Saturday, July 20, 2013

Orland Speedbowl's Best Days Can Still Be Ahead

I've been away for a bit.  Sorry about that.  It's late or early.  You don't want to know what time it is here, but I felt I needed to make a post.  My mind hasn't been on racing lately, and I'll admit that I've been so unfocussed that I didn't even feel like posting one of the things I have archived.  There's a lot there too.

But I feel I needed to make a point.  If you're an Orland Speedbowl competitor, I'd like you to pay close attention.  It's been tough times for racing over the last decade.  You guys know this.  Actually, one of the posts I've been saving talks about that very fact.  Many tracks have closed during the last decade and most reopened, including Orland.

We've even gained a couple tracks, like Stockton 99 Dirt, Hayfork Speedway and Rocky Hill Speedway in Porterville.

Here's the thing, Orland Speedbowl is a little gem that people tend to forget.  Racing in Orland goes back at least to the 70's, and this particular track started in the late 80's from what I've been told.  It has endured several promoter changes as well as closings and reopenings during that time.

The track's rep has been built on Mini Stocks and Street & Hobby Stocks during the last 25 years, and it was the first track in California as far as I know to feature the Mini Trucks.  In the late 1990's and on into the 2000's, the Turner family took the track to new heights, including adding the Spec Sprints and holding some big end of the year events.

In the end, the economy got the Turners, and some people conveniently forgot all the good they had done.  After a dark year, the track reopened and has endured a few promoter changes in the last five yeas.  The show has managed to go on, though the previous three seasons have seen maybe some things get less attention than needed.

Lest you think I'm attacking anybody, I'm not.  I appreciate all who tried to promote this little race track and keep it alive.  It's just that the enthusiasm of the racers and the desire to support the track has faded.  Enter a man who had been watching this place for several years, Mike McCann.

Let me tell you something about Mike.  I'm probably forgetting a lot, because he's done so much in the sport through the years.  He raced Super Modifieds for years, among other divisions.  And this Hardtop revival in California was sparked by he and Chuck Prather. 

Mike featured that division at Sunset Speedway in Oregon and was so proud of it that he brought the cars to California a little over a decade ago.  I was at Sacramento Raceway that weekend.  The next stop for the guys was, you guessed it, Orland.  Prather started a class the next year and groups in Northern and Central California started after that.

Mike was a Promoter Of The Year award winner at Cottage Grove Speedway in Oregon in the late 1980's.  He's had a hand in building up programs in Eugene and Banks, Oregon as well as Marysville.  He came back because he wanted to make a difference.  He could have walked away, but he loves building racing programs.  It's what he's all about.

And, he wanted Orland.  It was his choice to go after this track.  He looked at other opportunities.  He had a pretty good one with a rich tradition offered to him last year.  Where isn't important.  What is important is he came to Orland for one reason.  He wanted to restore the glory to where it was a decade ago and beyond.

But, this can't happen without the racers.  Mike has shied away from working series deals with other tracks, mainly because he's trying to build up Orland's base first.  When that happens, BIG things will happen at this race track.  He has a Hunt Series Spec Sprint race this weekend, and the plan is to get more in the future.

The problem I've noticed from afar is the drivers were given no real incentive to come back in recent seasons.  After the Turners moved on, the closest track, Chico, gradually added more of what Orland had that was unique to them.  First it was Spec Sprints, then Mini Stocks and then the Hobby Stocks.  The tracks ran on opposite nights, but drivers started choosing tracks.

This is not a knock against Chico.  In fact, who could blame any racer for wanting to compete at that track?  Adding to this problem was the fact that Orland wasn't keeping points until last season.  So for three years there were no champions crowned.  On this very blog, I did my own point race in 2010 to help hype this track.

I've been a fan of Orland Speedbowl since the NCMA was booked to race there in 1989, and that enthusiasm was heightened when they were the first track to follow Antioch by adding Spec Sprints in 2001.  The track is almost forgotten, but it shouldn't be.  There have been some good races and racers there through the years.

Guys like Jimmy "The Jet" Pettit, Mario Romano, Ken Lewis, Brad Ray, Zach Hackett, "Gentleman" Jerry Bartlett, Josh Jacobo and Jake Van Tol come to mind, but there are many others.  Lots of history.  Lots of great racing.  Excitement and drama.  It happened on that little one-fifth mile dirt oval.

Mike McCann wants to make it happen again.  He's followed through on the things he told the drivers he would do going into the season.  He resurfaced the race track and it's better than it's been in a long time.  He's open to suggestions on how to improve things further, and all options are on the table.

But, he needs the drivers support.  This is a new era in Orland racing history, and it could become the best one yet if the drivers come on board.  There are several good racers already on board, and the track will again crown champions at season's end.  But, more racers are needed and more support from the community in general.

This doesn't mean everybody has to suddenly do all the work for the track.  It simply means spreading the word about the races.  If you know of a car that needs work, help if you can.  Got a parked car?  Consider getting it out there.  Going to watch?  Bring a friend.  A race track is a community.  This means it needs EVERYBODY to make it work.

I think in many ways the track is going great.  It had fallen on tough times, so it's almost like it's at Square 1 at this point.  I'm hoping more momentum can be built as the season heads towards the stretch.  I think Mike has done some good things so far, but it can only get better.  More improvements can and will come if people rally behind the track.

So come on everybody.  This is your beloved Orland Speedbowl we're talking about.  Many great days are ahead if you give it a chance.  It's up to you!

Looking Back At The Mike Cecil 100

The Street Stock 100 lap race at Watsonville ran throughout most of the 1980's (it was a 50 lapper in 1987) and into the 1990's with various sponsors on the title of the race. This was the only regular 100 lap race for the Street Stock division in California. In 1995, track champion Mike Cecil scored his first of two consecutive wins in the race.

The son of Watsonville Speedway Hall Of Famer Jerry Cecil, Mike Cecil was one of the more popular and respected competitors among his peers. He loved to race and particularly enjoyed the special long distance events. In 1997, Mike lost his battle with Cancer. The following year, the track named the special 100 lap race in his honor as the Mike Cecil 100. When the track dropped Street Stocks from the program in 2006, the Dirt Modifieds competed in the special event, which has also been run as a 50 lapper.

Street Stock 100 Lap Winners

1984 Kim Beard
1985 Ken Morgan
1986 Todd Souza
1987 Lloyd Antonetti Jr. *
1988 Darryl Shirk
1989 Mike Brumit
1990 Bobby Large
1991 Kurt Slama
1992 Ron Parker
1993 Darrell Hughes
1994 Joe Antonetti
1995 Mike Cecil
1996 Mike Cecil
1997 Ralph Sampson

Mike Cecil Memorial Winners

1998 David Soito Jr.
1999 Tim Clark Sr.
2000 Dennis Pelphrey
2001 Steve Ewbank
2002 Dennis Pelphrey
2003 Mark Cooper
2004 Dennis Pelphrey
2005 Mark Cooper
2006 Bobby Hogge IV *
2007 Bobby Hogge IV
2008 Bobby Hogge IV
2009 Jim Pettit II

Looking Back At The Tim Williamson Classic

Tim Williamson (January 13, 1956 - January 12, 1980) raced the Sportsman division at Watsonville Speedway in the 70's and spent five consecutive seasons ranked inside the top 20 in points, four of those in the top ten and one in the top five. In 1978, he began running the Winston West Series and was a winner in that once that season. He also won a race in that series in 1979, while ranking second in the standings.

Tim seemed destined to make it to the Winston Cup Series. He managed to start some races in that series at Riverside Speedway and Ontario and had a top ten finish at Riverside. He was killed at Riverside International Raceway during the companion NASCAR Grand American event the day prior to the 1980 Winston Cup Series opener. In an attempt to pass competitor Glen Steurer through the esses (turns 2-5) early in the race, one side of Williamson's car left the track surface which then caused the car to slide out of control back across the track, as well as an additional run-off area before hitting a retaining wall. The driver's-side of the car hit the retaining wall broadside with enough force to careen the car back across the run-off area and onto the track surface where it came to rest just before turn six.

Since his death, there has been a Tim Williamson Classic memorial race held each year at Watsonville Speedway (now Ocean Speedway) in Watsonville, California. The first race in 1980 was a 100 lapper for the Sportsman division. The race became a Stock Car 100 lap event the next year and throughout that decade. At various times, the race's distance has been altered in the last 20 years, twice to run twin features to make up for rain outs as the drivers were competing for NASCAR Regional points and needed that makeup race.

In 1994, the race was moved to the Dirt Modified division, where it stayed until switching to the Street Stocks in 2004. Since 2006, the American Stock division has competed in the race that has become a tradition at Ocean Speedway.

Below is a listing of past winners of the Tim Williamson Classic winners:

1980 J.D. Willis *
1981 Ralph Beck **
1982 Dan Simkins
1983 Orval Burke
1984 Ray Morgan
1985 Doug McCoun
1986 Kevin Pylant
1987 Jim Pettit II
1988 Bobby Hogge III
1989 Jeff Silva
1990 Steve Hendren
1991 Jeff Silva
1992 Robert Miller & Jeff Silva
1993 Steve Hendren
1994 Jeff Botelho & Mike Brumit ***
1995 Bobby Hogge IV
1996 Bobby Hogge IV
1997 A.J. Kirkpatrick
1998 Jim Pettit II
1999 Eric Jacobsen
2000 Jim Pettit II
2001 Eric Jacobsen
2002 Bobby Scott
2003 Jim Pettit II
2004 Darrell Hughes ****
2005 Danny Scott
2006 Tim Clark Sr. *****
2007 Kyle Camperud
2008 Bill Sorg
2009 Tony Oliveira

* The Sportsman division competed in this race in 1980
** The Late Model Division began competing in this race in 1981
*** The Dirt Modifieds began competing in This Race in 1994
**** The Super Stocks began competing in this race in 2004

Looking Back At The Ted Stofle Classic

Perhaps the greatest stock car driver in Merced Speedway history, Ted Stofle won the track championship in that division an amazing six years in a row from 1975 through 1980. He also collected three state titles along the way. Wherever Ted went in his #89m car, Merced, Watsonville, Madera, Antioch or elsewhere, he was one of the drivers to beat that night. He was still a young man in his 20's when his died in a tragic hunting accident in 1980.

