Thursday, August 20, 2015

Pit Stops From Antioch, Merced And Elsewhere

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 Go Fund Me 

Additional info on the Short Track History Project  HERE

DCRR Racing Media And PR Consulting  HERE

Bako Motorsports Power Hour previews this Saturday's races at Bakersfield Speedway HERE

The Wingless Spec Sprints Main Event at Petaluma Speedway from last week can be viewed HERE 

The Lumberjack's Restaurant Super Stocks Main Event at Petaluma Speedway from last week can be viewed HERE

The Hobby Stock Main Event from Santa Maria Speedway last week can be viewed HERE

The Western Pro Stock Main Event from Santa Maria Speedway last week can be viewed HERE 

Tony Karis filed a report for last week's races at Ocean Speedway in Watsonville HERE

DCRR Racing Radio Show
Weekend Preview Edition

DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 57 by GenWhat

Pit Stops

We’re in the late stages of the stretch run for the 2015 season at Antioch Speedway and Merced Speedway and a few battles are still close.  This week, we’ll be taking a look at few things that have caught our eye as we head into a new weekend of racing.

We start with Kimo Oreta and Nick Baldwin, both of whom were winners last Saturday night.  For Oreta, it was his seventh win of the season at Antioch Speedway and 20th of his career as the all time win leader in the division.  Kimo has now clinched his third straight division championship.  He could still add to his win totals before the season is up and has indicated that he may visit Merced too, but he’ll be making a move up into the Limited Late Models next season.

As for his latest win, everything just clicked for Kimo.  Unfortunately, the bad luck continued for Danny Jones as he lost power while leading on lap five.  Jones is now 20 points out of second, but more importantly to him probably is the fact that he has five seconds and still no wins this year.  Second went to Michael Cooper.  Cooper got the lead with the departure of Jones, but he lost the lead to Oreta.  Cooper was still an impressive second, and you have to wonder if he may be due for a win soon.  He leads rookie Jordan Swank by just one point and Jones by 20 in the battle for second.

Nick Baldwin started the season off looking like he was ready for a run at the championship after his back to back Top 3 seasons at Antioch.  He even won a feature this year before all the rules issues started coming into play over some confusion drivers had in interpreting the rules.  Nick didn’t stop racing.  He took his talents to perhaps the most competitive Pure Stock show in California, Placerville Speedway.  Jay’s Welding & Fabricating is sponsoring $2,000 for the championship, and some nights this division has B Mains.

So, Nick went up to the foot hills and gave that track a shot.  Past Antioch racers Dan Smith and Justin Silveira both race there as well, and he had to run at the back while he figured things out.  Well, last Saturday, Nick made his move.  He started with a heat race win.  Though his car wasn’t the fastest out there, he ran smoothly and worked his way to the front while a few of the players had their struggles.  When the checkered flag flew, it was Baldwin grabbing the victory.  Considering how hard his team has had to work to get the #17 car up to speed at Placerville, you know he really earned it.

When the season started, Kevin Joaquin had his eyes on an Oval Motorsports Overall Hobby Stock championship.  He’s won the Chowchilla title and is well on his way to a championship at Merced as well.  Kevin has three wins at each place and was eyeing a fourth as the leader last week before a flat right rear tire put an end to that.  Kevin won at Antioch recently, making him the only driver to win Main Events at all three tracks this season.  He didn’t finish on Sunday.  Even though top rookie Jennifer Corder was doing her usual good job of finishing fourth, Kevin’s lead is still pretty solid.

The driver in third in points at Merced is another driver who has been racing hard this season.  That would be Chowchilla’s Austin Van Hoff.  The talented second generation racer has already wrapped up a second place point season at Chowchilla, and he’s third at Merced.  Austin regained the lead with Joaquin’s tire issue and sped home to his second Main Event win of the season.  He has definitely hit stride recently.  If not for a lost muffler, he had a Top 3 finish in hand a week earlier.

Before moving on, we wanted to acknowledge Robbie Loquaci’s second place feature finish and heat win at Merced.  Robbie is a past Chowchilla Mini Stock champion, but he’s had some terrible luck this season.  He had it dialed in for that season best second place finish ahead of the surprising Jeff Lacy.  Lacy led the first half of the race in his Dan Marino Miami Dolphins tribute car, and that third place finish was his best effort yet this season.

