Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Hobby Stocks Are Coming To Merced On January 3rd

The crews at Antioch Speedway, Merced Speedway and Chowchilla Speedway are working hard to get everything set for the big four race event that will ring in the new year.  It looks like everything is coming along nicely, and Antioch on January 1st will kick 2015 off right.  The Oval Motorsports Website is the place to go to find out all the details.  The excitement begins tomorrow!


I was just watching a video on YouTube.  Hansen Racing does some real nice videos of their Hobby Stock racing.  In fact, when I was "ghost writing" the 2010 season at Antioch Speedway, their videos were useful to my effort.  They make excellent use of the in car camera. 

I'll give you an example at the end of this post.  This was from the 100 lap race last season at Antioch Speedway.  I'm not really a fan of the whole redraw after 72 laps concept.  It pretty much handed the race to Fred Ryland, who wasn't even in the top three at that point. I give him credit for leading the rest of the way.  I say run the deal straight through, but that's my opinion.

For each of the big events this week at Antioch, Merced and Chowchilla, they have a third division in support of IMCA Modifieds and IMCA Sport Mods.  Antioch's dates will include Limited Late Models (Day 1) and Late Models (Day 2).  Four Bangers make their Chowchilla return on (Day 4).  Saturday's race at Merced has Hobby Stocks.

It's a rather interesting story of the Hobby Stocks that goes back to the 1980's.  The three Northern All Stars (I kind of like referring to them as The CAM) tracks figure into this story.  It begins at Baylands Raceway Park.  I miss that place.  I had some good times there.  Got to score the last Enduro for Jim Robbins and his team.  Anyway...

In 1985, Baylands was running these wild and crazy Enduro races with a Destruction Derby to finish the show.  It was a popular concept, and soon all of the tracks followed their lead.  Antioch had its first Enduro in 1986, won my John "Boom Boom" Bellando.   He came from four laps down to win it too.

I think it was Truck Rodrigues who won the first one at Baylands.  He won races there that year.  What they decided to do was run these Enduro cars in a regular program with heat races and Main Events.  I don't know if they actually kept points that year.  Pat Scilley won the championship in 1986.  He was good.  He won the 360 Sprints title a year later.

John Wycoff and this guy named John Silva won the next two.  Silva?  Hmmm...  That name sounds familiar.  He became quite a Late Model driver in the years that followed.  He won the last Enduro at Baylands too.  This class had a ton of cars.  C Mains were needed.  The Straymeyer family, The Cummings family, an up and comer named Jimmy Lavell.  This old man from the days of Champion Speedway named Joe Rolletto.  The list goes on and on.

The NASCAR tracks took notice in 1988.  Watsonville and Antioch both had a Charger class that ran 20 laps, no yellows (only reds when needed).  A guy named Ron Yetter won the championship ahead of this new racer name Fred Lind at Watsonville.  Antioch kept no points, but The DCRR did.  Some new guy named Bart Reid was the top point earner.  Hmmm...  That name sounds familiar too.

Petaluma wasn't going to be left out of this.  John Soares added his own Charger class, and Gary Bonds won that deal.  Then, Baylands closed, and Soares welcomed the American Stocks to Petaluma.  It was a little strange since they already had a 25-30 car Street Stock Show, but now they had an American Stock class that was even bigger.  Guys like Norm Johns, Tim Haskins, Steve "Bubba" Dempsey and Shawn DeForest came up through the Pure Stock ranks.  Sadly, the division didn't make through the last decade at Petaluma for some reason.

Antioch and Watsonville dropped it in 1989.  That made sense at the time.  Both tracks had strong Street Stock car counts, though that class was definitely evolving.  In its last year as part of the NASCAR family, Merced started a Pure Stock class.  They had a big Street Stock show too, but Chuck Griffin saw need for this entry level division.  Alice Hotchkiss wrote her name in the books as the first champion. 

Technically, Pure Stocks don't share the same heritage as Hobby Stocks at Merced.  Technically, that is  It was seen as an entry level class and a step below Hobby Stocks when Merced added that division.  I'll get there in a moment.  A couple of Camaro drivers, Luis Miranda and Andy Welch, dominated the Pure Stocks and won championships, causing Griffin to ban Firebirds and Camaros in 1995.  Lee Willhite won that championship in his big orange car, nicknamed "The Flying Pumpkin" by legendary announcer Johnny Sass.

Ed Marion, Aaron Days, Nathan Corn and a returning racer named Wes Hogan were a part of this deal.  Only Days wasn't a champion, but he went on to bigger things at Altamont Raceway after getting his start in Merced Pure Stocks.  The class never really got huge, and lack of the Camaro's and Firebirds was blamed.  It did get into the high teens, and you could tell the difference between a Pure Stock and a Street Stock by the looks of the cars.

In 1994, Antioch Speedway wanted to start a Pure Stock class, and Turkull Racing and Henry Racing were on board with the idea.  Track management was hesitant to do it and only booked one race that year.  Those two teams fielded three cars if I recall correctly, and Cecil Henry was one of the first competitors in 1995.  He gave it a good effort, but Terrie Wacht wrote her name in the record books at the first lady to win a track championship at Antioch Speedway.  Tom Flanary, Rich "Mad Dog" Gardner Jr. and Donny Babb were other champions that followed.

At Watsonville, they started a division of their own in 1996, and Ken Jepsen staked his claim as the first champion.  Jimmy Bowman  Jr. and Mike Meazell were also on the champion's list before Sam "The Man" Kennedy proceeded to dominate this division.  Pure Stocks were ready to take over as the entry level class that the Street Stocks really weren't anymore.

In 2000, this guy named Tom Sagmiller opened Chowchilla Speedway.  People called him crazy.  On the heels of the closure of San Jose Speedway, this was needed.  What was needed to make this track work was non traditional thinking and a willingness to think outside the box. Sagmiller was the man to do it.  One of his first moves was to start a Hobby Stock class.  Unlike the Pure Stocks at Merced, Hobby Stocks would allow Camaros and Firebirds.

Needless to say, Chowchilla outdrew Merced's Pure Stocks with their Hobby Stocks rather quickly.  Guys were coming from Stockton, Watsonville and Antioch to race.  In fact, a dozen Chowchilla locals built cars for 2001.  "Rebel" Red Williams bested Jerry "Hood Pins'  O'Hagan to win the first title.  O'Hagan won it the next year, and Sagmiller created the Hobby Stock $500, a 50 lap race for $500 to win.  The class was finally getting paid in the state, but not much.  This was one of the bigger races of the year for the class, and Sam Kennedy came down and won this race.  It just so happened he was suspended for a week at Watsonville.  Chowchilla was drawing B Mains for this class in 2001. Antioch was into C Mains by then.

Merced was running Pure Stocks.  Chevy Monte Carlos, Buick Regals and a big old Ford owned by Wes Hogan.  "Rockin" Robin Fast and "Mighty" Mike Hamilton had a great battle for the 2001 championship, won by Hamilton .  There was this new guy named Raul "Showtime" Rodriguez who was rising up the ladder.  The class made it back into double digit car counts again, and Rodriquez was the 2002 champion.

About this time, Griffin could see that Chowchilla had bested him in promoting Hobby Stocks, so Merced added Hobby Stocks as well.  Mark "Freight Train" Funkhouser and "The Ice Cream Man" Marshall Weaver had a good battle that year, won by Funkhouser.  This wasn't the first time Merced had copied Chowchilla, but it helped turn things around for a track that was close to shutting its gates.

The Merced Pure Stocks died for a rather silly reason.  Pure Stock drivers were not allowed to race for money at Merced.  If they did, they were ineligible for Pure Stocks.  Griffin was rather uncompromising when it came to rules, and Chris Shelton and others ran their Pure Stocks in a Hobby Stock race on an off night for their class.  They just wanted to race.  They were out of the Pure Stocks after that, and the class just sort of died with Deak Sherrell as the point leader.  Dan "The Man" Holcomb was the last Merced Pure Stock champion as the age of Hobby Stocks at Merced was beginning.