A year later, Merced Speedway began holding a race in his honor. The Ted Stofle Classic ran 89 laps as a tribute to the man. The Stofle family also had his last Stock Car on display every year for this event, and it also served as pace car for the race. Everybody wanted to win this race

Doug McCoun, who won two straight Regional titles (1985-1986) and a National title along the way won the first event in 1981. He was on his way to doing it again in 1985 when a last lap pass netted Ray Morgan his second of three straight Stofle Classic wins. Jeff Silva used a last lap pass on Steve Hendren to win the 1989 race, his second straight win in this race.

In 1990, Chris Shannon drove Mike Palmburg's Cal Mod to a feature win and then jumped into his Late Model and won the big race as well. After Hendren won this race and the Tri Track championship in 1991, the race was switched to the Street Stocks in 1992. In what is probably a good trivia question, Pure Stock graduate Tom Key won that race in 1992 as Dell Humbert spun from second in the final turn going for the win.

Ted Stofle Classic Winners

1981 Doug McCoun
1982 Rene Krumm
1983 Dewayne Blunt *
1984 Ray Morgan
1985 Ray Morgan
1986 Ray Morgan
1987 Kevin Pylant
1988 Jeff Silva
1989 Jeff Silva
1990 Chris Shannon
1991 Steve Hendren
1992 Tom Key

* My records don't have most of the 1983 season, but according to a thread on Racing West's forum from early 2010, a poster (Otis Gleason?) indicated Blunt won this race for the biggest win of his career. He was top ten in points that season. If this information is incorrect, I'd welcome the documentation with the correct information. The idea is to keep the memory of these great racers and events alive.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Remembering Gary Jacob

I don't recall writing much about Gary Jacob when he passed away. I hadn't started this blog yet. I had heard about it at the time and it was sad news to me. I knew what it meant to the sport when we lost him. I know of nobody else who devoted so much energy to covering the sport and giving the drivers the recognition they deserved. There wasn't anybody. My magazine grew by leaps and bounds thanks to him.

Just before I started my magazine, I was given copies of Racing Wheels in 1984 every week. I still have them in fact. I read his stories with great interest. Gary's descriptions of the races were so good that they took you there. I had to know what was going on at Merced and Watsonville, and thanks to Gary, I did.

Now, at that time, I was interested in statistics, I took pictures and I kept score independently of the officials. My score keeping made me popular with the racers who were able to use those results to get the official score changed, but it upset the score keepers. Also at that time, the local paper didn't cover the races as well as I thought it should and the track's souvenir program sucked.

So, it was in 1988, the second consecutive season for my magazine (took a year off in 1986 and did several magazines a year earlier) that I met Gary. Jim Pettit introduced me to him. Gary was thrilled to know that there was somebody out at Antioch with a passion for the track who was willing to write. I had started writing for Racing Wheels. The typewriter that I had just got broken, and Gary actually gave me his old typewriter. He wanted Antioch to have stories.

When I started mailing my magazine, Gary was on the mailing list and immediately began mailing me stories from Watsonville, Merced, Bakersfield and Porterville. Those were the ones I asked for, but of course that list doubled and then some very quickly. Being that I had no fax or computer, Gary worked out a system. There was a certain mail box, in Modesto I believe, that he used to send his stories on Monday that would show up in my mailbox on Tuesday almost every week.

By doing this, he enabled me to send my magazines with his stories on Tuesday afternoons sometimes, but otherwise Wednesday, and it reached people's mailboxes on Thursdays in many cases. I was beating Wheels with the stories. It took a lot of work to do this since my Pit Stops column required hours of tape recorder time just to get the quotes, but the magazine at that time was every bit as good as anything else out there, even Wheels.

Gary just wanted to cover the races and help this sport to the best of his ability. He devoted his life to it and was greatly respected by many, many people. During the years that followed, Gary came out to my place to take me to the races. If he was on his way to Petaluma or Ukiah or Lakeport, he was thoughtful enough to invite me. I enjoyed those times and talking to him and his father.

Then one day Gary suggested he could swing by and pick me up for a three race weekend. I ended up going to Santa Maria one weekend on Sunday and Monday to Grass Valley. Then, he's taking me back home from Grass Valley and then he has to drive an hour and a half or more back to Turlock. We did that trip on two of three occasions. We did a Steitz Show at San Jose once. He didn't have to do any of this, but that was the kind of guy he was.

At his house, I got to see his collection of Wheels Magazines and other racing magazines. He was even saving my magazines at that time for his records. The man was a fountain of information. He could reach back into the records and find what he needed for stories. Now, Gary even went so far as to let me borrow old programs so I could photo copy them, even copies of Wheels. He even provided me with the statistics I needed in my quest to gather history on some of my favorite tracks.

He never told me I was wrong for an opinion I wrote in the Editor's Viewpoint column, even if I'm sure he disagreed with things I wrote. I never really heard him bash a track. He may have had opinions, but he kept them respectful, even if critical. He stayed out of the politics, something I was too stupid or stubborn (maybe both?) to do.

He had the ear of many of the promoters. They called him and faxed him. They wanted him at their tracks. John Soares Sr. used to call him regularly hoping to lure him to Petaluma, and Gary always made sure to make some appearances there every year. Who could blame anybody for wanting him at their track? He was good for racing, plain and simple. Racing desperately needs more like him now more than ever.

Gary could make or brake a big show. That is no exaggeration. Before the age of computers and the internet, Gary was known to hand out fliers for the big shows at all of the tracks he visited, and drivers would respond by going to those shows. I know occasionally a promoter would be upset with him doing this at "their track", but he was only trying to help make these open shows bigger and better. He would do it for any track that asked him to.

One of the things I'm most proud of was back in 1999 or 2000, while announcing at Antioch Speedway, I knew Gary would be there that night. I had been doing the special awards for the track, and I had branched out to the DCRR State stuff and special Lifetime Achievement and Award Of Excellence plaques. I presented Gary with the Award Of Excellence that year for all he had done, not just in helping me but the sport as well.

In walking away like I did, there are some people that I missed not seeing, and he was one of them. He was one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet, always respectful. It's a shame we didn't get the chance to have one more conversation and enjoy a race some place together. The one comfort that I have though is that I know he was still doing what he loved to do up until he passed away. He probably pushed himself harder than he should have, but he wouldn't have it any other way.

One thing I think about as I consider the lack of publicity at some places is that all it takes is somebody to step up, grab a pen and paper and start taking notes at the track. That's how Gary and I both started. We weren't part of the establishment at that point, but he wanted to help out. That's what it takes sometimes. Racing needs that. I don't want to sound preachy, but that's what Antioch needs now.

Gary started with one track before he ended up being a two and three night a week racing reporter. Anybody can step up and help a track in need. It sounds hard, but it's not. It takes a little effort, but once you get used to what you're doing, it's a snap.

I knew when he passed away that racing would never be the same. People would realize, and they have, just how much they miss him. I don't know if things will ever be the same, but it has to start somewhere. Somebody new can step up and follow in Gary's footsteps for the good of a track in need. And, the other thing is that this hype, this publicity at the track, has a way of generating lots of excitement and enthusiasm from racers and fans alike.

Anyway, I just wanted to give Gary some sort of tribute, because he deserves it. If he were still around, I have little doubt that he'd be writing stories for any track that needed him and going to as many races as possible.

The 1990 NCMA Controversy

In a way, I like the racing club idea.  The drivers vote, they make the rules by vote, they have to promote themselves.  Rules don't always change because the parts man has something to sell.  Clubs rise and fall on what the members do.  It's pretty neat.  It can also be a big pain in the butt.  You'd be amazed at the petty nit picking that goes on at meetings.  I had a front row seat with the NCMA for six seasons.  I know what goes on.

This was the reason that when Don O'Keefe Jr. told me Spec Sprints would NOT be a club, I was fine with it.  It's better off as a division at the track.  I felt no need to be the leader, nor did Don, but we guided a class in the beginning that's now in it's 15th season.

But, the NCMA blazed the trail for carbureted Sprint Car racing.  There were Merced Winged Limited Sprints and Santa Maria California Dirt Cars, both of which were done by the end of the 1990's.  Meanwhile, the NCMA was still pretty well off.  But, this story takes place in the third season.  It was a make or break time.

I've written about all that Mike Johnson had done to start this class, and how it could have failed in 1988.  A year later was the fall out from Johnson being thrown off the board as Business Manager.  President Paul Nelson guided the club through a pretty good second season, bringing the club to such tracks as Marysville and Orland for the first time.

In 1988, Johnson had taken a vote of who was interested in racing pavement.  It was 10-2 in favor.  I'd name the two no votes, but I won't.  The little rivalry between Johnson and these two was an interesting one.  I even drew ire from Johnson for writing about the rivalry he and one of them had in the short lived NCMA Weekly magazine I did.  Mike felt there was more money in pavement, and he was correct.

I think one of the reasons SORA ran pavement was that very reason.  Stephen Veltman was an excellent leader, and he even raced with the NCMA for a season.  But, Darryl Shirk was elected president of the NCMA in 1990.  In short order, he booked a 20 race schedule with ten races each at Marysville and Roseville.  The money at Roseville was too good to turn down, and Shirk believed the guys wanted that.  At that point, no Antioch was booked.

