Thursday, July 2, 2015

A View From The Perch, Hardtops, Spotsman Cars And Possible New Tracks

First of all...

On Sale At Reduced Price

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

The DCRR Racing Radio Show
The weekend preview edition 

DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 43 by GenWhat

Bako Motorsports Power Hour talks Bakersfield Speedway HERE

Also, has coverage of the Main Events from Bakersfield Speedway last week, which can be viewed HERE 
Chuck out Foothill TV's coverage of Placerville Speedway last week HERE
Saving The Hardtop And Sportsman Divisions

I love both the Hardtiops and Sportsman divisions.  I grew up watching the Sportsman division at Antioch.  My dad told me stories about the Hardtops at Vallejo and Pacheco.  My uncle Ken and his brother Don raced at Vallejo, and I got to look at Ken's scrapbook.  In 1982, the Sportsman division was gone at Antioch.  In 1979, the Hardtops were gone at Vallejo.  We never went to Vallejo back then that I recall, but it would have been nice to see Tommy Thomson, Terry DeCarlo, Barry Pries and those guys race.

Thomson still races that Hardtop, the same car he won the last Hardtop race with at Vallejo.  Tommy is a second generation racer, and his father is the legendary Chet Thomson.  It would have been nice to see him race against guys like Leroy Geving and Johnny Franklin.  I feel like I knew those guys based on my dad's stories, and I did get the honor of meeting Leroy at Petaluma years later.  Very nice guy and the patriarch of three generations of racing champions.

But, let's talk modern history.  This all happened within the last 20 years, but it led us to where we are now.  In 2002, Mike McCann and Chuck Prather led a convoy from Banks, Oregon to Sacramento, California.  It happened on my birthday, and I went to Sacramento Raceway with Don O'Keefe Jr. and Jim Booth that night.  Mike had the Cascade Hardtops at Sunset Speedway in Banks, Oregon.  The plan was a visit to Sacramento and a stop at Orland the next night on the way back home.

Steve Limley won that night.  The seed was planted.  Ken Bonnema was "The Hardtop Hunter" at that time, and I think he raced a car at Sacramento that night.  He ended up racing at Chowchilla with his two Hardtops after that.  I think Jim Booth got to drive one too at some point.  Ken was tracking down cars, because he wanted to start a Northern California effort.  Prather, who doesn't get a lot of respect for the good things he's done for racing, came to California a year later and started Hardtops at Roseville and Sacramento.  The Sacramento effort coincided with the new CSRA Spec Sprint deal that ran on the dirt oval.

Hardtops were established, and a few years earlier, the Sportsman division returned.  After Mark Amador took the Limited Sprints from Merced to the pavement tracks and renamed them Renegade Sprints, a spot was available on the Merced roster.  Well, promoter Chuck Griffin got together with Luis Miranda, whose father painted many Sportsman cars back in the 1970's, and rules were created for a new Sportsman class.

The Sportsman division made its return, 20 years after they had been dropped.  That first race was in 1999.  Miranda had a car, Sportsman legend "Rapid" Rod Poor and Mike Friesen were on the original roster.  Friesen is a big booster of the nostalgia thing and has since started racing Hardtops up and down the state of California.  Slowly, this class started to grow.  Old cars were restored and new cars were built.

Bill Baker of Mighty Muffler and Keith Van Houten had a beautiful and fast race car.  Tim Leidich had a car built through Baker and Van Houten, a beautiful car with a 57 Chevy body.  Kevin Freitas, Robb Schropp, Ed Marion and others joined, and there were a dozen cars in the area within two years.  Politics sort of came into play with the desire to form a club.  They started racing some at Chowchilla and even made a return to Antioch for a date.  The Sportsman division was established.

But, McCann and Prather had people talking about the Hardtop thing too.  There is a love for Hardtops and Vallejo Speedway, even to this day, that is second to no track or division's love.  Maybe equal to the love expressed for the old Super Modifieds.  By the way, in case you hadn't noticed, people are building and restoring old Super Modifieds and racing them at pavement tracks such as Madera, Stockton and Roseville.  Last report was there are some 30 cars, and guys like Mike Sargent are still building cars.

Prather made a go of it for a couple years with about a half dozen Hardtop drivers racing pavement and dirt, and then the division caught the eye of a Petaluma Stock Car and Super Stock veteran named Conrad Cavallero.  Conrad and twin brother Carmen Cavallero built cars.  Conrad and his friend, Mike McClure, built replica cars of two Hardtop legends, Johnny Franklin and Leroy Geving.  Some will say those were the two greatest drivers ever in Hardtops, and now there were cars to remind the fans of them.

