Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pit Stops From Antioch, Merced and 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

DCRR Racing Radio Show Audio Calls From Antioch Speedway

DCRR Racing Radio Show Audio Calls From Chowchilla Speedway

The latest on Bakersfield Speedway and the Bako Motorsports Power Out is on YouTube and be viewed HERE

The article we sent off to several sources moments after the last checkered for Antioch Speedway can be viewed HERE

Tony Karis filed a report for Ocean Speedway last Friday night for the Register-Pajaronian that can be viewed HERE

Pit Stops From Antioch, Merced and Chowchilla

All three tracks in the Oval Motorsports family of race tracks held races last weekend, and there were some interesting occurrences at all three places.  At Merced, the Sport Mod point leader finally won and we have our second two time Hobby Stock winner.  At Chowchilla, the Fairtime racing produced a nice turnout in the IMCA classes and good racing overall.  At Antioch, the Wingless Spec Sprints and IMCA Modifieds stole the show.

We've been discussing the fact that Josh Hensley was still looking for his first Sport Modified feature win at Merced Speedway.  Josh leads the rookie race and overall battle by a wide margin.  Though he's had his share of wins in his back to back Top 5 seasons in Hobby Stocks, Josh has found the going a little more challenging in the Sport Mod ranks. It was even more difficult driving the old home built chassis he bought from George Medeiros to get started.

Josh may have the lead, but he wants wins.  To aid him in that quest, he purchased a car from two time Sport Mod champion Shawn Bryant.  A week ago, he came very close to winning before falling from first to third.  This was not something he would let happen this time, and it could have.  He battled early on with Tim Cecil, losing the lead before gaining it back.  Josh built up a good lead in the smoothly run race to claim his first victory.

Now, he has another title aside from point leader and "Rookie Of The Year" leader.  He can add Main Event winner to that.  It just goes to show how hard it can be to win a Main Event at Merced Speedway.  Hensley had to plug away at it for a while, but the driver of the white #86 car has finally found winner's circle.  He'll be looking to add more wins to his resume in the weeks ahead.

We mention Shawn Bryant, and it was Bryant who would finish second for another week.  Seeing Shawn's #99 car in the field is a welcome addition to the roster.  The fact that he has back to back second place finishes could be an indication that he is closing in on a win for himself.  He was smooth in the latest race and ran second for most of the race.

Another one trying to collect his first win was the #1c car of Tim Cecil.  Tim had earlier won his heat race, and he grabbed the lead from Hensley on an early restart.  Unfortunately, Hensley passed him a few laps later.  Cecil's race sort of went down hill from there as he fell back, but he did take a checkered flag in seventh ahead of the debut of Nick Tucker.  It's interesting to see how new drivers keep showing up every week in this class.

Keith Brown Jr. has been trying to support all of the Oval Motorsports tracks this season.  Despite a limited schedule at Merced, the third generation racer came into the night in the Top 5 in the standings.  That certainly won't change after a charge from tenth to a third place finish.  Had there been a late race caution, he might have had something for the leaders.

Brown's last pass came on Mark Odgers, who was collecting another Top 5 finish in fourth.  Mark continues to be consistent in perhaps the oldest car in the field. Though he's closing in on the Top 5, points are the furthest thing from Mark's mind.  He simply wants to race and have fun.  He already has several good point seasons and a couple of championships in his career.

Kristie Shearer might have had something for Kevin Joaquin in the Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks if a championship was what she wanted.  The 2014 point runner up won a Main Event earlier this year before taking a couple races off while in the title hunt.  After her third place finish a week ago, Kristie dialed it up a notch and ended up scoring an impressive win in the Main Event. It wasn't quite enough to move her into third in the standings as Shannon Nelson finished third in the feature to leap frog over George Silva for that position.

