Just A Kid From The Grandstands: My Time In Auto Racing
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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 Show Weekend Preview Edition
Reposting this about the late June big money races coming up 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 above. Sport 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.
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.
Here's an article about the latest race in Orland...
Richards, Pierce, Skaggs And Vidovich Grab Orland Wins
Sacramento Valley Speedway in Orland held their third race of the season Saturday night at the Glenn County Fairgrounds in Orland. There were four divisions on the card, and wins on the one-fifth mile dirt oval were collected by Tony Richards in Wingless Sprints, David Pierce in Hobby Stocks, Nathen Skaggs in Mini Trucks and Nick Vidovich in Mini Stocks.
The Wingless Sprints had two heat races, and Josh Tucker won the first heat race ahead of Tony Richards. Nathen Johnson was the second heat race winner ahead of David Johnson. It was a pair of past champions at the front of the pack in the Main Event with Richards grabbing the win ahead of 2014 champion Bill Hopper. Paul Vanderberg wrapped up a solid night with a third place finish ahead of N. Johnson and long time competitor Kenny Webber.
Hobby Stocks produced the car count of the night, and Paul Stevens started off a great night with a heat race win ahead of Sean Halterman. Shannon Collins won the second heat ahead of 2014 champion Steve Martin. David Pierce became the third different feature winner in three races. Heat winners Stevens and Collins finished second and third, respectively. Long time competitor Rich Hood and Martin rounded out the Top 5. Earl Adams was sixth ahead of Top 10 Chico competitor Jeremy Langenderfer, Halterman, Mike Webster and Travis Comer. Martin now leads Collins by 10 points in a close battle as Hood is 40 points back in third.
2014 champion Keith Ross won the first Mini Truck heat races ahead of another past champion, Ross Vige. The second heat race went to Tyer Pebley ahead of Dan Webster. Nathen Skaggs was making his first Mini Truck start of the year and thwarted Ross's attempt at a double win. Ross settled for second as Pebley, Webster and Vige completed the Top 5. Ron Johnson was sixth ahead of Jeremy Callen, William Fogle and Tyler Coleman. A look at the point sheet shows Ross leading Vige by 5 points in another good battle after three races. Vige and Pebley are actually tied for second.
Tom Davis won the lone heat race for the Mini Stocks ahead of Nick Vidovich. Vidocvich won the Main Event ahead of 2013 champion John Kirkpatrick, Davis, Mike Chase, Kyle Britt and Damian Merritt. With two feature wins so far this season, Vidovich has a 20 point lead over Chase and a 25 point advantage over Kirkpatrick.
The track hosts a Micro Sprint Racing Association race on June 13th and comes back with a program of Wingless Sprints, Hobby Stocks, Mini Trucks and Mini Stocks on June 20th. For further information, check the official Sacramento Valley Speedway Website.
This one recaps the first two races at the track...
New Era Begins at Sacramento Valley Speedway in Orland
Orland's Sacramento Valley Speedway has already held a couple races to usher in a new era under promoter Adam Zachary. Wingless Sprints, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Mini Trucks and 600 Mini Sprints have all competed on the one-fifth mile dirt oval so far.
The Hobby Stocks ran at the opener and the recent Glenn County Fair race. The opener saw Bill Hampton win his heat race and the Main Event. It was Bob Bone Jr. finishing second ahead of Brad Ray, heat winner Steve Martin, Rich Hood and Shannon Collins. The Fair activities saw a stronger 11 car field show up, and Martin staked his claim on the point lead with a heat win and feature victory. Martin is the 2014 champion and point runner up a year earlier. Clinton Earl finished second in the feature with Collins crossing the line third. Heat winner Jeremy Langerderfer finished fourth with Hood picking up another fifth. The Top 10 was rounded out by Mike Webster, Travis Comer, Hampton, Cody Bundy and Jimmy Brookshire.
