Thursday, April 18, 2013

Some Thoughts On The Recent Race At Antioch Speedway And Writing Stories

I guess writing stories for racing is becoming a lost art.  I know I lived it for several years.  I tried to do my best.  Gary Jacob lived to put the word out about every track he could.  If there was no writer for a track and he could get the results, he wrote a story.  If somebody took notes and faxed them to him, he wrote the story.

Maybe it's the age we live in now.  The wonderful internet.  You can go to the track page and in a matter of moments and get results.  There may be a story, maybe not, but the results are up at most track web sites.  Sometimes there are pictures too.  But the story that conveys the excitement and the passion of the races is gone or fading fast.

I'm not going to get into what needs to be done.  If you read my writings here (does anybody?), you know that I feel that more can be done to generate excitement than is currently being done.  I would love to see people start blogs with race reports.  Get the word out there.  Antioch Speedway for a while had no stories and they came calling on me six years later.

I declined, but me being the idiot I am, I wrote stories for every race that season and hyped each race.  Why?  When I get a clear answer as to why I would put the hours in for free that year, I'll be sure to let you know.  I wrote based on statistics and photos, and then I saw videos and spent time viewing and reviewing to put a story together.  I think I did okay for somebody who hasn't attended a race in California since 2003.

We live in a digital age.  Information can come in a moment.  This was the case when Joe Martinez and I started CRO back in 2000.  To this day, nothing in California touches what we had.  I'm not saying that to brag, but rather to point out how sad it is that nobody has made a real effort to have a California racing news site.  The problem is it can be lots of work, and good luck getting compensated for that work.  So, if you don't love the sport, you may not see the point.

Gary Jacob did it for the love of the sport.  I did too.  My problem was I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and would get upset when I thought things weren't right.  I'd try to make a difference and either bring about positive change, piss somebody off or both (at the same time in some cases).  Gary steered away from politics, other than helping a track gain cars for big races by helping spread the word from driver to driver.

In 2013, there is no Gary Jacob.  Nobody is even trying to do what he did.  Well, back in the 90's, we still had several magazines, and that's how people got the information.  Gary wrote for as many as he could.  If he let me know about a magazine needing stories, I would write for them too.  I was nobody special.  Just a kid from the stands who loved the sport.

I picked up a pen and paper and took notes, even learned how to score keep.  A person doesn't have to do that.  In fact, you can take basic notes and report each division's main event in four to eight sentences.  Just a paragraph or two each division.  Who won, what lap did they get the lead, anything interesting from that race you think is noteworthy.

Type it, put it out on a blog, a message board or whatever.  I know it won't happen, because it's work.  In this information age, people only want to post Facebook updates or two or three sentence comments on message boards.  If the net had come to fruition a decade earlier, Gary Jacob could have had a heck of a web page himself.

I got to stay at his place on occasion, and he'd be up a few hours after the race, typing that story and a few others before bed.  That was not unusual for him.  I can only imagine a page of his being updated as the stories were written and how many hits it would have generated.  As it was, his stories are still up at some places like Racing West, but he loved the printed media.

So, I look at Antioch SpeedwayMike Adaskaveg can't be in two places at once, so he covered Merced Speedway last week, and did a nice job I might add.  The raw stats are up at the Antioch Speedway site.  Chris Martin won the Winged 360 Sprints, Troy Foulger won the Dirt Modifieds, returning (how many time?) champion Ricardo Rivera won Dwarf Cars, Kimo Oreta won Hobby Stocks, Jim Robbins won Super Hobby Stocks and the two Mini Truck feature went to Travis Hensley.  There were 63 cars.

I look at that list of IMCA Modifieds, and it has some impressive names.  Scott Busby was there.  Goodness, I remember Scott way back in 1979 racing Street Stocks and winning many races.  He got a Sportsman a year later and within two years, that was it.  He was gone.  His brother "Flip Over" Phil Busby drove the Street Stock for a season too.

There was nobody doing more to get drivers into the Dirt Modified class in Contra Costa County than Scott.  Yeah, he won four championships (three in a row), but there were lots of drivers at Antioch running Harris Modifieds  The West Coast nationals was pretty much his idea, and there were a record 83 cars in that first race in 1993.  I'd love to see Scott try to dethrone the reigning champion Troy Foulger.

You know, there aren't too many drivers who have earned the coveted "threepeat" honors at Antioch.  I remember when Troy Shirk had that painted on the back of his car after his second championship.  The third one never came.  To my knowledge, Only Ricardo Rivera, John Keldsen, Scott Busby and Foulger have done it.  Foulger is attempting to chart unknown territory this season with four in a row.  If anybody can do it, he can, but I hope they don't make it easy for him.

Kellen Chadwick, another past champion, was there.  This kid has talent.  He has won some of the biggest Modified races on the west coast.  I knew he had the talent way back when he started racing at Delta Speedway.  It's a shame he didn't move out to Indiana or some place and follow the dream.  We may he watching him on TV right now.  He was that good.

