Monday, June 15, 2015

Car Count Concerns In The Valley, Antioch Sprint Car Preview And More

First of all...

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

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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 Summer Nationals at Antioch Speedway

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

June 26 (Friday):

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

June 27 (Saturday):

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

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

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

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

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

A Brief Preview Of Summer Nationals At Antioch Speedway

June 26th and 27th are the dates you will want to mark on your calender.  It's the Summer Nationals at Antioch Speedway.  This is the weekend NASCAR comes to Sears Point Raceway and it's traditionally the weekend Promoter John Soares Jr. likes to book something special at Antioch Speedway.  Last year, it was a $3000 to win Winged 360 Sprint Car race, won by Bradley Terrell, but frequently Late Models and Dirt Modifieds are part of the show.  Soares and Oval Motorsports loves to do things up big for the drivers.

For that weekend, Soares has booked NASCAR racer and personality Kenny Wallace to compete and will be providing him with a ride in the House Late Model for the Saturday race.  That Late Model show will pay $1500 to win regardless of car count and will grow to $2000 with a 20 car field.  Wallace may have his eyes on the prize, but among the drivers who will likely be going for the big win are Richard Papenhausen, Jeff Decker, Troy Foulger and Paul Guglielmoni.

Unconfirmed rumors have Bobby Hogge IV considering an appearance.  Only two drivers have won more Main Events than Hogge in Antioch Speedway history, and he won two Late Model features there last season.  You never know who will compete in this race, but a bigger than usual field in the 16-20 car range is anticipated.

The IMCA Modifieds will race for $2500 to win on Saturday and $1500 on Friday.  Interestingly enough, point leader Scott Busby has a more difficult time getting wins at Antioch when the big money is on the line, though he has won 61 times in this division at his home track.  Can he bag some of the big bucks this time?  In addition to this season's top point runners, such as Bobby Motts Jr., Carl Berendsen II, Dustin Humes, Alex and Kyle Wilson, Chis Elby and Jeff Thomas, several top names from other tracks are anticipated.

Petaluma point leader Nick DeCarlo, six time Petaluma champ Michael Paul Jr., Watsonville point leader Bobby Hogge IV and the Burke brothers, Cody and Austin, are others who could show.  Troy Foulger, a four time Antioch champion, is rumored to be planning to compete, as is past Antioch champion Kellen Chadwick, who has a knack for winning the big races.

The IMCA Sport Mods also have two nights of racing that weekend.  They even get extra money as they run for $500 to win on Friday and $750 in Saturday.  When you hear big Sport Mod race at Antioch, you suddenly think Fred Ryland will be getting a little extra for his wins.  Ryland leads the Antioch, State and National point races with several wins along the way.  However, he can expect some stiff competition for this event.  The monkey wrench in all of this is that Ryland is competing for points at Watsonville, but there is an out as Antioch's Friday race is being specified as a non track point race.

This means Ryland will likely not be at Antioch, opening the door for a new winner if the scheduling holds true.  Top candidates from the point list include Keith Brown Jr., Ron Brown, Chuck Golden and Megan Ponciano on Friday, and F. Ryland, Patti Ryland, Paul Mulder and Al Sotomayor can be added to the mix on Saturday.  From Marysville, stars like Jimmy Ford and Alan Furuta could be on hand for this, and other names to watch for include Jeremy Hoff, Bruce Nelson, Anthony Guiliani and possibly 2014 IMCA State champion Nick Spainhoward.

The Friday portion of the show will also include Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars and will be a regular point race for all three divisions.  Adding to the interest is the report that Kenny Wallace is willing to drive any and all divisions that are a part of the show.  For further information, check the official Oval Motorsports Website.

 Big $1000 To Win Hobby Stock Races At Hayfork Speedway

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

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

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

DCRR Racing Radio Show

Weekend Review Edition

Car Count Issues At Merced, Chowchilla Speedway's Future

When I had The DCRR and wrote my Editor's Viewpoint column, I tackled controversial subjects.  I would get people upset with me just by going there.  I didn't even have to be critical of things to get the powers that be upset with me.  Simply having the discussion was enough.  However, my editorials were always written with the hope of seeing things get better.  That's why I wrote this.  I love both of the tracks I discuss here, but this is the elephant in the room.  People notice the car count and they are talking about what it all means for the future of the tracks.  I'm of the opinion that it can and will get better, but it starts by having this discussion...

