Friday, March 13, 2015

Late Models And Modifieds At Antioch, Sport Mods At Merced

 First of all...

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

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

Short Track History Project at Gofundme

Dream An Unusual Dream

Had the oddest dream last night.  I'm going to the races at Antioch with one of the people I know from the track.  I've never gone to the races with him before, actually.  There are racers in the neighborhood loading up and going.  We take so long that Mini Stocks (not even a division at the track now) are in staging for heat races to get the show started.

Now, there is guy at a booth selling these really nice racing newspapers.  I don't know the name of it, but the magazine has this huge season review edition with all of the tracks.  I think he's struggling for sales, and for some reason he's being interviewed in front of the stands.  He says he's gonna end up going to Pearsonville and Porterville, and I think I hear a fan yell, "How many cars do they have, " insinuating he's leaving a better show.  Being a smart ass, I yell, "Go to Bakersfield."

I'm not sure where any of that comes from, but I'm over at the Turn 1 entrance and who do I see but Butch Althar.  So, I flat out tell him that if I ever get the microphone again he's welcome to come visit me and do some announcing.  He says he's not sure what he can do, and I tell him I will have all the notes there for him and apologize for not letting him up there with me in 1999.  I didn't have my notes in order and I wanted to make it easier for him.  I wish I had him come up there that night when he expressed an interest. 

There's more, but this is not a dream sharing blog....

From the newspapers, I saw a nice little article Mike Adaskaveg did for the Antioch Press about Melissa Myers, which can be found HERE.

I noticed that has some nice videos up from all of the Bakersfield Speedway Main Events from last week.

Also, we have the weekend preview edition of the DCRR Racing Radio Show linked below.

Anyway, on to the story...

Late Models And Modifieds At Antioch, Sport Mods At Merced

Race day is tomorrow at several race tracks, including Antioch Speedway and Merced Speedway.  There is plenty on tap for the two Oval Motorsports promoted tracks, including DIRTcar Late Models, IMCA Modifieds and the Northern All Stars sanctioned Wingless Econo Sprints, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars at Antioch Speedway,  At Merced Speedway, IMCA Sport Mods will headline a show that includes the Northern All Stars sanctioned Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Limited Late Models and the Valley Sportsman division.

I just wanted to take a brief look at a few things as we head into race day.  Antioch seems to have potential to be a really nice show this week.  Merced has some good stuff and a few questions that will be answered on race day.  Let's take a look at some of the things to watch for with five tidbits that have grabbed my attention.

IMCA Modifieds and DIRTcar Late Models are coming to Antioch.  On Wednesday, we did THIS ARTICLE on the two divisions, but we'll go over them briefly again.  The two divisions are co-headlining the show at Antioch, and there are some questions.  For starters, who is coming?   It looks like we'll have two double division racers in four time IMCA Modified champion Troy Foulger and long time regular Chester Kniss, who has multiple Top 5 seasons at the track.

Long time Late Model competitor Richard Papenhausen is the defending champion and the winner of the January race, so it's likely that he will be there.  Jeff Decker has championships at Antioch, Petaluma and Watsonville, and he currently finds himself ranked second in points behind Papenhausen.  If he continues to come to Antioch, the championship battle could be good.

Randy Schafer, Danny Malfatti and Dave Newquist make up the remainder of the Top 5 going into this race.  Last week, the #71 car was making hot laps.  Shawn DeForest drove the car last season, but past Antioch Dirt Mod champion Rob Norris drove it in January.  I'm not sure who will be in it on Saturday, but the car should be there.  2014 point runner up and past Petaluma champion Paul Guglielmoni and past Petaluma champion Rod Arnold weren't there in January, but could be there for this race.

As I mentioned previously, I would anticipate at least 8-10 cars for this race.  The potential for more is there if the drivers know about it and are motivated.  There is also the #7 Oval Motorsports House Car.  Last year, Bobby Hogge IV was a winner in that car.  I wouldn't be surprised to see it there this week.  Who would be the driver?  We'll have to find that out on race day, but just having Late Models at the track will appeal to many fans.

The IMCA Modifieds have two races in the books, which were part of the West Coast Nationals in January.  Wins were recorded by past Antioch champion Kellen Chadwick and four time champion Troy Foulger.  Foulger won at Chico last Friday night and is expected to be in action this Saturday.  Chadwick and 2014 Petaluma champion Nick DeCarlo are three points behind point leader Foulger.  Though they may be in action this week, it remains to be seen if they will pursue points this season.