The Mini Trucks season kicked off with 2013 champion and 2014 point runner up Ross Vige wining his heat and the Main Event ahead of past champion Dan Webster and Tyler Pebley. 2014 champion Keith Ross and heat winner Rich Hood rounded out the Top 5, followed by William Fogle, Willie Tanson and Jeremy Callen. Truck count increased to ten for the County Fair race, and Pebley impressed with a heat win and Main Event triumph. Ross was second as heat winner Vige settled for third. Webster and Fogle were in the 4-5 slots as Tanson, Callen, Tyler Coleman, James Barnes and Ron Johnson completed the finish.
The always exciting Mini Stocks opened the season with Nick Vidovich winning the Main Event ahead of Mike Chase and 2014 runner up Kenny Britt. 2013 champion John Kirkpatrick won his heat race and finished fourth in the feature as Dan Pieretti, Eric Hammond, Jeff Bennett and 2014 champion Tom Davis rounded out the field. Kirkpatrick and Britt were the heat race winners. The next race saw Jimmy Davis grab a victory in his Mini Truck ahead of Pieretti. Vidovich grabbed a podium finish in third as heat winner T. Davis, Chase, Kirkpatrick and Olin Crane rounded out the field.
The Wingless Sprint Cars were back for the first race of the season, and long time competitor Greg Higginbotham won his heat race and the Main Event. 2014 champion Bill Hopper finished second ahead of Jeff Wilson, Kenny Webber, Falisha Jacobo, Don Emery and David Dias.
And now for a few thoughts about what could help generate some interest at our race tracks...
Fourteen Things I Would Like To See Happen At Our Tracks
There are certainly a few things I would like to see happen at our race tracks, so I decided to write this. Bear in mind this is not meant to put down our local tracks or the people promoting them. Anybody can have an opinion, but it's another thing to be in there actually "guiding the ship" when you have to deal with so many things. Having been there before, I understand some of what a promoter has to deal with. It's not easy.
I had my Editor's Viewpoint column in The DCRR for years, and it was at times controversial. It was only meant to be a way to try and help change things for the better. I always vowed that if I could get in there and help make a difference, I would do that. During my time in the sport, I've had my chance. I'd like to think I was able to help do some good things. Were I given the chance again, I think I could do more.
With all of that in mind, let's take a look at some of the things I would like to see happen in the sport. Maybe you agree or disagree with some of this. I'm of the opinion that we need to be thinking of ways that will ultimately increase fan attendance and driver support. Otherwise, we could start losing some race tracks.
Track Unity: I will always be in favor of this, because it matters. I love that Oval Motorsports has three tracks with universal rules, but there are at least a couple tracks I would like to see invited to the party. Historically, Watsonville has had a good relationship with these tracks and Petaluma and Antioch have worked well together as well. I would like to see John Soares Jr., John Prentice and Rick Faeth sit down and work things out. It could benefit ALL five tracks.
Take the Late Models, for instance. Fans at Petaluma and Watsonville like this class, and Antioch is building something nice. There are other cars at those two tracks, and a visit or two from the Oval Motorsports DIRTcar Late Models would be well received. It also shows fans of Watsonville and Petaluma that management cares about Stock Car racing too. I think it could even help Antioch a bit too.
Antioch wants a Winged 360 Sprint Car class and is working to establish it. I would encourage working with Petaluma. There were Petaluma drivers at a recent Antioch race who expressed how they want the same thing. If Petaluma guys can come to Antioch, they will. If Oval Motorsports has a couple Late Model dates for Petaluma, Petaluma might be more willing to give an extra night or two off to their 360's. Antioch could have 7 or 8 dates that don't conflict with Petaluma and can therefore could get more Sprint Cars.
Super Stocks and IMCA Modifieds will be booked at both tracks, but encouragement can be made to have drivers go back and forth. Antioch drivers are more likely to go to Petaluma than Merced, though more Merced visits can be made if there were more encouragement to do so. If there are nights that Petaluma or Antioch is really trying to do something special for the two classes, the other track can give that division a night off.