So, Shirk wasn't president for long.  The 1989 champion had to go back east that year on family business.  When he came back a year later, he blazed an incredible trail of victory in the 1988 Tobias chassis he had picked up.  But, it was Chuck Charles who replaced him and did his best to guide the ship in his brief time as club leader.  The Roseville dates were dropped, and dates at Antioch and Orland were added.  Then, Chuck stepped down.

It was Del Quinn who would become president for the remainder of the season.  A long forgotten fact is that "The Mighty Quinn" actually won the NCMA Marysville championship in 1990.  With Shirk out of the picture, 1989 NCMA Antioch champion Scott Holloway had his sights on the Overall title, as did Quinn, Jim Berryhill and second generation racer Mike DeCarlo.

A year after having his father Terry set that car up for him, Mike DeCarlo went full time in 1990 and was a force.  Nobody saw him coming.  He was not just the driver to beat for top rookie honors, but the Overall championship as well.  He was a feature winner and led several weeks in the standings.

Getting ten cars to the track was a struggle.  Shirk's two cars were gone, and there weren't many new drivers showing up.  One night when running late for Antioch, Berryhill sent his car ahead with Rod Avilla driving until Jim could get off of work to race.  He just wanted to make sure the car was there for the show.  Avilla qualified for the Trophy Dash, and Jim drove that race and the rest of the night.

The NCMA had appointed two point keepers who as far as I know never collaborated on the standings.  In fact, only one of them submitted any point sheet most of the season.  After the Antioch race, the Berryhill matter was brought up at a general meeting.  Though no official vote was taken, it was decided by president Quinn that the points would stand as they were.  The matter seemed closed, but one driver never really let it go away.

It might not have mattered.  Only DeCarlo could stop himself from winning it all.  Mike seemed destined to win the championship until a flip at Marysville damaged his car.  Mike walked away from the club, rather than rebuild and try to win that championship.  He would become a competitive Dirt Modified racer for a year or two before leaving the sport.

Suddenly, Berryhill was the leader over Holloway and Quinn.  Quinn was a mathematical contender overall, but Marysville seemed to be his to lose.  Berryhill knew that unless he messed up badly, he had Holloway beat.  Then, the club started seeing a second point sheet at the last race or two that showed a slightly different take.  Berryhill's Antioch points from that night earlier in the season showed no qualifying, dash or passing points.

At Marysville, Berryhill did what he had to do, winning the race in Chuck Murch's car.  There was a celebration.  Jim appeared to be the champion.  The Holloway pit was somber.  Scott felt it was his championship, and he would take the matter up with the board.  He maintained he wanted the points to reflect what was earned.

What happened next could have killed the NCMA then.  A point audit was scheduled at the Lokmor house.  The races were gone over week by week.  I recall Berryhill and Murch were there and Holloway, among others.  I knew what was coming.  I had thought the way to handle it would be to take away points not earned by Berryhill, meaning no qualifying points, and leave the rest.  You would have had co champions and avoided what was to come.

When they got to that week, Berryhill lost his qualifying, dash and passing points.  Needless to say, Berryhill and Murch were not pleased.  Holloway won the title by the stroke of a pen.  Why he waited until it got this far, I will never know.  It should have been discussed at that earlier meeting when Quinn had declared it would stand.  Sure, no votes were taken, but there was still an understanding.  Nobody complained then.

Well, Berryhill went on thinking he had what he had, and when that meeting came up, he lost a hard fought championship that way.  Technically, Holloway was right, but this situation was handled in the worst way possible.  It was a complete mess.  Berryhill had been an original member, even brought sponsorship to the club and negotiated a place for the 1989 awards banquet.  His sponsor even fielded a car.

While Holloway would celebrate the championship, Berryhill, Murch and Joe Klenginsmith all left, costing the club three cars.  Holloway made a move for 360 Sprints that next year, while Shirk returned and dominated.  But, the club was a mess when Jim Booth was elected president.  Jim got the club back to basics, eliminated board meetings that seemed to cause the problems and stopped the collapse.

1991 was a make or break year for the NCMA, but it was made worse by the mess left behind at the end of 1990.  This was an interesting time in the history of the club that fades from memories as most of those involved have either passed away or moved on.  But, what's interesting is the club survived it all and still races mainly on pavement to this day.  It's just one of the many stories that can be told about the club in that interesting time.

Would A Transgender Person Be Welcome In Racing?

It's June, so that means it's Pride month all across the country.  More and more states have followed San Francisco's lead in holding an event for the LGBT community.  It's an uncomfortable topic for some, I know.  I'm sure people have strong opinions on the Gay Marriage issue.  I do too, but not here.  This is a racing blog, so I'll keep it relevant.  I guarantee you've seen gay and lesbian and bisexual people involved in racing, whether you knew it or not.  Not everybody is in your face about it.  Some just want to live and be happy and let others live and be happy.

But, that T in the LGBT is sometimes the red headed step child of the group.  The T is a community in itself.  There is that sexual orientation debate that links it with the others, but it's about gender identity first and foremost.  I've learned a lot on this issue and could write pages on the subject.  I don't generally attend Pride, but I have been to Trans March on several occasions.  It's an important and personal issue with me, and I guess the first time I was introduced to the hate that is out there was when Gwen Araujo was murdered.

Auto racing is about family, fun and competition.  The family aspect may have some people insisting a transgender person, whether male to female or female to male, doesn't belong.  The reality is that many families have a transgender person.  Some have fully accepted him or her and been there through the transition.  Others, not so much.  This has led to struggles and choices that I will not even mention here.  I don't judge though.  They say you have to do what you have to do sometimes.

But let's say that somebody who races or is involved in the sport begins to transition.  A race car driver, maybe even a known name.  They won many races.  They've struggled with this internally for years, and now they have come to terms with it.  Now, they begin to transition, and they are very serious about it.  It's about Gender Identity, not sex.  The man you knew is now the woman who wants to be a part of the sport she loved.  Would she be accepted, or would she be shunned?  It's a site to adjust to for sure.

Do you suppose she had all of those worries when she decided she had to be true to herself?  But, she is happier now because she did it.  She may paint her nails or wear makeup.  You may see her in a skirt and blouse.  Her appearance may change from hormones and surgeries, but she's still a person who loves the sport.  She gave years to it before and wants to come back.  Is she welcome, or is it better that she just stay away?

Suppose it's somebody you knew who may have played a part in things behind the scenes.  Even built up a reputation of being a positive influence.  Would all of that go out the window the minute you saw her in a dress?  Is appearance all that matters.  Is society's expectations of who that person should be all this is important?  Does all the work done before go out the window?

Suppose a person transitions at a younger age and gets into the sport.  A young lady wants to race.  In fact, she's so beautiful (I think passable is a judgmental word) that nobody knows when she comes out there.  All her documents say female.  Suppose she starts to make a splash in the sport and then her past is leaked that she was born a boy.  Is she welcome?  Should it even matter?

Don't mind me.  I was just thinking out loud.  In my mind, it's the person who matters, not the gender.  If they have something to offer the sport and are given the chance to be a part of it, that's all that should matter.  Besides, transgender people are the same as everybody else in that they have hopes and dreams and a lot of offer the world if given a chance.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Keep Up The Negativity And You'll Get Nothing And Like It

Remember the movie Caddyshack?  Ted Knight, Rodney Dangerfield.  Funny movie.  Family Guy did a parody of this scene.

They are gonna get something to eat.  Ted Knight's character is with his grandson, who is talking.  "I want a hamburger.  No a cheese burger.  I want a coke..."

Grandpa smacks him upside the head.  "You'll get nothing and like it."

I don't feel like even posting here lately, but I do anyway.  I try to be optimistic, but then I look at forums like Late Model Racer and certain threads just pop up and annoy the hell out of me.  You wanna know why promoters become jerks?  Read some of this crap.  Back in the day with no forums, they at least heard it in person.

Not everybody in the thread was bashing.  There were well thought out posts, and plain out stupidity.  There's a guy who goes by the name of a popular cartoon character.  He's a one note poster on the subject.  "What does it pay."  I knew a guy who cared about that, and it's not a bad question.  It's important.  But this poster obviously hates the promoter and is looking for a reason to bash.

Then there is the track is too wet or is garbage and a bad track.  Every damn track in the state has a bad night.  It happens.  To the bashers who only know how to bash and NEVER pitch in to help, remember this.  When your track closes and you want to know why, just look in the mirror.  That's part of the problem.

Now, the bashed track in question has a reporter who is nationally published.  He's very good at what he does.  He probably didn't help matters by condemning everybody in the thread that posted something.  That's over reaching too.

One poster commented on the positives of social media and using the internet to promote.  It's a valuable tool that should be used.  Ask Tom Sagmiller how useful it was to him when he ran Chowchilla.  Tom is no dummy.  But, it's even more important now than it was then.  You can either get out front of this or get steamrolled.  Oh, and you can make more money at your track if you use it right.

But, that's not why I'm posting.  I'm disappointed in the bashing of an effort being made to keep Late Models going in Northern California.  It's not being helped that every time a race is booked, something is happening at Bakersfield or Santa Maria.  Last week it was Antioch and Bakersfield.  This week it was Antioch and Santa Maria.

Antioch was paying $2500 to win and $250 to start.  I don't know if the 11 car field received that or not.  John is always trying to book big races and has a reputation of paying as advertised last I heard.  Being old school, you aren't likely to see him on the forums talking about it, but he has long been booking big shows to coincide with the NASCAR race in Sonoma ever year.

So, 11 cars showed up.  There was a big show in Santa Maria too.  Now, distance shouldn't allow this to be a factor, but we are talking Late Models here.  How many cars are out there?  Last week wasn't a big show, so Bakersfield and Antioch couldn't have been too disappointed by the 14 and 13 cars, respectively.  However, Antioch and Santa Maria had big shows planned this week.

