Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pit Stops And Wilson, Mayer, Garner Win At Merced 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 

This is the audio calls from Antioch Speedway last week, plus we start the show with Merced Speedway results and a few other tidbits

Wilson Wins Again At Merced Speedway, Mayer, Garner Also Win

The IMCA Modifieds returned to Merced Speedway Saturday night with familiar results.  Kyle Wilson won last time out, and he would once again score the victory in the 20 lap Main Event.  In the Hobby Stock division, an incredible nine drivers have won the ten Main Events this season as Chris Mayer made his first start of the season a winner in the 20 lap Main Event.  The Limited Late Model car count doubled from last time, but it was still point leader Mark Garner scoring the victory in their 20 lap feature.  Jeremy Hoff won the IMCA Sport Mod Main Event for the second time this season.  A season low turnout for the Mini Stocks saw Darren Miguel once again win their Main Event.

An impressive 17 cars were on hand for the IMCA Modified race, and it was Les Friend winning the first of two heat races ahead of incoming point leader Alex Wilson.  K. Wilson won his heat race ahead of four time Antioch Speedway champion Troy Foulger.  K Wilson and Friend, both feature winners this season, shared the front row for the Main Event.  It was K. Wilson continuing his recent string of strong efforts on the circuit with his second feature win of the season.  After a terrible rollover at Chowchilla a few weeks ago, Randy Brown rebounded in a big way by coming from the third row to a second place finish.  A. Wilson's third place finish will keep him in the point lead, but he gained just one point on second ranked John MacDougall, who finished fourth.  Karl Rose rounded out the Top 5, and 2012 champion Bill Egleston stayed in title contention with his sixth place finish.  Friend, Michael Shearer, two time champion Bob Williamson and Harley Turner rounded out the Top 10 at the finish.

The Hobby Stocks produced a solid 16 car field, and multi time champion Raul Rodriguez made a couple of late race passes to win his heat race ahead of Austin Van Hoff.  Point leader Kevin Joaquin won the other heat race ahead of another past division champion, Andrew Krumm.  Rodriguez and Joaquin shared the front row of the Main Event in a straight up line up from the heat race finishes.  Unfortunately, Rodriguez saw his night end in disappointment back in ninth.  Joaquin ran up front in his quest for a third feature win, but instead he had to settle for a point lead increasing third straight second place finish.  Mayer came from the third row to collect an impressive feature victory.  Kristie Shearer was back and running strong in third, and Krumm put his terrible luck of a week earlier in the past with a solid fourth place finish.  Travis Avila made an impressive appearance and came home in fifth after starting back in 16th.  Van Hoff finished sixth as Nick Lawrence, Shannon Nelson, Rodriguez and rookie Jennifer Corder made up the remainder of the Top 10.

In the Limited Late Models, point leader Mark Garner continued his mission to win the championship by winning his heat race ahead of his closest point rival, Buddy Thatcher.  Thatcher started out strong in the six car Main Event, but he was overtaken by Garner on lap 5.  From there, Garner brought it home to his fourth win of the season.  Thatcher faded as Jeff Kendrick came from sixth for a second place finish in his season debut.  Scott Van Gelder finished third as Thatcher settled for fourth ahead of 2014 champion Roy Hart Jr. and Donny Richardson.

Jeremy Hoff wasn't going to let a disappointing turnout in the IMCA Sport Mods put a damper on his night.  The 2013 Antioch champion beat point leader Josh Hensley to win the heat race.  Hoff and Hensley shared the front row for the Main Event, and Hoff was unstoppable in scoring his first win of the season.  Two time champion Shawn Bryant managed to finish second as Hensley settled for third ahead of Alan Pace and Roy Worthy.

The Mini Stock division's title contenders showed up and were joined by Top 3 ranked  Chowchilla racer Mike Congdon.  It was Darren Miguel continuing his winning ways with a heat race win ahead of Chris Corder.  Miguel then posted his fifth feature win of the season ahead of Corder and Congdon to chip away even further at Corder's point lead.