Gradually, Hobby Stocks have evolved as drivers like Jeremy Prince, Robert Coe, Megan McCown, Denise McCown, Dan McCown, Melissa Hansen, Brad Meyers, Fred Ryland and Kimo Oreta have had their run at the top at Antioch.  At Merced, It's hard to beat the multi time champion Rodriguez for the honors, but drivers like Bruce Nelson, Rich Altamirano, Dave Coleman and Andrew Krumm were others who have won championships.  Ryan Hart has won Merced and Chowchilla titles, and others on Chowchilla's Hobby Stock Champion's Honor Wall include Kevin Pettit, Ryan Larimer, Shane Hausmann, Jarod Fast and Farren Steitz.

The Hobby Stocks aren't really that "Hobby" class anymore.  At Antioch in the 100 lapper from last year, Brad Myers and Fred Ryland were both clocking in with laps in the 17's, and that was on the expanded track.  Street Stocks during Don Shelton and Bart Reid's day were doing 17's.  This is basically just the Street Stock division with a different name.  This is no Hobby Stock in reality. 

Perhaps it's time to start a new class...  Oh, um, on second thought, we have too many divisions already.  For one thing, if you make a bone stock class, people will push for rule changes and track management will cave.  It won't be a "Pure" Stock class for long.  Also, we have Four Bangers.  So far, that division has stayed somewhat true to it's intent for over a decade.  They aren't running wings on them like at Baylands....  Yet.  Oh, I better not give them any ideas.  The Four Bangers are fine as they are.

Saturday afternoon, January 3rd, will be a time for the Merced guys to shine.  I don't know who will be coming for this first point race of 2015.  Rodriguez might be the man to beat as the defending champion.  Marshall Weaver still comes out to play now and then.  Former Chowchilla Champion Chris Falkenberg, Kristie Shearer, Kevin Joaquin, Robbie Loquaci, Ty Shelton and Josh Hensley are others who could show.

Freddie Ryland has been known to travel, so he could be there.  Brad Myers has indicated he'll be coming.  Jim Freethy?  It's hard to tell, but Hobby Stocks will race at Merced once again on Saturday.  This tips off the 2015 season, the 14th year for the division at Merced, now under the Northern All Stars banner.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Who's Coming to Take The Money On New Years At Antioch Speedway?

I did see that they posted pictures of the Antioch, Chowchilla and Merced tracks being whipped into shape for the big shows coming up.  They are on the Antioch Speedway Facebook Page.

As always, you can check the Oval Motorsports Website for the important information on this big event.

So, it just occurred to me that Antioch Speedway is preparing to open it's gates for the 2015 season on January 1st, and there is NO real buzz about this show.  Hmmm...  Seems like somebody really dropped the ball on this one guys.  Ya think?  $2500 to win Modified races this week and $1750 to win Sport Mods, even a $1500 to win Late Model show (based on 15 cars), and yet NOBODY is talking about who might win?

This is a bit difficult to speculate on since we have no idea who may have pre signed for this.  Again, somebody dropped the ball.  Will Bobby Hogge IV be  coming out to play?  After that win in the Pat Pettit Memorial Race at Watsonville last year (his third in four years), Bobby would automatically be the driver to beat.  Can Scott Busby come out to play?  He's done some big things in his career, but I'm racking my brain trying to figure out if he's won a big money race at Antioch before.  Hmmm ...

How about Paul Stone?  I was just thinking about that big win in the Chowchilla Shoot Out back in 2001, the last lap pass on Dave Byrd.  I remember thinking, this man has just stepped up to show that these Valley Racers can beat the best of them.  How about up north?  Randy McDaniel has kicked a few butts in his day.  He's fast.  Richard Papenhausen too.  I'm guessing the 2014 Antioch Late Model Champion will compete in that class on Friday, but he races Dirt Mods too.

Who's coming?  I'd hope they could reach 40 cars for New Years, but with the weather being cold and Christmas having just passed, who knows?  Chowchilla did okay last year with that Dirt Mod and Sport Mod event in January.  Predictions?  I don't know.  Troy Foulger sort of faded on us last year, but he did have a Late Model win.  Kellen Chadwick has been known to take the big money.  On the other hand, Bobby Hogge IV.  Need I say more?

Sport Mods?  I'm tempted to say Nick Spainhward.  Mainly because he seems to be the top dog in the class these days.  It would be nice to hear from one of the best Merced racers I've ever seen, "The Big Dog" Ramie Stone.  I'm not counting on him showing up at Antioch.  Too bad Matt Sotomayor isn't around these days.  So, I'll go out on a limb and say "Fast" Freddie Ryland.  Seems like the man will drive, and win, in anything.

Limited Late Models?  I wonder if there might be an outside player coming in.  I'd love to see Shawn McCoy or Steve Studebaker come in from Petaluma, but as this is a regular point show, I doubt it.  Since it is for Northern All Star points, anybody who wants to play needs to be there.  Jim Freethy?  How about that Garner fellow?  I see Mark won races last season.  Mike Learn, the two time Petaluma champion?  Speaking of champions, I'd love to see Mitch Machado for this, but I doubt it.  How about "The Blue Knight" Mike Gustafson?  He's due for a big win.  Ron Brown, the man who helped put this class on the map.  In the end, I'll pick Larry Damitz, because, well, he's Larry Damitz, and I just love that he's still out there racing.

Really, I have no idea who will win Thursday or Friday at Antioch, not to mention Saturday at Merced or Sunday at Chowchilla.  I predict it will be cold, but the track will be ready  I hope they have a good show.  I'm just disappointed by the lack of hype or excitement for this race, and it's almost here.  So I thought I'd say something.  If he were still here, I know Gary Jacob would be on the scene...

One more note to leave on.   Since this class stared in 1987 here in California, who would you consider to be the greatest Dirt Mod racer?  Tough question, isn't it?  Bobby Hogge IV?  He does have a long resume of big wins and championships.  Scott Busby?  He did a lot as well.  Randy McDaniel?  He was up North winning championships.  Scott Pounds?  And early IMCA Western Regional Champion when the circuit got going here in Californian.  Paul Stone?  Quite a list of championships and wins to his credit.

Michael Paul Jr. or Kenny Nott?  They've done well at their respective home tracks.  Kellen Chadwick?  He won a championship and some big races on the West Coast.  Brian Cass?  Not flashy, but he's a front runner.  Troy Foulger?  Four in a row at Antioch.  Joe Carr?  He's built some fast race cars for people, and he did help put this deal on the map as the first champion in 1988 at Petaluma.  It's an interesting debate.  I have a few thoughts on the matter, but I'm gonna have to get back to more nostalgia with this book I'm working on.  Maybe next time...

Oh, by the way, Low Budget TV put together a nice little highlight video of last year's New Years race at Chowchilla that you may like.  From the looks of it, they had a good show there.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Update, Big Races Coming And An Audio Show

I picked up the microphone for another edition of The DCRR Racing Radio show.  I think it's been a while since I did a show.  I want to say 2010?  An interesting anecdote about the show was it started in 1998 as a .wav file that gave me about 11 minutes.

I had the old page on AOL and a host for the audio at Xoom and then Homestead.  Being low buck reporter, I was using free resources.  It was all about getting the word out about the Antioch Speedway racers and creating a buzz for the track back then.

The thing was, I could only go 11 minutes.  Just one second longer and the show was too long.  I'd have to start over.  You could always tell when I knew time was running out.  I started speaking quicker as time ran out.  Then, it was probably a half an hour to upload.  I don't have any of those shows in my archives anymore.

I dropped the show when I had problems uploading new ones.  There it sat until 2000 when I met Joe Martinez at Chowchilla Speeedway in April of that year.  I handed him a copy of the magazine, and we ended up talking on the phone a few days later.  It turns out that Joe actually heard some of those old shows.

Well, I ended up recording  shows for our new web site, California Racing Online (CRO).  Joe produced them and added his touches.  I knew nothing about that stuff.  After that, Don O'Keefe Jr. hosted my shows and other audio on his web site, and then Dana Craig sponsored me a web site of my own.  I could not have done it without people like them and my dad.

Okay, two things...

The process of putting this book together is taking forever.  I'm not making it any easier by adding new stuff all the time.  It started as a Best Of The DCRR Blog book, or I should say three books?  Then, I started adding new content.  I think I've typed over 30,000 new words to make it "better" in my opinion.  I've added photos from my personal archives and some nice pictures that we ran in the magazine from L&J Photography and Green Flag Photography have been added too.

