Friday, June 14, 2013

Racing News And Observations From Here And There

I had a few things on the desk I wanted to comment on, including the racing at Antioch, Merced, Chowchilla, Orland and Hayfork and a little about the Hardtops.  So, let me jump right in.

I saw the announcement on Antioch Speedway's Facebook Page about the Super Hobbys running with the Super Stocks.  There was a bit of an uproar and a reminder that people should keep it civil on the page.  Really guys, if you aren't gonna bring your cars to the races, you shouldn't be surprised when a decision is made to merge divisions..  Fans want to see a car count.

Here's the deal.  Maybe I'm making assumptions here, but I think part of why Super Hobbys were added in the first place was that John wanted to get back the cars lost when he merged Street Stocks and Limited Late Models.  In a year, most of the Street Stocks were parked.  I was not a fan of that merger, but it was either that or kill the Limited Lates. 

The merger ended up killing Street Stocks.  I'm just on the side lines, but the numbers on average were about 12 Streets per race and 5-6 Limited Lates.  So, yeah, it killed the class.  A couple years later, John tries to get it back.  This is season three of the Super Hobbys.  Last year, there were 13 different cars, so three or four cars showing up does not cut it. 

Honestly, there shouldn't be a problem.  If you want the division, bring the cars and go racing.  Then, you'll have a division.  As there will be a merger, I would suggest the guys get their cars back out there and fight for the class.  Maybe you get your own heat race first, and if you can get the cars, you get your own race again.  The cars are there.  Somehow, I think maybe two or three cars will be what's left in the end.

The trucks have done the same thing they did at Merced back in 2000.  Things were golden for a while, but one day they stopped coming.  No reason why, they just stopped.  So, what's left for them?  I suppose they can run with Four Bangers, though I never heard an official word.  I don't see John turning away cars, so we'll see.  I guess it was bound to happen.

A source of pride for me is that those Spec Sprints are still out there in season #15 and doing okay.  Limited Late Models and Mini Trucks were founded afterwards, and both have had their pit falls.  As a keeper of the records, I'm not sure where to classify the Super Stocks history.  Do wins go towards the Street Stock record book or the Limited Late Models?  I lean towards Street Stocks on that, but I'm still uncertain.

Anyway, Antioch Speedway is doing okay from what I can see.  Big races are on the horizon.  They just received TV coverage during the County Fair.  Car cont continues to perform within expectations in Dirt Modifieds, Spec Sprints, Dwarf Cars and Hobby Stocks, and all four divisions were in action last week.  The latest results saw Troy Foulger (IMCA Modifieds), Scott Hall (Spec Sprints), Dan Smith (Hobby Stock) and David Teves (Dwarf Cars) in the winner's circle.

It is nice to see second place Dwarf Car finisher Charlie "The Hammer" Correia back in the hunt.  The IMCA Sport Mods brought nine cars to the race with Kyle Wilson grabbing the win.  Car count is up slightly in the second season, and I suspect double digit car counts are on the horizon.  Also of note was that Dan Smith won the feature for Hobby Stocks during the fair as did Brent Curran in Four Bangers.

Only a couple seasons before hitting that severe bump in the road, the Chuck Griffin era at Merced Speedway wasn't doing so bad.  Then, it fell apart.  Soares swooped in and saved the place, throwing together a season for Merced at the very last minute.  That 14 race season in 2010 was impressive and kept intact a legacy of a track crowning champions since 1950.  But, within two years people were leaping off the bandwagon.

I know the only reason John went after Merced was to save a tradition that meant something to him.  So, he made the move bringing in Doug Williams to be the General Manager and moved the track to Saturday nights this season.  Also, there is the IMCA sanctioning that cannot be ignored.  It is a factor in why so many Modifieds and Sport Mods race there now.  Anybody can tell you what that sanctioning has meant to that race track.

