Friday, July 23, 2010

Five Division Show Will Be A Test Of Car Count At Antioch

Four of the track's regular division and the BCRA Midget Lites are on tap for Saturday night's show at Antioch Speedway. With all of the excitement down the road at Merced, it may seem like the 50 year racing tradition that is Antioch Speedway will get lost in the shuffle, but that is not the case. Actually, the grandstands were packed for last week's Golden State Challenge Series race.

I would love to see some of the hype effort that has been made at Merced lately be made at Antioch, because the track deserves it. This isn't to be a critic. John Soares Jr. has done some really amazing things this year, and he deserves credit for it. However, he seems to have hired some people who are already doing some amazing things to build the excitement at Merced. Isn't it time Antioch had the same? Just a thought.

No, I'm not lobbying for anything, but they can do better than what's there now. Don't you think?

Anyway, let's get to it. I'm a little worried about this one, and I'm trying to figure out who will produce the cars. It's definitely gut check time for a few divisions. You can't claim race fatigue at this point. Drivers have had a week off or more at this point.

They should make it into the 50's at least. It should be bigger than that really. I will put the Over/Under number at 52.

Wingless Spec Sprints (14), Super Stocks (10), Four Bangers (8), Mini Trucks (8), BCRA Midget Lites (12).

Contrary To Rumors, LaLiberte & Press Aren't The Only Spec Sprint Drivers

Tommy LaLiberte's recent win at Ocean Speedway moved him into a tie for second in points there and earned him an appearance on The Motor Sports Show with Tony Karis on Wednesday night. The man is probably in the top five or even top three of Wingless Spec Sprint drivers in the state. Some will argue whether he is #1, and after his four race win streak at Antioch, who could blame them? Two time feature winner David Press is no stranger to championships himself. At 20 points behind LaLiberte in the title chases at Antioch, it may be a bit early to start fitting Tommy for that championship jacket.

While past champion Jim Perry Jr. sits comfortably in third in the standings, a couple of up and coming racers have moved into the fourth and fifth spots as the division continues to create new stars. In fourth with a 22 point lead over fifth is Chuck Bradshaw. Bradshaw is also top ten ranked at Watsonville. Riding in fifth is Trevor Press. These are the top two newcomers in the class at the moment, and both have enjoyed recent top five success in the Main Event. Press actually started out in a Four Banger a few years back and was a Main Event winner at Antioch. Another division newcomer, Tyler Henriquez, is 14 points behind Press in seventh. Henriquez has some top ten feature finishes (finishing as high as sixth) and is a heat race winner as well.

One of the nice things about the Spec Sprint division is it continues to offer racers a reasonable way into Sprint Car racing, and it produces a field with a nice mixture of veterans and young up and coming racers. One racer who could be back in the field is one of the track's top five point runners of the past, Roy Fisher. Roy took a nasty, life threatening tumble on the front stretch last season, but he was at the track a couple of weeks ago hot lapping his race car. As one of the drivers who has supported this division the longest, he would certainly be a welcome addition if he shows up.

The Pure Stock Connection In The Super Stock division

At the top of the Super Stock standings, you will find a good battle raging on between Mitch Machado and Larry Damitz. Machado leads the division in feature wins and carried a 30 point into the last race. However, a flat tire for Machado and a second win of the season for the ageless veteran Damitz cut that margin down to 14. No doubt Machado, who spent years racing at Petaluma and watched Damitz win several championships there as well, is enjoying racing with him for this season's title. At 80 years old, Damitz is still going strong and proved that by winning his heat race and finishing third in the Main Event at Merced last Sunday in a surprise appearance there. Seeing Machado and Damitz battle every week is a definite highlight at the speedway.

But there are more drivers than them in this class, and if you look closely, you will see a Pure Stock connection in this division. Rookie Of The Year contender Fred Ryland won the Pure Stock crown last year in dominant fashion. About 34 points behind him, you'll find a past top five Pure Stock point runner and feature winner, Eric Berendsen. Eric is definitely fast in his #88 car, but though Ryland has two victories, the second generation racer Berendsen is still looking for his first. He does have some top three success, but he'd like to take it up a notch.

Todd Gomez and Michael Newman both started out in Pure Stocks, and Newman was a top ten point runner his first season. Both have won Street Stock championships and have looked fast in their appearances in the Super Stock division so far. Natalie Perry is also a past top ten Pure Stock point runner and has finished as high as second in the feature this season. Her absence last race cost her fifth, but it's likely she would have been passed for that position by Lloyd Cline anyway as he finished third in the feature.

