Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Random Thoughts

So, I'm sitting here thinking about taking a break. Sounds good to me. Plus, I'm getting a little annoyed with a couple things I'm seeing and "The Editor" is tempted to put it all out there, but I'm still trying not to go there. So, I should just walk now, but here I am again. A few things on the desk today. Gonna try not to go too long this time, but here goes.

Is It Really Necessary To Pile On Chowchilla Speedway?

I will be the first to tell you I'm disappointed with this track based on things I've been hearing and their treatment of the Wingless Spec Sprint class. They should have a dozen cars in that class right now, but even the ones they had there didn't want to race there. Then again, it's not the first time I've been disappointed with management at Chowchilla's promotion, or lack thereof, of this division. But, I'm not going "there" again.

It seems that this track is getting dumped on by some people on message boards lately. People at Watsonville are generally pretty cool on the boards about racing there, Merced has a real positive vibe, Ron's out there occasionally putting out the good word on Petaluma, nobody seems to care enough to say anything or admit that they even attended a race at Antioch and Chowchilla gets the hate.

It costs too much to race there, the scoring sucks, it's too dusty, the announcer isn't any good, the promoter ran over my dog... Okay, I made up that last one, but I won't be surprised when people start taking personal shots at Kenny Shepherd next. Screw him for trying to run two tracks (Madera and Chowchilla), rather than just letting them sit dormant. Can you imagine the nerve of that guy? Who does he think he is trying to promote racing?

I understand the cost to go racing is high. I heard the "insurance" argument there not long ago, and considering the accident that happened there a few years ago that claimed the life of Brian Davis, I wonder if that factors into the cost at all? I don't know, just wonderong. Transponders? Not a fan, especially given the car count situation. I don't care about the whole "get with the times" argument. I care about the, "get more cars" argument. But, I understand why they did this. I just think results should be posted more promptly. Then again, it could be worse. Antioch hasn't posted results in two weeks, so Chowchilla's not doing as bad.

Thing is, racing is going on there with a variety of divisions and promotional ideas. They are promoting a family atmosphere at Chowchilla, having big wheel races there recently. Is everything perfect? No, but at least you have racing there. It was a miracle when Tom Sagmiller and his investors opened the place ten years ago. Yes, this is the Tenth Anniversary of this run of races at Chowchilla Speedway. It's nice to know that Kenny was there to reopen the place last year.

Chowchilla Speedway remains another opetion for the racer on a Saturday night. That Modified point race is getting interesting with Andrew Krumm emerging as a threat to win a title that most thought would either go to Ryan Porter or Alex Stanford. Hobby Stocks and Four Bangers are doing okay, Street Stocks are up and down, but capable of double digits. Sportsmans bring a half a dozen and Sport Mods are slowly getting their numbers up. And, the best part is, racing is still going on.

While the Sport Mods have been getting some love from racers wanting to see them added to other tracks, Crate Late Models have been the subject of some talk as well. Chowchilla is looking at this class and considering three big races in 2011 (possibly the Tri Holiday Series?). This week will be a test run to see where the interest is now. With Placerville and Watsonville dark, a pool of roughly 30 cars is available, though just who will actually make the tow is anybody's guess. I'm thinking if they get 6 or more, they did good under the circumstances, but I wish them the best.

Also in action this Saturday will be the Super Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Four Bangers and Sport
. What should not be lost in the Chowchilla talk is that this place could have been lost a few years ago, but it's still here. As long as it's here, that means there's a chance to make things better. And, there's a place to go on Saturday night for race fans in the area. If/when promoters ever get together and discuss working together, hopefully Kenny will be at the table. After all, racers from all over the state have enjoyed visiting this track for the last ten years.

I'll just ad that it's not a bad thing to critisize and offer suggestions to help the track improve on things. However, on some things, it might be better if the people got together as a group and approached Kenny, rather than repeating their complaints over and over again on a message board. After all, he has met with the racers before and made adjustments when they were called for, and I bet he'd be interested in doing so again. After all, he's not so far removed from being behind the wheel that he doesn't remember what it's like to be a racer.

