Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Curious Case Of Antioch Speedway Four Bangers

At the bottom of this post is a new episode of the DCRR Racing Radio Show, which actually deals with subjects related to this article, though it was recorded prior to the big announcement.

In case you haven't heard, it was just announced on the Antioch Speedway Facebook Page that all Mini Stock races would be moved to Merced Speedway  this season.  When you look at car count numbers at Antioch, this is not a surprise.  Given the nature of this division, however, I wonder if anybody will tow to Merced as I'm sure track management hopes will be the case.

So, the Mini Stocks can join the Street Stocks and Mini Trucks on the scrap heap of discarded divisions at the track.  Oddsmakers may be trying to figure out who could be next, Econo Sprints or IMCA Modifieds.  The rule changes just made in Econo Sprints (formerly Wingless Spec Sprints) may be a foreshadowing of what is to come.  IMCA Modifieds have already been effected by the presence of Sport Mods and had several sub ten car fields last season.

The track kind of had to make this move with the Mini Stocks.  It was either this or actually try to call a meeting with the racers and see who was left.  It's much easier to break out the white out on the current schedule, so the decision was made to see who might want to go to Merced.  It could gain them a car or two, which is the point of this decision.

Four Banger car count just sort of dwindled, and there's a reason for that.  It's sort of what happened to Mini Trucks.  There used to be 12-18 drivers showing up, and it dipped down to one or two.  So, it's not like nobody saw this coming.  At least they had signs of what was coming, unlike the Street Stocks, who have a few people on Facebook trying to get their beloved division back.

In 2008, they usually got at least 12 cars, while Limited Late Models were lucky to get six.  It was decided to merge the classes in 2009, and some racers stayed.  It looked like it might work, but it was pretty much just the Limited Late Model guys in 2010.  Management created the Super Hobby Stock class and gave them three years.  Drivers like David Rosa, John Bellando, Steve Geiser, Danny Jones, Jim Robbins, Gene Haney and Eric Berendsen raced. It looked like it had momentum in it's second year, but it stumbled a year later and was dropped.  So much for what some considered the Street Stocks.

I wasn't big on the move to add Four Bangers in 2003 when Lance Cline began building cars for the class.  Lance built several cars and we started running four car exhibition races that year.  It wasn't a bad division per se, but we already had Mini Trucks and Pure Stocks.  Was this really needed or just a case of too many divisions?

They began running for points in 2004 and car count grew.  They had boosters in this class who created a web page and forum.  There was a movement to get this division, which was near 20 cars per race, some purse money.  Management was not amused with the attitudes of one or two of these racers, and the decision was made to run a season with no points.

Car count took a hit.  It's one thing to not run for money, but without the lure of the points, some drivers felt it was "pointless" to compete.  For a couple seasons, there were no Four Bangers at Antioch, but the class was growing like gangbusters at Watsonville. Antioch brought it back and struggled with a half dozen or so cars for a couple seasons, occasionally getting double digits when the Watsonville racers came.

I give them credit for sticking with it, and it looked like it was going to work this time.  Car count grew in 2010. After a couple of pretty good seasons, car count nose dived last season.  I'm not sure what led to that, but it is hard to run a division if the drivers are not supporting the cause.

With three tracks under the Oval Motorsports Northern All Stars banner, management has its hands full fine tuning things leading into the new season.  Some of their recent decisions may have had people talking, but the hope is it will work out in the end for all involved.  If you are a Mini Stock racer, that means your races are in Merced and Chowchilla, rather than Antioch.

DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 8 by GenWhat