Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Pit Stops From Antioch, Merced and Chowchilla

First of all...

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

Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover

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

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

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

Short Track History Project at Gofundme

Additional info on the Short Track History Project  HERE

DCRR Racing Radio Audio Calls From Antioch Speedway 

DCRR Racing Radio Audio Calls From Chowchilla Speedway

Looking For A Few Races To Watch From Last Week?   Check This Out.... has Main Event Action from Bakersfield available for viewing HERE

The Winged 360 Sprint Car Main Event From Petaluma Speedway Can Be watched HERE

The Wingless Spec Sprint Main Event From Petaluma Speedway Can Be watched HERE

The Lumberjack Restaurant Super Stocks Main Event From Petaluma Speedway Can Be watched HERE

The Larsen Racing Products Dwarf Cars Main Event From Petaluma Speedway Can Be watched HERE

The Mini Stocks Main Event From Petaluma Speedway Can Be watched HERE

Pit Stops 
IMCA Modifieds, Dwarf Cars Put On A Show At Antioch Speedway

IMCA Modifieds were back and headlining a four division show at Antioch Speedway Saturday night.  Also on the card were the Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks, Limited Late Models and Dwarf Cars.  The night featured some competitive and action packed Main Events for all divisions.

The IMCA Modifieds saw a visit from the Wilson brothers, Kyle and Alex.  The two do much of their racing at Merced Speedway and Ocean Speedway in Watsonville, and Alex is the current Merced point leader.  Last time they raced at Merced, it was Kyle picking up the win, so both of them figured that they would be factors in the battle at Antioch.

Jeff Thomas has been a factor in the battle in the past.  He was runner up in points in 2011 at Antioch, but this year has been up and down for him.  Two races ago, he had a few encounters with the wall.  Last time out, he won his heat race, only to blow a motor. So, it was back to the drawing board for the man who is one of the creators of the Grand Theft Auto video game franchise.

Josh Combs was back in action in his Modifed.  Last time out, he was caught in a back stretch crash that eliminated he and Nick Viscusi III.  Josh has pavement experience in a Late Model, but he's still learning the ropes in his beautiful #12 Dirt Modified.  He had a surprise for the field on Saturday night.

Seeing Carl Berendsen II win a Main Event this year won't be a surprise.  He's definitely been fast in the former Aaron Crowell car.  Carl is still getting used to the different suspension of the car and how to drive it, but he knows he has a car that can go to the front.  Even with a damaged shock last time out, he still came back up to third after being spun.  Carl is not really trying to chase points this year, but he's still battling for third in the standings.

The two drivers in front of him are no surprise.  There's point leader Bobby Motts Jr. and four time champion Scott Busby.  Motts has said he's going for the title, but Busby is being quiet on what he's trying to do.  He has said he can make most of the races, but his most recent race ended in a DNF.  Earlier in that race, he had been put to the back of the pack by officials after Berendsen's spin.  It was actually a close call, but Busby was right up behind him.  With the DNF, Busby was passed by Motts in the standings.

What was about to happen Saturday night was nothing short of amazing.  The first surprise came in the form of Combs leading the race for ten laps.  Berendsen gave chase for much of that, and Combs at one point hit the front wall and got both right wheels in the air.  It didn't look like all was right with his #12 car, but he drove a heck of a race.  The 11th lap was when Thomas slipped past both of them to take the lead.

What was amazing was the six car battle we had up front, which at times was a blanket race up front with three abreast and side by side racing.  Berendsen must have had a flashback after he spun in Turn 2 with Busby right behind him, but officials ruled it a racing deal.  This gave Busby the opening to make a challenge on Thomas for the lead, but Thomas was looking good.  Unfortunately, his motor went away from him on lap 17.

