Thursday, March 19, 2015

Late Models, Sport Mods At Antioch, Modified Classes At Merced

This one is a bit long.  Sorry about that.  Actually, we'll lead off with our preview of the races at Antioch and Merced Speedways, then we have our audio show previewing things for the weekend and finally another column taking a look at the car count situation.

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


There was a story in the Antioch Press about Rico Abreu coming to the Stockton Dirt Track as part of the World of Outlaws show that can be read HERE.

Our friend Ron Rodda is still filing his reports From The Grandstands, which can be found on the Hoseheads Sprint Car Website.

Josh Hensley had some footage of Steve Rodgers holding on to second in Merced Hobby Stocks, and that can be viewed HERE.

Josh Hensley also has footage of Darren Miguel's impressive Mini Stock feature win at Merced, which can be viewed HERE.

Late Models Headline Five Division Show At Antioch, IMCA Mods Back At Merced

If it's Saturday night, that must mean Oval Motorsports promoted races at Merced Speedway and Antioch Speedway.  As spring begins, the season is already kicking into high gear, and it's only just getting started.

When you are dealing with the times we are dealing with, trying to forecast who will be at the track in some of these divisions can be a challenge.  The Dirt Modifieds at Antioch proved almost impossible for me to guess.  The only thing I can say for certain is I'm not even sure who will be running for a championship in that class.  Scott Busby didn't seem to indicate to me that he was going for it, and I'm not sure what Nick DeCarlo's plans are.  Fortunately, the IMCA Modifieds are off at Antioch and on at Merced, so I don't have to speculate about Antioch this week.

This means I can struggle to guess who will be at Merced instead.  I'm intrigued by the idea that Antioch's John MacDougal is third in points after winning there two weeks ago.  Only three points separate leader Alex Wilson, past champion Bill Egleston and MacDougall after two races.  At the banquet, four time champion Ramie Stone indicated that he was getting back into the class to challenge his cousin, Paul Stone, and the rest of the guys.  It would sure be nice to see both of those cars this week, but will we?  We'll see what they decide to do.  I anticipate a field of about a dozen cars, with drivers like past champions Bob Williamson and Jim DiGiovanni and second generation racer Ryan Porter among the group.

Stone Racing Update...  This Just In...

Ramie Stone has the old Paul Stone Victory chassis, but he's still in the process of getting it ready.  Paul Stone, meanwhile, has a new Victory chassis that he is preparing for a series of races set for June in Oregon.  Stay tuned...

Decision Time For Ryland And Brown

Speaking of decisions, "Fast" Freddie Ryland has a decision to make.  For that matter, so does Keith Brown Jr.  A check of the IMCA Sport Mod point standings for these two Antioch area racers finds them ranked first and fourth, respectively, at Merced Speedway.  So, they both need to make a call this week.  Will it be Merced or Antioch for their main Saturday night track?  Defending champion Rick Diaz will still have to deal with Josh Hensley, regardless.  Diaz currently ranks second, six points ahead of Hensley.  Throw in racers like January $1750 Antioch winner Jeremy Hoff, Mark Squadrito and past champion Neill Barcellos, and the field at Merced is still competitive.

Back at Antioch, the competition may not be wanting to see that #7 of Ryland, but they could see a pair of 7's with Fred's wife Patty Ryland having moved up from the Hobby Stock ranks.  From all the buzz, it sounds like there could be a few new cars in the field at Antioch in the Sport Mod class.  The track also boasts the 2014 IMCA Sport Mod National Rookie Of The Year in Rob Gallaher, who was also the track champion.  Chuck Golden is chomping at the bit to get back behind the wheel.  The Dwarf Car graduate finished fourth in Sport Mod points last season.  Hard charger Megan Ponciano, Al Johnson and Lloyd Cline are others to watch for this week, as well as rookie Tim Hammett.

IMCA Points Update...

Fred Ryland is leading the IMCA State point race over Keith Brown Jr., but defending IMCA State Champion Nick Spainhoward got the early jump on Ryland in the National Point Race.  Nationally, Spainhoward leads Ryland, 294-278.  In the IMCA State, it's Ryland 278, Brown 202 and Rick Diaz in third with 180 points.

Could More Northern Cars Go Late Model Racing At Antioch?