Racing continues at Merced Speedway next Saturday night with a program that will feature IMCA Sport Modifieds, Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks, Dwarf Cars and Mini Stocks.  For further information, check the official Oval Motorsports Website.

Pit Stops

This Sunday Will Be A Fun Day At The Chowchilla Fair

Well, if you have nothing to do next Sunday, May 17, The Chowchilla Fair is happening at the Chowchilla Fairgrounds.  The IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks are all part of the program at Chowchilla Speedway, which will start at 6:00 PM.  The Modified classes are running their regular programs, while the other two classes will just get Main Events.  They are trying to get it done quickly.  As those two divisions probably wouldn't need more than two heat races, maybe the extra 15-20 minutes could be given to them for their heat races anyway?

Regardless, the show will go on in Chowchilla.  The question is who is showing up for this race?  Last time saw car count dip just a bit from the week before, though the drivers managed to entertain the crowd with what they had.  The concern of racers who love racing at this track should be that management has changed hands five times in 15 years, so how much longer until nobody comes in to save the racing program established by Tom Sagmiller 15 years ago?

The Oval Motorsports created Northern All Stars banner waves over the Mini Stock and Hobby Stock classes, and the town of Chowchilla has three drivers competing in Hobby Stocks.  That dwindled down to one last week after an opening lap crash left Kodie Dean with front end damage and out of the race.  He joined teammate, Austin Van Hoff, who failed to make the call, but Michael Shearer would finish second behind the Kristie Shearer car, driven by Bruce Nelson.

While Kevin Joaquin has a pretty good lead over Van Hoff in the Hobby Stock class after his two wins, Chris Corder won his second feature last time out to increase his lead over friendly rival Alex Odishoo.  The Minis have managed to have some entertaining shows at Chowchilla and have three winners in four races.  Jadon Harrington has come on strong lately with two seconds, and that orange #80 car could be the one to watch this week.

Josh Vogt has set his sights on the Santa Maria and Chowchilla championships.  His third win in a row last time out elevated him closer to second ranked Alex Wilson in the IMCA Modified State point race.  It also gave him the point lead over Danny Luukkonen in the Chowchilla point race.  Danny may have a hard time catching that #25v car, but then again, he won the Super 4 Mini Stock championship at Chowchilla about a decade ago. 

As is the case with the Modifieds, you never know who will show up on any given week in Sport Mods.  Chowchilla is one of three tracks at which Fred Ryland leads the point race.  Ryland has two wins at the track, but he still only leads one time winner Keith Brown Jr. by 11 points.  Brown was battling for the lead again last time when his motor started overheating.  He pitted rather than hurt his motor.  With a third place finish, Josh Gish moved in to third in the standings.  These three competitors should be there this week along with Natasha Dodd and Marissa Odgers.

Several drivers were spectating at Chowchilla last time just to see how things would go down.  They had to be happy that the track held up well and was fast and smooth.  Sagmiller kept water on the track all night long.  Meanwhile, promoter John Soares Jr. was there talking with anybody who wanted a word with him.  Hopefully, this will lead to a good attendance all the way around for this special Chowchilla Fair race.

Late Models Lead A Good Four Division Show At Antioch Speedway

Late Models continue to surprise the fans at Antioch Speedway.  Surprise?  Richard Papenhausen won.  Is that really a surprise?  Well, the reality is we had 12 cars this last week, and that was without Troy Foulger, Dennis Souza and the second David Newquist car, which was still in the shop.  This only shows how much potential this class has, and some Late Model racers may want consider something here as Antioch remains the only Northern California track that runs Late Models.

A lot has been made about guaranteed purses and that sort of thing.  Not to signal out tracks that are doing it, because it's not a bad thing to do that.  However, Bakersfield Speedway started six cars last week, while Antioch started 12.  When it comes to Oval Motorsports and its tracks, the promoter has long demonstrated a willingness to pay more when there are more cars.  As more cars show up, more money will be in the purse.  Antioch Speedway wants to continue to feature this class, the track has been fast and there is a lot of potential for good things to happen here.

