Sunday, May 31, 2015

IMCA Modifieds, Sprint Cars At Antioch, Sport Mods, Hobbys At Chowchilla

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

The Weekend Review Edison Of The DCRR Racing Radio Show

Wanted to make sure this could be heard by all, and my video hosting site has had issues.  So, here it is.  I have a few things to say about the state of things at our tracks and how I think things can begin to be fixed.  Then, results.  May move this to the video host site later, but this way I know this is up in case I'm unable to don anything else.

Reposting this about the late June big money races coming up at Antioch Speedway

The buzz probably hasn't been out there about the late June Summer Nationals races at Antioch Speedway, but here's what is on the schedule:

June 26 (Friday):

Antioch – Summer Nationals –  IMCA Modifieds,  Limited Late Models, IMCA Sport Mods (no    track points but there will be national, regional, and state points), Hobby Stocks, Dwarf Cars.

June 27 (Saturday):

Antioch – Summer Nationals – DIRTcar Late Models, IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Mods.  

NASCAR racer Kenny Wallace will be driving a Modified and a Late Model that weekend and is willing to drive any other race car made available to him.  He'll compete in every class he can.  The track traditionally runs a big race on the weekend of the Sears Point NASCAR race, and this is no exception.

Questions were asked to this reporter about the purse, and this is the word we got from John Soares Jr. at Antioch Speedway.  The Friday night IMCA Modified race will pay $1500 to win and a minimum of $125 to start, which could end up being $150.  The Sport Mods will race for $500 to win.  Expectations are for good car counts in both classes, and we are already hearing rumors of cars coming down from Oregon for this event.

The Saturday night IMCA Modified feature will pay $2500 to win and will pay the same to start as mentioned aboveSport Mods get $750 to win.  The Late Models get a minimum of $1500 to win and $150 to start regardless of car count.  John would like to pay $2000 to win if he can get 20 cars, and I'm thinking that will include an increase in the start money, though I didn't get clarification on that part.  However, these two races should be big.

For more information, go to the official Oval Motorsports Website.

 Big $1000 To Win Hobby Stock Races At Hayfork Speedway

I had this note passed across my desk as we were going live with our previous audio show.  Hayfork Speedway, which features Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks and Enduro Cars this year, wants Hobby Stock drivers to come on up and race.  How badly do they want them?  They are offering $1000 to win on July 11th and August 8th.

Mike Rydman, who is a past Top 5 Hobby Stock racer at Antioch Speedway, recently spoke with Hayfork Speedway promoter Dwayne Brown.  They are hoping the extra money will attract racers from Orland, Chico, Placerville and maybe even further south.  Hayfork Speedway is in its fourth season, and they have already had a few big money Hobby Stock and Mini Stock races in their short history.

Hayfork Speedway has a Facebook Page for updates and in case you may have questions.  You can find it HERE

IMCA Modifieds, Sprint Cars At Antioch, Sport Mods, Hobbys At Chowchilla

Oval Motorsports will have two Saturday night options for the fans to choose from this week.  At Antioch Speedway, there will be IMCA Modifieds, Winged 360 Sprints, Wingless Spec Sprints, Northern All Stars Limited Late Models and Hobby Stocks.  Chowchilla Speedway features three regular classes in IMCA Sport Mods, Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks.  In addition to those three divisions, they have added Dwarf Cars and the Valley Sportsman division to the mix.

The reason Chowchilla gets a Saturday night race is because neighboring Merced Speedway is dark for the Annual County Fair.  However, Merced comes back at you on Wednesday night (June 10) with IMCA Modifieds and Sport Mods.  On Thursday (June 11), the Dwarf Cars will be running for $1,000 to win and $100 to start as Mini Stocks are also on the card.  Early projections show that the Dwarf Cars should have a good field as several Antioch drivers plan to be there and should be joined by some racers from the South Bay and Nor Cal Dwarf Car clubs.

As always, this is an unofficial report from somebody trying to help support the cause and get the word out.  Your official site for all matters concern Antioch, Merced and Chowchilla Speedways is

The IMCA Modifieds co headline the Antioch race, and Jeff Thomas will be trying for two wins in a row.  A point runner up in this division not too many years ago, Jeff impressed by holding off Kyle Wilson to win the feature last time out.  The race before that, he blew a motor while leading late.  Despite the hard luck, Jeff has moved to fifth in the standings, 29 points behind Dustin Himes.

Himes has been quietly having a pretty good season.  He has finished in the Top five in the Main Event this season, and he currently finds himself only six points behind 2014 champion Carl Berendsen II in a close battle for what would be a career best third if he could pass him.  Berendsen seems fast enough to win in the former Aaron Crowell car, and you never know.  That win just may happen this week.

Of course, the two drivers in front of him in the standings may have something to say about that.  Because Carl missed the first two races, he's 52 points behind Motts for second.  Motts had a bout with the wall last time out.  Though the past Street Stock champion Motts took a checkered flag, he lost the point lead to third place finisher Scott Busby.  Busby leads Motts by four points in what seems to be his quest for a division leading fifth track championship.  Busby has added two more wins to his resume this year to give him 66 total for his career at Antioch (counting his Street Stock wins).  Motts is also a feature winner this season.

There is plenty of jockeying for position outside the Top 5 in the standings, and Merced and IMCA State point leader Alex Wilson has found his way into ninth after his last visit.  He and brother Kyle Wilson are both anticipated for this race, and Kyle has had a good go of it lately.  He has a pair of wins at Merced and was second at Antioch last time out.  Others who may be there include the hard charging Mike Salazar, Terry Kaiser and Chris Elby.  There always seems to be different drivers showing up, so you never know who may join the action this week.

Antioch's commitment to the Winged 360 Sprint Car division continues.  There have been three different winners in the first three races, and two of those drivers, Jake Haulot and Art McCarthy, are anticipated for this race.  Jake is the son of veteran racer Danny Haulot, and he has been racing at several places this season to gain more seat time.  It seems to have paid off nicely as he became the 12th different winner in the last 12 races two weeks ago. 

With that win, Haulot trails third generation racer Shawn Arriaga by six points in a close battle.  Arriaga's mother, Cheri Hill, was there as usual watching him finish third and win his heat race.  Cheri actually won her first Main Event at Antioch back in the 1990's in this division, and former Petaluma champion Shawn is on the list of winners for the last 12 Antioch races.  He knows he needs to win if he is to have a shot at the championship.

Only 14 points behind Arriaga in third are McCarthy and Chris Magoon.  Both are champions in this class at Antioch with Magoon winning it last year.  McCarthy also has two Petaluma championships on his resume and was busy making Haulot work for the last win as he finished a chose second.  It would surprise nobody to see McCarthy or Magoon score the win this week.

Dan Gonderman had blown a motor in the previous race and missed the latest show.  That allowed Brandon Powell to take over fifth by 12 points over the second generation racer.  Gonderman is one of the best ever in Wingless Spec Sprints at Antioch with two championships to his credit, but he's wanting to add Winged 360 Sprint Car feature winner to his resume.  He only leads Doc Brophy by four points for sixth, and all three of these drivers are anticipated for this show.

Oval Motorsports is working to try to establish a class here, but who else might show up is a guess.  Two others to look for to join the Top 7 drivers will be Ricky Brophy and Roy Fisher.  Brophy was unable to repair his car for the last race, but he should be ready for this one.  Roy Fisher missed the last race to run his Spec Sprinter, but it's anticipated that he will make this one after seeing how much his car was needed last time.  Chase Wood Sr. made his first appearance last time, and if this all happens this week, that will make ten cars.  Another possible competitor could be third generation racer Ryan Timmons, who was in action at the recent Marysville Civil War race.

Meanwhile, the Wingless Spec Sprints continue their rebuilding process.  Kyle Bakkie and Rick Panfili are in it for the long haul and running 1-2 in the standings.  While Bakkie won for the third time last visit, Panfili searches for his first win.  His late pass for third last time out keeps him 26 points behind Bakkie.  Bakkie caught Roy Fisher sleeping behind a slower car in that race and made an outside pass late in the race to get that victory.

Despite the mechanical issues keeping him from racing after hot laps, second generation racer Marcus Smith still sits third in the standings, 22 points behind Panfili.  Smith had a career best second place finish in the race before that and seems to be figuring the car out more with each race.  His lead over Alan Miranda is now 32 points in the battle for third.  Miranda is a good candidate for "Hard Luck Driver" after flipping his car earlier this year and then leading 19 laps of a Main Event before being spun out on the last lap.

If Fisher does run his winged car this week, rookie Chase Wood Jr. and NFL Alumni Jeremy Newberry will likely gain substantial ground on him for fifth.  Newberry seems to be getting closer to being a threat to win a Main Event.  He finished second earlier this season and led a few laps early in the most recent race before mechanical issues struck.  Meanwhile, Wood collected another checkered flag in fifth.  It's hard to tell who may be in the field this week, but recent feature winner Jimmy Perry III and James East seem like good possibilities.

Eric Berendsen would love to have his Limited Late Model at the track.  The former Top 5 Limited Late Model and Hobby Stock driver recently got his car back, but he's looking for some sponsorship to help him get it into racing shape again.  Calvin Louis may be ready to debut his new car this week, there's a possibility of seeing Ryan Cherezian again and John Evans could be back at any time.  That would be good news for fans of the division who want to see more cars.

Even when you do see more cars, that orange and blue #15 car of Larry Damitz and the blue #2 of Mike Gustafson will probably be up near the front.  These two account for five of the six wins so far this season.  Gustafson won for the second time this season last time.  The three wins Damitz has gives him an 18 point lead over one time winner and Merced point leader Mark Garner.  Garner has been winning his heat races at Antioch lately, but he's really wanting to get a feature win again.

He may need that win to hold onto second.  He doesn't seem to be gaining on Damitz or losing Gustafson in this close battle.  Gustafson is just six points behind Garner for second, while 2014 point runner up Mike Hynes is eight points back.  Hynes is the only one of the three with no feature wins at Antioch yet this season, but he has finished as high as second. 

Lurking 18 points behind Hynes in fifth is Jim Freethy, and he could get closer.  Jim recently debuted a new car with a better suspension setup, and the 2013 champion finished second last time out.  It could be Freethy who becomes the next new winner of the season.  Of course, Lori Brown has a pair of third place finishes this season and four feature wins in this division in previous seasons.  The past division champion is due for another win.  A Top five driver last season, Peggy Sue Jarred will be out to try and get herself a Top 3 finish.  If she can get her motor sorted out, you might be surprised by how well Peggy Sue can do in her #313 car.