Point leader Kevin Joaquin was coming from deep in the pack, but he had some challenges as he came up on the always exciting George Silva and newcomer Bobby Williams.  Kevin's car was beat up on both ends, and yet somehow it kept running.  He got up as far as second, which was where he finished for the fourth straight week.  As Jennifer Corder was unable to get the damage from a week ago repaired and missed the recent race, Kevin now has command of this point race.  Still, he would like to score his third feature win at Merced in the near future.

Rookie Adam Reed had a fourth place finish two races ago in his #34 car.  He went out there for only the second time and collected another fourth place finish ahead of John Hensley in the Josh Hensley #86 car.  If Reed continues looking like this, he will be in the Top 10 in points soon.  The tenth spot is currently occupied by Williams, who finished sixth.

Also in the field was an old Antioch Speedway racer.  That would be Steve Torres. Torres raced Street Socks for several seasons, but his budget was almost non existent.  He had a few heat race and C Main wins, a few Top 5 B Main results, and also some success with Top 5 finishes in the Figure 8.  Torres took off for a while and returned in the late 1990's with another Top 5 Hobby Stock finish.  In recent years, he's raced mainly at Merced Speedway.  It wasn't a great night for the former Top 10 ranked Merced Hobby Stock racer, but there's always next time.

Chris Corder is considering what he needs to do to beat rookie sensation Darren Miguel in the Mini Stock division at Merced Speedway.  Corder led the standings going into the latest race, but the defending champion hasn't won a Main Event there this season.  His lead was down to four points going into this race, and the second place finish he earned Saturday night was not good enough to keep him in front.

Miguel won his heat race ahead of the steadily improving Natalie Waldrop, and then he held off Corder to win his sixth Main Event.  Miguel, who is the protege of Sport Mod point leader Josh Hensley, is now the point leader by two over Corder.  Corder knows he'll need to step things up if he wants to regain his point lead.  The red #86 car of Miguel has been fast all season.

Dennis Copus was back to try again in his #88 car.  He's been having a difficult time trying to make any laps at all in the car, and he failed to get a green flag in this Main Event.  The only bright side in all of this was he gained enough with show up points to slip into third in the standings, and he was able to go to Chowchilla a night later.  It's been a struggle with the new car so far, but it's one that Copus can overcome.  He continues to look for some sponsorship to help him out.

Dwarf Cars were in Merced for a hastily scheduled event that somehow managed to get six cars despite the fact that the South Bay group was booked elsewhere.  Local racer Mike Drake, a Nor Cal Dwarf Car competitor, was there along with Antioch racers Charlie Correia, Mike Corsaro, Thomas Leiby, Chuck Weir and Tim Reeder.  All five of these drivers live in Tracy or closer, so it wasn't too difficult to make the tow.

The controversy that followed might have annoyed a few of them, but it has since been resolved.  Drake won the heat race and ended up with a Main Event win after the other five failed to go to tech and were disqualified.  The race was seen by those competitors as a tune up for the $1,000 to win, $100 to start Fairtime race on June 11th.  Correia had crossed the line first.  Management has since stepped in to resolve any concerns, and these racers will probably all be back in June along with several others.  Interest is said to be high in the big money race.

There's something about a race at a County Fair that brings out the fans and racers. It was time again for the Chowchilla Fair, and that meant racing on the one third mile dirt oval.  IMCA Modfieds were there, and this field brought some of the top racers from a few different tracks.  There was four time Antioch champion Troy Foulger, Austin Burke, Cody Burke, Robby Sawyer, Paul Stone, Alex Wilson and brother Kyle Wilson and also point leader Josh Vogt.

Foulger and Burke were there for similar reasons.  They wanted to try out their dry slick setups.  The Burke brothers are both planning to be in Santa Maria for this weekend's big shows.  Foulger plans to hit some even bigger races out of the state.  There may have been some confusion since both Burke families hail from Salinas, but Cody revealed that he and his brother are not related to past Watsonville Speedway Stock Car great Orval Burke.  However, they certainly are fast like him.