Of course, Antioch will again feature the DIRTCar Late Models.  The popular division brought 12 cars last week, including two local racers in Chester Kniss and four time IMCA Modified champion Troy Foulger.  Foulger was a popular Trophy Dash winner last week before driving to a solid fourth place feature finish.  Having accomplished so much in Modifieds, this team is excited about trying to get some Late Model wins.  Kniss, meanwhile, is still getting acquainted with his Late Model, but the currently fifth ranked driver should not be counted out.  Chester has won Main Events in Limited Late Models and Dirt Modifieds, and there's no reason to think he can't do it in Late Models too.

There was an intriguing visitor in Chico star Duane Cleveland last week.  Now, Duane has done a lot in Dirt Modifieds as a two time defending champion at Chico and the winner of the big money race at Merced in January.  He brought the #2c Limited Late Model that he drives at Chico, while third ranked David Newquist was in the #04 car that he races at the popular Friday night venue.  Ryan McDaniel is defending champion of the Limited Late Models at Chico and the son of another champion, Randy McDaniel.  These two drivers and Cleveland have been known to travel together.  One has to wonder if this was a scouting mission that could lead to one or both McDaniel cars coming to Antioch.  For that matter, could the long time Late Model driving father-son team of Ken and Matt Micheli come to Antioch at some point?  Cleveland was very competitive last Saturday at Antioch and finished third behind 2007 track champion Jeff Decker and defending champion Richard Papenhusen.

This is an interesting time for Late Models at Antioch Speedway.  Promoter John Soares Jr. is very committed to trying to build something with this class and has shown a willingness to pay these drivers well.  The potential for this class is that it could reach into the 20's in cars in the future.  For Saturday night, it's reasonable to think 10-12 cars could show up.  If last week was any indication, it could be another good show.

Not So Fast Melissa And Kimo, Don't Forget Nick Baldwin

Meanwhile, the Jennings boys made their season debut at Antioch last Saturday in the Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks.  For Jason Jennings, the night ended in disappointment as he scratched from the Main Event.  Jeremy Jennings, meanwhile, put on a show as he battled with Nick Baldwin for the lead until breaking his power steering exiting Turn 2 late in the race and getting sideways on the back stretch.  It could have ended in disaster if not for the fact that Melissa Myers reacted quickly enough to avoid hitting him.  Jennings managed to gather it back up and bring it home to a respectable third place finish.

Myers had to come from the back after winning her heat race, and this well run race had no yellow flags.  The best she could do was maintain her point lead with a strong second place finish.  Baldwin was not about to let this one get away as he went on to score a satisfying victory.  With all of this talk about two time champions Myers and Kimo Oreta, Baldwin doesn't want anybody to forget that he intends to be a factor in this championship season aboard his fast #17 car.  Baldwin and Oreta are tied for second, four points behind Myers.

Rookie Jordan Swank was again making good laps and took another checkered flag to maintain fifth in the standings.  Jordan is leading the rookie race early on.  A couple of other drivers making season debuts were Robert Niven and Danny Jones.  Niven is coming off of a 10th place season, and took a checkered flag in sixth.  Jones was fifth last season and was running fifth in the feature before pitting with mechanical issues.  Jones was behind the wheel of the red, white and blue #66 car, reminiscent of the Stock Cars he drove for Pete Paulsen in the 1970's and 80's.  Danny was a feature winner last year and has won features in the Super Hobby Stocks in recent years.  He should not be counted out.

Shelton Is Poised To Win At Merced

At Merced, Kevin Joaquin had the hot hand last week in winning the Hobby Stock Main Event after claiming his heat race.  While he and Kristie Shearer have won the first two Hobby Stock races this point season, veteran Ty Shelton has been right there with them.  Counting the non point January race, Ty now has two seconds and a third, and he is second to Joaquin in the standings.  Dexter Long has also been running pretty good so far with a fourth and a fifth to his credit, and that's good enough to keep him third in points, six points out of the lead.

Shearer and Jennifer Corder are tied for fourth, but last week was not the best of times for the 2014 season point runner up Shearer.  Kristie was credited with last place last week, while Corder finished a solid third.  For Corder, this is her rookie season in this division after finishing second in Mini Stock points last season.  Jennifer is gaining plenty of seat time this year as she competes in both divisions.  This week, she can focus on Hobby Stocks as Mini Stocks are off.  Past Chowchilla champion Chris Falkenberg was back last week, but motor problems ended his Main Event early.

Falkenberg finished second to the debuting Steve Rodgers in their heat race, and then Rodgers ran second for several laps in the Main Event in his yellow #50 car.  Eventually, that spot went to Shelton, who made late moves around both Rodgers and Jennifer Corder for that spot.  Rodgers faded back to fifth after his impressive start, while Corder drove to her third place finish. 

