Thursday, July 23, 2015

Late Models At Antioch, IMCA Modifieds At Merced And Pit Stops

First of all...

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

Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover

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

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 Media And PR Consulting  HERE

The DCRR Racing Radio Show
Weekend Preview Edition

The Hunt Series Wingless Spec Sprint Main Event from Petaluma Speedway can be viewed HERE

BCRA/USAC Midgets Main Event from Petaluma Speedway can be viewed HERE

Controversial IMCA Stock Car finish from Bakersfield Speedway can be viewed HERE

Part 1 of the Bakersfield Speedway portion of the Bako Motorsports Power Hour can be viewed HERE

Part 1 of the Bakersfield Speedway portion of the Bako Motorsports Power Hour can be viewed HERE

Tony Karis filed his Ocean Speedway report with the Register-Pajaronian HERE

Late Models Headline Five Division Show 
At Antioch Speedway

Antioch Speedway is in the midst of its busiest Late Model schedule since 1993.  On Saturday night, they will hold their 11th of 14 scheduled events, and the championship battle is still close.  Also on the card will be the IMCA Sport Modifeds, Wingless Spec Sprints, Dwarf Cars and Hobby Stocks.

Jeff Decker has been the model of consistency.  A past Antioch Late Model champion, Decker drove to a second place finish last time out.  His eighth Top 3 finish in 11 starts gives him a 22 point lead over defending champion Richard Papenhausen.  Papenhausen missed the Summer Nationals with a back injury, and the five time feature winner seemed to be moving around slowly in the pits last time out.  He still managed a third place finish that night.

Papenhausen had his hands full that night as Chester Kniss finished right behind him in fourth.  That finish moved Kniss five points ahead of Rob Norris for fifth in the standings.  Chester will be joined by his 14 year old son, Chester Kniss Jr., who makes his Dwarf Car debut this week.  The battle for third in Late Model points remains close as David Newquist holds a 22 point advantage over Danny Malfatti.

The Top 6 drivers are anticipated for this event.  The division is good for 10-12 drivers most nights, but who will make up the rest of the field changes from week to week.  Troy Foulger won his second feature last time out, but it remains to be seen if he will show.  The track's house car will be there and other possibilities include Anthony Restad, Mike Hynes and Dennis Souza.  One or two cars from  one time winner Paul Guglielmoni's team is a possibility as well.

Fred Ryland needs wins to bring home that coveted IMCA National Sport Mod championship.  Last week, Ryland pulled down a pair of seconds at Marysville and Merced.  He has over 20 wins on the circuit, including six at Antioch, but he has fallen to second in the National championship hunt.  His Antioch and State point leads are well in hand at the moment.

The battle for second is a tie between Al Johnson and Paul Mulder.  Mulder has a win this year, but Johnson is coming off of a sold fourth place finish.  Only three points behind Keith Brown Jr., Chuck Golden appears ready to make a move on fourth.  Trevor Clymens is coming off of a strong second place finish and is anticipated this week.  Ron Brown recently celebrated his 65th birthday and has a pair of seconds this year.  Other drivers we are anticipating this week include Patti Ryland, Al Sotomayor and Megan Ponciano.

Point leader Kyle Bakkie seems to be struggling in his Wingless Spec Sprinter after the crash a month ago, and the team actually had a backup car last week just in case.  He struggled to a sixth place finish, while Rick Panfili earned a career best second place finish.  Bakkie's lead over Panfili is now 26 points.  Marcus Smith is only 24 points behind Panfili after his third place finish last week, but he's also just 16 points in front of Alan Miranda in the battle for third.

Rookie Chase Wood Jr. finally moved into fifth in the standings, and the Top 5 drivers are anticipated for this race.  However, Wood may have a hard time holding off Jimmy Perry III for that spot as the three time winner is just 16 points back. Just who will show up is still the question, but we anticipate Jeremy Newberry and one time winner James East may be among the field.

