Thursday, July 22, 2010

Random Thoughts

I wasn't planning to write anything this week, but here I am again for another week. Once again we reach into the grab bag as we look at a few different things going on. We have Dwarf Cars racing in Turlock, Mike Cecil Memorial race at Watsonville, a lady looking for ten wins in a row at Marysville and more, so let's dive in.

Dwarf Cars Come To Turlock

We found out a few interesting tidbits about the Dwarf Car race at the fair in Turlock last Sunday. Reports we saw indicated the drivers were offered $200 per car to race, regardless of finishing position. It's basically an exhibition type race on a hastily made dirt oval track that's probably 1/10th of a mile. They are racing, but obviously not so hard that they risk crashing too hard. It's more about putting on a show for the fans who pack the area for the various motor sports events.

There were 12 cars in action, and we did catch results for the first of three heat races. Charlie "The Hammer" Correia won that heat with Neil Stinson passing Curt Jordan on the last lap for second. Alan Heeney was fourth. In the Main Event, Brett Barstow collected the victory ahead of Josh Hiatt. A driver named Duane (Didn't catch a last name, maybe Daniel?) was third ahead of Sam Westhorpe. Correia apparently tangled with the #3n car in the Main Event. I'm thinking Mike Corsaro was was probably racing there as well, but not sure who the other two racers were. Car count was up two from last year.

By the way, Correai won the Dwarf Car fair race in Turlock about a decade ago. Dwarf Cars and Legend Cars competed back then, as did Quads. This time around, the Dwarf Cars were part of a card that featured Monster Trucks. Being that he lived around the corner from the fairgrounds, I'm thinking Gary Jacob would have gotten a kick out of this race, but, knowing him, he likely would have skipped it to go to Merced Speedway.

Merced Speedway Gets Set For Round #2

Well, the Timmy Post Memorial Race may be off, but racing is still on at Merced Speedway. The appearance of over 60 cars last week made the opener a success. The Modifieds were boosted by the appearance of the McDaniel father-son duo. Randy McDaniel just retook the point lead at Chico that Friday night with a second place finish as he pursues another championship. Ryan McDaniel, meanwhile, came into Merced gunning for a rare three win weekend. Ryan held off his father to win the Modified race Friday at Chico, then jumped behind the wheel of Billy Knoop's car and won the Stock Car race Saturday at Marysville.

So, the Dirt Modifieds boasted a 16 car field for Merced's opener, including Ryan Porter and Alex Stanford, who are competing for the championship at Chowchilla, defending champion Jim DiGiovanni and past Merced champion Paul Stone. Paul's cousin Ramie Stone, a champion in three different divisions at Merced and probably the top driver at the track in the last decade, was not in the field. No word on whether Ramie intends to race this season, but he would definitely be a welcome addition. However, the 16 racers who did show in this division were definitely a welcome site.

Past Dirt Modified champion "Bullet" Bob Williamson was in action Sunday behind the wheel of the #00 Street Stock, and he ended up caught between a pair of #15 cars. The #15 of Chowchilla point leader Mike Shepherd was doing his usual thing and beating the competition, while Antioch title hopeful Larry Damitz made a surprise appearance and ended up third after winning a heat race. Back at the site of his first career feature win when he drive a Late Model in the early 90's, Mitch Enos finished fourth. With new track management at Merced, Roy Hart Jr. was back and finished fifth.

Merced boasts some of the best Street Stock drivers in the state, include past champions Tim Ragsdale, Darren Thomas and Randy Brewer, and though they weren't in action Sunday, it is hoped that they will be back in the near future. Meanwhile, two time defending champion Ricky Thatcher and his father Buddy Thatcher did compete as did second generation racer George Lefler Jr., whose father is a past champion at the track. It was indeed a good opener at the Speedway.

In an interesting bit of booking, the Dirt Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Four Bangers and Sport Mods will be joined not by the Street Stocks, but the IMCA Stock Cars this week. I'm really not sure where this class runs in California, other than Giant Chevrolet Speedway in Hanford. There have been car counts as high 10 or 11 cars in Hanford this season, where Loren DeArmond has been the driver to beat. I believe one of the reasons Hanford went to this division in the last few years was in an effort to try and build up a car count. Whether Merced might get on board with this class or it's just a special appearance remains to be seen.

