Thursday, July 9, 2015

Stofle Classic At Merced, Sprint Cars And Late Models At Antioch

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Weekend Preview Edition

Ted Stofle Classic At Merced, 
Sprint Cars And Late Models At Antioch

For many years, race tracks have held special events honoring past legends.  These are the races the drivers really want to win.  Even if your season wasn't going quite as well as you might like, if you could win one of these races, it was a season maker.  Along the circuit, Antioch Speedway, Watsonville Speedway and Merced Speedway had those race dates that drivers marked on their calenders.  Watsonville will run the Mike Cecil Memorial race, an 80 lap $1000 to win Hobby Stock event on the first weekend of August.

When Merced Speedway opens its gates to Sunday racing this week, they will have the Ted Stofle Classic.  It is being billed as $500 to win for a 20 car field and the Hobby Stocks will run the traditional 89 laps.  It's been over 20 years since this race has been run in this format.  In fact, it was only brought back last year thanks to former General Manager Doug Williams, who brokered the deal to get the race back.  Williams raced with the Stock Car legend and was one of the few to actually beat him in a Merced point race, winning the 1980 Figure 8 championship.

Hobby Stocks are the headliners of a full program that will also include IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Mods, Limited Late Models and Mini Stocks.  Given the current mood in The Valley, there are some questioning what the turnout will be, but this being Ted Stofle's race, it's believed that the drivers are going to support.  In that respect, it compares to the Timmy Post Memorial Race of the last decade.  Even if car count wasn't always great back then, everybody wanted to run that race.

Once in a generation, if we're lucky, racing fans see a special driver, somebody who is head and shoulders above the rest.  Merced actually had two during the last half of the 1970's.  There was three time Sportsman champion George Steitz, and then there was Ted Stofle.  Ted was phenomenal.  He set standards that have gone unmatched since then and may never been equaled.

In 1975, at a time when Stock Car count was so big that B Mains and sometimes C Mains were being run, Ted won his first championship at Merced.  It was only the beginning.  He won it six times in a row to usher in the 1980's as the champion.  He did a lot of racing, and that included competing regularly at Watsonville, Madera and visits to tracks like Antioch and San Jose.  He won over 100 Main Events in his glorious career.

And Merced wasn't the only championship he won.  He was the 1975, 1978 and 1980 State champion and the 1980 Watsonville champion.  This incredible run began in 1974 when he finished second to another legend, Dennis Wilson, at Merced and was second at Madera.  He finished second at Madera the next year as well.  All of this was achieved by the age of 27, and there are some who believe Ted could have made a move up the NASCAR ladder if he had the right opportunity.

But, it was cut short when he died in a tragic hunting accident.  The news rocked the racing world.  The loss of Ted as well as rising Watsonville star Tim Williamson happened in the same time frame.  Watosnville began running a Tim Williamson Classic 100 lap race, and Merced wanted to do something special to remember Stofle.

In 1981, The Ted Stofle Classic began.  Rather that going 100 laps, they went 89 laps in honor of Ted's car number.  In fact, his last championship car was there to serve as the pace car of the race, and it is anticipated that it will be there on Sunday.  Two time Regional champion  Doug McCoun won the first race in 1981, Ray Morgan won it three years in a row and Tom Key won the last race in 1992 when it ran as a Street Stock race that year.

More information on who won the past races can be found HERE

The race was dormant for several years, but people always talked about wanting it back.  The timing never seemed right until Doug Williams brought in a GM style that included honoring the great heritage of the Merced Speedway.  A past Regional champion himself, Williams raced against Stofle and they were friends.  The race came back last year as a 50 lapper for Sport Mods and a 39 lapper for Hobby Stocks to make up the 89 laps.  Rick Diaz (Sport Mod) and Syd Finn (Hobby Stock) were the winners.

Now, the honor is all to the Hobby Stocks as we will see our first 89 lap Ted Stofle Classic since 1992.  Merced Speedway has had 9 different feature winners in 13 races, and only two drivers have won more than one.  One of those drivers is runaway point leader Kevin Joaquin with three wins.  At Chowchilla recently, it was revealed that Kevin has a wedding that he will be a part of, which will take him out of the running for this race.