Cody and his brother like to travel to different tracks to test their ability against the competition.  Cody and Austin both race at Watsonville and Santa Maria this season, and Cody is leading the points at Santa Maria.  For one reason or another, he hasn't been able to get that championship at Santa Maria as something always seems to happen late in the season, but he's hoping this year will be different.  Austin knows the feeling.  He seemed to be heading for a win last Friday at Watsonvlle until the red blur of the #2 car of Bobby Hogge IV came roaring by.  He settled for second.

The dry slick setups seemed to be just right on Sunday.  Foulger and C. Burke were running up front.  Cody was looking at a second place finish until he made an inside pass on Foulger with four laps to go and emerged with the lead.  It ended in victory for Cody, and he is ready for Santa Maria.  Foulger settled for second, but at least Bowers Racing knows they are getting closer with this new car.  Robby Sawyer was also looking impressive in his third place finish.

Vogt is also competing for that Santa Maria championship, while leading in points at Chowchilla.  He was riding a three race winning streak and in the hunt for another win.  He was running in the Top 3 when he got a flat tire and pitted on lap 11.  While all of that was going on, Paul Stone was quietly creeping to the front from his sixth row starting position.  Stone was in the Jack Mounce #44 car and made a charge to finish fourth.  Paul had no hot laps in this car, but even without the practice, he knows this track very well.  Among his many accomplishments here is his win in the 2001 Steitz Dirt Track Shoot Our race.

Alex Wilson may be the IMCA State and Merced point leader, but his brother Kyle is the one on the move lately.  Kyle has back to back wins at Merced and ran a strong second in the recent Antioch race.  On Sunday, Kyle won his heat race and then finished a solid fifth in the Main Event ahead of Merced title contender Bill Egleston.  Egleston had finished second at Chowchilla last time out.

IMCA Western Regional director Paul Vetter was in attendance to answer any questions that may be asked of him.  Paul has handled his duties with IMCA very well through the years and likes to make at least one appearance at as many tracks in his region as he can.  He had to be pleased to see over a dozen cars competing in both IMCA classes.  This area has always been a strong supporter of IMCA.

It was Fred Ryland's win in Chowchilla's big money race in January that convinced him that it might be a good idea to try for an IMCA National Championship.  The challenge is that he has to race at every opportunity, and he needs the IMCA minimum ten car fields for each of those starts.  As of mid May, he's logged in almost 20 feature wins to lead the National, State, Antioch, Watsonville and Chowchilla point races.  So far, so good for the driver of the fast #7j car.

Fred started the weekend off with an impressive win at Watsonville.  Then, he had a decision to make.  Would he go to Merced, where he currently ranks second, or Marysville, where he won back in February.  He chose Marysville due to concern over car count.  It turned out that car count was fine at both places, but Fred did what he seems to do a lot these days.  He won the Marysville race.  Two wins in two starts for the weekend, but could he make it three?

Keith Brown Jr. has been breathing down his neck, racing on the edge for another win.  Chowchilla is where his one win happened this year, so Keith felt he could do it again.  He seems to have ironed out his motor issues, so he's racing hard for win #2 of the season.  Both Brown and Ryland won heat races, so it was not a surprise to see the two running up front in the feature.  It was a bit of a surprise to watch Brown pass Ryland for the lead in the Main Event.  Once he gets the lead, he rarely loses it.

Ryland and Brown raced side by side for a few laps before Ryland moved ahead.  Brown had third for a while despite some damage to his right front suspension after an incident with Brian Zachary, who was driving the Paul Mulder car.  While Brown was spinning late in the race to lose third, Ryland was wrapping up a perfect weekend with his third win in a row.  Making it even better was that all three wins had met the minimum car count.  Ryland had his wife Patti Ryland, Chuck Golden and Paul Mulder with him at Watsonville, and Mulder had his car at the other two races as well.

