Friday, August 13, 2010

Random Thoughts

Well, I wasn't going to put anything together for this column this week, but I decided to do a little something to comment on a couple of things I've either been thinking about or that have caught my attention.

Expanding The Presence Of The Hunt Wingless Spec Sprint Series

I'm all for this. When Don and I were getting the Spec Sprint deal up and running, we talked about this potential. The biggest reason we didn't just start a new club was we both felt this thing needed to be a division at the track. Clubs hadn't really helped this carbureted Sprint Car deal expand at this point. Now, in 1994, Mike Johnson and I tried to form the Cal Mod Series, but the headaches involved in getting any of these groups to compromise for the sake of the bigger picture made this impossible. It's a shame, because there could have been some big fields even then.

But, getting this class going at Antioch was important. If we could show a good car count there, other tracks would get involved. In a year's time, this class had B Mains, and car count NEVER dropped under 12 cars at Antioch back then. That was a big accomplishment. In 2001, Orland got into the deal, and at season's end, Tom Sagmiller took my crazy idea and booked the date that really put the class on the map. It was the Open Wheel Round Up, and a then record 32 cars came out for that one. By then, we had Chico, Watsonville and Marysville looking to get involved. Actually, before that, the CSRA was formed and booked races at Sacramento Raceway.

The idea of a California Carbureted Revolution Series came to mind. I thought Revolution for a couple reasons. Revolution played on the whole Civil War theme of the Winged 360 Sprints, and in a way, this class was revolutionizing the whole Sprint Car deal. Suddenly, Stock Car, Mini Stock and Modified Midget drivers were going Sprint Car racing. The Spec Sprint brought Sprint Car racing to the working man and woman with a budget. I loved that about this deal. Unfortunately, John wasn't really on board with this Series idea, but I know it was only a matter of time before another John (Padjen) was going to grab a hold of this class and do amazing things with it.

Even the NCMA saw the potential with the Select Series. It was a good attempt, but it lacked the umph that was needed. Padjen's big open shows with the huge fields into the 60's showed just how far this class had truly come. When Alan Handy and Paul Hawes put the Hunt Magneto Series together, I couldn't help but be happy, yet disappointed that Soares hadn't seized the moment. He could have and should have been a leader in this, but then, this isn't Stock Car racing, is it? At least he was there when it all started.

Anyway, I believe it was intended to be four track series at first, but the fourth didn't make it in for whatever reason. However, there is a fourth track offering a date after point racing is done, and that is Petaluma Speedway on September 25th. This is fitting, since Petaluma has more drivers from the outside tracks supporting the 3 track, 12 race series. I believe Petaluma could be the next track added to this deal, and if that happens, it will only make the series better. Drivers love racing on the Jim Soares prepared three-eighth mile adobe clay oval. I see it as win-win. Petaluma would get 3-4 big shows out of the class during racing season, and car count would likely improve at the other tracks for these races too.

Of course, all of this is speculation, but if it goes down next year, there will be more shows in the 30 car area. Having three Sprint Car Series going at the same time in Northern California is good for Sprint Car racing too. Another win-win. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what the powers that be have in mind, but I anticipate good things.

Merced Spec Sprints

John Soares Jr's first Spec Sprint date at Merced produced six cars. This is about where I thought it might begin, which is still one more car than any regular point race they had at Chowchilla this year. I would have liked to have seen another car or two from Chowchilla, in addition to 2009 Chowchilla champion Chris Koontz. Having Steven Williams and Doug Gandy show up was pretty nice, and like I said before, I believe there are a dozen or more cars in the area ready to go now. Hopefully more of them show next time.

Kudos to David Press for the turn around. His night could have ended early with that flip in the heat race, but he got it back together and won the Main Event. Also, Dan Gonderman did a nice job in winning the heat and a second in the main in the Sam Davies car. I was a bit surprised to see Brian Gray, who like Gonderman is a Spec Sprint original at Antioch, but it is nice to see he's racing again. So, basically, this six car show pulled three cars out of the wood works that we haven't seen in a while. That can't help but be a good thing.

Mike Adaskaveg has done a great job of getting the word out for Merced and had a story about this class coming to the track last week. He's been covering all of the divisions, rather than just focussing on one or two, which is another good thing in my book. Dirt Modifieds, Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Four Bangers and Valley Sportsman are at the track this Sunday, and according to Mike, Kellen Chadwick is coming with his Dirt Modified. Not only is the second generation racer a winner of some big Dirt Modified races in his career, but he is a past Antioch champion as well. They seem to be coming from everywhere to run the "new" Merced Speedway, and I have to give a pat on the back to Soares and his crew for doing a great job of restarting things at the 60 year old facility.

Mini Stock Rules Debate In Orland

Seems to be some interesting discussion going on about the rules in the Mini Stocks at Orland. At the center of this debate is the fact that the track went to a more "budget minded" rules set this year, making Marysville cars illegal for this division at the track. I see both sides to this debate, actually. You aren't going to gain that many Marysville cars every week as both tracks are Saturday night, though cars will come if/when they can. You need local support to make this happen, but the average is 5-6 cars per week. At this point in the season, I know they thought they'd have more cars than this.

So this has led to debate of whether or not the right move was made. Hindsight being what it is, maybe not. Maybe you start a more bone stock Mini Stock class while also keeping the other class, and see where it goes. However, I still think they should have had a championship point season for all divisions and should have promoted more in this area. Eventually, racers are going to want the racing they do to count in a bigger picture of a point season.

Rodeos? Nah, Bring The Race Cars Back!