The tide seems to have turned in Dwarf Cars as the division returns from about a month off.  Three time winner David Teves leads two time winner Danny Wagner by 30 points, but Wagner has picked up a pair of wins at other tracks since then.  Can the two time champion get an Antioch win this week?  David isn't the only Teves who has won this season.  His talented son Adam has two wins of his own and is only 26 points behind Wagner in the race for second.

Fourth ranked Mike Corsaro and fifth place Kevin Miraglio are anticipated for what should be a 12-16 car field this week.  Miraglio and fellow Antioch regular Thomas Leiby both had wins at the recent Dwarf Car Regionals event in Watsonville for their first wins of the season.  Sixth ranked Miranda Chappa is getting faster lately, and she should be there this week along with Tim Reeder, Brian Gray and the return of one time winner Jack Haverty.

Point leader Kimo Oreta revealed last week that he's ready to move up from Hobby Stocks to Limited Late Models after this season.  With five wins this year, Oreta is leaving the battle for second.  Danny Jones blew a motor in a second place heat race finish last week, allowing rookie Jordan Swank to move into second in the standings.   Swank leads Jones by seven points.  Michael Cooper's fourth place finish last week has him 11 points out of second while the steady Frank Furtado is 33 points out of second. 

Jones has five second place finishes and may be the fastest of the four, but there's a question of whether he will have a motor ready in time for this race.  Swank's team was hard at work on a motor on Sunday to have them ready this week.  With two wins and two seconds, eighth raked Chris Sorensen will be starting no better than tenth this week.  Other drivers we'll be watching for include Natalie Perry, hard charger Cameron Swank, recent winner Chase Templeton and Russell Shearer.

The racing should be exciting from flag to flag.  Antioch Speedway is located within the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, 1201 W. 10th St. in Antioch, Calif. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 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

Jeff Decker    498
Richard Papenhausen 476
Dave Newquist     410
Danny Malfatti    388
Chester Kniss     320

IMCA Sport Mod

Fred Ryland     353
Paul Mulder     296
Al Johnson     296
Keith Brown Jr. 275
Chuck Golden     272

Wingless Spec Sprints

Kyle Bakkie    480
Rick Panfili     454
Marcus Smith    430
Alan Miranda    414
Chase Wood Jr.    304

Hobby Stocks

Kimo Oreta     786
Jordan Swank    543
Danny Jones     536
Michael Cooper    532
Frank Furtado     510

Dwarf Cars

David Teves     560
Danny Wagner    530
Adam Teves    504
Mike Corsaro    440
Kevin Miraglio    410

IMCA Modifieds Headline Sunday Night Program 
At Merced Speedway

There are some exciting things happening at Merced Speedway.  The IMCA Modifieds, which headline this Sunday night's show, has a close championship battle.  A rookie is poised to win the IMCA Sport Modified division championship.  The Hobby Stocks have had 11 different winners in 15 races.  A driver with 10 wins has a Mini Stock championship in his sights.  Add Limited Late Models to the mix, and you have a five division show that should be entertaining.

The Wilson brothers, Alex and Kyle, seem to make the IMCA Modifieds interesting wherever they go.  They've run six different tracks in their last eight appearances, and Alex leads the State race ahead of Kyle.  Kyle won it last year and has three Merced feature wins after last Sunday.  Alex led a lap late before falling back to fourth  However, Alex is now 12 points ahead of Bill Egleston in a close Merced championship battle.

With John MacDougall recently bowing out of the championship battle due to his Petaluma wreck. Ricky Thatcher and Bob Williamson's season long battle will be for third.  Thatcher had a fifth place finish last week to gain a seven point advantage  over Williamson.  K. Wilson is slowly closing in on them after a late start to his season.

The Sunday scheduling means you never know who will show up.  Last Sunday, two champions from elsewhere, Troy Foulger and Jimmy Reeves, came to town.  Foulger would finish second ahead of a strong third place finish for Dereck Colvin.  Colvin could be there this week.  Others to watch for include, Karl Rose, Jeff Streeter and Paul Stone.