Can We Get More Sportsman And Limited Late Models At Merced?

Questions remain as to who will show up in the Limited Late Model divisions at Merced this week.  Marcus Lung and Chris Birdsong have been the only two Sportsman drivers so far from a field of roughly 14 cars.  Three other Sportsman drivers have put this division on the back burner while concentrating on the Sport Mod division.  However, past Sportsman champion Mark Odgers has indicated that he may bring his Sportsman to the track this week.  His pretty #57m car would be a welcome site this week, as would any other car that showed up to compete in this division.

Oval Motorsports had high hopes of beginning to build something with Limited Late Models at Merced, but the reality is that car count has been down.  Though it's estimated that there are at least a dozen cars in the area that could compete here, it's been about 4-8 cars that have raced each event these past two seasons.  2014 champion Roy Hart Jr. was not on hand for last week's show, leaving it to veteran Buddy Thatcher and Scott Van Gelder to try and hold off the invading Mark Garner.  Van Gelder scratched early on, and Thatcher was no match for Garner's flying #76a car.  Thatcher settled for second, while Top 5 2014 Antioch competitor Peggy Sue Jarred made some good laps in third.

So, the question is, who will show up this week?  It's hard to even speculate on that.  We anticipated 6-8 cars would show last week, but that goal was missed.  The potential is there to at least do that this week, but it's really up to the drivers to decide what they want to do.  Hopefully, a few more cars turn out for this one this week.  Bring in a few Antioch cars and have locals like Thatcher, Hart and Ronnie Cole there to defend the home track, and this could be an interesting race.  We'll see what happens.

Bakkie Looking For Victory In Spec Sprints At Antioch

Back at Antioch, the late rules adjustments for the Wingless Spec Sprint division has done a couple of things.  Though car count dipped slightly, the field seems more evenly matched so far.  Kyle Bakkie has been the #2 man for a while, and he may be getting tired of that role.  After ranking second last season, Bakkie has reeled off back to back second place feature finishes so far this season.  He gave it a valiant effort last week late in the race, but Roy Fisher was not to be denied.  Still, Kyle leads Roy by ten points in the standings.

I came up with the nickname "Rallying" Roy Fisher early in his Spec Sprint career for his ability to come from the back to get good finishes.  Fisher enjoyed a Top 5 Rookie Of The Year season in 360 Sprints last season while still Top 5 in Spec Sprints.  He appears to be shooting for a championship, and if anybody thinks this old man can't hang with the younger talent, think again.  He will be tough to beat.  Not to be forgotten is 1999 division original Rick Panfili, who is tied with Fisher for second.  Rick is looking for that first career feature win, and the two third place finishes he has so far seems to indicate that he is getting closer to that goal.

After his Top 5 finish and heat win at the opener, Alan Miranda was on the trail of the leader early in last week's race before he had to pit with a flat.  He still came back and took a checkered flag in sixth behind newcomer Marcus Smith and rookie Chase Wood Jr.  Smith was not far behind Panfili and looked good in his #28 car.  Wood, who is just getting started in Spec Sprints, has made some good laps in the first two races and was a seventh place finisher at the opener.

Though the rules were adjusted, track management remains committed to the class and is anticipating more cars will show in the weeks ahead.  The Spec Sprints and IMCA Sport Mods have the honor of being on the same card with the World of Outlaws on Sunday, March 29th at Antioch Speedway.

Wagner Leads Talented Field Of Dwarf Cars At Antioch

Much like Ricardo Rivera before him, Danny Wagner has found his groove in the Dwarf Car class.  Wagner came up through the ranks of the track's old Mini Truck division, as did Travis Dutra.  Both have become Dwarf Car champions with Dutra winning his title at Petaluma Speedway.  Dutra figured to pick up the win last week, but it was Wagner taking him to school with his last lap pass for the victory.  Once again, Wagner leads the standings.

Dutra finds himself in a tie for second with last season's point runner up, Mike Corsaro, after Corsaro finished third in the Main Event and won his heat race.  Corsaro and teammate Charlie Correia figure to be factors in the battle this season as they were last year.  Correia, who has been an open wheel racer going back to his Super Modified days at West Capital Speedway, finished third in points last season and seventh in last week's Main Event.  He is currently the longest tenured Dwarf Car racer in Northern California, having raced in this class for about 20 years.

