Friday, August 20, 2010

Random Thoughts

It's late, and I'm not sure how much I'll write this week. I can see the finish line for my efforts to put the word out on the current scene. That will be soon. The funny thing with me is once I start getting focused on things, I want to see it to the end. I guess that's why I haven't walked away yet. I started the season and I guess I've been trying to see it through. Not planning on doing that again.

It's kind of funny, as miserable as I was at the end of 2003, I had to finish the season. I needed to get away, and I couldn't let myself because I still had work to finish that wouldn't get done otherwise. Don O'Keefe Jr. had to drag me out of here to go to Disneyland and Universal that year. Yes, he had to drag me out of here, but I'm glad he did. I needed the break. What's funny was I still had them fax me the finishes from Antioch and I sent stories to the publications I wrote for and published the magazine that week. Go figure.

The other thing I notice as I've been doing this blog this year is I keep saying I can do this or that in an hour or so, no problem. It takes longer than that and I put hours into doing what I do here. I still don't know why. I guess it's a way to use my creativity, but I don't know. I know people are reading, and I appreciate the comments I've been getting. I'm not bong paid here, so it does make a difference knowing people like it.

Buy anyway...

How About That Publicity Guy At Merced

I'm really starting to wonder if Mike Adaskaveg might be the guy to help John Soares Jr. fire up Racing Wheels Magazine again. What he's doing for Merced Speedway is just awesome with the stories and photos, and the Merced Sun-Star is totally on board with this. What I really like about Mike's style is that he's covering ALL divisions at the track and spreading it around. That, in my opinion, is how you do it. I know names are being misspelled, but as Mike gets comfortable and more familiar with the racers, that will improve. Hopefully, people are being nice about it when they offer corrections, and knowing the people down there, I'm guessing they are.

While Soares is planning big Modified races, reopening Merced, bringing in UMP to sanction the show and all that other stuff that probably has him asking himself what he's gotten himself into, eventually the attention may turn to Racing Wheels and making it happen again. I believe even in this day and age, a racing newspaper will work if it's done properly and on a reasonable, but not too expensive budget. Back to basics. Why? Even with the internet, hard copy matters. That paper had ads for big races, classifieds and, of course, the news from all of the various tracks with results and pictures. You didn't have to sit at a computer and click this and that. Turn the page, it's all there.

I believe you keep the same style of paper, the folded newspaper. Black and white, no color pictures as it's more expensive for no good reason. If you must, do a color cover once in a great while, but it's not needed. John spoke of biweekly during the season. The thing with me is I like continuity. I want the news to be there without skipping weeks. Years from now, some of us fools like to go back and check the record books, and Wheels is probably the best source out there. So these are archives. Even on the net, things get wiped from the memory, so it's not always a good source. Now, if Wheels married the printed and internet world together, which I believe they could, that's all the better.

I know Mike has some experience writing for racing publications and he has the skills to help John pull this off if he wants to. At this point, I don't even know if John will bring it back, but I do believe it can be done. I also think Mike could be the one to help him make it happen. Then, John will have a racing publication and two race tracks, and who knows what is next.

The Show Should Go On

Merle Shepherd's death at Marysville Raceway was a tragedy. Running that exhibition race with big rigs may have been a mistake and perhaps this could have been avoided, but it happened. Merle died doing something he loved to do, and I don't believe for a second he would want his death to be the end of that race track. If Paul Hawes is indeed done with this track, I can't say I blame him. I understand his decision to leave and respect it. This is something he will be living with for the rest of his life, because it happened on his watch and Merle was a good friend of his.

That not withstanding, we need to grieve and begin the healing process and move on with racing. I am in favor of skipping a race or two, because a man just died there. I know some places where a death occurs and the race goes on the next week. That always bothered me, because it's not going to hurt to take a week and remember that person. However, make no mistake, the show must go on. I would like to see the season finished if legally possible, and if Paul is truly done with it and would prefer not to finish the season before he walks away, hopefully, somebody can come in and finish the season for him. If not, get it going again next year, because in my opinion, the show should go on.

Drew Williams Wins One For His Dad

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Cecil Williams, the father of Drew Williams, after his battle with Cancer. I know he knew the day was coming, but it had to be a difficult day for Drew and his family. As I understand it, Drew spent those last days taking care of his ailing father. When race day came along, he wanted to honor his father by racing in his memory. It was one of the more touching moments at Ocean Speedway last Friday when Drew won his second Four Banger feature of the season and dedicated it to his dad. The out pouring of support from the community towards Drew and his family was nice to see. It's one of the nice things about the racing community, it's all one big family.

