Sunday, February 22, 2015

What About Pearsonville Speedway Or Ernie Purssell Speedway?

We do have a new DCRR Racing Radio show right here:

DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 13 by GenWhat

Here's the information on how to order the books or support the History Preservation Project

First Of All...

Just A Kid From The Grandstands:  My Time In Auto Racing

Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover

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

Available via print on demand at Lulu in Hard Cover or Paperback

Also, what could be a series of informative books...

Short Track History Project at Gofundme

More on the Short Track History Preservation Project and the first book planned by clicking here.

Being just a bit restless today, I've been searching the archives.  I'm feeling nostalgic and also looking for news of other tracks from the past returning.  Recently, I was looking for information on Altamont Raceway.  I covered racing there for a few seasons, and I enjoyed being there.  It's closed now.  According to their Facebook Page,  there's no news of any kind of change there.

Then, I started looking up Pearsonville.  I actually have an older post here where I look back at some of the final point races there and have a couple of Gary Jacob's old stories that were featured in the magazine at the time.  Pearsonville used to run a Turkey Classic for Stock Car racing.  Sadly, that track has been abandoned.  If Rocky Hill Speedway can come back, maybe one day Pearsonvile will too.

There is a Facebook Page remembering Pearsonville Speedway.   There's lots of vintage pictures from the early 1980s and even a few videos were linked.  I had seen some haunting pictures of the track that are still on the internet, showing how things are run down a bit these days.

On the Facebook Page, I noticed a video of the wrecking yard there.  All of those old cars just sitting there rusting away.  Some of them could be made into race cars.  I imagined those cars back when people used to drive them.  And that old track...  I think of the father and son going to the track together for the first time and enjoying a hot dog and a coke.  Maybe they saw a crash or a good finish, but it was a cherished memory between the two.

The big races they had that people wanted to win.  Many of those racers only raced there.  They have scrap books of pictures and articles.  Maybe some of them don't even have that, but just the memories of those times.  And now, Pearsonville Speedway sits there wasting away.  It makes me sad to think about it.

I actually have a video in my collection that Gary Jacob gave me from one of those big Pearsonville races.  That was one of the events he had marked on his calender every year.  He was a man who went to at least a race every week, and we still feel the impact of his absence.  When he died, a lot of race tracks lost a man who spread the world about their activity.

Now comes the other track, Ernie Purssell Memorial Speedway in Grass Valley.  I recall reading the results of their races in Wheels, and seeing the pictures.  Super Modifieds, Super Stocks and Mini Stocks.  They ran Dirt Modifieds, Sprint Cars and Street Stocks.

I'm sure I can't do justice to this track, but names like Shoopman, Cordery, Youngman and Main jump out at me.  Grass Valley gave the NCMA race dates when that club needed them desperately, and I have videos of that.  They had that red clay that was really sticky.  Beautiful scenery of the trees around the track.  It was a really nice track.  It was also a track I got to see on a couple of occasions thanks to Gary Jacob.

Mel Hall was a past racer there and then became promoter, and these were Labor Day and Memorial Day Weekend events.  Four race weekends for me.  Watsonville, Antioch, Santa Maria and then Grass Valley, thanks to Gary going out of his way for me.  Kevin Urton was the big Sprint Car star at the time. I enjoyed my time there.

Sadly, this track went the way of so many tracks.  They closed it down. It was a sad day for fans who had attended races there for years.  It was unnecessary too.  That track NEVER should have been closed in the first place.  Mel ended up at Marysville.  Being the amazing promoter that he was, he led that track to some really good seasons in the 1990's and into the next decade.

What I don't understand and will NEVER understand is why people have to lobby to close down good race tracks.  For a few hours one night a week during the spring and summer months, cars roar to life on oval tracks all across the country.  I know it can be loud, but it's not that big a deal.  Lots of effort is made to quiet these cars down. I don't know if noise is what got Grass Valley or not.  I just know it was closed.

This unique baseball diamond of a race track with the red clay and the trees in a way was an attraction for people to come to Grass Valley for a weekend getaway.  They held some big events at this track through the years that attracted drivers from all over the state and out of the state.

I noticed there was a movement to revive the track again and a Facebook Page was created.  Sadly, you get one or two people into this kind of an effort, they realize there is lots of work to do, they get overwhelmed and the idea dies.  You have several people on the sidelines talking about how cool this idea is, but none of them do much but talk.  They aren't even sure what to do.  The idea fades.

I noticed the suggestion that Brad Sweet get recruited for this revival effort.  Isn't he from Grass Valley?  I recall announcing some of his races in the BCRA Midget Lites.  He was fast then too.  I also recall that Brad has played a big part in  bringing the World Of Outlaws back to Placerville, so he still cares about us Californians and the racing that we enjoy.

Will this idea have any legs to stand on?  It takes leadership and a willingness to put the time in.  Having a guy like Brad to put in a word or two would certainly help.  For anybody saying you can't do it in this day and age, how do you account for the return of Rocky Hill Speedway, the creation of Hayfork Speedway or even Chowchilla Speedway?  It can happen if enough people commit.

Now comes something that had a spark of potential of making racing happen again in Grass Valley....

I did notice a post on the Facebook Page that somebody made.  They mentioned that they had contacted the fair manger and had a detailed e-mail response.  I'm going to respond to what this person said, but first I have to wonder.  Wouldn't it have been helpful to the cause to post that e-mail so that people knew what the status of things were?  Anyway.

Nina posted:

I emailed the CEO of the fairgrounds with my questions and she got back to me very quickly. She was very nice and sent me a long detailed email of the obstacles. To sum it up, the noise from the track interferes with the other events on the grounds such as music festivals, concerts, home and garden shows, etc. These events take place all throughout the year and bring in a tremendous amount of revenue for the fairgrounds.

Okay, that's fine.  The concerns are noise and scheduling.  Guess what?  This can all be addressed in a proposal to the fairgrounds.  By my way of thinking, this can be done even without a perspective promoter if a group of locals wants to take a stand.  I mean, you are establishing some of the ground rules of what it would take to get racing back in Grass Valley.

Once that is known, perspective promoters have an understanding of what needs to be done.  This would be an effort just to get the commitment that the fairgrounds would be willing to bring racing back to Grass Valley under certain circumstances.  It's a start.  Anyway...

Noise is an issue.  Okay, fair enough, but there are ways to address this.  End earlier than curfew.  Maybe 10:30 or 10.  Run the Mini Stocks and quieter cars last so there's not as much noise.  Conduct research into the best mufflers to use.  I know die hards complain about cars not sounding like race cars, but would you rather have racing, or not?

The Fairgrounds makes money from other things too?  Really?  I would have never guessed.  Seriously, this is about scheduling.  If you can get 20 events, you take it.  If you can get 16, you take it.  As long as it's reasonable and they honor their agreements of the dates you have, it's reasonable.  None of this is that unreasonable or unworkable.

Nina Concluded:

She said she would love to see racing come back and grew up watching it there! However, a viable solution has not been thought of to make it work. She even invited me to come meet with her if I wanted too. Very nice lady...

Nina, Nina, Nina.  The door was open.  You could have walked through and started something, girl.  It sounds like this is NOT an impossible situation.  You just have to engage in the political dance.  Evidently, the fair manager at the time was a racing fan.  That's good to know.

You have somebody there who is willing to talk.  Maybe you aren't the one who wants to lead this, although it already sounds like you were building up a repoire with the fair manager.  Still, you have proven that this is not an impossible situation.  It just takes effort.  It can be done.

The other thing I notice about what they were doing to revive the track is they were to hung up on procedural things. They were trying to create a Board Of Directors and that sort of thing, and that distracts from the effort at hand.  You need two or three dedicated people and others who will help when asked to do certain things.  The goal should be to get the guidelines on what it would take to bring racing back and the idea that the fair board is willing to entertain the idea of racing in Grass Valley again.

Without that sort of agreement, nobody would bother to try to get that track.  It would be a waste of time.  Unless the people who had started this movement themselves wanted to be the promoters, there's no need to go through a bunch of b.s. for what needs to be an effort just to get the fair board to say that they would accept a race rack again and what sort of things need to be done to make that happen.

Nina actually made the most progress of anybody I saw on that page. At least she spoke with the fair manager, who apparently said she liked racing and used to attend the races.  That's how it starts folks.  Save the creating a Board Of Directors garbage for when it's time to put together a team to actually rebuild and run a race track.  Until you know it can happen, all of that board talk is just a distraction.