The conversation in The Valley will ultimately turn to these two issues.  Where are the cars at Merced Speedway and Chowchilla Speedway, and what is the future of Chowchilla Speeedway?  For that matter, what about Merced Speedway?  What will happen there?

Currently, Oval Motorsports promotes both of these tracks.  When Merced Speedway closed in 2009, the idea that it might not open again became a serious possibility.  The old "soccer field" rumors returned, but the fact is the fairgrounds wanted racing to continue at the venue that has operated as a race track since 1950.

The previous Merced management talked about special events in 2010 if they actually did reopen the track, but they were really pretty much done at that point.  Two Bay Area promoters both looked at the track.  One was John Prentice, but he had grand plans and wanted a better deal than the fairgrounds was willing to give him.  Ultimately, he walked away.

This is where John Soares Jr. and Oval Motorsports entered the picture.  He was very interested in opening the track, and he had a plan to keep the track's streak of consecutive point seasons since 1950 in tact.  He would open the track to a 14 race season starting in July if he won the contract.  Ultimately, he did win in April of that year, and racing went on as scheduled in July.  Soares made a big investment in that track.

Chowchilla Speedway has had a difficult road.  The fairgrounds sat there for many years, but it wasn't until Tom Sagmiller and investors entered the picture in 2000 that Stock Car racing became a reality there.  This was never a big dollar operation.  The track did open in 2000 as an alternative to Merced Speedway for those who didn't like how Merced was being run by the management at the time.

Ultimately, Sagmiller realized that he needed this place to be about itself and not about hurting the other track.  In nearly eight seasons, Sagmiller managed to do great things at the track.  Racers who had parked for years returned, new drivers started racing and ultimately this led to good car counts at both race tracks.  The Steitz races, The Freedom Series, special Sprint Car shows and more things happened at Chowchilla.

Then, Merced promoter Chuck Griffin played the fairgrounds politics game, and Sagmiller was out before the 2007 season was over.  Griffin brought his CCMR program to Chowchilla as well as IMCA, but the racers pretty much rejected him.  The 2008 season didn't quite make it to the end.  This move proved to be part of Griffin's undoing at Merced, but he helped see to it that Kenny Shepherd would take his place in 2009.

The Shepherd era at Chowhilla was the second most successful in the track's history.  Most of the track's races went on as scheduled, and the success he had with Sport Mods helped lead to the success it has had in the state.  Unfortunately, Kenny had to make a choice between Chowchilla and Madera, and he chose to focus on building up a nice program at Madera.  At the end of the 2011 season, he walked away.

Enter John Prentice in 2012.  He too had big plans.  He brought his Sprint Car classes to the track as well as his Late Models, but car count never really got going in those classes.  Like Griffin, Prentice couldn't get the track through a full season, and he pulled the plug by the time August came around.  The track still crowned two champions at the Watsonville banquet, while IMCA acknowledged its two Chowchilla champions.

In 2013, the track sat dormant until Jack Stanford came along to promote some races before the year was over.  With driver support behind hm, Stanford returned in 2014 with a successful January race and then had championship seasons for the two IMCA classes and Hobby Stocks,  Unfortunately, the money was running out and fan and driver interest had declined by the time September came along.  Stanford walked away.

The fairgrounds wanted racing, and Oval Motorsports came in with an offer they couldn't refuse.  The new era began with one of the richest purses the track had ever had in January of this year.  It began a ten race schedule.  Car count was decent for a January race, but the March return was less than stellar.  They have struggled even harder than Merced to get a car count, and this has caused speculation.

Will Chowchilla Speedway survive this season?  If so, will Oval Motorsports return for a 2016 season or walk away like four of the previous managements.  Only Tom Sagmiller has managed to really have any kind of success with this track.  Given the track record of Soares, it was hoped that he could do a little better.  He can't be happy with the results so far, and most people would not stick around with numbers like he has seen.

It was already announced that after the June 28th race at Chowchilla, they will not reopen until September.  There was only one other race scheduled to happen in that time frame, but any cancellation of race dates will cause speculation.  Will Soares walk away, or does he have a plan to turn things around in 2016?  There are good reasons to walk away from this track, which is now in its 15 Anniversary season.

