Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Blast From The Past: A Brief Season Recap From Antioch Speedway 1998

Under the new leadership of John Soares Jr., Antioch Speedway ran a successful first season under the All Pro Series banner.  Most of the time, four or five divisions of racing were offered on the quarter-mile clay oval on Saturday nights.  Featured regularly were the Dirt Modifieds, Modified Street Stocks and Pure Stocks.  The Dwarf Cars, Late Models, 360 Sprint Cars and NCMA Modifieds also crowned 1998 Antioch champions, and visits from the BCRA Midgets and Midget Lites proved useful in deciding their respective series titles.  It was not an infrequent sight to see over 100 cars in the pits for an Antioch Speedway show this season.

With a trip to Australia on the line for the Dirt Modified championship, there was plenty of good racing on tap for the open wheel Stock Car class.  Several talented drivers stepped up to the forefront and became stars in the division.  An early season point struggle developed between seven time winner Don Shelton, three time winner Phil Pedlar, two time winner Dan Gonderman and one time winner Bob Newberry for the lead in the point battle.  Though Newberry and Gonderman both led the point race early on, it was Shelton who would take over by May and remain consistent enough down the stretch in his potent Pro Chassis to bring home his first track championship in his 14 year career.

Newberry's win over up and comer Mark Garner was perhaps the most exciting race of the season and brought the fans to their feet with a standing ovation.  Though Garner lost that night to the division's trophy dash win leader (Newberry with five), Mark eventually brought his family their first main event win at the track since 1982.  Garner wasn't alone in posting a first career win in the division.  The season ended with back to back first career wins for veteran Debi Clymens and Ed Leis.  It was perhaps the most competitive season ever in the division's nine year history.  Antioch wrapped up the season with the running of the $20,000 purse CarQuest 50, and it was Joey Hubbard picking up the surprise $5,000 victory.

The most exciting championship battle occurred in the Modified Street Stock division as Rob Waldrop and Daniel Hodges engaged in a see-saw battle that went down to the final race with several lead changes.  When seven time winner Hodges won the three features leading up to the finale, it gave him a slim lead, but three time winner Waldrop used a top five finish in the final race to win it all.  It was Waldrop's first championship in his 19 year career, and he received a much deserved standing ovation from the crowd after that final race.

Though veterans like David Rosa (once) and Tom Flanary (twice) found the winner's circle, 1998 will go down as a year that saw several drivers win their first feature or emerge as front runners.  In addition to Waldrop and Hodges, three time winner Todd Tadiello, one time winner Mike Walko and one time winner Chester Kniss also found the winner's circle.  Though not a feature winner, Lori Brown's ability to finish consistently in the top ten (17 times), got her ranked third in points, and rookie Billy Fraser, Jim Capoot and Charlie Bryant were also impressive, though not feature winners.  The season ended with the Mel & Sons Mufflers 50 with Chris Lancaster rejoining the division and picking up a victory.

The 1998 Pure Stock season belonged to eight time winner and rookie Donny Babb from the word go.  Even when he wasn't winning, it was a rare night in which Babb wasn't in the top five in the finish.  Three time winner Trevor Clymens and two time winner Lancaster were unable to overcome a couple of bad nights to challenge Babb for the lead, but they still impressed in their battle for second.  Other impressive efforts were turned in by two time winner Fred Baker and one time winners Tobi Madden, Mikey Slaney and Larry Tucker.  It was the first wins for Slaney and Madden.  The Pure Stock division grew by leaps and bounds this season and required semi mains for the first time ever, and they were rewarded by running for money this season and getting a 50 lap feature of their own on Mel & Sons Mufflers night.  That event was dominated by Babb, who is one of several drivers planning a move up from the division next year.

The All Pro Series Dwarf Cars enjoyed their first season at Antioch and put on a good show for the fans.  After visitor Frank Munroe opened the season with a victory, John Anderson rattled off five straight feature wins to take control of the point battle.  Anderson drove smart races and always seemed to be able to make his move when the time called for it.  That left the battle for second between Ray Etherton, Duane Jordan and Jim Barton with State champion Erherton coming out just ahead of Jordan.  Barton was the only driver with all top ten finishes in the division.  Howard Fergerson solidified his top ten status by dominating the finale and lapping most of the field.

The NCMA Modifieds called Antioch their home track with nine of their 18 races taking place at the track that gave them their start back in 1988.  Scott Holloway dominated the early going of the season, and the five time winner was never threatened after that.  It was Holloway's second Antioch title.  Three time winner Duane Watson was Holloway's closest pursuer down the stretch, but a bad night in the finale dropped him to fourth behind the two time dash winning duo of Ed Amador Sr. and Don O'Keefe Jr.  For O'Keefe, it was the first two dash wins of a 24 year racing career, the first coming on the night of the most exciting feature of the season.  Andy Archer won perhaps the race of the year at the track in a three car blanket race with Amador and Jeff Pike.  It was the first win for Archer.  The season also featured veteran Burt Siverling's first career dash win and a "Roland Lokmor Memorial Heat Race" win for Joe Kuderca.  The NCMA cars also got an open comp race under the All Pro Series banner with Henry Mitchell III scoring the rich win.

Elsewhere at the speedway, the Petaluma Late Models came to Antioch six times, and Ed Sans Jr. won five of those to add his second Antioch title to his third Petaluma crown.  Larry Damitz was consistently Sans' chief rival, but Jay Edens had the only other Antioch win.  Four 360 Sprint Car visits produced wins for Petaluma champ David Lindt Jr., Jim Van Lare, David Robinson Jr. and Dennis Binstock, but it was consistent top five finisher Gary Geving who would win the Antioch title.  The BCRA returned to Antioch for several events, including the London Bash Hall Of Fame picnic night.  The Bash was the only night of the year anywhere to feature BCRA's Midgets, Midget Lites and Vintage Midgets on the same card, and Scott Nail won a thriller to beat veteran Floyd Alvis for the feature win that night.  Defending Midget Lite champion Ryan German won his division's feature that night for his third win at the track.  The season at Antioch ended with the Mel & Son's Mufflers sponsored events, and veteran Chris Lancaster won the 200 lap Enduro that night.

1998 would have to be classified as a successful season of All Pro Series racing at Antioch, and 1999 is shaping up to be even better.  Look for the new Wingless Spec Sprint division to join the All Pro lineup of Dirt Modifieds, Modified Street Stocks, Pure Stocks and Dwarf Cars with scheduled visits for the North State Civil War Series, the BCRA Midgets and Midget Lites and the NCMA Modifieds.  SlicArt Screen Printing will continue to do the All Pro Series shirts, hats and other novelties for Antioch and Petaluma in 1999.