Busby had the lead from there and sped home to what would be the 60th win of his decorated Antioch Speedway Dirt Modified career.  Bobby Motts Jr. quietly crept to a fourth place finish to maintain his lead, but the passing honors went to four time champion Troy Foulger, who went from eighth to second in the Bowers Racing #49 car.  So much for no passing on the hooked up race track.  Kyle Wilson's night never really got going as he ended up eighth, while his brother Alex finished third.  Berendsen had a DNF in 12th, while Combs was sixth.

Despite all of the talk of who might not be racing, ten Hobby Stocks were on hand to race at Antioch Speedway, and this included the debut of Cameron Swank.  Cameron is the son of a past Top 10 Street Stock driver and Main Event winner named Glenn Swank, and he's the cousin of rookie Jordan Swank.  Cameron got an old roller and completely redid it for his racing debut.  He was a bit nervous but ready to go.  He would take a checkered flag in his first start.

Chris Long raced a Limited Late Model back in January, but he returned to his Hobby Stock roots for his season debut in the black #99 car.  Through the years, Chris has picked up some Main Event wins in this division, and he gave it a really good run Saturday night before finishing third after a duel with Danny Jones.

Jones was hoping he had his bad luck behind him.  In his last visit, Danny won his heat race, but his motor was damaged when the air cleaner bolt was sucked into the engine.  Jones missed a race putting a motor together, and he and his crew were finishing things up before the races.  The hard work paid off as Danny drove to his second runner up finish of the season, despite a little bit of smoke coming from his car.  Looking like he did out there, you have to believe a win will come soon.

Jason Jennings got an opportunity to wheel his brother Jeremy's blue #42 car for a week.  He was wanting to test his brother's setup to see if it might be something he'd want to try on his own car.  It was also the seventh anniversary of the passing of his uncle Tom Jennings, and he was hoping to pick up a win for him.  As it turned out, the 2004 Four Banger champion was unstoppable.  He drove a flawless race in his brother's car to get his second win of the season.  For good measure, Jason also won his heat race.

At times, Jordan Swank has felt like the whipping boy out there.  The rookie and 2014 Mini Stock point runner up has been knocked around a little bit, but he continues to come back.  He and Danny Jones were ted for fifth a few weeks ago.  While Jones was having his problems, Jordan suffered a broken transmission to end his night.  Reverse was the first to go, and it was all down hill from there.

Jordan got his first indication of the progress he has made when he held off second ranked driver Michael Cooper to win his first heat race in Hobby Stocks Saturday night.  He ran second early in the Main Event before finishing sixth behind Cooper.  Jordan's sister, Tayler, is riding passenger with Cooper and will have her own Hobby Stock out there at some point, keeping father Kenny Swank that much more busy.

Don't look now, but Michael Cooper is having his best season ever in Hobby Stocks.  He is now ranked second in the standings.  Cooper is coming off of back to back fifth place seasons in his red #57 car, and he was hoping this will be the year he can make a break through.  His Top 5 finishes in the last two races have helped the cause, and he'll be shooting for a Top 3 finish next time out.

Kimo Oreta just continues to go out there and get it done in the #03 car.  The two time defending champion and current point leader hasn't dominated by any means.  He has one win and three seconds, but he is smooth and usually finishes near the front.  On this occasion, he came from the fifth row to a fourth place finish.  The rumors have been circulating that Kimo may make a move up in 2016, but for now, he's just having some fun in the Hobby Stocks.

What Russell Shearer had was anything but fun.  Earlier this year, he returned and had a Top 5 finish, but this was not to be his night.  Shearer clobbered the front wall, ending his night with a lot of damage to his orange #84 car.  Not the kind of night he was hoping for.

Miranda Chappa continues to climb the point ladder in her #81 Dwarf Car.  If the last name sounds familiar, maybe that's because her grandfather is past NCMA Modified competitor Gordon Chappa.  Her father Danny Chappa is Gordon's adopted son.  Miranda has been racing since a very young age.  Prior to getting the Dwarf Car, she raced 500 Mini Sprints at tracks like Dixon Speedway and Delta Speedway.