Once one of the top drivers in the non Camaro Pure Stock division, Shane Hausman returned and won the Hobby Stock season opener ahead of second generation racer Raul Rodriguez Jr. and the rapidly improving Ryan Hart. The Hobbys delivered 12 cars for the opener, while Four Bangers produced a similar car count. The driver taking the win in that race was Watsonville racer Dan McCabe. I do recall a Dan McCabe racing Stock Cars at San Jose Speedway in the 1980's, but I'm not sure if there is a relation.

Wrapping up, the Sport Mod buzz continues to get louder as drivers push for this class in more venues. Chowchilla Speedway had seven cars at their most recent race and now have seen ten different cars compete. This means double digit cars counts are possible, and if that starts happening, you have to wonder if Antioch or even Petaluma might get on board. Drivers fighting for the cause should also consider that John Soares Jr. now runs both Antioch and Merced, and he will be paying attention to the numbers. The reason Petaluma comes into the debate is former Mini Stock racer Ford Cook, who intends to debut a Sport Mod legal car in the Dirt Modified field at Petaluma in early August.

So, Round #2 of racing comes to Merced Sunday, July 25th. Promoter John Soares Jr. is starting to hear something he used to hear in his early days as the man in charge at Antioch, praise from the racing community. I'll add to that, because he and his entire crew did an amazing job getting Merced up and running on the old quarter-mile clay oval in just a couple month's time. Sure, there's work to be done, but who would have thought things would have gotten this far so quickly?

Mike Cecil Memorial Race Friday Night

Ocean Speedway is not likely to jump on the bandwagon for the Sport Mod class, but for good reason. Set aside how strong some of the divisions are there, the IMCA Modifieds are still solid and likely to produce another B Main Friday night. The IMCA sanctioning is working well for them as they do get visitors from other tracks, and their drivers go to places like Santa Maria, Victorbville, Bakersfield and Ventura for IMCA points.

On Friday night, the IMCA Modifieds will run a 50 lap race in honor of Mike Cecil. Cecil was a second generation racer who had big shoes to fill as his father Jerry Cecil was a past Sportsman champion and won more Sportsman features at the track than anybody. But, Mike did make a name for himself, winning a Street Stock championship and winning the big 100 lap race the track had for that division twice. Fact was, Mike loved the 100 lap race, and it was something he looked forward top every year.

He also became one of the track's more popular and respected drivers, and his passing in 1997 hit a lot of people hard. Track management at the time renamed the 100 lap race the Mike Cecil Memorial Race in his honor. The event continues to be a "must race" for the all of the racers, and a race that everybody wants to win. Yes, there will be points in a hotly contested championship battle and extra money, but just winning this one is a career highlight for anybody.

Less than 40 points separate point leader Brian Cass, defending champion Kenny Nott Jr., Victorville point leader Larry Hood, Michael Dalton and Cody Burke. The pits are likely to be filled with cars, causing the need for a B Main, and that means these five drivers will need to bring their A Game to this one.

Also on tap Friday at Ocean Speedway will be the Ocean Late Models, Dwarf Cars, American Stocks and Four Bangers. These divisions all put on a good show, so this would be the perfect time to check out a race at Ocean Speedway in Watsonville.

Dirt Mods At Placerville

Up north, Placerville will be racing Dirt Modifieds. The division is a regular class at Chico on Friday nights, where Randy McDaniel and Darin Ruley are having a good battle for the championship. McDaniel has won several championships in his career, but this would be Ruley's first in this division if he can make up the nine point deficit on McDaniel. The Placerville race is a special event, but most of the Chico regulars are anticipated for this race as well as a few visitors. Placerville used to have point racing for this division in the past, and Antioch Speedway Hall Of Famer Darryl Shirk is one of the past champions there in this division. The Placerville race will pay $800 to win.

Placerville's headliner that night will be the Hunt Magneto Spec Sprint Series with a car count in the 20's anticipated as Sprint Car veterans Terry Schank Jr. and Billy Wallace battle for that championship. Also in action will be the Pure Stocks and Limited Late Models. The track had run what they called Pro Stocks for years, but switched over to a Limited Late Model rule set similar to that of Ocean Speedway. It's generally an 8-12 car show. The division has been booked several times at Chico, but drivers have been slow to support that effort there. In fact, a race for this Friday night has been canceled.

