Friday, September 10, 2010

Antioch Point Race Enters Final Month

Wasn't planning on doing anything. Walking away sounds pretty good at this point. Not sure I'll be in a rush to try and do a story for Saturday if results are hard to come by. Also, there are no plans for me to do this full time again next season, but rather a more relaxed pace as I had done previously. I have no plans to end the blog. Anyway, I'm going to try to be brief here.

There's not much fanfare at this point, but the championship battles are coming down to the end at Antioch Speedway. This six division show is the first of three races in September that will help decide who the eight track champions will be. Some championships appear to be decided, leaving the battles for second on back, but there are still some interesting things to note heading into the off season.

The Over/Under for this race is 67, but I'm hoping to see this go well into the 70's. It should be there, but you know how it goes.

UMP Dirt Modifieds (14), 360 Sprints (8), Super Stocks (10), Dwarf Cars (16), Pure Stocks (12) and Mini Trucks (7).

The Winged 360 Sprint Cars continue their audition for bigger status in the future, and nights like this are important. With not much else happening for this class in the area, car count should really be in the mid to high teens. It's known that promoter John Soares Jr. wants to be a part of the Civil War Series and that he would like to have a bigger presence in Sprint Car racing. Having a strong showing on his regular point races goes a long way towards that goal.

Also, it has been reported that the new USAC Western Classic series of Wingless 410 Sprint Cars and Midgets has been tentatively booked at Antioch next year. I'm assuming there's also still at least one GSC Sprint Car race in the 2011 plans. The USAC thing might seem like a risk, but I can see it being worth it. If it fails, it fails, but if it is a success, the tracks that get on board with it from the start will figure more prominently in the future.

Initially, this series was being proposed as a return of NARC, but that appears to have changed. I'm glad. What is being proposed is not what NARC was, and using it's name would be wrong, in my opinion. I've seen it billed as a "Salute To NARC" which I have no problem with. Paying homage to the once great 410 Sprint Car Series is fine with me.

My concern with this USAC thing is I have heard some things that I can't and won't get into here that make me concerned about what could be in the future for the Wingless Spec Sprints. Let me just say, NO MAJOR CHANGES are needed for the WSS class here in California. It's just fine as it is. Virtually every time a division gets going, some idiot thinks they need to come in and change the rules to "make it better" for everybody. The road is littered with divisions that have been ruined by this thought process, and it only hurts racing.

The only thing that needs to be dome when you have a good division is PROMOTE THE DIVISION and get fans and racers excited about it.

Back to the 360 Sprints at Antioch, I'm not sure the points are listed right at this point, and I believe "Cowbody" Craig Smith is leading the charge on the strength of three wins. With one win and a couple heat race victories, 2008 Delta Sprint Mini Sprint champion Ryan Rusconi is second and the leading rookie.

I would anticipate past champion and third ranked driver Art McCarthy, past Marysville champion Jeremy Burt and 2009 Antioch WSS champion Billy Aton will be among the field, and it will be interesting to see who has anything for Smith. Actually, Adam McCarthy seemed to have the field covered before mechanical problems ended his run last time out.

In the Super Stock division, I notice we have had 15 cars compete this season, which means we should be able to finally get over the ten car mark for the first time this year. Mitch Machado, Larry Damitz, Fred Ryland and Mike Gustafson are the only feature winners this season. It seems no matter what Damitz does lately, he's not gaining on Machado, who leads by 28 points after Damitz won his third feature last time out ahead of Machado.

What was interesting about that race was who led those two for seven laps before a flat tire sent him pitside. It was Eric Berendsen, who is running his third motor after some bad motor luck this season. Eric and the two veterans had a half lap lead on fourth place, and he had more incentive for wanting to get what could have been his first ever win in the class. After wnning his heat that night, Fred Ryland scratched from the feature. Had Eric won the race, he would have gained even more ground in the standings. As is, he trails the likely "Rookie Of The Year" by 18 points.

The reason the UMP Dirt Modifieds are getting the big shows this year is the 48 car turnout last time, won by Bobby Hogge IV ahead of Scott Busby and Kenny Neu. All three are past Antioch champions. Antioch point leader Troy Foulger managed a top five finish at Merced the next night. Though his luck in recent weeks is less than stellar, Troy leads Jeff Thomas by 48 points in the Antioch championship race.

