and over 40 feature wins, who can argue against that? Nick Squatritto has been fast and consistent this season after eight races and leads Jerry Doty by 36 points with Rivera just two points behind him despite missing a race. Rivera has four of the eight wins so far, while Squatritto has two wins of his own. Doty and Josh Hiatt each have a win as well. Rivera has been fast, but even when he wins, Squatritto has been up near the front to keep the point damage to a minimum. The question is, when both are running strong, can Nick get a win and add some points to his lead?

Doty has been struggling lately, and he's in need of a good finish as well. The bright side is even if he loses second to Rivera, there's a good 60 points separating him from Clayton Dortzbach. It was two races ago when Dortzbach had a season best third place finish, showing he may be capable of picking up a win before season's end. A third place finish is also a season best finish for Mike Corsaro, who is 26 points behind Dortzbach in fifth. Just eight points out of fifth is the pink #12 of Dan Liston. Veteran open wheel racers Charlie Correia is seventh in points and has finished as high as second this season. He is a feature winner in the past and should not be counted out.

Calling All Trucks, Get On Out There And Race

A changing of the guard is taking place in the competitive Mini Truck class. Tom Brown, a two time winner this year, parked his #99x truck to debut a Dwarf Car (with a second place finish). Gene Haney has a win in his championship truck this year, but he's looking to sell it to focus on his Dirt Modified. Truck count has dipped below ten in recent races, but we know there are at least a dozen more trucks out there. And the fact is, Travis Dutra needs the competition. With two wins in six races, Dutra leads Ray Bunn by 42 points. Bunn is still searching for that first win this year, but he came close to getting it last time out with a second.

With one win this year, Dan Wagner is 18 points behind Bunn, and this duo, along with Dutra, have been three of the fastest so far this year. Veterans Dean Cline and Pete Paulson, both top ten ranked this season, are feature winners in this division in the past. Both appear to still be dialing things in, but at any time, it could be their night. The racing in the Mini Trucks continues to be close this season, and that isn't likely to change this week. It could be anybody's night to grab the Main Event glory, even somebody like fifth ranked Jerry Carpanello or top eight point competitors Ron Mayberry or Greg Williams.