Josh Hensley is maintaining a huge advantage in the IMCA Sport Mod ranks as he chases a championship and "Rookie Of The Year" award in the same season.  The battle for second finds Dwanye Short still holding on after another Top 10 finish.  His advantage over recent fifth place finisher Mark Odgers in just 16 points.  After his second win in three races, Bruce Nelson is 41 points out of second and just four points ahead of Antioch point leader Fred Ryland. All five drivers are anticipated this week.

A veteran of Street Stocks and the Sportsman division at Merced, Gary Tucker impressed with a third place finish last week.  Tucker does have one win this year.  He currently sits sixth in the standings.  With three wins at Merced and a recent win at Watsonville, Rick Diaz could be another driver to watch this week.  The Sunday scheduling has helped bring in cars from out of town, and car count has been up these last two weeks.

The Hobby Stocks are so unpredictable that you just don't know who will win from week to week.  Case in point, 15 year old Cody Parker made his first start at Merced a winning effort.  He's the 11th different winner this season.  He gained the lead after 2014 champion Raul Rodriguez spun in Turn 3 and point leader Kevin Joaquin was put to the back by track officials for contact that took him the rest of the way around.  Three time feature winner Joaquin still managed a third place finish.

Another three time winner, Kristie Shearer, finished second to maintain a 12 point lead over Shannon Nelson in the battle for third.  In fact, Shearer is within striking distance of Jennifer Corder, 49 points behind the second place point runner.   Fifth and seventh place drivers George Silva and Bobby Williams were out making repairs to their cars, but both are anticipated this week.  Austin Van Hoff, the Michael Shearer car, Phil Vaughn and Ty Shelton are others to watch for.

Darren Miguel's point lead over Chris Corder is now 30 points in the Mini Stocks following Miguel's 10th win of the season.  Corder had the win in hand aboard the Alex Odishoo car, but his motor began misfiring with four laps to go.  He's still winless this season as he settled for second.  At this point, getting a win may be more important than the championship for Corder.

Natalie Waldrop and Kelly Campanile have made consecutive appearances at Merced, and both have been competitive.  Campanile had a strong second place finish two weeks ago, and Waldrop used her third place finish last week to settle into fifth in the standings.  Others we're watching for this week include Matt Shlessinger, Brian Widdowson and newcomer Jeff Amos.   We've also been informed that second generation racer Lucy Falkenberg is visiting from Texas and will make her Mini Stock debut on Sunday,

The last time the Limited Late Models raced at Merced, Buddy Thatcher and Scott Van Gelder crashed in a heat race to end the night for both.  Van Gelder leads their second place battle by 32 points, but it is five time winner Mark Garner holding a commanding lead in the championship battle.  Who will be there this week is still a question, but the last Main Event was won by 2013-14 champion Roy Hart Jr.

It should be an exciting night of racing in Merced.  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 6 p.m. on Sunday. The grandstand opens at 4:30 p.m.

Merced Speedway Top 5 At A Glance

IMCA Modified

Alex Wilson     393
Bill Egleston     381
John MacDougall 321
Ricky Thatcher     302
Bob Williamson     295

IMCA Sport Mod

Josh Hensley     539
Dwayne Short     374
Mark Odgers     358
Bruce Nelson     333
Fred Ryland     329

Hobby Stock

Kevin Joaquin     636
Jennifer Corder 510
Kristie Shearer 461
Shannon Nelson     452
George Silva     334

Mini Stocks

Darren Miguel     636
Chris Corder     606
Dennis Copus     318
Kevin Lockerby     283
Natalie Waldrop 262

Limited Late Model

Mark Garner     332
Scott Van Gelder 184
Buddy Thatcher     152
Peggy Sue Jarred 144
Roy Hart     140

 Pit Stops

We just happened to be looking at the West Coast Stock Car Hall Of Fame page when we noticed that John Cardinale has just been inducted this year.  It happened just a few weeks ago.  Sadly, John passed away back in 2013, so he didn't get to enjoy the honor.  John spent over a decade as the Publicity Director at Sears Point Raceway.

He actually got started in motorsports with the Contra Costa Times and Antioch Ledger after Charlie Zeno retired.  It's at that point where this reporter got to meet him and give him advice on the racing scene at Antioch Speedway.  He was a quick study and wrote some great articles.

