Thursday, July 8, 2010

Random Thoughts

I'm reaching into the grab bag for a few things this week, and we're going to look at a little Ocean Speedway stuff, a few Chowchilla Speedway thoughts and the Merced Speedway buzz.

Trying To Rebuild The Midget Racing Scene In Nor Cal

BCRA has been around for decades, going back to the 1940's. To me, they are the standard bearer in Northern California for Midgets. Back in the day, before my time, they were the standard bearer for the Hardtops in Northern California as well.

I posted a little while back about Rick Young working on things with the ASCS Midgets and trying to work with BCRA. There is an ASCS link on the BCRA web page, but last I looked, it went nowhere. Anyway...

Chico Silver Dollar Speedway has booked the ASCS Midgets several times this year, and last week saw them field eight cars on the dirt, a season high. It's gone from four to six and now eight cars. This is significant enough in my mind opinion, that it needs a mention here. Interestingly enough, BCRA matched that total of eight cars at Shasta Saturday night.

I'm not going to pick a side here. I do like tradition and respect BCRA and it's history. However, any fool can see that Midget racing needs a boost here in Northern California. USAC can't draw the numbers and BCRA has seen better days. So, why not try something different? BCRA should make it's prime focus Midgets at this point anyway, in my opinion. Get that car count back into the 20's, where it belongs.

So, anyway, Rick Young has gotten on the ground floor of this ASCS effort in California. This is the same guy I wrote about in an old post who raced with the CMA and in his brief time there helped open the door for that group and eventually the NCMA to get into Sacramento Raceway. I never figured him as somebody who could start something that could breathe new life into Midget racing, and yet the ASCS could play a part in making things better.

If Midget racing could field 20 or more cars on the dirt on a regular basis, I have a feeling more doors could open for them. Well, double digits could happen for the ASCS effort in California before it even has it's tenth race, which is a good start.

Chico has been the home base for them this year with five races so far. I think one race may have been rained out. Dillon Silverman won the first two with three different winners following. Britton Bock and Travis Haugh came next, but with a season high eight cars in action last week, Rick Young claimed the victory. I'm sure Rick was happy to get that win, but I bet he was even happier that eight cars competed.

Now, I know it's a little early to get all excited about things, but I think there is something to be said for ASCS Midgets running a home track and not too many dates, building this thing up. July 23rd and August 20th remain on the schedule at Chico. September 8th, which kicks off Gold Cup Weekend at Chico, features the BCRA, along with Wingless Spec Sprints (top 30 or 35 who started at least half of the races from the Hunt Series eligible) and 360 Sprints (top 35 from Civil Wars Series eligible) are also on the card that night.

It will be interesting to watch this ASCA Midget effort and see how it develops, but it really can't help but be a positive for Midget racing in Northern California. If it helps grow the car count, it's a good thing.

Speaking Of Hardtops

From the Bakerfield area, there is rumor that the Okie Bowl Hardtops may have a date or two scheduled before the season is up. All I can say is they should. For crying out loud, the name is "Okie Bowl", which is a tribute to Bakersfield Speedway. Plus, they have the cars. Get on it Bakerfielfd Speedway. You book everything else. You'll get at least 12 cars if you book these guys.

Meanwhile, the Nor Cal Vintage Hardtops stopped off at Stockton 99 Speedway last Friday night with a half dozen cars. My guess is this is becoming Conrad Cavallero's favorite track. Conrad charged to a fast time of 16.383 on the quarter-mile paved oval, beating the 16.503 of Jack Low. After letting Nick DeCarlo drive his car to heat and feature wins at Antioch last time out, George Connor got back behind the wheel of the #70 car and won his heat ahead of Cavallero. Low won the dash over Cavallero, and it looks like Connor had a mechanical problem sideline him after this race. The feature continued the Cavallero-Low battle from last time at Stockton with Conrad holding off Jack for the victory. Former Merced Sportsman and Cal Mod champion Mike Friesen was third ahead of Charles Mart and Kendra McKee.

The Nor Cal Vintage Hardtops will be in Lakeport on July 17th, Ukiah July 24th and then back on the dirt of Antioch on August 7th for their third and final appearance there.