If Soares walks, will anybody step in and take over?  Some have speculated that if he does close the gates, somebody may give it a try, and that somebody may not worry about cooperation with Merced.  If that were true, could Valley Racing survive another promoter feud?  The problems are big right now, and at some point it could get so bad that no promoter would find it profitable to open either track, regardless of how much either fairgrounds wants racing.

The fact is, the racers in The Valley have a reputation of either parking or towing a few hours down the road to take a stand against management.  In the past, other racers have stepped in to keep car count from getting so bad that racing just dies.  In 2015, there doesn't seem to be as many racers willing to do that.  Car count at Merced Speedway, the lead track of the two, is hurting.

IMCA Modifieds were not expected to be the strongest.  At 10-12 cars per race, they have been carrying the weight of the track.  They also have the best point race.  Even this car count isn't as strong as it was last year, and speculation of observers is that the departure of the previous GM is why car count has suffered. 

A look at the numbers in 2014 saw car count in the 20's for both Sport Mods and Modifieds, and the track paid Sport Mods better money than most places.  As the season wore on, car count declined as it often does.  Sport Mods still hovered in the 16-18 car area at times with Mods a little lower.  When the regular season returned in March of this year, the car count picked up at those numbers and has not gotten better.  Sport Mod car count has dropped under ten on multiple occasions as the drivers are not embracing things.

The two Modified classes were the highlight of 2014 as Mini Stocks struggled and Hobby Stocks regrouped.  The Limited Late Models struggled as the rules evolved, and the Sportsman class was good for about a half dozen cars.  The three support classes have not gotten much better, despite the attempt to create a "shoot out" between Antioch and Merced Limited Late Models and the cancellation of Mini Stocks at Antioch as a way to get more cars at Merced.

This has left management wondering where the cars are and how to get them back.  A typical show might see 10 Modifieds, 10-12 Hobby Stocks, eight Sport Mods, 4-6 Mini Stocks, 3-4 Sportsman cars and 4-6 Limited Late Models.  These numbers are a cause for concern.  It's known that the cars are out there, but they are not supporting the track.  If this doesn't improve, one has to wonder how long Oval Motorsports can even afford to operate the race track.

The Sport Mod division has seen over 50 cars so far this season.  At one point, an attempt was made to call the drivers and get their support in this class.  This was the week in which five drivers showed up.  Big names like Rick Diaz, Jeremy Hoff and Bruce Nelson are not regulars and only show up when the mood strikes them.  Several new drivers have joined, but they aren't supporting regularly.  Economy is the number one reason cited, but is there more at play here?

The Sportsman division frequently only has two cars from a known roster of 18-20 cars in the area.  Nobody expected this class to suddenly get all of these cars, but when it dropped below the 6-10 cars expected of it, it hurt the program.  You're not even getting a heat race and Main Event from this class. 

Sportsman Roster

1     Jeanne Canepa
4M     Mark Odgers
4H,    Gary Hildebrand
5     Ty Shelton
7    Neil Bedford
V8    Mike Henault
9     Jeff Bristow
10     Mike Palmberg
11     Marcus Lung
14P     Tim Porter
23     Tim Prothro
25     Kenny Birdsong
32    Buddy Thatcher
39    Ray Christensen
53    Duane Fast
55     Shane Hausmann
55M     Mike Hausmann
62    Eric Sealy
67J     Michael Shearer
69    John  Goodson
00     Mike Friesen

Back in 2011, the Sportsman division had an exciting ten car Main Event that can be viewed HERE

The Mini Stocks are equally cause for concern.  This is the "entry level" class, and one of the reasons it was dropped from Antioch was that it was felt that Merced needed the division more, given the budget of some area racers.  On multiple occasions, car count hit ten or better, including the Fair Race,  But, in recent weeks, 3-6 cars has been the norm.  That's not even a heat race.  If the Fair Race was indication of coming improvement, that would be good news, but is that the case?

The Limited Late Models limped out of the gate, but there has been encouragement as six cars have competed in the last two races, and ten different cars have been at the track during the season.  If they can produce a good heat race and Main Event from here on out, it's a positive for the track.  Indications are that this may be the case.

With Modifieds staying at double digits and Hobby Stocks doing so as well, these two classes have been the best at the track this year.  The closeness of the Modified point race and the ten different Hobby Stock feature winners so far have both been pluses for the track.  It's at a point where things can go either way as the track hits the stretch run.  Getting the Sport Mod drivers back on board would be the best thing that could happen.  It may be key to the whole thing.  They had 16 cars at the Fair Race.

