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 Bakersfield Speedway segment of the Bako Motorsports Power Hour is viewable HERE
The Lumberjack's Restaurant Super Stock Main Event from Petaluma Speedway last week can be viewed HERE
Heat race coverage from Bakersfield Speedway last week can be viewed HERE
Highlights from the race at Marysville on August 1 can be viewed HERE
DCRR Racing Radio Show
Weekend Preview Edition
DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 55 by GenWhat
Merced Speedway again welcomed the Dwarf Cars last Sunday with word that there are drivers looking at coming to the track. Word in the pits before the races was that South Bay Dwarf Car championship contender Gene "Punky" Pires was planning to race and that others from that group have expressed interest. Last season, the two decent car counts achieved were accomplished due to SBDCA support, so it might not be a bad idea to call them up in the future to get some support.
Mike Corsaro admitted when he showed up that he had no idea there were dates booked at Merced. The Top 5 Antioch competitor and most recent winner there enjoys racing at Merced. Back in June, Mike actually took a checkered flag in first in what was seen as merely a shakedown run for the division. However, the only driver of the six to pull into the infield after the race was Mike Drake. Officials elected to disqualify the other five, which proved to be a controversial decision. Oval Motorsports intervened on behalf of the other five drivers and saw to it that they were all paid purse money that night.
Points are actually being calculated, though it's unknown if this will be an officially recognized championship. Corasro certainly helped his case for a possible Top 3 run when he scored the win Sunday night ahead of point leader Mike Drake. Alan Heeney led early and was second until he spun in Turn 4 at the halfway point of the race. Heeney, third place finisher Lionel Francis and 14 year old rookie Chester "Buddy" Kniss Jr. were also making their first Merced starts of the year. Young Kniss was a lead lap fourth in a solid effort.
Drake is there for a reason. He wants to help establish a Dwarf Car division at his home track. He actually ran the Sport Mod division last season before switching it up with a Dwarf Car. He run's the #7n car as one of the Nor Cal Dwarf Car regulars, and he's currently leading the rookie race in that group. A "Rookie Of The Year" honor and a track championship would be a nice way to get things started. But, he's not just a champion on attendance. He does have two feature wins to his credit.
The Dwarf Cars are in Merced again this Sunday, but who might be there is unknown. Drake is likely to be there. Chuck Weir lives in Merced, but he lost his fuel cell early in last week's race. We'll see if he gets that situated and returns to try to protect second in points. Kniss might want to be there to make more laps, but school has just started too. It may be that he will wait until the next Antioch race. We'll just have to see who comes. At one time, drivers were lobbying to make this a special race in honor of Joe Reeder.
Antioch Speedway has two pet projects this season as they continue to work on establishing Late Models under DIRTcar sanctioning and Winged 360 Sprint Cars. In this day and age, where promotional dollars are tight, Oval Motorsports believes in both divisions and the value they still have with the fans. It has been a bit of a struggle at times getting the Sprint Car thing going, but Late Models have had no less than 10 cars for 11 of the 13 races held so far.
One of the more enthusiastic racers in the Sprint Car ranks is the driver leading the point race, Shawn Arriaga. Shawn put together a second car in the hopes of having his father, former San Jose Super Modified racer Fernando "Fred" Arriaga, out there racing with him. Unfortunately, he hurt the motor making practice laps a week earlier and had to postpone those plans. Actually, Shawn has expressed interest in possibly building a Wingless Spec Sprinter and having his dad race that car in 2016.
Saturday night was a night for Shawn to make a big statement, and he made it emphatically. He wants this championship. After winning his heat race, he proceeded to dominate the Main Event in impressive fashion. After quite possibly the most impressive drive by anybody in this division all season, Arriaga now holds a 20 point lead, but he knows not to get comfortable just yet. That lead is over two time Petaluma and past Antioch champion Art McCarthy, who finished fifth. If anybody is capable of turning it around in one night, it's Art.