Thomas would seem to be on his way to second in the final rundown, while Norm Boeck is in close pursuit of third. For both former Petaluma regulars, these would be career highs in this division. Boeck is 28 points behind Thomas and 16 ahead of Rick Karnes. Rapidly improving Sean O'Gara is 24 points behind Boeck, so positions can still change.

A pat on the back should go out to the rapidly improving O'Gara. After a season best second place finish in the most recent point race, Sean started 18th in the big money race and finished tenth. Though absences of other drivers have helped Sean make it into the top five, he's not there merely by showing up.

With recent top three success, top ten ranked Dan Gonderman could be another driver to watch this week, as could the most recent point race winner, Bill Wallace. Car count for regular point races has been down in recent weeks from where it started this season, so it will be interesting to see who shows this week.

Points on the track's page are a bit messy in the Dwarf Car division, but they should show Nick Squatrito with a slim advantage over Jerry Doty as Ricardo Rivera fell back a bit, though still in the hunt. The last show attracted 23 cars, and Squatritto's performance served notice that he's not just fading away after leading the points for much of the season. Just a race prior, it was Doty winning to take the point lead, so Squatritto's win put him back in front. However, it's still too close for comfort.

Rivera's DNF dropped him back a bit, but if the other two slip up, he could move by both for the lead. It's worth noting that the reason the five time champion isn't leading now is that he missed a race. Meanwhile, Clayton Dortzbach sits comfortably in fourth, while Dan Liston holds a slim two point lead over Mike Corsaro for fifth. In recent races, the Dwarf Car count his been strong, including appearances by Tony Carmignani, who is coming off of back to back top three finishes, and Sam Westhorpe, who finished a season best fourth last time out.

As far as this writer is concerned, the Hobby Stock division is on it's way to crowing two champions. The hard work and excellent driving of both Melissa Hansen and rookie Brad Myers has the Team #33 car leading the standings as the track went to a points for the car system this season. Team #33 leads Chris Sorensen by 30 points going into this race. Sorensen, meanwhile, has racked up all of the points for the #00 car himself. What would be nice to see if it remains this way after the final race is a crowning of car owner and driver champions, though I wouldn't place bets on that happening.

Regardless, it's been a good season for Sorensen, who like Myers and Hansen, is a multi time winner this season. Just 25 points behind Sorensen is another of this season's feature winners, past Pure Stock champion Dan McCown. If not for a DNS at the season opener, Dan would probably be in second now. The top five is filled out by the Team #99 of feature winner Jack Jonker and Jim Freethy and the #98 of Joe Cancilla, who has finished as high as third this season.

With a career best second not that long ago and third a week later, Wes Bentley has moved into sixth in the standings, two ahead of rookie Pat Gooding. It's been a learning experience, but after all of those challenges, Gooding was rewarded with a fourth place finish last time out. A couple of pats on the back go out to Dave Lincoln and Mike Rydman. Lincoln enjoyed a career best second last time out. Rydman, who had been top five ranked before missing some races, made his first appearance at Orland last week and won his first Trophy Dash before finishing third in the feature. Mike reports that he had fun and is looking forward to going back.

Perhaps Orland can send some Mini Truck's Antioch's way. While ORland is getting double digits in this class, Antioch is around 6-8 per race. Travis Dutra continues to dominate in what is looking like it could be his final season before a move up to Dwarf Cars. Travis has been very patient and smooth out there and it's not a surprise to see him winning as much as he does. Also doing well this season is another feature winner, Dan Wagner. Dan looked good in holding off Dutra for a heat win last time out. Wagner may not be able to catch Dutra, but second seems to be a lock at this point. This has been aided by the recent departure of Ray Bunn, who had been in second before leaving.

Finishing as high as second this season, Ron Mayberry is now ranked fourth with his sights set on third place Bunn. Ron is 38 points behind Bunn, and he'd be more than happy to claim the final podium position after his up and down season. Meanwhile, veteran Dean "The Blinker" Cline is 21 points ahead of Wagner's teammate Greg Williams in the battle for fifth. Seeing as how Dutra has been so fast this season, 2009 champion Gene Haney returned last time out and finished second in a good battle. Haney does have a win this season in the championship truck he is trying to sell.