It's ready now. Before I get into the details of this new book, I'm gonna talk about what led me write it in the first place...
Don't worry, you can just scroll down if you get bored. It's all in here...
In July of 2013, I got a phone call from Mike McCann. He wanted to talk about racing in general and we shared our thoughts on the current situation. We discussed what was happening at Orland Raceway, which was his track at the time. I won't get into all of that as this was a private conversation, but I offered my opinions and ideas on things.
I knew Mike had his work cut out for him because that place has had some serious struggles since Paul & Carol Turner walked away. I have a lot of respect for those two because they probably had the best program there in years. They took that little track and made it something special. After that, it was a struggle to keep it open.
Promoters that followed had things working against them. During their struggles, the track down the road started a Mini Stock, Hobby Stock and Spec Sprint program and awarded points. Management after the Turners ran races, but not point races. I wanted to help, which is why I ghost wrote for Orland while doing the same for my home track (Antioch Speedway) in 2010.
What can I say? I kind of like that track. They gave the NCMA some race dates years earlier. They were the first track to follow Antioch into the Spec Sprint revolution. When I met the Turners in Reno in 2001, I suggested they start a point race for the guys, and they did just that. Up until then, it was the Jacobos running hot laps. Next, they had a big race with 27 cars in 2003. This little track wanted to do big things.
So, I knew some of the people who followed the Turners. One of them was Pat Bisio, a past Antioch Pure Stock and Spec Sprint racer. Several years earlier, Pat was actually talking about something that would have been so cool if it had happened. I won't get into it here, but it didn't surprise me when he was one of the people trying to keep this track going. I know he had been racing there and wanted the place to survive. He's good people.
So, while I listened to Mike, a past Promoter Of The Year award winner for his work at the track in Cottage Grove, Oregon, I heard what he was trying to do. He wanted to build his car count and then enter into partnerships with tracks that could benefit each other. There were already tracks asking him, but Mike wanted to make sure he had a base first. Car count basically needed to be rebuilt. He did book some Hunt Series races and I believe had BCRA up there as well.
Mike had challenges, and I had ideas. I didn't want to intrude, so I waited to see if he was interested and wrote the post that stayed at the top of this blog for a while. I feel bad for Mike, because if he could have turned the corner, that race track could have had days as good as or even better than the "golden age" of the Turner reign. Unfortunately, he had to step away half way into 2014 after doing all he could.
Running Orland Raceway or any track in this day and age isn't easy. He was up against a lot, and so is the new management. It's up the the racers to decide if they want to get behind this new management and build something up. It won't be too much longer before that track just goes dark if the racers won't race there. As for Mike, I have a lot of respect for him, and he could still do good things for this sport. He's a man who has a good record and seems to like the underdog tracks. That's another thing I like about him.
Anyway.... This is going someplace, I swear...
Mike fired up my mind again. I was talking a lot with my good friend Don O'Keefe Jr. as well, and I started gathering info, pulling in late nights and planning a new DCRR book, the history book I started this blog for in the first place. It would be more than one book, to be honest, because I want to be detailed on as many of the races and racers as possible.
Then, I thought I should write a post about what got me started in the sport. I was feeling nostalgic, still a little down about things and I was in a weird place. The post started just fine, but I kept writing and writing. Before I knew it, I was writing about my struggles to get some place in racing as a writer, my battles with track management, my time with the NCMA. Do I stop? No.
I had no idea where I was going or if I would use it, but I had to write. I had to keep going. I think I had 40,000 words by the time I got to the chapter where I was looking back after walking away. Then, I started writing again, because there were holes to fill. Another 20,000 words later, I had what I told Don would be a nice little auto biography if I wanted to release it.
Did I? Who the hell am I? Does anybody care? As the chapter in the book says, it's not about us. I was a writer, publisher, announcer and some would say all around pain in the ass. I was once called detrimental to racing by management at Antioch. I took it as a compliment at the time, because the racers liked what I was doing. I think it was Tom Leopold who called me Stats. Darryl Shirk called me Scoop. I jokingly referred to myself as Detrimental Don.
In those 60,000 words, I took a hard look at everything, including myself. I took the gloves off and called things as honestly as I could. I took myself to task. I tried to see things from the view of a few people I sparred with and realized a few things. I was honest about why I did what I did, right or wrong, and how I felt at certain times. But, would anybody care? I had my doubts. I did think writing that was a bit of therapy for me. It was in need of heavy editing to ever do anything with it, so I walked away.
My mind went far from anything racing. I probably should have worked on the book, but I didn't. It didn't hit me until last November that I should not run away from the racing side of my life. I don't know if any of this matters now, but I felt I needed to return to it and do something. I like to write, and racing should be one of my subjects. I wrote about it for too long to not do it now.
I had a plan. The first part was the Best Of The Blog And Beyond book, which took over a month to put together as it required lots of layout work, some editing and over 30,000 words of new material. While working on that, another 30,000 words were written for the auto biography as I thought of other things to cover. The book became over 90,000 words or 136 pages as I have completed the project.
I don't know if anybody is interested in any of it. I really was just a kid from the grandstands who went on to do some things that might have mattered to some people in racing. I wore my heart on my sleeve, leaped before I looked at times and paid the price sometimes. When I had people to work with, such as my sister and Don O'Keefe Jr., I managed to do some good things.
So, in this book, I talk a little about how I got hooked on racing, being taken in by Al Norstrom and his family and learning more, my time with the NCMA, CMA and Spec Sprints, publishing a magazine and some of the many interesting anecdotes I have about certain incidents and interesting people I met in the sport.