Merced races this week, but was dark Saturday.  An eye opener to me was the turnout for the big Sport Mod show last time.  Ryan Larimer won the race over State title hopeful Nick Spainhowrd and point leader Matt Sotomayor.  No surprise there.  What I did like was seeing the name in fifth place.  None other than "The Big Dog" Ramie Stone.

I'll go ahead and say it.  Ramie is the best Merced Speedway racer of the last 15-20 years.  My opinion, sure, but he's a champion in three divisions at that track, and nobody could ride the high groove like him in the Mods.  All due respect to Larry Folkner and Darren Thomas, two talented drivers in their own right.  I told Ramie I wish he could have gotten a ride in Late Models, because he would have been fast.

Keep an eye on Ramie.  If he's serious about giving it a run, he will win before the year is up, and likely more than once.  Hanford leadfood Jimmy Reeves won the IMCA Modfied feature, and Andrew Krumm won the Hobby Stock feature.  Neither is a surprise to me, and I love the talent coming out to Merced every week.  I think all of the people making this happen deserve a round of applause.  Here's hoping it keeps going like this.

I won't forget the Valley Sportsman division, because I love this class.  It's season #15 for this revival.  15 seasons.  Can you believe it?  I love it.  Tim Porter, no stranger to winning in whatever you put the man in, won the past feature ahead of Tim Prothero and Gary Hildebrand.  This division has several YouTube videos, and it's pretty cool watching these cars go around the track.

GoLiveStream has videos of the Memorial Day Weekend action from Bakersfield, which includes the Okie Bowl Hardtops.  They had 15 cars at this event, and it was a couple guys from the Merced area running strong.  Mike Friesen jumped into the #77 car for a third place finish and turned the #00 car over to Charlie Huff.  Huff dominated the Main Event after carefully working his way to the front.  Matt McCaslin was a strong second as he continues to be one of the stars of the group.

Truthfully they all are stars.  I love the spirit these Okie Bowl drivers bring to an event, and they seem to have really captured the nostalgia of the division.  Huff was quick to thank the group for the invite as they had the #00 and #77 cars at Santa Maria a few weeks earlier.  For those interested, the top three finishers at Santa Maria were Late Model veteran Bob Oathout, Matt McCaslin and David Courtney

The Northern California Hardtop group made a second straight appearance to Stockton 99 Speedway.  Warren Estlin reported to the Vallejo Speedway Hardtop Page that the drivers shared the wealth.  Not sure whether Dave Stewart of Tom Hembrick was driving the #92 car, but that car was a heat race winner along with the #77 of Charles Mart.  Mike Friesen won the Trophy Dash.

The Main Event belonged to George Conner.  No spin outs or problems for George in claiming a much deserved win ahead of the #92 car, Friesen, Kendra McKee, Bill McLaughlin, Mart and Bob Fillipi, who was subbing for Mike McClure.  Next up for the Hardtops is Petaluma on June 15th, and it's sure to be a good one.

You have to hand it to Jack Stanford.  The past Chowchilla and Merced Dirt Modified champion made plans to revive Chowchilla Speedway, put the word out where it needed to be and made it happen.  It all seemed like a secret but racing has returned to Chowchilla, and the first two races would indicate that the drivers are on board.  In much the same way Soares did when he reopened Merced, Jack had to book his schedule around the other tracks.  It has worked.

Late May saw an opener featuring Dirt Mods, Sport  Mods and Hobbys.  Bobby Hogge IV opened the Dirt Modified show with a win over Cody Burke and Austin Burke.  The Sport Mod podium went to (Randy?) Brown, Diaz and Danny Roe.  Meanwhile, Shane Hausmann won the Hobby Stock feature ahead of Andrew Krumm and Lester Beavers.  Results are a bit sketchy as the track gets everything into place, but the racing surface seems to be well received.