Mulder had a pretty good weekend of his own as he had fourth place finishes at Watsonville and Marsyville to go with the third place finish Zachary earned in his car at Chowchilla.  Oregon visitor Jordon Braaten had a good weekend of his own.  After following Ryland for a second place finish a Marysville, he did it again at Chowchilla for a double podium finish.

Michael Aldrich was making a rare appearance in his white #828 car at Chowchilla.  The second generation racer has only run a few races this year, but he's liking the Sport Mod.  You may know that his father Mike Aldrich raced Late Models for a while at Merced and was a feature winner.  As Michael gets more comfortable with things, it won't be a surprise to see him up near the front.  This night ended in disappointment, but there's always next time.

Marisa Odgers loves racing at Chowchilla, as evidenced by her Top 3 status in points in this division in 2011.  She's in contention for a Top 5 point position, and she didn't hurt that a bit as she ran in the Top 5 for much of the Main Event.  She just barely lost a good battle with the #33 car of Paul Espino for fourth, but she still managed to hold off her rival, Nastasia Dodd, for fifth.

Dodd has been enjoying her time at Chowchilla, which isn't too much of a stretch from the pavement she usually runs.  Dodd races the S2 Modified class with the Southwest Tour and enjoys running the various tracks on the circuit.  She finds it to be challenging.  She's in her fourth season in the division.  Her sixth place finish moves her into fifth, not too far behind fourth place Josh Hensley, but also very close to sixth place Odgers in a good point battle.

Bruce "Bubba" Nelson had demonstrated how well the #73j car ran last time when he won at Chowchilla.  After car owner Christie Shearer drove the car again and won with it at Merced, two time Merced champion Nelson took the wheel again at Chowchilla.  It was a similar result as he led all but one lap to win once again.  Following him was Michael Shearer.  Interesting enough, it was Nelson winning ahead of Shearer last time too, making it another good night for the Shearer Racing Team.

It was anything but a good night the last time Gary Hildebrand was in Chowchilla.  His motor problems kept him from even making the call for the heat race, and it got worse the next time he was at Merced.  With the #93 car out of commission while he prepares a new motor, Gary needed another ride. Josh Hensley stepped up and put him into his white #86 car.  Gary has been racing for the past 20 years in Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks and the Sportsman division, and he's won his share of races along the way.

On Sunday, Hildebrand had a couple of good battles on his hands.  Kodie Dean managed to get the front end fixed on his #7k car after the hard crash last time out, and Dean didn't give up fourth without a fight.  Dean would still finish fifth, but Hildebrand wasn't done just yet.  Gary steadily pulled up on Robbie Loquaci and made his pass on the last lap to steal a third place finish.  The finish moved Hildebrand into a dead heat with Dean for third, 34 points behind Austin Van Hoff.

The last couple races have not been particularly good for point leader Kevin Joaquin.  The two time Chowchilla feature winner had gotten back up into the Top 3 before spinning last time out.  Afterwards, he found problems with his heads and had to replace them.  Unfortunately, all was still not quite right with his #97 car on Sunday.  He ended up spinning.  Though he did take a checkered flag, he ended up back in seventh.

Dexer Long and Dwayne Short would have been happy with that.  Short nearly brought his Sport Mod to Chowchilla after an issue with the battery connection took him out of the action in the Main Event a night earlier at Merced.  He also had other things to fix, so he decided to give his Hobby Stock a try.  Problems in hot laps led to him loading up before the Main Event.

After buying the #911 car from Eric Seale, Dexter Long joined the Hobby Stock division this season.  It's been fun, but a bit challenging.  Dexter has had his issues with tires and other things, making just taking a checkered flag a challenge at times.  It didn't get any better this time as he ended up last.  As he gains more seat time, Dexter will get better.

The Mini Stock division was in action.  As with Hobby Stocks, they were only given a Main Event.  This was done as the racing program only had a two hour window before it needed to be done for other Chowchilla Fair activities.  The Mini Stock drivers were hoping this wasn't another race that would be run in the opposite direction.  Some of the drivers were concerned about driver safety.  They didn't have to worry Sunday as the race went the traditional way.