You can see Chappa improving with each race, and her finishes are getting better.  She had another Top 10 finish last time out, which came a week after her sixth place finish.  This time around, Miranda finished seventh and is poised to make a move further up from her tenth position in the standings.

Chappa got her motor from Jerry Doty, who opted for something different with this car.  He actually debuted the car with a few races last year, but he's been gunning for a Top 5 season this year. Last time out didn't help as a broken axle left him with a DNF.  His eighth place finish in the latest race was slightly better, and he will continue to hold fifth in the standings, just ahead of Charlie Correia.

Charlie is about as big a Dwarf Car booster as you can find.  He again brought three cars to the track, but the driver scheduled to rent his third car never showed up.  Two races ago, he looked like he was turning a corner in the luck department as he finished fifth.  Unfortunately, a fuel problem the next week caused his car to slow, and he ended up pitting.

Correia revealed that he thought he had figured out the problem.  He added that if not, he'd simply pull he motor and start over again.  Charlie wasn't having the best of weeks with his street cars during the week, and he discovered at the track that he may need to retire the old trailer he tows his three cars with.  As far as his race car is concerned, he had a decent night with a sixth place finish.

When the Main Event lined up with point leader Danny Wagner on the front row, it might have been a foregone conclusion who the winner was going to be.  However, Correia's teammate, Mike Corsaro, had other ideas.  Mike was coming off back to back Top 3 finishes, and he surprised Wagner by passing him late for the lead and victory.  If Corsaro keeps this up, he may join David Teves and Wagner in the championship battle.  Wagner would finish in second, while previous winner Teves rallied from tenth starting to finish third despite the lack of a caution flag.

Brian Gray was having a good week.  His youngest daughter was graduating Junior College, and he was just featured in an article in Speedway Illustrated Magazine.  Brian revealed that he will be missing some races to take his professional bucking bull to some big professional rodeo events.  On this night, he managed to lead some laps in his heat race in the former Ray Etherton car, but he finished a disappointed tenth in the Main Event.  Considering he finished and drove the car back on the trailer, Brian probably wasn't too disappointed.

Disappointed probably doesn't begin to describe how Jack Haverty felt when he raced last at Antioch.  The man with one feature win so far this season was involved in a crash with Robert Coe that left his car with severe front end damage.  After missing a race, he returned and won a heat race.  The night ended on a positive note as he started 12th and charged to a fifth place finish behind fourth place finisher Adam Teves in the non stop event.

The last time the Limited Late Models were in action, Mike Gustafson was scoring his first win of the season.  The car was hooked up that night, and it was Mike's time to shine.  With over 40 wins to his credit and two championships in this division, Gustafson is the all time winner.  The car is the same one John Soares Jr. built for him years ago, and Mike is just keeping the
maintenance up.  It's been a good car for him.

Larry Damitz certainly didn't hand Mike that win.  He raced him hard before settling for second.  He knew going into the race that Mike would be hard to beat.  The track was perfect and he knew Mike's car was dialed in.  Damitz is the #2 driver on the all time win list in this division and has three championships there, so the fans were treated to a battle between two of the best that night.  Damitz would win the most recent feature for his third of the year and 30th of his career in the class.

Mark Garner was the one providing the pressure.  Considering the extensive front end damage he had from the previous race, Garner was just happy to be back out there racing.  He started the night off as he had the race before, winning his heat race.  Garner ran right behind Damitz in the Main Event, but the Merced point leader couldn't make the pass.  He was still pleased with the comeback he had and is confident that another Antioch feature win is just around the corner.  But, making this night special was the fact that his father, Jerry Garner, was there to see it all.

Jim Freethy debuted a brand new car and was still putting the finishing touches on his beautiful #99 car before the races.  He managed to hold off Mike Hynes for a third place finish, which made this a nice shakedown run for the car.  When the division returns for their next race, you can bet that the 2013 champion will be going for the victory.

