Sunday, March 10, 2013

New Tracks, Big Races And Other Cool Stuff

This post was to be written near the end of the 2012 season, but it never made it out of my head. I did have a few ideas that I wanted to use for it, but that's as far as it went.  I write and post it now, just because I wanted it on the record here.

Hayfork Speedway Finally Opens

Back in July, Hayfork Speedway held it's first practice. Several cars showed up from different divisions to take a run at the new quarter-mile dirt track at the Trinity County Fairgrounds.  We broke the news on the DCRRBook Blog a few years ago that they were opening this race track.  It amazed me that in a time when tracks were closing, this new track was opening.  Actually, even if car count hasn't been that great at some places, tracks are opening everywhere.  Another track to hear the roaring of the race car engines in 2012 was the legendary Rocky Hill Speedway in Porterville.  This was amazing news to me as there have been rumors for several years.  With the right effort, they made it happen.

And that's what they did in Hayfork.  Undoubtedly, people told them they were crazy, but guess what?  They weren't.  They were dreamers who love racing.  There isn't a big racing community in the area.  People race at Shasta on the pavement or Yreka on the dirt.  So, it was probably a good thing that this thing did take some time to get going while racers prepared their cars.  However, the enthusiasm was evident in the small but dedicated group of races who put the first laps on the track into the record books in July.

It wasn't a big group of cars that raced in the first event, the Clyde Cordell Memorial Bomber Race, but eight drivers came to put on a show.  Larry Leach wrote his name into the record books as the first feature winner ahead of Ryan Wynia and Chuck Hackbarth.  Three Dirt Modifieds were also on hand with Susanville stars Nevin Kennemore and Wade Kennemore grabbing first and second.  Shasta veteran Stan Gunderson was third.  In October, they put up some good money for a regular show.  It was a pair of Orland Mini Truck aces, Jim Davis and Ross Vige going, 1-2 to collect $300 and $200, respectively.  Bill Noble was a $100 third.   The same money was on the line for Bombers, and Wayne Lowe collected first prize ahead of Ryan Wynia and Kevin Kasper.

First, I offer my congratulations to the entire staff of Hayfork Speedway for making their dream a reality.  To open a new track that didn't have a recent history (not sure about the distant past) in auto racing and successfully hold races in this day and age is huge.  The only story I can think of that was bigger was Tom Sagmiller and Chowchilla Speedway back in 2000, but this is pretty damn cool.  Now people can ask, where the heck is Hayfork?  Head up to North Western California to Trinity County, and you'll find it.

My thinking is they should stick with entry level stuff to build it up.  Things like Mini Stocks, Hornets, Bombers and that sort of thing.  If you are to get locals to build cars, this is how you do it.  Having a Lance Cline type of person building cars and helping get things going would be a plus.  Fortunately, this is what they are doing.  Start slow, build it up, don't get in over your head and make it happen.  And to racers and fans, get out there and support the track when there are races (there aren't too many scheduled this year) and be positive about things.  Help them out if you can with things that need improvement and make this a community environment.  You do this, and I  see good things in the future for Hayfork Speedway.

Speaking Of New Tracks And Change 
(This wasn't part of the planned post, but to heck with it.  I'm on a roll here)

First, the change.  Orland Speedway is under new management.  First, I want to congratulate the team that reopened Orland.  You are probably hearing the negative crap if I know the racing community.  Maybe things weren't perfect, but you made it happen again.  Thank you for that.  People in Orland know that this track has a pretty good racing tradition over the last 30 years or so, and you made sure it continued.  I remain a fan of what the Turners did with Orland during their tenure.  Even if it didn't end strong, look at the cool things they accomplished.  I mean, Spec Sprints and a big show with nearly 30 cars on that track?  Orland is a track of great potential, and the new management knows this.

But, the previous management crowned champions in 2012.  When they opened up, they didn't do points, because the priority was just to open the gates and make it happen again.  But, they kept points last year, and Robert Hunt (Mini Stocks), Ross Vige (Mini Trucks), Steve Martin (Pure Stocks), Felisha Jacobo (Lady Spec Sprints) and Mike Gomez (Street Stocks) topped the point earners list in their respective divisions.  I found it interesting that the guys all turned their Spec Sprints over to the ladies.  Great way to make it more of a family affair.  So, the previous management left the incoming management with some positive things to build on.