At last report, the Hobby Stocks were poised to see a car count increase of their own.  No less than three cars were rumored to be about ready to debut.  There was the second car from Steven Rogers' team, wheeled by past division champion Dan McCown, a team car to Danny Jones, driven by past Top 3 Mini Truck racer Jessica Jones, and the division debut of 2014 Four Banger champion Brent Curran.  McCown could very well be a favorite in the race for wins.  He has ten Hobby Stock wins in his career at Antioch.  We've been saying all along that the car count is about ready to pop in a good way, and it may happen this week.

With one more win, Kimo Oreta will take sole possession of the all time win record in Hobby Stocks at Antioch.  At the moment, the two time defending champion is tied with past champion and current IMCA Sport Mod super star Fred Ryland.  Both drivers have 16 wins.  Oreta has won the past two to increase his already huge point lead in the process, but the last one didn't come because he was a dominant force.  Kimo actually ran a patient race and let the win come to him.  Leader Robert Niven made a mistake in Turn 4 during the second half of the race, and Oreta capitalized on it for the victory.

With Oreta off in another zip code with the point lead, we still have a very close battle happening for second.  It would be a career best for all three in this division.  Danny Jones was coming off of his third second place finish and looking for a win last race, but what he got instead was a blown motor on the opening lap.  Frankly, he was happy to have the two week break to get a motor together.  Jones is just five points ahead of the steady Michael Cooper and six ahead of rookie sensation Jordan Swank.  Swank had a career best third last time out and the 2014 Mini Stock point runner up has shown much improvement out there with each start.  The question is, which one of these three will be the first to score a feature win this year?  Maybe we'll find out this week.

Another driver working on a career best point effort is Frank Furtado.  Frank has struggled at times in his #81 car, but despite that, he took over fifth in the standings last week, 20 ahead of three time winner Melissa Hansen, who isn't chasing points this year.  The next competitor that we expect to see this week is Robert Niven.  With back to back Top 5 finishes, Niven is still a distant 74 points behind Furtado.  Other drivers we anticipate include Top 10 ranked Natalie Perry, Jeremy Jennings, Cameron Swank and possibly Russell Shearer.  Two time winner Jason Jennings hasn't had his car at the track in recent weeks, but we suspect the #42j car could be ready to go at any time.

At Chowchlla Speedway, the IMCA Sport Mods take the mantle as the headliner of the sixth event of the season.  After five races, the two names you need to know in the win column are four time winner Fred Ryland and one time winner Keith Brown Jr.  Not surprisingly, Ryland currently holds a 17 point lead over Brown.  Brown really gave it all he had last time, but suspension damage suffered in his battle for second led to him spinning from third on the last lap.  This rivalry will continue on Saturday, but could there be another winner this time?

It's hard to predict who all will be going to Chowchilla, but third ranked Josh Gish is anticipated.  Josh had a DNF last time and was third in the race before that.  He holds a 25 point lead over Nastasia Dodd and trails Brown by 19.  However, Dodd is also a Top 5 driver on the Southwest Tour S2 Modified Tour.  That group also has a race at Irwindale on Saturday, which is where she is likely to be.

With Dodd out of the picture, fourth is likely to change hands.  Merced point leader Josh Hensley is only a point behind her, while Marisa Odgers is three points back in sixth.  Marisa is coming off of a solid fifth place finish last time and is ready to move up the point ladder.  Paul Espino was fourth last time out and is another driver who could be in the field this week, along with John Fore Jr., Chris Falkenberg and Tim Elias.

In the Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks, Kevin Joaquin leads the way in the standings after getting off to a strong start with two feature wins.  It's not a huge lead, but he will need to stumble a bit to lose it at this point.  He hasn't finished too well in the last two races, but he has fished.  That hasn't always been the case for Austin Van Hoff, who is 34 points back in second.  Van Hoff is a past Top 3 driver in this class, and he is capable of making a move.  So, you can't call this a done deal just yet.

Fellow Chowchilla local Kodie Dean is 34 points behind Van Hoff in the battle for second.  Dean crunched his front end up pretty badly two races ago, but he rebounded in fifth last time.  Even with that finish, he finds himself in a tie with past Chowchilla Sport Mod champion Gary Hildebrand, who finished third last time out.  Hildebrand wants a podium point position, and his car wasn't ready that night, so he got to drive Josh Hensley's potent #86 Hobby Stocker.  Gary actually made a late move on past Chowchula Mini Stock champion Robby Loquaci to earn that third place finish.

Loquaci finds himself 18 points behind rookie Dexter Long, who was having his struggles last time out.  One man doing anything but struggling is two time Merced Hobby Stock champion Bruce Nelson.  Nelson has piloted Kristie Shearer's #73j car to back to back wins, and now he is just ten points behind Long for fifth.  The 1-2 finish has gone to the Shearer Team in the last two events as Michael Shearer finished second to Nelson both times.  It's anticipated that car count will do okay in this class.

Car count may be a question for the Mini Stocks.  Alex Odishoo was the winner last time and is a distant second to two time winner and point leader Chris Corder.  However, Alex is obligated to announce this race.  Word was he was trying to find a solution that might allow him to announce most of the night and race this division.  If he can't, Mike Congdon is just 14 points behind him and coming off of back to back third place finishes.  Odishoo would love to race, knowing that his car was fast enough to pass Corder for the lead late in the most recent race.

Beyond that, it's a guess as to who might be there. Jadon Harrington was a no show for the last race, but he had back to back second place finishes before that.  A Top 3 driver at Madera last season, Jadon would be a threat to win if he showed.  Brian Widdowson has driven the backup car for Chris Corder sometimes this season, so he could also end up there.  Corder himself has debated about switching to his #505 car for a race.  While it's not clear who may race, drivers to watch for include Mike Germait, Natalie Waldrop, Tyler Appelbaum and Joy Alger.

Dwarf Cars were added to the schedule, and Oval Motorsports actually has made an effort to reach out to the two traveling clubs in the area.  At Merced, a last minute scheduled race had one Nor Cal Dwarf Car driver, Mike Drake, and five Antioch competitors, Charlie Correia, Mike Corsaro, Chuck Wier, Thomas Leiby and Tim Reeder.  A disqualification of most of the field for failing to go to tech resulted in Drake's win in that race as Correia had crossed the line first.  There were some unhappy drivers afterwards, but Oval Motorsports later stepped in and resolved it to everybody's satisfaction.

These six racers are anticipated for the July 11 Fair race at Merced and could be in Chowchilla on Saturday.  It seems more likely that there will be South Bay Dwarf Car drivers than Nor Cal racers as the South Bay drivers come from the Wastonville track.  As to who those drivers might be?  It's difficult to speculate on that, but it won't be a surprise to see some of them.  Their lack of support at the Merced race was due to the fact that they had already scheduled a big shoot out race with the Petaluma regulars that night at Petaluma Speedway.

Can you name the four drivers who have won Sportsman championships at Chowchilla Speedway in the past 15 years?  That would be Keith Van Houten, Mark Odgers, Tim Prothro and Michael Sherarer.  It's hard to say whether you will see one of those drivers, though that may not be likely.  In fact, it would be difficult to predict just who may show up for this race.

It's known that there are a least 14 cars for this division in the area, but we've yet to see more than five cars show up for a race at Merced this season.  Marcus Lung is the Merced point leader and could see action on Saturday night.  Jeff Bristow, Kenny Birdsong and Mike Palmberg are three others who may be there.  Palmberg has been the representative for this class in recent years and is trying to rally the drivers for support.  Who will show is anybody's guess, but it is a neat division that hearkens back to the class of the 1970's.

Trivia buffs will know that this revival of the division started when Merced Pure Stock champion  Luis Miranda got together with then promoter Chuck Griffin, himself a past Top 5 driver in the Sportsman division, and hashed out a plan to bring this class back.  The fact that the Limited Sprint class had just left made it perfect timing for this division.  This is the 17th season for the Sportsman revival, but it is definitely in need of more driver support to keep it going.

To recap, Antioch Speedway will be featuring IMCA Modifieds along with Northern All Stars Winged 360 Sprints, Wingless Spec Sprints, Limited Late Models and Hobby Stocks on Saturday night.  Chowchilla Speedway also has Saturday night racing with IMCA Sport Modifieds, Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Dwarf Cars and the Valley Sportsman division on the card.  For further information, check out the official Oval Motorsports Website.

Merced Race Review, Plus Antioch And Chowchilla Stuff

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


The Merced story is a work in progress as I am still waiting for more information.  It will be revised, so stay tuned. Plus, here's some basic hype stories I sent out to various sources for Chowchilla and Antioch.  The actual weekend preview article for Chowchilla and Antioch should debut later today.  Need to finish the weekend review DCRR Racing Radio Show that will go up with it.  We'll do it later today.   Be sure to check for the official word on these three tracks.

Stone Grabs Modified Win At Merced Speedway

Paul Stone of Winton came back with a vengeance Saturday night at Merced Speedway.  The 2014 champion has been piloting the IMCA Modified of Jack Mounce while he prepares his own car for some big shows.  Mounce’s #44 car ran strong, and Stone drove it from the third row to the lead.  Once in front, he went on to score his first victory of the season in the 20 lap IMCA Modified Main Event.

Merced’s Mike Villanueva started in the fifth row, right behind Kyle Wilson of Salinas.  Wilson had won the previous two Main Events, and these two drivers worked their way forward.  At the checkered flag, it was Villanueva finishing second ahead of Wilson.  Antioch’s John MacDougall finished fourth ahead of Harley Turner.

Bakersfield visitor Garrett Jernagan made only his second visit of the year to Merced Speedway.  His previous effort was a fourth in a good field of IMCA Sport Modifieds, but he was about to do even better.  Jernagan mixed it up early in the feature with point leader Josh Hensley of Ballico.  However, Hensley was no match for Jernagen as he scored a well earned victory in the 20 lap feature.  Heat winner Mark Odgers of Mariposa managed to grab second from Hensley late.  Hensley settled for third ahead.  Young Chase Thomas came from last starting to finish fourth in his first start as George Medeiros rounded out the Top 5.

Kristie Shearer of Los Banos had a front row start for the 20 lap Hobby Stock Main Event.  Despite being pressured all the way by Chris Mayer of Salinas, Shearer drove to her second straight victory and third of the season. Mayer settled for second ahead of Chowchilla’s Austin Van Hoff, point leader Kevin Joaquin of Sonora and Merced's Raul Rodriguez Jr.

Mark Garner of Antioch has won four of five Limited Late Model Main Events this season, but Roy Hart Jr. of Dos Palos stepped up and put a stop to Garner’s dominance.  The two time defending champion Hart would win his first 20 lap Main Event of the season.  Garner came up just short in second as Scott Van Gelder of Columbia was third as Oakley's Peggy Sue Jarred and Donny Richardson of Merced completed the Top 5.