Really, you need to go the fair board meetings and get on the agenda to discuss what it would take to make racing happen again.  Speaking with the fair manager and meeting with her is a very good place to start.  Nina reached out to her, but I wonder if anybody actually tried to meet with her?

Imagine a track roaring to life in Grass Valley once again.  360 Sprints or even Wingless Spec Sprints.  Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks.  Maybe a Civil War Race, the BCRA, Nor Cal Dwarf Cars and other visiting groups.  It can happen.  Will it happen?  That's for the people to decide.

It's nice to see a Facebook Page devoted to this track.  However, if they want the track back, they need to make a real effort.  It only takes one person who knows what they are doing to get the ball rolling once again.  You get a clear indication that they would accept racing at the fairgrounds again, and somebody with the money would be willing to step in and negotiate a contract with the fairgrounds.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Vintage Audio Call From Chowchilla Speedway 2001

First Of All...

Just A Kid From The Grandstands:  My Time In Auto Racing

Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover

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

Available via print on demand at Lulu in Hard Cover or Paperback

Also, what could be a series of informative books...

Short Track History Project at Gofundme


The slogan I went with when I announced at Chowchilla Speedway was "Having More Fun In 2001" and we were.  Hobby Stocks had the big car counts and the special race (Hobby Stock $500) that had its roots in the CRO Chat Room.  Then, there was the Open Wheel Round Up, which was also started in that room in our weekly chats.  Tom Sagmiller was willing to do what it took to make that track a success, and he did.  Nobody would care now if he hadn't done it then.

Anyway, we had a pretty darn good Dirt Modified show then as well, and our Street Stocks, Mini Stocks and Sprint Cars had their moments too.  I have audio calls from those days, and I wanted to share one of them here.  This comes from an exciting race in July of that year and involves the Street Stocks.

Here is the audio call.  Unfortunately, they aren't letting me embed it here, but the link will take you there.

Chowchilla Speedway Street Stock Audio Call by GenWhat

Also, I share the articles from that race.  I did special one for the newspapers down there, and these are the ones that would run in several magazines, including The DCRR.


CHOWCHILLA, CA...JULY 21...Veteran George Lefler Sr. won a thrilling three car battle for the 20 lap RACE Super Street Stock main event victory Saturday night at Chowchilla Speedway.  It was the first $250 feature win of the season for Lefler aboard his Steiner Development sponsored Nova, and it came despite heavy pressure from runnerup Raymond Noland.  Keith Van Houten won his third 15 lap California Sportsman feature in four visits ahead of Mike Palmberg and Kevin Freitas.  Rick Ernest won the 10 lap Mini Ourlaw main event.

Point leader Monty Tomlinson Jr. and Darrell Hughes won the two very competitive six lap Super Street Stock heat races before Noland came back to win the four lap trophy dash.  Fighting a handling problem in recent weeks, Darren Thomas set the early main event pace ahead of Mark Acosta and Eugene Costa.  A low pass in Turn 4 of the third lap gained Costa second, but contact in Turn 2 a lap later sent Costa spinning as Acosta was back in second ahead of Lefler.  Charlie Corn spun in Turn 4 with Acosta and Tomlinson getting collected in the lap five incident as Thomas led Lefler and Tony Keldsen back to the yellow flag.  Thomas led Lefler and Keldsen on the restart as last starter Noland was up to fourth.  A low move in Turn 4 of the seventh lap gained Noland third from Keldsen, and he immediately began to look for the way past Lefler as Lefler tried to pass Thomas in this close three car battle.  Thomas was suffering a push problem from a broken right suspension part and was having a hard time turning the car.  On lap 13, Noland found a way around the outside of Lefler in Turn 3 and made an inside pass on the front stretch to take the lead from Thomas as Lefler followed into second.  However, Costa spun in Turn 4 a lap later, and Noland made contact with a tractor tire trying to go underneath him as Thomas and Lefler both raced by to the yellow flag.  Thomas led Lefler and Noland on the restart with Tomlinson and Hughes running close in the top five.  On lap 16, Thomas had the bad push in Turn 4 as Lefler, Noland, Tomlinson and Hughes all got by.  Despite heavy pressure from Noland and Tomlinson, Lefler brought it home to a well earned victory.  Following Lefler, Noland and Tomlinson at the finish were Hughes, Thomas and Rich Firato.

Van Houten would enjoy a sweep with wins in the four lap trophy dash and six lap California Sportsman heat race.  Open wheel veteran Palmberg set the early main event pace ahead of Mark Jump and Rob Schropp.  A low move in Turn 3 of the second lap gained Van Houten third, and he went by Jump on the outside down the back stretch of the fourth lap for second.  Van Houten made a high pass in Turn 4 of the eighth lap to take the lead from Palmberg as Jump's Turn 2 spin handed third to Freitas.  Van Houten stretched his lead from there and scored his ninth feature win on the Sportsman circuit ahead of Palmberg, Freitas, Ed Marion and Jump.

R. Ernest won the four lap Mini Outlaw heat race with Ron Ward the four lap trophy dash winner.  Ed Thompson led one main event lap before a high pass in Turn 4 gained Ward the lead.  An outside pass on the front stretch of the fourth lap gained R. Ernest the lead.  R. Ernest would stretch his lead from there and score the victory as Ward was second just ahead of Thompson.  Sheryl Ernest was fourth.

H 1-Monty Tomlinson Jr., Roy Hart Jr., George Lefler Sr.  H 2-Darrell Hughes, Raymond Noland, Rich Firato.  DASH-Noland, Hughes, Tomlinson.  MAIN EVENT-Lefler, Noland, Tomlinson, Hughes, Darren Thomas, Firato, Tony Keldsen, Mark Acosta, Eugene Costa, Hart.
H 1-Keith Van Houten, Rob Schropp, Ed Marion.  DASH-Van Houten, Kevin Freitas, Schropp.  MAIN EVENT-Van Houten, Mike Palmberg, Freitas, Marion, Mark Jump, Schropp, Billy Mattos.
H 1-Rick Ernest, Ron Ward, Ed Thompson.  DASH-Ward, R. Ernest, Thompson.  MAIN EVENT-R. Ernest, Ward, Thompson, Sheryl Ernest.


ANTIOCH, CA...JULY 21...Taking advantage of his front row starting position, Mark Hamblin led all the way for the 25 lap RACE Modified feature victory Saturday night at Chowchilla Speedway.  It was the third feature win of the season for title contender Hamblin aboard his Kelloggs Supply sponsored Modified, and it follows three weeks of major engine and transmission problems.  Jack Stanford put himself back in the championship hunt with a second place finish ahead of Jeff Decker.  In recent week's, Jerry O'Hagan has gone through a couple of motors, but he came back in a big way with his fourth 20 lap Hobby Stock feature win of the season ahead of Red Williams and Rod Lefler.

The ninth eight lap heat race win of the season further helped Stanford's Modified championship bid.  Hard luck racer Mark Condell won his heat race before Mitch Enos impressed with a thrilling four lap trophy dash win.  Hamblin set the early main event pace ahead of Steven Williams and Larry Folkner.  John Cipparone spun for a lap four caution flag, and Folkner rode the outside around Williams for second on the restart.  David Soito Jr. and Cipparone tangled for a lap eight caution flag.  The track uses "Texas" restarts with the leader on the front row alone and everyone doubled up behind him, and Hamblin continued to lead as Williams rode the outside around Folkner for second.  A four car crash eliminated point leader Paul Stone, and Folkner took second from Williams on the restart as Hamblin continued to lead the way.  A low move in Turn 4 of the 17th lap resulted in contact and gained Williams second from Folkner, who fell back after that.  Richard Keldsen brought out a final caution flag on lap 20, and Hamblin led Williams and Enos on the restart.  A low pass in Turn 2 of the 24th lap gained Stanford third from Enos.  Hamblin went on to score the much needed victory.  Williams crossed the line in second, but he was disqualified in tech for illegal brakes.  This gave Stanford second ahead of Decker, Enos, Charles Paul and Folkner.

Top rookie Mark Funkhouser, Williams and Mark Odgers each won eight lap Hobby Stock qualifying heats before the returning Bud Glover won the four lap trophy dash.  Roy Luton scored a popular 15 lap B Main  win ahead of Paul Salaiz and Jerry Bridger.  Rod Lefler paced two laps of the main event before a high move in Turn 4 of the third lap gained O'Hagan the lead.  Williams was running third, and he used an inside move on the front stretch of the tenth lap to drop Lefler back to third.  Point leader Jay Connelly quickly settled into fourth.  Williams gave it a good effort, but O'Hagan was not to be denied as he scored the victory ahead of Williams, Lefler, Connelly and Funkhouser.