Orland Welcomes Marysville Cars

With the news of Marysville Raceway's closure, Orland Speedway management extended an invitation to the track's drivers to come race there. This invitation now allows for Marysville Mini Stocks to race with the Orland Mini Stocks, rather than the Modified 4 Cylinder class. The Stock Car drivers and Wingless Spec Sprints are welcome to race as well. It would be interesting to see if any Pacific 360 Sprints would show up and how well those cars would run there, though it's not likely to happen. As Orland is trying to build car count up, this could be win-win if done right. Orland could see more cars in action, and Marysville racers will have a place to go while they await word on the future of their home track. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Merced-Antioch Go UMP

It was announced on the Merced Speedway Home Page on Thursday that Merced will be UMP sanctioned for their Modified class in 2011, officially joining Antioch under that banner. Currently, Antioch point leader Troy Foulger ranks 12th in the Region, though this is not a widely known fact. Troy has run half the races of the leader. With two tracks within striking distance on different nights in 2011, drivers will have a chance to compete for Regional and National honors. It will be interesting to see if there are any takers and how well they do. Not known at this time is whether the Hobby Stocks or any other division will get UMP sanctioning as well.

Promoter John Soares Jr. said he is hoping to see other tracks follow suit. At this point, the compatible tracks to keep an eye on might be Hanford, Chowchilla and Chico. We'll see what may happen in the future. Skeptics and critics will say that the UMP Modified is more expensive to run than the IMCA Modified. That may be true, but it's worth noting that the only non IMCA track in Califoirnia to run a B Main on a point night this season was Antioch.

One track I don't anticipate joining UMP will be Antioch and Merced's old dancing partner Ocean Speedway. The Watsonville track draws one of the best car counts in the state with IMCA. Whether you are a fan of IMCA or not, the numbers they draw at Watsonville, Santa Maria and Ventura will make you think.

Speaking Of Merced And Antioch

With the BCRA Hall Of Fame in the books, I have given some consideration to who might be on the first Hall Of Fame ballot at both Merced and Antioch. I would think that 6-8 would be a good number of inductees the first year, and I would tend to want to start pre 1980's for the first one, though a couple names from the 80's are there. It's important to remember that there are many worthy drivers, and this would be an ongoing yearly thing. The ones deserving would make it in.

At Merced, the ballot list would include champions from the 1950's, Charlie Brown, Tommy Ashlock and Vern Willhoite as well as Jack Oldenhage, Dennis Moomjean, Rod Poor, George Steitz, Ted Stofle, George Lefler, Doug Williams, Ray Morgan, Duane Noe and Dwayne Blundt. I had a few others listed, but can't find the list at the moment. A non competitor I'd like to see inducted for his years of service to the track is Johnny Sass.

At Antioch, John Soares Sr. would be inducted immediately. He's in as far as I'm concerned. On the first ballot would be Jimmy Stewart, Dave Logan, Gary Pacheco, Bill Brown, Gene Dothage, Ken Gonderman, Richard Johnson, Dean Cline, J.D. Willis, Dennis Furia, John Soares Jr., Buzz Enea, Tom Abreu and Snork Wilson.

Just thinking out loud at this point. I had planned to get the DCRR California Racing Hall Of Fame up, but the current stuff has taken much of my time. I do have Hall Of Fame pages for Watsonville and San Jose I need to put up. Both of these are based on the official inductees at both tracks, and I think it would be nice to acknowledge that.

16 Sport Mods At Victorville

While Chowchilla, Merced and Perris all try to get a Sport Mod division up and running, it's already gaining attention at Victorville. On August 7th, Victorville produced a 16 car field, which has to be the record at this point. If you are keeping track, J.D. Wilson won the race ahead of Vince Porter and point leader Danny Quinn. Quinn had mentioned earlier that he and some of the drivers were interested in coming to Chowchilla and Merced on September 25-26. The sticking point may be starting money as these drivers face a long tow from Victorville to race. At this point, I'm not even sure if it's going to happen, but I know what I'd be doing if I were a driver in the area wanting to make a statement.

I'll say it again that somebody should have stepped up and taken the bull by the horns at Merced or Chowchilla and taken a spokesman role. The focus should have been on that weekend and getting the best car count possible. Help make it possible for the Victorville cars to come, encourage any Bay Area support out there and get as many of the ten drivers who have raced at Chowchilla so far this season to race. If that weekend saw 12 cars race both tracks, good things could come from it, but that's up to the drivers.

