There seems to be a bit of turmoil brewing at Oval Motorsports Inc's playground. I'm a little baffled as to what has gone down here, but it went from really good news to not so good. It started with the October announcement of the big IMCA Modified events at Antioch and Merced. John was putting up big money, and this at a time when I don't think it was a great season at Antioch statistically. John did what he always does, he doubles down and commits to it.
Well, there should have been talk about
who is coming to the New Years Events at Antioch and Merced and who will
win the money. That's not what happened, because Merced Speedway was
rocked with huge news. Doug Williams resigned as General Manager. This
was big news, because Doug is one of the people at Merced, one of the
racers. A racer's racer. The guy who shocked the Watsoinville guys by
winning a NASCAR Regional title and bringing it to Merced. A BCRA Hall
Doug is a Merced Speedway legend and on the
list of the first dozen racers I would put into the Hall Of Fame there.
John picked the right man for Merced, but here's a news flash. Doug
wasn't the first choice according to my sources. Mike McCann was the
first choice, but Mike loves the challenging causes. He gave it a go at
Orland. He had to deal with some of the elements that threaten Merced Speedway, and it ended his Orland run in July of this year.
Doug stepped in and began the effort to strengthen Merced Speedway's
ties with the community. He brought Legend's Night to the track to
honor greats from the track's past. He gave us back The Ted Stofle
Classic. Doug, by all accounts, was loved as General Manager. A local
guy. As October came to a close, Doug resigned from Merced Speedway. I was a shocked, and people are not reacting well to the news.
Why did he do it?
Immediately, John is painted as the bad guy. Doug doesn't do anything
to discourage that line of thinking, citing John and the PR Guy and
plans for 2015 that he didn't like. I have theories about what is going on, but for now will keep them to myself. I think I've been in a similar environment, and it's not fun.
thing I do know is John has a PR problem with his racers in The Valley
that must be addressed or he will be hurting for cars. I know a little
about the racers at Merced. They are good people. They can be loyal,
but they can also be stubborn. If they feel wronged, they will park.
They want to know that their voices will be heard. For a long time,
they felt they were being ignored. They parked in big enough numbers to
nearly destroy that track. John saved it. Nobody wanted it. That's a
fact. Some pretty big names in racing promotions looked and passed on
Merced. John was all that was left, and he wanted to save it.
how do you fix it? The first thing I do is pick up the phone and call
Doug Williams. Let's talk and see if this can be resolved. Maybe it's
too late, but maybe not. He is the leader down there that the racers
rally behind. If it's to late to salvage, a local Merced racer would be
the best place to start, but I can only think of a few names that fit
one with the experience is Tom Sagmiller. He and John get along, last I
heard. I think Tom is liking just coming in and doing track prep, so I
don't know if he would want the job. I do know he is all about the
community, and that is needed. This needs to be resolved and publicized
as soon as possible to put the racer's minds at ease.
are talking of selling their cars, and others were talking about going
to Chowchilla. Well, that was before John got Chowchilla too. He has
two tracks 16 miles apart, and a group of drivers that are a little
upset with him right now. The racers are stubborn. They will park and
worry about having no track when it happens. It sounds crazy, but it's
true. We've all seen it happen there before, and it doesn't need to
don't know what happened between John and Doug. We all have things
that we believe strongly in and will stand up for. I've worked with
John, and looking back, the biggest issues he and I really had was a
communication breakdown and other people in our ears feeding us bad
information about each other. What happened between John and
Doug is unknown to me. I only know that Doug felt strongly enough in
his position to walk away.
It would be nice if cooler
heads could prevail here if possible. I don't know what the sticking
point between them was, so it's hard to say. However, John needs to set
people's minds at ease in The Valley that what they want does matter
and that somebody who knows the area will be the next GM. Either way,
they need somebody who is fair and understands the issues that racers face.
John and Oval Motorsports Inc. has doubled down again. Antioch, Merced and Chowchilla make three tracks under the same umbrella.
My guess is John will keep promoting racing until he is unable to do
so, and he's prepared to put his money where his mouth is. In 2014,
that is a huge risk. Racing is still alive and well, but it's seen it's
better days in California. If a track closes now, there is no
guarantee anybody will come in with money to reopen it.
I am disappointed to know that Doug isn't involved at Merced. He was good for the track.
Whatever John's next move is, I hope he puts the word out sooner versus
later. If the weather holds up, Merced is scheduled to have a race the
first week of January, so it's just around the corner. Personally, I am
hoping for a strong year for all three race tracks and I'm hoping John
can make it happen. I've always had the belief that he and his father
were good for racing.
Merced needs some good news, and
I'd also add that their drivers deserve a banquet in their own area,
rather than driving to Antioch for it. Regardless of what happened with
John and Doug, the racers shouldn't have to suffer for it. Hopefully, things will clear up in a positive way by the time the Promoter's Workshop comes around.