Conrad established the Nor Cal Hardtops and had people getting on board with it.  Racers like Dan Williams, Tommy Thomson and John Philbert were on board early on and continue to field cars.  Antioch Speedway, Stockton Speedway, Lakeport Speedway, Orland Raceway and Petaluma Speedway were tracks that opened their gates to this division early on.  In fact, Hardtops were a key part of the nostalgia event hosted by All American Speedway in Roseville in late summer every year.

The division was actually racing hard and had Main Event winners again.  Drivers like Conrad Cavallero, Dan Williams, Tommy Thomson and Mike Friesen were winning features, and new cars were being built.  Pete Paulsen, Terry DeCarlo and Bob Fillipi were out there with cars, and double digit car counts began happening.  Cavallero stepped aside after doing a good job of establishing the Nor Cal effort, and the division started seeing races at Stockton dirt, Calistoga and a huge special event at Petaluma.  But, there were complications along the way.

Meanwhile, the Farris family was liking what they were seeing up north, and they wanted to get something started at their home track, Bakersfield Speedway.  Okie Bowl Hardtops were born.  Kenny Farris has since passed away, but the dedicated group that is involved with this effort sees to it that 12-14 cars show up at races in Santa Maria, Bakersfield and Porterville most nights.  In fact, they have a race next Saturday in Porterville.  The Okie Bowl group strives to be as authentic as they can be and seems to be the strongest of these three groups, or at least the best organized.

After some good seasons, the Sportsman division nose dived this year and has been removed from the Merced Speedway schedule.  This is a group that has by some estimations as many as 20 cars, and yet they never had more than five cars this year, which only happened twice.  They have crowned champions every year since 1999, and it looks like that has reached an end.  Kenny Birdsong, Marcus Lung, Mike Palmberg, Eric Seely and Jeff Bristow were five of the most loyal supporters this season.

That still begs the question of where three recent champions, Mike Hausmann, Shane Hausmann and Mike Henault, have been.  A couple drivers, Tim Prothro and Mark Odgers, fielded Sport Mods this season.  And there are others missing this season.  Will this class get a second chance, or are we saying goodbye yet again to the beloved Sportsman division?  Legend's Night is coming to Merced on August 23rd, and as of now, the Sportsman division will not be a part of it.

The Hardtops fall has been puzzling.  This is a class capable of identical car counts to their Southern California Okie Bowl neighbors, and four cars were all that showed at the recent Antioch race.  They race at Ukiah on Saturday, and there's no telling what car count will be.  This may be effected by the fact that at least a dozen drivers showed for Calistoga last Saturday night, only to find that they would not be allowed to race.  At a time when cars actually did show, that was a big slap to the face.

Fingers are being pointed in all different directions.  Some are pointing at people like car owner Dave Mackay for building a fast Hardtop, Hardtop veteran Larry Damitz for building a Hardtop-like race car that really isn't one and a lack of respect for tradition, but a majority of fingers after last week are being pointed at the leadership.  The Hardtop effort is in disarray, and people are saying something needs to be done.

There are rumblings of change, and we've heard a few things to indicate change may be coming.  At this time, we can't get into details, but it could lead to a righting of the ship and a brighter future for Hardtop racing in Northern California.  August looks like it will be the month in which the beginning of good things will happen, and that could carry over into a better schedule in 2016 that the racers can finally get on board with.  Announcements may be coming very soon.

The reality is, the cars are out there.  We have good racing families like the Armstrongs (Jason and Dennis) getting involved from the Placerville area.  Bay Area racers like Thomson, Williams, John Fuller, Rob Waldrop, Mike McClure and Jim Perry Jr. are also out there.  They just need stability and a schedule they can count on.  Somebody needs to save the group, because at the end of the day, it's not about politics.  It's about racing and sharing the memories that these cars will evoke from long time racing fans.

While it looks like there is leadership ready to step up and give the Nor Cal Hardtops the guidance they need, we wonder if anybody is out there to organize the Sportsman division.  This looks like the perfect time for somebody to call a meeting and find out why cars aren't showing up and how to get them back out there.  The longer they wait, the more likely it will be that this thing can't or won't be saved.