This is NOT a history book.  It's not the book I started this blog to talk about, but it has those elements to it.  The personal anecdotes (and opinions) in this book make it different in that regard.  Plus, I'd be working for weeks and weeks to do that book, and I want something sooner.  This is important to me, because I think a few people might like what I have here.  There are some historical stories in there, so maybe it's version .5 of the racing history book?

The problem is, it is over 400 pages now, and I'm just halfway through formatting it.  More to do, and I keep say, "Oh, I need to add this" as I go.  I'm like a kid in the candy store with that stuff.  I want to get done, because I have a roughly 70,000 word racing auto biography of my time in the sport to finish next.  There's not enough hours in the day, and you don't even want to know about the hours I'm keeping now.  I feel compelled to do this.

I was making plans for New Years to coincide with the Christmas release of this book, but obviously, I'm very late.  I'm not sure the plans I had to ring in the new year will happen.  It will require some effort to make that happen, and it's so cold.  100 pounds ago, I could probably handle it better, but these days...  The cold and the effort needed will probably prevent those plans, so I'm just dropping it for now.  Finishing these books is the priority.

And on New Years, John will be holding races at Antioch.  This will continue the next day, then Merced on the 3rd and then John's latest acquisition, Chowchilla Speedway, after that.  A four day blowout event for racing fans to start the new year.   I still can't believe that man has three tracks, but I always believed John could be a leader in bringing unity to the tracks.

I guess I didn't think it would be him playing the role of a modern day Bob Barkhimer, but perhaps somebody has to do it?  I don't know.  When Barky sold BBA, it slowly went down hill.  The 80's were still good, but it was fading fast.  I stressed so hard on track unity issues that it got to me.  Probably contributed to my departure.  I wanted universal rules and point races, but when you have so many promoter's egos at the table, it's hard to accomplish anything.

John has three tracks now.  With a grace period allowing drivers to make their cars legal, we can get there.  But, will the racers accept it?   I see signs of unrest from my spot on the sidelines.  Car count isn't spectacular, and there are nit pickers out there.  Without John, there many not be racing at Merced Speedway, and they are coming off of a pretty good season for car count.  I think his heart is in the right place.

So, I hope things work out with this.  As for New Years, it's so cold out there, I don't know how this will work for any of the tracks.  For the sake of the sport and the tracks that I love, I hope it works out.  Looking at those old pictures and the stories as I put the book together, I have to say we've had some damn good racing at these tracks through the years.  I hope it continues for years to come.

I remember when they called what was left of the State point race the WAM (Watsonville, Antioch, Merced) Series.  Now, John has put the CAM (Chowchilla, Antioch, Merced) Series together.  Not too bad, if you ask me.  I have to wonder, after the surprise addition of Chowchilla, if a new letter or two could be added to The CAM?  First things first.  It's time to build The CAM into something special.

Anyway, I put a show together in case anybody might be interested.  I cover a few things, there's news and speculation and more on the book.  The first show I did rambled too much, so I had to do a second one. 

I did forget to make a note that I wanted to comment on the report I heard of John Prentice taking over the Hunt Wingless Spec Sprint Series.  Very interesting.  I still wish Antioch would get involved.  Antioch should have started it, which I was lobbying for.  Anyway...  Spiv Sprints at Calistoga?  Are you ready for that?  I'm a little nervous about it, bit we shall see...

Oh, by the way, the new content I typed for this book will be released as posts on The DCRRBook blog in the days ahead, so stay tuned...

The DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 1 by GenWhat

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A DCRR Book Update, Orland & Antioch News & Vintage Audio Call

I just dove deep into a project I hope to complete in the next week or two, so it's been a challenge finding the time to write anywhere else.  This project has been time consuming.  In the midst of that, I have an update on the name of the Orland race track and future plans there, scheduling at Antioch and Merced and a vintage audio broadcast at Merced Speedway.

But first...

I am hooping to put a racing book together and then edit the auto biography of my time in racing.  Yes, there is a book, and it's big.  It started as three smaller books of about 112 pages each.  It was to be the best content from this blog.  A funny thing happened on the way to putting this thing together...

I was grabbing material I had on certain files that ran in old DCRR magazines.  I resurrected the old Antioch Speedway history piece I had written back in 2000.  It's been updated by a few years, but not complete.  I resurrected the Merced history piece that Gary Jacob and I wrote.  Champions lists followed.  Then, it happened...

I thought to myself, where is Petaluma?  Watsonville?  Baylands?  Heck I even added Vallejo Speedway and Delta Speedway Mini Stock articles.  Champions lists too.  More, more, more.  I'm done adding to it.  I will never get done if I don't stop.

This isn't a history book.  If I am able to do so, the racing history book will take a lot of time to do in the way it needs to be done.  This is sort of a precursor to it.  There is history in this book, but not the way I intend the history book to be.  I have a lot more to share in that book, and it will take a lot of time to do it right.

However, this book has that historic element.  Many of my favorite posts from the blog are in this book, so you don't have to click links to find it.  It will be in the book.  Some of those posts haven't even been put up, though I intend to. Also, older season recaps from Antioch, Chowchilla, Merced.  Pit Stops from Petaluma, Watsonville and Altamomt.  An in depth look at the articles I did when John was bidding for Antioch.  I kind of put my butt on the line there. 

I don't know what it all is, but it will be over 400 pages I think.  I'm not looking to price this book at $75 or $100 like some books, not that they don't deserve it.  I want to make money, I'll be honest, but I want the book to be affordable enough for the reader to want to add it to their collection.  That is if anybody cares at this point.  We'll keep you posted on the progress.  I have to get back to it after this post.

We reported earlier that Orland Speedway has new management.  After holding a meeting at a local pizza parlor last week, the drivers now know that Orland will be running the core classes they've always run, including Wingless Spec Sprints, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks and Mini Trucks.  Street Stock drivers may be able to make a case for themselves if they can bring the cars.  This is a smart move for the track as they prepare for a new season in 2015.  We'll see how things develop.

By the way, the tracks new name is Sacramento Valley Speedway, and they have  a new WEBSITE.

Meanwhile, Antioch Speedway has an ambitious plan to open with the big West Coast Nationals on New Years Day and the 2nd of January.  The next two days will belong to Merced Speedway on the 3rd and Oval Motorsports newest acquisition, Chowchilla Speedway, on the fourth.  The question is, will the weather permit this to happen?  

John Soares Jr. will have all of the classes back that competed last season.  This means IMCA Modifieds, Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks, Limited Late Models, Late  Models, Four Bangers, 360 Sprints are all back.  Also, John has two (count 'em) two World Of Outlaws races planned for Antioch and one for Merced.  Oh, and that Wingless Spec Sprint class is back for it's 17th season.

You can see the schedule HERE.

Finally, I dug through the archives and uncovered another audio file to share with you.  This is from Merced Speedway 2001.  I was up in the grandstands with the recorder.  A funny thing happened.  Matt of Matt & Glass heard that call online and said Merced needed me.  He sponsored me for four races so that Chuck & Marylee Griffin could hear me and give me a chance.

Thanks to Matt, I got to announce at a track that I've always loved, even from a far.  I got to work with a legend in Johnny Sass.  It was a lot of fun.  This particular race was interesting.  Johnnie Baptista was on a mission and determined to get that win.  But, did he?  Take a listen.

Merced Speedway IMCA Modified Audio Call by GenWhat

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bring The Sportsman Division Back To Antioch Speedway?

Do you recall who the last driver was to win a Sportsman division Main Event at Antioch Speedway?  Len Mello?  Wrong.  He was the last champion in the division over 30 years ago.  Wow.  Has it been that long?  Anybody got a time machine?

I'd love to go back with a camera, my recorder and watch these races, do recordings and cover that action.  I'd love to go back just to see my reaction when Len won his first Main Event that year.  I'd love to see all of those race cars again in living color.  I'd love to...  Anyway...

Back in 1999 Chuck Griffin had the vision to bring this division back to Merced Speedway.  It was a replacement for the Limited Sprint Car class of which Mark Amador had taken the presidency.  Mark decided they needed to race pavement.  Some of them did, and some helped build the Wingless Spec Sprint class at Antioch in 1999.

Anyway, I'm drifting.  It's just that when I see an idea put out there by men who have done this before, I get excited.  What am I talking about?  In a moment, but first, more Sportsman history...