Similarly, Watsonville has Modifieds, Sport Mods and Hobby Stocks. Antioch, Merced and Chowchilla have the same thing. Merced, Chowchilla and Watsonville have Mini Stocks. Prentice has three Sprint Car tours that could make appearances at the Oval Motorsports tracks.
Now, there are reasons things are frosty between Prentice and Soares that I will not get into. I'm talking about now, not then. Faeth and the other two shouldn't have any real issues. You have three people who represent five race tracks. Working together will benefit them all, not just in the ways I have outlined here.
A Hall Of Fame For Antioch Speedway And Merced Speedway: Honestly, this is something that any track with a history should have. It shows the fans the great tradition and history that these tracks have. It honors some of the people who have helped make the tracks so special. A Hall Of Fame Night at the races could be done BCRA style with a pre race picnic and ceremony. Old drivers from the past can get together with old friends and bench race.
Then, they all walk over to the grandstands and watch some racing. The track can make a special night of it with extra distance races. A Hall Of Fame Night at the races, if you will. The new inductees into the Hall Of Fame could be introduced to the fans on the front straightaway. These tracks have a great heritage, and it's time to embrace that.
Along these lines, we can have a display board somewhere near the concession stands that lists all of the past champions, has old pictures, a listing of Hall Of Fame members and whatever for the fans to see. We should start embracing the history now as a way to help make the tracks special and make them a place people want to be. You'd be surprised at how this can help the tracks.
I have an idea on how to start it off at Antioch that I am keeping to myself at the moment, but I will say this. There are some deserving drivers to be honored there and at Merced.
My short list of first ballot Hall Of Famers are:
Antioch Speedway: Bill Brown, Gary Pacheco, J.D. Willis, Dennis Furia, Richard Johnson and Dean Cline.
Merced Speedway: Dennis Moomjean, Vern Willhoite, Ted Stofle and George Steitz. Johnny Sass should get in as member at large for all he has done for that track through the years.
Better Publicity: We live in an information age, and we need to embrace it and use it to the fullest. Printed and internet outlets need to be used. Race reviews and results need to be released in a timely manner. Any websites or newspapers should receive race review articles and pre race articles, social media should be engaged daily, video and audio media should be engaged in every possible way and local TV news should be pursued.
The internet can offer these tracks a way to reach new fans and sell track merchandise. You should be able to order shirts, hats and other things through the track web site. Streaming video or audio on the internet should be pursued. With live broadcasting, for a fee, you can create virtual fans and generate revenue that helps keep the tracks going. We need to find any way we can to get fans and racers back to the track again.
Make The Championships Mean Something: Some tracks need to come up with ways to encourage the competitors to race for points and be track regulars. Making a reasonable schedule is part of the battle, but offering a little reward at the end of the season will help too. One thing that should be pursued is title sponsorships for each division with the money going into the point fund. I know things aren't what they used to be, but having only a couple drivers running every race should be considered unacceptable. Give these drivers a reason to want to be there for every race.
An Overhaul Of Some Websites: Too many sites are too flashy or don't have enough information. Fans want to know when it starts, what it costs and all of that. This needs to be easy to find. People want to know what the points are and be able to find the results. This should be archived in an easily searchable way and not wiped out from year to year. The history of the track should be on that web site with championships and old Top 10's as are available. A track website needs all of that. If fans or racers ask reasonable questions on social media, even if it's the same question everybody asks, answer it. Do you want them to come to the track? This stuff matters.
Overhaul the Oval Motorsports page. Oval Motorsports should be the landing site, but Merced, Antioch and Chowchilla should have their own pages. They have unique identities, and as such have unique information relevant to them. Fix the point standings at Merced and Chowchilla. They are messed up, and it would only take somebody no more than a day to sort that out. Being incorrect on this sends a message to the racers and fans that management doesn't care.
Build A Community: Make the racers and fans feel like they are a part of it. Encourage a day where fans come out to the pits long before the races and meet the drivers once in a while. Find businesses that would have gatherings with racers and fans on a Friday or Sunday. Keep the awards banquet and put it where it needs to be at the end of the season. Have a pre race signup meeting where management can give a state of the track address every year and answer questions.