Big Races At Ocean Speedway

I generally don't do a much writing about Ocean Speedway, not because there's nothing to talk about, but because I think they have some of the best publicity people in the area. Tony Karis has done an outstanding job. Ocean Speedway may have the best winged 360 Sprint Car division in the state and possibly the best Dwarf Car division as well. Look at the numbers and judge for yourself. Drivers have to earn their feature starts in those classes or else they run the B Main. I love full fields. Remember those?

The IMCA Modifieds are putting up good cars counts (25 last week), and the Four Bangers and Hobby Stocks are doing okay. Wingless Spec Sprint car count is up this year. The Ocean Late Models need a better car count, but nine or ten show up most weeks. There's enough going on in the state to suggest this class is worth fighting for, and I suspect they will continue to do so at Ocean Speedway.

You have to give John Prentice credit for the way he's run things this year, and the fact that he has put people in place to get the job done the right way. All I've been hearing is how good the racing has been and the job Tom Sagmiller has done in preparing a good track to race on. All divisions have been very competitive and most of the point battles will likely go down to the wire.

As for big races, Ocean Speedway has a few coming up.

The Mike Cecil Memorial race for IMCA Modifieds will have a bigger purse for the 50 lap race on July 23rd.

The 50th running of the Johnny Key Classic will be held for the Taca Bravo Sprint Cars on August 28th.

I've even heard that the Ocean Late Models will have a $1,000 to win race on September 3rd. I had a crazy thought that they could add another 15-20 laps to this one and make it the Tim Williamson Classic. That was a Late Model race for many years, and it's a shame there is no Williamson Classic this year. There's been one for 30 years, and it has been THE prestige race for the drivers at Watsonville.

At any rate, Ocean Speedway in Watsonville is still a great place to check out a race on a Friday night.

Jim Pettit II Appears On Motor Sports Show With Tony Karis

Wednesday nights on KNRY 1240 AM from 7-9 PM, Tony Karis hosts the Motor Sports Show, covering racing at Ocean Speedway, the auto industry and racing in general. Tony had winners from last week at Ocean Speedway on the show. Ocean Late Model winner Phil Priddy was in studio with him. American Stock winner Billy Nelson, Bay Area Dwarf Car winner Ryan Diatte and Wingless Spec Sprint winner Carter Train all called in, and the discussions were all interesting.

Jim Pettit II called in as well. He enjoyed his third IMCA Modified feature win Friday night and recently took the point lead in the SRL Southwest Tour with a victory. Pettit is already a two time Southwest Tour champion, and as always, was a good interview. He hasn't been traveling all that much with the Modified, but he does enjoy racing at Watsonville whenever possible.

However, Pettit did make it to Chowchilla for the Lunker Daddy Tri Holiday Series race at Chowchilla on Sunday. He has won there in the past and generally has favorable comments for the track. The Sunday afternoon race was a bit of a challenge with the dry and dusty conditions on the track. Jim said after he found himself in the back of the pack, he opted to take his car off the track. According to Jim, this was the first time since he started racing in 1981 that he took a car off the track that didn't have anything wrong with it.

He added that he felt that nothing good could come from him staying out there and noted that one of his crew members was taking time off during the week for family and he didn't want to add more work for the car. Lest anybody thinks he was bashing the track or management, Jim went on to praise Kenny Shepherd as somebody who has been around the sport for years and has worked hard to keep things going in Chowchilla. Jim added that afternoon races on the dirt in The Valley are hard to do because of all the heat that creates the dry conditions.

Pettit has a busy schedule racing both his IMCA Modified and his Southwest Tour Late Model through October this year. Wherever he goes, he's sure to be a force on the track.

Chowchilla Speedway Taking The Heat In July

It's been a mixed bag for Chowchilla Speedway in 2010, but the one thing you can say is that the show continues to go on as scheduled. This weekend the track will run winged 360 Sprint Cars as well as traditional non winged 360 Sprint Cars. Though full results aren't out there as this is being written, reports indicate the Tri Holiday Series race had a car count in the 20's for the Dirt Modifieds, which meant a B Main was needed.

Alex Stanford has been discussed in such forums at Late Model Racer as being one of the best Dirt Modified racers in the state. After holding off Ryan Porter and Mitch Enos Sunday for the $1,000 victory, it's hard to argue against that. Alex seems to be picking up right where his father, "The Flying Cowboy" Jack Stanford, left off. He is already a champion like his father, and he could wind up winning another Chowchilla championship by season's end.