Then, there is track management. I had several promoters listening to my opinions and sometimes even doing things I had suggested. When I got in that position, I tried to make a difference, but I wasn't perfect. I was not friendly with Brynda Bockover, and I sometimes think she deserved better from me. That is chronicled in the book. I was still in the mode where I wished a Soares was back at Antioch, and then it happened. John Soares Jr. came after Antioch Speedway.
Be careful what you wish for...
I worked with John and helped do many things during those first three seasons. That was the peak time for the track in car count. It leveled off for a year and declined slowly over the next decade. Many factors played into that, and blaming any one thing isn't fair. I don't look at all of that, but I do talk about the good and bad of those three years. I discuss why I'm to blame for some things, others are to blame for some things and sometimes things just happened.
I went on to show that I could still do what I loved to do at other tracks, and that led to Chowchilla Speedway and Merced Speedway. We all know the feud between Tom Sagmiller and Chuck Griffin. I knew it well before I even went down there. In much the same way I wanted to help facilitate an alliance between Sagmiller and Soares, I somewhat naively thought I could broker a peace between Tom and Chuck. I'm a dreamer. That's chronicled there as well as why it ended for me at Chowchilla. I am honest and there's plenty of blame to go around, including myself.
There is a lot in this book and a lot more I could have included. Some doesn't come to mind, but some does. So, there are stories about how I learned by doing as a publisher and writer, my attempt to bring Sportsman racing back to Antioch, my thoughts on the man who is "the Voice" of Antioch Speedway, the time I could have been killed on the way to the track, memorable racers and races I've seen and so much more.
And that's it. This book is done, and I have no project planned for the next one. I have ideas, but that is up to the readers. I feel a lot of creativity in me at the moment, whether used for a nostalgia project or the current racing scene. If nothing else, I have now released my second racing book of the year, and I am proud of both of them. I'm interested in doing more, especially a "just the facts" history project, and I can do it well. However, if these two books are all that I do from here on out, I think they represent things pretty well.
Anyway, here's the Table Of Contents and where to get this book for those who are interested.
Just A Kid From The Grandstands: My Time In Auto Racing
By Don Martin II
Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover
Don Martin II is an award winning writer and announcer, who has covered auto racing at various racing venues throughout California, including Antioch Speedway, Merced Speedway, Chowchilla Speedway, Watsonville Speedway, Altamont Raceway and Petaluma Speedway. Sometimes he was very controversial in his opinions, but he was always honest. Within these pages is the story of his journey from being a fan in the grandstands to becoming the publisher of a weekly racing magazine, an announcer and writer for three race tracks and a co founder of the popular Wingless Spec Sprint division.
Table Of Contents
Why Write This Book Now? 5-6
My Family's Support 7-9
How I Got Hooked On Racing 10-12
My Time With The Nordstrom Family 13-16
The Letter Cars And The Special Races 17
My First Big Opportunity 18
Supporting Steve Torres 19
The Column That Launched And Doomed Me 20
Meeting Mike Johnson And Joining The NCMA 21-22
Mike Johnson And The CMA 23-27
The Magazine And Opportunities Blown And Never Given 28-29
The Art Of The Magazine 30-32
Meeting Mike Conley 33
I've Never Been A Fan Of Early Rainouts 34-35
The Pacific Coast Report 36-39
The Ugly Specter Of Favoritism 40-42
Chuck Taylor & Figure 8 Demise 43-45
Be Kind To Typewriters 46-47
Random Thoughts 48-49
Meeting Dennis Furia 50-51
The Case For A Hall Of Fame 52
Of Soft Drinks And Free Magazine Promotion 53
Car Builders And Parts Dealers 54
Can I Get A Ride? 55
Can I Quote You? 56-57
The Interviews & Conversations 58-60
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Race Track 61-62
Lonnie Fish And The Not So United Drivers 63
Brynda Got It Right 64-65
Backing John Soares Jr. 66-68
The Beauty Of Opening Day 68
Barkhimer, Clapp, Farren and Bockover And The End Of "The Barky Legacy" 69-74
The Beginning Of The John Soares Jr. Era 75-76
When Sweet Turns Sour 77-78
Working With Don O'Keefe Jr. On Wingless Spec Sprints 79-83
An Ill Fated Night In 1999 That Changed It All For Me 84
Trying To Smile As Things Get Worse 85-86
Chowchilla Speedway And Tom Sagmiller 87-88
Wanting To Walk Away From Antioch Speedway 89
Goodbye Dear Friends 90
The Sportsman Division Returns To Merced 91
The End For Me At Antioch Speedway 92
Working With Joe Martinez And Starting CRO 93
Going To One Banquet And Avoiding The Other 94
Getting Banned From Antioch Speedway 95
Why Announce At Merced Speedway? 96-97
Tom Sagmiller Said What? 98
Of Hobby Stocks At Chowchilla 99
Walking The Fence In An Ugly Feud 100
Sagmiller's Risk Was Spec Sprint's Reward 101
Being "Clubbed" Over The Head And Liking It 102-106
Sweet Turns Sour Again 107-108
In Reno For A Reconciliation That Never Happened 109
Does It Matter Who Won The Feud? 110
Picking Up The Pieces For A Final Push 111
On The Road With My Friend Chris 112
The DCRR State Point Race 113
Good Bye Del Quinn And NCMA Frustrations 114
Burning Out Fast 115
The Last Straw 116
Assessing John Meyers 117-120
To All The Tracks I've Been To Before 121-123
Memorable Racers And Races I've Seen 124-129
It's Not About Us 130-131
One More Attempt To Pull Me Back In 132
Looking Back From Afar 133-134