Do things to encourage fans. Have a driver bring a car to a school as part of an assembly and hand out tickets to the kids. Have Girl Scout, Boy Scout, Little League, Veterans and those kinds of nights at the race track. Try innovative ways to get new fans, even going so far as to give away tickets in places where you know it's not the regulars getting the tickets. Even if you have a night where 100 new fans get in free, they still end up buying food and may come back and pay next time. If you don't build a community and try new things, you are wasting the opportunity to build up the track.
Be There For The Other Tracks: Some of our tracks are on the threatened list. Roseville, Petaluma and Watsonville have all had their challenges in recent years. I propose an alliance where other tracks can offer whatever support is available to the other tracks in need. You're not gonna gain all of the other cars if the track closes, but those drivers would lose a home track. You might gain a visitor or two from time to time when that track is dark. You support racing this way. I don't want to see the day when Watsonville and Petaluma are closed, but it could happen
Prestige Races: Watosnville has the Johnny Key Classic, the Pat Pettit Memorial and The Mike Cecil Race. Management brought back the Ted Stofle Classic to Merced. These races matter and are special. People want to win them. I'd love to see the Timmy Post Memorial 100 brought back to Merced if the family were on board. That young man meant a lot to the community and was taken away from us way before his time.
Antioch could use a race or two, and we all know some of the legends who could be honored. It doesn't have to be 100 laps, though having one race would be nice. It can be 30 or 40 laps, and each division could have something. The Dwarf Cars are doing okay in car count. How bout 30 laps in honor of Jim Soares? We all know how much that division meant to him. Darryl Shirk, Willie Myatt, Bob Meeker, so many. Have a trophy for the winner that night. Even if it's not a huge purse, maybe a little extra to win that night.
I keep going back to John Soares Sr. I really don't care if Petaluma has a race for him, because they should. However, Pops founded Antioch Speedway and ran it for 20 years. That could be the 100 lapper or two 50 lappers, one for two different divisions. They had nice trophies back in the January race, and I keep coming back to the Founders Cup idea in honor of John Soares Sr., Bert Moreland, Jerry Piper and Bob Barkhimer. Where would we be without those four great men paving the way for this sport in the early days.
Rules Discussions: Rules should be left alone. If changes are made, they should be made and announced at the end of the season so drivers can make the appropriate plans. Changing them a month and a half before the season is not a good idea, even if the intent may be good. I am in favor of affordable rules, but forcing guys to make changes to cars that are ready to go just before the season is a recipe for low car count.
Having the drivers involved, all of the drivers, is important to any rules discussion. They are the ones who have to maintain their race cars, so their opinion is more important than a parts dealer's opinion. That parts dealer may have ulterior motives as we have seen in the past. Once this is done, freeze the rules and let the guys run for 3-5 years before any new discussion. Safety rules are the exception as we want our drivers to be safe.
I know one of the temptations a promoter has when playing with rules is that they want to look like they are doing something. Worry about the track and making sure things are ready to go. Leave the rules alone. Also, when you have a schedule ready, don't keep changing it. It creates confusion, and people don't want to constantly be reminded to refresh their browser. Once they know the dates, they are ready to race and have already planned vacations around the schedule.
Be Open To New Ideas: Some promoters fall into the trap of being too set in their ways. If somebody comes up with something that is working and you think it can work at your track, try it. If somebody comes in with an idea and is willing to do the leg work on it, give it a shot. Sometimes shaking things up is just what is needed to make things really pop at the track. I've seen promoters do some stuff that seemed crazy at the time, only to have success with the idea.
On the other hand, if something is working, nurture it, but don't start making drastic changes to it that could undo what you have. Treat every division like it matters, because they all do.
A Cure For Divisionitis: I still believe the ultimate goal is to have fewer divisions with more cars, but we have more divisions with fewer cars. This is a turn off to fans wanting to see competitive races and a reason attendance is hurting at some places. The goal should be to grow the classes we have, but to trim out divisions that may be grabbing resources that the track could put into other things. Just prior to this season, Antioch management made the decision to drop Mini Stocks as they had 5-6 cars, down substantially from a year or two ago. And, this division only ran for plaques and no money.