The other three time winner may just be the driver to beat.  She's Kristie Shearer, and she currently holds a one point lead over teammate Shannon Nelson in the battle for third.  Kristie was second in the standings last year but missed some races this year to take herself out of the running.  After Bruce Nelson drove her car to back to back Chowchilla wins, she responded with back to back wins in recent races at Merced.  It's anticipated that Kristie will be out there racing hard for a win in this prestigious race.

Shannon Nelson is one of seven one time winners this year.  She's joined on that list by Darren Miguel, Gary Hildebrand, Chris Mayer, Kodie Dean, Marc Key and Joe Willoughby.  There are some drivers who have yet to win this year, but they've come close.  Both Ty Shelton and Austin Van Hoff have had second place finishes this year.  After recently winning a Main Event at Chowchilla, George Silva might be thinking this could be his night to win at Merced.

After the Shearer-Nelson battle, you have a four car battle for fifth.  Having wrapped up second in points behind new champion Joaquin at Chowchilla, Van Hoff is ten points behind Silva in the race for fifth.  Just 18 points out is Shelton, while rookie Dexter Long is just 24 points behind in eighth.  Running a solid second in the standings and having finished as high as third this year is rookie Jennifer Corder.  Might this be her night to get her first win?

You never know who might show up for this big race, and an increased field is anticipated.  Well over 50 cars have competed at least once at Merced this year.  Top 10 ranked rookie Bobby Williams will be out to try and get a good finish, and there are several others we're watching for, including Adam Reed, Steve Torres and potential visitors from other tracks.

When the IMCA Modifieds return on Sunday, the point race is in danger of seeing a dramatic change.  One of the co-point leaders, John MacDougall, may not be there after a visit to Petaluma left him with a blown motor and other damage to repair.  John is the only driver of the there contenders with a feature win this season.  Co-point leader Alex Wilson is also the State point leader, while the season best second place finish he earned last time out moved 2012 Merced champion Bill Egleston to within seven points of the lead.

Seeing MacDougall fall out of this battle would be disappointing.  Last season, John had his best season ever at Antioch Speedway.  He managed to rank Top 5 in both the IMCA Modifieds and the Northern All Stars Modified points as he competed with the best the division had to offer.  When he won early on at Merced, he decided to go for it, and he's been in the thick of it ever since.  Short of getting some help to get his #68m car back up and running again, this may be it for what could very well have been a title effort.

Egleston and A. Wilson may be happy to see it come down to two drivers, but neither of them wants to be a champion without a feature win.  Both will be racing hard for this week's increased $600 first prize.  A pair of two time winners may very well be the drivers to beat.  Alex's brother Kyle Wilson is the defending State champion and has two wins at Merced this season, while third generation racer Ryan Porter got his second win in the most recent race.

These aren't the only feature winners who could be present for this race.  2014 champion Paul Stone could also be on hand for this race, and he has a win in the Jack Mounce car this season.  Les Friend and Karl Rose are both winners this year as well, but we're not sure if we'll see them or not.  Two time champion Bob Williamson currently holds down fourth in points ahead of three time Merced Street Stock champion Ricky Thatcher.  We anticipate both drivers being on hand, and others we could see include Harley Turner, the Michael Shearer car and John Osgood III.  Since racing is now on Sunday, there is more potential for visitors from out of town.

The IMCA Sport Mod point race hasn't really been much of a race, but it's about to be shaken up further.  While Josh Hensley holds command and has been a feature winner and more competitive lately, second place is about to go up for grabs.  Dwayne Short is second, but he revealed at Antioch that his work schedule will keep him from racing regularly during the second half of the season.  That opens the door wide for the man who finished third last time and has finished as high as second, Mark Odgers.  Mark admits that he is not racing for points, but just by starting this race, he will likely move into second.

Odgers is more interested in trying to wheel his old Sport Mod to a $350 win on Sunday, but he can expect stiff competition.  Given that this will be Ted Stofle Classic night, some of those big names we don't always see could be there.  This includes 2014 champion Rick Diaz, 2013 Antioch champion Jeremy Hoff, two time Hobby Stock champion Bruce "Bubba" Nelson and past Sport Mod and Sportsman champion Neill "Mayhem" Barcellos.  Only Barcellos hasn't won at least once this season, but all could be a threat for victory.