Merced’s Kevin Lockerby used the element of surprise to beat the competition for his first 20 lap Mini Stock feature win of the season.  Lockerby had been hinting that he was doing a change over with his car to run asphalt.  After missing a couple races, the 1999 Merced Little Truck champion made his surprising return and grabbed a 20 lap Mini Stock feature win.  Dennis Copus of Merced rebounded from terrible recent luck to finish second.  Merced’s Darren Miguel was a heat winner, but his bid for a seventh feature win ended early as he joined defending champion Chris Corder of Modesto on the sidelines.  Miguel was scored third ahead of Corder.

There will be no racing in Merced next Saturday night as racing heads to Chowchilla Speedway.  There will be two races during the Merced County Fair.  On Wednesday, June 10th, the IMCA Modifieds and Sport Mods will be in action.  On Thursday, the track hosts a special Dwarf Car race along with Mini Stocks.  The Dwarf Car race will pay $1000 to win and is expected to draw several top drivers.  Merced Speedway is located inside the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Merced, Calif.

Racing Switches To Saturday Night At Chowchilla Speedway

For two weeks, racing will take place on Saturday night at Chowchilla Speedway as their sister track in Merced goes dark that night during the fair.  On the card this Saturday night will be the IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Dwarf Cars and the Valley Sportsman division.

With five races in the books, Fred Ryland of Brentwood has four wins and a growing point lead in IMCA Sport Mods.  Ryland's closest rival, Keith Brown Jr., spun out on the last lap during the fair race last time, and Ryland's lead grew to 17 points as a result.

Meanwhile, Josh Gish of Copperoplis failed to finish last time, but he is still 25 points ahead of Madera's Nastasia Dodd for third.  Mariposa's Marisa Odgers used her fifth place finish in the last race to move to within three points of Dodd and Merced Speedway point leader Josh Henley of Ballico in the battle for fourth.

Kevin Joaquin of Turlock leads two Chowchilla locals, Austin Van Hoff and Kodie Dean, in the Hobby Stock point race.  Kevin has struggled in the last two races but won the other two features.  Gary Hildebrand of Turlock's second Top 3 finish in the most recent event has him tied with Dean for third in points.  The last two Main Events have been won by Bruce Nelson of Winton, who is now ten points out of fifth.

Stockton's Chris Corder has a good lead in the Mini Stock race with two wins and a second in the most recent race.  His closest rival is Merced's Alex Odishoo, who holds a 14 point lead over Mike Congdon of Madera.  Odishoo is trying to make this race, but his commitment to announce at this event may force him to miss competing in his red, white and blue #48 car.

The Dwarf Cars have been booked for this race.  These smaller, motorcycle engined race cars generally put on a good show.  In the past, the area has seen several drivers from the Watsonville track make appearances in this division.  In a recent race at Merced, Merced's Mike Drake won after winner Charlie Correia of Tracy failed to report to tech and was disqualified. 

The Sportsman division is a regular class at the neighboring track in Merced and features a style of open wheel, winged race cars that go back to the 1960's and 1970's.  At one time, Chowchilla featured this class and has crowned four champions through the years.  Merced point leader Marcus Lung, Kenny Birdsong and Mike Palmberg are three racers anticipated for this event.

These five divisions put on a good show, and the racing is sure to be exciting on Saturday.  Chowchilla Speedway is located at the Chowchilla Madera County Fairgrounds on S. 5th Street in Chowchilla. Racing begins at 6 p.m.  

Chowchilla Speedway Top 5 Points At A Glance

IMCA Sport Mod

Fred Ryland     194
Keith Brown Jr. 177
Joshua Gish     158
Nastasia Dodd     133
Josh Hensley     132

Hobby Stocks

Kevin Joaquin     198
Austin Van Hoff 164
Kode Dean     130
Gary Hildebrand 130
Dexter Long     114

Mini Stocks

Chris Corder     250
Alex Odishoo     186
Mike Congdon     172
Jadon Harrington  102
Brian Widdowson 98

Merced Valley Sportsman

Marcus Lung     216
Jeff Bristow     186
Kenny Birdsong     150
Eric Seale     108
Mike Palmberg     100

IMCA Modifieds, Sprint Cars Headline At Antioch Speedway

It's been two weeks since there was racing at Antioch Speedway, but the action returns to the fast, three-eighths mile clay oval this Saturday night.  The IMCA Modifieds, Winged 360 Sprint Cars, Wingless Spec Sprints, Limited Late Models and Hobby Stocks will be on the card this week.

The battle between Scott Busby of Martinez and San Pablo's Bobby Motts Jr. continues in IMCA Modifieds.  The two time winner Busby finished third last time out and took the lead by just four points ahead of the one time winner.  Motts ended up in a crash, though he still took a checkered flag several spots behind Busby.  Motts will be out for some redemption this week.

Speaking of redemption, the last two times defending champion Carl Berendsen II of Antioch was in the hunt for a win, he ended up being spun from a Top 3 spot.  Carl has a fast car, but he's still getting comfortable as he goes for his first win.  Carl has a not too comfortable six point lead over Manteca's Dustin Himes in the battle or third.  Previous winner Jeff Thomas of Petaluma, Mike Salazar of Antioch and the Wilson brothers of Salinas, Alex and Kyle, are others who could be there.

With three races in the books, there have been three differe nt winners in the Winged Sprint Car division.  The list includes two of this season's regulars, Jake Haulot of Cotati and San Jose's Art McCarthy.  Haulot's win still didn't gain him the lead from Antioch's Shawn Arriaga, who finished third and won his heat race last time out.

The division is still being established, and there have been 12 different winners in the last 12 races.  The top 4 drivers in points have all won during that time frame, and chances are good that one of them will win.  Brentwood's Chris Magoon is the 2014 champion and is tied with McCarthy for third in points.  San Jose's Brandon Powell just passed Antioch's Dan Gonderman in a close battle for fifth.

With three wins, Kyle Bakkie holds a 26 point lead over Rick Panfili of Antioch in the Wingless Spec Sprint division.  Bakkie won the most recent race, while Panfili passed Fairfield's Alan Miranda on the last lap in that race to finish third.  Panfili has competed in this class since it started in 1999 and is looking for his first career win.

The Bakkie win came after a late race pass on Antioch's Roy Fisher, who seemed headed for his third win up until then.  Fisher will be competing in one of the two Sprint Car classes on Saturday.  Others to watch for include impressive rookie Marcus Smith of Tracy, NFL alumni Jeremy Newberry of Brentwood and Concord's Jimmy Perry III.

Vallejo's Larry Damitz has been the driver to beat in Limited Late Models with three wins in six races.  The three time champion holds an 18 point lead over Antioch's Mark Garner.  Garner is a one time winner at Antioch and leads the points at Merced Speedway.  With two wins in his last three starts, Concord's Mike Gustafson is 24 points out of the lead in third.

Word out of Hayward is that Calvin Louis is set to debut his new car.  It was just two races ago when 2013 champion Jim Freethy of Brentwood debuted his new car.  Freethy finished second to Gustafson last time and seems poised to get a win.  Lori Brown of Antioch, Mike Hynes of Susuin and Peggy Sue Jarred of Antioch are others anticipated for this race.

Kimo Oreta of Vacaville holds a commanding lead in Hobby Stocks and is coming off of back to back feature wins.  The battle is for second between Castro Valley's Danny Jones, Michael Cooper of Bay Point and rookie Jordan Swank of Concord.  Only six points separate the three, and all are gunning for their first wins of the season.  Jones has three seconds and Swank is coming off of a career best third place finish.

The division has become very competitive and unpredictable this season, and Antioch's Frank Furtado has moved into a career best fifth in points.  Others to watch for this week include past champion Dan McCown of Antioch, Cameron Swank of Concord, Natalie Perry of Antioch and Robert Niven of Concord.

Saturday's race should be a good one.  Antioch Speedway is located within the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, 1201 W. 10th St. in Antioch, Calif. Racing begins at 6:30 p.m.

Top 5 In Points At A Glance

IMCA Modifieds

Scott Busby        217
Bobby Motts        213
Carl Berendsen II  165
Dustin Himes        159
Jeff Thomas        130

Winged 360 Sprints

Shawn Arriaga     144
Jake Haulot       138
Chris Magoon     130
Art McCarthy       130
Brandon Powell     84

Wingless Spec Sprints

Kyle Bakkie     344
Rick Panfili     318
Marcus Smith     296
Alan Miranda    264
Roy Fisher     248

Limited Late Model

Larry Damitz     310
Mark Garner     292
Mike Gustafson     286
Mike Hynes     284
Jim Freethy     266   

Hobby Stocks

Kimo Oreta     474
Danny Jones    325
Michael Cooper     3200
Jordan Swank     319
Frank Furtado    284

Sprint Car Racing Returns To Antioch Speedway

The Northern All Stars Winged 360 Sprint Cars and Wingless Spec Sprints will be in action Saturday night at Antioch Speedway.  Oval Motorsports has begun a rebuilding process for these divisions.  They are getting the rules back in line and more affordable in Wingless Spec Sprints, while establishing their own Winged Sprint Car class.

There is a core of 6-8 drivers who got on board with the Winged class early on as the track crowned a 2014 champion.  That champion, Chris Magoon, is committed to helping the class grow.  He has a second place finish this season and won a heat race last time, but Magoon tries to make a difference in other ways. 

He was signing full color pictures for the fans two weeks ago and contributed Hot Wheels and candy for the weekly give away to the kids.  "It's not just about us out there, " said Magoon.  "We need to remember the fans.  Without them, there's no show."

The division has had 12 different winners in the last 12 races, and the current Top 4, which includes Magoon, all have won races during that time.  Chances are good that we will finally see somebody break that streak.

Point leader Shawn Arriaga hopes it will be him who breaks the streak.  "We were good in the heat race last time, but we didn't quite have the setup right for the main, " Arriaga explained.  "I think we have a winning car, and we'll need a win to stay in the lead out here."

Jake Haulot actually became the third different winner this season by winning ahead of Art McCarthy last time.  However, heat race points enabled Arriaga to maintain his slim six point lead over Haulot.  McCarthy was rebounding from a crash in the previous race.  The winner of the season opener is tied with Magoon for third, just 14 points out of the lead.  Like Magoon, McCarthy has an Antioch championship to his credit.

