Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pit Stops From Antioch, Merced and Chowchilla Speedways

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

Additional info on the Short Track History Project  HERE

DCRR Racing Radio Audio Calls From Antioch Speedway

Pit Stops From Antioch, Merced and Chowchilla Speedways 

Antioch Speedway had another five division show last week with IMCA Modifieds headlining the show that also included the Northern All Stars Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks, Dwarf Cars and Wingless Spec Sprints.  Car count dipped a bit, but there was still some good racing to be seen.  A few point races went in a new direction as a result of the evening's action.

In the Hobby Stock division came news of a midweek decision to disqualify Brian Zachary from an apparent victory due to failing tech.  The controversy of the previous weekend led to the hiring of a new head tech official, Jeff Yoakem.  Yoakem has an impressive resume as an engine man at Rebello Racing and was a tech official at the track back in the 1990's.

Track management had decided to have a tech inspection of the previous week's Top 5 finishers, but only two of them were on hand for this race.  Jeremy Jennings was off on his boat, which unfortunately had motor problems.  Zachary didn't return with the Jim Freethy car, and Nick Baldwin went to Placerville, where he surprised with a fifth place finish in a 22 car field.  His absence pretty much handed the 2015 championship to Kimo Oreta unless Oreta decides to walk away.

Jason Jennings had led much of the previous week's feature, only to lose the lead to Zachary late.  Jennings' car was smoking late in that race, and he had an electrical fire after the checkered flag flew.  He took his motor apart during the week and was not planning to return on Saturday.  However, his father sponsored the gaskets to help him get the car back together, and he fired it up again on Friday night.  The 2004 Four Banger champion passed the pre race tech and was awarded the previous week's victory.

Meanwhile, Kimo Oreta finally won his first feature of the season three weeks ago, which meant that he had to start back in tenth a week later.  He didn't really worry about that or the fact that the race never had a yellow flag.  Kimo commented prior to the most recent race that he was the new driver once, and he's not against having to come from the back of the pack to try to win.  He only managed a sixth that night, and he was hoping for better at this race.

Making that a challenge was two time champion Melissa Myers, who was back after taking a week off.  Melissa won the Main Event with Oreta right behind her.  The win put her back into second in the standings.  Despite a solid third place finish, Jennings still hasn't moved into the Top 10 in points.  The driver in fourth, Michael Cooper, was coming off of back to back terrible finishes, and he won a three car battle for the much needed fourth place finish.

Attrition hit the division hard in preliminaries.  After winning his heat race, Danny Jones had mechanical woes to end his night.  Rookie Jordan Swank couldn't even get the #73 car back to his pit area after his heat race.  This duo was tied for fifth going into the night, and the heat win by Jones actually broke that tie in favor of Jones.  Swank is only three points ahead of Calvin Louis Jr. after Louis finished fifth in the most recent race.  Louis was nursing his smoking car across the finish line.

Natalie Perry was back in action after a not so satisfying finish last time out.  Motor problems had kept the 2011 Super Hobby Stock point runner up out of the action after the opener. The last time out, she did grab a checkered flag, but she had her foot to the floor and just didn't seem to have any power.  After another week off, crew chief Steve Perry had that purple #40 car back and ready for another race.

Natalie approaches the races with a fun attitude, but she's not anybody's doormat out there.  It was interesting hearing her relate a story from her Super Hobby Stock days where she had to let another driver know on the track that she wouldn't just let him use her as a wall.  Unfortunately, she was penalized for her actions that night, but her point was made.  This time out, Natalie had fourth for several laps and dropped back to last, only to make a late pass on Frank Furtado to at least move up a spot.

Natalie was putting fliers up in the pits to let people know about the Relay For Life of Antioch Celebration.  The event will take place in the Deer Valley High School front parking lot on Saturday, April 25 from 10:00 AM-2:00 PM.  It is a celebration of Cancer survivors.  She was hoping to get some of the racers to bring their cars for the Day In The Park.  More information can be found at

The Wingless Spec Sprints came up a bit light on car count this week.  Roy Fisher made good on his declaration of a week ago that he would not be racing for points.  Despite being a close second to Kyle Bakkie after his second win a week earlier, Roy skipped the race and watched from the grandstands.  This effectively makes it a three car championship battle with Kyle Bakkie having an apparent advantage after his second win of the season in the most recent race.  Bakkie also won his heat race to stretch his point lead over Rick Panfili.

