Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Antioch Speedway And Merced Speedway Pit Stops

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

Additional info on the Short Track History Project  HERE

DCRR Racing Radio Show Audio Calls From Antioch Speedway April 11

Note: I wasn't thrilled with the audio quality of the Hobby Stock call at the start, but I added it at the end of this show anyway as the quality improved slightly as the race went on.  I need to switch tapes.

Could Have Gone To Calistoga For Spec Sprint Race And Outlaws

So, I'm sitting here on Sunday afternoon.  I had a chance to go to Calistoga Speedway for the first time with Jim Robbins, BUT, I was busy doing a job that I'm not paid for and didn't get to sleep until 7:00 AM.  Just missed Jim's call, or I'd have done it on three hours of sleep.

Some people may not recall that I am a proud co-creator of the Wingless Spec Sprints.  John Soares Jr. gave us the dates and the pay scale based on car count, and Don O'Keefe Jr. and I guided that class through the planning stages in August of 1998 through the final race of 1999 (see this story from Flat Out Magazine).  Never had less than 12 cars at Antioch and only one low car count in the four Petaluma visits that year.

So, there have been many milestones that this class has had, starting with the first B Main in year #2, Orland became the first track to start its own class after Antioch in 2001 and Tom Sagmiller booked my Open Wheel Round Up idea at Chowchilla in 2001 (a then record 32 cars).

Back in those days, I believed in John Soares Jr. (still do) and his ability to be a leader and a unifier, so I wanted him to start what I called the California Spec Sprint Revolution Series.  Well, the 360's had a Civil War Series that was huge, so why not a Spec Sprint Revolution?  We were revolutionizing Sprint Cars and making them more accessible to new racers and open wheel veterans with low budgets.

John never got on board with this idea.  He booked big Modified shows, but he hesitated with Spec Sprints.  Hey, he did well with those shows, but the big Spec Sprint series was an idea that could have been a winner too.  I believed John could be at the head of the table for the Spec Sprint movement.   So, I watched as Watsonville, CSRA (Sacramento), Marysville, Chico and Petaluma all got on board with this class.

Then, the NCMA started the Select Series.  They never really had the clout to pull it off as big as it could have been, but they had their moments.  At least they tried.  Then, John Padjen did what he did best, he promoted a huge show and had some 70 cars show up one year.  Still a record.  Another milestone that in some small way I was a part of.

I think it's safe to say that Spec Sprints don't exist without Don, John and myself.  I know the name wouldn't exist, because Don and I named them.  So, yeah, I celebrated when Don and I talked about this division's accomplishments on the phone. Then, we hit ten years, 15 came next.  Multiple tracks, and of course, The Hunt Series.

It's very humbling to think that guys might not have had Sprint Car experience had it not been for this class.  Guys won championships in this class, and it all started in a pizza parlor just down the road from me in which Don and I hashed out rules, one by one.  Don was the rules guy, but he made sure I understood it all.  I was the PR guy, and I think we both did our parts well.

I see the class is on borrowed time now, and I'm sad.  It's every bit as good as Dirt Mods, and yet, it's never had people really push it like it should have been pushed.  A few people like Padjen have tried.  I like the Hunt Series idea, but it will fail without home tracks with cars to draw from.  Then, you have the other questionable moves.

A winged class taking from the wingless class and dividing car count at Chico and Marysville.  There's no regular class at Watsonville now.  Then, Antioch changed their rules.  I get why it was done, but the timing wasn't the best when it comes to car count.  Many of the Petaluma, Hunt and Chico/Marysville cars are no longer legal at Antioch, and that impedes Antioch's ability to have bigger car counts on some nights.

So, yeah, Spec Sprints are on borrowed time in their 17th season, and they don't have to be.  Despite that, Prentice Motorsports Group booked them at Calistoga, the grand daddy of Northern California Sprint Car venues.  Another milestone, and I was very much interested in witnessing this all go down, even if this may very well be my last trip to a race track

Instead, I was working on an Antioch story and doing audio that would be up Sunday morning when people woke up.  I wanted to have Merced up there too, but there were no finishes available and very little buzz going around (I have since been able to add Merced to this column).