Dan Gondrman was fifth going into the last race, but he blew a motor working on a possible Top 5 run in the previous race.  He was unable to get it ready for the last race, but the two time Spec Sprint champion hopes his #8 Winged Sprinter will be ready this time.  He finds himself 14 points behind fifth place Brandon Powell and two ahead of Spec Sprint alumni Rick Brophy.

The Brophy team has two Sprint Cars, but Ricky Brophy's car wasn't quite ready last time.  It's been a struggle for the second generation racer to get it running right, but he keeps plugging away.  Third generation racer Ryan Timmons, Chase Wood and Roy Fisher are three others we're watching for this week.

Kyle Bakkie can't seem to shake Rick Panfili in the Wingless Spec Sprint battle.  Even after winning his third race of the season with a late race pass on Roy Fisher, he still only leads Panfili by 26 points.  "It's a long season, " said 2014 point runner up Bakkie.  "At this point, we're just focusing on wins.  We'll see how points go at the end."

For Panfili, a win is something he really wants.  He picked up another third place finish last time after a late pass, but he has yet to win in his 17 year Spec Sprint career.  "I think we have a winning car, " claimed Panfili.  "We just need the right break to go our way.  We'll get it.  I'm having a lot of fun out there."

After motor problems sidelined him from the last Main Event, rookie Marcus Smith fell to 22 points behind Panfili.  He impressed with a second place finish a couple weeks earlier.  He had made some adjustments that he felt would make his car handle better, but hot lap motor problems kept him on the sidelines for the remainder of the night.

Fourth place Alan Miranda knows about bad luck.  He's already flipped his car once this season and led a race for 19 laps before being spun out in the final turn.  After a fourth place finish last time, he remains within striking distance of Smith for third, just 32 points back.

Roy Fisher is a two time winner who could be there in a Spec Sprinter, though expectations are that he will race his Winged Sprinter instead.  One time winner and past champion Jimmy Perry III will likely be there along with hard charger Jeremy Newberry, rapidly improving rookie Chase Wood Jr., and James East.

Winged 360 Sprint Car Points

Shawn Arriaga     144
Jake Haulot       138
Chris Magoon     130
Art McCarthy       130
Brandon Powell     84
Dan Gonderman     70
Rick Brophy     68
Justin Sanders     52
Anthony Espinoza 51
Alissa Geving     50
Bradley Terrell 46
Chase Wood     46
Pete Paulson     44
D.J. Freitas     44
Darrell Taylor    40
Zack Lynskey      40
Roy Fisher     36
Ricky Brophy    34
Ryan Timmons     30

Last 18 Feature Winners

May 16, 2015:  Jake Haulot
April 25, 2015:  Alissa Geving
March 7, 2015: Art McCarthy
August 2, 2014: Zack Lynskey
June 21 2014:  Bradley Terrell
June 10, 2014:  Chris Magoon
April 5, 2014:  Kurt Nelson
May 4, 2013: Shawn Arriaga
April 13, 2014: Chris Martin
September 17, 2011:  Billy Aton
July 30, 2011:  Craig Smith
September 15, 2010: Jeremy Burt
August 25, 2010: Craig Smith
April 24, 2010: Craig Smith
March  27, 2010: Craig Smith
March 20, 2010:  Ryan Risconi
September 26, 2009:  Jeremy Burt
August 29, 2009:  Jeremy Burt

Northern All Stars
Winged 360 Sprint Car Schedule

June 20
July 11
August 8
August 29

Top Ten In Wingless Spec Sprint Points

Kyle Bakkie     344
Rick Panfili     318
Marcus Smith     296
Alan Miranda     264
Roy Fisher     248
Chase Wood Jr.    190
Jeremy Newberry 182
Ryon Sieverling 182
James East     158
Jim Perry III    140

Past Wingless Spec Sprint Champions

1999-Dan Gonderman
2000-Travis Berryhill
2001-Terry Tarditi
2002-Darrell Hanestad
2003-Darrell Hanestad
2004-Bob Newberry
2005-Scott Merrell
2006-Jimmy Perry III
2007-Jim Perry Jr.
2008-Billy Macedo
2009-Billy Aton
2010-Tommy LaLiberte
2011-Dan Gonderman
2012-D.J. Johnson
2013-Gary Nelson Jr.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Merced Speedway Takes Center Stage For Oval Motorsports This Week

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

The Weekend Preview Of The DCRR Racing Radio Show

DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 34 by GenWhat
Reposting this about the late June big money races coming up at Antioch Speedway

The buzz probably hasn't been out there about the late June Summer Nationals races at Antioch Speedway, but here's what is on the schedule:

June 26 (Friday):

Antioch – Summer Nationals –  IMCA Modifieds,  Limited Late Models, IMCA Sport Mods (no    track points but there will be national, regional, and state points), Hobby Stocks, Dwarf Cars.

June 27 (Saturday):

Antioch – Summer Nationals – DIRTcar Late Models, IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Mods.  

NASCAR racer Kenny Wallace will be driving a Modified and a Late Model that weekend and is willing to drive any other race car made available to him.  He'll compete in every class he can.  The track traditionally runs a big race on the weekend of the Sears Point NASCAR race, and this is no exception.

Questions were asked to this reporter about the purse, and this is the word we got from John Soares Jr. at Antioch Speedway.  The Friday night IMCA Modified race will pay $1500 to win and a minimum of $125 to start, which could end up being $150.  The Sport Mods will race for $500 to win.  Expectations are for good car counts in both classes, and we are already hearing rumors of cars coming down from Oregon for this event.

The Saturday night IMCA Modified feature will pay $2500 to win and will pay the same to start as mentioned aboveSport Mods get $750 to win.  The Late Models get a minimum of $1500 to win and $150 to start regardless of car count.  John would like to pay $2000 to win if he can get 20 cars, and I'm thinking that will include an increase in the start money, though I didn't get clarification on that part.  However, these two races should be big.

For more information, go to the official Oval Motorsports Website.

 Big $1000 To Win Hobby Stock Races At Hayfork Speedway

I had this note passed across my desk as we were going live with our previous audio show.  Hayfork Speedway, which features Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks and Enduro Cars this year, wants Hobby Stock drivers to come on up and race.  How badly do they want them?  They are offering $1000 to win on July 11th and August 8th.

Mike Rydman, who is a past Top 5 Hobby Stock racer at Antioch Speedway, recently spoke with Hayfork Speedway promoter Dwayne Brown.  They are hoping the extra money will attract racers from Orland, Chico, Placerville and maybe even further south.  Hayfork Speedway is in its fourth season, and they have already had a few big money Hobby Stock and Mini Stock races in their short history.

Hayfork Speedway has a Facebook Page for updates and in case you may have questions.  You can find it HERE

Alameda Fair Figure 8 And Some Figure 8 Speculation

The Figure 8 has returned to California.  This is a different sort of Figure 8 that will take place in a Destruction Derby arena.  Sunnyside Promotions made the announcement back in April, and they want cars for the July 3-5 event at the Alameda County fair.  In fact, they are offering money and other incentives for racers who will come compete in all three events.

This is more of an exhibition in that they aren't looking for heavy contact in the X.  They simply want to add this to an already action packed Destruction Derby show.  These days, some Derby promoters are finding that they have to add more excitement to these shows, so we've had RV Derbies, Compact Derbies and other things.

The Figure 8 in a Rodeo Arena is a big attraction for other Derby shows across the country.  In fact, Hoagland Park in Indiana regularly features Figure 8's as part of their Derby shows, and it's pretty entertaining.  They my not be as fast as the Figure 8 races we are used to at tracks like Watsonville, Antioch and Chowchilla. but they are still entertaining.  Also, this is a way to keep Figure 8 racing alive.

Earlier this year at Hoagland Park, the fans waited for a couple hours for it to stop raining and for track officials to get the track ready, and then the action began.  Full sized and compact cars had their own races.  You can find an example of the Hoagland Park Figure 8 and an idea of what the Alameda Fair Race will be like HERE.

This, of course, has sparked discussions about how a Figure 8 can be brought to Antioch Speedway again.  Not surprisingly, Figure 8 champion Jim Robbins would love to see this happen, and Robbins has been busy getting a car ready for the Alameda Fair.  But, can it happen again at Antioch, and how?

Oval Motorsports has revealed that insurance does go up significantly for one of these races, so any attempt to run a race would have to be big and well supported.  Think special race for the glory, not a series.  However, if it got that far, it could become an annual event.  This, of course, is all just speculation.

You need at least 12 cars to start this race, and 16 is probably a more comfortable number.  It could be a full program of heats and a dash, which would be different than what we've seen in the past.   One idea suggested honors the man who did more to promote Figure 8 racing than anybody in Northern California, Bert Moreland.

But, many questions remain.  Who would want to run their car in a Figure 8, even if there's a little more money up for grabs?  If promoted well in the media, would this bring the fans like it used to?  Well, you already know Jim Robbins would sign up.  A few other names have been speculated on, based on their past support.  Not surprisingly, you hear names like Keldsen, Brown and Rosa, though again, that's all speculation.

The other idea is to have the Derby Arena set up on the front stretch, wet the track and do it that way.  The challenge is getting cars even for that.  It's been a struggle even getting people to run Derbies when they have been scheduled at Antioch in recent years.  It might be a safer atmosphere for a Figure 8, but would anybody run and would it be a fan attraction?

Of course, Hoagland Park, Sunnyside Promotions and other groups already do it this way, and it seems to be working pretty well for them,.  Maybe it comes back to Antioch one day, and maybe not.  It would certainly take a lot of work to do it.  However, we do know The Alameda County Fair will have a Figure 8 from July 3-5.  For more information, you can check out the Sunnyside Promotions Page

Merced Speedway Takes Center Stage For Oval Motorsports This Week

Merced Speedway takes center stage as the only Oval Motorsports race track holding races on the final weekend of May.  Hopes are high for a good turnout for this race, which will also be the last Saturday night show at the track for a few weeks.  Saturday night racing will move from Merced to Chowchilla for a couple weeks, starting on June 6th.

This Saturday night, IMCA Modifieds and Sport Modifieds will be racing, along with the Northern All Stars Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks.  One of the things track management will be looking at is how car count in the Limited Late Models will be.  Last time out, there were six cars, which was a season high for the division.  This included the season debut of both Donny Richardson and Jeff Kendrick.

The one thing you've been able to count on this year is that Mark Garner has been fast at Merced Speedway.  In five races, Garner has won five heat races and only failed to win one Main Event.  He settled for second that night behind Mike Hynes.  At this point, Garner leads Buddy Thatcher by 126 points.  Thatcher, who is a past Top 3 driver in this division, seems to be the most likely of the bunch to deny Garner a feature win.  He led early last time out, but problems took him out of contention.