The Haulot family made their presence known Saturday night. Young Jake Haulot has two wins this season and ranks third in points. Jake was stuck back in the fifth row of the non stop feature and managed to finish second. It's no surprise that he's this good. Jake and his father, former Late Model racer Danny Haulot, go everywhere they can to race. Danny believes this is what is helping his son get better. At this point, the focus is on just getting lots of seat time and not chasing points. In other Haulot news, Danny has indicated that we may see Matthew Haulot in a Sprint Car before the year is up.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Burt was back at Antioch. He is currently second in points at Marysville and a champion there. His home track was dark and he passed up Placerville to race at Antioch. He was the first winner on the expanded track back in 2009, and he won twice. He enjoys coming to Antioch whenever he can. Traffic was a factor in losing second to Haulot late in the race, but he still brought it home a respectable third.
One of the cars in traffic was Ricky Brophy. Considering the struggles the second generation racer has had in getting to the finish line this season, he's happy he managed to finish at all. Motor troubles of all kinds have plagued him, and he's missed races waiting on the motor. Saturday was the best he's looked this season, and that was encouraging for the young college student. Ricky is reportedly planning to make one more start at Petaluma before pulling the motor. He's not against racing the final Antioch race, but his studies take a priority. Either way, he says it's likely he'll be there supporting Shawn Arriaga anyway.
Papenhausen Leading Charge
For $2500 DIRTcar Late Model Prize
The Late Models never fail to put on a good show at Antioch, and Saturday was no exception. Richard Papenhausen and Jeff Decker continue to have a close track championship battle despite Papenhausen having many more wins. While Decker claims to not be watching the points, the Papenhausen team is very interested in points. It's just the UMP DIRTcar Regional points they are looking at. This isn't mentioned much at Antioch, but there's a tidy sum of money on the line this year.
One of the factors in Oval Motorsports securing the DIRTcar sanctioning and booking the ambitious schedule was to give the drivers a little pot of gold to pursue at the end of the season's rainbow. In this case, it's a $2500 championship, and Papenhausen was leading that by 3 points going into the latest race. As usual, the Papenhausen Construction/Mohawk Trading Co. Warrior Chassis was running strong last week, and Richard won both his heat race and the Main Event. While he leads the Region, he trails Decker by just 10 points at Antioch with two races remaining.
In a heat race earlier, it was Terry Kuntz collecting the victory over Dennis Souza for his first win. Kuntz is the teammate of Paul Guglielmoni, and, like Travis Meyerhoff, he had no prior experience before getting a Late Model. Kuntz had a fourth place run going in the Main Event, behind eventual third place finisher Guglielmoni, when he had to make a pit stop.
If the Souza name sounds familiar, it may be because his brother is Ron Souza, a past Top 20 Street Stock racer at Watsonville in the early 1990's. Back then, there were quite a few Street Stock racers making the trip from Pescadero along with Souza. This included the hard charging Ralph Sampson, Bob Prigan, Jason Prigan and Mike Phipps, among others. Dennis decided to jump into racing in a Late Model, and the Top 10 ranked competitor is having fun,. Even a rollover earlier this year hasn't kept him down. It wasn't a hard crash and didn't do too much damage to the car. Dennis didn't finish last week, but it's a good bet that he'll be back in his blue #83 car.
Nance Returns To Merced Speedway IMCA Modifieds,
Ramie Stone Is Next
Merced Speedway welcomed Derek Nance back into action in the IMCA Modifieds last Sunday night. Nance is the last of the Merced area racers to compete in a Late Model, which is a class he loved. Sport Mod up and comer Tm Cecil had a hand in getting Nance thinking about coming back to begin with. Derek is actually the third owner of the car, though it was barely run before him. The original owner ran it once before deciding he didn't like it. Derek's shake down run resulted in a sixth place finish, but it's a good bet he will be compering for wins as he gets things dialed in to his preferences.
The news of returns gets even better with word out of Winton that "The Big Dog" Ramie Stone is about ready to make his return to the IMCA Modifieds. Ramie lost a close battle with Rick Diaz in Sport Mods last season. He had been away for years, but he knew after last season that he was still comfortable with racing. Therefore, he bought his cousin Paul Stone's old car, which needed repairs after a crash in an open show during the winter. Ramie was in no hurry as his budget wasn't going to allow him to race immediately.