H 1-Mark Condell, Mitch Enos, Lonnie Lacy Jr.  H 2-Jack Stanford, Nathan Corn, Charles Paul.  DASH-Enos, Stanford, Corn.  MAIN EVENT-Mark Hamblin, Stanford, Jeff Decker, Enos, Paul, Larry Folkner, Corn, Condell, Lacy, Wayne Reeder.
H 1-Mark Funkhouser, Bud Glover, Andrew Krumm.  H 2-Red Williams, Kraig Rawles, Craig Tatum.  H 3-Mark Odgers, Jack Van Hoff, Ron Altamirano.  DASH-Glover, Odgers, Van Hoff.  B MAIN-Roy Luton, Paul Saliaz, Jerry Bridger, Phil Greene, Rob Zoellin.  MAIN EVENT-Jerry O'Hagan, Williams, Rod Lefler, Jay Connelly, Funkhouser, Glover, Odgers, Krumm, Van Hoff, Luton.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Playdays Mean Opening Day Is Coming Soon

I didn't see a lot of talk about the playdays on the official Oval Motorsports Website, but perhaps that is coming in the next day or two.  In the meantime, I decided to throw a little something together, including another edition of the DCRR Racing Radio Show.  See the show at the bottom of this article. 

Just A Kid From The Grandstands:  My Time In Auto Racing

Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover

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

Available via print on demand at Lulu in Hard Cover or Paperback


Short Track History Project at Gofundme



The weather rose into the 70's Saturday afternoon, making it a beautiful day for practice at Antioch Speedway.  Just a week earlier, the rain came and washed away the weekend of practice, so this was the last opportunity to get some practice in.

A glimpse of Ron Brown's #3 new Sport Mod...  Photo from Ron Brown Racing

From the reports I've seen, there were over 30 cars taking advantage of the situation to shake out the bugs of their cars, and several divisions were represented.  One of the things that has come out on social media is that Ron Brown has a Sport Mod.

Ron and his family have been a part of the Speedway since the 1970's when he was racing Stock Cars.  He also raced Sportsmans and then Stock Cars again and was top 20 ranked in both classes before earning the respect of many for his willingness to help out racers in the pits every week.  Ron did Street Stock, Figure 8 and Dirt Modified racing before his wife Lori got her first Street Stock.

Lori is racing Limited Late Models these days, and I think she was making laps at playday Saturday.  After becoming at Top 10 driver in Street Stocks, she joined her husband as a Limited Late Model champion.  Look for Lori and Ron to compete in their respective divisions this year.

Lori will be racing against another driver whose family has been a part of the racing scene for years, Mark Garner.  Mark's father Jerry is a past Stock Car State Champion, and Mark is coming off of another top five season in Limited Late Models.  I understand he was making some laps on Saturday and was in the corner of a new Dirt Modified racer, Tim Hemmett.  Hemmett made some good laps and is looking forward to his rookie season.

Another Modified racer, Chester Kniss, was getting some laps in his Dirt Modified.  Chet seems poised to have another top five season or maybe even contend for the title, but he also has a Late Model.  Chet has been racing for years and is a Limited Late Model and Dirt Modified feature winner, and it's nice to see that he is still making his presence known in his Delta Transmission sponsored cars.

Steven Rogers #25 and Megan Ponciano #22 get ready for practice 
Photo from Ponciano Racing

"Mean" Megan Ponciano and her father Dan McCown were both making laps this week.  Both are past Hobby Stock champions at Antioch Speedway.  While Dan is racing Hobby Stocks and could be a contender for the championship if that is in his plans, Megan continues to race Sport Mods.  She is a past feature winner in the class and should not be counted out.  Also making laps in a pretty green #25 car was Steven Rogers.

I don't have a lot of information to go on,but all accounts I've heard are that Antioch Speedway had a successful playday for all involved.  If this is any indication, it should be a great season ahead.  Next up at Antioch will be the 17th Annual Oval Motorsports Awards Banquet on February 28th.

I have even less to go on at Merced, but it looks like they had a decent turnout for their Sunday practice.  A past Mini Truck champion, Kevin Lockerby, has built a Mini Stock, and Sandy will be driving it.  She was clocked in the mid 17's in practice, so the team feels pretty good about the car.  They will be racing it at Madera this year, and this was an opportunity to shake out the bugs.

We got word that second generation racer Lucy Falkenberg's Mini Stock is ready to go when she is ready to race.  Her father Dale Falkenberg is a past Hobby Stock racer at Merced and Chowchilla, and this Mini Stock looks nice.  The track is hoping for an increase in cars in Mini Stocks, helped by Antioch racers coming to Merced now that the class has been dropped there.

There were at least three Dwarf Cars and there is footage of them making laps Sunday at Merced.  One of those drivers is a rookie named Mike Drake, who I believe is the son of open wheel racer Danny Drake.  Mike indicated that he had some help from another Dwarf Car competitor, Scott Dahlgren.

 As I mentioned, I don't have a lot of information to go on, but indications are that it was a successful practice at Merced Spedway.  Still haven't heard who the GM is at that track, but hopefully they can continue the positive things that were happening last season.  Next up is the Merced Speedway awards banquet next Saturday, and there are some beautiful trophies to be handed out.  The opener is on March 7th, and in between that is a Chowchilla playday on the 22nd and that track's season opener on Sunday, March 1st.  

As always, check the Oval Motorsports Website for official updates at Antioch, Merced and Chowchilla Speedway.  

DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 12 by GenWhat 

For some reason, it won't let me put it up on the page anymore, but the link takes you to the show.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The DCRR Blog Makes Antioch Speedway Hall Of Fame Inductions

Before the inductions, a quick note:

Just A Kid From The Grandstands:  My Time In Auto Racing

Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover

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

Available via print on demand at Lulu in Hard Cover or Paperback


Short Track History Project at Gofundme

There is a special audio show linked at the bottom.  For some reason, it's not letting me encode it on the page, so you can click the link to listen


The DCRR has been wanting to honor some deserving racers for their accomplishments at Antioch Speedway and other tracks. They have made these tracks what they are by entertaining the fans and putting on the show. In some cases, there are people behind the scenes who deserve recognition as well.

In 1999, I first approached Antioch management about starting up a Hall Of Fame at the track and using the successful model of the BCRA.  We would have a picnic at the fairgrounds before the races and honor the inductees there.  Later, the track could have a special race as part of Hall Of Fame night and we could introduce the inductees on the front stretch before the races.

Jackie and I were already making plans, polling drivers who had been around the track for years and coming up with a list of who would go in first. For whatever reason, track management's response was luke warm at best.  We debated about taking the event off track and holding it in a hall, but we dropped the idea.  Sadly, it was abandoned as the track has made no effort to pick this up.

It saddens me, because the event could be 15 years old now with lots of deserving people being honored.  It would also demonstrate to the community how this race track has a rich tradition that goes back decades.  This should have happened years ago.

Well, it may not be much, but as somebody who has published hundreds of racing magazines through the years, I hereby want to acknowledge some great racing competitors starting now.  I have no awards to offer or a banquet hall in which to do inductions.  Fact is, I don't have the funds to do anything.  However, I am still a writer and a bit of a racing historian.  So, it's high time we started inducting racers into The DCRR's Racing Hall Of Fame.

I have done my research, and can make a strong case that each person named here belongs.  Let's get things started with the Antioch Speedway wing of The DCRR's California Short Track Racing Hall Of Fame.

The DCRR Antioch Speedway Hall Of Fame

The following was written in 2010, but never posted until now...

There are already three members in the Hall Of Fame.  The Antioch Speedway Hall Of Fame was established sometime in the early 1990's when Harvey Mason was inducted. As of 2010, only 2 people have officially been inducted as far as I know. Darryl Shirk was the other. We will be adding to that list on the DCRR blog, starting with the man who began the track's weekly racing program in 1961, John Soares Sr.

Harvey Mason was one of the original local competitors at Antioch Speedway when weekly racing began in 1961. The track was encouraging locals to get involved, going so far as to have a local point race and champion just for drivers in the area. Harvey was one of the top drivers on that list, and was a winner of the special "local driver racers" that were held at the track back in those days. He went on to become a top ten ranked driver. In later years, Harvey became the track maintenance man and excelled at preparing the track's quarter-mile clay oval. He also served as track manager for a while and was well respected by the racers. The track now sports a Harvey Mason Family Section in the grandstands in his honor.

