Friday, May 3, 2013

Racing Continues At Antioch and Merced

Critics At Watsonville, Low Key Playday At Chowchilla And Other Stuff

I just wanted to quote from the recent Antioch Speedway Story on the previous event.  I found it interesting, so here goes:

All kidding aside, let me comment on the a remark somebody made on the Late Model Racer forum about car count at Ocean Speedway Friday night.  Let me put it this way, 12 car divisions are better than no car divisions, don't you think?

I'm gonna go back to a comment made at the 1999 Antioch Speedway banquet, and no, it wasn't John who said it.  Close, but not quite.  The guy made the comment, "All we need is 15 cars per division."

Yeah, he really said that.  I mean, Antioch in 1999 and 2000 had its highest car counts EVER.  This is what John Soares Jr. brought with the All Pro Series.  We really only had five in house divisions at the time, just before we got the real bad case of Divisionits.

This was one thing I loved about the racing.  So, many cars we had to use the rodeo area to park them.  Lots of fans coming to watch and lots of people in the pits.  Dirt Mods, Hobbys, and Dwarf Cars had many B Mains during that time, and the Street Stocks had some as well.  C Mains for Pure Stocks sometimes.

You had to compete just to make the Main Event, just the way it should be.  People want to watch competition.  Spec Sprints were in their first season in 1999, never less than 12 cars in 1999 and B Mains the next season and for a few years after that.

So, to hear an insane comment like that bothered me.  Would you like us to start running drivers off to get to your magic number?  I just casually said, "I disagree (name withheld).  If you promote for 15 cars, you'll end up with 12."

These days, some tracks would love to have a 12 car division.  I won't say all is well at Ocean Speedway, but it could be worse too.  I seem to recall John Prentice getting that track and sparking a renaissance in car count for a few seasons.  Plus, he added 360 Sprints.

Love them or hate them.  I know Watsonville is a Stock Car town.  Always has been.  However, that Sprint Car show was there for the taking since San Jose closed, and it took Prentice and key people that I don't know all the names for (Kaeding?) to make this smart move.

It's real easy to make comments.  We all have opinions.  Just realize that though we have many tracks open in California right now, this can change very quickly. It's that simple.  It wasn't that many years ago when we started seeing tracks close, and we are damn lucky most of them reopened.

I do favor trying to merge divisions and getting back to making better car counts in fewer classes at various cost levels, but that's not easy to do.  It would take time if a plan were ever initiated.  It can be done, but it's easier to just maintain what you have.

Chowchilla Speedway has already had it's first Motorcycle race as of this writing and a playday for cars last Sunday.  Few details have emerged so far, which is disappointing.  Guys, it's not that hard to start a web page or even post a few photos over at forums like Late Model Racer.

What little is out there makes it sound like it went well, and plans are for Dirt Mods and Sport Mods to race there and whatever other divisions can get cars.  Dirt Mods sort of bailed on Kenny Shepherd when he had the place, though I think some guys would still race there.

Sport Mods at Chowchilla sparked the Sport Mod movement, which hadn't been growing much at Merced and was starting to take off at Victorville.  When it happened at Chowchilla, people took notice, and now Watsonville, Hanford, Bakersfield and Antioch are on the bandwagon.  Chowchilla should get cars for it.

The problem is they aren't off to a good start in the hype department. You can't just open the track in secret and expect people to make plans.  Hype is the name of the game, and then deliver on race night.  It can happen.  I see they have a Facebook page, but not much on it so far.

I have been writing quite a bit.  Why, I don't know.  Feels like time has past and maybe I should just go away again.  Last week I put a couple more articles together for future postings.  One looking at some of the times of change in racing, and another sort of looks at some things from my fist ten years of going to the races.

Then, there was more note gathering and trying to get a few point lists together that were missing from my files from other tracks.  Some of that was a pain in the butt, but it's done.  My notes from not just Antioch, but Merced, Watsonville and Petaluma are coming together.

Speaking of Merced Speedway, I just looked at this interesting video from the nine car Sportsman feature last Saturday.  The racing is looking pretty good there, and I like seeing more of the drivers showing up there at the same time.  Much better show that way.

Car count wasn't as great as hoped, but still okay.  It should serve to remind everybody that the season goes one week at a time.  There will be high marks and low marks.  I worry about Merced, because they flocked back to the track when John brought it back, but steadily bailed on him.

With Doug as GM, car count popped again, but it could fall on him too.  I don't want to see that.  It's not easy running a race track.  Lots of things can go wrong.  Doug is hearing a lot of the positives, which is good.  Lots of times you either get the negative when it goes wrong or ignored when it goes right.

