Friday, May 22, 2015

John Soares Jr. Carrying On Family Tradition At Antioch Speedway

First of all...

Just A Kid From The Grandstands:  My Time In Auto Racing

Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover

Don's California Racing Recollections:  Best Of The Blog And Beyond

Available via print on demand at Lulu in Hard Cover or Paperback

Also, what could be a series of informative books...

Short Track History Project at Gofundme

Additional info on the Short Track History Project  HERE

The DCRR Racing Radio Show

I figured I would put together an audio show for the Memorial Day Weekend

This is a brief article I put together for Antioch Speedway that I have sent to various sources.  It's just a brief bit of the story of John Soares, father and son, their racing and promoting and some of the things they have done for the sport.  Really, it would take a lot more than this to tell that story.  Truthfully, books could be written about both of them, and they probably should.

Unfortunately, I've met a few roadblocks getting this out there.  I have my suspicions about some of what's been going on, but I will keep quiet on that.  As of now, there is a chance that this could appear some place soon, but I won't say where.  For one, it may not happen, and for another...  Well, there's that suspicion thing again.  Anyway, here it is on the blog for anybody wanting to read about it.

John Soares Jr. Carrying On Family Tradition At Antioch Speedway

Left, John Soares Jr. receives a 9th place trophy from his father, John Soares Sr. at the 1979 Antioch Speedway Awards banquet.    Photo from the 1980 Antioch Speedway souvenir program.

There is a name that has been synonymous with racing at Antioch Speedway and California auto racing in general for many, many years.  That would be Soares.  If you went to the track when it opened for racing briefly in 1953, the promoter's name was John Soares.  Over 60 years later, it's still John Soares, but this time it's the son, John Soares Jr.

John Jr. is in his 18th year as promoter of the track under the company name Oval Motorsports.  That leaves him just two years behind his father, who ran the track from 1961 to 1980.  Sr. left Antioch to concentrate on Petaluma Speedway, another track he founded in the 1960's.  Before that, Soares Sr. raced the open cockpit Midgets before switching to the Hardtops.

BCRA Hardtops were becoming popular at the time, and Sr. won consecutive championships to close out the 1940's.  In those days, the circuit was Pacheco, Vallejo, and West Capital Speedway in Sacramento, the third track being another track of which John Sr. had a hand in creating.  He also won some big Stock Car races and was a winner on the NASCAR circuit. 

The elder Soares was inducted into several racing Hall Of Fames for his many accomplishments on the track.  Of course, as is the case with John Jr., people didn't realize what a good racer he was as he moved into promoting.  Considering the successes that he had as a promoter, and there are many, that is not a surprise.

One of the divisions featured at Antioch Speedway is the IMCA Modifieds.  That open wheeled Stock Car class is now in its 25th season at the track  John Soares Sr. was responsible for bringing the division to California in 1987, and John Jr. was one of its first competitors.

From about the time that John Soares Jr. was able to walk, he was involved in the sport.  Like his brother and sister, his parents would put him to work.  In fact, his brother Jim built up a good reputation for his track preparation expertise that had him in high demand.  Jim was also a track champion in Dwarf Cars and promoted multiple race tracks.

 John Soares Jr. in his fast #7 Sportsman car from 1980.  Photo from the Antioch Speedway souvenir program.

John Jr. discovered that he had a knack for racing when he won his first Sportsman race in the mid 1960's.  John won the prestigious NASCAR State championship in 1969.  At Antioch alone, he won 20 Sportsman Main Events, putting him third on the all time win list for that division.  He's the only racer to win races in every decade since the track opened.  He hasn't done it in this decade, but he has indicated that he is thinking about trying.

 John Soares Jr. #7 in his #71 Sportsman car from 1981.  Photo from the Antioch Speedway souvenir program.

He won multiple championships at Petaluma and was a many time feature winner there as well.  Like his father, John raced with NASCAR and won a big tour race.  He was also a Top 10 driver with the NASCAR Winston West Stock Car Series.  Like his brother Jim, John is a wiz at track preparation, but he has an even better reputation for his ability to build a fast race car. John continues to build race cars that win races.

Another thing that John created was the Lobak Muffler.  He made his first muffler in 1971, and those mufflers became the standard for race cars in the years that followed.  John is still building mufflers today, and his Lobak Mufflers have a reputation for making cars meet the state mandated noise limits

John Soares Jr, And Team USA Pose For A Picture Before The Next Race.   Photo From The Soares Collection

It was during the late 1990's when John had pretty much retired from full time driving after winning another Late Model championship at Petaluma.  He continued to promote the big Team USA vs Team Australia Late Model Series in Australia during our winter months  He built and maintained five race cars for Team USA and also won the State Championship one year in Queensland Australia.

John Soares Jr. Takes A Victory Lap And Proudly Flies The Colors After A Win In Australia.  Photo From The Soares Collection.

Being manager of Team USA presented a challenge for him in late 1997 when he decided to make a bid for Antioch Speedway.  However, he won the bid and became a promoter like his father.  He has since implemented many improvements to the facility.

In John's days coming up in the sport, he witnessed how guys like his father and Bert Moreland were promoting multiple race tracks for Bob Barkhimer.  Then, he saw how that all started to fade away as tracks started going up against each other.  That's when he developed a new strategy.  He added more tracks to the Oval Motorsports family.

John Soares Jr. #7 was a front runner and won many Super Stock features at Petaluma Speedway.  Photo from the Petaluma Speedway souvenir program.

Merced Speedway closed in 2009 and looked like it may not reopen again.  John came in, returned the track to the more popular quarter-mile oval and started holding races there within a few months of talking over.  Last year, it was announced that he would be promoting Chowchilla Speedway as well.

Ever the one to do things in a big way, John promoted a series of four big money IMCA Modified and Sport Mod races between the three tracks in January.  He is constantly looking at new ideas to try that will interest the fans and racers.  Recently, he booked the World Of Outlaws Sprint Car Tour for their sixth Antioch visit.  There will be a seventh visit in September.  He has established himself as one of the top promoters in the state.  As they say, like father-like son.

Another similarity between the two is a long and happy marriage.  John's mom Gladys was married to his dad for years and was by his side throughout his racing career.  Meanwhile, John Jr. has been married to his wife Donna for 54 years.  She has been with him through the good times and bad times, and he'd be the first to admit that it would be difficult to do this without her.

John Soares Jr. having a little fun before a race in 1999 as he shows the fans the ramp that will used for a rollover content that he would promote a few weeks later.  Photo by Green Flag Photography

But for now, John and Donna Soares are focused on bringing good racing entertainment to three tracks.  Antioch Speedway was where he started racing, and he has been working hard for 18 years now to keep the great tradition alive and well. There are more big races in store as he never stops thinking about the next big thing.