We were thinking of two others that the West Coast Stock Car Hall Of Fame could induct.  There's John Soares Jr. and Gary Jacob.  John's history includes the 1969 Sportsman State championship, among other championships, a win on the NASCAR circuit, a reputation as a builder of winning race cars, Lobak Mufflers, a Stock Car promoter in Australia and State champion in Queensland and 18 years as a promoter.

That's a sampling of John's accomplishments.  Now, his father was inducted along with Bob Barkhimer and others the first year the Hall Of Fame was opened.  The problem is that this can be a political deal.  With Ken Clapp involved, John may not stand a chance due to personal feelings, but he would be deserving.  That's a shame, but we all know how politics goes.

There's no such hold up on Gary Jacob.  One might hold the fact that he didn't officially work for a race track against him, but that just shouldn't be.  Gary did quite a bit to help promote Stock Car racing by writing articles for Racing Wheels and other publications for over 30 years.  He had a passion for Late Model racing and could make or break a show with his efforts to get the word out.

The Hall Of Fame at Antioch Speedway and Merced Speedway is an idea who's time has come.  Antioch Speedway is 55 years old and Merced is 65, and many legendary racers have passed through those gates through the years.  Last Saturday, BCRA continued their tradition of The London Bash Hall Of Fame picnic.  After inductions and a good lunch, everybody headed over to the track to watch as BCRA Midgets, Midget Lites and Vintage Midgets competed on the same night for the only time this season.

In case you were wondering, this year's BCRA Hall Of Fame inductees included Bill Lindsey (Midget owner), Richard Walsh (Midget driver), John Riley Sr. (Midget Lites owner), Pete Bray (Vintage owner/driver), Rosemarie Bray (Vintage owner) and Sammy Belfiore (Friend Of BCRA).

BCRA has Midget Lites races at Antioch and Merced, but no Midget races.  The club and Oval Motorsports can't come to an agreement on numbers that both sides are happy with.  For a couple years at the beginning of the 1980's, Antioch was the home track for the BCRA Midgets.  Perhaps some day a deal can be worked out to get the Midgets back at Antioch?  One can only hope.

The Midget Lites had a date at Merced for August 1st, but the move from Saturday to Sunday at Merced meant they would have to race on the 2nd.  The Midget Lites drivers decided that wasn't good for them and canceled.  They cited a Monday work date as reason, leaving Oval Motrsports to scramble for a replacement.  It looks as if the Dwarf Cars may be added on that date.

While there is a desire to add Dwarf Cars at Merced, more effort needs to be made to get drivers on board.  Merced Speedway is an ideal track for these cars, and some 20 years ago, this was the first home track for the NCDCA.  It might not hurt to give NCDCA or SBDCA a call and either get them on board for a club race or get their blessing in sending a few drivers to race.

On Sunday, the Dwarf Cars were on the card at Merced, and there was a question as to who might race.  Two time Antioch champion Danny Wagner made the trip.  Merced's Mike Drake was there early, hoping others would show.  Chris Kenner came in from NCDCA and Toby Brown also competed.  The last time they had a date scheduled, the GM canceled the show during the week.

Wagner easily won this race by a half lap over the man listed as the point leader after three races, Drake.  Kenner was right behind Drake at the line.  Management is looking to establish something here, and if the right phone calls are made, something could happen.  Because the two clubs have busy schedules as it is and not many Antioch or Petaluma racers will make the trip, you have to make an effort to get the cars.  Six to ten cars are possible, or more, depending on the race dates and the promotional effort.

Natalie Waldrop would love to get a Dwarf Car next season, but the Mini Stock competitor will probably be in a Hobby Stock next season according to her father, Rob Waldrop.  Natalie has raced at Madera, Chowchilla and Merced this season, and she is Top 5 ranked at Merced.  In fact, she has a shot at third if she continues to race.  Kevin Lockerby has apparently moved on and third ranked Dennis Copus says work will keep him from racing on Sundays.