I'm sure Mike will have this covered, but Mike Villanueva (IMCA Modifieds), Shane Hausmann (Valley Sportsman and Hobby Stock) and Josh Strickland (Mini Stocks) were the winners.  Not sure where all the Mini Stocks were, but there should be more.  Otherwise, the show sounded good.  Hausmann is a force in the Sportsman division.

My expectations of what would be at Antioch Speedway were met.  No break out car counts, but nothing too bad.  Well, the Mini Trucks didn't have anybody.  This happened at Merced too.  One day, Chuck Griffin is starting this class and some future big names are racing.  Then one season, everybody stopped racing.  They wouldn't even go to Chowchilla.

Melissa Myers-Hansen led the Hobby Stock podium finish of Kimo Oreta and Chris Brown at Antioch.  She is the class of the field in that division.  Her experience pays off.  Her team has been producing videos for years now, but they've really taken it up a notch with their latest one.

There is an in car camera facing front and back, and in car look at the driver and somebody filming from the grandstands.  I would suggest other drivers in the division watch this video and observe and learn.  It's only going to help them improve on their driving style.  As for Melissa, I have no doubt she can win this deal again, but I'd love to see her drive the Super Stock again if she still has it.

I also noticed John Meyers announcing again.  I'm happy he's doing better.  I had heard reports that he wasn't too well off.  I know he loves announcing and has always had fun with it.  I don't believe anybody has announced at the track longer than him.  Maybe someday I'll show up out there and say hi. 

Back in 1999, we started this crazy deal called Wingless Spec Sprints, and Dan Gonderman and "Rockin" Richard Panfili were in that field.  A year later, "Rallying" Roy Fisher joined the class.  Well, all three of them were there for the opening of this division's 15th season.  How cool is that?

So, Gary Nelson Jr. picked up a feature win ahead of Ocean Speedway ace Jimmy Christian.  I read over at Antioch Speedway's Facebook page about this kid named Shane Myhare, who was planning to make his debut.  Like so many others in this division's past, he raced at Delta Speedway.  He was the wingless champion last season.

Well, as it turned out, Shane grabbed a podium finish in third.  Not too shabby for his Spec Sprint debut.  The word is this kid could be a contender, so maybe that first win in this division isn't too far off in his future? 

Who do you send in to stop "The Sundrop Kid" in the Super Stocks at Antioch Speedway?  Well, "The Blue Knight" would be a good place to start.  I don't think they call Mike Gustafson that anymore, but they were calling the 1980 Sportsman champion that back in the day.  Well, Mike won the opener ahead of fellow former champion "Leadfoot" Lori Brown and Mike Hynes.

I'd like to see a few more cars.  I know there are more out there.  There were six for the opener, which is pretty much what I expected.  I noticed former top ten Dirt Modified driver Mark Garner was in the field.  This is a fun class to watch, so I hope more cars start showing up and making it more interesting.

I'm not too familiar with the names in the Four Banger class, but that's not too surprising.  It's a a starter class, and it's been ten years since I was at the track.  When I see names like Coe, Gonderman and Curran, I'm guessing these are next generation drivers.  All three names have won championships in the past at the speedway.

In fact, Abigail Gonderman is driving #87, which was driven by (I presume her grandfather) Ken Gonderman in Late Models in the 1980's.  She's driven Four Bangers before and won a heat race on this night before a third in the feature.  Jason Coe (related to Robert Coe?) won a heat race as well. 

Brent Curran (related to Brian?) was sixth in the feature.  Maybe better luck next time, but this night belonged to Coe, who also won the Main Event ahead of Fred Radabaugh.  Also noticed Ken Radabaugh was last in the nine car field.  Ken chased Patti Ryland for two years in this division (2009-10) before settling for second.  He was third in Mini Trucks in 2011, but I'm guessing he's back in Four Bangers again?

Anyway, I've rambled enough for one post.  Antioch has a stacked show this week with 360 Winged Sprints, IMCA Modifieds, Super Stocks, Super Hobby Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Mini Truck and Four Bangers.  This one should be good just for IMCA Mods, 360 Sprints and Hobbys alone, but a few questions will be answered about the other divisions.  More cars would be a good thing.

Merced has been really hyping up IMCA Sport Mods and had a strong car count there last time.  They return along with IMCA Modifieds, Mini Stocks and Dwarf Cars.  I've noticed Tom Sagmiller trying to spread the word on various forums to get more Dwarf Cars to come.  If they do support the show, it should make for an even better race.

Also, Mike McCann will usher in a new era at Orland Speedbowl with this week's season opener on Saturday.  Here's hoping for good things for this track.  I have nothing but confidence in Mike's ability get things going up there.

In any event, here's to a good racing weekend all around, wherever you go.