Back at Antioch, Melissa Myers was a welcome addition to the field. The past Street Stock and Hobby Stock champion had a solid night with a win in her heat race and third in the Man Event ahead of Natalie Perry.  Natalie keeps turning in solid efforts in the #40n car and has a good hold on sixth in points.  Crew chief Steve Perry keeps saying if he did a better job she would be faster, but even Natalie would say he’s been doing good this year.  That team has reason to smile.

Cameron Swank had a solid fifth place finish ahead of fifth ranked Frank Furtado.  Cameron is getting closer to the day when he could be a Main Event winner like his father, Glenn Swank.  Tony McCown was a heat race winner in a car he recently purchased from the Watsonville area.    The feature didn’t quite yield the results he wanted, but he still took a checkered flag in eighth behind Jordan Swank.

Another interesting tidbit comes from the Hobby Stocks at Sacramento Valley Speedway in Orland.  Promoter Adam Zachary has recently been getting videos of the Hobby Stock races and trying to use them on Facebook for positive buzz.  The most recent race ran non stop.  The nine car field ran beautifully on the one-fifth mile dirt oval, and Brian Cooper came from the back and made a pass on Paul Stevens during the final ten laps for the win.  Shannon Collins was third.  Cooper was so happy that the Chico regular said he would be trying to recruit others from his home track for the August 29 race and would try to get some sponsorship to make the purse a little bigger.  It’s that kind of support that can help Orland’s race track get stronger.

The Mini Stocks at Merced have become interesting for a couple reasons.  First of all, you have a battle for the championship between Darren Miguel and Chris Corder.  Secondly, cars continue to show up out of the woodwork to support the show,  It’s amazing to realize that despite his 11 wins, Miguel still only leads 2014 champion Corder by ten points.  Since switching to the former Alex Odishoo car, Corder has gained on Miguel in each of the last three races, and he has won two of the last three races.  He nearly won the other race before Miguel passed him late, but he still gained points after winning the heat race.

The only driver close to competing with this duo right now is second generation racer Kelly Campanile, who won the heat race last week.  Kelly just moved into third in the standings, taking the spot from the absent Natalie Waldrop.  Last week saw four cars in the field that we haven’t seen in a while.  There was Mike Germait and teammate Jimmy Stockton.  Germait ended up third in the Main Event ahead of Jennifer Corder.  Jennifer was driving the car she finished second with in points last season.  It is the last car her father built and it has sentimental value to the Corder Racing Team.

Alica Caldwell finally made her return in a different car after her other car was destroyed in a crash at Chowchilla back in May.  We’ve seen Lucy Falkenberg, Andrew Krumm and Jeff Amos in recent weeks, and you never know who may race next.  The good news about the drivers showing up now is that it’s likely that both C. Corder and Miguel will be in Hobby Stocks next season, so it’s good to know other racers are out there to keep this class going.  Corder Racing still has a few Mini Stocks, so seeing Chris race or have a car out there for somebody else to drive in the future would not be a big surprise.

Speaking of Mini Stocks, we finally got some word on the most recent race at Rocky Hill Speedway in Porterville.  We’re still waiting on results from the two races before, but we can tell you that the August 15 race had 13 Mini Stocks on hand and a familiar winner.  Point leader Jared Plumlee continued his domination with a win ahead of Bob Ellis, Josh Nelson, Justin Cook and “The Dirt Dog” Andy Boydstun.  Clinton and Clifton Massey continue to be regular supporters and finished sixth and seventh, respectively.  Justin Moore, Amanda McGowan and Vicky Hart rounded out the Top 10.

The Super Mini Stocks saw Roy Atchison scoring the win ahead of Russell Silvas and Kit Murphy.  Defending champion Adell Shelton, Larry Ramarez, William Hughes and Brooke Dale completed the finishing order.  Alvin Ince was back at his home track and keeping the Noland family out of the winner’s circle with his Hobby Stock feature win.  Of course, Raymond Noland Jr. was still second and Michael Scruggs, Eric Cimental, Kart Noland  Jr. and Gene Glover rounded out the finish.

