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What's In Store For Late Models, Modifieds At Antioch This Week
Let's look at a little bit of history of the Late Models at Antioch Speedway. Here's a quote from track management at Antioch Speedway in the 1992-93 time frame. It was off the record back then for political reasons.
This is not for publication because the Grand Am drivers will automatically think I'm doing something against them, but I'm working very seriously with a couple drivers on a new set of rules for the Late Models. I don't want to lose the Late Models. Something is wrong. I know the rules shouldn't have been opened up during the off season, and I didn't have anything to do with it.
I've written this a few times, including in my books (linked above). Brynda did not want to give up on Late Models, and I 100% agreed with her on that. I stifled a story because she asked me too, only to watch as John Cardinale ran one of his own in the newspaper. It annoyed me, to say the least. It was a story about where the Late Models all went and how to get them back.
Brynda was in contact with Sandy Bainton at one time, and I know she wanted to be a part of the budding CarQuest Series from the start. Unfortunately, she didn't get to make the final call. In the years since those days, I've come to the realization that Brynda would have been a better person to put in charge of the West Coast Speedways deal. She was a lot smarter than people, including myself, ever gave her credit for. I touch on this in my book (Just A Kid From The Grandstands) as well.
Part of the political thing about keeping things silent was the fact that there was a serious lobby to have the Dirt Modifieds take over and just drop the Late Models. I've never been a fan of how that whole deal was handled and always felt that at the very least the Late Models should have been put on a three track, four if Merced was included, circuit between Antioch, Watsonville and San Jose.
A deal was worked out between John Soares Sr. and West Coast Speedways back then, but John backed out. He was vilified for that, but the man was only protecting his rules and the interest of his track. I'd have done the same thing considering what I had heard was going on. John nearly lost his class a couple years earlier, so he was taking care of things on his end. Having said that, it still doesn't excuse the terrible way in which West Coast Speedways handled things. The fact is, they still had a three track series and a roster of over 20 cars, yet they abandoned the popular class.
I may offend some people with that opinion, but I'm just being honest...
Fast forward to John Soares Jr. taking over Antioch Speedway in 1998. It was always his intent to get Late Models back at Antioch. He's a Late Model guy at heart. There was a problem. His dad had the division at Petaluma. Pops was the last man standing in Northern California with a division. Vilify him all you want, but at least the man gave a damn to keep running Late Models.
So, John had to take what was given to him, which included some Late Model races in 1998 and an Antioch Speedway Championship, won by none other than Ed Sans Jr. Because he wanted Late Models and Pops was being Pops, John started Limited Late Models. They were called Super Stocks because Pops didn't want Late Models at Antioch unless he was sharing the class with John. So, it was kind of sneaked in there. 15 years later, the Street Stocks have gone away, but Limited Late Models still survive.
John has tried in a few different ways to get Late Models back at Antioch. Since Petaluma Speedway dropped the class to put more emphasis on open wheel racing there, John has tried to step things up with a bit of a Late Model series at Antioch. It's a tricky situation, because you don't want to over book and you have to be mindful of any big races down south.
So, the guys left standing at Petaluma, champions like Rod Arnold, Paul Guglielmoni and Jeff Decker, came and raced at Antioch. Richard Papenhausen came back, and he was as fast as ever. He is the defending champion and won the January season opener for the newly sanctioned DIRTcar Late Models. Late Models are on the card for this week at Antioch, and the question is who is coming?
We did see Shawn DeForest making laps (or maybe Rob Norris was in the car again) last week. Chester Kniss and Troy Foulger have stepped up as local stars who have cars. Guglielmoni and Arnold were not there in January, but will they be back Saturday? I'm not sure I can speculate too much. I anticipate 8-10 cars, and guys like Dave Newquist, Randy Shafer, Dennis Souza and Danny Malfatti could be among them. Papenhausen, Kniss and Foulger will hopefully be there, maybe Decker too.
The thing is, this deal is being built up. I'd estimate at least 20 cars still exist in Northern California. The trick is getting them to come to Antioch. I'm not sure how much word is being put out there about the Antioch schedule, the pay and that sort of thing, and that maters. I would like to see this thing built up, but we'll have to wait and see what happens. I think 8-10 cars on Saturday is a fair estimation, and it's a start.
Meanwhile, John has dropped the Northern All Stars Dirt Modified idea and elected to focus on IMCA sanctioned Modifieds alone this year. That is a smart move. Personally, I felt one concept was at odds with the other, and it didn't help build car count. I don't think John is bad for wanting to pay the guys more money to run under his sanctioning on select nights, but the three sub ten car IMCA sanctioned nights last year indicate a slight problem.
So, the racing season for IMCA Modifieds is already two races old, and it looks as if we have four heavy hitters in the Top 5. The man who won four championships in a row driving for Bill Bowers heads the pack. He's two division racer "Tricky" Troy Foulger, and he won at Chico last Friday. There are two drivers three points behind him that COULD be there, past Antioch champion Kellen Chadwick, and 2014 Petaluma champion "Quick" Nick DeCarlo. I speculated on this earlier this year, but I'll just say this. It would be good for the track if Chadwick and DeCarlo compete all season for that championship. However, these guys have to do what they think will be fun for themselves.
Now, Scott Busby I think has made one somewhat serious effort for an Antioch title since his fourth track championship in 1997. Having him in the field would be a welcome site. He is a legend at Antioch Speedway. At 22 points out of the lead in fifth, he is still in the hunt. Most of the other names currently shown in the Top 10 are not likely to be regulars, other than two division racer Chester Kniss. As I speculated earlier this season, it could be that Kniss will be the #2 driver in points within a race or two, giving Foulger another huge lead and likely championship. Of course, Troy had it last year and opted to step aside and focus on getting that Late Model win.
Troy could do that again, and it could be that the man tied for tenth right now, Kniss, would be in the driver's seat. On one hand, that wouldn't be the most flattering compliment the track ever had, watching as all of the top ranked drivers say no thank you to a championship. On the other hand, a battle between Kniss, Bobby Motts Jr. and recent Merced winner John MacDougall for the championship of this division's 25th Anniversary season at Antioch Speedway could be very interesting.
Actually, I'm thinking it could be possible that Foulger, Chadwick, DeCarlo and Busby could be in action for this week's race, regardless of their season's plans, so this could be a really good show. Modified count has not been encouraging so far in The Valley, but it's early. We should see a double digit car count and a good race at Antioch on Saturday. There are sure to be cars that were not present in January, such as ones possibly fielded by "Superstar" Mike Salazar, Johnny "MOD" Curtis, Aaron "Crazy Man" Crowell, Sean O'Gara and defending champion Carl Berendsen II.
So, we'll wait and see what materializes. This race could be an indication of what the season will look like for IMCA Modifieds in 2015 at Antioch Speedway. Beyond that, I'm not going to speculate. I hope for a really good show for the fans, and a happy group of racers who are having fun out there. That's what really matters. As always, The Oval Motorsports Website is the place to find all of the official information.
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