Vintage Supermodifieds At Chowchilla and Madera

Just a quick note on the Vintage Supermodifieds effort. Ken Bonnema recently reported that there were seven cars at Chowchilla in this division's most recent appearance at Chowchilla, which had not been reported. There were 7 cars there with Chester Koeppel winning the feature over Dan Green. Madera runs this division this Saturday night along with several other classes, including the Super Modifieds and USAC Sprint Cars. Interestingly enough, Madera has scheduled Four Bangers and Hobby Stocks as part of the Chowchilla-Madera Series, despite the fact that Chowchilla has booked both classes Saturday night as well. Oops! At any rate, it's nice to see the Vintage Supermodifieds getting more race dates. Now, if we can just find some dates for the Okie Bowl Hardtops...

Orland Finds Some Success With Enduro Racing

I noticed a place where people discuss Orland Speedway. Some rather interesting things being said there, but I won't get into it here. I will say somebody mentioned there that the current management shouldn't spend too much time there or post there. That's good advice in my opinion. The previous management did look there and I have long suspected the negativity they dealt with played a part in their decision to step down after 12 good years there, but damn. I know people sometimes have a genuine gripe against management, but sometimes these things are better resolved face to face than by grandstanding on a public forum. So, while I hope the management improves things there, I also hope they don't let the negativity get to them, because trust me, it will if they let it.

Orland is a work in progress, and I've highlighted in previous writings things they can try to do to improve things. Some of it is pretty easy stuff too. But, just opening the gates at that place is a good thing, and they are making progress. At least a dozen different cars in their primary divisions (Wingless Spec Sprints, Mini Trucks, Hobby Stocks and Mini Sticks) have competed this year. The next step is getting more of them to compete regularly, but that will comes as things improve. Anybody who really cares about that place enough to criticize it should be ready to step up and help in the areas they see a need for, but that is up to them. You can always wait until it all goes to hell and complain about not having a track too. The one thing I do like is that some of the critics of the previous management are out there trying to make a difference now.

Last week was a break for the regular classes, allowing a special appearance of the West Coast Enduoros and a Destruction Derby. From what I heard, there was a better crowd in attendance. About 10-12 regulars on the Enduro circuit, plus some regulars in the track's Hobby Stock class, gave them a 16 car field. Everything wasn't perfect for this race, but the racing itself went well. Taking the checkered flag first was Enduro veteran Ken Winland (190 laps). Ken has been running Enduros for 25 years, and this was his first victory. A testament to this man's dedication to this style of racing is that he is a leader in this thing and always recruiting drivers for different races.

Gene Guinn Jr. (183 laps), former Antioch Street Stock and Pure Stock racer Chris Lancaster (182 laps), local Hobby Stock star Brian Compton (179 laps) and the #70 car of Brad Rucker (136 laps) made up the top five at the finish. Orland gets back to their regular program this Saturday night.

While On The Subject Of Enduros

I think it's great that the West Coast Enduros group is out there doing their thing. Really, these cars are the most affordable "Stock Cars" out there before you drop down to the 4 Bangers, and it's nice that there are people fighting for these 200 lap Enduro races. I recall the days in the 80's and early 90's when over 100 cars would race in some of these events. Over 200 ran races at Baylands and San Jose at times. Several drivers got their foot in the door in racing through Enduro racing over the years.

I understand the next race for these guys is back on the pavement at All American Speedway in Roseville. These drivers will run dirt and pavement, which is another cool thing about them. I think an idea for promotion of this group would be posting full results on their web page and maybe even little stories so people can get more familiar with the drivers. If they wanted to take it up a notch, they could designate a certain amount of races during the year as point races and crown a champion, even if it's just for a trophy for the top three or five at season's end. Just a thought.