Jim Robbins would like to get his #08 car back on the track again.  He had a Top 5 finish when he debuted the car at the end of last season.  Because Jim has had such a busy schedule and is working behind the scenes to help Oval Motorsports keep things going smoothly on race day, racing has taken a back seat, but in July, he's dusting off his Hobby Stock for some Figure 8 racing at the Alameda County Fair.

Another new car we hope to see soon will be the #25 car of former Top 10 Baylands American Stock racer Calvin Louis Sr.  So far, we've been watching his son, Calvin Jr., race Hobby Stocks, but the older Louis is looking forward to joining the Limited Late Model ranks.  Back in the early 1990's, Calvin did some Late Model racing at Petaluma and Antioch, so he's not completely new to this type of car.  He was certainly fast in American Stocks and a Main Event winner in the competitive fields they had back then.

Hobby Stocks Continue To Be Unpredictable At Merced

Out at Merced Speedway, there should be a bunch of drivers chomping at the bit to bring their Hobby Stocks out to the track.  This has truly been a wide open season with no less than eight feature winners in nine races.  The only driver to be a repeat winner so far this year is point leader Kevin Joaquin.  Kevin was hoping to complete his charge from near the back with a third Main Event triumph, but he was met at the front of the pack by eventual winner Kodie Dean.

It was a race that cursed several drivers who had led during the race, and the outcome remained in doubt until the finish.  It was an eventful race for Ty Shelton, Andrew Krumm, George Silva, Austin Van Hoff and others.  There were 13 drivers in action for this race, and that again included a few names that haven't been seen much at the track this season.

Tim Drake wheeled the #86 car of Josh Hensley, while newcomer Adam Reed picked up a fourth place finish.  Bobby Williams, Curtis Thornhill and Steve Torres were also in the pack.  Torres is a driver who goes back to the mid 1980's in Street Stocks at Antioch.  Steve has been racing Hobby Stocks at Merced in recent years, and he was making his first start of the season.

Rookie Jennifer Corder ran a consistent race and was rewarded with a solid third place finish.  This keeps her in firm control of second in the standings and maintains her status as the top rookie in the division.  Robbie Loquaci was having a good night at the start with a second place finish in his heat.  The 2006 Chowchilla Mini Stock champion ended up sixth in the Main Event, but some mechanical problems made this a disappointing night.  Robbie wasn't the only racer with a car in need of repairs by night's end.

The Valley Sportsman division had four cars again, and word is that there are a couple other cars set to debut soon.  Mark Odgers has also said that he will have his car back at the track in the near future.  He was a little disappointed at some of the contact racing that resulted in some damage to his #4m car last time out, but the past Merced and Chowchilla Sportsman champion loves the class.

This time around, Mike Palmberg had a double second place night, but the winners were different in both races.  Kenny Birdsong was the winner of the heat race, while point leader Marcus Lung used his pole position start to win the Main Event.  Second ranked Jeff Bristow also raced, but he ended up last behind Birdsong in the feature.  The next goal for the division should be a season high car count of six or better.

This was one of those weeks in IMCA Sport Mods where some of the "name" drivers were not part of things, but the show went on.  Fred Ryland's National Championship quest continued, but his shadow, Keith Brown Jr., didn't make it to the track.  Word was that Brown was on his way when his tow vehicle started overheating.  He elected to turn around and go home.

The way Ryland was running, it may not have mattered anyway.  He started in the third row and would win by a half lap.  Ryland's finish assured him that no matter what happens next race while he is back at Antioch, he will still remain in second in the point standings.  The win was his fourth of the season at Merced and 12th on the circuit, but he wasn't done yet.

The other Antioch racer joining Ryland at Merced was Al Johnson.  Johnson had a front row start with Tim Cecil.  Cecil had finished second behind Ryland in the heat race, but he ended up last in the Main Event,  Johnson didn't fare much better, but he did take a checkered flag in sixth.

The man putting on a show from the back of the pack was Mark Odgers.  Odgers started back in the fourth row for the Main Event and passed almost everybody.  The last battle he had was for second with Shawn Bryant.  The two time champion Bryant was making his first start of the season, and Odgers eventually made the pass.  By then, Ryland was way too far ahead to catch, but second was still the best finish of the season for Odgers.  Odgers has been making the most out of his old car, which may be the oldest in the field.