Waldrop finished third on Sunday in the seven car field, which was her best finish yet.  Jeff Amos made his return in a new car after the old car suffered heavy damage in a crash.  The return of the same six drivers from a week earlier made it a seven car field.  It was a debut he'd rather forget as he spun Matt Shlessinger sideways into the front wall in an incident that left Brian Widdowson and Kelly Campanile with damaged race cars.  He ended up black flagged while only Shlessinger was able to continue.

Campanile was feeling pretty good after her second place finish in the previous race.  Even winner Darren Miguel admitted he had to work hard for the win he got that night.  Campanile had a heat win seemingly in hand at the recent race before slipping up on the front stretch and falling to third.  Miguel seemed destined for second in the recent Main Event as Chris Corder led in the Alex Odishoo #48 car.  Then, that persistent motor problem returned with a few laps to go, dropping him to second.  Nothing they have done to that car so far seems to have worked, and Corder has to be wondering what he has to do to get a Merced win.

A conversation with fourth place finisher Shlessinger revealed that he and Widdowson are considering a Rodeo Arena Figure 8 Fair Tour after their recent fun in Alameda.  They are even talking about throwing a few more cars together.  This isn't really a bad idea, but Oval Motorsports has said that these races are not likely to happen at their tracks due to insurance rates.

Getting back to Rob Waldrop for a moment, the second generation racer got to drive a Hardtop Saturday night for Bill McLaughlin at Placerville Speedway.  There were reportedly 15 cars on hand for this race, and Waldrop picked up the win ahead of John Philbert.  There was some side by side racing throughout the pack, and the #3 and #27 (Ken Clifford) cars finished ahead of fifth place finisher Tommy Thomson.  Local leadfoot Dennis Armstrong and John Turner rounded out the Top 7.

Mike McCann was down from Oregon and actually sold one of his cars that night,  McCann got the consent of John Philbert to poll the racers on a few subjects, including how many dates they want, thoughts on pavement and dirt racing and that sort of thing.  The results were interesting and will go a long way towards deciding where things go from here.  The Hardtop effort seems to have renewed interest these days, and an August 22nd date has been booked for Antioch.  A roster we compiled back in 2013 showed 25 cars available in the Northern California area.  For those wondering, Hardtops race at Chico on July 31st, Marysville August 1st and Placerville August 8th before the Antioch date.

The IMCA Modifieds took center stage at both Merced and Antioch last weekend, and it seemed to be that Shawn DeForest and Kyle Wilson were the stars shining the brightest.  At Antioch, DeForest has teamed with respected car owner Jim Reid to form a potent combination.  You may have heard of Jim's brother, "Black" Bart Reid, a Street Stock and Dirt Modified champion through the years with many feature wins along the way.  Jim was the man behind the scenes helping make Bart's #12 car all it could be.

Since Bart stepped away, Jim put together a new #72 Modified.  It's interesting that Bart has a standing offer to come race, but Jim has another talented racer behind the wheel in Shawn DeForest.  Shawn has driven American Stocks and Late Models and has wins in both classes.  To prove that he still has it, Shawn led from flag to flag in a non stop race at Antioch on Saturday night.  They are trying different setup things on this car to apply to a new car that Jim is slowly putting together.

Kyle Wilson made a last turn traffic pass on six time Petaluma champion Michael Paul Jr. for the second place finish that moved him into fourth in Antioch points.  The 2014 State champion wasn't done there.  He headed to Merced on Sunday and grabbed his third victory.  Once he got the lead from Dereck Colvin, he only briefly lost the lead to his Merced and State point leading brother Alex Wilson before collecting his third win.

After starting late, Kyle is closing in fast on fifth in points and has a realistic shot at third in Merced points to go with his second place State ranking.  The Wilson boys are willing to race anywhere and everywhere they can.  In the last month, they've raced at Merced, Antioch, Petaluma, Watsonville, Santa Maria, Chowchilla and Chico.  In a time when others take breaks, these two can't seem to get enough racing, and they are fast wherever they go.