If you are wondering who Ramie is, he's won six championships in his career and may be the best driver of the last 20 years at Merced Speedway. Among his accomplishments are Mini Truck and Street Stock championships and then four IMCA Modified titles, an IMCA State title and two DCRR Sweet 16 State championships. It would be a mistake to think that Ramie won't be up at the front of the pack with Alex and Kyle Wilson, Ricky Thatcher, Bill Egleston and Bob Williamson.
The Wilson brothers were in Santa Maria last Saturday. Though Alex had his struggles, Kyle brought it home second behind point leader Josh Vogt. Kyle seemed to be a little faster than Alex until Alex sat behind the wheel of a new car a few weeks ago. Suddenly, Alex started winning, (at Santa Maria and then Merced) and it was Kyle chasing him across the finish line. Last week, a spun slower car knocked Alex from what could have been a win, but he still charged back to pass his brother for second. The Wilson's enjoy racing every chance they get, sometimes three nights a week, and they are always hard at work getting the setup just right before the next race. That kind of dedication is why Alex is the State and Merced point leader and Kyle won State honors last season.
Second ranked Bill Egleston is no slouch either as the 2012 Merced Speedway champion. Bill has had his struggles of late, and he was hoping to turn that around last week as he put a new body on his car heading into this race. He was running pretty fast last week, but a spin in Turn 3 early in the race saw him a little frustrated at what he felt was contact racing with K. Wilson. The race sort of went down hill from there, and this reporter hopes that Bill regroups and comes back at it again this week. He is fully capable of winning and has been a positive presence at Merced Speedway in recent seasons.
Ricky Thatcher led for several laps once again, but a spin put an end to that. He still salvaged a fourth place finish ahead of veteran Bill Mayer, and he holds a 17 point lead over the rapidly closing K. Wilson in the battle for third in points. With four consecutive championships at Antioch and some 26 feature wins there in the Bowers Racing Modified, Troy Foulger is traveling around this year and trying to get ready for bigger money events. His travels led hm back to Merced, where he finished second last time out. This week, he was right there to capitalize on A. Wilson's misfortune. Once Troy got the lead, nobody was taking it away as he sped to his first Merced win of the season. He has three wins at Antioch this year and is a threat to win any time he shows up.
There's no more helpless feeling for a racer chasing points than to win over 20 Main Events on the circuit and still lose the point lead. This is what happened to Fred Ryland in the IMCA Sport Mod National point race. Fred shot out of the gate like a cannon in January with big money wins at Chowchilla and Merced. He has recently been in a slump at Antioch as anything that can go wrong has gone wrong. He came to Merced last Sunday in hopes of jump starting his point effort and at least moving from third to second in The Nation. The good news is he won. The bad news is it was one car shy of an "official" full IMCA field, meaning it's treated as a second place finish where points are concerned. That may still help him just a little bit.
The battle for second in points at Merced is close as Josh Hensley has sort of checked out on the rest of the field. Mark Odgers and Dwayne Short have both missed a few races and are fighting for second. Odgers has seemingly had better results with a win in recent weeks. He finished a strong second last week. However, Short isn't going down without a fight and has been battling Odgers on the track every week. He finished fifth last week and still holds a ten point lead in that battle. As good as these two are running, either one of them could pick up a win this week. For that matter, Hensley should not be counted out. If not for a brush with the back wall giving him a flat tire, he may have won last week.
Danny Roe was back with a new body on his car. He was involved in a hard crash last time and was merely there to see if everything was in working order. He didn't finish, but his plans center around a trip to Boone, Iowa for the IMCA Nationals next month. Tim Cecil was back in action, and he picked a good time to come back. Cecil seemed to get more comfortable as the race went on, and he ended up with a season best third place finish. That finish moved him into the Top 10 in the standings. Nick Tucker could end up in the Top 10 if he keeps getting finishes like he did last week. The son of two time winner Gary Tucker, Nick came back from some early problems to finish fourth.
At Antioch on Saturday, second ranked Al Johnson was hoping it would be his night to shine. The second place point runner has had more than his share of bad luck this season, but he came into the night in second in the standings. After winning another heat race, Johnson stepped it up a notch by leading the Main Event for several laps with Watsonville point leader Anthony Giuliani and Antioch leader Fred Ryland right behind him. He was doing a great job of holding them off before something broke and he spun in front of the other two, collecting them both.