Past champion Jerry Doty took some time off, but he hasn't forgotten the fast way around the track as evidenced by his fourth place finish ahead of heat winner David Teves.  People sometimes overlook this division when they make plans to come to the track.  Yet after the races are done, many times the Dwarf Car Main Event was a highlight to their night.  There's no reason not to expect Saturday's race to be a good one.

Once again, Saturday night racing continues at Antioch Speedway with DIRTcar Late Models, IMCA Sport Mods and the Northern All Stars sanctioned Hobby Stocks, Wingless Spec Sprints and Dwarf Cars on the card.  Out at Merced Speedway, it will be IMCA Modifieds and Sport Mods and the Northern All Stars sanctioned Hobby Stocks, Limited Late Models and the Valley Sportsman class.  For all of the official information pertaining to these two tracks as well as Chowchilla Speedway, remember to check the Oval Motorsports Website.

And Furthermore...

A Threat To Bakersfield Speedway?  On Facebook, Kern Country Raceway Park made the big announcement that they are having a playday on their new one-third mile dirt oval on Sunday.  Accusations then came from some who say this track will hurt the long established Bakersfield Speedway, a track that has existed for 70 years.  Is it a threat?  Word is this new dirt track will be mainly for special events, such as Sprint Cars, Midgets and Late Models.  I admit I was concerned when I heard about this track, but if it truly is for special events or would only run any regular races on another night than Bakersfield, it doesn't have to be a bad thing. 

In the meantime, USAC Midgets are part of Saturday night's program at Bakersfield Speedway.  The track boasts that this is the 33rd year in which USAC Midgets have visited.  Sport Mods, American Stocks, California Lightning Sprints and RaceSaver Sprints are also part of the program.

What's It Pay?  There has been some debate over at concerning the pay of the Hunt Series Spec Sprint races.  Apparently, a couple of top teams are not happy that the top of the field is being paid less to allow the bottom of the field to have $200 to start instead of $150.  The message board thread is an interesting one, but the thing people need to realize is that it takes every car in that field to put on a show for the fans and there is only one winner.

Western RaceSaver Sprints:  Two Years ago, the Economy Sprints were introduced as a new entry level Sprint Car class, and it has served to chip away at Spec Sprint car count at both Chico and Marysville.  Down in the southern half of California, the Western RaceSaver 305 Sprint Cars debuted with seven of their "entry level" Sprint Cars.  They were on the Saturday card of the World of Outlaws show in Tulare, and Scott Meisner was the first feature winner.  The division is at Bakersfield this Saturday.

Petaluma Gets Ready To Play.  Over at the Petaluma Speedway Facebook page, promoter Rick Faeth is proudly boasting new signs, a new tech area and a three-eighth mile clay oval that is ready for race cars.  This Saturday, the gates open for playday for all divisions, and the Civil War Sprint Cars are coming on the 28th of March.  Petaluma continues to feature 360 Sprint Cars, Wingless Spec Sprints, IMCA Modifieds, Super Stocks, Dwarf Cars, Mini Stocks and 600 Mini Sprints.  Also of note is the Hunt Series race that will serve as the Johnny Soares Classic race on August 8th, the BCRA Hall Of Fame Picnic on July 18th and the Adobe Cup open show on October 10th.  In addition to multiple Civil War races, there is also the King Of The West 410 Sprint Car race on May 9th.  Check the Official Petaluma Speedway Webpage for all details on the coming season.

Kings Speedway In Hanford Set For Playday:  Kings Speedway is set to open under new management for the fourth time since Dave Swindell left.  Management intends to feature Sprint Cars, IMCA sanctioned Modifieds, Sport Modifieds and Stock Cars and a Mini Stock division.  Playday is this Saturday, and they open with a show featuring USAC Sprint Cars a week later.  For More information, check the Official Kings Speedway Website.

Enduro In Hayfork.  Hayfork Speedway has an Enduro and Destruction Derby slated for this weekend as the track brings in its fourth season of racing at the fairgrounds in Trinity County.

Sunday Sunday Sunday...  The World of Outlaws are coming to Antioch Speedway on March 29th.  Check the Oval Motorsports Website for ticket information.  We also have an article about the coming race that we posted HERE ON THE DCRR BLOG.

This DCRR Racing Radio Show

DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 24 by GenWhat

Of Car Counts, Divisionitis And Entry Level Classes

Putting my Editor's Viewpoint hat on for this one...