Speaking of fast wherever he goes, Troy Foulger pulled his usual surprises last weekend.  He's been hot lately at Antioch, where he has four championships.  Of course, that meant Bowers Racing towed to Bakersfield for more dry slick racing setup practice.  After an eighth place finish there, he showed up late at Merced and made a late pass on A. Wilson to finish second.  Wilson wasn't very happy about the Turn 2 pass as he fell to fourth, but he doubled his track point lead to 12 over Bill Egleston, who was just lucky to be there racing.  Bill only got out of the hospital an hour before showing up and obviously wasn't at his best.

Another surprise in the field was many time Hanford and Santa Maria champion Jimmy Reeves in his pretty blue and pink #0 car.  Jimmy isn't getting enough races at Hanford this year, so he hits other races and was a recent winner at Perris Auto Speedway.  He had mechanical issues take him out of the running early in the Main Event on Sunday night.

Josh Combs put a new body and black and white paint job on his #12 Modified.  The IMCA Modified rookie made good laps at Antioch and was a lead lap eighth before taking a checkered in seventh the next night at Merced.  This had to be a little encouraging to the former pavement Stock Car racer that things are coming together.  Finishing fifth was Ricky Thatcher, and that finish gained him fourth in points from Bob Williamson, who was absent.  Both drivers are poised to finally pass John MacDougall, who had to bow out of the point race after badly damaging his race car at Petaluma.

At Antioch, Bobby Motts Jr. is feeling the effects of the failure to qualify for the Friday night feature during the Summer Nationals.  He entered the night trailing Scott Busby by 30 points and beat him to the finish line for the fourth place feature finish.  Busby was right behind him and would only lose one point.  It seems like a long shot now for Motts to pass Busby, but you never know what can happen in racing.

Carl Berendsen II had the body off of his car right up until Saturday morning as he was still repairing the damage to his car caused by a hard crash in the Summer Nationals.  Another Antioch regular, Mike Salazar had to miss the show fixing his car after his crash in the Summer Nationals and may be out for a while.  Carl didn't want to give up on his season just yet, so he got it together and came back.  It seemed okay for a while as he dueled with K. Wilson for third, but more problems with the handling dropped him back to a seventh place finish.  The good news is the 2014 champion has a good hold on third in the standings.

Speaking of recovering from a crash, Antioch Wingless Spec Sprint point leader Kyle Bakkie is still trying to get his car back to where it was after his flip to end the feature two races ago.  The team brought the back up car last time and had it loaded and ready to go last week.  Kyle made the best of it with a sixth place finish, but it was a night in which he lost some of his point lead to Rick Panfili.

Panfili may not have been able to say this too many times in his career, but he really could have won Saturday's Main Event.  The race actually belonged to Keith Shipherd, who has had major motor issues in his two attempts to race this season.  Celebrating his 65th birthday, Keith returned to Antioch and led 13 laps of the Main Event.  Just when it looked like he had it in the bag, a spun lapped car caused a crash that ended his race with heavy damage.

Panfili had the lead, but any time you have past champion Jimmy Perry III right behind you, you know what's coming next.  Perry struggled earlier this season to get his motor running right, but it's there now.  He made the pass on lap 16 and won for the third time this season.  He's now within striking distance of Chase Wood Jr. for fifth in the standings.  Just two points ahead of Perry in sixth is two time winner Roy Fisher, so this is a three car battle.  Jimmy's father, Jim Perry Jr., revealed that he won't have his Spec Sprint ready for this season, but he may be driving a Hardtop for Dave Mackey at Antioch on August 22nd.  '

As for Fisher, unconfirmed reports are that he sold his Winged 360 Sprint Car but still has his Spec Sprinter.  No word on whether Roy might be back out there this week, but it's hoped that he is.  Looking at the championship battle, Panfili cut Bakkie's point lead to 26.  It's the end of July, and Panfili is still very much in the championship conversation.  He may still need that win to have a real shot, but he's looking like he can do it now.  Bakkie is struggling, but his team has the resources to get that situated.  Panfili's budget is such that one bad break could take him out of the action, making him the underdog in this battle.