I want Merced Speedway to be successful.  Merced has some good racers there, good people.  Some of the best California racers through the years called Merced Speedway their home track.  I believe in that track, and I believe it can be built up again.   I also believe Oval Motorsports can make it happen, but sadly, it's not my job to help make it happen.

By the way, there's an interesting little newspaper story I filed for some papers in an attempt to get Antioch Speedway some coverage.  It went out moments after the checkered flag flew Saturday night.  It did end up running HERE.

Note: This was written before points and results were updated.  As of Monday at 9:00 PM, everything has been updated and is current.  You can find all of that information HERE

Antioch Speedway Pit Stops

The Wingless Spec Sprints (I know they call them Econo, but I'm not a fan of that name) were back and had ten cars in the field for Saturday's show at Antioch Speedway.  The prime players in the game this season were there, and 36 points separated the Top 5 in points of Kyle Bakkie, Rick Panfili, Roy Fisher, Alan Miranda and Marcus Smith going into this race.  None of these drivers has won a championship in this class.

Bakkie was second last season and Fisher and Panfili have been Top 3.  Fisher may be considered the favorite to win.  From the moment he stepped into this, over 15 years ago, he has been fast.  A horrendous crash did nothing to stop him from coming back.  Thankfully, he's still alive to recently celebrate his 54th wedding anniversary with his wife.

The thing about "Rallying" Roy is he isn't planning to make every race.  He revealed prior to this race that he'll make most of them, and if he manages to get a top 5 in the standings, he'll be fine with that.  He plans to run his Winged 360 Sprint Car some and was Top 5 in that last year too.  He just wants to race, try to win when he can and have fun.

The rule changes left him scrambling before the season to make sure he had a legal motor, but the 72 year old leadfoot was ready on opening night.  Come the second race, he was scoring a Main Event win.  Well, this time out, he led from start to finish to score another victory.  The win takes him from 16 points out to four behind Kyle Bakkie.  Kyle was a heat race winner, but it was all down hill from there.

Alan Miranda has sort of burst on the scene as a threat to win this year.  When the rule changes occurred, the former Top 5 point runner didn't mind because he wasn't running a roller cam anyway.  He is keen on running for points this year, and he won his heat before finishing Top 5 in the season opening Main Event.  The big thing for him was staying out of trouble, and the next race saw him have a run in with a rookie who is still getting that valuable seat time.

24 points out coming into this race, Alan knew there was another race coming up next week, and he wanted to go out there and stay out of trouble.  He has a busy work schedule and different hours that will make it more difficult to get the car ready.  Unfortunately, his worst nightmare came true.  He flipped his car on the back stretch on the opening lap, eliminating himself and Bakkie.  James East was out as well.

Incoming point runner up Rick Panfili was also threatened after he got a flat tire.  He further struggled to pass a rookie without getting into any contact racing, which left him behind the leaders.  He managed a fifth to stay within 10 points of Bakkie in third.  Panfili is one of those drivers who is doing it on a shoe string budget, and he's also looking for sponsors for his #44 car.  One of the reasons that this class made it through the first season in 1999 is because guys like Rick were regulars, and he's been running this class ever since.

Jimmy Perry III has been trying to get his #21p car dialed in under the new rules, and last week saw him running third before motor issues ended his night.  It's back to the drawing board for the Perry Racing Engines sponsored team.  Marcus Smith was only too happy to take that spot for his best career finish in third.  Among the people in the Smith pits was two time Spec Sprint champion Dan Gonderman and his father, 1970 Sportsman champion Ken Gonderman.  If there's a man who knows chassis, it's Ken.

Marcus might have been wanting to grab one more spot, but Ryon Siverling's orange and black #77 car was not giving up on his best career finish in second.  That's now two straight Top 5's for Siverling.  With him in the pits was NCMA Hall Of Famer Burt Siverling, who had to be very proud of the way Ryon was driving out there.  Could a win be in his near future?  It's certainly a possibility.

Sixteen year old Chase Wood Jr. was out there making his laps in his #6 car with his father, Chase Wood, guiding him.  Chase Sr. revealed that the other cars that were coming from the group are just going to go 360 Sprint racing due to the rule changes.  However, he feels this class is the best place for his son to learn the ropes for now.  Though Chase wasn't as fast as the others, he did his best to stay out of trouble and made his laps.  He will get better with that attitude.