The Merced Speedway schedule goes through the end of September, and that gives them time for somebody to try to fix things.  12-14 cars may not be something that will happen overnight, but enough cars are out there that 8 cars should be doable for a race or two in August and September.  The date that should be marked on the calender is the 23rd of August.  It's Legend's Night at Merced Speedway, and the Sportsman division should be a part of it.  The question is, who will step up and try to lead this thing back from the brink?  Does anybody care enough to try?  As a fan of the division, I sure Hope so.

A View From The Perch

So, at the end of a three race weekend, I'm back at Chowchilla Speedway.  This is a race I kind of wanted to announce, but they had a guy there to do it.  I wanted the microphone because I'm not sure what the future of this race track will be.  I also wanted it, because I had a sneaking suspicion that this would be the last race I would attend for a while or maybe even indefinitely.  But, that leads off into other subjects.

Racing has changed a lot since I last walked away ten years ago.  I know it.  I've tried to treat it as I always have, but there have been some interesting observations during these last few months.  I know point racing doesn't mean much anymore.  I heard that a few times last week.  It came up in conversation with Jim Robbins and Bobby Hogge III.

I happened to be talking to Bobby about how I had noticed from my spot on the sidelines how his son was winning the big money shows during the season in recent years and how they've focused on that, rather than point racing.  Bobby revealed that this was more fun.  They don't like being at every race and have more fun chasing the money races.  Plus, championships are seldom worth much these days.

Jim was making his comment about how little point races mean when it hit me.  I mean, I have observed in recent years how few racers actually run a whole season without missing a race.  If I do the math at Antioch, there have been 26 different drivers to make every race this year and no more than five in any one division.  Merced Speedway has had eight different drivers.  Nobody wants the championship, really.  If they run every week, they simply fall into the Top 3 or a championship.  Oval Motorsports has lost money on banquets in recent years, because so many racers don't even want a trophy.

And, it hit me as I climbed the perch on the back stretch at Chowchilla to take in the view and get pictures.  This is why what I do isn't seen as important by the powers that be anymore.  I will hype the point battles and that sort of thing, but they themselves don't really care about the points.  They don't think anybody else does, so what I do is just another relic from the past that isn't seen as important to them anymore.  I've had good feedback from many racers, especially those who remember what we used to have out there.

I blame the internet and social media and the availability of quick and concise information out there. The internet killed The DCRR Magazine, Racing Wheels, Southwest Stock Car Digest and all of them.  Forgive me for not thinking that is a good thing.  It encourages people not to read and almost not to even think beyond what they are told to think.  When any of my longer articles appear, some will still read them.  Others will look at it and get tired of reading after a paragraph or two.

Does it even matter anymore?  I think it does and it can help the sport.  I've had lots of positive feedback, but I've seen a few negative remarks too.  The one that amused me was the recent comment that I was stirring up bad feelings simply by reporting about a championship battle.  Really, they said that.  I just had to shake my head and chalk it up to a sign of the times,  What was standard reporting when I had the magazine is now viewed as negative by some.

Up on the perch, I looked out over a race track that came out of nowhere 15 years ago.  What a little miracle this track was.  Nobody saw it coming, and it hosted some of the biggest events of the time anywhere in the state.  There were 200 cars at that first Steitz Dirt Track Shoot Out, and that event remained big for the duration of Tom Sagmiller's time as promoter.  When I turned around and looked at the pits, I saw Sunday's reality.  There were just 19 cars in a four division show.  Really, just 19 cars!

What the hell happened to Chowchilla Speedway?  I've heard it said that they never had a crowd or much of a show, but I was there those first two seasons.  That's not true.  They had a car count and people came to watch.  Sagmiller was not your typical promoter.  He ran that track in an unconventional way, but that's what it took to make it happen.  He lasted for seven and a half years until the old feud came back to haunt him.

Since then, every promoter has tried to run this track the way a conventional track should be run, and one by one, they have all failed.  They all thought they knew what it took to run a race track in a town like Chowchilla, and they all walked away frustrated in the end.  The track is currently on it's sixth promoter, and eight races into their time at the track, only 19 drivers and less than 100 fans bothered to show up.  To be sure, there are other tracks hurting in the state right now.

The favorite answer is it's all John Soares Jr's fault, but that's not really fair.  He swooped in when the previous management failed, just as he had at Merced.  Without him, who knows if the race track would even be there.  It's an often thankless job, but somebody has to do it.  John can be seen as a reclusive and a therefore inaccessible promoter, but he is always willing to have civil discussions with the racers.