Veteran Gary Tucker already has one win this season, and he may have been thinking he could make a run to the front.  On this night, the best he could manage was fourth ahead of point leader Josh Hensley.  Fifth was still the best finish the rookie has had all season, and he hopes he can do better as he races his new car.  Having the point lead is all well and good, but he wants to win some races too.

In the Mini Stocks, Chris Corder can feel the pressure coming from that #86 car of Darren Miguel.  Miguel has not only stuck with Corder in the point race, he's won more races.  Corder has had to be content with all seconds and thirds at Merced, but his seconds on Saturday night came to Miguel in both races.  If this continues to be the trend, he could lose the point lead soon.

Kevin Lockerby's luck has gotten so bad that he's not even starting most of the Main Events lately.  A crash in his heat race sidelined Lockerby for the rest of the night.  It didn't hurt him too badly in points as Joy Alger and Dennis Copus weren't even there.  Copus is set to debut a new car.  Lockerby is planning to race at Madera soon.

Four Divisions Compete In Chowchilla Speedway Daytime Show

It was at Chowchilla Speedway where Natalie Waldrop made her latest Mini Stock appearance.  Natalie has been doing some racing on the dirt at Merced and the pavement of Madera this year as Antioch's decision to drop the class has forced her to take her show on the road.  With her as always was her father, 1998 Antioch Speedway Street Stock champion Rob Waldrop.

Natalie hasn't made every race at Merced, but she is seventh in the standings so far.  Not bad for the rookie.  To get more seat time, Natalie does some racing on the pavement of Madera as well, and that's where she was on Saturday night.  At Chowchilla, she didn't finish her heat race, but she did take a lead lap checkered flag in the Main Event in sixth.  She will continue to get better with more track time.

Track time was something Mike Congdon was hoping for.  Last time he raced, Mike was doing pretty well until he lost a wheel.  Despite that bit of bad luck, Mike was Top 3 in the points going in to this race, and his night got a bit animated after contact between he and Nick Sagmiller left his car damaged.  Mike regrouped and came back up to a third place finish in the Main Event.  All in all, not a bad night.

That was one spot ahead of Brian Widdowson.  Brian was driving the Chris Corder team car as Corder was trying to get more cars to the track.  Alex Odishoo was also back trying to hold his second position in points.  Odishoo is a busy man on Saturday nights as the Merced Speedway announcer, but he is enjoying his time driving the red, white and blue #48 Mini Stock at Chowchilla.  In fact, he declined the opportunity to announce at Chowchilla in order to race.

The one thing Odishoo and Corder have in common is both are Merced Mini Stock champions.  Corder is the 2014 champion and leads at Merced and Chowchilla this season.  The one thing Chris Corder hasn't done at Merced is win a feature this year.  He won the opener at Chowchilla and was hungry for victory on Sunday.  Odishoo gave him all he could handle, but his motor started misfiring as he fell back to fifth.  Corder, meanwhile, grabbed the Main Event winner's plaque with his second victory of the season.

Jadon Harrington made his first dirt start in impressive fashion last time out with a second place finish at Chowchilla.  He's been doing some racing on the pavement as well and was third in Mini Stock points at Madera last season.  On this night, Jadon had a good run and ended up with another second place finish.  It seems a feature victory could be just around the corner for the driver of the orange #80 car.

Josh Vogt seems like he wins just about everywhere he goes with his #25v IMCA Modified.  Saturday was a rare bad night at Santa Maria as he finished eighth.  He had won at Ventura a week ago, which is where he won one of his two 2014 championships.  Chowchilla is the other place, and Josh was closing in on the point lead after back to back victiories.  The team had his car up on jack stands, switching the setup for the night, and they must have done it right.  Vogt was the winner for the third straight race.