When IMCA National and State point leader Fred Ryland vacated his Watsonville point lead two weeks ago, he revealed that he would focus on getting wins at Merced and trying to improve his National Championship effort.  He already has four wins at Merced this season, and his presence could eventually lead him as high as second in the standings.  He's actually a little behind another Antioch regular,  Keith Brown Jr., in points at Merced, but Brown has major work to do on his car and may not be back to race until August.

After his impressive performance at Antioch two weeks ago, which was capped by a $750 win, three time Street Stock champion Darren Thomas may be in action on Sunday.  If he's not, it could still be that his son Chase Thomas may be driving the car.  Young Chase already has two Top 5 finishes.  Second generation racer Nick Tucker has been making some good laps this year and should also be in action.  His father Gary has a win this year, but he's been focusing on his son's effort lately.  Others we'll be watching for include recent top 5 finisher Tim Cecil, D.C. Brown and Alan Pace.  You never know who else may show up, but Sunday's race should have a decent car count.

Limited Late Models staggered out of the gate this year, and it was a trio of Antioch racers, Mark Garner, Peggy Sue Jarred and John Evans, who supported the cause early on.  It turned into a potential championship effort for Garner, who now has five feature wins in seven starts to have a huge lead over Scott Van Gelder.  Garner is also seven for seven in heat race wins so far this year and will be out to improve those numbers on Sunday.

Van Gelder's third place finish last time gave him a 32 point lead over Buddy Thatcher in the battle for second as Thatcher missed the race making repairs.  Even with Thatcher out, the division still fielded six cars, fueling speculation that this week's car count could be even bigger.  The star of the previous race was 2013-14 champion Roy Hart Jr., who won the Main Event and sent a message to Garner that the competition was stepping up.  Hart is just four points behind Jarred and 12 behind Thatcher in the race for third.  More importantly, he's a threat to win this Sunday.

Recent debuts by Donny Richardson, Jeff Kendrick and Tony Chavez are showing that interest may be picking up in Limited Late Models at Merced.  In Kendrick's first start, he finished second in a six car field.  The Sunday scheduling could raise the possibility of other visitors coming in from Antioch Speedway, and an improvement on the six car field of the last two races is not out of the question.

The Mini Stocks are sort of going in reverse.  The class shot out of the gate and had as many as 12 cars one night, but heavy attrition has taken a toll on the division.  The two drivers still standing are the two competing for the championship this season, rookie Darren Miguel and 2014 champion Chris Corder.  Miguel has seven wins, and thus far Corder has been shut out of the win column.  Despite all of that, Miguel's lead is just 12 points as we head down the stretch.

But the question is, will there be enough cars to race?  Two drivers who haven't done a lot of racing at Merced in recent weeks showed up at the Alameda County Fair last week to get paid to run the Figure 8.  Brian Widdowson and Matt Shlessinger entertained the crowd with their contact battle, and it was Shlessinger winning the 15 lap race in the little Rodeo Arena.  Whether these two come to Merced remains to be seen.  Widdowson did make a start recently at the Merced Fair.

In reality, we really don't know who will be there.  Kevin Lockerby began changing his car for Madera and then turned around and surprised everybody with his first Merced win of the season.  Though we don't know if Lockerby will be there, third ranked Dennis Copus could be in action.  Fifth place Joy Alger was still waiting on engine parts at last report.  With Chowchilla done for a while, we might see Mike Congdon in action, and others we are hoping for include Bay Area visitor Kelly Campanile, Natalie Waldrop, Mike Germait and fair time feature runner up Speedy Davis.

It might have been luck of the scheduling or a calculated risk for Oval Motorsports to make the first Merced Sunday race of the season the Ted Stofle Classic.  There were a few negative reactions to recent news on social media that might have a few people worried about parked cars, but this week may not be the week to judge people's mindsets.  Even if there is some unhappiness, this race means a lot to long time Merced Speedway supporters, so support should be pretty good for it.  If you are looking to go to a Merced Speedway race this season, Sunday's event is a race you might want to plan to attend.