A Chowchilla championship seems a certainty for Street Stock driver Mike Shepherd. The track's defending champion leads the track point race, but he was gunning for an $800 paycheck on Sunday. He seemed to be on his way before lapped traffic appeared in the line he was running late in the race. This enabled Chris Smith to make the pass and collect the win. Smith was coming off of a second to Tim Randolph a night earlier in Bakersfield. Shepherd settled for second with local lead foot Chuck Crews enjoying one of his better finishes with a solid third place effort.

Pats on the back go out to Marshall Weaver (Hobby Stocks), Ryan Diatte (Dwarf Cars) and Fred Ryland (Four Bangers) on their victories. I'd love to tell you about the winner of the Wingless Spec Sprint feature, but no results were up on them and I doubt there were many (if any) cars. I've gotten word of driver's complaints about entry fees there and some problems with officials centering around tech at the first Tri Holiday race in May. Coupling that with the caveat that there must be 15 cars to get the advertised $1,000 to win (Not something done with any other classes on the card), and I knew this would probably happen.

To the Spec Sprint drivers in the area down there, I can only say when Merced opens and runs this division (as they are scheduled to do three times), support the cause and you will likely get more dates there in the future. Vote with your car, and promoters will listen.

Concerns have been voiced over scoring at Chowchilla and drivers losing a lap when they spin in Turn 4 for a yellow flag. Apparently, the leader can lap them. I've heard it called a "NASCAR" scoring thing, but I don't recall that being the case in any NASCAR race where yellows don't count. Spin and bring out a yellow, and you don't lose a lap provided you take the green on a restart. Join that restart late and don't take a green, and you may lose a lap then. That's the way I was taught to score. As far as why things are this way at Chowchilla, maybe the transponders have something to do with it? I don't know.

Now, I know tracks are all over these transponders, and it's just something that is happening. Car counts being what they are, I think it's pretty stupid to ad the additional cost to a driver's already suffering budget. If a scorekeeper can't handle a ten car field, get a new score keeper. It's not that hard. Just my opinion, but I understand it's just a sign of the times. The hold out tracks will end up going with transponders eventually.

But, having said that, let me add something. A selling point for the transponder idea is that results are posted that night in many cases on MyLaps. Chowchilla's results are another thing. Kenny runs Madera, and those results do get posted, so I'm a little confused why this is taking so long. I would hope this gets resolved, and I'm betting it will be eventually. After all, the drivers are paying for it.

Merced Speedway Starting Over Again

It's ironic in a way. Ten years ago, Merced Speedway was cruising along, and people wondered if the new kid on the block, Chowchilla Speedway, could make it. Now, the roles are reversed in a way . Merced Speedway looked doomed after the previous management closed shop at the end of the 2009 season. Making it worse, at least two potential promoters backed out for various reasons.

Enter John Soares Jr. and Oval Motorsports. John had a plan for this track all along, and it's starting to take shape. He has good people working with him, which includes Tom Sagmiller in whatever capacity that is. John decided to rebuild the quarter-mile clay oval with new banking in the turns. It will be a new track come July 18th, when the gates open once again, and that's a good thing. It's symbolic in a way.

People wanted change. They asked for it, and now they have it. It's a fresh new start. New management and a new racing surface. People haven't raced on the quarter-mile at Merced since the early 1990's, but it was a pretty racy track back in the day. They came from all over to make a name for themselves.

Now, racers will have a chance to make new memories and add to the history of a track that goes back to 1950. The buzz has been building up, and it will be interesting to see who brings cars when the Dirt Modifieds, Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Four Bangers, Valley Sportsman and Mini Trucks come out on Sunday afternoon. I'm hoping to see some names we haven't seen for a year or so. I'm hoping people get on board with it and go racing.

Merced Speedway has a second chance. The track has a chance to come back stronger than it's been in a while, but it's up to the racers now. Without them, it won't happen. I have a good feeling about things, but I guess we'll see when the time comes. Hopefully, a few champions from recent years past will be out there making it happen once again. I know it's a risk trying to put it all back together in this economy, but I'm happy that John & Donna Soares have stepped up to give it a go.