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.

Back to last Saturday night and the Late Models, Richard Papenhausen's team was going over the car carefully before the races.  The usual routine has that car up on jack stands the moment it comes out of the trailer.  His last two finishes were fourth and second.  If you now anything about the defending track champion, that's just not acceptable.  He knows his rival, Jeff Decker, is bringing the competition, and Decker didn't back off a bit as he won his heat race.

Come Main Event time, however, Papenhausen ended up on the front row when heat winner David Newquist pulled to the back.  All was not well with David's #04 car, though he continues to be a Top 3 contender at both Antioch and Chico, where he won another heat race and finished fourth in the Main Event on Friday night.  All was well with Papenhausen, and he proved it by winning the Main Event by about a straightaway over Decker.  Given the heat race points, however, Decker will take sole possession of the point lead despite this being Papenhausen's third win.

The division has four winners in six races, and one of them was Paul Guglielmoni.  The two time Petaluma Speedway champion has a few cars in his stable.  We had inquired about Clarke Gugliemoni coming out with one of them, but Paul told us that he is busy with his family these days.  However, the #11 car of Terry Kuntz returned for this race as Paul continues to be a strong supporter of Late Model racing

Terry came into this class differently than most people do.  Whereas drivers like Chester Kniss, Rob Norris and Troy Foulger have Dirt Modified experience, Terry came into the class as a raw rookie.  He was making his second start of the season, and he made it a good one by staying fast and smooth for a lead lap fourth.  Teammate Guglielmoni was right behind him as new third ranked driver Danny Malfatti was seventh.  Danny keeps himself very busy as he races a Winged 360 Sprint Car at Watsonville on Friday nights.

Also taking a lead lap checkered flag in eighth was Chester Kniss.  Chester had fourth for several laps before spinning, but he still had to be happy to get the car to the checkered flag in one piece.  You can see where he has things very close, and a podium finish or even a win in the Delta Transmissions #28 car in the weeks ahead would not be a big surprise.

Past Dirt Modified champion Rob Norris revealed that he hasn't been having all that much fun in the former Shawn DeForest Late Model until the previous race.  Getting comfortable with the handling of the yellow #71 car has been a chore, but he finally got to scale the car and set things up a little better for the previous race.  He was rewarded by making it to the checkered flag that night. 

For this race, Rob had sent a good shock in for a rebuild, but he didn't get it back in time.  It was his right front shock, and DeForest told him he could probably make an older shock work for one more race.  Rob was getting that shock ready at the track and said he had no expectations for the night other than getting it to the checkered flag.  That mission was accomplished.  Though he was lapped, he still finished the race in ninth.

Duane Cleveland made another surprise visit.  The past Chico champion drove a smooth race and won a brief duel with Anthony Restad to finish third.  Restad made his first start of the season.  He's been supporting the division for the past several years at Petaluma, and his family has raced at Yreka and other tracks in that area.  Anthony drove a good race as well, and he finished a solid fourth.

We sometimes refer to the Northern All Stars Hobby Stock division as the "workhorse" division at Antioch Speedway.  They have the most dates at both Antioch and Merced Speedway.  However, the Dwarf Cars keep pretty busy as well.  They just ended a six race streak at the track, and there is another date booked at Merced.  This reporter is still digging for more information to see if one of the other groups, South Bay or Nor Cal, was invited as South Bay has supported Merced and Chowchilla in the past.

In fact, Dwarf Cars are scheduled for May 16 at Merced, June 6 at Chowchilla and June 11th (during the County Fair) at Merced.  The Fair race is paying $1000 to win and $100 to start.  It's rare to have a Dwarf Car race pay that well if it's not one of the big Regional or National events, and we're hearing rumblings of Charlie Correia bringing his cars and Three Nuts Racing bringing the Teves cars as well.