The question will be whether a new name will be added to the feature winner's list this time. Jon Haney, a top ten ranked Dirt Modified racer last season, looked like he was headed for the win last time out, but a yellow flag bunched the field and provided Damitz the opportunity he needed to get the win. Haney settled for a solid, but likely disappointing, second. It will be interesting to see who shows up this week.

It's Nice To See That More Four Bangers Are starting To Show

Defending champion Patty Ryland leads the Four Banger division in wins and trails two drivers who have yet to win this season. She'd likely be leading now, but she missed a race. As it stands, Dayna Andreesen leads 2009 runnerup Ken Radabaugh by just four points with Ryland 20 points back and closing in fast. What Andreesen and Radabaugh would both like is to finally get a feature win this season. Both drivers have won heat races and finished as high as second in the Main Event.

With over 15 competitors to earn points, it's nice to see the division gaining a little ground. Divers like Jeff Browne, Devon DeOdosso and Laura Crabtree have made their first appearances in recent races, and as more cars start showing up, it's going to get even more interesting out on the race track. Despite a hard crash earlier this year, Dominic Myers continues to hang in there and is just five points behind Justin Silveira in the battle for fifth. Silveira is rapidly improving out there, and if he can improve on his restarts, he may be in line for a feature victory in the future.

In watching the races at Golden Triangle Speedway in Texas, I've noticed the Jr. Mini Stock class that has about a half dozen young teen aged competitors. It's a nice approach to getting young racers out to the track, where they can race against each other. Even if it's not a big car count there, it's still a nice concept to bring in young racers, plus a High School Racing program can be worked right in there. In any event, the Four Banger show will go on Saturday night at Antioch, and a double digit car count is entirely possible.

Where Have All The Trucks Gone?

Not that long ago, the Mini Trucks produced 14-16 truck fields, and things were getting interesting. After starting in double digits this season, count fell to just six last time out. Racers like Frank Rosa and Pete Paulsen haven't been seen in weeks. After winning two features early on, Tom Brown moved up to the Dwarf Cars and took his truck with him. The Mini Truck division appears to be falling apart, as it did in Merced after a good run of seven or eight seasons there. The trucks are out there, but will they show up for the next race?

In the meantime, Travis Dutra is on his way to winning the track championship as he also tops the winner's list. His closest rival is Mini Stock veteran Ray Bunn, who is still in search of his first win of the season and is 48 points back. Bunn may need that win soon as one time winner Dan Wagner is just 18 points behind him in third. The absent Brown still sits in fourth, waiting for Jerry Carpanello, Ron Mayberry and Dean Cline to pass him. The racing in the Mini Truck division can be good, but they need more trucks on the track to make it interesting.

BCRA Midget Lites Are Coming To Town

Mini Sprint racing has been a part of the scene at Antioch for nearly two decades, starting in the early 90's with the Northern Stars Mini Sprints and such stars as Ted Harrison, Bob Robicheaux, Mike Benson and Harley Van Dyke. The racing was good, and they brought a lot of cars to the track. As BCRA got into sanctioning Midget Lites and the NST' hit rough waters, the show still went on. One of the biggest stars to come out of the BCRA Midget Lites was a young leadfoot by the name of Brad Sweet. Brad seemed to win every time they came to Antioch for a while there before moving up to race Sprint Cars all over the country. In fact, Brad recently came back to Placerville to win the Sprint Car WTF Cup.

These days, some of the names at the top have changed, but the competitive fire burns just as brightly. Jason Sneep leads the championship charge by 59 points over Brian Corso. BCRA also keeps a car owner point list, and Corso leads Sneep's car owner Lonnie Lopez by 19 points. Scott Kinney, Richard Hoover and Dakota Albright round out the top five. It should be a double digit car count for the Midghet Lites, and the balance of the top ten in the standings coming into this race is made up of Craig Holsted, Doug Nunes, Joey Hoover, Rick Holbrook and Pete Paulson.

The group was last at Antioch in July of last season, and Sneep collected the victory over Doug Nunes and Chris Glass in a 13 car field. Nunes won the championship last season ahead of current point leader Sneep.

In Closing

With the Dirt Modifieds off and licking their wounds from the last time and Dwarf Cars and Hobby Stocks taking a much needed break, this will be a test for the rest of the track's regular divisions. Can they produce the cars? The Super Stocks and Four Bangers have been adding a few more cars as of late, but the trucks are struggling. The two open wheels classes should still be good for double digits and at least two heats. There's enough here to produce a good show, and if people step up a little and bring more cars, it will be even better. It should be interesting to see what happens.