In 2000, while I was going to Chowchilla, some of the Sportsman guys were wanting to book dates at other tracks.  Ed Marion was the driver representative.  Well, having watched them race at Chowchilla and having followed their previous season at Merced through Gary Jacob's stories, I immediately fell in love with the class.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, compares to the Sportsman division for me.  It never will.  I love Spec Sprints.  I love Street Stocks (2000 and before).  I love all the divisions, BUT the Sportsman division is my first love.  Maybe it's because when you are a kid at the races, you latch on to that first class and it becomes special to you forever.  I don't know.

I approached John about bringing this division to Antioch for an exhibition race, and he was okay with the idea.  Remember, John started in this class.  He won a championship (or was it two) at Petaluma.  He built some really fast race cars back in the day.  John was one of the fast drivers on the track.  The fans booed him, but he kicked his share of butt out there.

Okay, so I'm drifting again.  With the date booked, I made a special souvenir program for Antioch Speedway.  They came and raced, and this was my brief report and the answer to the trivia question posted above...

 Mike Chandler #10 battles Luis Miranda #21m early in the Sports,man Main Event at Antioch.    Photo by Green Flag Photography


ANTIOCH, CA...JULY 29...In the first Antioch Speedway visit of the California Sportsman division since 1981, Mike Chandler won the 12 lap exhibition main event ahead of series point leader Mike Friesen.  It was Chandler's first feature win of the year.

The California Sportsman division paid Antioch a visit from the Merced area, and they brought a six car field for this exhibition event.  Bringing back fond memories of the 70's, this division was a hit with many.  Chandler won the eight lap heat race.  Chandler had the pole for the main event, but outside front row starter Luis Miranda led the opening lap before spinning in Turn 4.  Chandler gained the lead ahead of Friesen and Ed Marion.  A Turn 2 pass on lap five gained Gary Hildebrand third, but Rob Schropp used a front stretch pass on lap ten to take third.  Chandler would hold off Friesen to score the victory as Schropp finished third ahead of Hildenrand, Marion and Miranda.


HEAT-Mike Chandler, Luis Miranda, Ed Marion, Robb Schropp, Gary Hildebrand.  MAIN EVENT-Chandler, Mike Friesen, Schropp, Hildebrand, Marion, Miranda.

Luis Miranda #21m is a former Merced Pure Stock champion and was a guiding force in  bringing the Sportsman class back to Merced in 1999.    Photo by Green Flag Phtography

Mike Friesen #9 won the first two Merced Sportsman titles during it's revival and finished second in their visit to Antioch.    Photo by Green Flag Photography

Well, I loved seeing the class at Antioch, but it didn't take.  It was real interesting hearing the buzz around town at that time.  A few people were talking about where to locate cars.  Lance Cline even expressed an interest.  Unfortunately, the fan response was luke warm, and John didn't pursue the class any further.  I was disappointed, but I understood.  Antioch had a lot of cars at the time as it was.  There was no room for a new division.

The nostalgia boom sort of built in the years that followed.  I was in Sacramento on my birthday a couple years later when Mike McCann brought the Cascade Hardtops down from Oregon for a California trip.  That visit led the Mike's good friend Chuck Prather starting an effort in the area, which led to the creation of two Hardtop efforts in California.  We also saw a return of the classic Super Modifieds.  Through it all, the Sportsman division continued at Merced (as highlighted in a recently posted article on the blog).

Okay, now comes the cool part...  It's probably a bit of bench racing, but when I see the names of the talkers, I take notice.  I grew up watching some of these guys and their fathers race.  Sal Belleci a former Sportsman Rookie Of The Year, started it with this post on the Antioch Speedway Days Of Old Facebook Page

October 18

Old man dreaming. How about a skinny car winged sportsman with 15 inch engine setback, 375cu in 10 degree heads, unlimited rear tire size and stagger, on alky. Hella side bite without all that rear steer.......lap times in the 14's probably have a heart attack. Like I said ....just dreaming.

Last year, I toyed with a fantasy scenario where Sal's good friend and another great of Sportsman division past, Buzz Enea, and Mike Green collaborated on keeping the Sportsman division around in 1982.  Sort of a what if scenario in which I did my best to guess who would have came back and who would have joined for the 1982 season that never happened.  I was gonna play it all out with stories and all of that... 

But, it was fantasy, so I dismissed it...

Anyway, speaking of Green, his son Dusty responded to Sal's comment.  So did Jerry's son Mark Garner and some guys who used to race that division, including Dave Oswald, Allan Nordstrom and Al Artero.  Talk about a flashback.  I recall an interesting scene on the track in 1980 between Nordstrom and Oswald.  I'm kind of sorry my mind went there first, so...

Actually, Dave was one of the first drivers I met when I was a kid. I used to hang out in the garage of Marion Heaton, so Dan Hatfield, Oswald and Rick Brophy are among those I met back then.  I see that Hatfield has resurfaced on the racing scene in recent years.

As for Allan, well, I learned so much from him when I stared getting involved in the sport.  He took me into his home there for a while, since I didn't seem to make it home a lot back in those days.  Between going to the races with him and hanging out with his son, I was almost like a member of the family.  Where does the time go?

I can see it now...  Well, put it this way, if a serious effort were made to bring this back...  I don't want to get ahead of myself.  We do get a lot of bench racing on the internet.  John has a lot on his plate, and this kind of thing would need a leader to spearhead the effort.

Spec Sprints had Don O'Keefe Jr. and I handling things as it got off the ground.  Ron Brown was there to lend his support to the Limited Late Model effort as it began.  Bruce Curl Sr. and Curl Racing was there to help build the Dirt Modifieds when it was just an idea.  Lance Cline was there to build cars when Four Bangers got started, and...  Well, you get the picture.

I would love to see Sportsman Division back at Antioch.  You know, Conrad Cavallero was there to guide Nor Cal Hardtops in those early days.  Who would step up to do the same for the Sportsman class?  You couldn't expect the Merced guys to come running.  From my experience, a lot of them don't like to travel as much as the Bay Area guys do.  You may be able to get them for a date or two, but...

So, who would step up and convince John to do this thing at Antioch?  How quickly can they get cars together?   Are there any old cars sitting out there that can be restored?  Well, it all sounds like a great idea.  Will it ever happen?  While I would never say never, I don't expect anything to happen. 

But, this talk and the names involved in the discussion got me thinking.  Thank you Sal.  Typing this brought a smile to my face...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

More Notes From The Chowchilla Speedway Archives

I decided to dig into my vaults for a few snap shots from the early days at Chowchilla Speedway.  These are just pictures from the pits.  Interesting story about this camera, I lost it in the pits at Chowchilla.  Left it on a trailer and nobody turned it in.  With L & J Photography and Green Flag Photography sending me photos for the magazine, I sort of retired as a photographer after losing the camera.

Anyway, here's a few photos and anecdotes about the drivers who helped make Chowchilla Speedway so special.  Also, I've managed to put together a champions list.  Actually, I was scanning these photos and compiling a bunch of statistics for a possible book in the future last year when I got derailed onto other things.

Mark Condell #33a was not the luckiest driver in the Modifieds at Chowchilla.  He did manage a top ten season in 2001 to go with the top ten rankings he had at Antioch and Merced.  Mark was one of the original investors in Chowchilla Speedway.

I need to consult the notes, because I'm not sure which Reed #11 this is.  I'm guessing this was Ike, who won the 2002 championship.  Ike and Dudley Reed were fast competitors whenever they came.  The Reeds supported Mini Stock racing at Porterville too.  I recall talking with them about reopening that track.  Years later, it finally happened.

When the wave hit Chowchilla that turned Mini Trucks into Mini Stocks, "Rocket" Ron German #54 was on it.  He was one of the faster drivers and won his share of races.  He's probably part of the reason the track split the class into Mini Stocks and Super Mini Stocks.  He was second in points in 2001.

When the Limited Sprints left Merced, George Terry #2 ran a season at Antioch in Wingless Spec Sprints before founding the new Chowchilla effort.  He won the 2000 championship.

As I recall, Monty Tomlinson Jr. #7 was top three ranked at Merced and Chowchilla in 2000.  In 2001, he was Chowchilla Street Stock champion.

At one time, Steven Williams #93 was racing Dirt Modifieds and Limited Sprints.  He was 2001 Limited Sprint champion and finished fourth in Modified points that season.

A star of Merced Speedway Modifieds in the early 1990's, Mark Hamblin returned and won a close championship battle with Paul Stone and Jack Stanford in 2001.