Dwarf Cars were part of last Saturday’s program as the CDCRA paid the track another visit.  John Isabella was the Main Event winner.  Austin Figueroa held off long time division supporter and past champion Angel Figueroa for the second place finish.  James Billings III was fourth, followed by Devlin Autry, James Villa, Ira Henry, Steven Brunn and Douglas Lebow.  Rocky Hill Speedway returns to action on August 29 with Mini Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Super Mini Stocks, Central Valley Tanks (IMCA Stock Car rules) and a Power Puff race.

On Saturday night, there were 36 Wingless Spec Sprints competing between Antioch, Marysville and Petaluma,.  All three tracks had a dozen cars.  Antioch had two past champions showing up for the first time this season in two time champion Billy Macedo and past champion D.J. Johnson, but Johnson had actually brought his USAC car for a shakedown run.  Macedo hasn’t lost his touch.  He started on the front row, and though Alan Miranda got the jump on him, Macedo had the lead a few laps later.  Billy set a rapid pace and cruised to an impressive victory.

One car not quite up to speed has presented problems to two leaders this year, but Macedo didn’t see the problem.  He said he simply followed the young up and comer for a lap or two and then made his move.  Nothing was stopping Macedo, not even point leader Kyle Bakkie.  Bakkie gained second from Miranda and would finish there.  The #19 car is running well lately, and this finish seems to have solidified Kyle’s bid for a track championship.  Bakkie is a three time winner this year who finished second in points last season.  When the points were totaled after Saturday, Kyle’s lead over Rick Panfili was stretchered to 64.

Panfili is considering either retiring or racing a partial schedule next year.  Part of the problem is the need for sponsorship, and the other part is that he and his wife are often left as the only ones working on the car.  Despite the budget situation, Rick was third in points last year and should finish at least there this season.  He’s been second in points most of the year, finished as high as a career best second in the feature and won his first heat race.  Despite that, impressive rookie Marcus Smith used his fourth place finish last week to move to within just 16 points of Panfili with two point races to go.

While Panfili and Smith search for their first wins, Jimmy Perry III has four of them.  Jimmy couldn’t quite make his way to the front Saturday as he settled for fifth.  The news from the team before the race was that the division’s all time win leader, “Jammin” Jim Perry Jr., will be back in this class next season.  It could be that we will see a battle between the Perry’s for the 2016 championship.

The battle in the Limited Late Models at Antioch is the same as it is for Spec Sprints, for second place.  “The Sundrop Kid” Larry Damitz is just so smooth that even when he’s not earning one of his six wins this season, he’s always near the front.  He finished third on Saturday.  However, heat winners Lori Brown and Mike Hynes were hoping this race would be theirs.  For 14 laps, Brown led the way before steering issues cost her.  She was handling everything Hynes threw at her up until that point.

For Hynes, it’s been a struggle getting his #05 car where he wanted it.  The rules adjustments with the rear end left him a little behind a few drivers, but he’d made the change in recent weeks.  He was starting to feel more comfortable going into this race, and it turned out that Saturday would be his night to shine.  Hynes finally got a win, and in doing so, he slipped past Mike Gustafson for second in points.  Hynes held off Jim Freethy, who had broken a timing chain in his motor a week ago and had some things to fix.  The second for Freethy was encouraging, and the fact that he might have won this race had there been a few more laps could be an indication of what may come next time.

The points show Hynes leading Gustafson by two points and Mark Garner by 14.  Garner finished fifth last week, but the night was special for a different reason.  Mark was joined by his ailing father, Jerry “The  Maverick” Garner, for a ceremony at intermission as he was honored for clinching the 2015 Merced Speedway championship.  Mark finally gave his family their first track championship.  Jerry has had several Top 5 seasons at Antioch and was Top 5 at both Antioch and Petaluma when he won the 1969 State championship.

Eric Berendsen was just excited to be back at the track.  His car was back together, and the second generation racer couldn’t wait to get back out there.  In fact, he forgot to bring his racing fuel with him and missed mud packing and hot laps as a result.  Eric knew he wasn’t going to be as fast as the rest of the field, but he was wanting to make some laps and get comfortable in the race car again.  He ended up eighth at the finish.  He had a scary moment when Brown stalled in Turn 1, and he crashed into her.  Neither driver was injured, and both continued to race.