Communication between promoters obviously did not happen this year, so that's a problem there.  Guys like to race Santa Maria and Bakersfield, and those tracks have a long Late Model history.  Had their been some communication, perhaps something could have been arranged.  If there is any interest in a tour, a leader like Sandy Bainton was back in the day needs to step up and do something about this.

What's not gonna help is being an ignorant moron on a message board fanning flames for the sake of hurting racing.  Offer solutions.  These schedules come out early in the year.  Late Model people should be pointing things out early on, especially when we are talking big shows.  That could help fix problems right there.

What doesn't cut it is saying you went there once and the track sucked (bad night) or posting every time you can "He won't pay!  He won't pay" when you have NO CLUE what you are talking about.  Does it make you feel better to do that?  This is part of the problem not just with racing but the world today.  Way too much negativity.

What did John and Antioch Speedway do that was so wrong?  How dare he try to promote a big event to give his fans something special to see.  How dare he have a history of doing that!  Selfish son of a...  John isn't perfect.  I have had my disagreements with him, but at least I was there trying to help things.

I guess it boils down to if you know you aren't going, don't hate on the event for the sake of hate.  Let it be.  What do you get out of it?  If it fails, you can say "See, I knew it."  Do you need validation that badly?  If it succeeds, it's a good thing for racing.  I just wish people would think before just bashing.

I also don't think a track should bury their heads in the sand when it comes to forums.  They will exist whether you like them or not, so use them.  Hire people to represent the track if you are busy and make sure the track has positive representation.  It can make a difference.

By the way, I had written that the only double winners I knew of on the same night at Antioch were Keith Brown Sr. and Jeff Decker in Late Models and Dirt Modifieds.  I thought Bobby Hogge IV had done it too, but I haven't looked it up.  I don't need to now, because he just did it Saturday night.  I'm shocked!  Well, not really.

Bobby won the Late Model feature ahead of Richard Papenhausen and Troy Foulger.  There were 23 cars in the Dirt Modified race, and Bobby won that race ahead of Ryan McDaniel and Kellen Chadwick.  It's a shame Bobby isn't back east making a name for himself.  He could have been a star there.  I know he's one of THE best in California.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hayfork Speedway To Crown A Champion, Late Models At Antioch

I was thinking about letting my Spec Sprint article stay on top for a week or so, but enough happened during the week that I decided to put something up.  Honestly, I'd like to cover a few other tracks more too.  I just don't want to put the time in this that I did three years ago.  I enjoy writing, but I'll start spending hours on it for no pay.

Orland Speedbowl has always been an interesting track to me.  Its a tight one-fifth mile dirt oval that first came to my attention in 1989 when the NCMA booked dates there.  When I met the Turners at Reno in 1999 and talked Spec Sprint with them, I became interested again.  I loved that they would run the class there.  I knew it would work for them, and it did.

Times have been tough for Spec Sprints this year.  I believe there are those who would love to be rid of this class, and that disappoints me.  Put a wing on it?  Just get a 360, and let a Spec Sprint be a Spec Sprint.  So, car count has struggled at Chico, Watsonville and Orland, but Orland had nine cars for the latest race, won by Ray Benkowski.  Past champion Josh Jacobo won the dash.

Antioch fans may remember Ray from Pure Stocks about ten years ago.  He's since been racing very competitively at Marysville in Street Stocks and now Spec Sprints.  Car count hasn't been great at Marysville this year either, but when you take points away for a season, things like that will happen.  People get out of the habit of racing.  I give track management credit for trying though.  They've had success with this class through the years.

Point totals show Benkowski now leading last year's champion Felisha Jacobo and past champion Tony Richards in a close Spec Sprint race at Orland.  Also of note is is a close battle between Dan Webster, Jim Davis and Ross Vige in Mini Trucks.  Davis won the recent Main Event.  Garrett Agnew leads Rick Shires in Hobby Stocks as Jeremy Hammons was the recent winner.

While promoter Mike McCann continues to rebuild the program at Orland, there was a Hardtop sighting at Orland last week.  Cars driven by Pure Stock and Spec Sprint veteran Pat Bisio and Dan Whitney competed last week.  So, basically, McCann is hoping to build this class from scratch.  As People see these cars on the track, more will be built.  This is how it has worked for the Northern California Hardtops.

Speaking of which, the man on the scene, Warren Estlin, reported ten cars were in action at Petaluma.  Tommy Thomson and John Philbert were the heat winners.  Looking at who was in Philbert's heat race, I have to wonder if the "Encouragement Heat" idea was used.  Whatever the case, it's nice to see different names getting wins.

Fresh off his win at Stockton, "Quick" Nick DeCarlo jumped into George Conner's #70 car and gave his father Terry DeCarlo a driving lesson in leading a DeCarlo 1-2 finish.  It has to be a thrill for both of them to race together when they can as Nick is usually running competitively in Dirt Modifieds.  Dan Williams completed the podium finish, which Carmen Cavallero subbed for his brother Conrad and finished fourth ahead of Aaron Easley, Kendra McKee, John Fuller, Mike McClure, Philbert and Thomson.

At Hayfork Speedway, it's been confirmed that there will be a 2013 Hobby Stock champion for this seven race season.  I love it.  Way to promote guys!  Between this and cutting the smaller track in the infield to get the kids involved, they are making some great moves there already.

In three races, there have been three different Hobby Stock winners.  The latest is current point leader Bill Kasper, who held off Kevin Kasper for the victory.  I'm not sure if this is a brother or father-son team, but this was definitely a nice family moment for the Kasper's.  Burl Richardson had his best finish in third ahead of Mark Jones and Danny Layne in the nine car field.  With Main Event points the only thing being counted, B. Kasper leads previous winner Josh Smith by 34 points as Smith finished last in the latest race.  K. Kasper, Jones and Richardson make up the top five in points at the moment.

Hobby Stocks return to action at Hayfork Speedway at July 13th.  Coming off of back to back nine car fields, will this be the first race of the season they break into double digits?

I want to be brief is I can in talking about Antioch Speedway.  A thought occurred to me back when I was at the track still, so at least ten years ago.  Now it seems more relevant.  Track management could start a campaign to locate cars in their divisions, especially the ones low on cars.  This could mean calling up racers who have been missing for a while and seeing if they can get them back.

That driver may have sold their car.  Perhaps they can't afford to race, but hope to eventually.  Maybe something can be worked out to get them back.  Maybe, if hey want to sell the car, something can be arranged to get the car displayed and sold to somebody who wants to race.  Alternatively, the track could post a bulletin board in the pits and grand stands with cars for sale.  I know it's effort, but if it gets more cars to the track for just a little effort, isn't it worth it?  I always thought it would be cool to have a little display board on the side of the grand stand near the main concession stand with old pictures and listings of the past champions like Santa Maria used to have, but that's another subject.

Antioch ran Late Models last week, but so did Bakersfield once again.  It would be nice to not double book like that, even though I know the tracks are far enough that maybe only one or two drivers would go either way.  You want to see more than 13-14 cars at these races, but it's so much better than nothing.  The upside is it helps establish a base car count in these areas that can keep this division alive.  I know many people are thrilled about that.

Late Models are an amazing show to behold at Bakeersfied, which anybody who has seen them there can attest.  With 14 cars in action last week, Clay Daly grabbed the victory ahead of Larry Childress and Brad Pounds.  By the way, racing at Bakersfield Speedway is pretty exciting to watch this year as it is one of the best shows on dirt anywhere in California. (consider donating to them if you like those videos) has videos there several times during the season.

In case you were wondering, Luke Dodd beat a big field of Hobby Stocks for the feature win at Bakersfield, while Rich Tillema won the American Stock Main Event.  The track also has two classes of Mini Dwarfs to train some of the future stars, which run on the infield track.  Anthony Balcazar won the Sr. Mini Dwarf feature, while Kyliegh Forster was the Jr. Mini Dwarf winner.

Back at Antioch, a name not unfamiliar with Late Model fans, Richard Papenhausen, collected the victory in the 13 car Late Model feature ahead of Dirt Modified point leader Troy Foulger and Jason Englund.  Scheduling cooperation between Petaluma and Antioch is helping make this happen, though car count at Petaluma has dropped this year as the track deemphasized this division to the chagrin of the racers. 

Papenhausen nearly matched Jeff Decker's double win night the last time Late Models were in town, but it was past Dirt Modified champion Kellen Chadwick claiming the IMCA Modified feature win ahead of Papenhausen and four time champion Scott Busby.  It looks like Troy Foulger had a DNF in 11th, but it probably hasn't effected his strong bid for a fourth straight championship very much.

Defending IMCA Sport Mod champion Phil Indihar bested an eight car field for the feature win, while Nick Viscusi won the 15 car Hobby Stock Main Event.  Ken Radabaugh won the 11 car Four Banger feature, while Ryan DeForest was the winner in the four Mini Truck feature.  Mini Trucks were scheduled to run with Four Bangers due to low turn out.

Sport Mods and Spec Sprints headline Merced Speedway Saturday night.  They held a race during the fair on Wednesday with Cody Burke besting the 15 car IMCA Modified feature ahead of Austin Burke and Rodney Freitas.  Meanwhile, Michael Shearer was the winner of the 17 car Hobby Stock Main Event ahead of Shane Hausmann and Jim Freethy.  Interesting to note Hobbys aren't booked at Merced this week, though I think this would have been a good time to have them with IMCA Modifieds off that night.

IMCA Modifieds are definitely on at Antioch Saturday night as John Soares Jr. is again promoting a big Late Model and Dirt Modified show during the big NASCAR weekend at Sears Point.  These shows tend to be huge and very entertaining, so if you are a fan who only wants to go to big money events, Antioch Speedway should be the place to be Saturday night.

Looking Back: The Creation Of The Spec Sprint Division Part 3

At the Placerville swap meet, Don and I saw a low buck racer with the NCMA who had been picked on a little bit.  Who it was isn't important, but we walked up and said hi, and his response was, "I'm running with the NCMA."  Of course, he ended up in a Wingless Spec Sprint and even led some laps in one of the Darryl Shirk Memorial races.  Man, some of these guys were being pressured by the club, but all Spec Sprints were was another place to race.