Troy Foulger was a bit of a surprise arrival, and it was nice to see not just Billy Bowers, but his father Bill Bowers in the pits.  The Bill Bowers-J.D. Willis combination accounted for many wins back at Antioch Speedway.  Billy Bowers has shown he has the knack for building winning cars just like his father, and he and Troy have combined for four championships at Antioch.

For this race, Billy and Troy debuted a new Modified.  This would be the car they'd like to take to some big money races across the country, and they know dry slick tracks will be common.  They wanted to test the setup.  Actually, the Bowers Racing Chassis was hooked up as he ran second in the Main Event before motor problems sidelined him.  They still gained valuable information from this visit that can be applied in the future.

Darrell Hughes II didn't fare too well.  Of course, Darrell is a third generation racer.  People may know his father was a very competitive Street Stock racer and won the 2002 Chowchilla championship.  Darrell Sr. will be driving his Pro Stock at Santa Maria later this season.  Darrell II made a trip recently for the $1200 to win race at Yreka, and he did pretty well at Fernley recently with a drive from the back to finish fourth.  Unfortunately, mechanical problems on the pace lap of the Main Event sidelined him for the night.

Bill Egleston was a late arrival, but the 2012 Merced champion was familiar enough with Chowchilla Speedway that it wasn't a problem.  Kyle Wislon was the only Wilson brother at Chowchilla this time and was adjusting the bars in his car after Antioch.  He thought he may have had something loose in the rear end, so he was busy with that for a while.  The work paid off as he had a good run in second, but Egleston made a last lap pass to drop Wilson to third.  Still, it was Top 3 finish for both of then.

2005 Chowchilla Modified Mini Stock champion, Danny Luukkonen is climbing up the point ladder in the IMCA Modifieds and has a legitimate shot at second.  He grabbed a checkered flag in fourth to help that effort.  John Osgood III gets an honorable mention by trying to do something for the fans.  He got some trading cards with his picture and information on the back.

When this reporter was taking a picture of the car, he handed out a card and proceed to talk about how it's the fans who make this all the more worth it for the racers.  He even handed out cards to the fans in the stands, and he deserves a pat on the back for understanding how important this sort of thing is.  It wasn't a great night for him as she struggled with the handle on his #32 car, but he still grabed a checkered flag in fifth.

Kevin Joaquin was in action on Sunday and was coming off of his second straight runner up finish a night earlier at Merced.  Kevin has two wins each at Merced and Chowchilla this year to lead the Hobby Stock point standings at both places.  It wasn't until his uncle gave him a ride in a Hobby Stock at Fernley about five years ago that he started thinking he could do this racing thing.  His grandfather actually raced Midgets years ago, but he was too young to remember that.

He began building a car and joined the action at Merced.  His previous two seasons resulted in two Top 3 point efforts along with Main Event wins.  He feels pretty good about his chances of winning a championship, and that is the goal this season.  The team is after two championships.  Sunday was a bit of a disappointment as he spun from second.  However, he took a checkered flag in fourth after winning his heat race earlier in the day.

A conversation with Mini Stock racer Alisa Caldwell revealed that Joaquin is helping get her into a new Mini Stock.  Her #21 car is just a bit battered, and it ended up on the trailer after an hard heat race crash.  Alisa has been having a lot of fun and has a good attitude.  The same can be said for Jennifer Corder.  Jennifer started the season out in both a Mini Stock and the Hobby Stock she brought to the recent Chowchilla race.

Jennifer realized that it was just a bit too much to race both cars, so she eventually sold the Mini Stock she drove to second in points at Merced in 2014.  She says it's a world of difference going from Mini Stocks to Hobby Stocks, and she prefers the Hobby Stock.  People, including this reporter, have told the Hobby Stock rookie that she'll probably be getting her first win in this division soon.  She finished a sold third at Merced on Saturday.  On Sunday, she was caught in the same crash that ended the race for Kodie Dean.