Panfili was in an early race tangle at the previous race in which Alan Miranda, James East and Bakkie were also involved.  East was a no show for this race, and Miranda was unable to get his car back together after his back stretch flip.  Likewise, Jimmy Perry III was a no show after blowing a motor while running third the last time out.  Panfili was flirting with a black flag himself with damage to his car, but he managed to get it to the checkered flag in fifth.  His fifth again in the most recent race still meant last.  Panfili is now 24 points out of the lead, but he will likely need to get at least one feature win to have a chance.  That would be his first career win if he can pull it off.

Marcus Smith is in his first season in Wingless Spec Sprints after he ran some BCRA Midget Lites races last season.  Marcus is the son of former Altamont Street Stock racer Mark Smith, who is a long time friend of Dan Gonderman.  Dan and his father Ken Gonderman were again in the pits with the Smith team as Marcus is running a Gonderman motor in his #28 car.  Marcus made a move past Ryon Siverling during the race to collect his second third place finish, which keeps him 40 points out of the lead in third.

At this point, a championship seems unlikely for Ryon Siverling, the grandson of NCMA Hall Of Famer Burt Siverling.  Ryon made his first starts in this division last year and suffered a myriad of mechanical failures in the process.  Ryon actually got a taste for these cars when Burt let him hot lap his car prior to one of the NCMA pavement races a few years ago.  He found that he liked it, so he began putting a car together, sporting the elder Siverling's orange paint job and #77. 

Ryon had a second place run going in a race earlier this year before more mechanical issues stopped him.  A few races ago, he managed a fifth place finish with Fisher and past champion Perry behind him, and he took it up a notch a race later with his second place finish.  Ryon has moved into fifth in the standings, just 14 points behind Fisher after his most recent fourth place finish.  It's not just about the racing.  Working on the car is something he and his grandfather do together.  If he keeps running this strong, he may be taking a Main Event winner's trophy home with him.

The attrition bug has already bitten a couple of racers in the Limited Late Model ranks.  Peggy Sue Jarred is still struggling to get a motor together for her #313 car after suffering a blown motor at Merced.  John Keith lost a motor the last time he was at Antioch to knock him out of the action as well.  With a few others still not ready, that left eight cars for Saturday's race, including the four major point players.

Mike Hynes has been racing on and off since the 1980's, mostly at Petaluma Speedway.  He's also crewed for racers, including Mike Gustafson, through the years.  His runner up season of 2014 was his best season to date, and he was second coming into this race.  He also got to make his first Late Model feature start in David Newquist's second car and took a checkered flag in sixth a week earlier.  Mike actually has a Late Model at home that isn't quite ready.

While Hynes is chasing the point lead, Mark Garner at least knows that all of the Merced races have counted in points and that he has a commanding lead over Buddy Thatcher after three feature wins.  He was hoping to gain some ground on Larry Damitz at Antioch and won his heat race in impressive fashion.  Hynes won his heat race, but the two drivers crossed paths in an unpleasant way for Garner.  Contact sent Garner hard into the Turn 2 wall in the Main Event.  Garner suffered heavy front end damage and has brought his car to the shop of Chester Kniss for repairs.  With Garner out of the race, track officials black flagged Hynes to end his race.

Meanwhile, Jim Freethy was hoping to forget about the previews race.  It wasn't one of the better moments for the 2013 track champion.  In fact, it ended with him reviving a black flag after spinning twice in Turn 4. Jim admitted he just missed the setup that night and was off of his game.  This time around, things were looking a little better, and he took a checkered flag in fourth behind Lori Brown. 

For Brown, it was her second straight third place finish, and she hopes she is on her way to contending for another Main Event victory.  She's picked up a few in her career as a past division champion, and it just may be that the next one is just around the corner for her.  Lori and husband Ron have found a good graphics guy this year, and the two cars they have fielded this season are two of the nicest looking cars at the track.

In the IMCA Modified division, Nick DeCarlo made a decision that really came as no surprise to this writer.  He decided to return to Petaluma for the season opener, abandoning the Antioch point lead in the process.  He is the 2014 Petaluma champion, and he won a nice battle with Michael Paul Jr. and Oresete Gonella in winning the season opening Main Event.  Actually, Nick's father Terry DeCarlo has revealed that Nick would probably abandon any point race if the right money race came along.  Last season, it just lined up where he was able to make all of the Petaluma races, and he was able to give the DeCarlo family their first championship on a big track. 