While Patti Ryland raced into the lead, F. Ryland and Giuliani regrouped at the back. Ryland had problems and would retire, but Giuliani worked his way through the pack and into the lead. Giuliani has now won in his last two starts at Antioch. Though the car count is in free fall at his home track in Watsonville, he still finds himself in a battle to hold off Matt Hagio for that championship. He leads Hagio by just a few points in the standings at Watsonville and is close to moving into the Top 10 at Antioch.
P. Ryland spun a lap after losing the lead to Giuliani. She was still unhappy with herself when speaking of the race at Merced a night later, but the "Rookie Of The Year" leader still managed a fifth place finish to maintain her Top 5 point status. Jeremy Hoff was maybe a bit of a surprise visitor, but maybe not. Hoff loves racing at Antioch, though Merced is closer to home. The 2013 champion and 2014 runner up had a strong running car Saturday night and finished second. Hoff pocked the $1750 first prize at Antioch back in January's West Coast Nationals event.
In all of the talk about Patti Ryland, one may overlook the talented Megan Ponciano, but she reminded everybody last week of how good she really is. Megan made a last turn pass on 2012 point runner up Jimmy Ford to grab a third place finish, keeping her tenth in the standings. Megan herself is the 2013 Sport Mod runner up as well as a four time feature winner, and let's not forget that she is a past Hobby Stock champion. So, any success she has in her green #22 car should not come as a surprise.
Ford was still the leader of the Marysville visitors last week with his fourth place finish. Jimmy is currently second in Sport Mod points at Marsyville, and the defending Mini Stock champion currently leads Shaun Merritt in that race this season. Another Merritt, Shaun's brother Mike Merritt, was making only his second Sport Mod start and ended up with an eighth place finish. Meanwhile, another Marysville visitor, Alan Furuta, had mechanical issues in his heat race and was a Main Event scratch.
K.C. Keller overcame a flat tire last week and still managed to grab a sixth place finish as he continues a string a good finishes. He finished a season best third in the previous race after winning his heat race and had a Top 5 finish the race before that. This is Keller's first season in a Sport Mod. but he does have past racing experience. In recent years, he's done some off road racing, and before that, he ran Quarter-Midgets and also Mini Cup cars at Altamont. It wouldn't be a big surprise to see K.C. competing for a win before the season is over.
Joaquin Has Wins At Anrioch, Merced And Chowchilla,
Hart 14th Different Merced Hobby Stock Winner
Kevin Joaquin finally made good on his plans of visiting Antioch Speedway. The Chowchilla champion and current Merced point leader has three wins each at those tracks, but he wanted to win at Antioch to stake his claim as the top driver on the Oval Motorsports circuit. Unfortunately, he had a motor issue that left him on seven cylinders in hot laps. The crew rushed to fix things and missed the heat race.
His first Antioch race would be the Main Event, and he would start in the fifth row. By halfway through the race, Kevin would make his move into the lead. Not long after that, Antioch point leader Kimo Oreta was second, and Kevin couldn't quite shake him. He did manager to get the win, but he later revealed that he again was running on seven cylinders as the problem returned. The crew had only rigged something that they hoped would get him to the finish line. That mission was accomplished, and Kevin has won at all three Oval Motorsports tracks this season.
Danny Jones was commenting prior to the race two weeks ago that he just wanted to finish. The long time Stock Car competitor has gone through a myriad of motor problems in his quest for his first win of the season, and it hasn't been pretty. His five second place finishes helped keep him in the battle for second in the standings. That night, he took it up a notch by leading 15 laps of the Main Event. Then, the right front ball joint broke and he clobbered the Turn 1 wall.
The one thing about Danny is he's not a quitter. He had his Pete Paulsen's House Of Wheels Special #66 tribute car back and running last week and he led the first half of the Main Event. Though he lost the lead, he crossed the line with a much needed third place finish. It was a good night for the Jones family as daughter Jessica crossed the line with a lead lap seventh place finish, Jessica is in her first year in Hobby Stocks after some success racing Mini Trucks and Four Bangers in recent seasons.