What happens in the next couple months will greatly effect things in the future.  If car count begins to rebound, good things can happen.  Merced has enough drivers in these divisions to have big car counts without a lot of out of area driver support.  If that starts to happen, more big races can come, along with bigger purses.  Oval Motorsports has long since shown a desire to promote big races with big purses.  That would surely happen again if driver support improved.

From this observer's perspective, it seems possible that Sport Mods can at least average in the 10-12 car range from here on out.  Limited Late Models could go 6-8 cars per week and end the season strong.  Mini Stocks has some drivers on the sidelines with damaged race cars and without the funds to fix them.  When these cars start getting fixed, numbers could become more respectable.  The question is, when will that happen?  It's unclear what is going on with the Sportsman class, but reports are that more cars are coming his week.

People will speculate on what Oval Motorsports will do next, but planning is already beginning for the future.  This year, The Ted Stofle Classic, Legend's Night and The Delta-Valley Classic are still on the schedule, and more good things can come.  All options are likely to be considered as they try to promote a bigger and better 2016 season.  Stronger driver support will only lead to better rewards for the drivers.

That will still lead to the question we started with.  What is the future of Chowchilla Speedway?  Oval Motorsports has already penciled in a big race for January once again.  Does the dropping of the July race mean anything, or is it just a minor adjustment to be made up later?  We can only stay tuned for any future announcements.  Given the lower than desired car counts, it's understandable if some people are worried abut the track's future.

Winged & Wingless Sprint Cars Return To Antioch Speedway

The goal at Antioch Speedway this year is to establish the Northern All Stars Winged 360 Sprint Car division and rebuild the Wingless Spec Sprint class under the more affordable "Econo" rules package.  At the end of the season, two champions will be crowned, and both divisions have had good point battles so far.  On Saturday night, June 20th, both divisions will be back in action on the fast three-eighths mile clay oval.

Shawn Arriaga has his eyes on the big trophy, but he also knows he needs to win races to have a real shot.  In the fourth of eight scheduled races two weeks ago, Shawn made a late race pass and came home with the victory.  The pass was on 2007 champion Art McCarthy, who himself is a title contender this year.

A check of the points coming into this race finds Arriaga leading Jake Haulot by 12 points and McCarthy by 14.  Not surprisingly, these three drivers each have one win, and McCarthy was the one chasing the other two drivers in second on the nights in which they won.

Chris Magoon can feel things slipping away from him.  The 2014 champion had a bad week last time and has dropped 14 points behind McCarthy for third.  He has a pretty good hold on fourth, but he came to defend his championship.  He knows he will need to add his name to the winner's list to stay in the hunt as he is now 28 points out of the lead.

Dan Gonderman was back last time and reclaiming fifth in the standings.  The driver nipping at his heels now is Chase Wood, who is just 16 points behind him.  Wood has been pitting for his 16 year old son Chase Wood Jr's Wingless Spec Sprint effort, but he decided he'd get his car out there and support the cause.   Ricky Brophy is slowly creeping up the ladder and is set to take over his father's ride after struggling to get his own car to run.

At this point, there are seven drivers who seem to be on board with this effort and others who come and go from various tracks.  Roy Fisher has cars for both Sprint Car classes at Antioch, but thus far, his Spec Sprint has received priority treatment.  Word was that Ryan Timmons might be ready for this Saturday's race, and it's anticipated that 8-12 cars will compete.  The track has been paying $1200 to win and $150 to start and has indicated that the purse will grow to $1500 to win at 16 cars.

Last week was recovery time for some of the Wingless Spec Sprint drivers.  No less than four drivers flipped their cars at the previous race, and others crashed in a 12 car feature that only saw 2 cars running at the end.  This is the story of Kyle Bakkie's season.  He's either up near the front, winning or breaking.  Last time out, the point leader flipped his car in a melee that also saw Jeremy Newberry flip to end the race.

With three wins this year to go with the back to back seconds he started the season with, Bakkie's lead is now 30 points over Rick Panfili.  Panfili's latest start also ended early after a bout with the Turn 4 wall.  Panfili continues to search for his first career feature win as he leads Marcus Smith by 30 points for second.  Smith's race ended early last time as he flipped his car, but he was back and racing again in Stockton last week. 