Bobby Motts Jr. wanted it known that he is going for the championship, and he is a past Street Stock champion with over 20 feature wins at the track in his career.  Bobby is driving the car Nick Caughman Jr. drove to the Petaluma championship not too many years ago, and he drove it well on Saturday night at Antioch.  Bobby won the Main Event, and he passed Scott Busby to become the new point leader.

Busby may not have been a happy camper after gaining the lead with a Carl Berendsen II spin about midway through Saturday's Main Event.  Track officials assigned the blame to Busby for the spin and sent him to the back of the pack.  A few laps later, his race was over.  Scott had remarked before the races started that he would probably make most of the races, but he remained non committal as far as whether or not he was pursuing a fifth Antioch Dirt Modified championship.  He left rather abruptly after the races, so there's no word on what that could mean going forward.

Editor's Note:  Having seen the Racing Edge Video highlights, it was definitely very close.  I won't disagree with the official's call on this one.  Busby is right behind Berendsen and he spins.  It was just close racing, but you'll get a call on this more times than not.  Hopefully, we continue to see these two drivers battling the rest of the season at Antioch.

For Berendsen's part, he is wanting to contend for some feature wins this year.  The 2014 champion missed the January races, so he has no expectations of contending for the championship.  With a former Aaron Crowell car, however, Carl certainly feels he can win a race or two, and he did a nice job of leading several laps of the Main Event.  That was a marked improvement over the previous race, where suspension damage after an early tangle left him with an ill handing car that he somehow managed to get to a lead lap finish.  After the spin, Carl charged back to third, putting him into the Top 5 in the standings.

Sean O'Gara was definitely looking good in his #82 car as he ran second until very late in the race.  Unfortunately, his car was smoking, and it finally gave up on him.  That enabled the returning Mike Salazar to make a nice season debut with a second place finish to go with his heat race win.  O'Gara has had some Top 5 point success at Antioch, ranking second in 2011.  He is a second generation racer and the son of Vallejo Stock Car driver John O'Gara.  It took him a few years to finally follow his father's footsteps, but he has certainly proven to be a tough competitor like his father.  John was actually in the pits working with his son.

Back in the 1980's, Dan Dozier was racing Street Stocks at Antioch.  He had to pay his dues in the C and B Mains, but he got faster.  Just when it looked like he was getting some place, he stepped aside.  During the past decade or so, Dan returned with a Modified, and he has since put his son Danny behind the wheel.  Danny was coming off of a Top 5 finish at Chico a night earlier.  He returned to Antioch Saturday, a track in which has has won a Main Event.  Unfortunately, he had a DNF this time around, but there's always next time.

After spinning out of the lead in the Dwarf Car feature last time, David Teves returned with a new car.  This was the shake down run for the car, and he chased his son Adam to a second place finish in his heat race.  The car seemed to be running pretty well, and the team had the car up on jacks making last minute changes right up until hot laps that night.  In the Main Event, David managed to pass race long leader Danny Wagner briefly on a couple occasions, but Wagner was too much to handle.  Teves fell to third as point leader Wagner won for the third time.

Charlie Correia hauled three of his Dwarf Cars to the track Saturday night as Randy Jahoda joined Charlie and teammate Mike Corsaro this time around.  Jahoda actually has a car that he's working on, but he took advantage of the opportunity to drive for Charlie again.  He managed a lead lap seventh, while Correia had one of his better finishes of the season in fifth.  Corsaro, meanwhile, grabbed a second place finish, which will move him into third in the standings behind Wagner and D. Teves.

Brian Gray has been at this racing thing for a while.  He was one of the first Baylands Raceway 360 Sprint Car drivers and a feature winner in 1986.  He was also an original Spec Sprint racer at Antioch in 1999 and went on to be a feature winner there.  When he had the opportunity to purchase the former Ray Etherton Dwarf Car, he didn't pass it up.  The Dwarf Car is a bit easier for Brian to maintain as he often finds himself with no pit crew.  Brian keeps himself busy in many ways these days.  He and his wife own a professional bucking bull that they have brought to some of the top rodeos in the state.  On this night, it was about racing the Dwarf Car, and Brian took a checkered flag in eighth place.