The other thing we saw was the NCMA schedule with dates at Antioch and Petaluma booked over.   I was not pleased, because I remembered that date in 1998 at Placerville.  I had gone to bat for the NCMA and continued to do so in the face of the animosity, but I had to tell John about this.  If I didn't I would have let him down, and I couldn't do that.  It was not easy telling the Business Manager that all of their dates were pulled, but I had to do it.

After all of the hype, opening day was coming.  Don and I both felt we were on the mark with 12 cars.  This in itself would be a huge feet.  How many cars did the Dirt Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Four Bangers, Limited Late Models and Mini Trucks have for their openers?  I think none of them had more than four cars.  Well, we had 12, and that's because two teams had last minute problems and had to debut at the next race.

Don and I did everything we could to guide this class.  I arranged a heat race since everybody would be in the feature anyway, where drivers could earn their first wins.  This was to encourage these guys to hang in there.  We inverted the features with fastest in the back to encourage passing, but a couple drivers weren't happy with that after a while.  It got changed after Gonderman's back of the pack win in a 17 car field.

Don had told me that our influence would shrink when this thing took off, but he also said car count would grow and other tracks would start this division.  I loved the sound of that.  But, Don was back in the pits dealing with any issue that arose.  When there was a misinterpretation of the rules, Don loaded up and took it out of the pits to stand up for the racers.  They would have let him go, but John went out and talked to him.

People claimed Don started this class for himself, but the realty is Don never wanted to be a point racer.  With his knowledge and ability, he could have dominated if that was the goal.  He wanted a division for the racers to learn in and veterans to come back to.  I still get a kick out of his response to a person who told him he was mad at a certain racer because he couldn't beat him.  Don won the feature that next week.

You see, Don actually made trips to Doc Brophy's house twice to set up his car.  I was with him.  Doc won both Spec Sprint features on those occasions.  He made trips to help Andy Archer, who was also a Main Event winner.  He was quick to help anybody who asked, because he knew if he made them better, the show was better.  I don't know that Spec Sprints could have happened without Don.

I can also add Don's decision to print full color autograph sheets out of his own pocket so the drivers could get out of their cars before the feature and sign them for the kids.  Or, the fact that he lined up a sponsor from Santomauro Racing that we gave to the hard luck racer of the week to help them out.  He was always coming up with things like that, just as he had during his time in the NCMA.

Then there's Ron Rodda.  You see, this was seen as a "bastard class" by some in the Sprint Car community and openly mocked.  Ron has built a reputation as being tough but fair.  He is a true Sprint Car fan, and he came out and supported some of these shows with stories and photos.  I believe Ron played a role in helping us establish this division, and he's a writer I have always respected for his honesty.

There's another interesting note that is lost in the record books.  John Soares Sr. wanted Spec Sprints at Petaluma, so we held a three race point season for that.  Don won his first mini championship and a Main Event there.  I know he's not driven by things like that, but it's nice that he won it.  Pops liked the class so much he booked a fourth date at the last minute late in the season and got his best car count of the four races.

So, we never had less than 12 cars at Antioch that season.  We made it as high as 17 cars and had a total of 31 cars.  NCMA guys did join up, but if we had depended on them, we would have failed.  We brought a whole host of new racers to the fold.  Dan Gonderman joined his father as a track champion that year.  It was not easy at times because we had people trying to hurt the cause, but we knew what we were doing was right.

What was interesting was the NCMA landed on their feet as they always do.  Really, it has always been a resilient club, and 25 seasons speak for themselves.  However, they booked several $1000 to win races one year, and Spec Sprint racers came out and won all but the night Antioch had a date booked.  Spec Sprint racers supported the NCMA when they could, which was fine by me.

On the final night, as Don and I were standing there thinking about the great season we had, we talked to many of the happy racers.  We knew we had taken it where we could.  We knew John would take it from there.  We knew without our effort, it never would have made it, and we knew without a great group of supporting racers, it never would have been possible.

The next season, Spec Sprints had their first B Main.  The NCMA continued their push towards asphalt.  Chowchilla brought back the Limited Sprints.  A year later, Orland got on board and we were hearing rumblings of Chico and Marysville.  Watsonville was next and then Petaluma.  Now, we even have the Hunt Series.  And drivers have come from all ranks to run these cars.  The names are impressive.  Chico had a weekend with an amazing 70 cars.

But, I'll always be proud of what Tom Sagmiller and I did in 2001 with the Open Wheel Round Up.  We had 32 cars.  In many ways, that was the race that made promoters take notice.  I used my paycheck from that race to pay the heat races, because it was always about the racers to me.  Tom announced over the PA that the race was my idea, and NCMA people came over and congratulated me.  All I ever wanted was a successful class that anybody could race.

I am so proud that the Spec Sprint division is in it's 15th season and that the NCMA has 25 seasons in the record books.  I love that on any given weekend, racers have those two choices, along with Watsonville, Chico, Petaluma, Marysville and Orland to choose from.  I'm blessed that I've been lucky enough to make a difference in racing, even all these years later.

It's one of the things I'm most proud of.  Without John handing this off to Don and I, it never would have happened.  Without a good friend like Don O'Keefe Jr., I never would have been seen as somebody who could do this.  I've never driven a race car, and some people would say I'm not a racer because of that.  But, what I've always been an advocate of is affordable and safe racing that creates a good car count and a fun and family friendly racing environment.  I believe we accomplished all of that with Wingless Spec Sprints.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Looking Back: The Creation Of The Spec Sprint Division Part 2

Don's first order of business was a set of rules.  This was August of 1998 at a pizza parlor in Bay Point.  We went over every rule, one by one, and Don explained them all to me.  He's the expert on this stuff, and all I wanted to know was that we would have a safe and affordable race car for the budget minded racer.  We had a set of rules, I went home and typed them out and then we set out to recruit 12 drivers.

Well, that didn't take long at all.  We had a division.  Most of those drivers actually did race in 1999 or were soon replaced on the roster before 1999 came around.  We were in business.  Don answered all the tech questions, and I hyped it up as best I could.  Anybody who joined got a story in my magazine, Racing Wheels, MotoRacing and any place else I could put it.  We were gonna make this happen.

I don't want to forget the name.  This was Don's brainchild.  We had four names.  They were Sportsman Sprints (Typical me with Sportsman), Econo Sprints, Limited Sprints and Wingless Spec Sprints.  We chose the fourth option.  Technically, it's SPEC Sprints, which is short for Spec Parts Economy Class.  Don was right.  That sums up the idea pretty well.

But, there was a problem.  I did not want this to kill the NCMA.  I know there were people that wanted us to fail, but I did not want them to fail.  I backed the NCMA getting seven dates at Antioch and two at Petaluma, and they knew those dates well ahead of Reno.  They were the first dates they had, so there was no confusion.  I was happy because we were starting something new, but the NCMA would live on too.

And, we gained some big names.  Super Modified veteran Jim Perry Jr. got on board.  Dan Gonderman was building a car.  An up and coming star named Travis Berryhill.  THE star of the NCMA, Darryl Shirk, joined the division after a year or two away from the class.  I was loving it.  It was so easy to hype this thing with the caliber of the drivers coming on board.

I recall the NCMA meeting where the leadership knew they had these dates.  It was going to work out just fine for them.  Their Business Manager gave me tickets to their awards banquet, and I was touched by the gesture.  This was never about destroying the NCMA, but about growing a class of car.  I accepted the tickets, but there were some who took very vocal issue with this.

I also recall one of the most instrumental men in helping this club through a difficult time, Mike Lokmor, as he was in his final days as an NCMA member.  Mike too would get a Spec Sprint.  It was never personal as far as I was concerned, but I know they felt it was when Andy Archer, one of their top prospects, decided to go Spec Sprint racing.

But, Andy had to walk a tight rope.  He couldn't announce his move before the banquet in which he was to get "Rookie Of The Year" honors, but I did a big interview with him beforehand that we would run afterwards.  Andy was a talented racer, and I wanted him to get the recognition he deserved.  I was also asked by his wife to hand in my tickets, but I didn't.  I still have them, because I always appreciated the spirit in which they were given.

I knew I couldn't attend, because there was too much hostility towards me.  Despite the fact that I helped make sure they had race dates, there was lots of resentment towards me.  I can't say I blame them.  It was good for them to be the only game in town.  I did catch word of an unflattering picture shown of Don O'Keefe Jr., who also did not attend, in which the MC said, "Rumors, rumors, rumors."  Folks, this is why I called him "The Rumorman."

Don always taught me to turn it around.  There's always a time and a place.  I was starting to get a little upset at the attitude  I'll admit it.  Don and I talked for hours, sometimes in the chat room too.  We were being attacked.  We were being called the A.S.S. Class by anonymous posters on the Hoseheads forum.  There was a clever joke about me thinking I'm a writer, but I just stayed at a Holiday Inn Express once.  Amusing.

But, the lies were being told about us.  There was an effort to sabotage what we were doing.  If Don and I weren't on our game, this could have fallen a apart fast.  There was doubt that we would really have 12 cars without raiding the NCMA.  That proved false.  I'll never forget the Placerville swap meet.  Darryl Shirk came running over to me to tell me what he heard and ask if it was true  It wasn't.

Man, Darryl Shirk was a Spec Sprint racer.  He won his last main event in a Spec Sprint.  Not just the greatest carbureted Sprint racer I ever saw, but one of the best drivers period!  We lost a great man when he passed away.