The Sport Mod news we’ve heard includes a new car for Jeremy Jennings, Tim Hammett considering buying a new car and the older news that Kenny Swank has the old Loyd Cline car.  State point leader Fred Ryland was in Merced on Sunday picking up a chassis, though his cars are for sale.  Fred has indicated that he’s enjoying the class and will likely stick around.  On Sunday, he and Bruce Nelson battled in their heat and were about to battle in the Main Event. Nelson and Ryland grabbed the top two positions, but Ryland had more problems and would end up retiring.  Gary Tucker was back and running a good race in second.

Dwayne Short has been running pretty strong lately, but it seems his race goes away from him near the end.  Dwayne led some laps before finishing fifth.  Mark Odgers ran at the back early on before he began making his move.  He eventually grabbed third from Short.  It’s been a one or two points at a time deal for Odgers, but he still trails Short by just eight points in the battle for second.  Both of these drivers have been going for it.  With Josh Hensley far ahead in the point lead, this is the battle to watch in Merced Sport Mods.

Back at Antioch, Anthony Giuliani has been on a roll.  Anthony is locked in a close battle with Matt Hagio for the Sport Mod championship at Watsonville, and he finally got his first win there last Friday.  He was feeling pretty good after that, so he loaded up his black #15 car and headed for Antioch a night later.  On his way to front, he had to try to make his move around Trevor Clymens in the blue #2c car, but he was up to the challenge.  Giuliani rolled to win #3 at Antioch and has moved into tenth in the points as well.  Anthony had indicated at Merced a few weeks ago that he prefers to travel around and race when he wants to.  He isn’t planning to get caught up in points next year.

Clymens had second for a while before spinning, and that opened the door for Patti Ryland to get another second place finish.  Since recovering from her broken foot, Patti has been running strong lately as she continues an impressive Top 5 point season as a rookie in the division.  Meanwhile, husband Fred Ryland made a last turn pass on Paul Mulder to regain third, but it’s not a finish that will help him in the National point race.  Fred needs full field wins.  At a time when car count is struggling at Merced and is hurting a little with the added races at Antioch, he’s not getting the official IMCA “full fields” he needs.

Antioch Speedway IMCA Modified point leader Scott Busby may be wondering about the Main Event invert as he seems to be starting in the back most of the time lately.  The well run Main Event meant that Scott’s charge to the front ended in a three car battle with Shawn DeForest and Bobby Motts Jr. for fifth.  The three drivers ran hard and Busby settled for sixth behind DeForest.  Still, it was enough to maintain the lead by 27 points over Motts, who ended up seventh at the finish.

Meanwhile, Aaron Crowell proved to be unstoppable once again in the #1c GRT Chassis.  The 2004 Antioch champion started up front, but unlike last time, he had State point leader Alex Wilson right behind him, just waiting for the opportunity to make his move.  That opportunity never came as Crowell drove a flawless race in victory.  When you get those opportunities, you have to make the most of them, and Crowell has certainly done that.  In between this win and his win last time, he had a disappointing DNF at Petaluma.  It might be a good thing for the Antioch competition that Aaron hasn’t run every race or the point situation might be different.

Nick Vuscusi III has been looking good at Antioch as well.  A past Top 5 Hobby Stock racer and winner of one of the 100 lappers for that division, Nick has looked good in his red, white and blue #13 car.  He finished fourth last week and was a season best third at the previous race.  Nick has been racing at Petaluma this season and is currently fifth in the standings.  Darrell Hughes II has been running wherever he feels like, and that includes several tracks this season.  On Friday, the third generation racer drove to a fifth place finish at Hanford, and he returned to Antioch with a strong third place finish on Saturday.  His father, past Chowchilla champion Darrell Hughes, has a Bakersfield legal Pro Stock that he is hoping to sell.  Darrell loves that class, but he’s considering what his next move will be.  He thinks this car would be good for somebody just getting their start in the Pro Stock/Limited Late Model ranks.

