Thursday, January 22, 2015

Antioch Speedway Needs To Generate More Excitement For Points Racing

Two things...

At the bottom of this article is a new DCRR Racing Radio Show that, among other things, talks about getting drivers interested in racing for points again at Antioch.


Don's California Racing Recollections:  Best Of The Blog And Beyond

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The intent here is to look at something that I think can be improved upon.  The problem with writing something like this is that I will offend some people.  That is NOT my intent here.  Those of you who have been around the races for a while know what I'm trying to say.  So, if I do offend anybody here I'm sorry.

You know, back in the day, I'd be bouncing around ideas in my head for the season preview edition of The DCRR .  If I did an issue in January, it would probably still be season recap and special story kind of stuff.  The preview didn't hit the mail until the week before the season.  In fact, they did a preseason sign up meeting at the pizza parlor.  I tried to go to that before doing that edition.

This way, I knew who actually had signed up at that point.  I generally had already heard a lot of the rumors of who was moving up and who was taking a break or retiring.  Then, I'd do a serious break down of the racers past accomplishments and things I had noticed about what they had done.  It's easy to do when you have no life.  Those old season previews were pretty detailed.  Right down to predictions on who might contend to be in the top 10, 15 or even 20, who might be "Most Improved Driver" and "Rookie Of The Year" and so on.

I was very into this.  Generally, I was pretty accurate, but thank God there were surprises too.  We don't want it to be too predictable or we get bored.  Back in those days, the late 1980's and early 1990s, there were a lot of cars.  You earned what you got.  Being in the top ten wasn't a guarantee.  You had to race every week and do well.  I've mentioned how we had drivers race every week and make it out of the B Main once or twice that year or not at all.

It took a lot to win a championship.  Now, I'm gonna get into a topic that I in no way want to discuss to be offensive.  I respect what it takes to race every week.  I know what they have to do to make it happen.  I learned a lot from my time with Allan Nordstrom.  He became a top ten driver at Antioch, and it took a lot of effort to do that.

Antioch Speedway recently opened their season.  Those races counted for points.  When I look at the Limited Late Modes, they were one of the most loyally supported classes last season.  I think there were five drivers to run every race, give or take a driver.  Larry Damitz is the man to beat, but Mike Hynes, Jim Freethy, Mark Garner and Mike Gustafson started the season with him this year.  Not sure Gustafson wants it.  He doesn't always race for points or he'd have a lot more championships.  Somebody will likely be there to keep Larry on his toes.  You'd like to see more racers, but at least there should be two or three drivers racing for that title.

Sport Mods are the same as Limited Late Models as far as support, maybe slightly better.  It went down to the end last season, and the top five drivers had a good attendance record.  You have to have some drivers showing up every week or you have what we had in 1988 when Mike Johnson won the NCMA Antioch Championship.  Boy did he take grief for that for different reasons.  But, there was an excuse in his case.  The division had just started.

The Dirt Modifieds have been at Antioch since 1990.  I see where Spec Sprints took some heat for car count last year and even had a date canceled, but here's the thing.  The Dirt Modifieds had sub ten car fields just as much as they did.  The Northern All Stars Tour actually used Sport Mods to fill the field or there would have been a couple more sub ten car fields.  I say that NOT to bash the class, but to make a point.

Even in that first year for Dirt Modifieds, four guys were in the hunt, and it could have been any one of then who could have won it.  It was interesting watching early division booster Bruce Curl Sr. battle past Antioch Stock Car and Sportsman State Champion "Rapid" Richard Johnson for that title.  Johnson won it.  Then, Scott Busby took over for a few years, but we still had great attendance.  Then, Regional points came in, and it got insane.  The racing was brutal, the drivers very supportive and we had a quality Top 20 in points.  The Top 5 were championship quality drivers.  I mean, they could have won the title at other tracks that season had they went there.

In recent seasons, if we have three drivers running all of the Modified races, it's a good season.  I say that NOT to belittle Troy Foulger, because I will be honest.  He's a good driver, racing for a good team with good equipment.  I can easily see him winning a championship or two back in those days.  It's not his fault nobody is challenging him.  So, he rattled off a track record four championships in a row.

Last year, Troy was on his way again when he pulled a Dean Cline.  Dean never cared for points, and he abandoned two likely Stock Car Championship seasons at Antioch.  One season, he sold his car to the driver who won that championship.  In Troy's case, I'm betting it was because he had nothing to prove and he wanted to focus on the other Modified Series and that Late Model.  I believe he won a Late Model feature down the stretch too.