At any rate, I think it's not a bad idea for most tracks to have one of these races a year and actually promote it. If they did it right, they may even be surprised by how many racers might come out for it if they keep the rules simple and safe.

Dwarf Cars In The Rodeo Arena At Salinas

The Central Coast Motorsport Spectacular came to the Salinas Rodeo Arena last Sunday with a show featuring Monster Trucks, Dwarf Cars and other cool stuff. Several racers came from the Bay Area Dearf Car Association to tackle the small track, and word is that Gilbert Toste collected the win. Not sure about results after that, but I thought it would be nice to put this one on the record for anybody interested.

Olschowka Ends Castleberry's Win Streak

Speaking of records, Misty Castleberry's ten race win streak was snapped Saturday night at Marysville Raceway. Castleberry already holds a 100 point lead over her closest rival in points as she defends her 2009 championship, and it took a champion to beat her. The track's Stock Car point leader, Jeff Olschowka, has been driving a Mini Stock lately, and after finishing second to Misty in the previous race, he won the latest race. Still, ten in a row was an amazing run for Castleberry, and they say ten in a row has never been done at the track in any division. Mini Stocks are again a part of this week's program at Marysville along with Pacific 360 Sprints and Stock Cars. Wingless Spec Sprints were dropped so as not to conflict with the Hunt Magneto Series Race this Saturday night at Placerville.

Claim Overturned at Ocean Speedway

Cody Burke has been on a role lately at Ocean Speedway, winning the Mike Cecil Race two weeks ago and then finishing second behind four time winner Jim Pettit II last week. After the race, Richard Keldsen attempted to claim his motor, and Burke refused the claim. This could have resulted in a loss of all points, a huge fine and a 30 day suspension, as per IMCA rules. However, a further review of the rules showed that Keldsen's claim was invalid due to the fact that he didn't run the previous two races. Burke's points and finishes were restored, putting him back into second in the standings, 26 points behind Ken Nott Jr. Brian Cass had been running closely with Nott in this battle, but he didn't race Friday and dropped into a tie with Michael Dalton for third as a result.

Matt Sotomayor, meanwhile, cut several points off of Billy Nelson's Hobby Stock point lead with his fourth victory. Tommy Tarlton's victory in the Taco Bravo Sprint Car feature ahead of Kyle Larson gained him a 13 point lead in the closest championship battle at the track. Ryan Bernal's latest win in the Wingless Spec Sprint feature kept him 35 points ahead of Jimmy Christian. With Petaluma running a Civil War race Friday, Ocean Speedway will host the second to last Golden State Challenge Series race of the season Saturday night. Larson leads that point race, but it's still close between he and 13 time champion Brent Kaeding.

Speaking Of IMCA

Paul Vetter was on hand at Ventura Raceway Thursday night as part of the Ventura Fair, and the IMCA Western Regional Director called the lap by lap for an IMCA Modified division that had a 30 car field. The field included racers from Bakersfield, Santa Maria and Watsonville, and after a rough start to the feature, the last 23 laps went all green with Danny Lauer winning this event for the second straight year and collected the increased purse money. Past Chowchilla champion Randy Brown held off Bakersfield point leader Brad Pounds, Late Model ace Mike Kirby and Victorville point leader Larry Hood for the win.

A Go Kart race that included several of the track's Sprint Car drivers ran on the infield track, while 12 Sport Compacts also raced with point leader Trevor Fitzgibbon winning his heat race and then dominating the feature. He could see the second place battle ahead of him. Cody Geiman finished second in a good battle with Brent Underwood. It's interesting to note that Ventura Raceway is streaming their races on their website this season.