It was a terrible night for Chowchilla based drivers as Austin Van Voff and Dean both watched the Main Event finish from the sidelines.  Problems in hot laps ended Van Hoff's night early.  Dean hit a spun Travis Avila in the Main Event, knocking the front end off of his car.  Amazingly, the third ranked driver managed to drive his car back up onto the trailer afterwards.

Avila was at Merced not too many weeks ago and finished second in the Main Event.  He travels to some races with another driver from the Bakersfield area, Alvin Ince.  Ince has been racing Hobby Stocks for several years, but this year, he's racing at several different tracks.  He has indicated that Antioch Speedway may be on his schedule too, and he's aware of the big Mike Cecil Memorial Race on August 1 at Watsonville.

Avila won his heat race to start the might off.  Just as he was making a run at Bruce Nelson, he spun in Turn 4, resulting in the crash that eliminated Dean and Corder.  He got back up to second, but the tricky dry slick conditions got the better of him again as he spun one more time to end up fifth.  Ince, meanwhile, brought it home to a third place finish.

Nelson has already been there and done that with Hobby Stocks as a two time Merced Speedway champion. When he brings his Sport Mod to the track, he is fast and puts on a show.  He had a front row start for the Hobby Stock feature in the Christie Shearer car and led all the way for the victory.  The Shearer cars got a 1-2 finish as Michael Shearer would finish second after the Avila spun.

Fred Ryland was concerned enough about IMCA Sport Mod car count that he talked his wife Patti into coming to Chowchilla with her car.  Fred is chasing the National title, and in addition to wins and track championships, he knows the importance of car count.   Fred was threatened early on in the Chowchilla Main Event Keith Brown Jr., but Brown had mechanical problems and spun to end his race.  Brown did win his heat race earlier.  Fred won the feature, and Patti's season debut at Chowchilla resulted in a second place finish.

Josh Gish was steady and made his laps to finish third, which will move him up to second in the standings.  The battle for fifth in the points is between Natasha Dodd and Marissa Odgers.  It wasn't a pretty night for Dodd as she struggled with the handle of her #81 car.  She still managed to finish fourth in the Main Event, just ahead of Odgers.

Marissa is driving one of the nicest looking cars you'll find in any pit area, and it's a newer chassis too.  The past Merced Mini Stock Champion is gonna get it to the finish line more often than not, and that's what happened on Sunday with her fifth place finish.  The Odgers family remains one of the more respected racing families in the area, and they support these tracks with one car or another every time they can.  Marissa has done well at Chowchilla in the past, ranking third in Sport Mod points in 2011.

With the dry-slick and dusty conditions they dealt with last time, some of the drivers weren't sure about racing.  Several chose to spectate and watched as the drivers had a smooth track.  It was dry, but Tom Sagmiller was on the track frequently with the water truck.  Promoter John Soares Jr. was on hand to keep an eye on things and field any questions.  A few people took adevantage of the chance to come up and say hi.

Car count was by no means spectacular at Chowchilla, but the racers still did their best to entertain the fans who came to watch.  Between Osgood and his cards and Fred Ryland again giving his winner's plaque to a lucky young fan, these are the kinds of things that make a difference.  When racing returns with these four divisions racing during the Chowchilla Fair on May 17, there's every reason to expect that things will be even better.

Antioch Speedway will return with a four divisions show next Saturday.  Divisions on the card will include DIRTcar Late Models, IMCA Sport Modifieds,
Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars.  At Merced, the IMCA Modifieds and Sport Mods headline a show that also includes the Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks, Limited Late Models and Mini Stocks.  For further information, check the official Oval Motorsports Website.

New Division Ideas

I will try to be brief as I've written quite enough for the day.  If I am able to do a new audio show later this week, I'll cover this more.  I may have mentioned that I spoke with John Bellando about the divisions we have at Antioch Speedway these days.  I've referred to this as Divisionitis.  We have too many divisions and need to find a way to get the racers into fewer classes.