Another knock on John is he's supposedly greedy and out to screw the racers.  Well, he continues to give them a place to race, and he also doesn't shy away from promoting big money races.  People don't hear the passion in his voice when he talks about his days as a driver or when he talks about things he's doing for the track.  He's like a kid in a candy store at times like that, talking about sharing that candy with the other kids.

In The Valley, there's a growing restlessness with some drivers who think that John has only done bad.  I think it's a narrow minded view and a dishonest view from people with negative agendas.  And, I do agree that John has made some key mistakes along he way, but he's still coming at this with good intentions.  His image is not a positive one, but that's partially because there isn't enough communication with the racers.  He's trying to change that by moving Merced to Sundays so he can be there to oversee it.

If he fails, tracks could close for good.  Somebody could step in, but the cost factor may be enough to scare anybody off.  I'm not sure why some of these people even try to run a race track in this day and age.  The times have changed so much.  Attitudes have changed.  It's the same sport it always was, but things have changed so much that people don't want to be a part of it anymore.  Why bother?  I think in John's case it's because racing has been a part of his life since he was born. It's hard to walk away now.  His father was 82 years old when he left the sport, and he had to be dragged away.

The sport has seen its better days.  We don't have as many cars anymore.  We try to convince ourselves that a 50 car, five division show is good, but it's not.  It's just better than the 40 car show we had last week.  Those of us who know better wonder where the fans and racers went and if we can ever get them back.  That voice tells us that we can't, but our hearts tell us if we'd just try this or that,  maybe we could see a change.  What is the answer?

I'm not really sure.  Oh, I think I have ideas, and maybe something would work, but the damage done over the last decade or so is pretty bad.  Nobody really wants to compromise and work together.  It's all or nothing for a lot of people.  If it's not 100% what they want, they get on social media and rip the track.  Others chime in, and then the track looks bad.  People don't look at it like a bad night.  It must be the promoter's fault, and things just go down hill from there.

The racing community has to band together and realize it will take all of us to try and make any kind of run at a decent future.  It may never be what it once was, but it can't even get better than it is now without a total effort by the community as a whole.  But, in the "me" generation, we have a lot of people who won't pitch in at all to try and make it better.  It's not their job, and therefore, it's not their responsibility.  It gets worse and worse.  Some tracks don't make it easy to try to pitch in and help.

From the perch, I'm sad.  This track may be done.  It looks very bad, and John may not want to do anymore here.  He hasn't said that, but he may not.  Merced got so bad that the race date has been changed from Saturday to Sunday in a last ditch effort to try and make a rally.  There is no guarantee that this will succeed, because there is a segment of the racing community itself that wants this effort to fail so somebody else can come "save them" like John did.  But, will anybody spend money on these tracks to try if John does leave?

Honest racers know the situation doesn't look good.  I spoke with one long time racer who admitted that the racers were lucky John came and resurrected Merced and has tried with Chowchlla as well.  If it closes, there's no guarantee that it can be brought back again.  It may not be back.  If somebody were to try, what would make them so special?  Could they afford this?  What happens when the racers turn against them the way they have other promoters?  At some point, it's all over.

This is why I walked away a little over a decade ago.  Racing was on the decline, and I could see it.  I was called negative for pointing it out, but I knew where things were headed if we didn't change our approach.  Tracks were gonna start closing, and they did.  There was wave of track closures, and yet we managed to get almost all of them back under new management.  We even added a new track and saw one that had been closed for nearly 20 years get brought back.

Perhaps, because of that, people feel like it's all good, but it's not.  Some of these track keep closing and opening under new management, and car counts aren't so good at some of these races.  Promoters are only going to put up with losing so much money before they walk away and let the tracks start closing.  At some point, the racers have to rally behind a promoter and help make it happen, even if it isn't all perfect in their eyes.

I was as good as gone when I stepped back in one more time.  I thought I could make a difference.  I thought my brand of reporting would be wanted by the community.  In some respects it is, but when it comes to the value the powers that be see in it, I don't know.  It makes me sad to watch what passes for a racing program these days.  We have fewer cars in more divisions, and if we can manage a 12 car average, it's considered successful.  A crowd of 500-600 fans is considered good.  We don't even try to reach more fans the way we should, because it's considered a wasted effort before we even try.