Fifth ranked Scott Busby, a four time track champion and all time winner in division history, could also be there as well as many time Petaluma champion Michael Paul Jr.  With so many non regulars near the top of the point list, there will be a shakeup as a new Top 5 takes shape.  Chester Kniss could gain some ground from his tenth position.  Bobby Motts Jr., Joe Carr, last week's Merced winner John MacDougal, Jim DiGiovani and Jake Dewsbury are others to watch for.

Several drivers were not at the January race, and Terry Kaiser has confirmed that he will be there.  Carl Berendsen II is the defending champion and was in Chico gaining more seat time last week.  Like, Mike Salazar, Aaron Crowell and Sean O'Gara, Carl didn't race in January, but they all could be among the field on Saturday.  It will be interesting to see how high the car count will be, but it won't be a surprise to see it reach the mid to high teens.

Sport Mods take center stage at Merced Speedway as the main attraction this week.  When they rolled into town last week, there were 16 cars in the field, including the hottest driver so far this season, Fred Ryland, and defending Merced champion Rick Diaz.  Ryland had four wins on the circuit, including $2500 worth of victory at Merced and Chowchilla in January.  However, Diaz made Ryland settle for second last week.  Ryland holds a seven point lead over Diaz going into this race.  It's almost easy to forget that Neill Barcellos and Josh Hensley are both within eight points of the lead, but you shouldn't.  The Barcellos family has been a part of The Speedway for many years, and Neill is a past Sport Mod and Sportsman champion. 

Car count should remain solid for this race and could even be boosted by visits from drivers from the Bakersfield area.  2014 IMCA State champion Nick Spainhoward made several visits last season and would be a welcome site in the pits this week.  He gave it a good run last week at Bakersfield, but he was no match for third generation racer Billy Simkins, who was debuting a new car.  Recent birthday boy Bruce "Bubba" Nelson would be a welcome site in the pits as well.  The two time Hobby Stock champion had a big win at Antioch this year and was third in points last season.  Others to watch for include $1500 Antioch winner Jeremy Hoff, Keith Brown Jr., John Gish and Mark Squadrito.

Hobby Stocks are in action at both race tracks this week.  Chowchilla winner Kevin Joaquin was forced to settle for second last week behind 2014 point runner up Kristie Shearer.  Meanwhile, long time Merced racer Ty Shelton already has a second place finish in January and a third last week to his credit.  It is hoped to see last week's eight car field grow into double digits.  Still yet to be seen this season is 2014 champion Raul Rodriguez Sr., but it won't be a surprise to see he or his son in action soon.  Not to be forgotten in the mix is double division racer Jennifer Corder, who added a Hobby Stock to her stable after her runner up season in Mini Stocks last year.

At Antioch, new mom Melissa Myers and Defending champion Kimo Oreta wasted little time serving notice to the competition that they came to win a championship.  Both have won two Hobby Stock titles at Antioch, and Hansen was the winner of the season opener ahead of Oreta last week.  Nick Baldwin may be getting tired of the #3 now.  He was third in points last season and third in last week's feature, so he'll be looking to take it up a notch this week.

Kenny Rickner had a nice looking car last week, but his night ended in a disappointing ninth place finish.  The only driver with more to be unhappy about was Natalie Perry.  Her beautiful #40 car spent a lot of time with the hood up, and it turns out she blew a motor.  Her return for this week seemed uncertain as of this writing.  Meanwhile, on the heels of a Top 3 season in Four Bangers, Jordan Swank made a nice debut by taking a checkered flag in sixth last week.  Russell Shearer made a surprise visit and chased Michael Cooper to a fifth place finish.  Hopefully, he will continue to race.

Christopher Brown was a late arrival last week.  He is coming off of a solid fourth place season in which he won his first Main Event late last year.  His father Bob was crewing for him.  He'll be hoping to take it up a notch from last week's eighth place finish.  Hopefully, Bob will have his #12 car back in action this week.  Bob has been racing on and off at the track since 1980.  It's likely that there will be a few more cars in the field this week as perhaps the early start to the season caught a few racers unprepared.

Mini Stocks and Wingless Econo Sprints were a bit of a question mark coming into the season.  Oval Motorsports elected to drop the Four Bangers from the card at Antioch less than six weeks prior to the season due to car count concerns.  In reality, count wasn't much better at Merced last season, but it was felt that there was more potential there.  The dozen car turn out last week would seem to indicate there's more interest there. 