And, who is that new promoter?  None other than Mr. Mike McCann.  I've got to tell you, if you want a man to build things up at a race track, you can't do much better than Mike McCann.  His record at tracks like Cottage Grove, Eugene and Banks, to name a few, speaks for itself.  He is a former "Promoter Of The Year" award winner, and deservedly so.  Mike has been rumored to be coming to this place or that place.  I'm sure he was looking, but he'll go where he feels he can make the most difference.

With Orland, there is a lot of potential.  The first thing to change was the name.  It is now Orland Speedbowl.  I'm just speculating, and I'm sure details have been revealed at meetings already held with the racers, but I'd bet he's working on the racing surface and already has improvements in mind or in the works.  Now, Orland has a strong tradition with Mini Stocks, Mini Trucks and Hobby Stocks. Those divisions will continue.  I would hope all of the racers take note of that and get behind the new management.

When the Turners started holding Spec Sprint races over a decade ago, it may have surprised people.  The Jacobo family was an instigator in this with the first two cars, but they knew a good thing when they saw it.  Cars were built and big races happened, including a big money race with nearly 30 cars.  Mike undoubtedly sees the potential to get that division back to strength, and I think it can happen for Orland.  Plus, he's already booked a Hunt Series race which should mean quite a few cars that night.

Mike's appreciation for open wheel racing means 600 Mini Sprints will be there.  When you think of all the talent that has come up through that division in the past decade or two, this is a good move for Orland.  Orland will run some Limited Winged Sprint Races and will welcome the BCRA Midgets for a visit as well.

But Mike, and his friend and another respected promoter, Chuck Prather, are partly responsible for something that has been gathering momentum California for the past decade.  Mike had a Hardtop division when he promoted the track in Banks, Oregon, and I happened to be in Sacramento the night they invaded there.  Immediately, the talk began about starting something in California and people started hunting for old Hardtops.  Mike will be booking several Hardtop races at Orland this season.

So, I believe Orland Speedbowl is in very good hands with Mike McCann.  I felt like the track was on the cusp of something big in the last decade, but hard times came with the declining economy.  I think if the racers get on board and support the effort, things will only get better.  Isn't that what any race fan wants?

In recent years, John Soares Jr. has started something big by booking World of Outlaw races at Antioch and Merced.  I know, WoO in California is nothing new, but the organization has shown lots of interest in increasing it's presence here.  What John has done by booking them and the King Of The West Series has helped the cause of 410 Sprint Car racing in the state, and booking WoO was beyond amazing.

Now, we get word of the next new dirt track to open, and that is Stockton 99 Dirt Speedway.  Stockton fans now have three tracks, thanks to the efforts of Tony Noceti.  Tony, who has been running Stockton 99 Speedway in recent years, decided to make use of the dirt at the horse track on the fairgrounds property.  One of the big motivators was the WoO date he will be hosting very soon, but that's not all.

Stockton 99 Dirt will run a limited schedule of special events, and this will include some special series events that will link Stockton, Antioch, Petaluma and Chico for a special series of Modified races with it's own championship fund and special purse.  I know Antioch racers always wanted a track a little closer to visit from time to time, and this track isn't that far away.  This is an exciting time to be a race fan, and I certainly wish Tony well with this new endeavor.  Hopefully, the racers and fans show their support.

Hardtops With BCRA

I'm still figuring all of this out, but there appears to be a splinter group of Hardtops in California.  It was Conrad Cavallero, the veteran of the Sportsman and Super Stock divisions, who spearheaded the effort to give this division a comeback after what McCann and Prather had been doing with their own effort up north.  Conrad's leadership saw Hardtop racing return to several venues on the pavement and dirt.  I'm not sure if it influenced the Okie Bowl Hardtops effort in Bakersfield, but they certainly have a good thing going there as well.

Now, there is a new group claiming race dates.  I understand Petaluma, where several dates are booked, has said that all Hardtops are welcome as these are Petaluma races.  That, at least, is good news.   Now is not the time for a rift.  BCRA, which sanctioned Hardtops from the late 1940's through the mid 1960's, is planning to do so again.  One has to wonder if they should concentrate more on making a stronger Midget division, but you do what you have to do to stay afloat.  BCRA was there to pick up the pieces and give the Mini Sprints a home, so we'll see.

One thing I will say is regardless of what people may think of Conrad, they should appreciate that he got this ball rolling and was the main representative when it started.  It may be that leadership is changing.  This happens sometimes, but I will just say thanks to Conrad and Mike McClure and all of those who jumped on board early to make it happen.  Your efforts made it happen.  As far as everything else goes, I hope that we can keep everybody on the same page, because this thing is on the verge of getting huge.  I noticed a similar thing happen with the Sportsman class in it's third year back at Merced, and it took a while for that class to recover after that.  Remember, it's all about having fun, not politics.