The thing is, Danny's two rivals in the battle for second in the standings have definitely upped their game in recent weeks. Rookie Jordan Swank had a fifth place finish last week, right behind his brother in law, Michael Cooper. Cooper also won another heat race earlier that night. We've been talking about how Jones is due for a win, but the same can be said for Swank and Cooper. At the moment, "Rookie Of The Year" hopeful Swank leads Cooper by just nine points with Jones only 13 points out of second. This has been a fun battle to watch all season long.
Another driver looking good lately is Natalie Perry. Perry had a season best third place finish two weeks ago. Just getting to the finish line has been a struggle at times for the sixth ranked driver as all sorts of problems have challenged her. However, she and crew chief Steve Perry have faced it all with a positive attitude and keep coming back. Last week, Natalie finished a lead lap sixth in another solid effort. Steve Perry revealed that he had a faulty tire gauge and missed Natalie's tire pressure in that third pace finish, but she did a good job of compensating for that.
Rookie Lindsey Buirch was making just her second start last week. The teenage rookie is simply trying to make her first laps, stay out of the way and get to the finish line, which she has accomplished twice now. In her latest effort, she was a little more willing to hit the gas and was noticeably faster in her eighth place finish. Sometimes it takes baby steps to get comfortable in a race car, but Lindsey seems to be doing it the right way. The next step will be to get a little more aggressive in the turns.
At Merced Speedway, the Hobby Stocks remain exciting, sometimes wild and unpredictable. In 18 races, there have been 14 different winners. Only point leader Kevin Joaquin and Kristie Shearer have multiple wins as each has three. Kevin was a front row starter and was on his way to a fourth win when it happened. The 2011 champion Ryan Hart passed him for the lead and victory. Kevin has about a half dozen second place finishes now. It may just be that the motor issue from Saturday at Antioch resurfaced under the hood of Kevin's #97 car, though this reporter hasn't confirmed that.
For Ryan Hart, his primary focus this season has been his Late Model effort at Madera Speedway. At the moment, he is enjoying a good season as the point leader of the Loan Mart Late Model Series, which is also televised on MavTV. Sunday night found Ryan taking his car to Merced Speedway for the first time this season, He was happy he did after winning his heat race and the Main Event. He started back in the fourth row of the feature and slowly worked his way to the front with some good driving. It's not known if we'll see Ryan more at Merced in the final weeks of the season, but it would make things more interesting if he returned.
Another driver who makes things interesting when he's out on the track is "Mr. Excitement" George Silva in his blue #8 car. Two weeks ago, he led most of the race before being passed. He put the blame on himself for making the mistake that cost him the lead. During the week leading up to last week's race, George was working with Darren Miguel and the Hensley team to get Miguel's Hobby Stock motor ready. Darren had purchased the former Aaron Widick car and made the race. Silva, meanwhile, had another heat win and a Top 3 feature run before blowing a motor in Turn 4.
The third place finish went to the #86 Josh Hensley car. On the PA, the driver was credited as David Richards, but Hensley had said prior to the races that he was once again planning to drive both this car and his Sport Mod. In either case, the driver had a good race. Also looking good was Adam Reed. Reed was making his fifth start at Merced and was back for the first time since a June crash in Chowchilla. He looked good in finishing second in his heat race and earning his third fourth place finish. Teammate Bobby Williams didn't do so well in his first start since his sixth place finish in the Ted Stofle Classic, but he continues to maintain his Top 10 point status. Both drivers expressed an interest in racing at Chowchilla whenever the October dates are announced.
Austin Van Hoff is another of the drivers on the winner's list this year at Merced. He has already wrapped up a second place season at his home track in Chowchilla, and his start on Sunday enabled him to take third from Kristie Shearer in the standings at Merced. Austin had a Top 3 run going before losing a muffler. Dexter Long's latest effort, a sixth place finish, moved the rookie into fifth in the standings according to the latest official update. Long isn't likely to overtake second ranked Jennifer Corder in the rookie battle, but a Top 5 point effort after the luck he's had this year is still good. Corder drove another respectable race to finish fifth last week.