Should Panfili falter just a little bit, rookie Marcus Smith is ready to pounce.  Smith and Alan Miranda were engaged in a side by side battle for third right behind him last week.  Panfili got the career best second place finish as Smith beat Miranda back to the line for third.  All three drivers have finished as high as second this year, but they have yet to win.  Smith is 24 points behind Panfili and just 16 points ahead of Miranda.  If three time winner Bakkie continues to struggle, the championship battle could get very interesting.

We were just commenting on potential race tracks out there, and it turns out there may be one opening its gates. Spec Sprints might be a part of it.  That would be Sacramento Raceway next to the drag strip.  A group interested in running Spec Sprints is investigating the possibilities.  This was the track that launched the CSRA Spec Sprints in 2003, the same year they ran Hardtops. Interestingly enough, there is a group looking into bringing Hardtops there too if the track does open.  Other possibilities as divisions that have raced there in the last decade or so are Mini Stocks and 600 Mini Sprints.  Will something come of this rumor?  Stay tuned...

The car count numbers have been looking pretty good in Merced IMCA Sport Mods, and Bruce "Bubba" Nelson has been on fire lately.  He has won two of the last three races and was second in the race he didn't win.  Sunday may have been the two time Hobby Stock champion's best run yet.  He had National championship contender Fred Ryland right behind him and desperate to make the pass for the win.  Bubba made his #4 car very wide coming out of Turn 4, and even Ryland's inside pass attempt on the final lap fell short.  Nelson is now Top 5 in the points, but he has revealed that his car is up for sale.  He plans to get into an IMCA Modified.

Danny Roe was back in action and hoping to improve on the previous Sunday's fifth place finish.  Danny has been making trips to tracks that he feels can help him with setup ideas when he goes to the big National event in Boone, Iowa in September.  This has included Marysville, Merced and Antioch, where he was Top 10 in his recent start there.  Unfortunately, he got caught up in a hard crash in Turn 4 on Sunday after a lapped car spun in front of second place John Fore Jr.

Fore was part of a three car Merced invasion at Watsonville on Friday.  It was Rick Diaz winning that race as Fore finished third and Eric Rose was fourth.  Diaz had won the previous race at Merced, but the 2014 champion was also eliminated in the early goings of Sunday's race.  The race was in danger of a yellow checkered finish by lap ten, but the final ten laps proved to be non stop and very entertaining.  Gary Tucker had a strong third place finish, and Mark Odgers continued his creep towards second in the standings with a fifth place finish after an earlier spin.

Getting back to Ryland, he has already clinched the Chowchilla championship, holds a commanding lead at Antioch and in the State point race but he's in for a fight in the National battle.  After Ryland's win at Antioch and a DNF at Merced a week earlier, Tyler Frye moved into the lead by five points. Ryland is just eight points ahead of Nick Meyer for second.  He knew going into the latest weekend that he needed wins.  He may gain a couple points for his second place finishes at Marysville and Merced, but he has his work cut out for him in his bid to regain the National point lead.

Speaking of point leaders, Merced Hobby Stock point leader Kevin Joaquin was back in action after missing the Ted Stofle Classic to be in a wedding.  He was nursing a sore neck and was unsure if he would run a full Main Event or not.  After winning his heat race, he decided to go for it and nearly won the Main Event.  Raul Rodriguez was back and driving the Shearer Racing #72 car.  When he began to spin in front of Joaquin, Kevin tried to slow but hit him and took him around.  Joaquin was penalized to the back of the pack and managed to charge back to third.

Jeff Lacy and Phil Vaughn were making their season debuts at Merced.  Vaughn hadn't raced in five years as he was debuting the Hiser Racing #76k car.  He last raced at Chowchilla Speedway, and he was sixth in Hobby Stock points in 2009..  Lacy had a Nova the last time he raced, but he had a new car painted in Miami Dolphins colors with the #13 in honor of Dan Marino.  It's a rather nice looking car, and Jeff took a checkered flag in seventh.  Vaughn started having problems late in the race and ended up with an eighth place finish.