If the name Jerry Doty sounds familiar to Stock Car fans of the 1980's, there's a reason.  Back in the 1984-85 time frame, Jerry raced Stock Cars at Baylands.  He ended up losing that car, but when he got the chance to race Dwarf Cars within the last decade, he went for it.  He won a hotly contested 2010 championship, beating a division legend, Ricardo Rivera, in the process.  He debuted his new car with a few starts last year, and he's back making a Top 5 point run this season. His fourth place finish and heat race win last week enabled him to maintain fifth in the standings ahead of Jack Haverty.

Haverty was a bit disappointed when he was called part of the yellow flag after spinning to avoid an already spun D. Teves in the Main Event a week earlier.  He wouldn't be much happier last week after his beautiful #2j car received some front end damage in a Turn 4 crash with past Pure Stock champion Robert Coe, eliminating both from the action.  Speaking of nice looking cars, the rapidly improving Miranda Chappa drove to a lead lap sixth place feature finish in the most recent race.  Could a Top 5 finish be just around the corner for her?

The valley side of Oval Motorsports had a busy weekend as Merced Speedway was running on Saturday night and Chowchilla was Sunday afternoon.  One bit of good news came when 2014 Merced IMCA Sport Mod champion Rick Diaz decided to bring his car out for both events.  Diaz showed why he was the champion at Merced when he came from the back of the pack to win on Saturday night, then he returned to Chowchilla for a second place finish.  Though he isn't running for points at Merced, he's just eight points behind Fred Ryland for the lead at Chowchilla.

Ryland had a very busy weekend as he went to Watsonville and won on Friday night before heading to The Valley. "Fast Freddy" was unable to make a winning pass around Diaz and settled for second.  At Chowchila, Diaz kept Ryland at bay again and forced him to settle for third.  Ryland has ten wins this season, but he knows his IMCA National point effort needs more wins.  Making matters worse, if Diaz sticks around at Chowchilla, it may result in a tight championship battle.  Of course, that would be good news for the fans.

Keith Brown Jr. was the victim of a busy late week work schedule that left him so poorly rested that he needed to cancel his Watsonville plans.  At Merced, he managed a Top 5 feature finish, but he saved the best for last.  Jr. raced into the lead and kept Diaz and Ryland behind him for what would be his first feature win of the season.  He's had several near misses, but this win had to be gratifying for the third generation racer.  Keith still ranks second in the IMCA State point race.

Any time Jeremy Hoff and Bruce Nelson make the show at Merced, the racing seems to be more competitive.  Saturday was no exception as Hoff won his heat race and led several Main Event laps before finishing third.  Nelson, meanwhile, finished fourth and decided to head to Chowchilla.  His results there were a bit disappointing as he finished outside of the Top 10.  All things considered, the double digit car count at both tracks for this division was one of the positives to take away from the weekend.

Merced point leader Josh Hensley was hoping to have a positive outcome as well. The Sport Mod rookie is hoping to take things up a notch as he maintains a healthy point lead, but his seventh place finish at Merced continued his streak of finishing no better than seventh in his previous four races.  At Chowchilla, he fared a bit better in sixth.  A lead lap sixth is exactly what Dwayne Short had at Merced as he tries to stay in the lead in the battle for second.  He'll be third in points at the moment, but second ranked Ryland isn't expected to be at Merced this week.

Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks also had a good turn out at both tracks as they too produced double digit car counts in both places.  The man of the weekend was again Kevin Joaquin.  Kevin wasn't able to collect his third feature win at Merced as Marc Key proved too difficult to pass.  The long time Speedway competitor Key became the seventh different winner of the season.  The last time Hobby Stocks were at Chowchilla, Joaquin was beating a four car field for victory.  This time around, he held off last week's Merced winner Gary Hildebrand to win in a 12 car field.  Kevin paces the points list at both tracks.

What's interesting was only three others followed Kevin from Merced to Chowchilla, and that would be Dexter Long, Shannon Nelson and Kristie Shearer.  Kristie did okay for herself with a fifth place finish at Chowchilla.  She had a third place finish at Merced to make it a good weekend overall.  Nick Lawrence made a shake down run at Merced a week earlier, but the problems he found nearly kept him home for the weekend.  Late repairs enabled Nick to get his car together in time to be in Chowchilla for the Main Event.  He managed to go from 12th starting to sixth and was encouraged by the results.