The honor of being the closest driver to Garner last time was second place finisher Jeff Kendrick, who was also making his first start of the season.  The two new cars were a welcome sight in the pits, and more cars is the hope for this week.  The season was sort of billed as a "shoot out" between Merced and Antioch drivers, but the division is really in a rebuilding phase as drivers make the switch from Street Stocks to Limited Late Models.  Many cars are still out there, but there's probably lots of work to be done to get them ready.

When Scott Van Gelder finished third last time, that kept him within 14 points of Thatcher for second in the standings.  Like Thatcher, Van Gelder is also a past Top 3 driver in the standings, and he should not be counted out in the battle for victory.  Van Gelder has won in the Hobby Stock division in the past.  Two time champion Roy Hart Jr. is also anticipated for this race, though he's not really chasing points this season.  He would certainly like a win to defend the home town honor.

Fourth ranked Peggy Sue Jarred finally got her motor together in time to compete at the most recent Antioch race, where she grabbed a checkered flag.  No word on what her plans are, but she had her best finish yet at Merced, taking second in a five car feature earlier this year.  She actually beat John Evans for that finish, and Evans is fifth in the standings at the moment.  However John hasn't raced for a few weeks, and we're not sure he'll be a part of this show.

With no Late Model race at Antioch, Mike Hynes could always make an appearance.  He does have the only other feature win this season.  It would be nice to see 2014 point runner up Jim Freethy make his first Merced start of the year.  However, Jim recently debuted a new car at Antioch and finished second there last time.  He may be saving it for Antioch next week.  You never know who might show, but optimism is high that the six car count of last time can at least be matched.  Who knows, Garner may even meet his match this week.

We move over to Mini Stocks and the question of where did everybody go.  Car count has been hurting after the division went as high as 12 cars this year.  In the midst of all of that is the battle between hard charging rookie Darren Miguel and 2014 champion Chris Corder.  Miguel's sixth win last time out gave him a two point lead going into this race.  Corder is just a bit frustrated with the way things have been going with his #68c car and is contemplating a change of cars.  He knows he needs wins now, and he has yet to win at Merced this season.

The battle for third finds Kevin Lockerby still listed as three points ahead of Dennis Copus.  Lockerby has already made the switch over to pavement as is ready to compete in Madera's Toyota division.  Copus has had one bad break after another in his #88 car.  Just getting to the track has been a struggle for Copus, who is still looking for sponsorship.  If he's there, he will pass Lockerby for third.  The bigger question is, will Joy Alger be there?  She seemed poised to take over third after her fifth place season last year.  She is only 15 points out of third, and she will definitely make it a battle with Copus if she races.

Beyond that, it's a guessing game.  Natalie Waldrop was there last time and moved into sixth in points, but she doesn't race every week.  There is a good possibility that she could make a challenge for third or at least the Top 5 if she does keep coming back, but Natalie also likes to race on the asphalt.  We've heard that Kelly Campanile is looking to make an appearance at the June 11th Fair Race.  We're not sure if she will be there this week, but we do know that Kelly has a heat win and a second place feature finish this season.

It's a guessing game as to who might show, but it could be good or not so good.  Alisa Caldwell's car took a beating in her last Chowchilla start, but she has a new car in the works.  Mike Germat has made a few appearances, Dan McCabe has a win this season, and Steve Johnson, Brian Woddowson and Mat Schlesenger have also made a few appearances this season.  We'll see who shows, but we're hoping for at least a half-dozen cars this time.

We move over to the IMCA Sport Mods.  This has been a difficult division to get a handle on.  Just when you think a car count may not happen, they hit double digits.  That was the case last time as ten cars showed up.  None of the "name" drivers were among that group, but the point leader was making a name for himself last time.  That would be runaway point leader Josh Hensley.

Josh had a good battle early on with the steadily improving Tim Cecil before grabbing the lead and pulling away for a much needed first career victory in the former Shawn Bryant car.  Josh has a perfect attendance, but it bothered him that he hadn't won or had much luck this season.  He did something about it last time and got that monkey off his back with his impressive win over two time champion Shawn Bryant.

Hensley's championship or "Rookie Of The Year" status is not in doubt.  He leads State and National point leader Fred Ryland by over 100 points.  Ryland is expected to race some place this week after a week off, but whether it will be Merced or Marysville, where he won last time, remains to be seen.  He's looking for ten car minimum wins to help his National effort, so maintaining second in points at Merced isn't as important unless he knows the car count will be there.

If Ryland isn't there, Dwayne Short is poised to take over second in the points after returning from a two race break last time.  Short is only nine points behind Ryland and 18 ahead of Keith Brown Jr.  Brown is trying to support every Oval Motorsports promoted race that he can and came from last to finish third last time out.  Should Ryland not race at Merced, Brown stands a good chance of following Short around Ryland and into third in the standings.  On the other hand, if Ryland shows, he could be the driver to beat.

Mark Odgers could also make another appearance in the Top 5 in points in what may be the oldest car in the field.  However, Mark is not counting points.  He's just been supporting every Merced race that he can.  He also finished fourth last time to continue what has been a good string of finishes in recent races.  Odgers is 17 points behind two time winner Jeremy Hoff.  Will Hoff return to go for win #3?  That remains to be seen.

We suspect one time winner Gary Tucker, Josh Gish, Tim Cecil and Alan Pace may be among the field, and word was that rookie Tim Hammett was going to try to make another appearance.  Shawn Bryant should also be there, and he has been knocking on the door to victory lately.  As we often say, if Hoff, 2014 champion Rick Diaz, Bruce "Bubba" Nelson or past champion Neill Barcellos show up, things are gonna get even more competitive up front.  We're hoping to see car count hit double digits again, but we'll see what happens on Saturday.

Update:  Bruce Nelson has confirmed his car is ready to go thanks to help from Mike, Raul Rodriguez Jr., Brad Stowell and Robert Vierra.  Bruce will be in Merced trying to improve on his season best second place finish from earlier this year. The two time Hobby Stock Champion has won races this year.  He drove Kristie Shearer's car to back to back wins in the most recent two Hobby Stock features at Chowchilla.  He won the first Sport Mod feature of the year back on January 1st at Antioch before grabbing a third in the big money race there a night later.

There are some interesting story lines at play in the Northern All Stars Hobby Stock division at Merced Speedway.  For one thing, we've had nine different winners in 11 races.  Point leader Kevin Joaquin had been the only repeat winner until 2014 runner up Kristie Shearer grabbed her second win last time out.  Joaquin has five second place finishes, and the beating his car took last time had him feeling lucky that he could finish second to Shearer.  With a 100 plus point lead over rookie Jennifer Corder, Kevin's lead is currently not in doubt.

Corder has an equally impressive lead over third place, and that dropped a bit because she missed the last race making repairs to her blue #13 car.  The battle is for third, where one time winner Shannon Nelson used her third place finish last time to maintain a 13 point lead over Shearer.  Third had belonged to the always exciting George Silva, but his miserable luck as of late has put him 42 points behind Nelson and just two ahead of rookie Dexter Long in the battle to hold onto fifth.

The Hobby Stocks have been coming on strong as of late, and this division has been so competitive this season that you really don't know who will win on any given week  What's even nicer is the new drivers who have been showing up this season, including tenth ranked Bobby Williams, Adam Reed who already has a couple of fourth place finishes, and Mini Stock ace Chris Corder.

There are plenty of top notch competitors in this field, including past Chowchilla Sport Mod champion Gary Hildebrand, Austin Van Hoff, Kodie Dean and two past division champions, Andrew Krumm and Raul Rodriguez.  A count in the double digits shouldn't be a problem here, and we had 16 cars two races ago.  Will there be a tenth different winner or could Joaquin take it up a notch from his recent run of second place finishes?  We'll see on Saturday.

We save the closest point battle for last, the IMCA Modifieds.  Alex Wilson leads two point battles at last check.  He leads the IMCA State and Merced point races, but his Merced lead is still only two points over John MacDougall and nine over 2012 champion Bill Egleston.  McDougall is the only one of the three with a Merced win so far this year, and his presence in the championship battle may come as a surprise to some.  However, MacDougall has some good finishes this season.

The championship battle could be one that goes down to the wire, and Bob Williamson leads Ricky Thatcher by four points in another good battle for fourth.  If Alex Wilson isn't winning, the victories lately have been kept in the family.  Kyle Wilson is coming off of back to back Merced wins and may be the man to beat on Saturday.  Kyle could be poised to move up to sixth in the standings, but he'll need to get past a couple other 2015 Merced feature winners, Les Friend and Ryan Porter.

The IMCA Modifieds have managed to keep their car count in double digit territory this season and had 17 cars last time.  One of the drivers in the pack last time was Randy Brown, who was back after his Chowchilla rollover.  Randy finished second to K. Wilson that night, just ahead of Alex Wilson.  Alex was only able to add a point to his lead over MacDougall, who finished right behind him in fourth.  Karl Rose also had a solid showing last time out in fifth.

Car count is anticipated to be at least ten, though it's difficult to speculate on who might be in the field.  Troy Foulger and 2014 champion Paul Stone were there last time, but we'll have to see if they show this time.  Harley Turner, John Osgood III, Michael Shearer and Robert Dias are other possible competitors to watch for.  Whomever does show, it should still be a good race.

Update:  Bowers Racing has confirmed that Troy Foulger will be in Bakersfield trying to improve on the Top 10 finish they had there last time as they work on their dry slick setup in their new car.

Once again, Antioch Speedway and Chowchilla Speedway are dark this week, but both will run Saturday night programs on June 6th.  This Saturday night, Merced Speedway will feature IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Northern All Stars Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks.  It should be a good show.  For more information, check the official Oval Motorsports Website.

Breaking News, the according tho official Oval Motorsports Website, IMCA Modifieds have now been added to the June 6th race at Antioch.

And Furthermore...

Two choices are on the schedule for Friday night racing action.  Kings Speedway in Hanford is running a King Of Kings 360 Sprint Car race on Friday night along with IMCA Modifieds and IMCA Sport Mods.  Feature winners last time out were Ryan Bernal (360 Sprints), Bryan Burnes (IMCA Modifieds) and Ricky Childress Jr. (IMCA Sport Mods).  So far, the move to Fridays seems to be working out pretty well for this track.

Ocean Speedway in Watonville runs their traditional Friday night racing program with Winged 360 Sprint Cars headlining along with IMCA Sport Mods, American Stocks and Mini Stocks.  The last time at Watsonville, Justin Sanders won the Sprint Car Main Event, while other wins went to Bobby Hogge IV (IMCA Modifieds), Fred Ryland (Sport Mods), Robert Gallaher (American Stocks) and Luke Babcock (Mini Stocks).