Darryl Shirk was immensely popular as a five time NCMA Modified champion, winning several races with that group at Antioch Speedway. He has been inducted into the NCMA Hall Of Fame and was inducted into the Antioch Speedway Hall Of Fame in 1999. The soft spoken competitor let his racing do his talking. He was a top five Stock Car competitor in the 1970's as well as top ten in the Sportsman class, winning features in both divisions. He ranked top ten in Street Stocks and the Figure 8 in the same season, winning features in both classes. Darryl was one of the first Wingless Spec Sprint racers and a feature winner and title contender before he passed away in 1999. He is regarded by many as one of the greatest carbureted Sprint Car racers ever in the area.

John Soares Sr. was inducted into the DCRR Antioch Speedway Hall Of Fame in 2010. John was inducted into the Hall Of Fame by BCRA, The MSPA and West Coast Stock Car organization. A great competitor back in the day, John promoted some races at Antioch in 1953 for Bob Barkhimer's CSCRA. In 1961, Antioch opened for weekly racing under the NASCAR banner, and John ran the track for 20 years, overseeing many changes and improvements to the facility. John's first task was to inspire local interest in 1961 to grow the car count which was less than ten at the start, but more than quadrupled by the end of the first season. Point races for the locals, big Powder Puff Races and special thrill shows were some of the things done to attract over 2000 fans weekly in the early days. John grew the Hardtop division into the Sportsman class that dominated the 1970's, adding Stock Cars in the late 1960's and Street Stocks in the late 1970's. His leadership during those first 20 seasons was the foundation that built a racing tradition that continues to live on at Antioch Speedway 50 years later.

And now for this year's new Hall Of Fame class.  They are all truly deserving.

Gary Pacheco:  Gary was a force in the Sportsman division during the late 1960's and early 1970's.  He won 3 titles in 4 years and racked up an impressive 30 wins.  When the Sportsman division ended, he was still the all time winner in that division's history.

Bill Brown: Bill won two track championships and a state crown in the Sportsman division.  In the  six year span in which he won his two championships, he never finished lower than third in points. Bill scored 19 feature wins.   He was the patriarch of one of the three Brown families, which includes sons Keith Brown Sr. and Dale Brown and grandson Keith Brown Jr.  Bill enjoyed racing with his sons for several seasons.   In later years, he became a NARC Sprint Car official.

J.D. Willis:  One of the most popular racers in the track's history, J.D. was a force in whatever division he competed.  He won five tracks championships in three different divisions.  Three of his four runner up seasons saw him trail the champion by a combined 13 points.    During his decorated career, J.D. collected 72 feature wins driving Stocks Cars, Dirt Modifieds and the Sportsman class.

Richard Johnson:  Richard won two track championships in Stock Cars during the 1970's, was the track's first Dirt Modified champion in 1990 and won the last two Sportsman State championships.  One season saw him put his wife behind the wheel, and she finished an impressive second in points.  He won 28 Main Events at the track across three divisions..

Dean Cline:  With his trademark red light on the roof of his car, the man they called "The Blinker" won 49 features in various divisions at the track. He generally avoided point races and abandoned championship runs late in the season on two separate occasions.  He did win one Stock Car title.  He built his race cars, and in later years, his son Lance became a respected car builder and occasional competitor.

Dave Logan:  Dave was a rising star on the racing scene and had won a Hardtop championship at Vallejo Speedway as well as his Antioch Sportsman championship.  He won 17 races in his short time at the track. Unfortunately, he died in a tragic racing accident as he was making his move into Sprint Car and Midget racing.

Dennis Furia Sr:  Dennis earned the nickname "Foot In It" Furia for his fast and aggressive charges from the back of the pack in the competitive Sportsman division. When that division ended, only Gary Pacheco had more wins than his 25 victories.  He had five straight top five seasons in that division, capped by his 1979 title.  After an absence of 15 seasons, he returned to Dirt Modifieds and was top five ranked there twice.   All told, he won 35 Main Events at the track.  When he returned, he got to race with his sons Dennis Jr. and David.  David has become a promoter in recent years, and some of Dennis' grand children have even begun racing.

Bob Meeker: During the latter part of the 1970's, Bob emerged as a star in the Stock Car division.  He was coming off of back to back top five seasons when he emerged as the 1978 champion.  Bob was one of the more popular racers.  After he died, he had a 100 lap race held in his honor for several seasons.

Bruce Curl Sr: Bruce was a four time top five Stock Car driver and a one time champion. He was a respected car builder who built some of the first Dirt Modified cars. He finished second in Dirt Mod points the first season.  Bruce won 13 Main Events.  Bruce's brothers were involved in racing as well, including brother Bill, and he even got to race with his son Bruce Jr. for a season.

Willie Myatt:  Driving his trademark white #98a car, the man they called "The Silver Fox" was a four time top five ranked Stock Car driver and one time champion.  His sons, Jeff Skaggs and Vince Skaggs, and their wives all raced at one time or another, and Willie actually built some fast race cars through the years.    He was one of the more popular drivers in his time.

Tom Abreu: Tom burst on the scene at the speedway in the 1960's and was a top five point runner on multiple occasions.  He collected 15 feature victories during his time at the track.

Gene Dothage:  In the early 1970's, one of the guys making his presence known in the Sportsman division was Dothage.  Gene enjoyed three straight second place seasons.  Along the way, he earned 12 Main Event victories.

Jimmy Stewart:  Car count grew rapidly in 1961 as auto racing became a regular thing at Antioch Speedway.  The first star of the Hardtop division was a racer named Jimmy Stewart.  Jimmy didn't race that long at the speedway, but he won back to back championships to got things started and collected eight feature wins along the way.

John Soares Jr:  John had more racing success at Petaluma Speedway and would go on to run Winston West Stock Cars.  However, he raced at Antioch whenever he could and scored 23 feature wins.  John also built a reputation as a good car builder, and others won races in the cars he built.  He is the only driver to win a feature in each of the first five decades of the track's existence.  Some people only know him as the man who has promoted the track since 1998, but he has done so much more.

Debbie Clymens:  Debbie is a six time top five point runner, who has been top ten ranked in five different divisions.  Though not the first lady to race at the track, she was in some ways the one who made it more acceptable.  She had a reputation for not backing down on the track and earning what she got.  She started racing after her husband Tommy Clymens Sr., who became her crew chief, retired.  Their three sons, Tommy Jr., Trevor and Todd, also raced and were feature winners like her.  Debbie has won Main Events in three different divisions.

John Bellando:  He was the man who wore the black had in the track's Street Stock Division and went by the nickname "Boom Boom" Bellando.  John was the winner of 18 features and a 200 lap Enduro race.  He was a controversial figure who made the Street Stocks a division people wanted to see. He was twice top three raked in Street Stocks

Dennis Close:  Dennis was one of the stars of the Sportsman division in the 1970's.   He was a two time runner up in points from four top five seasons and one top ten season.  He won ten Main Events.

Marv Wilson:  They called him "Chargin" Marvin as one of the top drivers of the Sportsman division in the latter half of he 1970's.   He enjoyed four straight top ten seasons, including a championship and a runner up season.  He won 12 Main Events in his brief time at the track and was also Petaluma champion in his final year of racing.

Non competitor wing:

Charlie Zeno:  Charlie wrote articles in the newspapers for the track for several years, which were also published in racing publications.  In the 1970's, he also wrote several driver profile articles that appeared in the the track's souvenir programs.   Upon his retirement in 1993, he received a grandfather clock from track management in appreciation of his years covering the sport.

Burt Jeffries: Bert was a respected mechanic for several racers, including State champion Jimmy Lamport.  He worked on the car in the parking lot at one time when blacks weren't allowed in the pits.  Eventually, he was allowed in and was the first black man to win a race at the track, a Mechanic's Race.

I would love to see the track do an official Hall Of Fame one day  It's a shame the history is slowly fading away, and that is why I wanted to do this article.  There are many great drivers from Antioch Speedway's past.  This induction focused on racers who started no later than 1980, but there are more who deserve to be in.  I'm sure you have ideas, and I'd love to hear about who you think should be in next.  I'll leave that for next time.  Perhaps one day something can come of this if enough people want it...

This is the Antioch Speedway wing of the DCRR Hall Of Fame.  I see other tracks not honoring their past greats, but I'll leave that for next time...

DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 11 by GenWhat

Monday, February 9, 2015

California Short Track History Preservation Project

This is the official announcement of the crowd funded racing short track preservation project I just began at Go Fund Me:

With each year, it seems like the history of our short tracks fades further into obscurity.  Some of the tracks people loved to visit as kids aren't even there anymore.  Other tracks still continue, but even the people promoting these tracks don't remember the history of their race track.