At Antioch Speedway, one of the goals this season has been to establish a Winged 360 Sprint Car and a DIRTcar Late Model division.  Both classes are in their second championship seasons since being added, and the numbers have been at least a little bit encouraging,  Both come with a higher than normal purse, and this is an occasion in which both will be in action on the fast three-eighth mile clay oval.  One might be nervous about having both this Saturday night, but Oval Motorsports is confident it will go well.  The program will also include the IMCA Sport Mods and the Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks.

Even with two of this season's top drivers out of the action last time, there were still 12 Winged 360 Sprints.  The Top 3 feature finishers, Austin Liggett, Eric Humphries and 2014 point runner up Kurt Nelson, were making their first Antioch visits of the year.  Liggett and Nelson had an entertaining mid race battle before Liggett went on to victory.  He became the fifth different winner this year as point leader Shawn Arriaga, title hopeful Art McCarthy, Jake Haulot and Alissa Geving are the other winners.  In fact, the last nine races this division has had at Antioch have had nine different winners.

The goal of establishing a winged class was always in the plans going back to the track's expansion in 2009, but the timing was the question.  When Spec Sprint racers like two time champion Dan Gonderman, past Marysville champion Chris Magoon, Roy Fisher and Doc Brophy got on board, it was more incentive for Oval Motorsports to make it happen.  Magoon won the championship last year by a slim margin over Nelson, but this year has been a bit of a struggle for him.

Actually, 2007 champion McCarthy might seem like the driver to beat with his two seconds and one win, but a DNF in the second race has left him eight points behind Arriaga.  Arriaga had one of those races last time where he struggled to a fifth place finish, and he was happy to get it.  He was just one position behind McCarthy, who seems to be chipping away at the lead a few points at a time.  With three races left to go this season, it's anybody's guess which one of these drivers will win it.  It might come down to who can win down the stretch.

Haulot and Magoon were both surprising absentees from the previous race and vacated any championship hopes they may have had.  Haulot leads the battle for third by 16 points, but the question is will the second generation racer be there Saturday.  Jake is also a Top 5 driver in points at Petaluma Speedway and could easily be up there.  Some of the drivers have commented about scheduling races opposite Petaluma, but doing so has given track management an idea where they stand with this division.  Conflicts in race dates with other tracks happen everywhere, so the key is to have a core base of drivers you can rely on.

It's pretty much an 8-12 car show, and you really don't know what visitors may show up from week to week.  As word has gotten out that they have been paying $1250 to win and $150 minimum to start, even with seven car fields, more drivers have made appearances.  One driver hoping to stake a claim on the first place money is Dan Gonderman.  The second generation racer has had terrible luck this year, and last week's lead lap seventh place finish was encouraging.

Dan has run near the font of the pack twice this year.  The first time resulted in a blown motor that made him miss a race.  The next time ended on a tow truck hook after the driver in front of him spun and left him nowhere to go.  The reality is that Dan has been competitive and a feature winner in Spec Sprints, Dirt Modifieds and Street Stocks, so it would be foolish to think that he couldn't get a win sometime soon.

Gonderman is only 26 points behind Magoon for fourth, but one little mistake could be the opening Chase Wood needs to grab fifth.  Wood is just 12 points behind Gonderman, while Chico Economy Sprint point leader Brandon Powell is 30 points back.  Last time out, Powell's effort ended with mechanical issues in his heat race.  Meanwhile, Ricky Brophy isn't too far back in eighth.  The Brophy team has fielded two cars this year as Ricky's father, Doc Brophy, has raced a few times this year.  Most of these drivers are anticipated this week, and you never know who else will come from race to race.

The Late Models remain very popular with the fans, and the division is now nine races into an ambitious 15 race schedule.  The division did so well last year in their seven race season that Oval Motorsports doubled the race dates this year and secured the DIRTcar sanctioning as well.  10-12 cars is the minimum goal, and so far that has been achieved seven times this year as over 20 cars have competed so far.

In the race prior to the Summer Nationals, Jeff Decker's night ended in an early crash that caused him to miss the Top 10.  When Richard Papenhausen won for the fifth time this season, he ended up with a pretty good lead.  Then, Papenhausen suffered a back injury in the week leading up to the Summer Nationals.  He wanted to support the cause and would send his car to the track for Ryan McDaniel to compete.  Decker ended up fifth that night to grab a 22 point advantage.