Smith is only 14 points ahead of Alan Miranda, who finished second in the most recent Main Event.  Still within 40 points of Smith in fifth is two time winner Roy Fisher.  Roy was talking about running his Winged Sprinter again, but his Spec Sprinter has been running so well of late that he seems to be intent on grabbing another victory.

Even after his flip last time, Newberry has a four point lead over rookie Chase Wood Jr. in the battle for sixth, but Jimmy Perry III is closing in on both of them.  After winning his second feature of the year last time, Perry is 38 points behind Wood.  The Top 8 are all anticipated for Saturday's race along with whoever else may come out and race.  In the last two races, a dozen drivers have competed as new cars continue to debut.

Antioch Winged 360 Northern All Star

Shawn Arriaga        196
Jake Haulot        184
Art McCarthy        182
Chris Magoon        168
Dan Gonderman        104
Chase Wood        88
Brandon Powell        84
Rick Brophy        68
Ricky Brophy        68
Justin Sanders        52

Last 18 Feature Winners

June 6, 2015:  Shawn Arriaga
May 16, 2015:  Jake Haulot
April 25, 2015:  Alissa Geving
March 7, 2015: Art McCarthy
August 2, 2014: Zack Lynskey
June 21 2014:  Bradley Terrell
June 10, 2014:  Chris Magoon
April 5, 2014:  Kurt Nelson
May 4, 2013: Shawn Arriaga
April 13, 2014: Chris Martin
September 17, 2011:  Billy Aton
July 30, 2011:  Craig Smith
September 15, 2010: Jeremy Burt
August 25, 2010: Craig Smith
April 24, 2010: Craig Smith
March  27, 2010: Craig Smith
March 20, 2010:  Ryan Risconi
September 26, 2009:  Jeremy Burt
August 29, 2009:  Jeremy Burt

Northern All Stars
Winged 360 Sprint Car Schedule

July 11
August 8
August 29

Wingless Spec Sprnts

Kyle Bakkie        390
Rick Panfili        360
Marcus Smith        330
Alan Miranda        316
Roy Fisher        290
Jeremy Newberry    234
Chase Wood Jr.        230
Jim Perry III        192
Ryon Sieverling    182
James East        158

Past Wingless Spec Sprint Champions

1999-Dan Gonderman
2000-Travis Berryhill
2001-Terry Tarditi
2002-Darrell Hanestad
2003-Darrell Hanestad
2004-Bob Newberry
2005-Scott Merrell
2006-Jimmy Perry III
2007-Jim Perry Jr.
2008-Billy Macedo
2009-Billy Aton
2010-Tommy LaLiberte
2011-Dan Gonderman
2012-D.J. Johnson
2013-Gary Nelson Jr.
2014-Billy Macedo

Packed Six Division Program Set For Saturday At Antioch Speedway

Just a week before Antioch Speedway's big two day Summer Nationals event (June 26-27), Antioch Speedway has a six division show that offers something or everybody.  Do you want Late Models?  They have them this Saturday night.  You want Sprint Cars?  They have Winged and Wingless Sprint Cars. Also on the card this week will be IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars.

Last week, Richard Papenhausen of Chico made a move on Morgan Hill's Jeff Decker for the lead and brought it home to his fourth  Late Model feature win of the season.  Papenhausen now has four wins and his heat win would help give him a four point lead over Decker in a close championship battle.  This has been a nip and tuck battle as Decker has mostly seconds and one win to his credit and is hanging right in there.

David Newquist of Chico's fourth place finish kept him four points ahead of Danny Malfatti of Hayward in a close battle for third.  Meanwhile, Antioch's Chester Kniss enjoyed a season best third place finish last week and has moved into fifth in the standings, 21 points ahead of Rob Norris in another good battle.  This will be a final tuneup race for these drivers before June 27th's big money event.

The Winged 360 Sprint Cars have a good battle of their own.  Antioch's Shawn Arriaga became the fourth different winner in four races last time, and now he leads Cotati's Jake Haulot by 12 points and Art McCarthy of San Jose by 14 in the title chase.  All three have one win this year, while McCarthy also has two seconds. 