However, there are Facebook pages and web pages being created by those who wish to remember the histories of their beloved tracks.  A few tracks and racing organizations have been fortunate enough to have talented authors who have endeavored to write incredible history books.

This still leaves other race tracks that are in need of somebody to put books together with stories and pictures and as many interesting statistics and facts as possible.  At the top of my list is the track I went to for over 25 years, Antioch Speedway.  While I was there, I  compiled statistics and researched the track's history.  I even did a weekly publication for several years. 

I would like to begin telling the story of this track's wonderful history going back to the very beginning all the way to the current day.  I would also like to do this for other tracks, including Merced Speedway and Petaluma Speedway, and the carbureted Spec Sprint Car group.  I also have much history on Vallejo Speedway and would like to put something together for that track.  I have other tracks in mind as well.

I think it would be a shame to let this history fade away, left only to people's memories with photos and a few statistics to back it all up.  To do what I have in mind would be a full time operation that would take many months to complete and would encompass several books.  I will be going over all of the notes I have, making visits to libraries to copy archival stories and would need to be able to maintain a base of operations to do all that is needed.  Given the limited budget I maintain, I can not possibly do this without help.

The money raised here would go towards the completion of this project and would help maintain a base of operations.  Donors would be kept updated on all of the progress made and would be receiving copies of the finished book or books depending on level of contribution.  At one tenth donation level, work will begin on the first book, which I anticipate to be in the 300-500 page range and cover at least one decade of racing at Antioch Speedway.  More books would follow.

I recognize the figure is high, but I have to be honest.  A good portion of it will go towards maintaining a place to complete the project, and the rest will go towards producing books and making sure the donators receive their books.  As Antioch will be the first track covered, I will also be listening to ideas on what to cover next and accepting any materials offered towards making these books the best they can be.  All loaned materials will be returned once scanned properly.

So, if the history of racing means something to you and you like the idea of books being created that will be filled with lots of information and include week by week (as much as possible) stories of the racing seasons, I am ready to make it happen.  I am ready to make this a full time effort to the best of my ability.  I think you will like the results.  If this is something you think you can support, please fund my effort.  You won't be disappointed.  I am ready to tell the wonderful story of racing past.

It should be pointed out that this could potentially expand to become a multi year project with visits to cities of other race tracks to conduct newspaper research, the creation of a web page with special donor member perks and possibly even the creation of a Hall Of Fame committee with an eye on inducting racers from several California tracks into a special Hall Of Fame, complete with banquet and dinner.  Where any of this would go would depend on what the people want.  For now, the focus would be on the books.

Once I am funded, my commitment is to work on preserving the history of our great sport as much as possible and to the best of my ability.  The goal has been set with the idea of rewarding the top donators in mind.  Also, I wanted you to know that all funds will be used in the way I have said they will.

$1000 Investor Status:  First ten books, exclusive updates (racing talk phone conversations when available)
$200 Gold Status: Copy of first two books, exclusive updates
$100 Silver Status: Copy of first book, exclusive updates
$50 Bronze Status: PDF copy of book, exclusive updates
$25 Valued Supporter: Exclusive updates

*  Exclusive updates will come in the form of .pdf files or audio updates.

The first ten books (tentative, but I will be starting with Antioch Speedway)

Antioch Speedway 1990's
Antioch Speedway 1980's
Antioch Speedway 1970's - 1960's
Carbureted Sprints (From California Dirt Cars to Spec Sprints)
Petaluma Speedway 1980's - 1990's (could become two books)
Merced Speedway 1980's - 1990's (could become two books)
Watsonville Speedway 1980's - 1990's (could become two books)
Vallejo Speedway 1961-1979 (could become two books)
Chowchilla Speedway
Bakersfield Speedway 1990's (Possibly 1985-2005 and could be two books)

Obviously, there are other tracks on my radar, including Marysville, Porterville, Hanford and Santa Maria.  Also, there is early history going back decades for some of these tracks.  I know there are also people with ideas on where I should go with this, and I will be listening. 

It is my belief that by strengthening our knowledge of the past, it helps make the present more meaningful. We paint a picture of how much racing has meant to the state and how much it still means today.  It is our hobby and what we love(d) to do.  I don't want to see this history get lost, and if you feel the same, support the cause.

 Announcing The First Book Scheduled In The Series

Don's California Racing Recollections:  Antioch Speedway The 1990's

DCRR Racing News covered the decade of the 1990's from start to finish and in great detail.  In fact, I don't believe a track in California had more in depth coverage than Antioch Speedway that decade.  The track entered the 1990's with a Late Model class that still had a couple of good years left in it.  The Street Stocks were solid.  The Figure 8 was out of control and heading into it's last season.  The new Dirt Modified class had just begun.  The track saw several touring clubs run with the regular program, including the SORA Sprint 100's, NCMA Modifieds, PCDCA Dwarf Cars and Northern Stars Mini Sprints.

As the decade progressed, the Late Models gave way to Dirt Modifieds and a new Pure Stock class was introduced.  Though racing wasn't always pretty in the Dirt Modifieds, the drivers flocked to the show every week as the track averaged 30 cars per race for a time. The track hasn't enjoyed such success with the division ever since.  The decade ended with a management change and a new division, Wingless Spec Sprints, being added to the show.

All of the stars of the 1990's are chronicled within these pages with race reviews, statistics, stories and photos.  Jeff Silva and Jim Pettit II had their time to shine in Late Models before Steve Hendren and Robert Miller took center stage.  Troy Shirk was looking for a Street Stock "threepeat" but ran into a road black named Bart Reid.  Reid, Don Shelton, Rick Pretruzzi and Ron Parker were just some of the stars of the early 1990's before Jason Mincey had his turn in the spotlight and a long time competitor named Rob Waldrop finally grabbed a little glory of his own.

A couple of Stock Car stars of the 1970's and 1980's, Richard Johnson and Bruce Curl Sr., helped usher in the Dirt Modified era, but a returning Street Stock and Sportsman racer named Scott Busby would come back and make history.  Soon, Busby had an intense rivalry with a kid named Bobby Hogge IV.  New stars were called upon when a new era began at the track as the decade came to a close, and Shelton and Dan Gonderman answered the call.

Women had been making their presence known at the track since the mid 1970's, but it was a lady named Terrie Wacht who would win a battle with Cecil Henry to become the first female champion at the speedway in Pure Stocks.  Talented racers like Tim Flanary and Rich Gardner Jr. made Pure Stocks a division people wanted to see as the class closed the decade needing B Mains and sometimes C Mains due to huge fields of cars.

This book will pay tribute to all of the stars and all of the competitors in each division who made racing at Antioch Speedway something people wanted to see in the 1990's.  So, if you want to see this book and more become a reality, support the California Short Track History Preservation Project today by contributing HERE.

Friday, February 6, 2015

High School Racing Programs

This chapter was written to be part of my auto bio, but it didn't quite fit there.  However, it fits in the blog just fine.  I think it makes a good point, but what do I know?  At the end of the article is a special DCRR Racing Radio Show I recorded after a conversation with my friend Joe Martinez.  I see the site is playing games with me again.  The audio may not appear at the bottom, but the link is still there...


Just A Kid From The Grandstands:  My Time In Auto Racing

Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover

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

Available via print on demand at Lulu in Hard Cover or Paperback


I was up in Reno in 2002 when Chuck Griffin and I were in a seminar listening to the presentation on High School Racing.  I was aware that they were doing this at some Southern California tracks and getting good results.  It's a neat idea and the concept is simple.  Get area high schools involved in auto racing and give the schools another thing to build up school spirit.

You have the auto shop class with the kids building a car.  You have a coordinator for each school.  This is somebody who helps get the car and supervises things.  The students will all learn how to work on a race car and what goes into every aspect of it.  This includes fund raising to pay for things.  The senors get to drive.  You can even get other areas of the school involved.  The art class can paint the car, journalism class can cover the races.  There are learning opportunities here, and there's the whole school spirit thing. 

The schools are competing against each other in whatever races are scheduled.  On those nights, students come to the races from those schools, meaning you have more fans as their parents are there as well.  That's good for the track.  It can earn the track new fans and train future drivers.  There is a lot of potential here.

Of course, many schools don't even have an auto shop class anymore, so this would take an effort to get schools interested in signing off on the deal.  What's in it for them and their students and that sort of thing.  The end result is the area schools compete for the honor of league champion based on which school earns the most points.  There are plenty of lessons for students to learn here.