Garner Clinches Merced Limited Late Model Title,
But Where Are The Cars
Mark Garner will be the 2015 Merced Speedway Limited Late Model champion after his seventh win of the season. He and second ranked Buddy Thatcher are the two biggest supporters of this division at Merced, but it has still been a struggle getting things going. Roy Hart Jr. almost certainly would have been there Sunday, but he was recovering from recent surgery. For Garner's part, he came to Merced specifically to win the championship and give his family their first ever track championship. His father, Jerry Garner, is the 1969 State champion, but he is currently battling an illness. Mark's mantra this year is "All for a reason" as he dedicates it all to his dad.
The bigger question is where are the cars? There have been ten different cars to compete in the first nine races, and twice there were six car fields. At the start of the season, Garner was joined by Antioch racers Peggy Sue Jarred and John Evans, but Jarred blew a motor at Merced and hasn't been seen too many times since. Jeff Kendrick debuted the former Jeff Silva car with a second, but he's more of an Antioch racer and recently crashed hard there. The bottom line is the Antioch racers can't be counted on to prop up this division,. Local support is needed or this division won't work at Merced.
The local contingent of Buddy Thatcher, Roy Hart Jr. and Scott Van Gelder are currently second through fourth. Hart has a heat and Main Event win. Thatcher should be able to hold on for second in points just by showing up. Van Gelder had that position, but three races ago, his car got damaged in a heat race crash. He hasn't returned since. These three were the best of the local support, while Donny Richardson and Joel Chavez are two others who have competed at least once this year.
Just before the Sunday switch, this division had the two six car fields. Is the Sunday switch the cause of the drop? If it had stayed on Saturday, would car count have grown? That is the big question. Last year, car count wasn't that strong either, and some might wonder if there's enough local interest in Limited Late Models at Merced. Some might even wonder if a Super Street Stock division could produce a few more cars per race than this. Oval Motorsports is committed to this division, and we'll see how things work out at Merced when this division returns for Legend's Night on August 23.
Car count is a little stringer at Antioch, but the division still needs cars. And, they need to be fast to beat Larry Damitz, who has won over half of the Main Events so far this year. Larry is leaving little doubt that he may be the track champion for the fourth time in five seasons after his latest win. In that race, he had a front row start and led every lap with Mike Hynes in close pursuit. Hynes has been improving in the past few weeks, and the 2014 point runner up is hoping to get his first feature win of the season. With Damitz around, it's a challenge for anybody else to get a win.
In fact, the only other winners this season are two time winners Mike Gustafson and Mark Garner. Gustafson shadowed Hynes through the whole race last week for the third place finish, and the division's all time feature win leader is six points ahead in a close battle for second in the standings. Not to be left out is Garner, who trails by only ten points. All three of these drivers are running strong, and it just may be the driver who can win down the stretch will get second in points. As Damitz will start last on Saturday, it could be one of these three who wins.
Jim Freethy seemed poised to be that winner. A flat tire knocked him out of the lead two races ago. There have been little things he's worked on with setup and the motor in the car he debuted during the season, but the 2013 champion may have suffered a setback with motor problems knocking him out early last week. Jim put this car together with winning races in mind. He would love to give Damitz a run for the money. Jim says he has the utmost respect for Larry. He is the driver who prevented Larry from winning four championships in a row, so we know what he's capable of.
The steady John Evans managed to grab another checkered flag in fourth last week. Usually, John is finishing races in his #48 car, even if he's not the fastest driver in the field. John brings a lot of enthusiasm with him to the races, but it just may be that he needs an experienced crew chief on his team to help him dial things in better. While Evans maintained sixth in the standings with his latest finish, John Keith was stuck on the sidelines watching the race after a mechanical issue in his heat race. Hopefully, it's not serious enough to keep him out this week.
We’ve been hearing that past division champion Lori Brown is ready to return any time. Her husband, Ron Brown, has been dealing with a health issue that he said might take him out for a couple of weeks. Of course, this would probably delay Lori's return. Peggy Sue Jarred was reportedly having more motor issues. Others with cars we know of are Chris Long, Gene Haney, Cecil Henry, Jim Robbins, Calvin Louis and Kimo Oreta. Oreta and Louis are putting cars together, and Louis may debut soon. Long and Haney were at the January race, but Long had enough problems with the car to park it. Henry hasn't been seen since last year, while Robbins is trying to raise the funds to get a motor in his car. We also received word that seventh ranked Hobby Stock racer Robert Niven bought a car from the Napa area recently.