All this time, I'm hyping this thing up.  We were serious.  This was gonna happen.  I was writing and announcing, Don was handling the rules and helping the track and racers and John was backing up what he promised.  At that Placerville swap meet, a couple of interesting things happened.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Looking Back: The Creation Of The Spec Sprint Division Part 1

I will admit sometimes I look back and  wonder if I would do my part in racing if I could do things over again.  Would I do something else?  What humbles me is the idea that had I not been at Antioch Speedway and elsewhere, things would have been different.  I say that not to brag, but I know the part I played.  I only wanted to make a difference.  I think I did.

One area is the Spec Sprint division.  I played a part in starting this division and was even mentioned in a national racing magazine article by Norm Bogan a few years back.  I'm actually lucky to have been involved like I was.

After the Open Wheel Round Up at Chowchilla in 2001, I wrote an article for The DCRR that Don O'Keefe Jr. has put on his web page.  It looked at the division to that point.  

What follows here is a look at the effort to start the Spec Sprints and the things Don and I did in helping give this division the most successful start a new division has ever had at Antioch Speedway.

I was working on this story when my window inexplicably shut down.  It may have been a good thing, because I went back farther than I needed to.  This was to be a story about my involvement in starting a division that is now in its 15th season at Antioch Speedway with several other tracks running it as well.  I'm talking about Wingless Spec Sprints.

I will point out that from the moment I talked with NCMA founder Mike Johnson, I was sold on the concept of this type of racing.  Through the body style changes on these cars, the racing has been good.  It's gotten better through the years.  Mike told me we could get drivers from all back grounds and car counts in the 20's or even 30's.  I believed him, and I worked hard to help make it happen.

I wrote for the NCMA from the first year through the sixth season and was on the Board as Secretary for five years.  I helped get Mike back into the fray when we co-founded the CMA in an effort to unite the different groups who ran similar cars.  We took flack for this, but we helped bring about positive change too.  I left when Mike wanted to add Hardtops to the mix.

Let me clarify that I actually like Hardtops, but we needed to build the division we were running.  Mike had a couple Hardtops and had a buddy with a couple cars, so this Hardtop craze we have going could have started back in 1995.  Instead, Mike buried the hatchet with the NCMA, and car count grew in the club for the next few years.  I was happy to see them finally achieve B Mains.

The story might have ended there, but in 1997, change was coming to Antioch Speedway.  John Soares Jr. was bidding for the track, and I threw my support behind him wholeheartedly from the moment he told me he was doing it.  This was something I do not regret.  Let me tell you about the first conversation we had about the future of the track and what would run there.

John was planing to drop NASCAR.  Fine with me.  Keep the three primary classes.  Fine with me.  Bring Dwarf Cars in house.  Drop the Northern Stars and bring in BCRA races.  Renegotiate or drop NARC.  Nothing was set in stone at that point until people developed foot in mouth disease.  He was planning to drop the NCMA.  Red lights went off in my head.

I loved the NCMA.  I know it's hard for some people to believe, but it's true.  Even now, I love that Ed Amador has kept this club together.  So, I told John he shouldn't do that.  They will give him 16-20 cars per race at Antioch, and many of these guys were from the area at the time.  I think I had a hand, along with Jim Booth and one or two others, in influencing this decision.  I would do it again.

The waters got rough for me.  I had a problem with Racing Wheels Magazine printing my stuff, and Gary Jacob was ghost writing my stories and getting them printed without my name in the byline.  I know he meant well, but track management was upset with me.  They had good reason.  I was asked to come to the open wheel race at the end of the season to cover the NCMA, so I did.

The NCMA President at the time tried to get me to back off of my endorsement of John, who I still wasn't naming at that time as per his request.  Well, I told him that I knew what I was doing and that it would work out for the NCMA in the end.  I understood his concern.  Truth be told, track management had told NCMA leaders that I had a positive effect on their situation, so I know what I was doing was betrayal in her eyes.  I don't blame her for being upset.

In 1998, John ushered in a new era in Antioch Speedway history, one that continues to this day.  The NCMA had several dates at the track, and John authorized me to keep points for the club.  I recalled Antioch titles won by Mike Johnson, Scott Holloway and Stan Cargo, and I wanted to do this for the club.  Before proceeding, I asked the NCMA Business Manager at the time, and he gave me a green light.

Out of respect, I used the NCMA point system, rather than Antioch's.  John was planning to honor the top ten at the banquet, including a nice championship jacket.  I was happy to do this for the NCMA.  There was a problem, though.  The NCMA publicist did not like what I was doing and told me I had no right.  I informed him that I was trying to help and had permission from NCMA leadership.

Of course, he went to that individual, who denied authorizing me, and I was called a liar for volunteering to help.  I was hurt by the accusation, but it worked out.  The publicist took over the points, and I officially didn't have anything to do with things.  I was still happy to get the ball rolling, and anther champion was crowned as a result.  The NCMA's top five Antioch point earners were honored at the banquet.

During the season, there was a double booking at Antioch and Placerville.  Don O'Keefe Jr. and I had caught the error, and Don knew the NCMA was planing to honor Placerville.  John was advertising the NCMA and had no idea until he was informed of the situation.  The disaster was averted, and it could have been ugly had he not known until no cars showed up that night.

Being the business man John is, he had a plan to make sure the NCMA cars were there when booked.  He sent Don to an NCMA Board Meeting with an offer.  They would receive the Dirt Modified purse ($600 to win and $100 to start) and be given 12-14 dates at Antioch to join the All Pro Series.  If they wanted to run NCMA dates outside of that, he was fine with it.  Without getting into details, the offer was rejected.

The wheels were spinning and John was talking to Doc Brophy about trying something different with the carbureted Sprint effort.  Part of the idea was to run wings.  I believe Brophy came out for hot laps and ran a 360 Sprint Car race with that setup.  There were overheating issues and other problems.  I knew of the discussions, but I was soon given the offer I couldn't refuse.

Don O'Keefe Jr. is a details man.  When he heard the details of the CMA in 1994, he said no thanks.  That wasn't the right time.  Maybe I should have taken heed then, but I was stubborn.  Well, John and Don talked car count (minimum 12), purse ($300 to win and $75 to start for 12 cars, bigger at 17) and about 12 race dates.  The new project was put in Don's hands and probably expected to fail.

Well, if you know Don, you know he can make things happen, but Don didn't want to do it alone.  So, he recruited me.  He was telling me what could happen (I've heard this before from Mike), but I know something about Don.  I could trust him.  He's always been a good friend to me, probably my best friend.  He has a good reputation, and I knew he and I would make a great team.

To Be Continued...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Racing News And Observations From Here And There

I had a few things on the desk I wanted to comment on, including the racing at Antioch, Merced, Chowchilla, Orland and Hayfork and a little about the Hardtops.  So, let me jump right in.

I saw the announcement on Antioch Speedway's Facebook Page about the Super Hobbys running with the Super Stocks.  There was a bit of an uproar and a reminder that people should keep it civil on the page.  Really guys, if you aren't gonna bring your cars to the races, you shouldn't be surprised when a decision is made to merge divisions..  Fans want to see a car count.

Here's the deal.  Maybe I'm making assumptions here, but I think part of why Super Hobbys were added in the first place was that John wanted to get back the cars lost when he merged Street Stocks and Limited Late Models.  In a year, most of the Street Stocks were parked.  I was not a fan of that merger, but it was either that or kill the Limited Lates. 

The merger ended up killing Street Stocks.  I'm just on the side lines, but the numbers on average were about 12 Streets per race and 5-6 Limited Lates.  So, yeah, it killed the class.  A couple years later, John tries to get it back.  This is season three of the Super Hobbys.  Last year, there were 13 different cars, so three or four cars showing up does not cut it. 

Honestly, there shouldn't be a problem.  If you want the division, bring the cars and go racing.  Then, you'll have a division.  As there will be a merger, I would suggest the guys get their cars back out there and fight for the class.  Maybe you get your own heat race first, and if you can get the cars, you get your own race again.  The cars are there.  Somehow, I think maybe two or three cars will be what's left in the end.

The trucks have done the same thing they did at Merced back in 2000.  Things were golden for a while, but one day they stopped coming.  No reason why, they just stopped.  So, what's left for them?  I suppose they can run with Four Bangers, though I never heard an official word.  I don't see John turning away cars, so we'll see.  I guess it was bound to happen.

A source of pride for me is that those Spec Sprints are still out there in season #15 and doing okay.  Limited Late Models and Mini Trucks were founded afterwards, and both have had their pit falls.  As a keeper of the records, I'm not sure where to classify the Super Stocks history.  Do wins go towards the Street Stock record book or the Limited Late Models?  I lean towards Street Stocks on that, but I'm still uncertain.

Anyway, Antioch Speedway is doing okay from what I can see.  Big races are on the horizon.  They just received TV coverage during the County Fair.  Car cont continues to perform within expectations in Dirt Modifieds, Spec Sprints, Dwarf Cars and Hobby Stocks, and all four divisions were in action last week.  The latest results saw Troy Foulger (IMCA Modifieds), Scott Hall (Spec Sprints), Dan Smith (Hobby Stock) and David Teves (Dwarf Cars) in the winner's circle.

It is nice to see second place Dwarf Car finisher Charlie "The Hammer" Correia back in the hunt.  The IMCA Sport Mods brought nine cars to the race with Kyle Wilson grabbing the win.  Car count is up slightly in the second season, and I suspect double digit car counts are on the horizon.  Also of note was that Dan Smith won the feature for Hobby Stocks during the fair as did Brent Curran in Four Bangers.

Only a couple seasons before hitting that severe bump in the road, the Chuck Griffin era at Merced Speedway wasn't doing so bad.  Then, it fell apart.  Soares swooped in and saved the place, throwing together a season for Merced at the very last minute.  That 14 race season in 2010 was impressive and kept intact a legacy of a track crowning champions since 1950.  But, within two years people were leaping off the bandwagon.