Rocky Hill Speedway came back into the forum discussion recently. It was asked if racing will ever come back to the Porterville track again. Many exciting races have taken place on the quarter-mile dirt oval in years gone by. It was speculated that nothing will happen unless the owner sells the place or his kids take over. Such a shame. It seemed like they were close to doing something a few years ago, but then a scheduling conflict ended that. Perhaps with some better planning, something could happen? Who knows? I've always believed that with the right effort, anything is possible.

BCRA, What A Great Tradition!

I wasn't around back in the "Golden Era" of racing when BCRA had Hardtops and Midgets touring all over the state, at tracks like West Capital, Contra Costa Speedway, Vallejo and Oakland, but the stories you hear!

BCRA was sanctioning race tracks in those days. They were here before NASCAR came in, and it was actually a former BCRA racer and Hall Of Famer, Bob Barkhimer, who put it all together for NASCAR in California. In fact, BCRA Hall Of Famers like John Soares Sr., Bert Moreland and Jerry Piper were part of "Barky's" team when he was establishing the NASCAR presence in those days.

From the moment BCRA was founded, they blazed a trail and established a presence in California that is very important. When Hall Of Fame weekend comes around, the old timers show up to talk about the good old days with old friends, and racers show up and put on a great show for the fans. With counts in the high 20's at both Chico and Placerville last week, this was a banner weekend for the Bay Cities Racing Association. Everybody wants to be a part of things, and if nothing else, it reminds us all how much this group still matters some 70 years later.

The whole Hall Of Fame picnic before the races idea is great, if you ask me. Get people together beforehand for good food, friendship and honoring past legends, then go racing. I don't understand why more tracks in the area don't do this. They should. They all should. When I was beginning to put my Antioch Hall Of Fame idea together back in 1999, I wanted to follow the blueprint laid out by BCRA. Unfortunately, it never had a chance to happen. John was talking about this before the season, so maybe in the future?

Anyway, kudos to the BCRA on a great weekend, and congratulation to the Hall Of Fame Class of 2010. This year's gathering in Placerville saw 11 people inducted, and they are:



Rod Zanolini ........................ Hardtop Driver

Lou Bernardoni.................... Hardtop Owner

Buck Whitmer...................... Midget Driver

John Randuch ...................... Midget Owner

Jimmy Sills .......................... Midget Driver

Ken Molica .......................... Midget Owner / Driver

Suds Sutherland ................... Midget Lite Owner

Scott Clark ........................... Midget Lite Driver

Greg Dennett........................ Midget Lite Driver

Stan Dean.......................................... Official

Frank Blado ..................................... Official

An Anniversary People Have Forgotten

I was jarred into this by reading some comments on one of the forums the other day. It got me thinking. Did you know this is the Tenth Anniversary Season for Chowchilla Speedway? Where does the time go? Do you remember who won the championships that year? It was in 1999 when Tom Sagmiller and Chrlie Ruth talked about opening a track in Chowchilla, and after going to the fairgrounds and checking the place out, they put this deal together for 2000. The rest, as they say, is history. I agree with the sentiments expressed on the post I read that it's a shame Tom's not still running the place.

It NEVER would have happened without Tom. Still, at least it's open and continuing to hold races with Kenny Shepherd at the helm. They continue to feature Dirt Modifieds, Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Four Bangers, Valley Sportsman and Sport Mods. In fact, this week's show will include Winged 360 Sprints, along with Dirt Mods, Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks and Four Bangers. Should be a good show this Saturday night.

I just remember those early days and how crazy it was to have this track pop up in the shadow of the closure of San Jose. The attitude was great. The promoting they did was looked down upon by the establishment at the time, but boy did it work. And the racers loved to race there. And the champions, going from memory, Mike Johnson in a battle with Fred Lind in Dirt Modifeeds, Steve Stone Sr. in a battle with Nathan Corn in Street Stocks and Red Williams in a battle with Jerry O'Hagan in Hobby Stocks.

Almost forgot George Terry's Winged 360-2 championship. This was the class that actually got me down there at first as George, the Greers and Roy Winters had supported the Spec Sprint effort a year earlier. Though I know it altered my path in racing, I'm still glad I went. This track was a breath of fresh air to me, and it made me smile every time I went there. So, Happy 10th Anniversary Chowchilla Speedway. May your journey continue for years to come, creating more happy memories for all involved.

Remembering Buddy Cox

Of course, the man right there with Tom Sagmiller getting Chowchilla started was his good friend Buddy Cox. Buddy was there doing whatever he could to help, and he was very proud of that race track and what it meant for so many people. It was truly a sad day when he passed away, and he's still missed by those who had the pleasure of knowing him.

Back in 2001, Sagmiller added a race suggested by Joe Martinez in the CRO Chat Room. The idea was to give the Hobby Stocks, who raced for nothing at some venues back then, a special money race. The Hobby Stock $500, a 50 lap race for $500 to win, was born. In 2001, over 40 cars came to town, and Sam Kennedy left with the money. Tom was very proud of this race and continued to run it every season. When Buddy passed away, it was renamed the Buddy Cox Memorial Hobby Stock $500.

I have noticed that this race is on the schedule at Merced for Sunday, though things have been pretty low key to this point. I'm hoping it happens as it would be good for the racers and good to remember a man who was a positive force for racing in the area.

Update: It was just announced that this week's Hobby Stock race at Merced is a regular show. I had a feeling that would be the case for a couple of reasons.. They hadn't been hyping this race at all, and you need to do that to get the drivers to show up for what would have been a $500 to win race.

I do hope to see John do some extra money races for other divisions besides just Dirt Mods at Merced and Antioch. Also, it's nice that John keeps a line of communication open on the web for at least one of his tracks. It certainly has helped Merced get off to a pretty good start since reopening in July.