Wingless Spec Sprints boils down to a 46 point lead for Kyle Bakkie over Rick Panfili, who leads rookie Marcus Smith by just 26 points. Bakkie was second last year, and at this point he and Panfili are headed for their best seasons ever. We anticipate that this week could produce a double digit car count once again as drivers like Jeremy Newberry (who raced at Petaluma last week), Keith Shipherd and Nick Dunn are rumored to be coming. Dunn made his return last time as he hadn't been seen since a Turn 4 crash earlier this year.
Jimmy Perry III's latest win gives him four for the year as he is third on the division's all time win list. He has also assumed fifth in the standings as he moved by two time winner Roy Fisher. Others on the win list include three time winner Bakkie, two time winner Jeff Lee and one time winner James East. Panfili, Smith, Newberry and Alan Miranda have yet to win, but all of them have second place finishes in this competitive division. Peter Carlotto has been a welcome addition to this class in recent weeks and already has finished in the Top 5. We suspect we'll see him this week as well.
Busby Continues Drive For #5 In Antioch IMCA Modifieds,
Miguel-Corder Battle Heats Up In Merced Mini Stocks
Four time champions Scott Busby and Troy Foulger account for seven wins this year in the IMCA Modifieds at Antioch as Busby has four and two of Foulger's three wins came in the biggest races of the season aboard the Bowers Racing Modified. We're not sure if Foulger will return on the heels of his recent Merced win, but Busby should be there to go for win #69 of his impressive career at Antioch. At the moment, Busby leads one time winner Bobby Motts Jr. by 26 points. A past Street Stock champion and winner of over 20 Main Events in that class, Motts has gained a few points on Busby in recent races, but failing to qualify for the Friday Summer Nationals feature will probably prove to be his undoing in the championship battle.
One time winners Kyle Wilson and Shawn DeForest, in the Jim Reid car, should both be on hand for this Saturday's race. Wilson sits fourth in the standings, just ahead of his State point leading brother Alex Wilson. DeForest is closing in on the Top 5 as the six ranked driver. Carl Berendsen II has a car capable of winning as the 2014 champion ranks third in the standings,. He bought that car from recent winner Aaron Crowell, who we anticipate will be there this week. After his second place finish ahead of past 100 lap Hobby Stock feature winner Nick Viscusi III, we are also guessing Terry Kaiser will be there in his "General Lee" #01 car as well.
Viscusi has been racing at Petaluma this season, and that track is dark to the class this week. That could open the door for a few visits from the Sonoma-Marin County fairgrounds track. Topping the list of those we think could show will be six time Petaluma champion Michael Paul Jr. and one time champ Oreste Gonella. Both drivers are very much in the hunt at that track this year, though Nick DeCarlo has won seven Main Events, We suspect DeCarlo will be in Petaluma driving a Spec Sprint, but you never know. Past Top 5 Antioch IMCA Modified racer Norm Boeck could be at Antioch as well.
It's interesting to look at where we are in the Mini Stock battle at Merced. After all of these races and the 11 wins earned by Darren Miguel, he still only holds a 14 point advantage over one time winner Chris Corder. Corder has switched to the former Alex Odishoo car and has a first and second place finish already. In fact, he has gained on Miguel in the last two races, and that means the 2014 champion is still very much in the hunt for a repeat. Corder is the Chowchilla Speedway champion as well.
The move to Sundays at Merced seems to have given the division a bump in interest. Kelly Campanile and Natalie Waldrop have been racing more, and Waldrop moved into third in the standings with three time feature runner up Campanile right behind her. Meanwhile, 1999 Mini Truck champion Kevin Lockerby returned last time. He has a feature win this year and says he may try to finish out the season. Even Dennis Copus has indicated he'll try to get one more start in if he can. Work is why Copus had to abandon a third place point effort.
