Thursday, May 23, 2013

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.