Two big names in recent seasons, Andrew Krumm and Marshall Weaver, were fourth and fifth at Merced Saturday night.  Both were making their first starts of the year.  Krumm is a two time Hobby Stock champion at Merced, and past IMCA Modified champion Weaver was handling the driving duties in Josh Hesley's #86 car.  Darren Miguel drove that car at Chowchilla, but his results were disappointing.  Speaking of Chowchilla, it looks like last year's third ranked driver, Austin Van Hoff, may be Joaquin's closest rival in the point battle there.  Van Hoff ended up eighth, but he sits 20 points behind Joaquin in the point battle

Robbie Loquaci, a past Chowchilla Mini Stock champion, would grab the final podium spot in third on Sunday ahead of 2014 point runner up Kode Dean.  What was nice is it seemed like Chowchilla Speedway had some good local support for the Sunday afternoon event, but the drivers were braving some dry and dusty conditions.

IMCA Modified action was even red flagged at one point after Randy Brown crashed and rolled his car.  The past track champion's night didn't get any better as he did serious damage to his car hauler and the fence on the way out.  There are just some days when you wish maybe you had stayed home.  Sunday was probably one of them for Randy.  Hopefully, the damage isn't too serious for the car or trailer.

Josh Vogt is the 2014 IMCA Modified champion at Chowchilla and Ventura, and he again showed why when he drove to victories in both the heat race and the Main Event on Sunday at     Chowchilla.  Unfortunately, Vogt's second straight win didn't put him into the point lead as Bakersfield area racer Billy Wilker finished seventh.  Billy has been racing for a number of years at Bakersfield and other tracks in both Street Stocks and IMCA Modifieds.

Vogt didn't have to drive too hard to get his win as he started on the front row.  However, Karl Rose started last on the grid, making his second place finish all the more impressive.  Harley Turner was the final podium finisher in third as Chowchilla area racers, Michael Shearer and (past Modified Mini Stock champion) Daniel Luukkenon were fourth and fifth, respectively.

The Mini Stocks had a busy weekend at both tracks and car count wasn't as strong as hoped for at either place.  There were two different winners making season debuts.  Robert Alger won the Merced race, while 2014 Antioch champion Brent Curran collected the winner's plaque at Chowchilla. Past Merced Mini Stock champion Alex Odishoo led the Chowchilla race for several laps before being passed by Curran and Jadon Harrington to finish third.  Odishoo is second in Chowchilla points, but it is a distant second.

The man leading Mini Stocks at both tracks at the moment is 2014 Merced champion Chris Corder.  Corder managed a third place finish at Merced and settled for fifth at Chowchilla.  When Darren Miguel had a DNF at Merced, Corder managed to add a few points to his point lead there.  Miguel wasn't the only point contender having mechanical issues.  A blown clutch took Kevin Lockerby out of the running in his heat race as he fell back to fifth in the standings.  Joy Alger and Dennis Copus are now fourth and fifth in the standings at Merced.  Neither of them did particularly well in their non Top 5 finishes, but Lockerby didn't get any points at all.

Alicia Caldwell made a nice season debut with a fifth at Merced before collecting a third place finish at Chowchilla.  She chased Mike Germait across the line at Merced.  Germait was also just getting his season started.  Past Watsonville champion Dan McCabe won the last time he was in Merced a few weeks ago, but Robert Alger forced him to settle for second this time out.  The competition level in the Mini Stocks in The Valley is pretty high, and you definitely have to earn the victories.  Corder, Miguel, R. Alger and McCabe are four who have won at Merced so far.

The Merced newspaper spoke of the Sportsman division and the drivers who love the class.  Car count has been hurting so far this year.  For the second time this season, a five car field was on hand for the popular nostalgic division.  This included the season debut of Mike Palmberg, a past cal Mod competitor.  There were two different winners as Marcus Lung won his heat race and Eric Seale crossed the line first in the feature.  However, Seale ended up disqualified, handing the win to Jeff Bristow ahead of the point leader Lung.

Saturday night racing continues at Antioch and Merced this week.  Antioch will feature Winged 360 Sprint Cars, DIRTcar Late Models, Dwarf Cars, IMCA Sport Mods and Wingless Spec Sprints. Merced is having Little League Appreciation Night where every little league player who shows up in uniform will receive a free admission if accompanied by one paying adult.  IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks will be part of the card.  Chowchilla returns on May 3 with the same four divisions that are racing this week at Merced.  For more information, check the official Oval Motorsports Website.