I look at 19 cars and realize that we are going to try and run that program and present it to the fans as if it was a show.  God bless the racers, they gave it an effort.  They tried.  I hope the ones who could have raced and didn't are pleased with themselves.  They may have had a good reason for not being there, but their absence was felt.  To be sure, more could have been done by management to try and get more interest.  It is what it is.  The features were run, we had winners and purse money was paid out that night.  An eight race point season was concluded.

It may come back for a race or two in the fall, but will it matter?  Will the racers come back and race?  Will management walk away, leaving the track for dead one more time?  If they do, is it over for that track?  I don't know the answer to that.  I only know racing isn't what it once was.  It's not even what it could be at some places.  As I climb down from the perch, one thought comes to my mind.  The gates opened at that track, just as they had a night earlier in a big race at Antioch that attracted 65 cars for a 3 division show.

Even that bigger show was not what it might have been had more effort been put forth to put the word out and attract more racers.  But, it was a good show.  The few fans who watched the few cars at Chowchilla still saw racing.  They may have walked away wondering what is next for Chowchilla Speedway.  I wish I could answer that.  With effort, something good could happen.  It's as I always say, as long as the gates open at the race track, there's a chance for good things to happen.  It all depends on the effort put forth by all involved on all sides of the fence.

In Search Of Race Tracks Waiting To Happen

So, I'm sitting here roasting in the heat as I can't run my air conditioner when I came across this comment on Facebook.  The writer mentions a race track that nobody wants that could be opening and my name came up as an announcer.  I'm flattered to be considered at any track, and I think I can be an asset to a race track looking to generate more interest.  But, this isn't about me.  This is about race tracks out there waiting to happen.

The first question to be asked is, why open a new or old race track that has been closed in this day and age?  I don't know if it is a good idea, to be honest, but I do know that I have always had a place in my heart for the underdog.  I have a chapter in my auto biography about being in on the ground floor when things get started.  I love that sort of thing.  Of course, when you make it happen, there are always people lined up to grab your place.

Can it happen?  Can you make a new track fly in this day and age, or is it all just a pipe dream?  Well, let me share my thoughts on the matter.  I tend to think starting small is the way to go.  Start with Mini Stock and Hobby Stock classes as there may not be a lot of money to go around at first.  If you have somebody with millions to spend, that may be different.  Build core classes that locals can afford to support and build the show around them.  Never lose sight of the fact that these classes matter.

The Hills Ferry And Dixon Potential

CORA made Dixon fly.  When I walked that track back before they built grandstands, fences or anything around it, I envisioned Mini Stocks, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars racing there.  The fact is, Sprint Cars have practiced there, and there was a USAC Midget making laps this year.  Recent years have seen nights where Dwarf Cars and Mini Stocks have had races there.

The problem is, there has been no resolution to start a program there.  The Mini Sprint Car stuff has certainly been successful, but a Mini Stock and Dwarf Car show would work if management wanted it.  First, you make it worth their while.  Second, you get on the phone with NCDCA and SBDCA and figure out a schedule for Dwarf Cars.  Once a month is fine.  Schedule around the groups.

Start a Mini Stock class.  We may be at a point where two classes are needed.  Remember that fields get fuller quicker on a one fifth mile track.  You may not want more than 12-14 cars in the feature.  That's how it was at Delta Speedway back in the day.  We could get cars over time once the racers see a serious effort being made.  I'd love to consider Hobby Stocks, but I'm not sure how Dixon would respond to that.  You know, there have been persistent rumors of track expansion.  If that happens, Dixon Speedway can become a player in the game.

Hills Ferry made its name as a Karting track.  At one time, before he got Antioch, John Soares Jr. looked at the potential of promoting races there.  He saw that too much work was needed and walked away.  George Steitz looked a few years later and was very serious.  He and Tom Sagmiler promoted the Kart and Motorcycle stuff the track is known for.  The location is such that it could attract cars from everywhere, but a lot is needed to make it viable.

First and foremost, the track itself has been revamped and there may even be Mini Sprint and Kart races before season's end.  One of the things listed on the Facebook page is Dwarf Cars.  That would be great if it could happen, and I don't think Mini Stocks on the track would be out of the question in the future.  Money to make repairs to the track would be the key.

What In Sand Hill Is Going On?