Of course, the headliners of the night were the DIRTcar Late Models, and there were 11 cars in action.  This is a class that is near and dear to the heart of promoter John Soares Jr., and he's wanting to build this class into something.  The catch 22 in this whole situation is purse money.  Late Model drivers spend a lot to run these cars and want bigger purses.  The track wants cars before that can really happen.  If you guarantee money and a small turnout shows, you are stuck paying the tab. 

For the most part, the competitors understand the situation, but there are critics who try to stir the pot.  A look at the map will show just one Northern California track with a Late Model division, and that is Antioch Speedway.  Some drivers still skip the track to take longer tows down south, which is a bit frustrating for the fan who wants to see more cars.  Therefore, the popular question becomes how many cars will be there.

Well, the track has hit double digits in all four races this season, and the Big 3 of Richard Papenhausen, Jeff Decker and Troy Foulger have emerged to entertain the crowd and battle for victory.  The rest of the division is there wondering who might be the one to challenge for victory. 

Papenhausen is not a surprise.  He is a Late Model die hard in the Dave Papenhausen Construction/Mohawk Trading #4p car.  It's hard to miss that fast orange car.  Richard has been racing these cars for several years and is also a champion in Dirt Modifieds up at Chico.  Of course, his latest accomplishments are the two wins he has so far this year and his 2014 Antioch championship.

Meanwhile, Decker has developed a taste for Late Model racing over the last decade or so.  Jeff came up through the ranks in Street Stocks and Dirt Modifieds, but his Late Model resume includes championships at Antioch, Petaluma and Watsonville.  Needless to say, he is fast and is a one time winner this season.

Jeff talked about some of the expenses it takes to run this class, but reiterated his love of the class.  In fact, he is so frustrated by the idea that his car isn't as fast as the competition that he is working on a new car.  He says he wants the others to have to chase him for a change. Jeff is hoping the class finally gets a foothold in Antioch and begins to build up, but he knows the challenges management faces.  He says he'll also come out and play with his Dirt Modified on occasion once it's ready.

On this night, Decker and Papenhausen emulated each other with heat race wins, but it was Papenhausen doing the chasing as Decker ran second the whole race in front of Papenhausen.  Then, Troy Foulger appeared from 11th starting and passed Papenhausen for third.  Foulger's Bowers Racing #49 car had its problems in preliminaries, and the team didn't know what to expect for the Main Event.  Well, the crew had it dialed in and Troy just missed beating Decker by inches for second.  Papenhausen settled for fourth.  Decker now leads Papenhausen by two points.

One of the things the division needs at Antioch is for the Big 3 to be there, but others to really step up.  This time, it was the white #22g car of Paul Gugliemoni.  Paul is a two time Petaluma champion, though he down plays one of those titles.  Some may not see him as a threat to win, but that changed in a big way on Saturday.

One of the guys helping him keep things dialed in was ageless veteran Larry Damitz, who seemed more happy about what Paul had done than when he has his own success.  He has known Paul for years and has offered help when he could.  Well, Paul stayed up on the outside and through each restart repelled Decker's advances.  When the checkered flag flew, Paul was collecting the victory.  It had been a while and he was very happy to know that the hard work had paid off.  Paul also revealed that he has other cars that could see the track.  He mentioned also that Randy Schafer had to work, but he should get back to the track at the next race at the end of the month.

Chris Linder made a surprise visit from Oregon to race at Antioch.  Though he didn't have a lot of luck in his green #22c car, it was nice to see him in Antioch making the effort.  The effort paid off for second ranked Limited Late Model driver Mike Hynes Saturday night.  After scratching from his first two Main Events, Mike did better than teammate David Newquist with a sixth place finish.  Newquist had a DNF with a broken driveline, but he remains third in the standings.

In the Hobby Stock ranks, Kimo Oreta was still smiling after his feature winning performance last time out.  He could put that car anywhere on the track that night, and it ran well.  He admitted he was enjoying it on the high side and that the track was very fast up there.  He never really saw a challenger that night, but the win put him tenth on the grid for Saturday's race.  When a race goes non stop, as this one did, you can only do so much.  He ended up fifth and is now just two points ahead of Nick Baldwin, who finished third.