Only one driver had Troy's attendance record at that point in IMCA Modifieds, and he won the championship.  I WILL NOT belittle his accomplishment.  When I was announcing, he started racing Street Stocks.  He became a runner up in points in a competitive field for multiple seasons.  He raced Limited Late Models and was fast when the car together.  I was actually talking to his dad a lot at the time as I "ghost wrote" that one season here on the blog.  So, yeah, I feel that he's a good driver, and I congratulate Carl Berendsen II on winning that championship.  I know they have a tight budget, so getting to the races last year was probably tough some times.

As I look at this year's point race and deduct the visitors from the 28 cars that raced at Antioch, that leaves potentially 11 drivers who will race for this IMCA Modified Championship.  Of course, I'm including Kellen Chadwick, Nick DeCarlo, Scott Busby, Shawn DeForest, Bobby Hogge IV, Mitch Machado and Joe Carr in that.  Will they be regulars?

I would LOVE it if Chadwick, DeCarlo, Busby and DeForest raced there.  Right now, Chadwick and DeCarlo are on Foulger's heels.  I believe the DeCarlo team has reason NOT to support Antioch.  Just my opinion based on observations and not conversations.  Then again, beating Foulger, or trying to, may appeal to the 2014 Petaluma Speedway Champion.  As for Chadwick, he is fast ANYWHERE he races, but it's usually just money races.  He has an Antioch title already.  I don't see Busby going for it, but there are fans who would love to see him try.

So, if I borrow a page from Gary Jacob, who used to do the "Realistic" Regional Point sheets that warned the Stock Car drivers that Merced Cal Mod racer Gordon Rodgers was coming, the Antioch point sheet looks like this if the other big names don't support the point race.

Realistic Antioch IMCA Modified Points

Troy Foulger        98
Shawn DeForest    56
Chester Kniss       54
Bobby Motts         50
John MacDougall     36

I'm assuming DeForest stays for the IMCA deal, otherwise Foulger has a 44 point lead over Kniss.  If the other three top five don't run, this is what's left.  It looks like it's already Foulger's Championship to win if he wants it.  We have some talented racers in the area who compete at times, such as Aaron Crowell, Mike Salazar and Johnny Curtis.  They didn't race at the big show, so they are 98 points behind Foulger already.  This is another drawback to making that big show a points race.

Why does any of this even matter?  I mean, the fans that braved the cold saw a couple of really good Dirt Modified shows.  The racing is generally good all season.  Why bring this up?  I suppose it's a little bit like having a burger at Nations or one of the better places.  You have a plain burger or you have ketchup, mustard or whatever you like on it.  The point race is the ketchup and other garnishments.

Back in the day, yeah, we talked about who was winning, but it was also about the points.  We wanted to see who would win the championship.  In 1980, Mike Gustafson and San Houston had a close battle.  Len Mello could have lost it all on the last night in 1981 if Mike Green was a dirty driver, which he's not.  Only ten points in favor of Dave Byrd over J.D. Willis during two exciting seasons in 1982-83.

Fans get excited about that stuff.  They come back for more.  It's one of the ways you hype it and create excitement.  It brings fans and it gets drivers more interested in racing.  I know the economy and other things factor into this, but they schedule substantially less races for each division than they used to.  Driver support (each race) has waned in that time.

As a writer, I'd have to say this is Troy Foulger's championship to lose.  I'd be pushing the "what if" scenario of Chadwick and DeCarlo until we don't see them at the third or fourth race.  As somebody who has always been a supporter of the little guy, I'd be writing about Chester Kniss and his accomplishments.  He's come up through the ranks and done well for himself.  Might he be due for that Championship?  I'd do what I could with my articles.

All of these awesome racers deserve credit, because they put on a show from the front to the back of the pack.  They are why I ever wanted to be involved in the first place, so hyping them all up would be my goal.  I did it with the NCMA, at Merced when times were really bad there in car count.  I know it made a difference at Chowchilla too.  I want to see it start building up again at Antioch like it should be and can be again.

But, the bottom line is what really is needed is a way to create excitement in the Championship battles again.  Inspiring the drivers to want to come back.  That sort of thing.  How?  Do you bring a "Chase" format to the track where guys can make it as long as they support X amount of races?  Is that fair to the drivers who do totally support the shows?  Do you throw away a bad finish or two, which can confuse the fans?  I don't know.

I just wish there were more drivers running every race and making the points more interesting.  The drivers who are winning the Championships deserve them.  They are dedicated racers, and you have to be dedicated to be a Champion.  But, I guess what I'm saying is we need to find a way to create more support.  Or rather, they need to do that.  I'm just a writer with a blog and a book to finish.  I'm not even a part of things, so what do I know?  Whatever the case, I wish them nothing but success at Antioch and all the tracks.

DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 6 by GenWhat