Back at Merced, Alex Wilson was encouraged by his Antioch finish and just the way his black #36 car has been running in general.  A frustrated Bill Egleston was a no show on Sunday, though the way Alex has been adding to his point lead in recent weeks, it may not have even mattered.  On Sunday, Wilson turned in a stellar performance from start to finish in winning his second Main Event and stretching his point lead.  It’s seeming more likely that Alex will win both the State and Merced Speedway championships.

Ryan Porter wasn’t too far behind Alex after passing his brother Kyle Wilson for second.  Ryan turned in what some say was the drive of the season when his first win earlier this year came ahead of Bobby Hogge IV.  Ryan also became the track’s youngest Hobby Stock champion at 16 years old before moving up in classes.  The Porter family has a long history at Merced that dates back to his great grandfather, Vern Porter, in the 1950‘s.  Vern raced Hardtops and years later raced against Ryan’s grandfather, Wayne Porter.  Ryan’s father, Tim Porter, is a past Cal Mod champion at Merced.  So, when you talk about Legend’s of Merced, which is coming up on Sunday, the Porter family has been a part of this track for many years.

Harley Turner admitted that the Sunday scheduling makes racing a challenge for the team.  He even wondered if a move to Friday nights could work at Merced.  Turner faced an early morning on Monday, and the day got longer when mechanical issues sidelined him from his heat race.  However, the car was ready for the Main Event, which was verified when he hot lapped before the Sport Mod race.  Harley finished fifth in the Main Event behind Joel Myers, who was driving his third different car at the track.  Myers won his heat race as well.  Myers is only ten points behind leader Nick DeCarlo in a close point race at Petaluma.

The Dwarf Cars enjoyed another good showing on Sunday as word keeps getting out about management’s desire to start this class.  Nor Cal sent three hard chargers in Saturday night Marysville winner Ryan “Ice Chip” Winter, Buddy Olschowka and Scott Dahlgren, and it’s not surprising to see that all three ran strong.  Winter and Oslchowka won heat races.  The Olschowka family has been a part of the Northern California racing scene for many years and are very competitive.  In fact, Jeff Oslchowka was racing at Quincy that same night.  Come Main Event time, Winter was unstoppable, but as a past Nor Cal champion, that is no surprise.  As Winters sped to victory, Dahlgren fell out from second with Olschowka claiming the spot.

Meanwhile, Mike Drake continues to support this effort and looked good in his third place finish.  Drake is another racer who competes with Nor Cal and is one of their top rookies this season.  Word before the races was that Mike would be driving the George Medeiros #07 Sport Mod this week at Merced.  Mike actually ran Sport Mods last season.  Two drivers hoping to rebound from bad luck were fourth in fifth.  Chuck Weir made a nice come back from losing a fuel cell a week earlier with a fourth ahead of Alan Heeney, who had second a race earlier until spinning into the infield.  Young Chester Kniss Jr. took a checkered flag in sixth.  Dwarf Cars return to Merced on September 20.

This Sunday night is Legend’s Night in Merced, and the Valley Sportsman division is set to be a part of that show.  One of the people lobbying to get this division back on the schedule was Kenny Birdsong.  Kenny has had his #25 car at every race this year, though Chris Birdsong drove it a couple times.  Kenny is living the dream of racing in this class and wanted to see it saved.  He is currently second in points behind Marcus Lung, but having a good showing for this division on Sunday is more important to him.

Lung and Birdsong are both anticipated for this race, and we also expect that Mike Palmberg and Eric Sealy will be there.  Jeff Bristow’s appearance may be in doubt and Mark Odgers had some concern over getting his Vern Willhoite #4m tribute body scuffed up after what happened the last time he brought the car.  Birdsong has indicated that there will be cars we haven’t seen this year, raising speculation of visits by the Mike and Shane Haussman cars, Mike Henault and Tim Prothro.  However, that is only speculation.  Birdsong reported that Watsonvillke Speedway legend Jerry Cecil would be there in a good car and added that he was trying to get one of the top drivers on the All Time win list, Rod Poor, to show up.  We’ve also heard that legendary announcer Johnny Sass wanted to be a part of this show.