There's no question that Papenhausen's #4p car is the fastest in the field, but the veteran Decker has been good about getting Top 3 finishes seven times this year.  Five races is plenty of time for Papenhausen to reclaim the lead, but you can expect that Decker won't make that easy.  In fact, Decker finally debuted his new car recently as he's hoping to grab his second win of the season.  You can expect his #84 car to be running up front with Papenhausen.

Bobby Hogge IV, Paul Guglielmoni and Troy Foulger each have a win this season, and we anticipate at least Guglielmoni will be there.  In fact, Guglielmoni may be there with teammates Terry Kuntz and Randy Shafer.  Shafer impressed at the Summer Nationals by holding off Anthony Restad and McDaniel for a season best second place finish.  Looking like that, he could grab a victory this week.  Meanwhile, Restad would have to be considered a serious threat to win.  He already has a second and a win at Antioch and a recent win at Placerville in what was his first start ever at the track.

David Newquist remains a staunch Late Model supporter and is usually bringing a second car for Mike Hynes to drive.  David finds himself 26 points ahead of Danny Malfatti in the hotly contested battle for third.  Both of these drivers are hard core racers.  Newquist maintains a Top 3 ranking at Chico on Friday nights, while Malfatti is one of the Top 10 drivers in Winged 360 Sprint Car points at Watsonville on Friday nights.

Relative newcomers to the division, Rob Norris and Chester Kniss, battle for fifth, though Kniss has missed a couple races to enjoy time with his family.  Kniss had a career best third place finish last time and trails past Dirt Modified champion Norris by just 11 points.  Norris is driving the former Shawn DeForest car and has struggled at times.  However, he's generally been pretty good about taking checkered flags in the Main Event, and that top 5 finish might be just around the corner for him.

Coming off of the recent big race, it's likely that at least 8-12 cars will be in action this week.  We saw the return of Dennis Souza in that race, and other drivers we could be seeing this week include past Petaluma champ Rod Arnold, Travis Meyerhoff and Chico star Duane Cleveland.  Will it be Papenhausen or Decker winning again, or might we see our sixth different winner of the season?  Stay tuned.

The IMCA Sport Mod championship may belong to Fred Ryland, and the recent news that Keith Brown Jr. won't be there may not even matter at this point.  Ryland had his fifth win of the season at the Summer Nationals and then a second the next night, giving him a 40 point lead over Brown.  However Ryland has serious pressure in his bid to win the National championship.  If he is going to win that, he needs to dominate Antioch and anywhere else he chooses to race.

He already has a lock on the Chowchilla title and a huge lead in the State.  Track championships and wins in Main Events with at least ten cars are what he needs at this point, but it just so happens that Ryland is more than capable of winning any time he gets behind the wheel of his fast #7j car.  He won the big money last weekend in Yreka in what was his first start there.

With Brown seemingly out of the picture, the door has been opened wide for Paul Mulder to stake a claim on second in points.  Mulder finally won an Antioch Main Event recently and is just three points behind Al Johnson for third.  Both drivers are poised to pass Brown in the standings just by starting this week, and Johnson doesn't appear to be in a position to hold off Mulder the way he has been struggling in recent races.  Rookie Patti Ryland also has one win at Antioch.  She may or may not pass Brown this week, but she's only 16 points behind Mulder and very much in the battle.

The usual cast of competitors is anticipated, including two drivers who have finished as high as second this year, Ron Brown and Chuck Golden.  Brown's car was a bit beat up at the Summer Nationals, but all three Brown brothers worked hard to keep that car at the track for both nights.  The two time Limited Late Model champion should not be counted out in the race for a win.  Al Sotomayor, past division runner up Megan Ponciano and K.C. Keller are others to watch for.

Because Merced Speedway is moving to Sunday nights, there's a possibility that a few drivers may come to Antioch to make a run at victory.  Young Ronnie Cole, a past Top 3 driver in Mini Stocks and Limited Late Models at Merced, has said he is coming to Antioch Speedway this week.  We've also seen the recent division debut of Trevor Clymens and the return of Lloyd Cline, and both drivers could be in action this week.