I know the only reason John went after Merced was to save a tradition that meant something to him.  So, he made the move bringing in Doug Williams to be the General Manager and moved the track to Saturday nights this season.  Also, there is the IMCA sanctioning that cannot be ignored.  It is a factor in why so many Modifieds and Sport Mods race there now.  Anybody can tell you what that sanctioning has meant to that race track.

Merced races this week, but was dark Saturday.  An eye opener to me was the turnout for the big Sport Mod show last time.  Ryan Larimer won the race over State title hopeful Nick Spainhowrd and point leader Matt Sotomayor.  No surprise there.  What I did like was seeing the name in fifth place.  None other than "The Big Dog" Ramie Stone.

I'll go ahead and say it.  Ramie is the best Merced Speedway racer of the last 15-20 years.  My opinion, sure, but he's a champion in three divisions at that track, and nobody could ride the high groove like him in the Mods.  All due respect to Larry Folkner and Darren Thomas, two talented drivers in their own right.  I told Ramie I wish he could have gotten a ride in Late Models, because he would have been fast.

Keep an eye on Ramie.  If he's serious about giving it a run, he will win before the year is up, and likely more than once.  Hanford leadfood Jimmy Reeves won the IMCA Modfied feature, and Andrew Krumm won the Hobby Stock feature.  Neither is a surprise to me, and I love the talent coming out to Merced every week.  I think all of the people making this happen deserve a round of applause.  Here's hoping it keeps going like this.

I won't forget the Valley Sportsman division, because I love this class.  It's season #15 for this revival.  15 seasons.  Can you believe it?  I love it.  Tim Porter, no stranger to winning in whatever you put the man in, won the past feature ahead of Tim Prothero and Gary Hildebrand.  This division has several YouTube videos, and it's pretty cool watching these cars go around the track.

GoLiveStream has videos of the Memorial Day Weekend action from Bakersfield, which includes the Okie Bowl Hardtops.  They had 15 cars at this event, and it was a couple guys from the Merced area running strong.  Mike Friesen jumped into the #77 car for a third place finish and turned the #00 car over to Charlie Huff.  Huff dominated the Main Event after carefully working his way to the front.  Matt McCaslin was a strong second as he continues to be one of the stars of the group.

Truthfully they all are stars.  I love the spirit these Okie Bowl drivers bring to an event, and they seem to have really captured the nostalgia of the division.  Huff was quick to thank the group for the invite as they had the #00 and #77 cars at Santa Maria a few weeks earlier.  For those interested, the top three finishers at Santa Maria were Late Model veteran Bob Oathout, Matt McCaslin and David Courtney

The Northern California Hardtop group made a second straight appearance to Stockton 99 Speedway.  Warren Estlin reported to the Vallejo Speedway Hardtop Page that the drivers shared the wealth.  Not sure whether Dave Stewart of Tom Hembrick was driving the #92 car, but that car was a heat race winner along with the #77 of Charles Mart.  Mike Friesen won the Trophy Dash.

The Main Event belonged to George Conner.  No spin outs or problems for George in claiming a much deserved win ahead of the #92 car, Friesen, Kendra McKee, Bill McLaughlin, Mart and Bob Fillipi, who was subbing for Mike McClure.  Next up for the Hardtops is Petaluma on June 15th, and it's sure to be a good one.

You have to hand it to Jack Stanford.  The past Chowchilla and Merced Dirt Modified champion made plans to revive Chowchilla Speedway, put the word out where it needed to be and made it happen.  It all seemed like a secret but racing has returned to Chowchilla, and the first two races would indicate that the drivers are on board.  In much the same way Soares did when he reopened Merced, Jack had to book his schedule around the other tracks.  It has worked.

Late May saw an opener featuring Dirt Mods, Sport  Mods and Hobbys.  Bobby Hogge IV opened the Dirt Modified show with a win over Cody Burke and Austin Burke.  The Sport Mod podium went to (Randy?) Brown, Diaz and Danny Roe.  Meanwhile, Shane Hausmann won the Hobby Stock feature ahead of Andrew Krumm and Lester Beavers.  Results are a bit sketchy as the track gets everything into place, but the racing surface seems to be well received.

This last week, Jimmy Reeves won the Modified feature ahead of Alex Stanford and Jeff Streeter.  Ryan Larimer won the Sport Mod feature ahead of Brown and (Chris?) Smith.  Meanwhile, Shane Hausmann won another Hobby Stock feature ahead of Marshall Weaver and Andrew Krumm.

I know they are still putting it all together, so I'm hoping they have a better web presence in the weeks ahead.  The fact that they have brought racing back to Chowchilla Speedway for a 14th straight year is whats important now, and Jack Stanford and the crew deserve praise for their efforts.  They have released a schedule for the rest of the season that includes:

June 28th Mods,Sport mods,street stocks and the legends of Kearney(vintage hardtops/Super Mods)
July 4th-TBD
July 12th- Mods, Sport mods,Valley sportsman, hobby stock
July 20th- MUD BOGS
July 26th-Mods, Valley sportsman, hobby stock, street stocks
Aug 2nd- Mods, sport mods, hobby stock, legends of Kearney(vintage hardtops/Super Mods)
Aug 24th- Mods, Sport mods, Valley sportsman, hobby stock

Meanwhile, Mike McCann rolled into Orland, renamed the track Orland Speedbowl and has settled in for the long haul.  I'm sure at this point, he's assessing the situation to learn what will need to be done and what improvements can be made.  I like that he has come in and is having a point race for his regular divisions, and total cars competing this year has met or exceeded 10 cars in Mini Trucks, Hobby Stocks and Street Stocks.

Mini Stocks are a little sluggish, and the Wingless Sprints are just getting things back together after a season in which the guys let the ladies drive their cars in 2012.  So far, though, McCann has shown everybody he is committed to Orland and rebuilding the glory to where the Turners once had it and beyond.  It will take time and patience, and  hope the racers get on board.  This track could have been lost, and it is a tradition going back at least to the 1970's.

The thing about Mike is since winning Promoter Of The Year honors at Cottage Grove, Oregon in the 1980's, his specialty has been to build up tracks that have been struggling.  He loves the challenge and he's successful more times than not.  Orland also has some good racers that people may not be familiar with, but they are capable of winning at other tracks too.  So, I'm hoping things will be successful at Orland in the long run.

We close with a look at Hayfork Speedway in Trinity County.  This was maybe an unlikely dream, but dreams can come true if you work at them.  It took over two years from conception of the idea to that first race last year.  This year, track management has added a track on the inside for the 250's and other Mini Sprint classes that can get the next generation of racers involved. 

There have already been laps put on that track, and the May 26th results in the Box Stock division for the kids found Daniel Whitley winning ahead of Kloey Smith and DJ Case.  Johnny Lentz won the Open class feature ahead of Keith Bloom and the 250 Intermediate feature went to Eric Nelson ahead of Angelo Cornet.

I haven't heard of a point race being kept, but we'll keep an eye on that situation.  I love the enthusiasm.  I love that they have started with Hobby Stocks and Hornets, and I know the cars will come as they get built.  It takes time, and it's not like there is a plethora of tracks nearby to draw from.  I admire them for working so hard to make Hayfork Speedway a reality.

In the end, it's about the racing and the camaraderie.  The Hobby Stock race for the first week of May that had eight cars.  Winner of the last Hobby Sock race last year, Wayne Lowe won that the 2013 opener ahead of Bill Kasper.  Josh Smith was third ahead of Donny Case and Burl Richardson.

Nine Hobby Stocks were in action for the last race in May, and Josh Smith grabbed the checkered flag for the victory with Bill Kasper and Mark Jones in the place and show positions.  Chester Brown and Danny Layne rounded out the top five.  This makes Smith the new man to beat, and the fans will find out if anybody can beat him when the next race takes place on June 15th.

So, I salute the people at Hayfork Speedway for making their dream a reality, and all the people at Orland, Chowchilla, Merced, Antioch and everywhere else for having places to race every week.  The only thing left to do now is get out there and race, have fun and make some more memories.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Numbers Encouraging At Antioch and Merced Heading Into Holiday Break

Sorry I ducked out for a few weeks, but I needed to.  I was putting in some crazy hours working on the blog post that became a book that I mention in another post.  I needed a break.  Generally speaking, even if there's not a lot of color sometimes the Oval Motorsports Website has all of the results and points from Antioch Speedway and Merced Speedway.  Plus, Mike is getting good ink for Merced in the local paper there, so that's good news.

Overall, IMCA sanctioning seems to have helped the Modified and Sport Mods at Merced, which is exactly what I anticipated.  They didn't do too badly at the last race.  Merced was always a jewel in the crown of IMCA's California presence, and that track benefited from the sanctioning.  Drivers visited for those points, and that is still happening now.  Merced's Hobby Stocks seem to even be doing better this year, which is more good news.

There have been ten different Sportsman drivers so far this year, and I notice the action sometimes makes it onto YouTube.  In fact, the latest Main Event is up from a couple weeks ago.  Car count was down from the nine of the previous race, but it's still cool to see these cars.  I'm not sure why Four Bangers aren't getting the cars they should, but maybe that will pick up.  I think there's been a half dozen cars at each of the two Spec Sprint races, but this is because they have to build their own base of cars.  They can't rely on drivers towing from out of town to race there.

All in all, it's looking good at Merced this year compared to where it was last year.  Saturday nights and IMCA have helped them.  Moving back to Friday nights will be Chowchilla Speedway when they finally get started.  It will be interesting to see how they do when they hold that first race, but I wish them well.  Many good racing memories have been made at Chowchilla Speedway in it's now 14 year history.  Hopefully, there are many more to come.

Before I get to Antioch, Go Live Stream deserves another plug.  You can catch some racing action from Bakersfield Speedway and elsewhere there, not to mention racing talk shows.  They had the latest SRL Southwest Tour race video up there.  For those of you who are wondering how Jim Pettit II is doing these days, check out that video.  He's one of those guys I'd have on the list to put into the Antioch Speedway Hall Of Fame.