This last week, Jimmy Reeves won the Modified feature ahead of Alex Stanford and Jeff Streeter.  Ryan Larimer won the Sport Mod feature ahead of Brown and (Chris?) Smith.  Meanwhile, Shane Hausmann won another Hobby Stock feature ahead of Marshall Weaver and Andrew Krumm.

I know they are still putting it all together, so I'm hoping they have a better web presence in the weeks ahead.  The fact that they have brought racing back to Chowchilla Speedway for a 14th straight year is whats important now, and Jack Stanford and the crew deserve praise for their efforts.  They have released a schedule for the rest of the season that includes:

June 28th Mods,Sport mods,street stocks and the legends of Kearney(vintage hardtops/Super Mods)
July 4th-TBD
July 12th- Mods, Sport mods,Valley sportsman, hobby stock
July 20th- MUD BOGS
July 26th-Mods, Valley sportsman, hobby stock, street stocks
Aug 2nd- Mods, sport mods, hobby stock, legends of Kearney(vintage hardtops/Super Mods)
Aug 24th- Mods, Sport mods, Valley sportsman, hobby stock

Meanwhile, Mike McCann rolled into Orland, renamed the track Orland Speedbowl and has settled in for the long haul.  I'm sure at this point, he's assessing the situation to learn what will need to be done and what improvements can be made.  I like that he has come in and is having a point race for his regular divisions, and total cars competing this year has met or exceeded 10 cars in Mini Trucks, Hobby Stocks and Street Stocks.

Mini Stocks are a little sluggish, and the Wingless Sprints are just getting things back together after a season in which the guys let the ladies drive their cars in 2012.  So far, though, McCann has shown everybody he is committed to Orland and rebuilding the glory to where the Turners once had it and beyond.  It will take time and patience, and  hope the racers get on board.  This track could have been lost, and it is a tradition going back at least to the 1970's.

The thing about Mike is since winning Promoter Of The Year honors at Cottage Grove, Oregon in the 1980's, his specialty has been to build up tracks that have been struggling.  He loves the challenge and he's successful more times than not.  Orland also has some good racers that people may not be familiar with, but they are capable of winning at other tracks too.  So, I'm hoping things will be successful at Orland in the long run.

We close with a look at Hayfork Speedway in Trinity County.  This was maybe an unlikely dream, but dreams can come true if you work at them.  It took over two years from conception of the idea to that first race last year.  This year, track management has added a track on the inside for the 250's and other Mini Sprint classes that can get the next generation of racers involved. 

There have already been laps put on that track, and the May 26th results in the Box Stock division for the kids found Daniel Whitley winning ahead of Kloey Smith and DJ Case.  Johnny Lentz won the Open class feature ahead of Keith Bloom and the 250 Intermediate feature went to Eric Nelson ahead of Angelo Cornet.

I haven't heard of a point race being kept, but we'll keep an eye on that situation.  I love the enthusiasm.  I love that they have started with Hobby Stocks and Hornets, and I know the cars will come as they get built.  It takes time, and it's not like there is a plethora of tracks nearby to draw from.  I admire them for working so hard to make Hayfork Speedway a reality.

In the end, it's about the racing and the camaraderie.  The Hobby Stock race for the first week of May that had eight cars.  Winner of the last Hobby Sock race last year, Wayne Lowe won that the 2013 opener ahead of Bill Kasper.  Josh Smith was third ahead of Donny Case and Burl Richardson.

Nine Hobby Stocks were in action for the last race in May, and Josh Smith grabbed the checkered flag for the victory with Bill Kasper and Mark Jones in the place and show positions.  Chester Brown and Danny Layne rounded out the top five.  This makes Smith the new man to beat, and the fans will find out if anybody can beat him when the next race takes place on June 15th.

So, I salute the people at Hayfork Speedway for making their dream a reality, and all the people at Orland, Chowchilla, Merced, Antioch and everywhere else for having places to race every week.  The only thing left to do now is get out there and race, have fun and make some more memories.