They learn what it takes to work on and maintain a race car, how to land sponsorships for their race cars, how to be good sports, how to deal with the media.  Plus, boys and girls can compete in these cars.  In the Antioch area, it could be huge if the track could get people to help put it together.  Get a few drivers who aren't racing lately and bring them in as mentors.

It never quite worked out for Merced.  They never had more than two or three schools involved.  I can easily see a half dozen schools in the Antioch-Bentwood-Concord area being involved, and it could be a hit  Put them in Four Bangers in their own race.  Another aspect that could be explored is bringing in students, perhaps from KVHS, and letting them announce the school races.  Maybe even broadcasting it live on the radio.

There is so much potential, but a lot of effort would be needed to start the ball rolling.  I think that attracting new racers should be a priority, and this is one way to help make it happen.  I can also see lots of potential in the Mini Dwarf Car an Jr. Sprint classes running on a track on the inside of the main track. They already do this at tracks like Ventura Raceway and Bakersfield Speedway, and these are future stars of those tracks. I think a few of them have moved up in classes too.  Every little bit helps.  Of course, it requires effort, and these days, those with the power are more interested in taking the easy road.

DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 10 by GenWhat

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Few Things That Could Have Been In The New Book

As if this post isn't long enough, there is a DCRR Racing Radio Show at the bottom...

So, you know how it is when you work on a big project or presentation and you put all of that thought into what you want to do and stress out at the last minute?  You work on those precious details, while really wanting to finish it.  But, it needs just one more touch.  I did this with the Best Of The Blog And Beyond Book, but it was 524 pages.  I had to end it even if I had more ideas.

Well, the same thing happened with the next book.  I added a few chapters at the very last minute.  One of them dealt with a certain announcer.  Actually, the tracks I visited and memorable racers and races chapters were late additions too, which I'll get into in a moment.  Only two chapters intended for the book missed the cut as I felt they were irrelevant.  I may share those here, though I already have well over 30 unposted articles ready to go.

I was thinking about what I could have written in the book as I made that comment in my announcement post.  Let me see if I can give a glimpse of what could have made it.  Maybe this will be in the 2nd Edition....  I wouldn't count on it, but I guess you can never say never.  Hey, isn't there a Styx song of the same name?

By the way, Dennis DeYoung and his lovely wife Suzanne just celebrated another anniversary recently.  They have been married for over 40 years.  Yeah, Babe may be a corny song to some, but he wrote it for Suzanne from the heart. 

By the way, the books are available now on Lulu...

Just A Kid From The Grandstands:  My Time In Auto Racing

Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover

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

Available via print on demand at Lulu in Hard Cover or Paperback

Anyway, here's a sample of some of the stuff that could have been in the book...

My Trip To Tulare

You know, it just occurred to me that I didn't include that in my tracks visited chapter.  Duh!  It was kind of relevant.  Gary Jacob (who else) used to send me stories of the Thunderstock, Mini Stock and I think Dirt Modified shows they had there in the 1990's.

So, a promoter (I forget his name but he used the name Speedway Enterprises) was trying to restart that program in 2001.  He was struggling to get any cars and barely had enough for a Mini Stock race. I was in the stands at Merced before I got the gig, and George Steitz gave me a job there  He was sponsoring the new promoter.

So, I went there and gave them the full effort.  I even sang the National Anthem and started off the show with a prayer as we did at Chowchilla.  Mini Stocks, Street Stocks and a Hobby Stock Class.  I have an audio call of the Mini Stock show somewhere.  That was the third attempt at a race  I think this track would have aligned with Chowchilla had we made it work, but it was over after that.

Making matters worse was Johnny O'Brien Jr. drove his big Ford to a Street Stock feature win at Merced.  Yeah, the one time I miss the show that year, and he wins.  That figures...

Stephen Veltman, SORA And The Other Traveling Support Clubs

When it came time to create the All Pro Series from the abandoned Baylands classes, two groups said no thank you.  There was the Mini Outlaws group that ran a lot at Merced and the Sprint 100's.  In an interview I did with "Weavin" Stephen Veltman, he recalled how David Vodden said this group would not make it as a touring class.  Hell, I probably would have said the same thing.

Veltman was the leader and put his own racing on the back burner to prove his point of how good this group was.  He booked them at several tracks.  They came to Antioch about once a month, ran pavement and dirt.  There's more.  Unlike the NCMA, Veltman was getting sponsorship for his races and paying better than the NCMA.  He even had Corn Nuts as a title sponsor for the club and would hand out free Corn Nuts to the fans after the races.

Hm...  What do we call that?  Oh yeah. Promoting!  They could learn a thing or two from Veltman.  The racing was actually good.  They had a mixture of fast, moderate and slow racers on that track and somehow could log lots of laps without a yellow flag.  SORA was an amazing group with a top notch leader in Veltman.

By contrast, the NCMA seemed content to just have a race and then there were the Dwarf Cars.  I was in favor of Nor Cal, because Frank Munroe was another man who knew how to promote.  I met him at Delta Speedway.  Within a couple years of him joining that club, they were getting huge fields and working with other groups for big 80 car blow out races at tracks like Marysville.

By contrast, I stared in disbelief one night in the parking lot at Antioch as Jim Soares and Ray Etherton of the Pacific Coast group plotted how to run off the Nor Cal guys if they dared show up that night.  And the thing is, with guys like Rick Rogers, Billy Wright and Jim Saitone, they had racers who could hang with Frank and the boys.   But, Nor Cal had more cars.  It was an interesting year, even more so when Pacific Coast was messing with an up and coming racer named Damion Gardner of Nor Cal.  You may have heard of him.

But back to Veltman, he knew what it took to make SORA fly, and there was never a doubt in his mind that he could do it.  After he left, they managed to make it a little further, but they have since faded away.  Guys, it's no secret how to make something work.  Just use your head and make a commitment.  I mention in the book how Veltman surprised me by cutting me a check for an article I wrote about SORA in Wheels Magazine.  Interestingly enough, he did run a few races with the NCMA after he left SORA.  He was a fan of the new look Jim Booth brought to the NCMA cars.

There Is No We

I can't sit here and tell you that Jim Soares was my favorite person.  I did respect him, but there were things I didn't care too much for.  The Dwarf Car thing mentioned above always bothered me, I have to be honest. I know this was about protecting Jim's group's home track, but I realized later it was never in jeopardy.  Nor Cal may have been a better group at the time with more cars, but Jim was Pacific Coast's ace in the hole.

I've heard it said that NASCAR considered him "The Good Soares" or something like that.  He was welcome, because they could call on him when they inevitably screwed up their race tracks.  They didn't call him "Dr. Dirt" for nothing.  Jim would whip that track into shape in no time.  So, Nor Cal was never coming to Antioch, San Jose or Watsonville unless Pacific Coast wanted them.

Antioch had an amazing year in 1999, and we needed B Mains in most of our classes.  I happened to walk by at the awards banquet as Jim was boasting to somebody that all we really needed was 15 cars per division.  We had too many cars according to him.  I kid you not.  I was shocked to hear that as it was about the stupidest thing I had ever heard.  I simply replied, "I disagree, Jim.  If you promote for 15 cars, you'll end up with 12."  Judging from the numbers these days, that might have been a bit high.  I never heard John make such a comment though.

I'm at the pizza parlor with my friend Chris sometime in 2000.  Now, Jim has an interesting sense of humor, and I'm sure he was very amused at the time.  John was pissed off at me, and I suspect Jim didn't particularly care much for me to begin with.  He walks over, eating a piece of pizza and comments matter of factly, "So Donny, are you still in the family?"

I can laugh at that now, but at the time I was in no mood for that.  Jim knew John  was upset with me and felt the need to rub it in.  In 2002 I think it was, John Soares Sr. had finally been convinced to retire.  I used to joke that Pops was negotiating with God to take it with him.  When you are 80 something and you've been doing this most of your life, how do you walk away from it?  I suppose it's not something you can truly appreciate until you are there.

I know John wanted that track, and he was prepared to buy it from his dad.  Antioch and Petaluma would be united.  John and his dad had already been sharing some divisions, but we could take it further now.  Well, Jim ended up with the track.  I've heard his mother stepped in on his behalf, but I don't know the details for sure.  Point is, we knew it was Jim's track next year.

So, Jim is talking about his plans with John, and it sounds like we may still work together.  I'm chiming in with my two cents on how we can do this or that and build up the alliance when Jim looks at me like Daffy Duck looked at Bugs Bunny when they found the treasure in that cartoon.  He says, "What do you mean we?  There is no we."