Sand Hill Raceway in Byron has long been established for it's hill climb events, but at various times they have had oval tracks. Their old 1/6 mile dirt track featured Mini Sprints and had racers like Chris Wadsworth and Brandi Ford as part of the show.  Both drivers went on to do pretty well.  That little track did have Dwarf Cars a time or two as well, but then noise complaints saw the track moved to elsewhere on the property.  The real problem was the noise complaints came from rave parties.

The track that was cut on the other part of the property was a quarter mile oval.  You will end up with dry tracks there, and water would be used to keep the dust down.  You would need to build around the track, grandstands and that sort of thing.  The location of the track could work in getting drivers in all divisions, but the last word I had was 1200 cc engines or smaller.  So, BCRA Mini Sprints and Dwarf Cars could happen, but you'd have a battle getting anything else.  I wonder how firm the no would be, which leads me to the next track.

Grass Valley Speedway

There is a movement to reestablish the track that was quite popular at the Grass Valley Fairgrounds.  The beautiful trees surrounding the place, the red clay, the unique cut of the track.  What a great tradition it was.  It was closed due to noise, but I get the sense that this is not a hard no.  Negotiations need to center around what needs to be done to bring this track back.  What nights can you run, do you have to get done earlier and other questions can be addressed.

When I've read comments on their Facebook page, I got the sense that even the fair manager was interested, but they weren't really being approached in the right manner.  The movement seemed more interested in procedural things, like creating a board, than finding out what needed to be done to open that track again.  Once you have a clear indication of what needs to be done and what is possible, then you create an association to open the track or find a new promoter willing to invest.

Grass Valley would be simple.  You bring in a Sprint Car class, Modifieds or Hobby Stocks and a Mini Stock group, along with various visiting support classes.  Were I up there, my first goal would be to get it in writing that it could happen again and what was needed.  I don't care about clubs and board rooms.  I just want racing.

Sacramento Raceway

I'm thinking the Stadium Oval as they had issues opening other tracks next to the drag strip there.  Recently, it's been 600 Mini Sprint oriented, but they launched the modern California Hardtop effort there a little under 15 years ago and started a Spec Sprint club that eventually led to the Marysville effort.  Before that, you had Friday night racing for four years with Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Street Stocks and Mini Stocks, not to mention other visiting groups.

What's interesting was this tight little quarter mile oval had some big races back then, and drivers came in from Placerville, Marysville, Antioch, Petaluma and Merced to race.  Even with Friday night traffic, they found a way to make it work.  They have old bleachers along the hillside and a press booth big enough for an announcer and scorer.  No concessions stands along the hill side, but you could have a food trailer up there.  This could work.

I do get a sense that the drag strip is all that matters to the property owner there, but if the right person could step in and convince them that this is a good idea, you can make it fly again.  I'd tie this track in with Sacramento Racing heritage and get the West Capital Speedway Alumni involved.  If Hardtops had their act together, they'd be invited, Super Mods too.  Spec Sprints and Sport Mods would be on the card, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks and various traveling groups.  Friday nights would probably be the night.

Tulare Thunderbowl

This track is all about Sprint Cars.  I get it.  But, if I could get a once a month program and schedule around Hanford and Bakersfield, I'd book IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Mods, IMCA Stock Cars, Mini Stocks and Hobby Stocks.  Pro Stocks might be invited, Okie Bowl Hardtops too.  We'd have to have it set up so that the Saturday night program wasn't being stepped on by Bakersfield as we'd be hoping for cars from there.  Merced too, if possible.

I know they've made Stock Car programs work there in the 1990's.  They had a successful Street Stock program and even IMCA Modifieds did well.  I was there when they tried to bring it back, but I think the promoter was kind of in over his head on that deal.  This is definitely not a weekly thing.  Maybe eight races during the season between Sprint Car shows, but it could work.

Pearsonville Speedway

This one's been closed for some 15 years, but this track next to a wrecking yard had its glory days.  They ran various forms of Stock Cars, and that's what I'd have there again.  Of course, the place is sort of run down, and I'm not sure who would want to invest in it at this point.  However, if they could make it fly, one of the races I'd bring back would be the Turkey Classic race that they used to have.  If somebody came there with some money, it could happen again.

Find A Fairgrounds And Negotiate

About five years ago, this is what happened in Trinity County at the fairgrounds in Hayfork.  Some racing fans wanted to do something with the old horse racing track, and Hayfork Speedway was born.  People may be more familiar with Chowchilla Speedway. In 1999, there wasn't a Speedway there.  They did tractor pulls and Destruction Derbies, and occasionally a Mini Sprint race might happen there.  But, negotiations happened and the track came to be in 2000.