Speaking of Antioch Speedway, history was made last race.  I must admit I was out of the loop.  I had no idea the Late Models were there last week, and 14 cars showed up.  How cool is that?  So, Modifieds were on the same card, and I recall a night in the early 1990's when Keith Brown grabbed a moment that is worthy of recollection.  Keith was driving a Late Model for the late Rich Richards, one of those guys who did a lot for racing.

Well, Keith brought a Modified out too, and one night he won both Main Events in the same night.  I'd have to check my records.  Did Bobby Hogge IV do it one night in the last decade as well?  Sorry for being lazy and not looking, but it wouldn't surprise me if Bobby did.  He's just that good.  Well, Jeff Decker wrote his name into the record books and joined Brown as another driver to do that.  The Modifieds had a high teen car count themselves

I'm really not sure you can say the IMCA sanctioning  makes that much of a difference at Antioch, but car count is still doing okay with Modifieds.  However, Troy Foulger, who had podium finishes in both features last week, looks to be on his way to history (four straight championships).  Only Anthony Slaney is in striking distance at this point, but he'll need to start winning to be a real threat.  I'm not putting that kind of pressure on the kid, because he's doing well where he is.  His future could be very bright.

Anyway, while I'm sure track management has to be happy with Dirt Mods, the Spec Sprints are sticking within their average as well.  Even with the tough times at Chico (where the division is being beaten to death) and Watsonville, Antioch and Petaluma are doing okay.  Could be better, but it's not as if the division is being promoted that heavily at Antioch.  I'm betting John is getting what he wants from the class.

Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars look good this year in car count so far.  This is good as the Hobbys have that big 150 lap show coming up on August 17th.  Yeah, 150 laps!  This would be the longest race at Antioch for a regular division since like the late 1970's when they ran a 200 lap Sportsman race.  The Hobby's have been getting a push at the track, but if they are getting car count, why the hell not?  They should be promoted.

Everything else is sort of there.  Lots of new drivers in the Four Bangers, but I'd like to see consistent double digits from the entry level class.  What I do like is how drivers have moved on to other divisions.  Two of those drivers have moved up to the Sport Mods, which opened their second season with eight cars last race.  Super Stocks and Super Hobby Stocks could use a few more cars.  It does look like a few drivers have stepped forward to try an beat Larry Damitz in Super Stocks, so that championship race could be interesting.  I'd just like to see more cars.

The Super Hobbys have struggled big time, but at least cars are showing up.  The  Mini Tracks have abandoned ship.  Where are you guys and gals?  Jim Robbins is gunning for the Super Hobby title, but what caught my eye also is David Rosa racing against his daughter Victoria, while son David Michael has made his Dirt Modified debut.  When David stepped away from Antioch, it was to go racing with his kids at Dixon.  He wasn't the only Antioch racer that did that either.  I think it's pretty cool that the Rosa's have returned to Antioch as a family.

So, it may be a mixed bag at Antioch, but they had like 73 cars at the latest race.  The Dirt Modifieds, Hobbys, Spec Sprints and Dwarf Cars are delivering, and it looks like Four Bangers and Sport Mods are getting stronger.  Add in those special events, like Sprint Cars, and its not a bad show.  Maybe not like the old days, but not bad.  Antioch and Merced are dark for the holiday weekend, but then back in action for Fair Racing in June.

I noticed that Warren Estlin reported to the Vallejo Hardtop Page the results from the recent Hardtop visit to Stockton.  I also see that teammates Charles Mart and Mike Friesen got the wins.  Mart won the heat race over Kendra McKee and Mike McClure.  Mart, McKee and Friesen have been big supporters of pavement racing for the Hardtops.

Of course, Friesen is a name you should know in nostalgia racing.  The man was on board early with the Sportsman division at Merced Speedway in 1999 and was a champion in that as well as Merced Cal Mods.  Well, he's still no slouch in Hardtops either as Friesen won the Main Event ahead of Mike Judy, Jack Low, George Conner and Mart.  McKee and John Fuller completed the seven car field.

I also noticed that Conner is selling his car.  I watched George race at Antioch in Limited late Models and Hobby Stocks, and I think this Hardtop is a good car.  He's been pretty fast in it.  If you happen to be at a Hardtop show and see his #70 in action and want to get into this deal, go see George.  It might be the perfect opportunity to buy a car and go racing by the next race.

Does The Local Racing History Matter Anymore?

I was going to write something or post something I had written already, but I put it off.  Still wonder who is looking.  But, don't think for a minute I wasn't writing.  When I finished what I was working on, though, I did walk away.  I don't know what I'm going to do with it.  I don't know if anybody cares.  Maybe I just wrote it for myself.

My mind starts to wander when I write one of these posts, and this started out as a post about some times that influenced me in racing.  Going to Marion Heaton's garage or talking to the Brown brothers when I was a kid, going to the Nordstrom house and all I learned there.  Well, it turned into more than that.  In fact, I wrote a book chronicling my time in racing from beginning to end.  I pulled no punches and pointed the mirror at myself too.

It's all history, but does anybody care about that anymore?  I was talking to Don O'Keefe Jr.  We still lose all track of time talking about things, and I enjoy every minute of it.  I still keep track of things from afar and have opinions.  Back in 1998, I did my DCRR page.  I even did the first Antioch Speedway page before Dennis stepped in and showed me how it's done.  My only complaint is that Dennis should have handed the archived records over for use at the new page.   That page should at least have the points from the time John got the track in its archives.

But anyway, Don and I were talking back then, and I suggested he do a web page.  Well, that web page has been around for 15 years with a lot of that stuff archived.  He had a Spec Sprint page before anybody else, a Hardtop page was next and a Sportsman page as well.  Don has a passion for the sport, a good mind for it and he's done an excellent job.  His News & Rumors section is archived and is still a good read.

Well, Don did a page called Tracks Long Ago.  It's just a glimpse of the old days at Vallejo, San Jose and Antioch.  This is before the Vallejo Hardtop page or the nicely done West Capital Alumni page went up.  Something remarkable happened after that.  Don started getting e-mails from people along with photos.  So, Don encouraged people to send photos with their memories, and that page filled up.

Then another thing happened.  The nit pickers started popping up and telling him he had this wrong and that wrong.  I know about people like this.  They made it easier for me to walk away, so they could help make things better.  Folks, it's real simple.  That page is about people's memories.  If something is wrong with a memory or not completely factual, it's how the person who sent the stuff in remembers it.

Now, Don was never out to put up a history page, but just wanted to remember an era in racing that many people loved.  There was nothing out there at the time.  I probably could have helped make it more historically factual, because in my time in the sport, I uncovered lots of cool stuff.  Some is out there, some isn't.  I did send Don the pictures Chuck Smith let me scan from Antioch Speedway in the early 1970's.  I'm a little disappointed only a few people added their pictures to that page.

I thought there would be a big Sportsman page, but maybe that history doesn't mean anything.  Late Model Racer had an amazing thread on their forum about the Sportsman division at Merced.  Merced fans seem to care more about their track's history.  They even have a good Hall Of Fame discussion going there too.  My own post about Merced Stock Car drivers that came to Antioch is one of my top viewed posts on this page.

I begin to wonder if the history matters, or is it just destined to fade away?  There were lots of good times at tracks like Antioch Speedway.  Every track that's been around a while has its legends, its heroes and villains.  My goodness, Antioch has had that race track for over 50 consecutive racing seasons.  Petaluma has been around at least that long, Merced and Bakersfield and Watsonville have had tracks longer. 

We've gone from a time when it was THE thing to do to where it's not even in the top five for people anymore.  We've gone from a time where you had to earn a chance to even run a Main Event to if you run every race you could win the championship.  Times have changed that much.  I'd like to say if we had the technology today back then, the information and conversation on the web would be so much better, but would it really?

We had more big races back in the day.  At least one 100 lap event a year, sometimes even a 200 lapper.  More races that honored past greats.  In this era of technology, many tracks don't even know their own history very well.  I mentioned how the Antioch page doesn't even list the points from 1998 on, when John got the track.  I wonder if they even have those points lying around.  Maybe it doesn't matter anymore.  Maybe it's just live for the moment.

When it comes to a Hall Of Fame, maybe the fans have to take it out of the track's hands.  Do a little research and organize an event themselves.  A thread like the one on Late Model Racer's forum about Merced is a good place to start.  Then, just make it happen.  Start making inductions.  Set something up with the track and start honoring some of these legends. 

Hall of Fame night at the races has a nice ring to it.  Watsonville did that for a few years before they stopped.  It's one of the things I like about BCRA, because they have such a night every year.  It adds to the legacy of the organization, which may not be what it once was, but it's still here after all these years.

Maybe it's just a sign of the times.  Maybe all that matters is now.  Back then, you had guys like Gary Pacheco, Tom Abreau, Lonnie Williams, Ken Gonderman and Bill Brown inspiring guys like J.D. Willis, Dennis Furia, John Roy and Marv Wilson at Antioch.  Even in the 1980's, Steve Hendren, Bobby Scott and Jeff Silva followed in the foot steps of guys like Jim Pettit II, Dave Byrd and Bobby Hogge.  All were great champions, but I bet most fans don't remember most or any of them.

I don't have the answer.  I had a real passion for the sport for years and documented Antioch Speedway's history for years.  It mattered to me.  It seemed to matter to a lot of people back then.  It seems those days have faded away.  While the sport lives on, it's not the same.  Maybe it never will be.  Maybe it doesn't need to be.  Maybe the fact that it's still here is all that matters.

That's just a question for the fans to ask themselves.  With all that's going on in the world today, maybe just a night at the races is all that matters.  Who wins and loses isn't as important as just being there and having fun.  Maybe some of those great seasons past couldn't have happened had the world been as it is today.  I don't know.  It's something to think about.