This will be a key we4ekend for the Hunt Magneto Spec Sprint Series as they will be a part of Chico's open wheel night that also includes 410 Sprints and ASCS Midgets. The track has booked the new ASCS Midget effort for several races this season, and the last race saw a season high eight cars show up with Rick Young collecting his first win.

Beat Misty For Me

On the Sprint Car Fan forum, somebody put up a bounty of $500 to anybody who could snap Misty Castleberry's win streak cleanly. Castleberry has dominated the action in the Mini Stock class at Marysville with nine feature victories. The Mini Stocks were added to Saturday's Golden State Challenge 410 Sprint Car Series race to make up for a rain out. According to the track's recent press release, a tenth straight win for the current point leader and defending champion would be a new track record. So the question is, can anybody beat Misty Castleberry? And you thought the GSC Sprint Cars were the only reason to go see this race. It should be a good show at Marysville.

Orland Speedway Still Hanging In There

On the Sprint Car Fan forum, there's been some talk about Orland Speedway. Some people are even offering help, including one person who offered to donate new clay for the track if they could pay for it to be hauled. The track's Mini Trucks, Mini Stocks and Pure Stocks have made it for all the shows, though car count is a little less than hoped for. What is nice is that several drivers have been winners in all divisions this season. As an added feature to give the fans one more race to watch, the Trucks and Mini Stocks ran a combined feature last week. All feature winners last week picked up their first wins of the season, which hopefully will provide some incentive for other drivers to get out and race.

If you're keeping track, Ryan Compton (Hobby Stock), Richard Gale (Mini Truck) and Don Runkle (Mini Stock) collected the regularly scheduled feature victories, while Dan Webster won the combined Mini Stock/Truck race.

The track has been trying to keep the Mini 4 cylinder Modified division alive. This 4 Cylinder version of Dirt Modifieds had a good run in the last decade and even ran some races head to head with the group from Lakeport at one time. As the cars at Marysville are a little more modified than the Orland Mini Stocks, those drivers have run with the 4 Cylinder Modified class when they've visited with the track's Mini Stocks encouraged to run if they want to.

The division that has fallen on hard times in recent weeks in the Wingless Spec Sprint class. Over ten cars have competed this season, includimng eight on opening night, but it appears as if not enough cars have shown up to race the last two events. This, coincidentally enough, follows on the heels of Ralph Jacobo's departure as a track official. Whether this has anything to do with things is unknown to this writer, though two Jacobo cars had appeared at most of the events this season.

One fan of the division appeared appeared on the forum recently and pointed out that a five car field races for $250 to win in this division, hoping to stir up some support. I'm curious what that would be to start as most of these drivers would have to tow a good distance from out of town, and that is a factor in getting them to come. I've always appreciated how Orland was the first track to follow Antioch and start it's own class, and I envisioned a day when this effort could have been involved with any future multi track series, maybe even the Hunt Series. However, car count has to get back at least to where it was a few seasons ago.

This might be a good time for the track to call a meeting with the drivers at a local puzza parlor to discuss things going forward. I know the cars are still up there in this class, and this could help put things back on track. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to do this for all divisions in the interest of ending the season strong and building things up for next year.

At any rate, I'm hoping for the best for Orland. This is a neat little race track that gives fans and racers something fun to do on any given Saturday night. Racing resumes at Orland this week with all of the regular classes in action.

Chowchilla Speedway Resumes Saturday Night Racing

The show goes on at Chowchilla Speedway as Dirt Modifieds, Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks and Four Bangers, the back bone of the track's schedule, are all in action. The battle between Alex Stanford and Ryan Porter will likely continue in the Dirt Modifieds, but if these two slip up even a little bit, Andrew Krumm is right there to try and stake a claim on the point lead. These four divisions would be enoigh to put on a show as it is, but there's more.

The Vintage Supermodifieds will be in action as well. These cars will put people in mind of Supermodified racing from the 60's and 70's, and racers like Everett Edlund and LeRoy Van Connet are expected top be among a field of 10-12 cars. This show is sure to be a good one, and it's great to know that classes like the Sportsman division, the Hardtops and Supermodifieds are still around to give people a taste of what racing was like in the past.