When you have divisions running for money and not performing, you need to look into why that is. What are the root causes of the low car count, and how can they be fixed? If it can be fixed, get working on it immediately. If it looks like it won't get any better, a hard decision needs to be made. Division by division, we need to work on getting things back to where they can be. We know, for instance, that the IMCA Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Wingless Spec Sprints have cars, so we need to work on getting them back out to the track.
New divisions aren't really needed. I admit that I'm curious about IMCA Stock Cars, mainly because the drivers seem to like IMCA at this point and it's universal rules set. I'm not convinced that it should be added just yet, but I am intrigued.
Who Is The Car Builder: The main thing is who do we have building race cars these days. The names I know in the Antioch area were Lance Cline and Scott Busby. Neither are doing it now, and unfortunately, Lance isn't even in the area. Lance almost single handedly built the Four Banger class in the beginning had was very important to the growth of Pure Stocks and Street Stocks before that. Who is doing this now, because we are in a different reality than before? Some people can't build a car in their garage due to regulations or lack of knowledge.
The car builder builds new cars for the guys, and those old cars get sold to people who are sometimes moving up to the division or getting started in racing. In the IMCA Modified days, look how many Harris Modifieds we had. Look at the Stahl Cars we had in Late Models back in the 1980's and early 1990's. Some of those Stahl Cars are still alive in Limited Late Models. Having a car builder adding new cars to the field every year is an important ingredient to the survival of the race track.
A Printed Magazine: I think this mattered back then and still matters. People are talking about Racing Wheels, and John currently owns that magazine. It used to be that the big open shows on the schedule would be hyped up in that magazine a month or two in advance. People clipped the sign up form from the paper and sent it in, and that race was unusually pretty big. Not to mention people would clip the articles for their scrap books. Wheels was around for over 40 years. We lost that magazine, Gary Jacob and open show promoter George Steitz in the same time frame, and in some ways the sport has been hurting ever since.
Wheels or another magazine is needed now more than ever. It can tie in to a web page (separate from Facebook) with a community of racers and fans who still care about this sport. We need to encourage people to give a damn, and I think having a printed magazine would help that. Racing Wheels would be perfect as it still has name recognition ten years later.
Chowchilla Dirt Track Shoot Out: I had my words twisted here by an opportunist wanting me out of the picture, so let me make this clear. I would love to have The George Steitz Memorial Dirt Track Shoot Out again at Chowchilla Speedway. First week of November, last week of October (need to check scheduling) as it used to be. Oval Motorsports is the Chowchilla promoter, and I NEVER said otherwise. I would love to see Oval Motorsports reach out to the Steitz family and try to make this race a reality. If the family came on board, this race could work again.
Furthermore, Chowchilla has a 15 year history of its own, and I have two names in mind to induct into that track's Hall Of Fame. George Steitz is one of them. George helped put that track on the map by bringing his race from the closed San Jose Speedway to Chowchilla in 2000. I announced that race, and we had 200 cars that weekend. It was an amazing sight to behold. I understand there may be some things that would hold all of this up, but this event would be good for the sport.
There are a few other things I could add, but I said I was doing 14 here. I want Tom Sagmiller to continue to be involved down at Merced and Chowchilla, because people do care about him there and he cares about those tracks. Having one of the locals involved in a key position is important at those tracks. I also believe in Oval Motorsports and John and Donna Soares' ability to do good things in the sport. They have already done so much good.
It's a community effort that we need where everybody pitches in where they can, doing whatever that may be. We are lucky to have these race tracks in this day and age. We need to remember that and not take them for granted. We need to continue to look ahead at what we can do to make it better. I know the things I would like to do, and I believe I can help. Even if I'm not involved, I want to see this sport grow and prosper in the years to come. To do that, we need to be willing to change and adapt to the times we are in now.