"Pastor" Paul Salaiz #40 was part of the invading wave of Hobby Stock drivers from Watsonville who helped turn this into a 20 plus car show every week.

"Thy Flying Irishman" James McGranahan #42 was one of the faster drivers in the Super Mini Stock class, but not always very lucky.  However, he had back to back top three seasons in 2002 and 2003.

Ken Jepsen #94 was a star at Watsonville and Altamont when both tracks started Pure Stocks.  He was fast at Chowchilla as well.  He wasn't a member, but he was usually running up near the front.

Mike Beltran #5 came on board at the track in 2001 with a "Rookie Of The Year' season in 2001 in Super Mini Stocks.  I recall that he was fast, but I seem to recall him flipping his car one night too.

Joe Diaz Jr. #85 was part of the Mini Truck revolution at Merced and that track's last Late Model champion.  He got on board with the Limited Sprint effort and eventually became promoter of the Chowchilla Barn Burner Series.

Steve Bisordi Sr. and Jr. #23 were part of the Watsonville invasion that helped created a buzz about Chowchilla Hobby Stock racing.  I don't have notes in front of me, but at least one of them were feature winners at Chowchilla in 2000, if not both.

One of the families that has been a part of Merced racing tradition since the 1950's is the Corn family.  "The Corn Dog" Nathan Corn #97 lost the 2000 Street Stock title to Steve Stone Sr. by nine points, but he emerged with the 2003 title.

One of the keys to Chowchilla Hobby Stock success in that second season was the 11 local drivers who built cars.  Jack Van Hoff #44 was one of them.  He was a feature winner that season and top ten ranked.  In 2004, he finished third in Street Stock points.

Jerry "Hood Pins" O'Hagan #39 finished second in Hobby Stock points in 2000, but he won the championship a year later.  In 2002, he won the Limited Late Model title, and he finished second to Mike Meazell a year later.

A rookie in 2000, "Rebel" Red Williams #9 won the Hobby Stock title.  A year later, he finished third before moving up to do some Street Stock racing.  He won several Hobby Stock races.

Chowchilla Speedway Champions

Dirt Modified Champions

2000 Mike Johnson
2001 Mark Hamblin
2002 Jack Stanford
2003 Bill Saltzman
2004 Brad Coelho
2005 Tim Balding
2006 Tim Balding
2007 Alex Stanford
2008 Randy Brown
2009 Alex Stanford
2010 Ryan Porter
2011 No Champion
2012 No Champion
2013 Need Info
2014 Josh Vogt

Street Stock Champions

2000 Steve Stone Sr.
2001 Monty Tomlinson Jr.
2002 Darrell Hughes
2003 Nathan Corn
2004 Chris Messmer
2005 Steven Hannah
2006 Steven Hannah
2007 Gary Tucker
2008 Willie Livingston
2009 Mike Shepherd
2010 Mike Shepherd
2011 Roy Hart Jr.
2012 No Champion
2014 Rick Sylvester *

*IMCA Stock Car

Hobby Stock Champions

2000 Red Williams
2001 Jerry O'Hagan
2002 Jimmy Brewer
2003 Marshall Weaver
2004 Shane Hausmann
2005 Kevin Pettitt
2006 Kevin Pettitt
2007 Farren Steitz
2008 Robert Hurst
2009 Jarrod Fast
2010 Ryan Larimer
2011 Ryan Hart
2012 Chris Falkenberg
2013 Need Info
2014 Shane Hausman

Mini Stocks/Four Banger

2000 Bob Terry
2001 David Mullett
2002 David Mullett
2003 David Mullett
2004 Jimmy Myers
2005 Russ Myers
2006 Robbie Loquaci
2007 Need Information
2008 Alysan Widick
2009 Kathy Evans
2010 Kathy Evans
2011 Johnny Tevis
2012 Katie Briggs

Mod. Mini Stock

2001 Bob Terry
2002 Ike Reed
2003 Ron Martinez
2004 Ron Martinez
2005 Danny Luukkenon
2006 Kristy Myers
2007 No Information

Wingless Spec Sprint *

2000 George Terry (Winged)
2001 Steven Williams (Winged)
2002 Keith Shipherd
2003 No Points
2004 No Points
2005 No Points
2006 No Points
2007 No Points
2008 No races
2009 Kris Koontz
2010 Brandon Burd
2011 No Points
2012 No Points

* In some seasons, the track was running NCMA, CSRA or both in combined shows and had no official point race of their own.

Ladies Division

2001 Rhonda Smith (Street)
2001 Kristi William (Hobby)
2002 M'lissa Manzella (Street)
2002 Darcie Odgers (Hobby)
2003 Darcie Odgers (Street)
2003 Robin Fast (Hobby)
2004 Breanna VanTassel (Hobby)
2004 Cristi Benson (Mini)
2005 Melissa Fuhrman (Hobby)
2005 Brandi Myers (Mini)
2006 Jeanette Gomes (Hobby)

Figure 8

2002 John Keldsen
2003 Thomas McAbee
2004 Thomas McAbee
2005 Ross Killian

Limited Late Model

2002 Jerry O'Hagan
2003 Mike Meazell
2004 Fred Lind
2005 Levi Peterson

Sport Modified

2008 George Mederos
2010 Shawn Bryant
2011 Gary Hildebrand
2012 No Points
2013 Need Info
2014 Nick Spainhoward


2001 Keith Van Houten
2008 Mark Odgers
2009 Tim Prothro
2010 Mike Shearer

Thoughts On Chowchilla Speedway's 15th Anniversary

I look back at the late 70's and throughout the 1980's with fondness.  This was the "Golden Age" of dirt track racing for me.  It peaked around 1985 with three night a week racing, though there were good years after that.  Just think, 1985 was 30 years ago next year. 

I actually have all of my line scoring notes in a book from that year and was considering a weekly "real fantasy" broadcast of the season at Antioch Speedway.  Real because they are based on statistics, but fantasy because how those outcomes occurred are based on my interpretation of the score sheets.

Anyway, 2015 is the 15th anniversary of another occurrence.  This was the year Tom Sagmiller opened Chowchilla Speedway.  I have a crazy idea, but I'm just gonna say it.  I nominate Tom Sagmiller for the Chowchilla Speedway Hall Of Fame.  He more than deserves it, and I'll tell you why.

Chowchilla Speedway never would have happened without him.  Those first years were challenging.  They had a shoe string budget.  It was a crazy dream.  He and Cindy and that crew made it happen.  It was special.  It mattered.  People came to Chowchilla to have fun.  I went there to find my smile in 2000.

Now, we all know how Tom was "back doored" out of the track by politics played by a certain other promoter who is no longer in the game.  A funny thing happened.  He created a dream that was so special that people keep coming back to try to make it happen again.  It's hard to put a finger on what makes this track so special.

Antioch, Merced, Petaluma, Watsonville, Stockton...  They all have longer and more storied pasts, and yet Chowhilla is held as dearly to some racers as these tracks.  Maybe it's the Dirt Track Nationals, the Hobby Stock $500, the Open Wheel Round Up, The Freedom Series, the Dykstra/Odgers Memorial Mechanics & Ladies Race and the many things Tom tried.  I don't know.

Other promoters keep coming back to recapture the magic.  They do okay.  There have been some good races there, but Tom's legacy set the bar high.  With new management taking over, this is the chance to make a statement.  I would recommend getting Tom involved, but even if not, honoring him with a Hall Of Fame induction would be deserved.

I was going through my old notes yesterday, and I found this little column from the night Don O'Keefe Jr., and I went there in support of the Winged 360 2 barrel carb. Sprint Cars.  I'll share it again here.

Pit Stops Visits Chowchilla

The racing weekend for this reporter began on Friday.  South on Highway 99, just inside the Madera County Line, there is a town called Chowchilla.  There is the Madera County Fairgrounds, and it is a place where cars last raced regularly in the 1950's, according to Promoter Tom Sagmiller.  Sagmiller is the promoter of the new one-third mile clay oval called Chowchilla Speedway, and it is thanks to the help of several volunteers that racing began on schedule in late March of this year.  The track will run mainly on Friday nights and features the lowest fan admission prices in the state.