I want to again talk about entry level and getting new drivers into the sport of auto racing.  This is a subject that is contrary to my opinion that we have too many damn divisions.  Go back to "the good old days" and try to compare racing from then to now.  It's a different time.  We have new challenges when it comes down to sustaining interest in the sport.  In the early days of dirt track racing, they had one division with a lot of cars.  In the late 1960's, a second division was added.  Car count was solid in two divisions from the late 1960's through most of the 1970's.

At Antioch, the Sportsman division ended in 1981.  Antioch really had the last good Sportsman count.  We were a Sportsman town.  Then, one day, John Soares Sr. left and took half the division with him to Petaluma.  Now, I steer it back to the issue of car counts.  The 1980's was seen as the last "golden age" by some, and we had Stock Cars and Street Stocks.  Now, here's the reality in comparing then and now.

Antioch Stock Cars didn't start seeing B Mains on a regular basis in the 1980's until 1984.  At that point, we drew over 30 on a good night.  Combining Street Stocks and Stock Cars, we had 50-60 cars.  Wanna know something funny?  Antioch had 55 cars last Saturday among five divisions.  We had the car count, but it was spread out among five divisions.  Hence the term, divisionitis.  And, the cost to the promoter hasn't gotten any cheaper.  All five classes ran for a purse, and two of the track's top three paying divisions were on hand.

You can blame Baylands for the creation of divisiontis, if you must.  Automania started it with the plethora of Mini Stock classes for that Friday night show along with the other Stock Car classes.  Then, Baylands died, and a deal was struck with John Soares Sr. to bring the Baylands classes to Petaluma.  Now, John was taking care of the racers, on one hand.

Think about it.  Where else would the American Stocks get a home track in 1989?  Antioch and Watsonville had a huge field of Street Stocks, and then there was the whole NASCAR thing.  There was no room there.  Nobody would have taken either of the Mini Stock divisions.  So, John gave them a home. On the other hand, there were over 150 cars most nights early on, and that meant money was coming in.  It should be noted that a pay scale was adopted early on with John Soares Jr. involved in that, and every division ran for something.

The seed had been planted.  By the end of the 1980's, tracks were adding third divisions, even if they were traveling groups.  By the mid 1990's, a lot of tracks had four divisions.  The traditional program of time trials, inverted fields and that sort of thing had become a thing of the past.  At Antioch, more divisions were added, and other tracks followed suit.

The core divisions of Modifieds, Street Stocks and Hobby Stocks saw the inclusion of Wingless Spec Sprints, Dwarf Cars, Limited Late Models, Mini Trucks and even Four Bangers over the next few years.  Some of these divisions were in conflict with each other.  The Limited Late Models competed with Street Stocks before Street Stocks were sacrificed to save the Limited Late Models.  Of course, Hobby Stocks have evolved into the Street Stocks of the early 1990's and are still evolving.

Mini Trucks and Four Bangers were sort of in conflict.  I'm not going to get into mistakes that may have been made with Four Bangers, a class I did not want added to the track.  I will only say that once it was added, it should have been left alone and allowed to thrive.  That class had the odds against it when it was brought back in 2009.  The Mini Trucks were the entry level class, and drivers were using it as a stepping stone into the sport.  You need that.

Now, at it's height, we'd see 130 cars in the pits back in the 1999-2000 time span.  Antioch has never had that many cars showing up for a regular show before or since.  At some point, the bottom fell through.  Why is complicated.  It's not just one thing.  People like to blame the economy, and it is a factor.  However, it's not the only reason.  Here's the thing.

It was a heck of a show when it was working.  B Mains in Dwarf Cars and Hobby Stocks most nights, and many nights B Mains in Dirt Mods, Street Stocks and Spec Sprints.  As car counts started going down across the board, we ended up with 10-12 cars in most divisions, sometimes a few more.  Late Models became available, and Antioch jumped at the chance to take them.  I can't disagree with that.  There has also been a desire to add 360 Sprints.  These are pretty much the real headline classes, as in biggest purses.  They don't run every week.  No more than two races a month for either of them

Divisionitis has gotten to the point were we have Modifieds and Sport Modifieds.  Wow, really?  Can you say splitting the car count?  I warned of that a few years ago, and it's happening now.  For those who know history, what do you think will happen to the Sport Mods once the Modifieds are dropped?  And, the issues leading to the Modifieds decline aren't being addressed.  The Modifieds are in their 25th anniversary season at Antioch, and they've had a charmed life.  For 21 years, they've been headliners, which is longer than Sportsman or Stock Cars had at the track.