The Merced schedule has Sport Mods on the card this week, so we'll see what happens. If all there's going to be is talk about this class, there's no point in even wasting the time and resources on it if you are a promoter. However, I do applaud Victorville and what they are doing. It shows what can happen if effort is made.

Changes On The Horizon For Winged 410 Sprints In California

The Golden State Challenge Series Sprint Cars head to Placerville Saturday, and either way, Brent Kaeding will be a winner. The 13 time King Of California owns the first place car of Kyle Larson and is second in points himself. Less than ten points separate both drivers, and this despite the fact that BK has yet to win a Main Event this season. Is the veteran saving the best for last? It should be a good show, and it's nice to see drivers like Larson, Evan Suggs and fourth ranked third generation star Alissa Geving giving the fans new stars to cheer for.

It has been announced that GSC competitor Dan Simpson is buying the series and has big things planned for it that could even include TV. Handy Promotions took over the series after John Padjen retired. Even after selling the series, Handy is expected to continue running a 410 Sprint series at Chico as well as booking GSC races at his tracks. The idea is that new ownership can bring new life and begin rebuilding the series in California. Getting car counts back into the high 20's will undoubtedly be a priority.

Meanwhile, it was mentioned earlier this year that USAC was looking to revive NARC into a 410 Sprint Series running both dirt and pavement. It's an interesting concept, but I'm not so sure they can pull this off. NASC was more than just the puppet of a bigger organization. Now, if the real NARC were brought back... I just think maybe the ship has sailed on that, but we'll see. The main thing is that racing fans still love the winged and injected 410 Sprint Cars, and they want to see it done right.

Something For BCRA To Think About

ASCS Midgets will be in Chico for the seventh time this week as they attempt to help revive the dirt track Midget effort in California. I see this as a good thing, but I also believe the Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) must cover their butts here. I was told ASCS even has a presence on the BCRA Board, and this is a group that booked a race at Chico the night BCRA was racing at Shasta. I'm not jumping on ASCS, because if they can make it happen, more power to them. I just think BCRA needs to go back to the drawing board and work on producing the kind of Midget shows they are capable of.

They are better than a sub ten car show. If the drivers aren't supporting and still have cars, they need to find out why before a third group pops up and starts booking dates themselves. Don't think for a minute it can't happen if those drivers want it to. But, it should happen under the BCRA banner with leadership that takes the driver's concerns into consideration. Chico and Placerville two weeks ago were huge and showed how big this thing can still be. Petaluma, though in double digits, should have been better. There's a reason ASCS has a presence here in California now, and it's not because they are 100% confident in BCRA, even if an alliance has been formed.

So, I'm just hoping people in power start looking at what is happening out there before it gets out of hand. There may be an alliance now, but ASCS is working towards their own goal. What will happen when they start to out draw BCRA consistently? Don't think it can't happen, because it can and will if ASCS makes the right moves. I want a continued presence for Midget racing in Northern California, but I'd like to see BCRA at the head of the table. They have all the tools, all the history and all of the potential. They should be doing better than they are now. Not trying to upset anybody. Just an observation. I wish the best to both groups.

Why Ken And Not Brynda

While I was happy to see the article in The Times this week about Antioch Speedway, I'm somewhat disappointed to see they went to Ken Clapp instead of the woman who ran the day to day at Antioch for ten years before Soares took over. If she didn't want to talk to the paper, I understand, but as far as the weekly racing for those ten years, the lady knew what she was doing, regardless of any disagreements I may have had with her. I'm not a fan of Clapp, and probably never will be. Now Barkhimer, on the other hand, knew what he was doing.

It's not a big deal, I suppose. I mean, the track got front page coverage, and THAT is what should matter. Plus, I'm wondering if archival quotes were used for Clapp's comments, considering his Altamont quotes. I read something similar in an article a year or two earlier. If he did bring it up again, I think that's pretty lame. Whatever problems they had at Altamont, they ran weekly racing seasons for over a decade, so it must not have been a complete failure. Otherwise, it would have been over much sooner.

The biggest thing I could say about that track was they should have found a way to cover those grandstands. Then, day time racing would have been more bearable to watch. I think Sunday afternoons worked better for all involved. As for closing the track, had the person in charge not pushed the issue of drifting events, despite the county's objection, things might be a lot different now. Of course, that's just my opinion.