Dan McCabe made a trip from the Bay Area and was joined by second generation racer Kelly Campanile and Antioch racer Natalie Waldrop.  McCabe is a past champion at Ocean Speedway, and he won his battle with 2014 Merced champion Chris Corder to claim the Merced season opener.  Matthew Schlessinger figures make a run at the points this season, and his heat win and third in last week's feature shows he could be a factor.  Following Jennifer Corder last week with a fifth place finish was past Mini Truck champion Kevin Lockerby in his new Mini Stock.  Kevin had been talking about racing at Madera, but lack of a good tire sponsor may see him back at Merced at least one more time.

Two other ladies in the field, Joy Alger and Natalie Waldrop, made good laps in sixth and seventh, respectively.  Alger hopes to improve on last season's fourth place effort, while Waldrop was making some of her first laps and did a good job.  Chowchilla winner Darren Miguel had a disappointing night in tenth, but it wasn't as disappointing as Petaluma racer Kelly Campanilie, who had a DNF in 12th.  Third ranked 2014 competitor Brian Widdowson had an even worse night with a blown motor in 11th.  Car count will hopefully maintain for this week's show.

It has been confirmed that management at Antioch gave the Econo Sprints a grace period to comply with the rules, meaning several Spec Sprints were in the field last week.  Keith Shipherd blew a motor in 10th last week and will be building an Econo legal motor for his return.  A #1 car loaded up early with mechanical problems, dropping the field to 11 cars, but the show was good as three different drivers won races last week.

Heat wins went to relative newcomers Alan Miranda and James East.  Meanwhile, Jeff Lee was collecting his first feature win ahead of last season's runner up, Kyle Bakkie.  Lee wasn't the only driver with a smile.  Rick Panfili, who is coming off of a third place season, had one of his best nights ever with a third place feature finish and a second in his heat race.  Miranda and East capped their nights by finishing fourth and fifth in the Main Event, respectively.  The turnout was better than expected considering the lateness of the rule changes with respect to motors, but with the track allowing some grace period, hopefully this will continue be a smooth transition.

Limited Late Models and the Sportsman division are the big questions at Merced Speedway this week.  Last week, only Marcus Lung and Jeff Bristow showed up with cars for the Sportsman division, and three other Sportsman drivers had Sport Mods.  A scan of last season's point sheet shows 13 different cars competed, and it's estimated that there are also a few other cars race ready or nearly so.  There are no grand expectations that they will all show up, but a half dozen or so minimum is what's hoped for. 

Lung was the third ranked driver last season, while Tim Prothro ranked second.  Prothro was debuting his Sport Mod, while champion Mike Henault was a no show.  Bristow was fifth in points last season behind Tommy Bostic, who was also absent last week.  Bostic has been racing off and on for roughly 15 years at Merced and has been a feature winner in IMCA Modifieds.  It's hoped that we will see more cars, including drivers like past Chowchilla champion Michael Shearer, Chris Birdsong, past Merced champion Shane Hausmann and veteran Mike Palmberg.

If the Limited Late Models are to have a turnout, it may depend on heavy Antioch support to make it happen.  Two of last year's competitors, Ronnie Cole and Robert Diaz, may be in other divisions.  Cole is said to be putting a Sport Mod together, and Dias ran a Modified last week.  After winning the Limited Late Model championship last season, will Roy Hart Jr. attempt to defend his title?  Will others who raced last season, including long time Street Stock racer Buddy Thatcher, Donnie Shearer and Tony Chavez, be in action?  It's highly unlikely that a huge group of Antioch cars is coming, so at least a few of these drivers will be needed to help make the show.

A past Merced champion and three time Limited Late Model titlist at Antioch, Larry Damitz, is anticipated.  Another driver who could be coming from Antioch is that track's 2013 champion, Jim Freethy, who was second in Merced points last season.  Mike Hynes and last week's impressive Antioch winner Mark Garner are others to watch for, and Peggy Sue Jarred has indicated at least one Merced visit could be in her future.  Who will tow down from Antioch remains to be seen, but Northern All Stars points will be on the line.  There are still several other cars in the area that fit the rules, so anything is possible.

Of course, this is all unofficial, and you can tune in to the Oval Motorsports Website for all official news pertaining to these tracks as well as Chowchilla Speedway.

DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 21 by GenWhat