There are lots of fairgrounds in California.  Some may not be viable, but some may if you have the money to invest.  Mariposa has had several racers coming down to race at Merced Speedway through the years, and there's actually a fairgrounds there that hosts Destruction Derbies.  Another fairgrounds that has Derbies is in Sonora.  Lots of racers have come from there to race at Merced and Stockton through the years.  There might be a lot of work to do, but the property is there.

In Butte County, there's the fairgrounds in Gridley.  They have held Mini Sprint programs in recent years, but there was a time in the 1990's when a prominent promoter was going to help get another promoter that contract.  The other promoter declined the offer, but the paperwork was already being drawn up to make Gridley Speedway a reality.  Might something be possible today?  There's a fairgrounds in Los Banos, another town that has had some great racers come through that have raced at Merced and elsewhere.

In Southern California, Antelope Valley Fairgrounds has an annual Figure 8 race.  It's on a small track, but bigger than the Rodeo Arena Derbies that are becoming more popular.  The space seems to be there to do more for the right investor.  Up north, Modoc County Fairgrounds has had Stock Car racing at Cedarville Speedway,  There's potential there.

Location is always an issue.  You don't necessarily want to be too close to another track, but close enough for people to come visit.  If you are out in the boonies, so to speak, it can be a challenge unless you start with Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks like Hayfork is doing.  Even that can be a challenge.  Hayfork has people very committed to what they are doing, so the low but growing car counts are not discouraging them.

Then, you have the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.  Politics killed San Jose Speedway and replaced it with nothing where a race track used to be.  They still hold a Destruction Derby there, but more should be there.  More could be if somebody with the resources wanted to make it happen.  It's true that you have other challenges now, but being in a city like San Jose can have its advantages to the right promoter who wanted to make a real effort.

San Jose always worked well as a Sprint Car and Stock Car track.  Both types of cars made it fly, so starting with Winged Sprint Cars and Hobby Stocks seems like a no brainer to me.  Perhaps a Modified class, a Wingless Sprint Car class and Mini Stocks to get newcomers involved could be considered.  Of course, who wants to invest in cutting a new track and basically building new grandstands and fencing around the place after all of that stuff was destroyed by short sighted politicians?

If you are building from scratch, you could just pick a place out of the way and start there with a quarter-mile or three-eighth mile dirt track.  The challenge is getting all the permits.  It would seem going the fairgrounds path would be the way, but the private property way could work too if somebody had the money to invest.  Of course, where would you do it and how will you make it fly?

Altamont Raceway Park

I need to at least mention that the track in Saugus and one of the Victorville tracks may still be in existence, and it looks like the next new place to have official races may be the dirt track in Kern County.  But, there is this track out in Tracy that has had its moments since opening in the 1960's.  That would be Altamont Raceway.  It opened and closed and opened and closed, and it always looked hopeless for that place.

They had some good races through the years, but in the mid 1990's, the half and quarter-mile paved oval had its most successful continuous run of over a decade.  Everything from Stock Cars to Legend Cars and Sprint Cars and you name it ran at that track.  Then, the promoter got a little too careless in going against what they were permitted to do, and that caused the closure of the track in 2008.  It has sat there ever since.

Every year, the rumor mill asks if somebody will buy the place and try again, and the track continues to decay with the passing of time.  Might somebody be willing to give this track a go?  You have the challenges of running races there in the blistering Summer heat or the windy nights.  You have the struggle to attract fans.  The racers always seemed willing to come and support the track.  Who wants it now?

Nobody will be willing to buy that property unless either they see development potential or they can get the permits to run the track again.  And, the rumor has it that somebody is exploring that second possibility even now.  It's been said that there might even be an interest in turning the place into a dirt track and trying to do some big events there.  Given the location of Altamont Raceway, you could attract racers from several different areas.  It could work.

As we consider all of these possibilities, we have to realize that it's 2015, not 1985.  The sport has changed so much that it's just not that easy to build a car count or get fan interest in the sport we all love.  So, getting somebody to open their wallets and try to open a new race track might be a hard sell.  The potential is there to make something happen, but who really wants to do it now?  That's the question.  You really can't blame anybody for laughing you out of the room if you asked them to make the investment in a new race track.  Promoters are already having a hard enough time running the tracks we have now.