"Quick" Nick Caughman Jr.  Man, I remember when those "West County" boys started coming out and racing at Antioch in the 90's.  Speaking of which, "The Richmond Rocket" Bobby Motts Jr. was also there.  Bobby won a Street Stock championship at Antioch  I want to say Nick won one at Petaluma, but I'm too lazy to go through my notes.  I remember when Nick won his first Dirt Modified feature.  Nick and Bobby are both tough competitors.

"The Piledriver" Dan Gonderman.  He switches between Modifieds, where's he was once top three ranked, and Spec Sprints, where he's a two time champion at Antioch.  Let's not forget his top five ranking in Street Stocks.  He's won on every level, but it's not surprising.  His father is the legendary Sportsman champion Ken Gonderman, and his brother Dave Gonderman is two time a Sportsman feature winner and top five Street Stock racer.  Lot's of respect for the Gonderman family.

Ed "Crash" Daviess?  I really respect guys like Ed who come out there and run in the B Mains and C Mains before being feature winners.  It shows how hard work pays off.  Ed became one of the top drivers in this division and a feature winner during the last decade.  It's nice to see him back in action.

I saw Jeff Decker's name.  I was wondering why he wasn't in a Late Model last week.  I've been out of the loop, but I know Jeff is a Petaluma Late Model champion.  He's no slouch in a Dirt Modified either.  Mike Meazell?  Yeah, Limited Late  Model and Hobby Stock champion and just a guy who loves racing wherever he can.  I respect Mike because he was one who would go racing and support the races he was asking for.

Jim DiGiovanni?  Another Modified champion.  Trent Wentworth?  I recall him racing Street Stocks and having much potential.  Jake Dewsberry.  Nice to see him in a Modified.  I seem to recall he drove Mini Trucks and Hobby Stocks back in the day.

Anthony Slaney?  Would this be Mikey Slaney's son?  I remember when the Slaney's came to Antioch.  Good racing family.  Mikey had competed in D-Derbies, but he became a top Hobby Stock and Limited Late Model competitor.  Heck, grandpa Slaney competed in Hobby Stocks one season.  Three generations were at the track.  Anthony had a top five season in Modifieds last year.  Not surprising to me.

I was about to say I didn't recognize the rest of the Modified names,  but then I saw Aaron "Crazy Man" Crowell's name.  He was a tough competitor from the start in the Street Stocks, so seeing him run up front in Modifieds was not a surprise.  I don't recognize the names of Jeremy Crebs and Dale Kunz, but it's great that they were out there racing among the 16 competitors.

Let me just say that if this is what the IMCA Modified roster will look like at Antioch, it will be a good show for the fans.  Some good talent out there.  They will have to be to beat Foulger.  You see, Troy won the main event on this night.  Heat winner Chadwick made him work for it in second as Decker, Crowell and Motts rounded out the top five.  I don't believe Busby finished, but he won a heat race.

I suppose it wouldn't be a 360 Sprint Car race at Antioch without veteran Art McCarthy in the mix.  Art is a past Petaluma champion and a tough competitor.  Speaking of past champions, wasn't "Cowboy" Craig Smith the last 360 Sprint champion at Antioch?  He was there again.  2004 Marysville Spec Sprint champion Chris Magoon made his debut, and Spec Sprint graduate Billy Aton was in the mix as well.

I recognized the name of Chase Wood as a 360 Sprint competitor over the last decade or so.  Jake Haulot was there was well, and I believe he's related to former Petaluma Late Model racer Dan Haulot.  His son?  Haulot and Kirk Simpson both have raced at Petaluma in recent years.

On this night, a driver I didn't recognize, Chris Martin, came home with the victory in the nine car field ahead of Smith, Simpson, Magoon and Wood.  Aton and Carson McCarl won heat races.  I'm not sure how management felt about the car count, but I do know that bigger car counts in this class won't happen over night.  You have to put in the time to make it happen.

The only driver I can think of who may have won more Main Events in the last decade than Ricardo Rivera at Antioch is maybe Troy Foulger.  Ricardo is the unstoppable force in Antioch Dwarf Cars.  Start him in the back and he'll still find a way to win.  He came in through another top notch competitor and champion, Jim Barton, who has since retired.  This team is as fast as they come.

I don't know how old Charlie "The Hammer" Correia is, but the man keeps on racing.  He goes back a few decades, and he's won his share of features during that time.  He and Mike Corsaro have been Dwarf Car teammates for several years now.  I will say that a writer looking for exciting stories from the past would do well to talk to Charlie.  Guys like him make it fun to watch.

The Jordan family has been a booster of Dwarf Cars since the class came to California at Delta Speedway in 1991.  I think it may have been Curt Jordan.  I know he won his share of races.  Duane or Curt may have won a Modified Mini Stock championship at Petaluma in the late 80's or early 90's before moving to Dwarf Cars (Need to check my notes.).  Anyway, Duane Jordan was in this 17 car Dwarf Car field.