Street Stock Battle Of The Year At Petaluma

Petaluma Speedway is hosting the Civil War Sprint Car Series, Wingless Spec Sprints and Dirt Modifieds on Friday night, but one of the closest battles for the Street Stock division anywhere in the state is taking place at Petaluma this season. Going into the week off, veteran Steve Studebaker leads Jim "Woody" Woodward by 9 points and Steve "Bubba" Dempsey by 12. Studebaker and Woodward are past champions in this division, while Dempsey has a championship in the Pure Stocks at the track. Dempsey has picked up several wins in recent weeks, making it anybody's guess who will win this one in the end. Top five ranked this year, though not really in the hunt, is the track's "Ironman" Shawn McCoy. Shawn hasn't missed a race in this division in 30 years, an attendance record that is unmatched at Petaluma and perhaps anywhere else in the state.

BCRA Continues A Great Tradition This Weekend

The Bay Cities Racing Association heads north to Chico on Friday night and Placerville on Saturday night for perhaps their biggest and most important weekend of the season. A good turnout of Midgets is anticipated both nights, and the Annual London Bash Hall Of Fame Picnic takes place Saturday before the races at Placerville. With a history spanning nearly 70 years now, the BCRA's Hall Of Fame includes some of the greatest to ever race in California, and it's nice to know this is a group that honors and pays tribute to their great heritage every year.

Giant Chevrolet Speedway Gets Back In Gear

Giant Chevrolet Speedway in Hanford got back on track last week with a Stock Car program featuring the Dirt Modifieds, IMCA Stock Cars and Mini Stocks. New Winners in all divisions made this an interesting show as Greg Mancebo won the Dirt Modified race ahead of Bryan Burnes and Billy Wilker. Top ten Bakersfield racer Jeff Gamboa was part of a season high 9 car Mini Stock field and collected the win ahead of Cody Shelton and Mike Mezyk.

The most interesting moment of the night may have come when Troy Patee snapped a five race win streak by Loren DeArmond in the IMCA Stock Cars. These two had a close championship battle last season, won by Patee by just five points. Finishing third Saturday night was Alan Mendes.

The schedule for this Saturday night has been adjusted. Originally, it was slated to be a Dirt Modified, IMCA Stock Car, Mini Stock and Enduro show, but track management has added the USAC Sprint Cars. Due to the late addition of the Sprint Cars, Scott Woodhouse also announced that adult tickets for this race will not be raised, making this another good reason for fans to be at Giant Chevrolet Speedway this Saturday night.

Sprint Cars Return To Merced

For years, the previous track management at Merced Speedway had a winged Sprint Car division that started in 1987, a year after the track hosted the VMRC Sprint Cars for some dates. This Merced effort was called Cal Mods, and two time champion Gordon Rodgers came close to winning the NASCAR Regional championship for two seasons, finishing second and third. The division evolved into the Limited Sprints. At the end of the 1998 season, Mark Amador took the renamed Regnegade Sprints to the pavement, and the track began the California Sportsman revival in it's place. During those years, the NCMA brought their carbureted Sprint Cars for occasional visits.

With John Soares Jr. in charge at Merced now and having started the Wingless Spec Sprint craze at Antioch back in 1999, he has decided to give this division a few dates at Merced to see how things go. Estimates are there are 6-12 cars based out of the area who now have no home track after Chowchilla's decision to drop the class. That decision was based on lack of support, but some drivers claimed the expense to race there was too great. Merced's pit entry fees are less, and Soares is hoping these racers will give Merced a chance. According to Merced's latest news release, Antioch title hopeful David Press will be coming. There has been some buzz about the Merced effort, and it will be interesting to see who shows up.

Last week, the Dwarf Cars had their first audition and fielded seven cars with Brett Barsto the winner. Ryan Larimer (Hobby Stock), Marshall Weaver (Street Stock) and David Coleman (Four Banger) were other winners, but the highlight of the night was a 20 car Dirt Modified feature, won by Bobby Hogge IV. I won't go too much into details as the track's page and it's PR guy, Mike Adaskaveg, has done a good job of putting the word out. On Sunday, the Wingless Spec Sprints will join the Dirt Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Four Bangers and Valley Sportsman division in what should be a good show.