I couldn't appreciate what that comment truly meant at the time as John was also a part of it.  I took it personally. In the first place, I was going to be at Antioch and occasionally Merced.  I didn't work for Jim and barely worked for John at that point.  Secondly, all I saw was how this might be good for racing and the racers, which is what my "we" really meant.  I told Jim as much.

Gradually, as I walked away from the sport, what little alliance there was between the tracks broke away.  John tried to run Late Models and 360 Sprints more and Jim started Spec Sprints and Dwarf Cars.  This move led to the loss of regular B Mains in Dwarf Cars and Spec Sprints at Antioch.  Yeah, I get what he meant now, and I doubt it was a comment that was directed at me at all.  There truly was no "we" in this situation.

I don't want to insinuate that Jim didn't have a heart and didn't care about the racers.  That would be a lie.  Even if I wasn't a fan of his at times, I did have good conversations with him.  Jim was somebody the racers liked, and as promoter at Petaluma, he did things like spaghetti and chili feeds for his drivers after the races.  He cared about the guys.  When good friend Jim Booth died, he put up a sign at the track in his honor.  He was the one who worked with BCRA to honor his father with the 100 lap Johnny Soares Classic.  These don't sound like the actions of a bad man to me.

When Jim died last year, I saw what tracks bothered to acknowledge his passing on their pages and which ones didn't.  I said it while Jim was still alive when I had a chance to talk to racing people and I'll say it again.  I don't get the feeling that Pops would have liked the way things went down here between his sons.  I can see both sides.  Though John would have done just fine if he had Petaluma, it wasn't bad that Jim got the track.  He did a lot of good things and he deserved the chance.  There are reasons I feel this way despite not being his biggest fan, but I will just say Jim was a real racer and did a lot of good for racing.

More About Steve Torres

I wrote a bit in the book about Steve Torres and left a few things out. I saw much potential in Steve.  He could drive as well as anybody in Street Stocks, but his equipment sucked. He also had no budget or place to work on the car.  Honestly, he probably shouldn't have been trying where he lived.  He had no garage, but he had a love for racing. 

He was the kind of driver who could have won in good equipment, but he had no work ethic on that car back then.  His nickname was "Mad Mex" but I thought of him as "Saturday Steve" since most his work on the car happened on Saturday.  You don't make Main Events in 30 plus car fields that way. In fact you end up in C Mains like be did.  The reason I believed in his talent is because he ran competitively in that group of drivers, had some good B Main finishes and won some heat races and C Mains when that car held together.

I didn't have much money at all, but I helped him get a car that had won a Main Event from Corky Pattrick and bought him a battery very early on when I first met him.  I was already helping the kid who pitted for him get into the races, because he only got one comp pass and it went to his wife. Danny couldn't afford to get in all the time, and I thought he deserved to get in. 

Now, the battery probably came into play in a Figure 8 race.  It may have been the reason I got it for him.  He was running competitively in that barely bolted together race car of his when Brian Holden slammed him.  I admit I wasn't a big Holden fan, which is why what the boys did to him back then didn't bother me too much at first.  I felt he was favored too. Hey, he was damn good, and I said he was the best local Figure 8 driver ever at Antioch in my book.  I was fair to him in my reporting.

So, Steve's car dies and he pulls into the infield.  He's pissed.  I think Holden knocked the battery loose or something.  Brian won and then Steve jumped out of his car and attacked him after the races. He was suspended for his actions as he deserved to be.  He was a pretty good Figure 8 driver, but I wish he would have stayed away from the race when he got Corky's old car.  He ended up bending the frame in that race.

Steve never climbed up the ladder, but he had other commitments that kept him from doing what needed to be done to be a winner.  He had a car and had fun racing, which I realize was what was more important to him.  When I was doing my magazine at my first good printer's place, they offered to blow up a photo to try and entice me to use the color printer.  It was a picture of the car Steve drove around the time he was working with the Martell Racing Team.  It's actually still on my wall some 20 years later. 

Steve has since returned to run Hobby Stocks at Merced and sometimes Antioch.  Judging from the results, I think he's just out there trying to have fun like he did back in the day.  I don't know if we'll see the day he wins, but if that thing holds together one night, you never know.

Shame On Me For Not Talking Enough About The Sportsman Division

In my memorable racers and races chapter I really didn't talk a lot about the Sportsman division.  It was the headliner class when I first started going to Antioch Speedway.  My memories on race results are sort of sketchy.  I clearly remember pointing to the track at a yellow #4a Pinto driven by Len Mello and saying, "I want him to win.  He's my favorite."

In the book, I say this may have been a B Main that he won or got second. I ran around a lot as a little kid.  Another name that has always stuck with me is Dana Auger and that #101 Orange Blossom Special.  First of all, it was the number.  You didn't see a lot of triple digit cars.

My parents were still together when I had that "Mello moment" and I'm almost tempted to put myself at the scene of the big 200 lap race at the end of 1977.  I know Len did well in the race I saw, and he happened to finish second in that 200 lap race to Auger.  Was I there?  I don't know.

I do know I saw Dana win some Main Events when I was first there and during that final season in 1981.  "Always On It" they called him, because he was fast.  He was a Top 5 driver that could have been a champ.  At one point, he won two or three races in a row and sold his car.

John Soares Jr. sold his cars too.  I think he had sold three of the cars he had driven during the time I was out at the track, one of them to a Street Stock front runner named Scott Busby.  Getting back to John, he generally avoided running too hard for the points, part of which was because he raced Winston West races.  Also, there were people saying he was favored because of who his dad was.  John built some fast race cars as some people who have bought them from him would attest.

Only one driver in Antioch Speedway history has won Main Events in every decade since the track opened for weekly competition, and that would be John.  So, I'm waiting for him to get a ride and make it another decade with a win.  John is in the conversation for the greatest Sportsman driver ever at Antioch Speedway.  That's a tough call. His championship came at Petaluma, but he was top five at Antioch too.

But, really, there were some great drivers, starting with "The Mighty Mite" Gary Pacheco and Bill Brown. Pacheco had three titles in four years and Brown was a  two time champion.  Gene Dothage had no titles but ranked second three straight years.  He won his share of races as did Tom Abreu, who was a title contender in the late 1960's.  Dave Logan was another fast runner and champion.  I never saw Pacheco race, but it would be difficult for me say he wasn't the greatest.  The numbers don't lie. 

Now, there was this clique that parked together.  Perhaps you've heard of them.  Dennis Furia, Marv Wilson, J.D. Willis and Gene Millard.  Only Millard never won a championship of these four, and he was top five.  He was good.  J.D. is a legend.  Furia was fast and very aggressive, and then you have Marv.  I'm almost inclined to say he was the best of the Sportsman drivers I got to watch.  I loved the look of that #19a car and I was definitely a fan.

Buzz Enea was back to back top five in points and won a lot.  He's the son in law of my childhood hero, Len Mello.  After 1980, a case could have been made that Buzz was the man to beat in 1981.  The very talented 1980 champion Mike "The Blue Knight" Gustafson would be headed for Petaluma.  "Sudden" Sam Houston had bought Marv Wilson's 1979 Petaluma Championship car and finished a strong second in 1980 to Gustafson.

It was quite an improvement for Sam.  Yeah, he was fast, and that candy apple red #80a was a pretty site to look at.  He was mixing it up for that 1981 championship, but he switched to a new car that year.  So, that opened the door for a Stock Car champion named "Rapid" Richard Johnson. Richard was a State Sportsman Champion, but there was an obstacle in his way in 1981.

Enea could have and probably would have been champion that year, but he stepped aside and focused on Mello's effort that season.  Len had been racing at the track since it opened, was Top 20 a few times and even managed to get one win.  However, he reeled off seven wins that year  There were some bumpy moments, of which I allude to in the book, but Len brought down the curtain on my beloved Sportsman division as its final champion.

I'm not sure where Sal Belleci was that final season, but he had his moments the year before.  He was a feature winner.  He kind of reminded me of Mike Green in that he was fast, was a winner and probably could have been champion in this division had it continued into the 1980's.  It's over 30 years later, and I'm still annoyed at the end of the division at Antioch.

There were those moments, like when Steve Skarry got into it with J.D. Willis in a Trophy Dash in 1980.  Skarry won, and the crowd roared their disapproval.  Harry Osbourne called him Steve "Boo Boo"  Skarry.  There's an interesting anecdote regarding that, which I shared in the book.  If memory serves, there was a Watsonville racer named Walt Rizzo in the black #3 Chuck E Cheese car who had an incident with somebody in 1981 and heard the boos as well.