Chris Corder has two wins at Chowchilla this season and is the point leader.  In January, he grabbed the big trophy with an impressive win in what would normally be his pavement car.  That #505 car is fast, and Chris revealed that he's considering bringing it out again soon.  He might have been able to use that car on Sunday.  Corder led much of the race while Alex Odishoo ran right behind him in second. 

Odishoo has been running strong these past few weeks, and this was his best effort yet.  Alex moved by on lap 13 and would win his first Main Event of the season.  Odishoo is a past Merced Speedway Mini Stock champion and the current track announcer.  Alex will not be able to race at Chowchilla these next two races as the track switches to Saturday during the Merced Fair.  As these Chowchilla races are also considered Merced races, he has to announce them unless he finds a replacement announcer.

While Mike Congdon was driving to another third place finish to maintain third in the standings, Dennis Copus was starting to think he might finally get a checkered flag in his new car.  It's been one thing after another for the driver of the #88 car, and a right front flat tire kept him from another finish.  He joined Tyler Appelbaum on the sidelines.  Tyler is the brother of Josh Appelbaum, a past Mini Truck and Hobby Stock racer at Antioch.  Tyler actually spray painted the #33 on his car and went out there.  Unfortunately, mechanical problems ended his race early for the past Top 10 ranked Antioch Mini Stock racer.

Sprint Cars took center stage at Antioch Speedway Saturday night, and that will be the case when racing returns there on June 6.  One of the questions was how well would the Winged 360 Sprint Cars do with all of the other tracks running the division as well.  The track knows they have 6-10 drivers at the moment and are hoping to see that grow in the weeks ahead.

The problems from the last race carried over to this one.  Dan Gonderman had a Top 5 run going last time, but a blown motor sidelined him from this race.  Ricky Brophy's car was giving him such problems that he parked it for the race and brought his Spec Sprinter.  Roy Fisher chose to bring his Spec Sprinter rather than his winged car, but he remarked early in the afternoon that he wished he had brought the other car.  Ryan Timmons also had problems during the last race, but we hadn't heard what the third generation racer's plans were.

With those four not in the field, there were seven drivers who did decide to race.  The one question about the Top 5 coming into the night was what would second generation racer Jake Haulot do.  Jake's father, Danny Haulot, was a good driver in the Late Models at Petaluma and also raced at San Jose Speedway for years before that.  When Jake picked up that third place finish at Antioch last time, he moved to within six points behind Shawn Arriaga.

On Saturday, Jake found himself ranking Top 3 at two different tracks, but he's been enjoying the races at Antioch.  He and his father came to Antioch, a night after he raced at Wastonville.  Jake's racing career began on the Micro Sprint level not long after his father sold his Late Model.  Danny wasn't pleased with the change in rules and decided that getting his son started in racing would be more fun.

Jake is a talented young driver who has raced at several tracks in his Winged Sprinter.  His third place finish at Antioch last time was a sign of things to come.  On Saturday, he led the Main Event from start to finish.  With Art McCarthy right behind him, there was no room for mistakes.  He dealt with a couple of lapped cars quickly and brought it home to a well earned victory.  Haulot now becomes the 12th different feature winner in the last 12 races at Antioch.

Meanwhile, Shawn Arriaga made sure he lost no points to Haulot.  After winning his heat race, Arriaga managed to finish third in the feature, just ahead of Chris Magoon.  Magoon also won his heat race, which made it a better night than last time for the defending champion.  Magoon got caught behind McCarthy's spin and was out of the race early that night.

Magoon discovered he had a motor issue that was keeping the RPM's down last time, so he made some changes since then.  He made some practice laps a couple weeks ago and was a little happier with the way his blue #77 car was running.  But the night wasn't just about the results he earned on the track. Chris brought some candy for the flagman (Bob Kempf) to give away and also spent some time on the grandstand side of the fence signing colored photos of his car for the kids.