Antioch's Chris Magoon will be out to try and get a victory in the growing class.  The defending champion is 24 points out of third.  The division is slowly beginning to grow as the track has made a commitment to build this division.  Antioch's Dan Gonderman is fifth in points and has had nothing but bad luck so far.  He'll be trying to turn it around and is expected to be there this week along with Gilroy's Chase Wood, Antioch's Ricky Brophy and Ryan Timmons, also of Antioch.

Wingless Spec Sprints were an ugly affair last time as four of the 12 competitors ended up on their lids.  Point leader Kyle Bakkie's flip ended that race early, but the three time winner leads Antioch's Rick Panfili by 30 points in the championship battle.  Just 30 points behind Panfili in third is rookie Marcus Smith of Tracy, who also flipped last time out. 

Alan Miranda's Top 3 hopes improved after he finished second to Concord's Jimmy Perry III last time.  Miranda is just 14 points behind Smith.  Roy Fisher of Antioch is a two time winner and will either race his Wingless or Winged Sprint Car this week.  Antioch's Jeremy Newberry took a nasty tumble last time, but the NFL Alumni is anticipated for this event along with Gilroy's Chase Wood Jr. and James East of San Jose.

The IMCA Sport Modified division has only had two winners since March.  The wins all belong to Ryland Racing.  Brentwood's Fred Ryland has four wins, while his wife Patti has one.  Not surprisingly, F. Ryland holds a 26 point lead over Pittsburg's Keith Brown Jr.  Brown has managed to get some Top 3 success, but his luck nose dives any time the third generation racer gets close to the win.  In fact, Brown is only ten points ahead of Al Johnson of Antioch in the battle for second.

If Brown is the driver who may have the best shot at beating Ryland, Concord's Paul Mulder has also had some success with Top 3 feature finishes this year and should not be counted out.  Mulder is just five points ahead of Al Sotomayor of Watsonville, six ahead of P. Ryland and 13 in front of Chuck Golden.  Like Sotomayor, Golden has finished second in the Main Event this year.  Antioch's Ron Brown has two second place finishes and is anticipated for the coming race.  Can anybody beat F. Ryland?  We'll find out Saturday.

Kimo Oreta of Vacaville is already a four time winner and runaway point leader in Hobby Stocks.  The battle is for second, and Castro Valley's Danny Jones used his fourth second place finish of the season last week to maintain an 11 point lead over Bay Point's Michael Cooper.  Cooper won his first heat race and is nine points ahead of Concord's Jordan Swank in the race for third as any of these three drivers has a legitimate shot at second in points.

Antioch's Frank Furtado is fifth in points, but Concord's Robert Niven has been running strong lately.  Niven's latest Top 5 finish has moved him to within 32 points of Furtado for fifth.  Other drivers we're watching for this week include last week's winner Chris Sorensen of Antioch, Jessica Jones of Castro Valley, Concord's Cameron Swank and Natale Perry of Antioch.

The battle in Dwarf Cars continues to be between the father-son Teves team of Concord and Bay Point's Danny Wagner.  Both David and his son Adam Teves each has two wins, while Wagner has three.  A look at the points finds D. Teves leading Wagner by six points and Adam by 26.  At this point, David seems to have the fastest car, but Wagner and A. Teves were second and third last week.

Mike Corsaro of Tracy is still in the hunt, 40 points out of the lead, but he had to race without teammate Charlie Correia last week.  The 77 year old Correia is home mending after a flip at Merced last Thursday.  Other drivers we anticipate include Pleasanton's Kevin Miraglio, Brian Gray of Rancho Cordobva, Thomas Leiby of Copperopolis and Miranda Chappa of Martniez.  Chappa impressed last week with her first heat race win.

Saturday's race should be a good one.  Antioch Speedway is located within the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, 1201 W. 10th St. in Antioch, Calif. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for senior citizens, and $10 for children 6-12. Children under six years old are admitted free. A family four pack of tickets is $40. Secured parking is offered by the Fairgrounds for $5. Racing begins at 6:30 p.m.