My big issue with this is that the drivers have what they have.  Telling somebody their class is gone and they have to get this car instead won't work.  They'll park or race elsewhere.  It was a process to get us where we are, and it will be a process to fix things.

I think if I assessed the car count situation, I would find that there are plenty of IMCA Modifieds, Sport Modifieds and Hobby Stocks out there.  The goal should be getting racers to want to come back and race as often as possible.  I want each of them to feel like they are important, because they are.

Mini Stocks have about 20 who have raced in The Valley, and there are more cars down there.  In fact, there are cars in the Antioch area without a home.  It seems weird to me that Mini Stocks and Mini Trucks faded the way they did at Antioch.  Seeing Ray Bunn's name in the results at another track made me think about that.

Dwarf Cars are out there.  Actually, I'd love to see a big race for them, because I think they are worth it.  That's more an Antioch thing than a Merced deal.  Just as Sportsman cars are Merced.  We need to get those cars back out to Merced in bigger numbers.

Wingless Spec Sprints are hurting, but that's due to the rule changes.  If we hang in there and give it time, it may recover to a better level.  The high end Winged 360 Sprint Cars and Late Models are the big purse classes.  Both could become mid teen car counts, but with Late Models, I'm not sure it could get bigger than 16-18 cars.  The potential with the Sprint Cars is unclear, but it could be big.  These classes need special attention and more hype given to them.

Then, there's Limited Late Models.  There are probably 16-18 cars in the area, maybe more.  We need to get them back out there.  Merced has been transitioning from Street Stocks to Limited Late Models and has lost cars on the way.  The same can be said for Antioch, where we tried Super Hobby Stocks for three years.

The potential is there with Modifieds, because you have so many chassis out there.  This is what led to an idea I've been discussing with somebody.  This class isn't going anywhere in the near future.

Hobby Stocks are the new Street Stocks.  Get the cars out there and have a race.  People love these cars.

Dwarf Cars still have a ton of cars.  Like the Dirt Modifieds, there are just a lot of cars out there.  Here's your base divisions.

My first instinct is to just focus on getting the cars out there in the divisions we have.  Antioch has so much going that this is the best way to go, and I'll tell you why.  We've fragmented car count enough already.  Plus, there's untapped potential.

For instance, if we build up a Late Model or 360 Sprint Car show properly, a race or two could be shared with Merced or Chowchilla.  I wouldn't advise that now, but as car count goes up, why not?  With Merced and Chowchilla, we need to focus on the four core classes and getting the car counts up.

But, I heard an idea that comes full circle with 1987 Santa Maria.  The DIRT Modifieds like they run in Pennsylvania and New York.  Think California Dirt Cars.  I love these cars.  The NCMA was this way, but as Santa Maria embraced the bigger cars of the eastern style, the NCMA went in another direction by 1990.  There is an interest in this class.  The reason I'm reluctant is becase you have nothing to base this on and it feels like another 6-8 car show to me.  Neat cars, sure, but do we need them?

Then, there's the Outlaw Modified idea.  The concept goes like this.  You have a Sport Mod and then if you want more, there is Outlaw Modifieds.  Bigger tires, wings on the cars.  Almost a modern day Sportsman division.  These cars would certainly have the coolness factor.  At the end of the year, Antioch was one of those tracks that let the modifieds put on wings and sideboards for the special race.

I know this is at odds with the IMCA deal.  I get that.  And, the problem is, if you do Outlaw Modifieds, there's not much room for IMCA Modifieds.  It's risky to do that.  You could lose it all.  Or, you could start a trend that reinvents this class in a cool new way.  You'd be using the Modofied chassis anyway, so that means there's potential for steady car count increase.

Anyway, it's all just talk, and I'm not sure adding anything new is best for racing now.  Sure, I've been looking at IMCA Stock Cars, but I'd rather see the Hobby Stocks we already have with more cars.  I am of the opinion we can get all the numbers up if we adjust our approach and start working on things now.  I'd love to be a part of helping make the good things start happening, but I do believe the future can be very bright for these race tracks.