Merced Hobby Stock point leader Kevin Joaquin has indicated that he wants to come to Antioch soon to match his ability with runaway Antioch point leader Kimo Oreta.  Oreta is just so smooth out there that you know the five time feature winner will find his way to the front no matter where he starts.  Oreta grabbed a third place finish last time after starting back in tenth following three straight wins.  Oreta's lead is an impressive 199 points ahead of Danny Jones.

Jones already knows it's not likely that he'll catch Oreta, but he has two goals in mind.  He wants to hold onto second in the standings and started the recent feature with a busted transmission to get his starting points.  After five second place finishes, the Stock Car veteran is trying for that elusive first win of the season, and he's tired of the near misses.  He may just need that win to hold off the persistent rookie Jordan Swank.  Swank has finished as high as third this season and he is just 20 points behind Jones in the race for second.  The second generation racer finished second in Four Banger points at Antioch last season.

Second might just belong to Michael Cooper already, but he's had to miss two races due to work.  Last season, he ranked fifth in the standings, so he'd kind of like to improve on that a little bit.  He recently impressed with a career best third place finish and has also won a heat race, but his recent absence has moved the steady Frank Furtado to within just eight points of him.  That might come as a surprise to some, but Furtado keeps coming back out there and making his laps every week.

Chris Sorensen has returned to provide some competition for Oreta.  The 2010 champion has a second and a feature win so far this year and has moved into the Top 10 in the standings.  Another driver looking good in his limited starts so far is Chris Long, who finished second last time out.  Both are more than capable of getting a win.  Other drivers we'll be watching for this week include sixth ranked Natalie Perry, Robert Niven, Jeremy Jennings and Russell Shearer.

To recap, Merced Speedway will have the Ted Stofle Classic 89 lap Main Event for Hobby Stocks on Sunday night.  Also on the card will be the IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Mods, Limited Late Models and Mini StocksSaturday at Antioch, the big guns are coming out as Winged 360 Sprint Cars and DIRTcar Late Models headline the show along with IMCA Sport Mods and Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks.  For further information, check out the official Oval Motorsports Website.

Random Thoughts

This week's Random Thoughts will be brief, but there are a couple things happening that are of interest to this writer.  We touched on it on The DCRR Racing Radio Show, but the nostalgia effort seems to be struggling with regards to the Sportsman division and the Nor Cal Hardtops.  Car count has been an issue with both groups, and there have been developments.

With the change over to Sunday nights, the Sportsman division has been dropped from the schedule at Merced.  Oval Motorsports was concerned that only two or three from a roster of roughly 20 cars seem to be showing up on race night, and yet this is a purse paying division.  Word had been put out that more cars were needed to keep this thing going, and yet it continued to be what it was.

We salute Kenny Birdsong, Marcus Lung, Jeff Bristow, Mike Palmberg and Eric Seely for making a go of it whenever they could, but that still leaves a lot of parked cars and a field not even big enough to have a heat race.  From what we've heard, motor rules were allowed to get out of hand, and we have to wonder why?  This is a nostalgia division that doesn't have a big purse.  Why are we letting the same thing happen that happened with this class some 35 years ago?

There has been buzz on social media, and name calling and accusations as well.  The reality is that this is the time for the drivers to stand up and fight for their division.  Get off social media, meet face to face and discuss getting cars to the track and fixing the rules for 2016 and beyond.  The important thing now is to get the show back on the track and hash out rules for next year.  Without cars, there is no show, and August 23 and Legend's Night at Merced should be the goal in bringing this class back.  At least a half dozen cars or more should be there.  It's up to the racers.  If they want it bad enough, they can still try to save it.

From the Hardtop files, we are told there is a significant effort being made to put the class back on course, and August 22 is the date in mind.  The track, Antioch Speedway.  Respected promoter and long time division supporter Mike McCann is launching an effort to put the class back on course and where it should be.  Mike is not alone in knowing it needs some stability, and it appears as if Antioch Speedway is willing to give then one more shot.  We're hoping this will happen, and we believe if anybody can lead this thing back on track, it's Mike McCann.

When car count drops, divisions go away.  Right now, the Mini Stocks are in danger at Merced Speedway with only a few cars showing up.  Oval Motorsports had two tracks delivering 5-6 cars at most races last year, Antioch and Merced.  The decision was made to drop the class at Antioch and send them to Merced, but the Antioch drivers have not been towing to The Valley.  It still looked like things were gonna get going with as many as a dozen cars showed up one night at Merced, and then car count nose dived.