Antioch Speedway has an interesting point battle developing in Dwarf Cars.  Of course, Danny Wagner recently said that he's not even looking at the point sheet, but he may want to start after the latest race.  David Teves is coming to get him, and after coming so close in his second place effort in 2013, he's really stepped up his game this season. 

Crew Chief Dana Craig and David talked a bit about how they built this new chassis to be more responsive and better handling in the turns.  They also added some safety features.  Well, David has yet to finish outside the Top 3 since bringing that car out, and it is noticeably faster.  They are already working on a new car for Adam Teves, and a car could eventually go to Adam's uncle, Kurtis Kraig, who has been busy raising a new child.  When money clears up, Kurtis wants to get back out there.

After the display of impressive driving he put forth, Adam has to be pleased with the #10 car.  He not only won his heat race, but he beat his father to win the Main Event.  Watching from the sidelines as his point lead disappeared was Wagner, who lost a muffler.  Not the sort of night he wanted for his birthday, but he now trails David in the standings as Adam gained some ground as well.

Three Nuts Racing has also helped other racers, including Kevin Miraglio and Miranda Chappa.  Miraglio went to Fernley a week ago, where he finished third, but he returned in a big way on Saturday night with a third place finish.  Chappa seemed to be on her way to a Top 5 finish, but she lost a muffler and had to retire.  It's been nice watching this 500 Mini Sprint racing competitor learn this Dwarf Car and get better each week.  Her father, Danny Chappa, revealed that they have a new motor in the works for the car that should be ready for the next race.

Back in March, Thomas Leiby had a second place finish to Jack Haverty.  It seems like all he's had since then is bad luck.  Thomas hasn't let that keep him from coming back and racing hard each week, and he finally had a change of luck.  He started his night off with a heat race win before finishing fourth in the 15 car Main Event.  It's always nice when you start seeing some positive results after so  much negative.

Havarty has had about as much bad luck as he can handle lately.  Four races ago, he crashed with Robert Coe in Turn 4 and suffered severe front end damage.  After missing a race, he came back strong to go from 12th to fifth in a non stop Main Event.  In the latest race, he thought his chances to win might be better, but he ended up cartwheeling at the end of the front straightaway.  Fortunately, he was not injured, but his car is in need of repairs.  It's probably a good thing that this division is off at Antioch until June 13.

Rookie Toby Brown has a fast car, but he's still learning how to drive it out there.  After his heat race battle with Brian Gray a week ago, he discovered during the week that there was a little frame damage to his #21 car.  Tobi repaired that damage and came back to give it another go this week, but he's still having a difficult time in the turns.  He again fell victim to the track's two yellow flag rule.  Being a rookie with only a bit of Go Kart experience can make driving a Dwarf Car that much more of a challenge.

Dillon Hume has found Antioch to be a challenge as well.  Hume ran his #78 Dwarf Car at Ventura prior to coming to Antioch Speedway this season, but he finds the turns to be a bit trickier than his old home track.  He did okay in his heat race with a third place finish.  Unfortunately, he was out of the Main Event early again and would finish outside the Top 10.

Charlie Correia was having his own issues prior to the last race.  He had a fuel pick up problem and was having a hard time figuring things out with his motor.  The sixth place finish he got that night let him know he was on the right track.  He was sixth in the latest race before making a last turn pass on Michael Commie for fifth.  That was much better, but he knows he can do even better than that.  Crommie's sixth place finish was one of his better efforts, and the steady Brian Gray was happy to finish a lead lap seventh.  Even hard luck racer Tim Reeder grabbed a checkered flag in eighth.  He was running as high as fourth before spinning

Figuring out the point battle in the Hobby Stocks has been a bit of a challenge.  We know that unless he steps away, Kimo Oreta will be champion for the third time in three seasons.  Kimo is one of the nicest guys out there and has not been dominant by any stretch,  He had three seconds and one win going in, so consistency has been the key to his success this season.  Luck of the draw put him on the front row for the Main Event, and he led every lap to score his second win of the season.  Once again, Kimo is starting no better than tenth this week, but he doesn't mind at all.  He knows there are lots of newer drivers in the class, and this improves their chances of getting a little glory.