Sagmiller, a former Merced Street Stock track champion, has raced more recently in Hanford and Madera.  However, he has parked his race car to promote the new race track.  It's a challenging endeavor, but one that Tom is up to.  Several drivers and local business men have gotten behind this new track and pitched in where they could.  The featured divisions include the Modifieds, Super Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks and Winged 362 Sprints, but there will be several visits from groups like the NARC Sprint Car Tour, NCMA Modified Sprints, Northern Stars Lightning Sprints and Outlaw Sprint Buggies during the season.  In fact, Sagmiller has been willing to try anything that might be entertaining to the fans.

With 70 cars in the pits, it's obvious that more and more competitors are getting excited about racing on the new track.  The Modifieds accounted for 23 of those cars with the Super Street Stocks bringing in 19.  The Hobby Stock car count in the area has been less than expected in recent years, and this has caused track management to allow Camaros and Firebirds to compete in an effort to draw more cars.  There were just ten in the pits on this night, but several new cars are being built for the entry level division.  The Winged 362 Sprint Car class, a group headed up by 1999 Wingless Spec Sprint racer George Terry, made their debut with the help of several non winged NCMA Modified Sprints.

It was not a good night for point leaders, at least in the Modified and Super Street Stock divisions.  Bob Hotchkiss didn't even make it to the heat race in the Modified he has put up for sale.  Nathan Corn, on the other hand, finished second to title contender Steve Stone in his Street Stock heat race to make it to the trophy dash.  Corn was battling with Ramie Stone in the trophy dash when they made contact on the back stretch and Corn crashed.  Nathan suffered a shoulder injury and was done for the night.  S. Stone would win the feature, which should put him into the top point position when the standings are released. Meanwhile, R. Stone would come back from an early race spin to finish second.  Ramie came into the night a distant tenth in the standings, but he was just fine with that.  At this point, Ramie leads the Street Stock point battle at Merced Speedway. 

This season, many time Merced IMCA Modified champion Larry Folkner is driving the #007 Street Stocker.  As Larry explained, this is partly due to the fact that he still has a $1,000 fine against him from IMCA for refusing the promoter's engine claim at Merced last season.  Larry's closest Modified tracks, other than Chowchilla, are Hanford and Merced, both IMCA sanctioned.  After blowing a motor in the opener, Larry was trying a new motor and admitted he was under powered at this point.  Larry also added that he's just out having fun and not worried about points.  Larry had a rough night when he lost a tire in the feature.  He finished the race, but not on the lead lap.

Tires were a problem for several of drivers running up front in the Street Stock feature.  Contact racing between Bryan Burns and Monty Tomlinson sent Burns to the pits with a flat.  Don Holleran faded back from the top five with a flat.  Race long leader Dan Baldridge Jr. lost a tire, and that tire problem became Tomlinson's when he ran it over on the last lap, giving him a smoking problem as he limped across the finish line.

Getting back to Holleran, he was a bit of a surprise to see in the field.  Don has built a new Street Stock with specific plans to race it in the coming four race series being held between Santa Maria, Watsonville, Hanford and Bakersfield.  This was Don's shakedown run in the car, and he had to be encouraged with how strong it was running before he pitted.  In the pits with him was another former Antioch racer, Dave Johnson.  Holleran had driven Johnson's Pure Stock to a win last season, and that car has since been sold.  Johnson is also building a Street Stocker.  Holleran will likely be doing more racing at Chowchilla this season.

Others in the field included Hanford racers Craig Fromme, Roy Hart Jr. and Ken Noland, and Merced racers Phillip Lust, Jimmy Lust, Mike Shepherd and Tim Ragsdale.  Noland, no relation to the Noland's from Porterville, is a former Off Road racer who has been out of racing for about 25 years.  Shepherd is the younger brother of Southwest Tour racer Kenny Shepherd.  Hart would finish third in the feature, P. Lust fifth and former Merced Late Model star Ragsdale sixth.

The Modified division had some of the best drivers in the state on hand, including rising young star Steve Williams, IMCA star Mike Johnson, Merced champion Paul Stone, Merced veteran Bob Williamson, Hanford racer Jimmy Reeves, Joel Hannagan, Jeff Decker and Fred Lind.  Williams will be running roughly 60 races this season between his Modified effort, a BCRA Midget Lite and a 600 Mini Sprint.  Unfortunately, his main event was not a pretty one as he was involved in two of the yellow flags that contributed to the early yellow-checkered finish and didn't finish the race.

Williamson had gotten up to the top five before being eliminated in a crash.  It was the Hanford racers, Reeves and Johnson, who would finish in the top two positions.  Reeves led every lap, while Johnson took a different path.  He had to pit during the race and was as far back as 20th.  The last restart saw him get by both Decker and Hannagan before the checkered and yellow flags flew.  The way Johnson was running, it's likely he would have passed Reeves, but with a slight bit of smoke coming from his Larkins Chassis, one would have to wonder how far he could have gone.  As it was, Mike made a good case for himself to be the new point leader, which may be the case when points are released.

Third through fifth of Hannagan, Decker and Lind was a bit of surprise.  This isn't because they aren't good, but because these are drivers you might expect at Watsonville.  Lind is actually top five in points at the moment and is chasing points.  Late Model racer Hannagan will probably continue to race here and there, but he will be a racer to contend with wherever he goes.  Decker is currently third in points at Petaluma.  A former Watsonville Figure 8 champion, Lind is also the only driver to go from the Street Stock D Main all the way to the A Main at Antioch Speedway.

It seems in this area of the state, the Stone family is everywhere.  Not to be outdone by the Street Stock division, there are two Stones in the Modifieds, 1999 Merced champion Paul Stone and his cousin Troy Stone.  Troy and Street Stock racer Ramie Stone are brothers, while Steve Stone Sr. and Paul Stone are brothers as well.  Steve Jr. races Trucks.  The four Stones are also cousin to Jack Stanford among others who race at Merced.  The Four Stones started out racing trucks at Merced during the division's strong growth period, when car counts in the mid teens were a regular thing.

The Stone family is one of the most supportive racing families in the area.  While the status of Ramie and Steve was mentioned above, Paul remains in the title hunt at both Chowchilla and Merced.  He finished 11th behind Troy in the most recent Chowchilla race.  Troy, meanwhile, trails 1999 Merced point runner up Stanford in the Merced championship race.  Stanford’s lap six crash in the main event at Chowchilla ended what could have been a top five finish.  One of the reasons Chowchilla Speedway is experiencing such early season success is because of the support of families like the Stones, Corns, Folkners, Harts and Hotchkiss', to name a few.

The Hobby Stock division, like the Little Truck class, doesn't seem to be getting too much switching between tracks.  In fact, Bob Terry is the only Little Truck driver to compete at Chowchilla so far, though word is that more new trucks are in the works.  The only Pure Stock driver listed in the top ten at both Merced and Chowchilla, Daniel Holcomb, indicated he may drop out of the Chowchilla as soon as he has a bad night to concentrate on the other track.  After DNF'ing from a top three run, Daniel headed to Merced and won his first career feature.

However, new cars, like the one debuted on this night by second generation racer Steve Hotchkiss, are being debuted every week.  Hopes are high that this class will grow into the 20's, and the division is halfway there.  Red Williams is the point leader and kept that status intact by winning his heat race and the trophy dash before finishing fifth on the main event.  Driving the #23 car campaigned by Kevin Anderson at the opener, veteran Jerry O'Hagan seemed headed for the main event victory and a positive night that would have gained him ground on Williams in the standings.  However, that ended when he and eventual winner Bill Fredrick got together on the back stretch and he spun off the track.  Fredrick is not currently a member, and second place finisher Sydney Finn moved by O'Hagan for second in points.

At this point, Chowchilla Speedway has a pretty good field of Modifieds and Super Street Stocks, and the Hobby Stock field should continue to grow.  Visits from the NARC Sprint Cars, NCMA Modified Sprints, 362 Sprints, Northern Stars Lightening Sprints and Outlaw Sprint Buggies help make this a show worth seeing.  On non NARC nights, the $5.00 adult and $3.00 children's tickets make this the lowest priced racing program in the state, but with as much racing action as most tracks.  If you haven't checked out Chowchilla Speedway on a Friday night, you might want to make plans to do so.