Chase Wood joined his son with his own car this week.  While Chase Jr. raced his Wingless Spec Sprinter, Chase Sr. was making his first laps of the year and finishing fifth in the Winged 360 Sprint Car Main Event.  Rookie Ricky Brophy jumped behind the wheel of his father's car and finished sixth in the Main Event.  It was a last minute decision that saw his father take the wheel of their Wingless Spec Sprinter.

Two of the last three Wingless Spec Sprint races had ended in DNF's for Kyle Bakkie.  Despite that, the two time feature winner was the point leader by 20 points over Rick Panfili.  Bakkie was out to turn things around and was running a strong second when it happened.  Leader Roy Fisher was caught on the bottom line behind a slower car.  Fisher hesitated to go to the outside, but Bakkie knew that was his chance.  He made the wining move and added more points to his lead.

Fisher was actually expected to bring his Winged Sprinter, so the fact that he brought his Spec Sprinter was a bit of a surprise.  Fisher was still running his backup motor in this car after his motor problems last time out.  Using this motor makes it easier for him to make the new "Econo" rules, which he wasn't really prepared for at first.  This motor wasn't that bad either.  Fisher grabbed the lead from Jeremy Newberry and held it until his slow reaction to the slower car in front of him dropped him to the eventual second place finish.

Last time out for Newberry ended with a crash in Turn 4.  The former Oakland Raiders offensive lineman didn't do too much damage to the car, so he was back for another try.  The night started off with a heat race win and an early Main Event lead, but he actually lost power in Turn 2 while leading, ending what very well could have been a win for him.

Rick Panfili thought something was wrong with his car last time out. It wasn't quite handling the way he wanted, but he still managed to get a sixth place finish.  As it turned out, he had a tire slowly going down that night.  In this last race, Rick ran a good race and stayed with Alan Miranda all race long.  On the final lap, he made the pass for another third place finish.  This should give the title contender more confidence in his quest to get a win in the weeks ahead.

Chase Wood Jr. had a nice showing of his own with a fifth place finish.  Wood has actually worked his way up into the battle for fifth in the standings.  David Dias debuted his beautiful blue #24 car.  David has some asphalt racing experience, but he was making his first start on dirt.  He got a third place heat race finish, but he suffered a mechanical problem to end his race early.  That was better than James East, who scratched before the heat races.

Marcus Smith was riding high after his amazing second place finish last time out.  On the heels of that outcome, the second generation racer and rookie contender was only eight points out of second and 28 out of the lead.  The team had found a few things with the chassis setup that they weren't doing right after the last race and were hoping the changes would pay off for this race.  Unfortunately, he suffered a mechanical problem in hot laps and was done early.

The IMCA Modifieds were back in action, but it appears as if a few teams were saving things for Memorial Day Weekend at Santa Maria Speedway.  One driver not holding back was Jeff Thomas.  A past runner up in this division, Thomas was a few laps from victory last time when his motor gave up on him.  Thomas was closing in on the Top 5 in points, and he made that move emphatically by winning the Main Event Saturday night.  He also won his heat race.  After all of his struggles this year, it was a much needed win.

Thomas didn't get that win easily.  Right behind him, looking for him to slip up, was Kyle Wilson.  Wilson had to back off a couple times to keep from taking Thomas out.  He's been running strong lately and was coming off of back to back wins at Merced Speedway.  On this occasion, he had to settle for second, just ahead of Scott Busby.  Any of the Top 3 cars could have won that race, and it was a close battle.

The third place finish for Busby was significant in that it elevated Busby into the point lead.  Scott won't comment on whether he's in this thing for another championship.  He'll only say he thinks he can make most of the races.  However, this is the latest the four time champion has held the point lead at Antioch since 1997.  Not coincidentally, that was the year the 60 time Antioch Modified feature winner won his most recent track championship.