Dwarf Cars At Dixon

Back to what I planned to post last year.  This is old news, but I stumbled across it when somebody (probably one of the DeCarlo clan) posted on a forum that CORA Speedway in Dixon wanted to host Dwarf Cars and Four Bangers around Memorial Day Weekend last year.  I loved the idea.  This probably comes from the opportunities I got to see racing at Delta Speedway when it was Mini Sprints, Dwarf Cars and Mini Stocks (Something I want to do is a special post about in the future).  The first thing I did was look around, and I discovered Dwarf Cars raced at Dixon in February on 2012 with about a half dozen cars.

There is actually a YouTube video of that race, and they were getting around the one-fifth mile dirt oval pretty well.  From what I gathered, NorCal Dwarf Car competitors topped the field as Shawn Jones won ahead of Brian Quilty and Kevin Bender.  I wanted to put that on the record here too.  I tracked down some results from Turlock's Dwarf Car event in an older post.  Never could find the results from Salinas from a few years back, but I love this obscure stuff. 

I love the idea of these dwarf cars drivers trying to put on a show on these smaller tracks.  On an unrelated note, I was searching YouTube for a video of a guy named Hoagland from a radio show I listen to on occasion, and I found the coolest thing.  This place called Hoagland Arena, I guess, holds Destruction Derbies where the derby cars race around a Figure 8 in a tight rodeo arena, trying not to get hit.  They race that way quite a bit, I guess, and that type of race was an inspiration for a video game I used to play called Destruction Derby and Figure 8.

Anyway, I applaud the staff at Dixon for doing this.  I should point out that before CORA came to be, I had an occasion to stop by and check out the one-fifth mile dirt oval.  This was on the way home with Don O'Keefe Jr., from the RPM Meeting in Reno in 2000, I think.  I had heard rumblings of the old Bill Fairhurst Street Stock being run on that track as well as a few other cars from various divisions, and it got me thinking.  I had the bright idea of having a gathering of racers there to practice and set some track records, see what they thought of the place's potential and maybe approach the property owner.  I wrote about it in a post I never put up.  Maybe I finally will.

Anyway, no Four Bangers showed up for the race as far as I could tell.  I actually think they would be perfect for that place, and I would just say if they want to add this class they should just schedule it.  If they are serious about it, cars will get built and cars from other tracks will visit.  If you book it, they will eventually come.  I'd love to see them run four bangers and stuff like that there.  It worked so well for Delta Speedway in Stockton.  I think even Vallejo Speedway 2 had a go at Mini Stocks for a while.  The thing you encounter is the micro midgets have problems with the track on those nights from what I hear.  But all of that can be worked out with the right amount of effort.

Finally, John Soares Sr. Gets His Race

I should have known Jim Soares and BCRA would be the first to step up and do a Johnny Soares Classic.  It happened last September, and Shane Golobic wrote his name into the record books as the first winner.  It also figures that BCRA would be involved.  They are the only group in NorCal that I know of that cares about racing history.  It doesn't surprise me that Jim would make Petaluma Speedway the track that held the event either.

Honestly, guys, I don't just ramble on about tradition for nothing.  I know it sounds corny, but it means something, dammit.   I personally feel that any track that has been active for at least 20 years should start a Hall Of Fame and have special races to honor competitors from the past.  This is also a way to tie a track in with their local community.  Like saying, "We're a part of Antioch (or wherever) and our racers are a part of this community."

In my opinion, Petaluma and Antioch should have held races for John a long time ago.  Maybe even a weekend with one race at Antioch and one at Petaluma. Congratulations on Jim and BCRA for putting on a big 100 lapper for the Mighty Midgets to honor a great man.  Not to mention "Pops" was a two time BCRA Hardtop champion.  May this continue to be a traditional race at Petaluma Speedway.

But, honestly, we should never forget a man like John Soares Sr.  Marysville has it right with the Mell Hall Memorial Race for all he did for that track and Grass Valley.  Santa Maria honors the late Doug Fort for what he meant to that great race track.  This is how it should be.  I would love to see a whole series named after Bob Barkhimer, a man who practically put California racing on the map.  While we're at it, how about a big race at Watsonville for the late Bert Moreland.  Guys like these paved the way to make short track racing here in California something special and we should NEVER forget them.