Jeremy Jennings wasn't exactly proud of himself when he attempted to move past rookie Jordan Swank for third in the Main Event.  Jeremy's #42 car is fast, as the third place finish he had in his season debut would indicate.  He had every hope of doing better in this car, part of which came from the old Daniel Hodges Street Stock.  The problem was he was having a hard time getting around Swank. 

Swank wasn't super fast while he was running third, but he was smooth enough to maintain that spot for several laps as Jennings and several others lined up behind him.  When contact occurred between the two, it was Baldwin who gained the third place position.  Jeremy did end up in fourth, but he'll be kicking himself over the idea that if he had done it differently, he might have finished third or even battled with his brother and Brian Zachary for the lead.

Jason Jennings was the first Four Banger champion in 2004 and used that experience to move up to other classes through the years.  For his Hobby Stock effort, Jason had traded for a Hobby Stock, but he ended up building a new car when he wasn't ha6ppy with want he had.  His season debut was less than stellar, but Saturday night, he probably had the winning car.  Jason took the lead from Zachary, but then the motor started smoking.  He wasn't about to leave, and he hoped it would hold on just a bit longer  On lap 19, Zachary made his winning pass in the Jim Freethy #99 car, but at least the #42j car held on to get Jason to a second place finish.

Back in the old Baylands days, Calvin Louis raced American Stocks, and he was one of the top drivers there.  Last year, he got his son, Calvin Louis Jr., into the class.  This year, Calvin has some Mario characters painted on his car and is racing for his sister, who is battling Cancer.  In his last start, he had a Top 5 finish, and he again finished fourth in the feature on Saturday.  As he gets it dialed in, keep an eye on that #25 car in the battle for feature victories.  He nearly won his heat race, but he settled for second behind new fifth ranked driver Danny Jones.

The IMCA Sport Mods returned, and it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Fred Ryland was the driver to beat.  His win a night earlier at Wastonville was his ninth of the season. Fred has had much success in every class in which he has competed, but he had no goals of winning a National championship this year.  Those plans only changed after his West Coast Nationals victories at Merced and Chowchilla back in January.  However, he knows he needs lots of wins, a couple of championships and good car counts if he really wants to win.

On this night, ten Sport Mods were on hand as Alan Faruta rolled in with his #12 car, sporting the colors of the San Francisco Giants.  And, F. Ryland started last on the grid for a race that had no slowdowns.  A Ryland did win it, but not Fred.  It was his wife Patti's turn to shine.  The two time Four Banger champion and 2014 Hobby Stock runner up won her heat race and drove a flawless race in the Main Event to post the victory, and that will move her to the head of the rookie list.

Keith Brown Jr. has taken such a beating in his #128 car that the second ranked diver at Antioch and the state had to put a new body on the car.  He was hoping that would change his luck, and he found himself battling Ron Brown for second.  For R. Brown, maintaining that beautiful #3 car is a team effort with so many people making it possible for him to even be out there.  Well, the two time Limited Late Model champion gave his crew something to smile about with a second place finish ahead of K. Brown.

Chuck Golden had hopes of a good finish.  Earlier in the afternoon, he unloaded his car in the pits and headed to a birthday party.  He celebrated a bit himself with a heat race win.  He had a fourth place run going behind Paul Mulder before he lost power and coasted into the infield.  Mulder, meanwhile, managed to hold of F. Ryland to finish fourth in the feature.

The Dwarf Cars saw a couple new faces in the field.  One was Dillon Hume, who brought his #78 car.  Dillon had raced at Ventura Speedway in the past, but said he was still pretty much a rookie.  Another newcomer with just a bit of go kart experience was Toby Brown in his new M&M Chassis #21 car.  Unfortunately, neither driver had much luck, though Hume took a checkered in 11th.  Tim Reeder and Miranda Chappa were back in action and hoping they would fare a little better.  Reeder had a Top 10 run going before he broke on the back stretch.  Chappa, meanwhile, did a nice job of earning a lead lap tenth place finish.