Further back, incoming point leader Bobby Motts Jr. was battling Merced point leader Alex Wilson for position when contact saw Motts get into the Turn 4 wall.  Fortunately, Motts was able to continue and at least take a checkered flag, but he ended up eighth.  Wilson was sixth.  For a while, Carl Berendsen II appeared headed for a Top 3 finish, but a restart following the Motts and Wilson tangle dropped him back to seventh.

At one point, Mike Salazar had his hands full with two champions, Kellen Chadwick and Busby, right behind him.  Salazar is no pushover and is a past Top 3 driver in the standings himself.  He stayed ahead of them for several laps before Busby managed to get by.  Salazar was later passed by fourth place finisher Chadwick, but he still brought it home fifth.  The #29 car of Salazar has run strong in his first two races, and you can't count him of in the race for a win.

Jim Freethy was starting to feel a little behind the curve in Limited Late Models this season.  The 2013 champion had been struggling in his old car while his new one was being finished.  The new car has a different suspension than the old car, and he got a third place finish with it right out of the box.  On this occasion, Jim was knocking on the door to victory.  Unfortunately, he was met by the man who has more wins than anybody in this division's history, Mike Gustafson.  Mike drove a flawless race and scored his second win of the season ahead of Freethy.

Peggy Sue Jarred was a welcome sight in the pits.  There has been a struggle to get car count back up with John Evans out making repairs, John Keith replacing a motor and Chris Long sidelined with enough problems to keep the Limited Late Model parked or now.  We are told that Keith is close to returning, and also, Calvin Louis Sr. might have his new car ready by the time racing resumes on June 6th.

When the other racers return, they'll still have to contend with point leader Larry Damitz.  Damitz came within a whisker of beating Mark Garner in the heat race, but in the Main Event, the best he could manage from his last row starting spot was third.  Damitz maintains an 18 point lead over Garner at this stage, and that's not gonna change quickly.  It will be a process.  The lower car counts mean you don't make big gains in the points very often.

For Garner, it's All For A Reason.  All For A Reason is the name of Tyler Casey's award winning short documentary on Garner that is up on YouTube.  He was coming off of Win #4 in five starts at Merced, and he is five for five in heat races there to maintain command in the point battle.  His crew had to repair the front of the car after that fifth heat race win when the nose of the car was torn off after contact with another car.  He didn't miss a beat as he extended his point lead at Merced with his latest feature win.

At Antioch, Garner has won his share of heat races, winning again Saturday night.  He won his heat race in the previous event too, but he insisted on tightening the car up for the Main Event.  He admitted that he should have taken the advice of his crew chief.  He still ended up second that night.  Mark is hot on the trail of his second feature win at the track, but he had to restart in the back after momentarily losing power.  He still managed to drive to a fourth place finish on Saturday.

We add this last part due to word from the Berendsen Racing Team.   Eric "Bad News" Berendsen has his Limited Late Model again.  Unfortunately, the talented second generation racer is lacking the funds to get the #88 car to the race track.  Eric just moved into a new home and would like to be able to do some racing before the season ends.

Eric started racing Pure Stocks about 15 years ago.  He ranked fifth in points in 2003.  In 2010, Eric finished fourth in Limited Late Model points and was within a whisker of placing third.  Even on a part time schedule, he still finished Top 10 in points in 2013.  Eric has always been one of those budget racers, but the talent is there for him to be a contender for wins.  If you are looking for a driver to sponsor, Eric may just be the driver you're looking for.

Over in the Hobby Stock division, we seem to be on the cusp of a car count increase.  At the last minute, Steven Rogers had to cancel his plans to race, but he left word that next time the team is planning to bring two cars.  Driving the other car will be none other than past Hobby Stock champion Dan McCown.  Further word came that Brent Curran's Hobby Stock is getting close to ready as well.  It could be that we are ready to see a nice increase in car count in the weeks ahead.