A plethora of Saturday night races will offer several choices for the fans.  Placerville Speedway hosts the Civil War Series Sprint Cars and Hunt Series Wingless Spec SprintsMarysville Raceway has 410 Sprint Cars, Limited Late Models, Super Stocks, Hobby Stocks and IMCA Sport Mods.  Feature winners at the last regular show at Marysville included Cody Lamar (360 Sprints), Fred Ryland (IMCA Sport Mods), Chris Warner (Super Stocks), Kyle Allen (Hobby Stocks) and Mark Hill (Mini Stocks).

Petaluma Speedway is offering a big race for Wingless 360 Sprint Cars, which includes injected cars for this race.  Lumberjack Restaurant Super Stocks, IMCA Modifieds, Mini Stocks and 600 Mini Sprints are also on the card.  The last regular program found Colby Copeland winning the 360 Sprints as Terry Schank Jr. (Wingless Spec Sprints), Brent Blackwood (Super Stocks) and Ryan Winter (Dwarf Cars) also won Main Events.

Bakersfield Speedway has IMCA Modifieds as the headliners this weekend along with Hobby Stocks, American Stocks and a visit by the Okie Bowl Hardtops.  Kevin Johnson beat a talented field of racers to win last week's IMCA Sport Mod Main Event, while Loren DeArmond (IMCA Stock Cars), Tina Bell (Mini Stocks), Zach Forester (Mod Lites), Troy Morris III (Sr. Mini Dwarf Cars) and Mason Ratcliff (Jr. Mini Dwarf Cars) were the other winners.

Santa Maria Speedway, Siskiyou Motor Speedway in Yreka, Hayfork Speedway and Rocky Hill Speedway are dark this week, and Sacramento Valley Raceway in Orland is back this Saturday night with Wingless Sprint Cars, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stock and Mini Trucks on the card.  We're still waiting for information on who who has been winning in Orland, but the track does have point standings up on their web page after two races.

Ventura Raceway has an action packed program this Saturday night with VRA Sprint Cars, Senior Sprints, Dwarf Cars, IMCA Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Focus Midgets and Go Karts all on the card.  Winners on Jim Naylor's fast and very competitive one-fifth mile clay oval last time out were Guy Woodward (VRA Sprint Cars), Cliff Warren (Senior Sprints), Matt Sargent (Dwarf Cars), Andrew Phipps (IMCA Modifieds), David Heurung (Hobby Stocks) and Gary Howard (Focus Midgets).

On pavement, Ukiah Speedway has a five division program of Bombers, Mini Stocks, Jammers, Outlaws and BandolerosMadera Speedway has Loan Mart Late Models headlining along with Twisted Team Modifieds and Hobby Stocks, and more money is on the line as this event is billed as Military Tribute Night.  All active and retired Military personal will be admitted free.  Other divisions on the action packed card are Legends Of The Pacific, MST's, Toyota Sedans and Mini Cups.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Looking Back At Antioch Speedway Through The Years

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

Reposting this about the late June big money races coming up at Antioch Speedway

The buzz probably hasn't been out there about the late June Summer Nationals races at Antioch Speedway, but here's what is on the schedule:

June 26 (Friday):

Antioch – Summer Nationals –  IMCA Modifieds,  Limited Late Models, IMCA Sport Mods (no    track points but there will be national, regional, and state points), Hobby Stocks, Dwarf Cars.

June 27 (Saturday):

Antioch – Summer Nationals – DIRTcar Late Models, IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Mods.  

NASCAR racer Kenny Wallace will be driving a Modified and a Late Model that weekend and is willing to drive any other race car made available to him.  He'll compete in every class he can.  The track traditionally runs a big race on the weekend of the Sears Point NASCAR race, and this is no exception.

Questions were asked to this reporter about the purse, and this is the word we got from John Soares Jr. at Antioch Speedway.  The Friday night IMCA Modified race will pay $1500 to win and a minimum of $125 to start, which could end up being $150.  The Sport Mods will race for $500 to win.  Expectations are for good car counts in both classes, and we are already hearing rumors of cars coming down from Oregon for this event.

The Saturday night IMCA Modified feature will pay $2500 to win and will pay the same to start as mentioned aboveSport Mods get $750 to win.  The Late Models get a minimum of $1500 to win and $150 to start regardless of car count.  John would like to pay $2000 to win if he can get 20 cars, and I'm thinking that will include an increase in the start money, though I didn't get clarification on that part.  However, these two races should be big.

For more information, go to the official Oval Motorsports Website.

The DCRR Racing Radio Show

DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 32 by GenWhat

Back in July of 2013, I started writing like crazy.  I think this all happened after I got the call from Mike McCann about Orland and the things he was trying to do there.  It was a good conversation with a man I have a great deal of respect for.  The next thing I know, I'm up at all hours doing heavy research, compiling stats and writing.  I made a couple of attempts at an article.  At one point, I had written so much that I had a good portion of what has become the auto biography of my time in racing.

This was written during that time frame and for some reason not posted here until now.  It is in The Best Of The Blog And Beyond book along with several other things I have yet to post here (and lots of pictures).  I think you might enjoy it, so I'm sharing it now.  It's still only a little snapshot of about a ten year period of Antioch Speedway history.  It was definitely a time of many changes at the track, which is now in it's 55th season.

Looking Back At Antioch Speedway Through The Years

When I look back on my time at Antioch Speedway and my involvement in racing, a few things stick out with me.  I can vaguely remember coming out to the track in 1776 or 1977.  My sister may have been the one who pushed the family to go to the track back then.  Dad used to go to the races at Contra Costa Speedway in Pacheco and then Vallejo Speedway.  He used to tell me stories about those days. 

When I started researching the history that went along with the names he gave me, I became really fascinated with that era.  My goodness, Vallejo Speedway in the early 1960's must have been something to see.  There were some fast drivers back then, and just being a top 20 driver at the end of the season was an accomplishment.

All of the top drivers had nicknames.  The announcer actually played songs for some of those drivers.  Songs like "Johnny Be Good" and "Purple People Eater" played over the PA for that driver.  Dad told me the first one was for Johnny Franklin, a driver I would have loved to watch.  He was the man back then.  He and Leroy Geving were two of the greatest Hardtop drivers in Northern California history.

So, that era was always pretty special to dad.  He would tell stories of the checker board car, Ted Gratriex, Hugh Purdy, Johnny Franklin, Leroy Geving, Larry Damitz, Rich Govan, Phil Pedlar.  It was pretty cool to see Pedlar and Damitz racing at Petaluma in the early 80's later on when I finally got the chance to watch them.

I had a memory of being at a 200 lap race at Antioch.  Yes, they used to have those races back in the day.  Dana Auger won that race ahead of Len Mello.  This would put my time at the track at least to 1977, but as a kid, I ran around like kids do.  I couldn't appreciate J.D. Willis winning a close battle with Jerry Roy for the Sportsman title and Marv Wilson having his best season to that point in third. 

Richard Johnson won the 1977 Stock Car crown ahead of David Brightwell, then Bob Meeker won the 1978 title ahead of Jim Tryon.  What's funny is I do remember being with friends that year talking about top ten driver Corby Davis being bad for something that happened on the track.  I don't remember what he supposedly did now.

Dana Auger had won a few features in a row in 1978.  He ended up ranked in the top five by season's end, while three of the biggest stars at that time, Marv Wilson, Dennis Furia and J.D. Willis, finished in that order.  I'd love to be able to tell you memories, but I was just a kid who barely paid attention at the time.  The track held its first Street Stock races that year, but no champion was crowned that I know of.

In 1979, I finally started gong to the track pretty regularly.  I picked my favorite driver, a yellow Pinto #4a driven by Len Mello.  He wasn't winning Main Events back then.  In fact, he was mainly in the B Mains and the slow heats back then, and I got a bad time from a few people for cheering for him.  I didn't care.  I was a loyal fan.

What I mostly remember about racing back then was we had two divisions.  The Stock Cars and Sportsman division.  The Street Stocks were just getting started, and pretty much during 1979 and 1980, it was Street Stocks and Sportsman.  I think at the time this had to do with the fact that San Jose Speedway had moved to the dirt after the closing of the Tully Road track, and they were trying to build Stock Car count there.

I attribute this to why it took a few years for Antioch to establish the class in the early 1980's while Watsonville and Merced had solid car counts.  Other than a six or eight race season (Dean Cline was the champion) in 1979, there were no Stock Cars at Antioch during that period until 1981.

So, I remember Debbie Clymens, Chuck Carter and Chuck Smith were three drivers who got in early with Street Stocks.  I vaguely remember Debbie's husband Tommy racing the Sportsman division.  He was actually top 20 ranked in Stock Cars and the Sportsman division in his career.

We only had two divisions, and we were generally in the 40-50 car range at that point.  All divisions qualified on the clock, and the races were fully inverted.  I loved that promoter John Soares Sr. did that because it made for better races.  Drivers ran with others in their speed, so a slower driver could still have a two win (Heat and B Main) night.

Inverted Main Events meant a few things.  The faster drivers had to start in the back with just the two B Main transfers behind them.  There was sand bagging, and a few drivers were good at it.  The problem is it's a fine line between the pole of the Main Event and the rear of the B Main.

Harry Osbourne was the announcer and is one of my all time favorites.  Like Speed Reilly at Vallejo, he had a nickname for everybody.  Early on, I memorized these names.  "Chargin" Marvin Wilson, J.D. "You Betcha" Willis, Dana "Always On It" Auger, Mike "The Blue Knight" Gustafson, "The Flying Dutchman" Keith Brown, Willie "The Silver Fox" Myatt and on and on.

They would line the cars up on the front stretch side by side.  Drivers would get out of their cars for the introduction.  It made it more special to me.  You never knew who would win.  Dennis "Foot In It" Furia won a lot, and you knew he was going to the front.  Drivers better watch out.  Dennis was aggressive, but he was also the 1979 champion.

As I recall, Dennis, Marv. J.D. and Gene Millard parked together in the pits.  Len Mello, Sal Belleci and Buzz Enea parked together.  I think Mike Green, Mike Gustafson, John Soares and Al Nordstrom parked together.  I was just a kid in the grandstands at the time, but I would talk about the races all the time.  I kept a scrap book, which is something I actually lost when I moved from Concord.

Back then, there were some fast guys.  Wilson, Willis and Furia won a lot, but Gustafson, Green, Soares, Enea and Jerry Hetrick were among other winners.  I remember Osbourne starting a collection to get Hetrick's car a paint job.  For a time, Jerry was the track record holder for fast time.