Robert Niven was so frustrated with his orange #69z car that he was about ready to call it quits.  He was unable to make the previous race, and he enlisted the help of veteran racer Jim Robbins and Michal Burch during the week.  Burch, who is a past Sportsman competitor at Antioch, was in the pits with Niven after helping him straighten out the car during the week.  Niven has had his moments this year, including a sixth place finish from last starting, but Saturday night was his best effort yet.  Robert came from eighth to finish third in the Main Event.  Once again, hard work pays off.

Danny Jones was well on his way to a second place finish in the previous race when it happened.  He ran out of tear offs.  He was almost driving by Braille for the final five laps, and yet he still grabbed a second place finish.  Coming into the latest race, he discovered a cracked manifold, which he welded together at the last minute to make it work.  Danny won another heat race, but he spun from his front row starting spot in the feature.  He drove a great race from there and managed to come back for second.  It looks like Jones is now a career best second in the standings, and that next feature win should be just around the corner.

Michael Cooper had just taken over second in points when the worst thing happened.  He had to miss a race to go to work.  He'll drop to third with Jordan Swank closing in fast after a career best fourth place feature finish.  Frank Furtado's new car has been a bit frustrating at times, but he's making the best of it as he tries to close in on the Top 5 in points.  He lost laps in the pits this week, but he still took a checkered flag. 

Frank revealed that his other car may be seeing action soon with a familiar name behind the wheel.  That would be second generation racer Ray Deitrick.  Some people may recall Ray's father, "Big" Jim Deitrick.  Jim raced Street Stocks, was a track official and drove an ice cream truck through the pits after the races.   Ray has raced here and there where he can, but he's looking forward to getting back out there.

Steven Rogers was one of those Hobby Stock drivers who got caught up in all the controversy over rules.  Rather than make a big statement about everything, he just wanted to know what the rules were.  Once things were clarified for him, he put the motor together and brought his green #25 car back to the track.  He looked good in his heat race, finishing second.  He even had a Top 5 run going before spinning late.  He settled for a lead lap sixth place finish.  All in all, still not a bad season debut for Rogers, and it will get better.

Natalie Perry was in the hunt for a Top 5 finish when she realized she had no brakes and pulled off.  She revealed before the races that reverse wasn't working for her transmission.  This was the same issue Jordan Swank had a few weeks ago before his transmission gave out on him.  Natalie's crew chief Steve Perry revealed that there is a new transmission about ready to go in.  Word is that Jim Robbins may take the wheel of the #40 car for some hot laps and maybe even a heat race this week to offer Natalie some setup help.

Jeremy Jennings wasn't having the best week.  The motor wasn't quite right and he sort of struggled at times and spun from a Top 3 spot.  However, he got his blue #42 car back to the finish line in fifth.  Last week, his brother Jason drove it to a win while he gets a motor together for his white #42j car.  This week will find Jeremy's brother, Tony Jennings Jr., behind the wheel of his car.

One other thought about the Hobby Stock division is that the show is going on and new drivers keep appearing every week.  True, there are a few people who got a little confused about the rules, but things were only adjusted to make it possible for track regulars at Bakersfield to visit one of the Oval Motorsports tracks and be legal as long as they were legal at their track.  Any Oval Motorsports regulars at Antioch, Merced or Chowchilla still need to be legal at the track they regularly support.

Hopefully, a few racers just get back out there and put on a show for the fans again.  This reporter certainly understands the frustrations, especially where money is involved, but as we have seen the loss of Street Stocks, Super Hobby Stocks, Mini Trucks and Four Bangers in recent seasons, we definitely want to see Hobby Stocks live on.  This style of car has been a part of racing at Antioch Speedway for decades, and that trend needs to continue.  The fans love them, and they put on a great show every week.  Hopefully, we'll start seeing certain drivers come back soon, but it's comforting to know that there are still drivers out there making sure the show continues.  Plus, new stars are emerging as they always do.