Oval Motorsports has been contacted by a few racers looking to come back to Antioch Speedway.  While admittedly, this isn't a hugely popular class, it serves a purpose in bringing new drivers out to the track.  Management may be leery of adding the class, but there is no harm in putting the ball in the racer's court with a car count goal in mind.  Let's say six cars or more to race, or it's hot lap sessions instead.  The biggest reason to do this is that we have gained drivers in other classes by having this class for them to get started.  Entry level racing still matters.

Another subject that came up on the recent DCRR Racing Radio Show is the Mini Stock Rodeo Arena Figure 8 at the Alameda County Fair.  This proved to be popular with the fair attendees, even with four cars racing in the tight quarters.  We remain a big supporter of Figure 8 racing, but insurance bills skyrocket when you have the big Figure 8.  This had us wondering about the possibility of a smaller Figure 8.

What if a small sized "Rodeo Arena" 8 was created in the infield or even on the front stretch after all the other divisions have run?  Surround it with tractor tires and give them 15 laps.  If 4-6 drivers come to compete in this Mini Stock event, that's plenty for some action.  They aren't going too fast on the wet track, but they are putting on a show.  It might be another thing to do to get some of the parked Mini Stocks out there, and it could be a new way to generate some fan interest.  Just a thought.

This last note has to do with parking to prove a point versus racing and having fun.  Car counts have been low at Oval Motorsports tracks at times, but this is a bigger issue that is effecting other tracks as well.  Smaller fields.  We hear economy, and then we seen huge car counts at Placerville and Bakersfield.  There are a lot of factors as to why things are happening, but this isn't a time for pointing fingers.

Every time a track closes down, there's always a chance it won't be back.  Because we have so many race tracks in the state, it's assumed that things are great, but anybody who pays attention knows that's not the case.  We're just fans making the best of it, so we go out there and support what's there while it's there.  Then, you have emotions running high and people talking about parking to prove a point and make a statement.

Certainly, if you really aren't having fun, you should park.  If your head and your heart aren't in it, you or somebody else can get hurt out there.  But, if it's a case of one or two things going bad, consider what racers have done for years.  Complain about it to your friends, have a soda or an adult beverage and forget about it.  Move on.  During the season, we have who we have in charge of these tracks.

The political part of the whole thing doesn't begin until the end of the season.  Making a big statement during the year may have consequences you never foresaw.  If you are boycotting management, potential future management may be deterred as they wonder if you'll do the same to them.  Promoters take a bigger financial risk than some people may realize.  We sometimes take it for granted, because we come out there and the track is there.  We don't always understand the work and investment that goes into making each and every race happen.

Nobody is saying you don't have a right to be upset about things.  You may really have gotten screwed over or it just may be the way you see it and not reality.  But, racing season is the time for racing.  If opportunities for change occur, that won't happen until the season is over, and you can even be working towards that goal while you race and keep a track alive so things can change.

This is not a commentary on any promotional effort or any situation in particular.  It's an observation that racing is in a different place than it was years ago.  There are constant threats to close tracks down.  Making the wrong statement at the wrong time may result in a track being closed completely.  This is just something to think about.  As long as those gates open, there's a possibility for good things to happen.  If you want change, knowing the right time and place could result in you being a leader in making something good happen in the future.

And Furthermore...

Ocean Speedway in Watsonville returns with two nights of racing as they honor the patriarch of the Kaeding racing family with the Howard Kaeding ClassicFriday night will be the Civil War Series 360 Sprint Cars and Dwarf Cars as this is also a big Regional Dwarf Car event.  Then, on Saturday night, the King of The West Sprint Cars and Dwarf Cars will be joined by the Hunt Series Wingless Spec Sprints.  At Calistoga two weeks ago, Kyle Hirst won the King Of The West race, while Terry Schank Jr. won the Hunt Series race,  The last regular show at the track saw Terre Rothweiler win the Dwarf Car race while D.J. Netto (King Of The West Sprint Cars) and Matt Hagio (IMCA Sport Mods) were the other winners.