Now, John Soares Sr. brought in special attractions, like Orville The Daredevil Clown and stuff like that.  There were match races, hot dog races, powder puff races, mechanic races and things like that.  Nothing has compared to the races at that time for me.  Maybe it's the first impression on a kid, I don't know.  I've certainly seen good races since then, but that era will always be special to me.

One thing that annoyed me was the mad dash to the parking lot after the Sportsman Main Event.  Even dad was in a hurry.  There was just one problem.  I wanted to watch the Street Stocks.  There was Scott Busby, Joey "Runaway" Rodriguez, Julio Jones, Keith Shipherd, Debbie Clymens, Mike Pugh, Rob Waldrop and perhaps my favorite driver at the time, Chuck Carter.

I had to watch the Street Stocks.  And I did.  Busby won a lot.  Big surprise, huh?  But Shipherd, Clymens, Carter and Jones all had their moments.  There was no official point race in 1978 or 1979 that I know of.  I've since found out that Merced and Watsonville had point races back then, so I'm not sure why this was.  I was told that Busby was awarded the top performer trophy in 1979, Clymens was second and there was a third place.  Carter?  I Don't know.

The cool thing was drivers moved up into the Sportsman division.  I think Jones was first to do it, but Shipherd and Busby weren't far behind.  Rodriguez won the 1980 championship and moved up for "Rookie Of The Year" honors a year later.  Frank "The Wall Banger" Blasquez and Mike's brother L.C. Green had top five Street Stock seasons in 1980 and moved up a year later. 

Clymens didn't run the Sportsman division, but she was second in Street Stock points and had the memorable flip where her car stood on it's nose for several seconds.  This made national and even world wide news at a time long before the internet and earned her the nickname "Rowdy Rollover" Debbie Clymens.

A year later, Jeff Rhoton, who was a feature winner in 1980, mimicked the dominant performance of Rodriguez by dominating the 1981 season with over ten wins.  Future Stock Car racer Dick King managed a second place season just ahead of the tied Bellando brothers (John and Dave) and Ted Ferre.  I recall rookie Stan Holmes winning a feature and his season ending in a hard crash.

I had no idea the Sportsman division was in trouble until 1981 came along.  We still had B Mains at Antioch in 1980 and a good championship battle between Houston, who had purchased Marv Wilson's car, and Gustafson.  Gustafson won by a slim margin despite Houston gaining major ground by winning the season finale 100 lap Main Event.  Mike was very consistent and a driver I enjoyed watching.  But, I loved that candy apple red paint job on Houston's car.  Beautiful car.  Also loved the Ford Mustang body on Dave Gonderman's car.  Dave was a feature winner in 1979 and 1980 and was every bit the driver his brother is today.

Down at Merced, they dropped the class early in the season.  Jim Soares was general manager at the time and told the drivers that it would be dropped if they brought him less than ten cars.  It's Ironic that Merced was the first to go, but a little under 20 years later, they brought it back.  This is because top five driver Chuck Griffin was promoter, and he loved the class.

Even Watsonville wasn't doing so well with the class.  We'd see State champion Duane Noe, Phil Holley, Walt Rizzo and Bob Dalton drop in from time to time, and Antioch was still getting B Mains.  Then, Soares Sr. "retired" due to health issues.  Really, he just focused on building that amazing Super Stock show he had at Petaluma.  If you were there, you know how truly amazing it was.

I wonder what politics led to John going?  Not that it matters now.  I found it interesting that Bert Moreland faced a similar situation about a decade later, and who was there for him to keep him in the sport for a few more years?  That's right, it was John.  I have a list of reasons I respect John, and this is another example.  He was there for his friends, and he inspired loyalty.

You see, another longtime NASCAR guy, Paul Bender, stepped in and took over general manager duties at Antioch.  NASCAR had taken a billy club and beat the Sportsman division to death because it wasn't "Stock Car" enough.  Maybe that's a blunt way to put it, but it's pretty close.  It was the "skinny car" division until about the mid 1970's, before my time there, and it became fully bodied with some cars not even running wings.

So, Paul had to reestablish the Stock Car class and bring an end to the Sportsman class.  It helped that BCRA was given a home for the Midgets that season while Stock Cars built a car count.  Debbie Clemens, Willie Myatt and J.D. Willis were a few to join Stock Cars, others like Hetrick and Furia retired.

But, another thing happened that saw the Sportsman division struggle to field ten cars.  A number of racers went to Petaluma.  Guys like Soares Jr., Gustafson, Jim Tryon, L.C. Green and Dennis Hollingsworth, followed Soares Sr. to Petaluma.  That was it.  At least the Sportsman division knew what was coming, unlike the Late Models a decade later.

They made the most of it.  Mello, State champion "Rapid" Richard Johnson, Jerry "The Maverick" Garner and "Sudden" Sam Houston and the rest of the guys put on a show.  It still went down to the wire before Mello wrote his name into the record books as the last Sportsman champion at Antioch.

Times change in racing.  While this was going on, we saw the end of an era with the closure of Vallejo Speedway and West Capital Speedway in the previous few seasons.  Both were iconic tracks that were so beloved that there are active communities online talking about the "good old days" more than three decades later.  That is a legacy to be proud of.

In 1981, Stocks Cars were back at Antioch with Bruce "The Phantom" Curl winning the championship in Pete Paulsen's House Of Wheels Special.  "Gentle Ben" Gary Ehrlich, "Rookie Of The Year" Bill Curl, Debbie Clymens and former champion Willie "The Silver Fox" Myatt were also top five ranked, and a 16 year old from Seaside named Jim Pettit II visited and won two Main Events.

I wasn't happy to see the Sportsman division end, and even more disappointed that the local boys were finding it harder to win a race, much less a championship, but the track lived on.  It's interesting to note that the only local driver to win a Late Model championship at Antioch Speedway was J.D. Willis.  Interesting, but not surprising.  He's a Hall of Famer, plain and simple.

Willis was there to battle young up and comer Pettit and this talented driver from Los Gatos named Dave Byrd.  Garner won a Main Event in 1982, and a newcomer to Antioch (familiar name at Vallejo) named "Gentleman" Don Robinson won fans instantly with his silver and black #12a car.  Don won several races that year.  Then, there was L.D. "Merry Go Round" Maupin.  He was one of the original local drivers in the 1960's and this was his last top ten season.

Willis and Byrd were heated rivals.  Both had vocal fans in the stands.  Byrd's fans sat right behind me.  One of the loudest was Billy Foote, who went on to race Street Stocks for a couple seasons.  The Willis camp had a button made by the Nifdee Speedo Buttons people that read "Today is Thanksgiving, stuff a Byrd."  Dave beat him both seasons by a combined ten points.  Just ten points.  I can still hear Foote yelling, "Who loves ya baby!"

While the Stock Cars spent the 1982 and 83 seasons trying to build enough of a car count to get B Mains, the Street Stocks grew quicker.  Paul Bender found a guy to wear the black hat named John "Boom Boom" Bellando.  John may be the greatest Street Stock driver ever to race at Antioch, despite never winning a championship.  He was certainly the most exciting to watch.  His brother Dave "Bang Bang" Bellando was no slouch either.

You see, the Bellando brothers, "Terrible" Ted Ferre, Dennis Brown, Bob Brown and Duane Hodges all got involved in Street Stocks around the same time, and all were fast.  John Bellando was the fastest, but he wasn't somebody you messed with.  We had two drivers from Watsonville, Steve Wilson and Kevin Pylant, who came out and won the 82 and 83 championships, respectively.

There was an incident, and my memory fails me on this one.  It resulted in a big fight in 1982.  John Bellando ended up suspended and raced at Baylands the rest of the season.  Dave Bellando kept the family name up in points with his second place season.  John returned a year later to rank second to Pylant, while the division was joined by the likes of Walt Haas, Steve Huelsmann and Steve Jones.

By season's end, the Street Stocks had their first B Main (I want to say John Sameron won that race) while Stock Cars also had a B Main.  Stock Cars were exploding in car count.  We had Sportsman drivers like Al Nordstrom, Mark Largomarsino, Mike Green, Gene Millard, Ron Brown (and brother Randy) joining the class.  Darrell Dotson bought Bill Curl's car as Bill built a new one, Randy Dahl joined the class.  Mike Walko had the famed "Car 54" and so on.

B Mains were a regular part of the Stock Car program.  Vallejo names like Larry Damitz, Phil Holden, Terry DeCarlo and Bob Richardson raced at Antioch in 1984.  Rich Richards fielded a car at the track in 1983 with Bill Black his driver for a few seasons.  Bill actually won the Jerry Delanoy Memorial race in 1983 just ahead of Merced's Ralph Beck.

We used to have nights where Merced and San Jose didn't run Stock Cars, so the field swelled into the 30's with great competition.  The 1984 season may have been the high water mark for Stock Cars at Antioch.  No season since then was able to equal it in car count, though that period from 1988 through 1991 wasn't bad.

Because of NASCAR Regional Points, there were always drivers from either the San Jose or Watsonville area racing at Antioch from 1982 through 1993.  Merced's Doug Williams bares the distinction of being the only California driver not from those two areas to win that prestigious title while Stock Cars headlined.  I recall him being slammed into the wall in a 1983 visit and some unflattering things being said.  I don't recall who caused it, but it wasn't Doug's fault.  Byrd was the 1983 Regional champion.

The thing that was frustrating was the track championship steadily became less important, almost an after thought.  Like a consolation prize.  Again, it's just my opinion based on observations.  Sure, a guy might like winning that title, but the Regional and State championships were the goal.  I know Willis was happy when he held off Peittit for the 1984 crown.  But, Pettit had bigger goals.

Jim used to haul two cars to the track sometimes.  The backup car was the one he won the 1984 Watsonville Figure 8 championship with.  Now, that year saw Pettit race anywhere and everywhere he could.  If Regional points were on the line, he raced.  Nearly twice as much as rival Ray Morgan did.  Rules at the time allowed you to count every start, and Pettit took advantage of that.

It still came down to the last night at Baylands and Stockton to determine who would win it all.  Despite the controversy of that night with Pettit winning it all, had Morgan made just one more start anywhere during the season, the outcome would have been different.  Both drivers gave it a good run.

This is my frustration with the Regional point system and NASCAR in general.  They should have been doing more to promote these guys.  I was always under the impression Regional points were to be a stepping stone to the next level.  At the very least, a ride for one race in the Winston West should have been offered to the champion.  Again, just my opinion.