Speaking of stars, it probably doesn't get any better than "Fast" Freddy Ryland in the IMCA Sport Mod division this year.  Ryland leads Antioch, Watsonville and Chowchilla this year, not to mention the State and Region and second at Merced.  Fred is a little concerned that car count may do in his National Championship aspirations, but he commented that winning possibly three track championships and the IMCA State race would still be nice.  However, it's a little too early to say the National deal is done yet.  Anything can happen.

In the midst of all of that, something else interesting is happening with the current point leader and past Hobby Stock champion.  Fred's win in the most recent race gives him 36 for his Antioch career, and he is in elite company on the win list.  He's approaching such legends as Ed Sans Jr., Steve Hendren and Don Shelton.  The man currently tenth on the Overall Antioch Win List is 40 time winner, Bobby Hogge III.  Fred will be doing all he can to catch Hogge this season, but that may not be easy.

Keith Brown Jr. has had an up and down season, but the downs have caused him to fall further behind Ryland at Antioch.  One of his issues has been a dependable motor, and Keith thinks he may have solved that thanks to a new sponsor.  The talented third generation racer is hoping to make trips to Bakersfield and Santa Maria during Antioch's down time and is looking at making trips up north to Yreka and into Oregon.  Said Keith, it may benefit his effort to race at places in which Ryland isn't competing when he can.

This led Keith to go to Hanford a few weeks ago, and he nearly won that race before getting hit and suffering a little suspension damage.  He still finished third for a solid showing.  His lone win so far is at Chowchilla, where he's 11 points behind Ryland in the point battle.  He gave it everything he had last time at Chowchilla, and the same can be said for Saturday night at Antioch.  Keith tried everything he could to get around Ryland.  When it came to taking his opponent out, he spun himself instead.  He settled for fourth.

Ron Brown may not be in a Limited Late Model these days, but his wife Lori is.  As one of the biggest reasons that class took off in the first place, Ron is still trying to help get those racers back to the track and looking for cars for potential new racers.  One of the reasons the two time Limited Late Model champion is in a Sport Mod this year is to make it easier for the team on race night.  It's easier for the crew to work on Lori's car one week and Ron's the next, and you can see from the results that it does help.

Ron has also been talking with another Limited Late Model alumni, Clay Twigg, about converting his Modified to the Sport Mod class.  For this race, Ron enlisted the help of Aaron Crowell.  He had Aaron come out and hot lap his car and offer some setup advice.  Crowell has a new Dirt Modified to debut at some point this season.  Come Main Event time, Ron led some laps and never fell out of the Top 3.  When K. Brown spun, Ron was there to finish second.  That's his second runner up finish in three races, and there's potential for a win to come soon.

Patti Ryland already has a win, but she'd love a second one.  She drove a good race and was respectful of Brown as she finished third to maintain her potential "Rookie Of The Year" effort.  Given her Four Banger and Hobby Stock success, it's not surprising to see Patti doing so well in a Sport Mod, but she's also branched out a little bit.  She brought her car to the recent races at Chowchilla and Watsonville in an effort to help increase the car count and gain valuable seat time.  Her second at Chowchilla shows that her racing ability translates beyond Antioch Speedway.

Perhaps it's the idea that Fred Ryland needs some competition, but whatever the case, Phil Indihar returned to Antioch Speedway.  Indihar has been doing this racing thing for a while.  He's an Enduro veteran with Hobby Stock wins at Antioch, but the four time Sport Mod feature winner won Antioch's first championship for this division in 2012.  His night ended a disappointing tenth, but on Friday night, he drove it to a second place finish at Watsonville.

The other battle on the track last week was between Paul Mulder, Chuck Golden and Megan Ponciano for fifth.  Mulder made a late pass on Golden for fifth, but the three drivers finished in close order.  Golden was coming off of a second place finish and heat win from the previous race.  We hadn't seen 2013 point runner up Ponciano in a few races, but it was nice to see the green #22 car of the four time feature winner back at the track.  She has already proven she has what it takes to run with the leaders, so it won't be surprising to see her make a run for a win at some point this season.