Placerville Speedway comes back at you on Saturday night with Winged 360 Sprint Cars, Limited Late Models, Pure Stocks and BCRA Midget Lites all in action.  Last week, Greg DeCaires (360 Sprint Cars), Dominic Stone (Limited Late Models) and Russell Murphy (Pure Stocks) were the winners.

There's always something good happening on Saturday nights at Petaluma Speedway.  This week, it's the Winged 360 Sprint Cars, Larsen Racing Products IMCA Modifieds, Lumberjack's Restaurant Super Stocks and Mini Stocks all in action.  Andy Forsberg won the Winged Sprint Car race last time out while Jimmy Christian (Wingless Spec Sprints), Orsete Gonella (IMCA Modifieds), Mitch Machado (Super Stocks) and Eden McCormick (Mini Stocks) were the other winners.

At Bakersfield Speedway this Saturday night, it's the Drive To Stop Diabetes night at the races, featuring Late Models, IMCA Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks, American Stocks and Mini Stocks.  Matt Wankum pocketed $600 for his win in the 32 lap Richie McGowan Memorial race for Hobby Stocks two weeks ago.  Other winners included Brad Pounds (IMCA Modifieds), Ricky Childress Jr. (IMCA Sport Mods) and Roger Welch (American Stocks).

Rocky Hill Speedway has a couple other attractions to go along with this Saturday night's card as Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, American Stocks and Super Mini Stocks are being joined by Okie Bowl Hardtops and Central Valley Tanks.  Winners last time included  Karl Noland (Hobby Stocks), Nicholas Johnson (American Stocks), Adell Shelton (Super Mini Stocks) and Jared Plumlee (Mini Stocks).

Sacramento Valley Speedway in Orland returns to action this week with Wingless Sprints, Hobby Stocks, Mini Trucks and Mini Stocks on the card.  Tony Richards won the Sprint Car Main Event last time as Paul Stevens (Hobby Stocks) Keith Ross (Mini Trucks) and Nick Videvich (Mini Stocks) were the other winners.

Marysville Raceway is back in action on Saturday night with Winged 360 Sprint Cars headlining along with Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Street Stocks and Pro 4 Sprints.  Last time out, Rowdy McClenon won the 410 Sprint Car Main Event, while other winners included Josh Vieira (Wingless Spec Sprints),  Howard Law (IMCA Sport Mods), Shawn Jones (NCDCA Dwarf Cars) and Matt Beardslee (Winged Economy Sprints).

Back at Santa Maria Raceway this Saturday night, 360 Sprint Cars are in action along with IMCA Modifieds, Pro Stocks, Mod Lites, Mini Dwarfs and JR Midgets.  Feature winners last week included Ricky Gaunt (CRA Sprint Cars), Ronnie Gardner (USAC Midgets), Jacob Jones (Hobby Stocks), Pat Fausel (Mini Stocks) and Zack Martin (American Stocks).

It's been about a month since cars were racing on the one-fifth mile dirt oval at Ventura Raceway, but they are back again this Saturday night with a $1500 to win VRA Sprint Car race along with Dwarf Cars, IMCA Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, NMRA TQ Midgets and Go Karts.  Feature winners last time included Guy Woodward (VRA Sprint Cars), Steve Brown (Senior Sprint Cars), Johnny Conley (VRA Pro Dwarf Cars), Bob Kaufman (Senior Dwarf Cars), Robbie Witwer (IMCA Modifieds), David Heurung (Hobby Stocks), Bobby Michnowicz (California Lightning Sprints), Christian Bazen (Junior Midgets), Zack Chavez (Supercharger Mini Dwarf Cars) and Brandon Velasquez (Piston Mini Dwarf Cars).

Pavement fans can head over to Loan Mart Madera Speedway this Saturday night for an open wheel extravaganza.  This event is the Gerhardt Classic 100 Lap BCRA Midget Race.  It will also be Round #4 of The Pacific Region King of the Wing Sprint SeriesUSAC HPD Midgets, NCMA Sprints, 360 Super Modifieds, Vintage BCRA Midgets, Vintage Super Modifieds, Open Vintage Super Modifieds, Race #4 of the $1,000 to win Twisted Tea Modifieds and NCPRO 4 Modifieds will make this a full and action packed event.