Think of the talent we had.  Bobby Hogge III, Doug McCoun, Dave Byrd, Jim Pettit II, Ray Morgan, Ed Sans Jr.  I don't know that Hogge or Sans or even Morgan was that worried about it, but Byrd, McCoun and Pettit were certainly interested.  At one point, Pettit had landed sponsorship and McCoun had a ride that disappeared at the last minute.  These guys were that good.  If they were given just one real shot, we might still be watching some of them on TV now.

The locals still gave a good accounting of themselves and won features from time to time.  For whatever reason, NASCAR made engine rule changes during the offseason in 1984.  I don't know what all was done, but I know two things.  The changes were stupid and they cost Antioch it's car count.  It took a big hit at Antioch, though Watsonville, San Jose and Merced seemed to do okay.

We lost our B Mains.  Willis moved behind the wheel of the Bruce Curl car.  Others retired.  Green sold his car to DeCarlo.  Hogge was a regular at Antioch in 1985, but he still had to deal with Sans, who started the season late and won often.  Hogge's spin on the last lap in Turn 4 on the final night, which led to him hitting reverse and backing across the finish line to preserve his championship, is still one of the craziest moments in track history.  Even with fewer cars, the racing was good.

It was 1986 when three time San Jose champion Sans made his push to be Antioch track champion.  San Jose always gave regional points to Super Modifieds, which is what led to Sans racing at Antioch in 1985 for the next challenge.  Ironically, it was a late start by Larry Damitz that may have kept Sans safe for the track championship.  Damitz won ten Main Events that year, having just entered his sixties.  So much for being too old.  Now, he's in his 80's and still winning races.

We started seeing more Sportsman names enter the picture in 1986.  Buzz Enea began racing again in 1984 and was a feature winner.  In 1985, Richards needed a new driver to replace Bill Black, so Enea moved over to that car.  Len Mello came out of retirement to drive Buzz's car and nearly won a Main Event in 1986.  He finished second after a yellow flag wiped out a straightaway lead over eventual winner Hogge.

Sam Houston, Sal Belleci and Jim Tryon also reentered the picture.  1986 also saw the return of John Soares Jr. and Mike Gustafson as the two switched driving duties for Sal & John Procopio.  John actually won a feature, while Mike came close with a second place finish.  Willis was a feature winner and top five driver in Curl's car in 1985 and 86.  However, the Regional champion both years was Doug McCoun, who raced at Merced.  McCoun even won a National Championship.

At one time, the divisions two biggest races were the 100 lap Bob Meeker Classic and the 50 lap salute to Jerry Delanoy, but both races would eventually be dropped.  The 100 lap races continued, but they were usually named after the track's beer sponsorship.  This disappointed me as Merced had the Ted Stoifle Classic and Watsonville had the Tim Williamson Classic.  I remember McCoun had a knack for winning these long distance races.

From the moment the Street Stocks started getting B Mains, they didn't stop having regular B Mains until the mid 1990's.  1984 saw the likes of "Big" Ed Shepherd, Bert Elworthy and Jess Guitrierrez join the ranks.  The father son team of George and Ron Arth had fielded cars in 1983.  Really, there were several talented drivers in the field.  Don Shelton started his first race in 1984.

Walt Haas was not always the fastest driver in the field, but he was consistent.  He had a knack for staying out of trouble.  Steve Hueslmann, on the other hand, was fast, but he had his problems.  In the end, it was Haas who won the championship ahead of Hueslmann,  Elworthy beat Shepherd for top rookie honors and both were top five ranked.  Several drivers won features that year.

In fact, in 1985, I think we went ten or so races before the first repeat winner.  Everybody seemed to get a turn.  Elworthy, Ferre, Shepherd, Shelton, rookie Ron Murray, Steve Wagerman, John Keith, John Humphrey, Mike Gummas, Dean Cline and Mike Martin come to mind.  Cline won several races, but he didn't get points.  Dean never cared about that anyway, but he sure won his share of races in his impressive career.

Elworthy won the 1985 championship.  We didn't see too many drivers move from Street Stocks to Stock Cars during that time.  Elworthy moved up in the old Steve Skarry car in 1986.  Huelsmann moved up too.  When I think of the talent that didn't (probably for budget reasons), it make me wonder what could have been.  Both Bellando brothers, both Brown bothers, Ferre, Haas, Shepherd, Murray.  They were all good.

In 1986, we had an amazing point race again, and several feature winners.  I recall Tom Adair Jr., Mike Martin, Duane Hodges, Ed Shepherd, Steve Wagerman and Brian Keith as part of a six car championship battle.  Martin was a talented driver and maybe the best that season, but he got suspended.  The consistent Hodges did as well.  In the end, Adair held off Wagerman for the big prize.

I also recall the "Rookie Of The Year" battle because it featured a couple of drivers who were sons of stars of the past and a newcomer.  It was Glenn Swank, third generation racer "Wild" Jim Robbins, whose father is 1974 Stock Car champion Don Robins, and "Hollywood Rad" Brad Coelho.  Well, he wasn't "Hollywood" yet though.  Anyway, Robbins and Coelho were feature winners. 

Robbins seemed poised to win rookie honors until being penalized on double point night for spinning top ten point runner Brian Holden out.  A sign of things to come for Holden?  Holden showed them all by breaking Bellando's track qualifying record at the season finale.  With the loss of those points, Robbins fell to third and Coelho claimed the prize.

When 1987 came along, the question was whether there would even be a season.  The story was all over the paper, but that was only part of it.  Four people had bid for the five year contract, and BBA Inc. didn't even come in second to keep the track.  Tom Adair Sr. was the best of what was left, and Tim Butterick also submitted a proposal.  Adair anticipated it would go to him after the winner withdrew, but it didn't happen that way.

The name missing from the headlines at the time was John Soares Sr.  He actually won.  The story goes that his wife Gladys (The Glad in Glad Enterprises) was none too pleased.  I suppose John felt he could handle two tracks since he still had a place in Bethal Island and had a trailer office at the Petaluma track.  One can only imagine what might have been then.

John's own situation at Petaluma was changing due to fact that Petaluma was dropping Super Stocks.  The Super Stocks from Petaluma, Chico and whatever was left in California were forming an amazing touring division with the Oregon drivers called POSSE.  I didn't get to see much of it, but the tour kicked butt in the early days.

I was at Petaluma during the 1986 Antioch fair break when Petaluma ran it's first stock front clip race.  I believe it was Larry Damitz who beat Kevin Pylant in that race, but this is from memory.  Stock Cars were to be the new headline class at Petaluma, a solid Street Stock class would be there, a new Charger division and this crazy little class from Iowa he brought to California called Dirt Modifieds.

I would guess Antioch in 1987 would have Dirt Modifieds since there were cars being built in the area that year, but the NASCAR sanctioning might have been gone.  Do I know that for sure?  No, and this is because John had NASCAR briefly for his Stock Car class in 1987.  But, this may have been a result of John's discussion with top NASCAR execs in California at the time.

There was a complaint at Antioch at the time that there wasn't local representation in charge of the track.  You did have Harv Mason doing his usual awesome job of preparing the track, but people were calling for a local track manager.  The story goes that John was promised that this would happen and he gave his word he wouldn't bid for the track again.  Whatever happened, John stepped away from the deal and his name was kept out of it.

But, the word was the track would be closed, and the news didn't sit well with anybody.  The parts man at the time was Steve Fensler, who raced for several years himself.  Steve wanted to see the track run in 1987 and was worried that if it closed even for a season it might be closed for good.  He stepped in and tried to broker a solution that upset the people at BBA who thought he was back stabbing them.

The phrase "Mickey Mouse outlaw track" was quoted in regards to Antioch's future if Steve was allowed to move in.  I remember not caring about that in the least.  There were plenty of tracks in the state that seemed to be doing okay without sanctioning, and maybe the locals could have a chance to win on their budgets.  Just my opinion, of course.

Well, the people involved in bidding resolved the issue.  Adair came on for half a season before being let go.  He was there to help get things up and running.  This was the last year Bert Moreland was there, but one of his last decisions was to add a Figure 8 to the mix to increase attendance.  It worked.  His final decision to add Dirt Modifieds in 1988 never took place as he was replaced.

So, the show went on in 1987 after all of that worry, and Jim Pettit II elected to return after racing at Merced and making some Southwest Tour starts during his two seasons away from Antioch.  Ed Sans Jr. and Bobby Hogge III raced elsewhere most of the time but were still top ten ranked at Antioch.  Sans won the Regional title that season.  This left it up to local talent to try and stop Pettit.

In this case, it was Buzz Enea, Terry DeCarlo and Bruce Curl who battled at the front of the pack.  Meanwhile, Debbie Clymens enjoyed her best season in fifth.  DeCarlo was an early threat a year earlier before he dropped out of action, but this third place season was his best ever.  Enea nearly won the crown, but he settled for second to Pettit after motor problems late in the season.

In the Street Stocks, we saw the return of a name that would become familiar to the winner's circle once again, Darryl Shirk.  His son Troy Shirk and Bill Curl also joined the fray, while Corky Pattrick became one of the front runners.  Newcomer Kelly Dauksch had an impressive season, his first at the track, but he settled for second ahead of Linda Warner.  The talented Steve Wagerman won the title, but he retired after that (another who could have been a Late Model star). 

Bert Moreland had introduced Figure 8 racing to Watsonville, and he was looking to do the same at Antioch.  It started with an exhibition where he started cars in opposite directions and ran races to see who would make it through the X first.  That went over well, so he decided to run a short season and crown a champion.

This led to the return of 70's Stock Car star Mike Conley and "Bouncin" Bobby Brown as well as a decision by Brian Holden, Jim Robbins and Steve Torres to go Figure 8 racing.  Ron Brown built a car for this.  Of course, Watsonville was well represented by Figure 8 legend John Keldsen, Henry Leyenberger, Chris Stuttleworth and Carl Lollar Jr.  Figure 8 racing was a huge hit with the fans.

Holden painted his car red, white and blue and was a big fan favorite.  Unfortunately, a controversial finish with Keldsen one night early on led to a rivalry that lasted the entire four year Figure 8 run.  Holden may have been the best local Figure 8 racer, but he was never allowed by the competition to win the championship.  His loss by 26 points to Keldsen the first season was as close as he came.

BBA became Cars Inc. and later West Coast Speedways as new management took the reigns over the four dirt tracks that were a part of what was left of "Barky's" legacy at the time, and this meant a new general manager for the track in 1988 and some big changes ahead.  That story is for another time.

Honestly, this isn't what I sat down to write.  I wanted to talk about last decade and some of the turbulent times California racing has struggled through, as well as some of the key people we've lost.  I sit down here and write and then my mind goes in other directions.  I can continue this line of writing if there's an interest.  I guess we'll see.  I hope you enjoyed this little walk down memory lane.