Greer Wins 363 Sprint Chowchilla Debut

CHOWCHILLA, CA...APRIL 21...The Winged 362 Sprints made their Chowchilla Speedway debut Friday night with the help of several non winged NCMA Modified Sprints.  Taking advantage of his front row starting position, Richard Greer led all 15 laps in his Winged Sprinter to win his first career main event.  1999 Renegade Sprint champion Don Hicks dug his old dirt track car out of mothballs to tune up for the coming big money NCMA races and finished a strong second in front of 1999 NCMA champion Del Quinn, who celebrates his 67th birthday on Easter Sunday.  The night's action was sponsored by Art's Towing of Turlock.

Greer and Steve Amador shared the front row of the 12 car 362 Sprint Car feature with Hicks starting seventh.  Greer quickly built a huge lead and Chris Stevens' Winged Sprint and Hicks raced by Steve Amador for second and third on lap two.  Greer had a straightaway lead in three laps, and an out of shape Stevens was passed by Hicks and Quinn on lap five.  Mark Smith pitted his Modified Sprint, and Stevens spun in Turn 2 for a lap ten caution flag.  Greer continued to lead Hicks and Quinn on the restart as Scott Holloway and Ed Amador Sr. ran fourth and fifth.  Contact between Sam Davies and the Winged Sprint of George Terry saw Davies flip in Turn 2 for a lap 13 caution flag.  Greer continued to command the race ahead of Hicks on the restart as Holloway made a high Turn 4 pass to take third from Quinn.  However, Quinn made an inside pass in Turn 2 a lap later to reclaim third.  Greer brought it home a happy winner ahead of Hicks, Quinn, Holloway, E. Amador and Stevens.

There were a combined 12 cars between the 362 Sprints and the NCMA Modified Sprints.  Holloway won a good battle with Quinn to win the first six lap heat with Terry's Winged Sprint winning the second one.  Holloway came back to claim dash honors.  The Winged Sprints return to Chowchilla on May 12th, and the NCMA will run a race for $1,000 to win at Hanford on April 29th before doing the same at Chowchilla on May 5th.

H 1-Scott Holloway, Del Quinn, Chris Stevens, Don Hicks, Ed Amador Sr.  H 2-George Terry, Jim Janssen, Steve Amador, Brad LeDuc, Richard Greer.  DASH-Holloway, Quinn, Janssen, Terry.  MAIN EVENT-Greer, Hicks, Quinn, Holloway, E. Amador, Stevens, S. Amador, Janssen, LeDuc, Terry, Sam Davies, Mark Smith.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

It Must Be Time For The RPM Workshop In Reno Once Again

Every year, the west coast promoters gather in Reno for a weekend get together.  This event is designed to keep everybody updated on the growing trends in racing, new safety innovations, promotional ideas and that sort of thing.  Promoters even sit down and work out schedules where they can share cars.  Though that doesn't happen like it once did, it still happens.

My first trip to Reno was in 1993 with Mike Johnson.  We were putting together a schedule for the CMA, and we booked lots of dates.  I got in on my press credentials.  Stuart always treated me well there, and I tried to make sure his event got plenty of ink.  Mike actually didn't get in and was in the lobby.  I helped get the attention of the promoters for him.

Of course, by the time the NCMA found out that we had out hustled their guy in Reno, the stuff hit the fan.  In Reno, however, our unity message resonated with the promoters.  It's a pity that feeling didn't last.  It took the creation of Wingless Spec Sprints to finally make that vision a reality.

I think it was the end of 1999 that Don O'Keefe Jr. and I went to Reno.  We went three times if I recall correctly, and I got a good idea of what went on in Reno.  There were lots of interesting seminars, but I noticed how some promoters sort of broke off into cliques.   My last year there was more encouraging in that I witnessed several promoters having a meeting about the future of the sport.

In 2001, I stood and watched as the opportunity presented itself to end the Chowchilla-Merced feud.  This is something I wrote about in my book (If I ever edit and release it).  At the time, I had the money to pay Tom's fine for him, and I nearly gave it to him to end that stupid feud once and for all.  An early storm sent Don and I back early, so I never got the chance.

The one that I didn't attend probably contributed to my departure.  Don was upset with me over that one, and I don't blame him.  He's a lot more level headed than I am, and I was thinking more with my heart than my head.  After missing the Merced banquet, I was done.  I never meant to miss it, but my ride backed out so late that I couldn't arrange another ride.  I ended up at the Antioch banquet presenting the State plaques there, rather than Merced as originally intended. 

That messed up my 2004 plans pretty badly, but Don was his usual rational self.  He insisted I go and speak with the promoters in Reno.  He pointed out that I still had earned my press credentials and should attend.  I should have a presence for The DCRR magazine and web page, The DCRR state point race and just for myself.  He was right.

Had I attended that event, I probably could have done the damage control needed at Merced.  They weren't responding to my attempts to contact them, and in person I may have been able to handle things.  I never meant to miss that banquet, and they have no idea how much I wanted to be there.  Also, John Soares Jr. and I could have talked about 2004 and where I fit into the plans.  Maybe, just maybe, I would have had enough good news to inspire me to continue

With all the negativity that was surrounding me at the time, I couldn't see a point anymore.  I was burnt out, plain and simple, but Don knew I could possibly turn it around just by representing myself at the biggest promoters gathering on the west coast.  I know that now, but I couldn't see it then.  Don has never steered me wrong with his advice.

Anyway, as Reno takes place (is it this weekend?), I will look back at a couple of articles I wrote about the event 12 years ago.  Has it been that long?  Where does the time go?