Danny Wagner, meanwhile, is a racing fool.  He's already traveled up north to run with Nor Cal this year and finished sixth Friday night with the South Bay guys at Watsonville.  The two time defending Antioch champion keeps another car around to run at the big shows as he enjoys competing against the best the Dwarf Car division has to offer.  There's a reason he's fast, and that's because he races whenever he can and he's gained lots of experience.

The Teves-Wagner rivalry goes back to 2013, when David Teves broke on the final night as Wagner won the hotly contested championship.  For this race, David had won his heat race and led the main Event ahead of Jack Haverty.  Unfortunately, he spun in Turn 3 and collected Haverty.  Wagner also spun, but it was deemed to be after the spin that caused the yellow.  The spin gave young Adam Teves the lead, and the kid drove a flawless race for the impressive victory.  He had Wagner chasing him in second, and that second gained Wagner the point lead by eight over D. Teves.

Last time out, Kevin Miraglio was tenth, and he was not at all happy about that.  He bounced back this time with a heat win before holding off Mike Corsaro for a fourth place feature finish.  Corsaro's finish keeps him 12 points behind A. Teves for third, while Miraglio is just eight points out of the Top 5 in the standings. 

Racing continues at Antioch Speedway Saturday night with the IMCA Modifieds being joined by the Northern All Stars Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks, Dwarf Cars and Wingless Spec Sprints.  It's five divisions of excitement, and it should be a good show. 

Also, Chowchilla Speedway is having a race on Sunday, April 19th.  On the card for that one is IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Mods, Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks.  For more information on these two events, check the official Oval Motorsports Website.

 Meanwhile,  Back In Merced

There's good news to report from Sportsman and Sport Mod competitor Tim Prothro's team.  Work is coming along on the #23 Sport Mod, and he hopes to be back on track soon.  In a race at Merced Speedway a few weeks back, Tim had a bout with the Turn 4 wall before he could get to the checkered flag.  He wasn't hurt, but his car was not as lucky.

Speaking of luck, Sport Mod point leader Josh Hensley has not been very lucky at all in recent weeks in his #86 car.  Despite his perfect attendance, he really hasn't made the most of things lately.  In his last three stats, he has yet to finish higher than seventh, including a ninth place finish last week.  Even if he does have a bit of a head start on everybody else in points, Josh is wanting to put together some good finishes to show off his ability.

Though the Sport Mod drivers have been hit and miss on their support, a plethora of different divers have competed this season to keep things going.  Street Stock and Sportsman veteran Gary Tucker was the class of the field last week as he used a front row start to drive to victory.  Gary missed some races early on, but he'll go up the point ladder quickly if he keeps driving like this.

Two drivers made their first start of the year in Sport Mods Saturday night.  Eric Rose drove to a fourth place finish, while Tim Furin was sixth.  However, the drive of the night was turned in by D.C. Brown, who went from ninth starting to a second place finish in the #16c car.  John Fore Jr. likewise enjoyed one of his better finishes in third.

Having been a Top 10 Hobby Stock driver, Dwayne Short now has his sights set on a Top 5 season in Sport Mods.  He certainly helped his effort Saturday night with his fifth place finish, but he wasn't done.  Dwayne also collected a third in Hobby Stocks as he decided to bring that car out for his first start of the season.  With finishes like that, we may just see his next Hobby Stock start much sooner.

A Top 3 Hobby Stock competitor in points at Chowchilla last season, Austin Van Hoff has looked good in his Merced starts this season.  Saturday was his best showing yet as he won his heat race and led some laps in the Main Event. Unfortunately, Gary Hildebrand was on a mission.  The Sportsman and Hobby Stock veteran charged from back in ninth to become the sixth different feature winner in seven races.

The only driver with two wins is point leader Kevin Joaquin, and he was trying to get the bitter taste of his DNF a week earlier out of his mouth,  He managed a fifth place finish, though it's not likely that he was satisfied with that.  Kevin is used to better results in his #97 car.  Also, he knows that his closest rival, rookie Jennifer Corder, is rapidly improving.  Jennifer had another fourth place finish to keep the pressure on.  The 2014 Mini Stock point runner up has parked that car in recent weeks to focus on her Hobby Stock effort.