When Cody Parker made his first career start at Chowchilla in early June, he seemed to be just a bit nervous.  He barely made the call for his heat race but ended up a respectable fifth in the Main Event.  He had recently turned 15 and got behind the wheel of Jack Chapman's #33 car.  He was only making his first start at Merced, and he had a third place run going when Rodriguez and Joaquin got together.  Suddenly, he had the lead.  He led the rest of the way, but with third ranked Kristie Shearer right behind him, that win didn't come easy.  He became the 11th different winner in 15 races.

Back at Antioch Speedway, Kimo Oreta was in for a pleasant surprise.  The two time defending champion and runaway point leader is diverting some funds towards his Limited Late Model for next year and his Hobby Stock tires were looking a little bit worn out.  This is where Jim Thompson stepped in and sponsored four new tires for Oreta.  Jim has been helping several racers as well as being one of the sponsors of the Hot Wheel giveaways the track does every week.  Oreta won his heat race and then finished a close third in the Main Event.  While Joaquin is hinting that he'll be coming to Antioch soon, Oreta says he'll try to make a Merced race in September.

Oreta had the best seat in the house to watch 2010 champion Chris Sorensen battle 2013 Super Hobby Stock champion Jim Robbins for the win .  Robbins was giving the #7 car a shakedown run before a new driver takes over.  He drove a great race in second, but Sorensen was flawless in the lead.  Sorensen won for the second time this season, while Robbins was right there with him in second.  Oreta was working so hard to get underneath Robbins at one point that he got sideways in Turn 4 and lost ground.  He ran right with the leaders for a close third at the checkered flag.

Rookie Cameron Swank is already looking like a veteran driver out there.  In the previous race, he suffered heavy right front damage after a sideways car hit him.  The driveline was banging underneath the car and his right wheel was leaning, but the second generation racer still got it to the line with a heat win.  He repeated that last week with his third heat win of the season, though he settled for eighth in the feature, one position behind cousin and rookie leader Jordan Swank.  Jordan had some engine damage as he was smoking down the stretch, but that finish gained him second in points.  Danny Jones had that position, but he blew a motor finishing second in his heat race and didn't start the Main Event.

We hadn't seen Calvin Louis Jr. in quite some time.  When he was last there, his strung together a few Top 5 finishes and seemed to be on the verge of a win.  Sadly, his family suffered a loss with the passing of his sister after a lengthy illness.  Calvin had problems last week and ended up 11th.  His father, Late Model and American Stock veteran Calvin Louis Sr., revealed that he should have his Limited Late Model soon and hopes to debut it as soon as possible.

The Garner family has been rocked by bad news of their own with the declining heath of family patriarch Jerry "The Maverick" Garner.  Jerry had several Top 5 point seasons at Antioch through the years and won the 1969 State championship.  His son, third generation racer Mark Garner, has been driving hard to try and get a win for his dad.  That resulted in a rollover on the opening lap a few weeks ago.  He led ten laps of a Sport Mod feature two weeks ago before something broke in the suspension and he crashed.  Last week, Mark battled Jim Freethy early and held off the late challenge of point leader Larry Damitz.  However, Mark won his second Limited Late Model feature of the season.  It was an emotional win for Mark and family, and Jerry is very proud of his son.

Jeff Kendrick made an impressive Limited Late Model debut at Merced and finished second in the six car field about two months ago.  Kendrick is driving the former Jeff Silva championship car, but he's had a few problems since then as he gets comfortable with the car.  It didn't get much better for him last week as he hit the back wall and ended up crashing out the Turn 1 exit gate as all was not well with his car. 

Jeff wasn't planning a return to Merced, but Buddy Thatcher should be there.  Buddy's car was at Antioch Saturday night, and his three time Street Stock championship winning son Ricky was beating Mike Hynes back to the line for a fourth place finish.  Hynes had earlier won his heat race to keep the three car battle between he, Mike Gustafson and Garner close for second in points.  Gustafson finished third in the Main Event.

Racing returns to Antioch Speedway on Saturday night with a five division show featuring DIRTcar Late Models, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Wingless Spec Sprints, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars. IMCA Modifieds and Sport Mods headline at Merced Speedway along with Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks and Limited Late Models.  For further information, check the official Oval Motorsports Website.