The Road To 2003 Goes Through Reno

RENO, NV...There had been a buzz for several months about it.  Several of the top Bay Area and Valley dirt track promoters were going to get together and start talking about the future.  The long-range goal would be to build a bigger series, but the short-term goal would be to begin repair the rift between tracks that has been in existence for over a decade.  The place for this meeting would be Reno, Nevada during the 30th Annual Promoter's Workshop.  This was just one of the major happenings that made the 2002 installment of the Workshop one of the most productive for Bay Area and Valley racing.
At the special meeting were Petaluma Promoter Jim Soares, Antioch Promoter John Soares, Watsonville Promoter Rick Farren, Bakersfield Promoter Doug Bainton, Western Dirt Late Model Tour Race Director Sandy Bainton, Chowchilla track manager Tom Sagmiller and special events promoter George Steitz.  Though Merced Promoter Chuck Griffin was not at that table, it is not an indication that he didn't want to be included or that they didn't want him there.  Many things were discussed at this meeting, much of which will not be mentioned here.  What was discussed were a potential Super Stock/Limited Late Model Tour that could encompass as many as four tracks, working together on open show booking, honoring each others suspensions and other things.
This reporter will let the final outcome be revealed by the promoter's themselves and what was booked on their respective schedules.  However, this appears to be a very big positive.  The fact that the meeting even happened was big enough, considering where things have been in recent years.  Conversations with Jim, John, Rick and Chuck have revealed four promoters who very much want to start building a stronger and better future for racing.  Hopefully, things will work out in the long run as a successful SS/LLM Series could pave the way for similar efforts in other divisions and the return of the State Series that existed some 15 years ago.
While this was taking place, other things were happening.  The NCMA Wingless Sprints are staring at one of their best dirt seasons in years, while still preserving pavement.  As the NCMA will not have officially approved their schedule at press time, it is known there could be as many as seven tracks, including two possible Antioch dates, the Del Quinn Memorial and Darryl Shirk Memorial.  What could challenge the NCMA on pavement is a proposed new group, headed up by former NARC Sprint Car champion Mike McCreary.  However, the NCMA will still hold the dirt at Merced and Chowchilla, ending speculation of a new group emerging there.  In fact, Chowchilla, to nobody's surprise, has thrown in the towel on their own carbureted Sprint Car effort, at least for the time being.  Chowchilla was still planning a Third Annual Open Wheel Round Up as of Reno and is also expected to run a slightly adjusted Freedom Series and November Chowchilla Shoot Out.
If Antioch's announcement of offering the NCMA it's first dates there since 1998 aren't surprising enough, Soares had a further surprise.  Though Antioch and Petaluma are doing a new Late Model effort for 2003, the Western Dirt Late Model Tour is being offered race date opportunities at both tracks.  Soares has said all along that he will try to work with the Southern California effort as much as possible, and though nothing has been announced as of yet, it looks like it may happen.  The Bainton Promoted Dirt Late Model Tour will also probably return to Watsonville as well.  Sandy Bainton is hard at work making sure that the Western Dirt Late Model Tour will have a solid 2003 season.
Antioch and Petaluma will work more closely together than they have in over three decades.  All Pro Series Rule Books will be printed up as books for both tracks, and huge changes are not expected.  One proposed change in the Dirt Modified division of no engine claim and the use of a restrictor plate should make racers happy.  The tracks will share divisions and a few of the classes may not have track championships, but rather an Overall title.  Late Models, Wingless Spec Sprints, Super Stocks, Dirt Modifieds, Street Stocks, Dwarf Cars, Pure Stocks and Mini Stocks (Trucks at Antioch) should see dates at both tracks, while Petaluma's sagging 360 Sprint Car effort will probably have some dates at Antioch.  The 2003 schedules at both tracks should be better than ever.
Watsonville Speedway should offer more of the same with Limited Late Models being added to the roster along with Grand American Modifieds, Street Stocks, American Stocks and the Figure 8.  It won't be a surprise to see the BADCA Dwarf Cars back at Watsonville several times, and in fact, that group will likely have a few shoot out dates at Petaluma with the All Pro group.  The two jewels of the Watsonville schedule, the Tim Williamson Classic and Mike Cecil Memorial, are both expected to return in 2003, and with several other special surprises sprinkled in there, 2003 will be a great year at Watsonville.
In Reno, it was revealed that Perris Auto Speedway and Susanville will be joining IMCA as well as one other track in Washington.  With Perris in the mix, if the schedules are booked just right between Victorville, Imperial, Ventura, Bakersfield and Barona, it could enable a new Regional and State player to emerge.  Merced Speedway will remain with IMCA and will probably book another 30-race season to keep its IMCA Modified division competitive.  A couple big Modified shows were also being considered at press time.  Street Stocks will remain Merced's top CCMR division and will continue to feature the Little Indy 100 on Memorial Day Weekend and the Timmy Post 99 in July.  Hobby Stocks will take a more prominent role and the entry level Pure Stocks will remain.  Many other surprises will also be in store in 2003 at Merced.
The BCRA Midgets will continue to race dirt and pavement, and this year, they will race once in Banks, Oregon, as well as most of the same places they raced in 2002.  The BCRA Midget Lites and Vintage Midgets groups both also report solid racing schedules.  However, of interest is the growing USAC Ford Focus group.  Boasting huge sponsorship from Ford that helps with the purses, this division is making a serious play for Northern California dates, and it won't be a big surprise to see them at Nor Cal tracks.  Contrary to rumors, it appears that the Golden State Challenge Series has a healthy schedule for 2003 with the 410 Sprints racing at Chico, Calistoga, Hanford, Tulare, Placerville and Watsonville.  The Civil War Pacific Sprint Car Series, likewise, is still going strong and will remain prominent at Chico, Marysville and Placerville with Hanford and Calistoga two other possibilities.
Marysville recently changed promoters as Clyde Tipton, a former SORA Sprint 100's Promoter, has taken over for the retiring Hall Family.  Carbureted Sprint Cars are expected to return to Marysville, possibly under the NCMA banner, while the headliner Pacific Sprints, Mini Stocks, Stock Cars and NCDCA Dwarf Cars are also expected to return to the fast quarter-mile clay oval.  The carbureted Sprint Car movement may or may not be a reality at Sacramento Raceway, but it appears that the quarter-mile dirt oval will host at least six 600 Multi Sprint/250 Modified Midget Events in 2003.  It also appears as if Argyll Park in Dixon will finally be hosting races on the banked one-fifth mile clay oval.  A new Quarter-Midget association (CORA) will be staging these events.

RPM Promoter's Workshop In Reno Turns 30

RENO, NV...The Racing Promoter's Monthly newsletter celebrated a couple milestones in Reno in December.  It was the 30th Annual Promoter's meeting held in Reno, and a record turnout of Promoters, Associations and Vendors were on hand for this event.  RPM's Publisher Stewart Dody and his crew once again did an excellent job of organizing the big event, which was sponsored once again by K&K Insurance, Hoosier Tires and NASCAR.  The three-day event featured several seminars, covering a wide range of topics, including track safety, promotional ideas and things that will affect auto racing in the near future.
A definite highlight to the event was the opening speech of Knoxville Promoter Ralph Capitani.  Capitani is the 26th Auto Racing Promoter Of The Year, and kept everybody's attention with great promotional ideas mixed in with a few well-timed jokes.  Ralph talked about promoting a family type atmosphere at your race track, including giving fans job opportunities when possible and getting drivers involved in helping increase pit and grandstand attendance.  He put forth some great ideas on raising point fund money, including going to manufactures and using billboard sign money.  Ralph also spoke of the importance of big shows, adding that they can take a few years to build and that to start money is as important as to win money.
Also on opening day, NASCAR Winston Cup racer and racetrack promoter Kenny Schrader spoke for an hour on his racing career and becoming a promoter.  Schrader was down to earth and very enjoyable to listen to.  A USAC Silver Crown & Sprint Car champion before becoming a Winston Cup racer, Kenny still loves to return to his short track roots whenever possible.  Kenny sees himself racing on the Winston Cup Tour for a few more years and the Craftsman Truck Series maybe a while after that, but he says he will eventually retire and promote his race track, I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo.

In another seminar talking about promoting short tracks, Ventura Raceway Promoter Jim Naylor was one of a panel of three.  Jim put the one-fifth mile clay oval in Southern California on the map, defying the odds along the way.  He ran a popular TQ Midgets program, and when they said he couldn't run Midgets, he did that, and got TV for those USAC events as well.  He built Stock Car and IMCA Modified programs, but his crowning success may have been the SCRA Sprint Car events.  Again, they said Sprint Cars wouldn't work at Ventura, but he's proven them wrong once more.
In recent seasons, Naylor introduced the very successful VRA Wingless Sprint Cars as well as the companion Senior Sprints, which allow drivers over a certain age to run the same car.  This means two registered drivers for several cars.  As Naylor's money to sustain the racing program comes just from the front and back gate and whatever sponsorships he can attain, the Senior Sprint program has been a positive in keeping things going.  Recently, however, Ventura Raceway hit a major snag.
A growing concern to California Fairgrounds based racetracks is an increasing interest by the state in finding other ways to generate income with the property.  Back in July of 2002, Naylor admitted that Ventura Raceway came within a few hours of closing as County Officials proposed other options for the facility, including a concert hall.  However, Naylor fought back, and with the help of hundreds in the racing community, the track survived and has been given the green light for 2003.
Naylor admitted that there would be more fights in the future, but is very confident that he and the rest of the Ventura team will be ready.  They are taking a proactive stance in this battle and a Save The Ventura Raceway committee has been created to prepare for those future battles.  What Jim has learned in this battle is that Ventura Raceway has many friends.  He is also using all the threats against the track to generate positive publicity and is confident that 2003 will be an even better year for the track. Naylor's ideas for track promotion and his story of the battle of 2002 were the highlight of this particular seminar.
These and other seminars were just a part of the event.  Once again, there were several booths displaying everything from tires, to designer schedule window signs, racetrack officials uniforms, race track score boards & bleachers, insurance information, web sites and racing associations.  Once again, IMCA and WISSOTA were both well represented, and both racing associations reported that new tracks would be joining up for 2003.  The oldest motor sports sanctioning body in the US. IMCA, is expected to report at least three new tracks in the Western Region for 2003.  This year, there was even a NASCAR booth promoting their Weekly Racing Series.
As usual, a few of the West Coast Racing Magazines were represented, including the 40-year tradition known as Racing Wheels and Don's California Racing Review.  The DCRR proudly crowned six California State champions in 2002, but at one of the tables, they were boasting an even bigger accomplishment.  The people at, in association with Valvoline Oil, crowned 33 National champions in various categories.  The cash awards of the championships alone was $1,000 per class, not counting contingency prizes and cash and awards to others in the top ten in their categories.  This was an impressive accomplishment indeed.
Another nice aspect of this event is the renewing of friendships.  For some people, this is the only time they see each other and an opportunity to talk about the last year in racing.  For others, this is an opportunity for promoters to form alliances that help build the sport.  For the various racing associations, this is an opportunity to secure race dates and build a schedule as promoters look for those special divisions to build their schedules.  All this and more makes the RPM Promoter's Workshop in Reno an event every racing promoter should attend.  There is always something to learn at one of these events, and RPM has been doing their best to help the sport for more than three decades.