Antioch Speedway Top 5 At A Glance

DIRTCar Late Models

Richard Papenhausen 368
Jeff Decker        364
Dave Newquist        288
Danny Malfatti        284
Chester Kniss        238

IMCA Sport Mod
Fred Ryland        244
Keith Brown Jr.       218
Al Johnson        208
Paul Mulder        185
Al Sotomayor        180

Antioch Winged 360 Sprint

Shawn Arriaga        196
Jake Haulot        184
Art McCarthy        182
Chris Magoon        168
Dan Gonderman        104

Wingless Spec Sprints

Kyle Bakkie        390
Rick Panfili        360
Marcus Smith        330
Alan Miranda        316
Roy Fisher        290

Dwarf Cars

David Teves        448
Danny Wagner        442
Adam Teves        422
Mike Corsaro        408
Kevin Miraglio        334

Hobby Stocks
Kimo Oreta        578
Dan Jones        411
Michael Cooper        400
Jordan Swank        391
Frank Furtado        362

IMCA Modifieds Headline This Saturday At Merced Speedway

The season is about halfway done at Merced Speedway, but the IMCA Modified championship battle is heating up with the weather.  The popular division headlines this Saturday night's show along with IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and the Valley Sportsman division.

Antioch's John MacDougall was a Top 5 driver at his own track last season, but when he won an IMCA Modified Main Event early in the season at Merced, he decided to start racing for points.  MacDougall has been consistent so far this season, and he finds himself leading IMCA State point leader Alex Wilson of Salinas by four points.  Atwater's Bill Egleston is only 13 points out of the lead.

While neither Egleston nor Wilson has won a feature so far this year, Alex's brother Kyle Wilson has two feature wins and was second at the County Fair race last week.  Merced's Karl Rose won that race for his first win of the season, but Mariposa's Ricky Thatcher probably should have won.  Thatcher made a mistake exciting Turn 2 and fell back to third at the finish.  Thatcher has a two point lead over Bob Williamson in the battle for fourth in points.

Josh Hensley of Atwater holds a commanding lead in the track's IMCA Sport Mod championship battle, and he is coming off of an impressive win at Chowchilla last Saturday.  The battle is now for second, and Merced's Dwayne Short holds down that position by a comfortable margin at this point.  With his Top 3 finish last Wednesday in the County Fair Race, Jeremy Hoff of Copperopolis has moved back into the Top 5 in the standings.

Mark Odgers of Mariposa isn't far behind Hoff and trails by just 16 points.  This division has seen several drivers make their debuts in recent weeks, including Nick Tucker of Hilmar and Chase Thomas of Atwater.  When 2014 champion Rick Diaz of Los Banos shows, he is a front runner.  He won the race last Wednesday for what was his third win of the season.

Sonora's Kevin Joaquin and Kristie Shearer of Los Banos each have more than one feature win this year from a list of an impressive ten different Hobby Stock winners.  Shearer has won the last two and is a three time winner, while point leader Joaquin has two wins and five seconds for a big point lead.  In fact, rookie Jennifer Corder of Modesto is a solid second at this stage of the season, leaving the battle for third.

One time winner Shannon Nelson has just a one point lead over Shearer in the battle for third, and both have been running strong lately.  Either one of these ladies are a threat to win when they show up.  Still looking for their first Merced wins are Dexter Long of Merced and George Silva, also of Merced.  However, Silva did win last week's Main Event at Chowchilla Speedway.  The Hobby Stocks have been competitive all season long, and you never know who will win next.

Mike Palmberg says we should have a half dozen Sportsman cars as drivers have been working to get their cars back to the track.  Marcus Lung leads Jeff Bristow by 30 in the point race with Kenny Birdsong 36 points behind Bristow.  All four of these drives are anticipated for Saturday, and you never know who else might show up next.

Merced Speedway is located inside the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Merced, Calif. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and $8 for children 6-12. A family four-pack of tickets admits two children and two adults for $32. Racing begins at 7 p.m. The grandstand opens at 5 p.m.

Merced Speedway Top 5 At A Glance

IMCA Modified

John Macdougall     290
Alex Wilson         286
Bill Egleston         277
Ricky Thatcher         233
Bob Williamson         231

IMCA Sport Mod

Josh Hensley         437
Dwayne Short         319
Keith Brown Jr.     271
Jeremy Hoff         268
Fred Ryland         264

Hobby Stock

Kevin Joaquin         534
Jennifer Corder     402
Shannon Nelson         312
Kristie Shearer     311
Dexter Long         264

 Valley Sportsman

Marcus Lung         216
Jeff Bristow         186
Kenny Birdsong         150
Eric Sealy         112
Mike Palmberg         100