While Merced is having this special night, Antioch is welcoming the California Hardtop Association back through the gates.   There has been some concern about the future of this class, but a show at Antioch in July of 2014, won by Jim Perry Jr., fielded 12 cars.  Indications are that car count could reach a dozen or more once again, and there is optimism that a successful night will open the door for more races for this class at Antioch in 2016.  In fact, there are some hoping a date might be landed at Merced.  Late word just came in that past Merced Cal Mod and Sportsman champion Mike Friesen was bringing his two Hardtops.  Mike has been a staunch Hardtop supporter in recent years.

The man responsible for negotiating this race date is none other than Mike McCann.  Mike is a past Promoter Of The Year award winner for his work at Cottage Grove Speedway in Oregon, and he received high marks for work he did in promoting tracks in Banks and Eugene, Oregon and Marysville, CA, among other tracks.  Mike has been a strong Hardtop supporter, going so far as running the class at Sunset Speedway in Banks, Oregon.  He led a group of drivers, including fellow promoter Chuck Prather, to Sacramento and Orland in September of 2002, which is credited with starting the modern Hardtop effort in California.

Prather started a group the next year in Sacramento and Roseville, and Conrad Cavallero started what became the CHA a few years later.  At least 20 Hardtops are in racing order in Northern California, and a similar number of cars exists in the Bakersfield area under the Okie Bowl Hardtops name brand.  McCann is planning to bring a car and is further sponsoring plaques for heat winners and second and third in the Main Event as promoter John M. Soares is taking care of the winner.  McCann is well respected by the drivers in the field and even has the blessing of CHA President John Philbert.

Topping the list of drivers gunning for the winner's plaque is Rob Waldrop.  The 1998 Antioch Street Stock champion has won four Hardtop races in recent weeks driving for Bill McLaughlin.  Three others who have Antioch wins in the past are Dan Williams, Tommy Thomson and “The Sundrop Kid” Larry Damirz.  Damitz used to race Hardtops and raced with Tommy’s father, Chet Thomson.  Both of those drivers were champions at Vallejo in the 1960‘s, and Tommy is driving the car that won the last Hardtop race there in the late 1970‘s.  Dan Williams hasn’t raced a lot lately, but he has won in the black #6 car in the past.  He is also a past front runner in both Dwarf Cars and Mini Stocks.

Placerville should be represented by Dennis Armstrong.  Both Armstrong cars could be there, though it’s not known if Jason Armstrong will drive or Ron Rezz, who has rented the car in recent weeks.  Zach Frazer, Ken Clifford, Jason Clifford, Steve Cloyes and Dave Mackey are others we anticipate for the Hardtops return to Antioch.  Mackey is driving the #1 Bailey Brother’s car, which is a tribute to “The Napa Flyer” Gene Dudley and Darrell Dudley.   We’ve also heard word that past Antioch Limited Late Model and Pure Stock racer George Conner was trying to get Mike McClure to bring his car or maybe even drive it himself.

Since we have a few moments, we'll add the DIRTcar Late Models, who are entering their 13th race of the 14 race season at Antioch Speedway.  It seems as if Richard Papenhausen is destined to win the 2015 Antioch championship to defend his 2014 title, but there's a problem.  Jeff Decker has somehow managed to hold the lead by 10 points after 12 races.  The fact is, Papenhausen has seven wins to Decker's one.  If "The Hit Man" is to win this title, he's probably going to have to win one more race.  Winning more is a reason he switched to this car during the season.  So, can the nine time Top 3 finisher and past Antioch Late Model champion get a win and hold off Papenhausen?

The battle between Danny Malfatti and David Newquist for third in the standings seems to be changing in Malfatti's favor.  Newquist has had terrible luck of late, and Malfatti's fifth place finish last time moved him to within eight points of the lead.  Newquist even fell to third in points at Chico after last week's disappointment.  Can he rebound with a good finish this week?  It's definitely needed.  Likewise, a DNS for Rob Norris helped Chester Kniss break the fifth place battle wide open.  Kniss managed to pass the absent two time winner Troy Foulger after the last race.

We anticipate the Top 5 drivers and Norris and Paul Gigliemoni being in action.  Dennis Souza and Terry Kuntz could be there as well.  You never know when Foulger will race, but he's fast when he does.  After his crash out of the latest event, word was that Anthony Restad may not be back.  With a roster of over 20 cars, we see different cars showing up from race to race, keeping the 10-12 car average going.  We're not predicting a huge car count, but ten cars should still be possible.  The question is, does anybody have anything for Papenhausen?