You don't paint a car green.  That's the superstition.  You don't run a #13.  You don't eat peanuts by a race car.  All bad luck.  Well, to the first two, we had a guy out of Santa Rosa in the car dubbed "The Mean Green Machine" with the #3n.  That would be Rob Roy of the famous Roy Boys.  He was fast.  John Roy was a Sportsman Champion in 1976, before Willis, Wilson and Furia all followed.  As for #13, that would a guy by the name of Bill Silveira.  I don't know how much luck he had, but I seem to recall he won a B Main or something.

From what I have uncovered in my research, NASCAR was not fond of the Sportsman cars, which led to rule changes in 1975 that brought about an end of the "Skinny Cars'" as they were called.  We started seeing cars with full bodies in the years that followed, some of which didn't run wings.  The thing is, Antioch was a Sportsman town.  It was Jim Soares who had to cancel the class a few races into the 1980 season at Merced.  By then, Watsonville couldn't even get a B Main, but Antioch still could.

The car count didn't fall in the division at Antioch until John Soares Sr. left.  Yeah, that always stuck with me as guys like Soares Jr., Gustafson, Jim Tryon, Scott Busby, Keith Shipherd and L.C. Green left with him.  It really sucks when things drop off like that so quickly.  I know the cars were still out there too.

There were so many racers who made up that show and never got a lot of recognition. I wish I could have been there as a writer.  I'd be hying up the B Main point race or creating one as I did for Street Stocks in the 1980's.  Guys like Ron Brown, Don O'Keefe Jr., Rick Brophy, Dan Hatfield, Marion Heaton, John Gurnsey and Allan Nordstrom.  Some of this stuff is covered in my book. I knew Dave Oswald, and I'll never forget when his Top 10 season ended after a crash with Nordrstrom. I recall his "friendly" gesture to Al on the front stretch as he drove by.

I recall seeing Julio Jones win a Street Stock feature and then moving up to the Sportsman class that same season.  Jim Coleman had done that a year earlier, and guys like Scott Busby, Keith Shipherd, L.C. Green, Frank Blasquez and Joey Rodriquez also moved up from Street Stocks to Sportsmans.  I think Tom Leopold was the last driver to move from Street Stocks to Sportsmans.  He earned the nickname "Loopin" Tom for driving up on the Turn 1 wall and doing an easy roll  He went back to Street Stocks and was a front runner.

I talk about some of this stuff in the book.  The fully inverted starts, guys getting out of their cars for intros, the nicknames, just the look of these race cars.  Even with Vegas, Pintos, Gremlins (Jerry Hetrick) and Camaros, this class was it for me.  I remember the names and the look of those cars, which I can still picture in full color in my mind.  These are memories that will always be dear to me.

DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 9 by GenWhat

Monday, February 2, 2015

Promoting And Hobby Classes

Currently, I'm into the process of updating the Antioch Speedway all time main event win list.  Who is leading as of 2010?  Not gonna tell you yet, but "You Betcha" I know who it is ;)

It's been interesting looking at the names on the list and recalling a few times from the past as I go.  I am seriously considering the creation of a California Racing History Preservation effort.  I estimate I have at least ten books just on the information I have in my records.  This includes several tracks, and of course Antioch Speedway is one of them

Is anybody interested at this point?  That I don't know as I type away on a busted keyboard.  In the meantime, the Best Of The Blog And Beyond book has a nice taste of some of the history I have.

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

Available via print on demand at Lulu in Hard Cover or Paperback

Just A Kid From The Grandstands:  My Time In Auto Racing

Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover

Moving on...

The loss of Four Bangers at Antioch Speedway got me thinking about things, and this may be an unpopular opinion for certain people.  Of course, it is my opinion on promoting racing and also the subject of hobby classes.

The Four Bangers are a "hobby class" as were the Street Stocks once upon a time.  No pay.  The Hobby Stocks themselves were the same, but they have a purse these days.  I don't think of them as a hobby division so much these days, and I'm not really fond of the negative connotation the hobby term gives a division.  Even the headline divisions are hobby classes when you consider most of them aren't racing for a living, but that weekly purse helps keep them coming back.

But, what is a hobby class?  You base that on the treatment of the class, the lack of purse money, receiving trophies only and the fact that they take whatever they get and like it. In many cases through the years, they were/are the class with the bigger car count that puts money in the promoter's pockets.  Promoters like to use these classes for various reasons, which may range from padding their own pockets to paying other classes.

Now, some people will say these classes don't deserve a purse, but I'd like you to at least consider a few things.

1: Hobby classes pay to get into the track.

2: Hobby classes help pack and bring in the race track.

3: Hobby classes produce future stars to the other classes.

4: Hobby classes have been known to have the race of the night when the upper classes were not as exciting that night.

5: Hobby classes are on the card that a fan pays money to watch.  These fans may not always be there to see them (sometimes they are), but often times a race in a hobby class was a positive memory a fan may take with them when they go home.

Are they deserving of a purse?  If so, mow much?  Will it encourage money drivers in the class?  Well, money drivers enter every division and win their share of races.  That is the way it has always been.  Do they deserve a purse?  Yes.  How much?  Maybe the winner and/or second can recoup their entry fee but perhaps a little something for the remainder of the field?  Will it happen?  Depends on the promoter.

Now, I was watching the forums in 2004 when an interesting little debate began over Four Bangers and pay at Antioch.  Car count reached into the high teens and seemed poised to need B Mains a year later.  I don't think they ever had a B Main, though Watsonville's class did. What happened?

Well, there were one or two racers who noticed they had a good car count, better than most at the track that year.  They dared speak up about it and the need for a purse.  They probably grandstanded a little in the process and one was kicked out due to running a couple Sprint 100 races.

So, as a punishment, the division received no points in 2005, and all of that momentum was lost.  The track gave them points a year later, but the damage was done by then.  To me, the decisions here rank up there with merging Street Stocks and Limited Late Models as questionable decisions that backfired at the track.  It's interesting to me that Street Stocks and Four Bangers are no longer there.

I was against Four Bangers.  I respect that Lance Cline was putting cars together to get this thing going in 2003, but I still ask why on two levels?  First, there was already a Mini Truck division that served as an entry level class.  This divided the entry level car base, rather than focusing on building the Mini Truck class.  Secondly, why do a different Mini Stock class than everybody else in the state had?  Given the traveling nature of the Mini Stock guys up north, Antioch could have had some big shows.

In the end, there are no Four Bangers or Mini Trucks at Antioch, and that's a shame.  Mini Trucks sort of faded away, while Four Bangers can enjoy "the flat tow" to Merced now or talk to promoters at Dixon Speedway about finally starting that program there.  Either way, they won't be racing at Antioch.  I feel for the guys who may have built cars this year with the understanding that they had Antioch races, only to find out a week ago that this is not the case.

I'm not sure what the thought process is with some of these recent decisions, but perhaps management knows something I don't.  Maybe there are lots of racers on the way, and the web page will be buzzing from all of the hype and excitement created.  Time will tell, but I hope it works out for them.

Now, George Steitz was considered the master of the open show in California.  Racers loved him and flocked to his races.  However, there was a little secret about George.  Now, he had the money to back up the purse he advertised, but I doubt he had to dig into it too much.  You see, George had a secret that not every racer knew.  Not everybody knows how to count the money.  I was already waking up to all of that when a wise man showed me the way.

George's races had huge entry fees, and that was what the drivers raced for.  That's not a knock on George, because he knew how to do it.  He was successful and I respect what he was trying to do.  Those races were kind of like an annual family reunion.  They also upset a promoter or two who in turn tried to book over his races.

Once upon a time, the racers were running for the money from the front gate.  The fans paid the purse and sponsorship paid the rest.  So, a promoter actually promoted with fan attendance in mind.  They made sure the word got out through the various outlets. They made sure the racers wanted to race for them every week.  They did what they needed to do.  They promoted.  It took effort or at least hiring people who knew how to do what needed to be done.

Sponsorship is a factor.  There are various ways to get money.  Billboards and program adds and an announcer who plugs those sponsors a few times every week is just one thing.  That money is not insignificant either, and let's just say I know a few things about that.  It's gravy to a promoter.  Some use that money and the money they make on running playdays to closed grandstands before the real season begins to pad their pockets. I get that, because you make up for losses, such as races run in very cold weather with almost no attendance, rainouts, bad nights or what have you.

It all takes effort, but there are ways to do this stuff.  What's my point here?  Oh, I don't know.  I just had a thought process going today, started typing and this is what I came up with.  It's a difficult time to promote racing these days.  It's not the 70's, 80's or even the 90's.  However, with the right effort, it can still be very productive and rewarding for all involved.  I hope that turns out to be the case this year.