The Falkenberg team had so much fun with Lucy Falkenberg making her first start in sixth two races ago that Dale Falkenberg bought her Chris Corder's #68c car. With a new paint job, Lucy drove the #18 car to a fifth place finish last time. Andrew Krumm started his daughter's car last time as she still isn't comfortable with shifting. The Jeff Amos car was out last time with a new paint job, and we could be seeing all three of these cars on Sunday night. Whatever the reason for the renewed interest, it's nice to see more Mini Stocks at Merced.
Nostalgia Divisions Coming To Antioch
And Merced August 22-23
More Sportsman cars for Legend's Night at Merced Speedway would be a nice thing too. On August 23, the division will be welcomed back, and the hope is that at least a half dozen cars will compete. Leading the charge will be point leader Marcus Lung and hard core division booster Kenny Birdsong, who hasn't missed a race this season. We also anticipate that Eric Sealy and Mike Palmberg will be there of the drivers who have competed so far this season. We aren't sure about Jeff Bristow, and Mark Odgers indicated that he didn't want to hurt the Vern Willhoite tribute body on his car, though he also said he wants to see this division survive. More cars will make that happen.
Birdsong has reportedly been working behind the scenes as one of the people trying to drum up interest. He has indicated that we will see cars we haven't seen in a while. Names that makes us think about include past champions Mike Hausmann, Shane Hausmann and Mike Henault. Tim Prothro is another one who comes to mind. Six or eight cars that night will go a long way towards keeping it alive. Kenny has also indicated that Watsonville legend Jerry Cecil and Merced legend Rod Poor could be there. We've heard Dennis Moomjean would drive the pace car and that legendary announcer Johnny Sass was interested in being there as well.
It should also be noted that Promoter John Soares Jr. has also indicated that he would drive a car if the ride was offered.
A night earlier at Antioch Speedway (August 22), the California Hardtop Association has been invited back. This is in no small part thanks to a respected racing promoter named Mike McCann. In addition to his work as a "Promoter Of The Year" award winner at Cottage Grove Speedway and other tracks, Mike is a long time Hardtop booster. He and Chuck Prather brought Hardtops down from Oregon for what is credited for sparking the modern Hardtop movement in California back in September of 2002.
The division was in Placerville last Saturday night where Rob Waldrop drove Bill McLaughlin's car to his fourth straight win ahead of Zach Frazer and Ron Rezz, who was in the Jason Armstrong car. Waldrop will be in Antioch, which is his home track. He raced for many years in Street Stocks and is the 1998 champion, Drivers in Placerville that we anticipate for Antioch include Ken Clifford, Jason Clifford, Steve Cloyes, Dan Whitnety, Frazer and Waldrop. Long time Placerville racer Dennis Armstrong and son Jason Armstrong aren't confirmed, but we think they may be there as well.
There were already a few confirmations we knew of prior to last week. Tommy Thomson and Dan Williams are both Hardtop feature winners at Antioch in the past, and we've heard both will be there. Second generation racer Thomson drives the Hardtop he drove at Vallejo Speedway over 35 years ago. Dave Mackey will be there, though the team's second car, driven by Jim Perry Jr., may not. Larry Damitz is expected, and George Conner has indicated he's trying to get the Mike McClure car to the track to support the cause. Mike McCann is planning to bring a car as well. We know the roster for this class is in the 20's, and a field of 10-14 cars appears very possible that Saturday night.
McCann got the blessing of CHA President John Philbert to book this date and poll the drivers on their thoughts about the state of Hardtop racing at the moment. Philbert will probably be in the pits, but his car may not be ready until Calistoga next month, McCann is among those who feel Antioch Speedway is an important part of the future of this effort, and a good showing will go a long way towards more races there in 2016. McCann has also sponsored plaques for the heat winners and second and third in the Main Event as the track will provide the award for the winner. All indications are that August 22 at Antioch Speedway will be a night Hardtop fans won't want to miss.
In the meantime, racing resumes this Saturday night at Antioch Speedway with IMCA Modifieds, Brentwood Auto Parts IMCA Sport Modifieds, Northern All Stars Wingless Spec Sprints, Hobby Stocks and Limited Late Models all in action. On Sunday night at Merced Speedway, the IMCA Modifieds and IMCA Sport Modifieds headline again along with Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks and Dwarf Cars. For further information, check the official Oval Motorsports Website.