In closing, Antioch Speedway will have DIRTcar Late Models, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks, BCRA Midget Lites and CHA Hardtops on Saturday night.  It is Legends Of Merced Speedway night in Merced on Sunday night, and IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Northern All Stars Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Limited Late Models and Valley Sportsman cars are all part of the show.  For further information, check the official Oval Motorsports Website.

Saving Orland Racing

I have a lot of respect for Mike McCann.  The man is a Promoter Of The Year award winner and has done good things for the sport.  He is also a man who is not afraid of a race track that is a challenge.  I like the underdog myself.  Mike said something to me the other day that meant a lot.  He said that if he still had Orland Speedway, he'd drag me up there to announce and write.  Well, I'd be up for that.

Mike gave it two years there, and it's really a shame it went the way it did.  I think the fairgrounds needs to work with that race track, because it benefits the whole thing.  The grief he got on his big open wheel night is very disappointing.  Mike had to walk away, but another person was brave, or crazy, enough to step up.  Adam Zachary is running the show now.  I think Adam sees the potential of what is now Sacramento Valley Speedway.

The thing about going to a race track that is down is that there is only one way to go.  Orland is a challenge, no doubt about it, but we've seen it work.  There has been racing in Orland going back at least to the 1970's.  In modern history, Paul & Carol Turner showed us how good Orland racing can be.  It was working for them.  One year they even had a 27 car Spec Sprint show.

I set foot in that booth, and I bring my "history matters" approach there too.  So many names that have mattered there in the past that I will miss them here, but drivers like Mario Romano, Ken Lewis, John Embrey, B.J. Martin, Jimmy Pettit, Josh Jacobo.  I have notes on these divers.  The idea is that this place has had good racers in the past, and they have good racers now.  Steve Martin, Shannon Collins, Ross Vige, Keith Ross, Nick Vidovich, Bill Hopper, Tony Richards, John Kirkpatrick and on and on.  Let's build them into stars the fans want to watch.

I think having an announcer who cares matters.  Having somebody writing and putting out articles wherever they can get them would help.  Now, Orland doesn't draw big numbers, but you have to start some place.  It can be built up.  Effort will bring results.  If there's 100 fans in the stands, we can make it 300.  If there were 31 cars in the pits, we can get it to 40.  We're building something special.

Look at it this way, we are giving the good people of Orland an entertainment option for a Saturday night.  Live entertainment they can't find anywhere else.  So, we work on presentation, we work on getting the word out all over town, we do promotions designed to get people through the gates and we build this back to a level that hasn't been seen in years.  We make it better.

I know it has been down since the Turners, but the track still lives.  My favorite line is, "As long as the gates continue to open, there's a chance for good things to happen."  Last week, i see where an enthusiastic Brian Cooper won the race and remarked that he would be back for the next race and would try to bring others with him.  Plus, he wants to help sponsor a bigger purse for the Hobby Stocks that night.

That is another key.  Community building.  We want the racers to feel like part of this community, part of the team.  We have to do this together, and everybody matters.  This is where my approach as a writer has always been that every driver deserves recognition.  When you see your name in writing for a finish or something is said about an accomplishment on the PA, it's a motivating factor.  You aren't getting rich as a racer, so this is part of the reward.

Orland has always gone with the entry level type classes, not that anything is cheap these days.  Mini Stocks, Mini Trucks and Hobby Stocks are staple classes for this track.  The Turners added Spec Sprints and Mike McCann added 600 Mini Sprints.  Zachary is keeping all of that going, and I see a lot of potential in all of these divisions.  This has potential to be a good little show.  It can also be the end of a two race (Chico-Orland) weekend for fans in the area.

In fact, Chico and Orland could even work together on special series, starting with the three classes they have in common, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks and Spec Sprints.  The only limits are the ones we put on ourselves.  Anyway, I could see being a part of building up racing at Orland, and no doubt I could be of help.  And, there's something nice about watching a car count grow from week to week.  Makes me think of 2001 at Merced.  Good things can happen in Orland.  It's all in the effort that's made.