The IMCA Modified points are not reflecting the tight battle that still exists between IMCA State point leader Alex Wilson, 2012 champion Bill Egleston and title hopeful John MacDogall.  Wilson is closer than the points currently reflect.  MacDougall made the decision to drive past his home track in Antioch, where he was a Top 5 driver last season, to focus on racing at Merced.  He was all smiles last week after his second place finish to Kyle Wilson, who was making his first start of the season.  John is now shown as the point leader as of today by five over Egleston.

Egleston had another disappointing night and failed to crack the Top 5 in seventh.  In IMCA, every point literally does count.  You only gain one more point than the driver behind you, and there are no points for what you do in the heat races.  A. Wilson's fourth place finish keeps him right in the mix.  The Wilson boys, Alex and Kyle, race at Merced and Watsonville and even Chowchilla when they can.  Alex may be glad Kyle didn't start the season on time after his impressive feature win Saturday night.

The appearance of different racers on any given week has also helped Merced keep a double digit car count in Modifieds.  Harley Turner made his first start and finished a respectable fifth, while Bay Area racer Joel Myers made his second appearance and grabbed a podium finish in third.  Myers pops up at different tracks from time to time, but he calls Petaluma Speedway his home track and is coming off of consecutive Top 10 seasons in points.  Another past Petaluma racer, Will Frykman, didn't fare so well as he was a feature scratch.  The Super Stock competitor from Petaluma's glory days did have a Top 5 Modified season at Merced in 2009.

Still battling fiercely for the Mini Stock championship are Darren Miguel, Chris Corder and Kevin Lockerby.  The 2014 champion Corder is clinging tenaciously to his point lead over Miguel, but his grip is loosening.  It may just slip away as Miguel seems to be the hottest driver at the track after his second straight win.  This time, they ran the race in the opposite direction, but Miguel drew on his winning experience in a similar race at Chwochilla back in March.  He gained a little with the win, but Corder and Lockerby were second and third, respectively.

Lockerby never really intended to run for points, but he's off to a good start and would like to prove that he can win in a car that has a slight disadvantage to the other front runners.  The white #54 car, or "Sandy" as he calls her, was built with the Madera Toyota class in mind, and it would not be a surprise to see him take the car there once he lands the sponsorship for some tires.  With the talent he has as a past Mini Truck champion, sponsoring Kevin seems like an easy decision to make.

The Mini Stocks again provided the high car count of the night as Bay Area competitors Kelly Campanile and Natalie Waldrop were on hand and joined by Sport Mod competitor Chris Falkenberg, who was driving his sister's car.  Waldrop followed up last week's fourth place finish with a seventh in this feature ahead of Falkenberg.  Steadily, Natalie appears to be working her way towards the Top 5, but that fifth spot belongs to Dennis Copus.  Dennis is another racer looking for sponsorship, and he struggled back in ninth for this race.

George "Speedy" Davis has been competing in Street Stocks and Hobby Stocks over the years, but he made a surprise start in the #1 car, which has been driven by Mat Shlessinger this year.  He ended up grabbing a fourth place finish ahead of the debut of Chad Matthias and Joy Alger.  Joy slipped to ten points behind Lockerby in the battle for third, and a podium position in points is something she has set her sights on for this season.

A complete point list was finally released for Limited Late Models, and not surprisingly, Mark Garner is in command.  The third generation racer won for the third time last week, this time after a battle with Buddy Thatcher.  Buddy used his seconds to Garner in the heat and Main Event to move past the absent Peggy Sue Jarred for second in the standings.  Peggy Sue might have been there, but the Antioch competitor is still trying to get a motor together after losing a motor in her last Merced start.

Not to be forgotten in the field is Scott Van Gelder, who is no stranger to mechanical issues this year.  If not for his own scratch from his first attempt to race this year, Scott could very well be second or third in points right now.  He has won Hobby Stock races at the track in the past and could be a threat to win a Limited Late Model race as he dials things in.  The big struggle continues to be car count itself as only three cars were on hand for this race.

Merced Speedway will feature IMCA Sport Mods next week, along with Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks and the Valley Sportsman division.  Just 16 miles south of them, Chowchilla Speedway holds their third event of the season, featuring IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Mods and Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks.  For further information, check out the official Oval Motorsports Website.