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

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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