Danny Jones nearly had a teammate in Jessica Jones for this race, but her car wasn't quite ready yet.  Her car will also be a tribute to the old "Pete Paulsen House Of Wheels Special" cars of the past, but it will have a red roof rather than a blue one.  Danny was looking to take it up a notch Saturday night.  He knows he is on the cusp of another win after finishing second last time out, but it was not to be this time.  He blew a motor on the opening lap.

Kimo Oreta was expecting a challenge from Jones in the previous race.  The two ran side by side through Turns 1 and 2, but then Jones spun on the bottom in Turns 3 and 4.  While Jones managed to come back to finish second Oreta led all the way to win.  On Saturday, Oreta had to start back in 10th, but he patiently worked his way up to second behind the surprising Robert Niven.  Then, he sat back and waited for an opening.

Niven is just emerging as a contender.  With a little help from people like Michael Burch and Jim Robbins, the orange #69z car of Niven is becoming a contender.  There was a bumpy situation that saw he and Tony Jennings Jr. get together, and Jennings spun on the back stretch.  A bit later, he pushed in Turn 4 for a second time, and that was all Oreta needed to take the lead and victory.  It was win #3 for Oreta as he continues to hold command in the standings heading into the two week break.

Niven grabbed a checkered flag in second, but officials docked him a few positions to put him fifth behind Jennings.  Another past division champion, Brad Myers, started last on the grid.  By the checkered flag, he was third, which became second with the penalty on Niven.  Myers was behind all night as he spun in his heat race, setting up his poor starting position.  If you know anything about Brad, you know he will find his way to the front no matter where you start him.

Jordan Swank's impressive rookie season continues.  After that fourth place finish last time, Jordan was third this week and suddenly finds himself within six points of second in the standings.  In the middle of the Jones-Swank battle for second is Michael Cooper, who is one point ahead of Swank heading into the break.  It's been interesting watching Swank get used to his blue #73 car and improve with each start.  It's not out of the question to say he could win a Main Even before the season's end.  After having a new bumper put on his car during the week at DeCarlo's Auto Repair, Nick DeCarlo also installed an all new and much better dash board in Swank's race car.

Cousin Cameron Swank may be thinking he could contend for a feature win as well.  Cameron only started three weeks ago in an old race car that he rebuilt, but he's learning quickly.  The son of former Top 5 Street Stock racer Glenn Swank says his fellow racers have been friendly, and he's having a lot of fun so far.  He's already learning a lot.  He took a checkered flag in his first Main Event, but a transmission issue ended his next Main Event start early.  On Saturday, Cameron actually won his heat race, but a smoking problem earned him a black flag early in the Main Event.

Chris Long was out of the race not long after Swank.  The Hobby Stock veteran is out to have fun in the old Bob Ackerman car.  We lost Bob not too many years ago, and Chris says he rides with "uncle "Bob" every time he gets in the car.  His first Hobby Stock start of the year came a few weeks ago with a third place finish, but he lost power on the front stretch in Saturday's Main Event.  Chris is a Main Event winner in the past, and it would be a mistake to count him out in the weeks ahead.

Natalie Perry grabbed a checkered flag in sixth in the latest race.  She's had her share of problems so far this year, but that finish would seem to indicate that she is finally turning the corner.  Frank Furtado actually held her off for a second place finish in the heat race, and he did grab a checkered flag in seventh in the feature.  That finish moved Furtado into a career best fifth in the standings.

The next race on the schedule is Saturday, May 30 at Merced.  IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks, Limited Late Models and Mini Stocks are on the card.  With Merced running the County Fair, Chowchilla takes the Merced program on June 6th.  That lineup includes IMCA Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Dwarf Cars and the Valley Sportsman division.  Also on June 6th will be the Winged 360 Sprint Cars, Wingless Spec Sprints, Hobby Stocks and Limited Late Models at Antioch Speedway.  For further information, check out the official Oval Motorsports Website.