You kind of have to go with what got you there, so Modifieds are there now.  There are too many chassis out there not to run both classes, but the Modifieds are trending downward.  The Sport Mods are on the rise.  Hobby Stocks and Limited Late Models are sort of there right now.  With Limited Lates, car count has trended up slightly over the last year or two, but it's not cheap to be competitive.  There are cars out there occupying space on the track.  I'll get back to Hobbys, but we'll go to the open wheelers first.

Wingless Spec Sprints recently had a full scale rules revision, and the car count is reeling from the changes.  John wanted to save the division, and now is the crucial time where racers either support or don't.  Dwarf Cars bring the best count many nights, but you aren't seeing a lot of drivers moving up to the other divisions.  They are still cheap compared to other cars, but I'd put them in the middle of things.  As I said, you don't see guys moving up, but they do put on a good show.

The Spec Sprints are regrouping and may or may night start to rise in car counts.  The thought process was that something had to be done before the car count dwindled down to nothing, but the reality was they had counts comparable to IMCA Modifieds last year.  Of course, considering what's happening with the Modifieds lately, that's not a good thing either.  At this point, you just put the word out, hype what you have and see if the changes work for Spec Sprints.  It's a week to week process.

Now, once upon a time, Hobby Stocks were the entry level division at the track.  They are probably the most affordable class out there, but they are struggling to get cars too.  The track recently announced rule changes to put this class in line with Bakersfield rules.  I don't believe anybody has built a car to that yet, but I wonder what it will do to the class when it happens.  I recall a guy named Tom Spurgeon annoying John with all his questions at that 1997 drivers meeting.  In 1999, he built a Street Stock to the rules at the time and sort of dominated things.  I can easily see that happening here with Hobby Stocks.

If it does lead to a trend where these cars become more expensive to maintain, where is the entry level class?  Bakersfield, Porterville and Santa Maria started a class called American Stocks.  Yeah, here we go again, right?  However, they are doing okay in car count at Bakersfield.  So, that is an option, but then we get into that divisionitis thing.  We need divisions that can bring 15-20 cars and to focus on division quality, and I know that will be a process.  What we have didn't happen over night, and it can't be fixed over night either. However, I believe it can be fixed.

My concern is how Antioch can't seem to maintain a Four Banger division.  I'll spare you the history lesson and what hurt things early on.  When it was brought back, it struggled for a couple years with about six cars.  In 2012, there were counts in the teens  Two years later, five or six cars.  But, Four Bangers do see drivers move up to Hobby Stocks and other classes.  They do have value, and they aren't being paid a purse.  It was decided to drop the class and send the drivers packing to Merced.

Personally, I don 't think that should have happened just yet.  I'd like to have seen it kept around a little while longer, since it didn't cost the track to run these cars anyway.  So what if we have a five car heat and main event?  Keep it going and try to build it. The Antioch Four Banger drivers aren't going to Merced on a regular basis.  That's just my opinion.  I know that ultimately you need a car count, but I wonder one thing.  What has been done to address racer's concerns and try to get the cars back, not just in Four Bangers, but in all divisions?

At Merced, the Sportsman and Limited Late Models are on life support.  Both classes have car count available of at least 14 cars each, probably more in Limited Late Models.  A Limited Late Model shoot out was booked between Antioch and Merced before knowing who was even gonna show up.  Numbers last year did not look good.  Worse yet, Limited Late Models were hyped heavily in the Merced paper last week and delivered just four cars.  That's not likely to make fans happy there.  I think there is something there, but only if the Merced drivers want to support it.  You can't count on the Antioch guys to go down there in mass to prop it up.  That won't happen.

So, drivers meetings should have happened.  Honestly, this should happen every year in an off track setting, where the promoter can give a state of the track address and drivers can ask questions and offer suggestions.  Having that kind of a dialogue can be a plus for a race track and build a community.  And, that's what racing is.  It's our own little community, a family of sorts.  It shouldn't be us vs them, but rather all of us together keeping the sport going strong.

We can do better.  I believe that.  I don't know where car count can ultimately be, but it can be better than this with some effort.  We can have more drivers actually showing up for every race and not championships that are contested by a few drivers who show up for every race.  And, when we get that car count up, we can do something about divisionitis, or rotate classes more, focusing on quality racing programs with more cars in each division.  It's a process getting to that point, but nothing will happen if the right effort is not made.