It's hard not to recognize the name of Danny Wagner since I believe we live nearby.  I used to see him towing his Mini Truck, which he won several races in.  Danny is adapting well to Dwarf Cars, which doesn't surprise me.  Past champion Jerry Doty was also back in action.  Interesting to note Doty raced a Late Model at Baylands back around 1984-85. 

Speaking of Baylands, the Teves family ran Street Stocks there around that time.  I believe there was Ray, George and Johnny if memory serves.  I don't know if they are related, but David and Adam Teves both competed in this event.  Another familiar name I noticed was Sonny Calkins.  Sonny raced Street Stocks at Petaluma going way back and I think has since won a Dwarf Car championship there.

So, with a good field of cars, Rivera, who I don't believe raced last season, won the feature.  After winning this heat race, Wagner was hoping to grab the prize in the feature, but he had to settle for second.  D. Teves was third ahead of Calkins and heat winner Corsaro.  D. Jordan ended up eighth, but he did win the Trophy Dash.

I'm not going to pretend I know who most of the 15 Hobby Stock competitors were.  I know Kimo Oreta has been making some noise up front for the last couple years, but Street Stock and Hobby Stock champion Melissa Myers-Hansen has been the driver to beat.  I'd love to see that lady in a Dirt Modified or a Late Model at some point, because I bet she could hang with the best of them.

Didn't Jim Freethy claim the win in the 100 lapper last year?  I wouldn't be surprised, because he has won his share of races.  Jim has raced both Hobbys and Limited Late Models and is a threat in either class.  I noticed Gary Filpula among the names.  I believe he is related to Bob Filpula, who raced a little at Antioch in the 1980's.  Nick Viscusi I recognize because I was ghost writing Antioch stories when he came out with a car he planned to run in Enduros.

Well, K. Oreta won the race, but not surprisingly Jim Freethy and heat winner Melissa Myers-Hansen were behind him in second and third.  Is this a preview of this season's championship battle?  Kevin Rickner and Dan Smith completed the top five.  Viscusi DNF'ed but did win a heat race.  I would be remiss if I forgot the sixth place finish of Chris Brown, the son of an old friend and one of my favorite drivers to watch back in the day, "Bouncin" Bobby Brown.

Most people would ignore the rest as there were six cars in the other two classes.  I knew the trucks were on hard times, but really, two trucks guys?  You gotta do better than that.  Is this what happens when Pete's trucks aren't there?  I wasn't a huge advocate of trucks at Antioch as we had enough divisions.  Within a couple seasons, there were 14-18 trucks showing up.

I followed as Chuck Griffin added this class at Merced in the 1990's, and this may have been his greatest decision at promoter at that track.  Chuck actually did a few things I liked, like Cal Mods and bringing back the Sportsman division.  Why are Mini Trucks so important there?  You do realize the caliber of driver this added to the pits at Merced, don't you?  Heck, I recall Chuck booking dates at Antioch and Watsonville and hoping to convince NASCAR to add the class.

Well, thanks to that division, you got the Stone family (Ramie, Troy, Steve and Paul).  All four went on to be champions.  Let's not forget Jack Stanford, Marcus Aue, John Clarke, David and Brian Ipock.  We even saw veterans Joe Diaz Jr. and Bob Terry in these trucks.  This division had win written all over it.  You Merced fans may know this.  Imagine what Merced Speedway would have been without Mini Trucks.

So, when two trucks show up, I'm a little disappointed.  I've been thinking that it might be time to consider running the Mini Trucks with Four Bangers together to increase the field  Then, two trucks show up.  One race doesn't make the deal, and it's not like this is a big purse class, but come on guys.  Anyway, a pat on the back to Travis Hensley and Tim Hensley for their 1-2 finish in the heat and main.  They showed.  It's not their fault nobody else did.

I was expecting more than four Super Hobbys to race.  This division was pretty much added as a result of all the parked Street Stocks after John merged them with the Limited Late Models.  There are at least a dozen cars out there, so four is disappointing.   Not too familiar with Mitchell Locicere and Dustin Himes.

Gene Haney is the defending champion and I believe a past Mini Truck champion as well.  Seems like the Haney family has been in at least four different classes at the track (maybe five) during the last decade or so.  It's nice to see Gene supporting the cause, but let's hope he gets more competition this year (not that he didn't have enough this time).

That's because "Wild" Jim Robbins won both the heat and main ahead of Haney this time out.  There have been four generations of Robbins to race at Antioch through the years.  Jim is the third generation and the 2002 Figure 8 champion.  His father Don is the 1974 Stock Car champion at Antioch.  Having spoken with Jim recently, I know how much he loves racing at the track and what it's meant to him.

So, this isn't a story about the show at Antioch last week.  Well, maybe it is a little bit, but I would rather read new reports by somebody on the scene.  I've already spent much longer than I planned to on this article.  Not sure if anybody will even be reading it, and that's okay.  I don't intend to do this every week, but I wanted to comment on last week's races and some memories I have of some of the racers who were there.