IMCA Modifieds, Hobby Stocks Steal The Show At Merced Speedway

Car count can surprise you on any given week.  You just don't know who will show up sometimes.  At Merced Speedway Saturday night, the IMCA Modifieds showed up with 17 cars, and the Hobby Stocks delivered 16.  Even the Limited Late Models had a nice little bump in car count at six as two more new cars debuted.  Then, we had a bit of a disappointment with Sport Mods and Mini Stocks, but the show still went on.

The Mini Stocks were down to three cars.  Kevin Lockerby made good on his plans to leave.  His #54 car was never intended to be a regular car in the field, and he was only racing there to shake out some of the bugs.  His decent start saw him coming back for more, but bad luck in his last couple starts saw him hasten his plans to leave for Madera.  After sorting things out with his tires, he'll be racing in the next week or two.

There were a few drivers conspicuous by their absence, and that meant car count was at an all time low.  Dennis Copus really wanted to be there with his new car, but it's been one problem after another for the man ranked fourth in points.  He has already exhausted his budget and is in need of some sponsorship to get him out to the track.  The sooner he can get the money together, the sooner he'll be out there racing again.

Meanwhile, Top 3 Chowchilla racer Mike Congdon was feeling so good after is third place finish in Chowchilla that he thought he'd go back to Merced.  He ran behind the championship battle between Darren Miguel and point leader Chris Corder.  Because Miguel won for the fifth time and also won the heat race, Corder's lead eroded just a bit more.  Corder has not won at Merced this year, but the 2014 champion will need a win if he expects to keep impressive rookie Miguel behind him.

Speaking of impressive rookies, the man putting Miguel in a Four Banger in the first place, Josh Hensley, was trying to maintain his IMCA Sport Mod point lead.  Josh has struggled at times this year, but he's come back for every race.  This has given him a runaway point lead, and that won't change after he finished third in the most recent race.  The fact that there were only five cars in the field was a big disappointment.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Hoff is not racing for points and probably doesn't care where his name ranks on the list.  The 2013 Antioch champion returned to his home track and cruised to victory in the Main Event.  The win moved him from fifth to third in the standings.  Truthfully, Jeremy could win if the car count were triple what was actually there, and it's likely that he can have second in points if he chooses to go for it.  At this point, he's just racing to win wherever he shows up.

The man who won the second and third championships ever for this division at Merced, Shawn Bryant, was back for the second straight week.  Shawn didn't quite have enough to challenge Hoff, but he still finished second.  It looks like Shawn is getting more comfortable, and that could mean he will be a threat to win in the weeks ahead.  Alan Pace was making only his second start of the season and Ron Worthy made his season debut.  The duo ran fourth and fifth, respectfully, in the Main Event.

The IMCA Modified division got an unexpected boost in car count as several drivers made surprise visits.  Among the list was four time Antioch champion Troy Foulger, 2014 Merced champion Paul Stone in the Jack Mounce car and Justin Crockett.  It all added up to a 17 car field and some good racing action.  The Wilson boys were back in action, and title contenders John MacDougall and Bill Egleston were also in the pack for this one.

While Alex Wilson is going for a track championship and still in contention for the State title, Kyle Wilson is showing up here and there to race for wins.  Kyle won last time and then went to Chowchilla and finished third.  Kyle was back and winning again this week after starting on the pole.  The race within the race will probably continue for the remainder of the season.  It was A. Wilson finishing third but only adding one point to his lead over fourth place finisher MacDougall.  Egleston didn't lose much ground on the lead duo as he finished sixth.

Randy Brown was a welcome addition to the group this week.  His last start is one he'd just as soon forget as he ended up rolling his car at Chowchilla.  Brown would finish second this time, letting him know that his car seems to be running as strong as ever.  Karl Rose didn't do too badly for himself either.  A few weeks ago at Chowchilla, Rose grabbed a second place finish, and he managed to pick up a fourth place finish this week at Merced.  Rose seems to be close to picking up a win of his own.  A pat on the back also goes out to Les Friend.  Les won his heat race and earned a respectable seventh place feature finish.

The Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks weren't far behind the IMCA Modifieds with a 16 car field.  The competition is so tough in this division that nine different drivers have won the ten races.  It was another new winner, in his season debut, who won Saturday's race.  Chris Mayer was behind the wheel of the #47m car, and he actually beat the point leader to win this race.  Kevin Joaquin has been knocking on the door to his third feature win, but he instead had to settle for his third straight second place finish.  As rookie Jennifer Corder finished tenth and Joaquin also won his heat race, his point lead will increase.

Speaking of heat winners, it was Raul "Showtime" Rodriquez picking up a heat race win of his own after making a couple of passes late in the race.  Raul had a front row start and figured to be a threat to win the Main Event.  Unfortunately, the multi time champion ended up ninth.  The week before, Andrew Krumm was eliminated in a crash with George Silva.  He bounced back pretty nicely for this race by finishing fourth in the Main Event behind one of this season's feature winner's, Kristie Shearer.  Shearer had turned over the driving duties to Bruce Nelson at Chowchilla last week, and he promptly drove her #73 car to a victory.

Travis Avila had to be a little happier with the fifth place finish he got at Merced.  Chowchilla last week was a bit of a nightmare as he spun out from second twice.  The first time eliminated Corder and Kodie Dean, and Dean suffered some heavy front end damage in the process.  This was more like it for Avila, who has one second place finish at Merced this season.    Nick Lawrence didn't do too badly himself as he drove to a seventh place finish in only his third start this season.  Lawrence ended up behind sixth place finisher Austin Van Hoff, who finished second in his heat race earlier in the evening.

The Hobby Stock division continues to welcome new drivers.  This week, it was 2011 Chowchilla champion Ryan Hart and Mini Stock point leader Chris Corder.  Actually, Hart has one Merced start this season, but he's also been racing at Madera.  Corder's night didn't go so well as he scratched after his heat race, but there's always next week.  As he is in the midst of a close Mini Stock championship battle at Merced and leading at Chowchilla as well, the Hobby Stock may not be a high priority, but it won't be a surprise to see him return with the Hobby Stock in the weeks ahead.

Speaking of season debuts, the Limited Late Model car count increased to six cars as Jeff Kendrick and Donny Richardson were in the pack.  We also got word that Ronnie Cole's Top 3 car from last season is ready to go and may be at the next race.  While that was all happening, the same thing was happening at the front of the pack that we've been seeing all season.  Mark Garner won an early race battle with his closest point rival, Buddy Thatcher, and he went on to post his fourth win of the season. 

The win was further confirmation that Garner's purple #76a car is running stronger than ever after he had to reclip the car following a hard crash at Antioch a few weeks ago.  Garner is doing a documentary titled "It's All For A Reason" that will come out soon.  In it, he explains what this season is all about for the Maverick Racing Team and how he is dedicating his season and all of his accomplishments to his father, Antioch Speedway legend, Jerry "The Maverick" Garner.

For a while, Thatcher probably thought he might be able to win this race, but it all went away from him after Garner got the lead.  Buddy fell to a fourth place finish as Kendrick's season debut was good enough for a second place finish.  Third ranked Scott Van Gelder had a third place finish.  It was encouraging to see the increase in car count for this division, and it is hoped that this is a trend that will continue in the weeks ahead as Merced Speedway establishes its own Limited Late Model division.

Racing continues at Merced Speedway this Saturday night with a program that will feature IMCA Sport Modifieds, Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks, Dwarf Cars and Mini StocksAt Antioch, this Saturday's five division program will include Northern All Stars Winged 360 Sprint Cars, IMCA Modifieds, Wingless Spec Sprints, Limited Late Models and Hobby Stocks.  Meanwhile, Chowchilla Speedway runs on Sunday as part of the Chowchilla Fair and will feature IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks.  For further information, check the official Oval Motorsports Website.