Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hogge Closes Season With $2000 Victory At Merced Speedway

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Hogge Closes Season With $2000 Victory At Merced Speedway

Bobby Hogge IV won the 30 lap IMCA Modified Main Event Sunday night at Merced Speedway for a $2000 payday.  The two track event was billed as the Delta Valley Classic, and Hogge also scored a $2000 victory at Antioch Speedway on Saturday night.  He added a $500 bonus for winning both races.  Hogge started on the front row and drove a flawless race to lead every lap in victory.  Ethan Dotson ran second for most of the race to finish there, and Paul Stone came from 12th starting to finish third.

Fred Ryland crossed the finish line first in the IMCA Sport Modified Main Event, but he was disqualified in post race tech along with third place finisher Tim Cecil and fifth place finisher Steve Stone.  Ryland had won an early race duel with Chris Falkenberg before claiming the apparent win.  Falkenberg was elevated to victory with Ryland’s disqualification.  2014 champion Rick Diaz finished second ahead of Nick Spainhoward.

Cody Parker won the 20 lap Hobby Stock Main Event.  Parker started back in the fourth row and ran a patient race grab second by lap eight.  Wally Kennedy had led from lap two, but Parker made an inside pass on the back stretch to grab the lead on lap 13.  Parker led the rest of the way for his second win of the season.  Kennedy spun out of second, and Austin Van Hoff scored the runner up finish ahead of Phil Vaughn.

Roy Hart Jr. won the 20 lap Limited Late Model Main Event.  Hart gained the lead from early leader John Evans on lap six and never looked back from there.  New champion Mark Garner had second until suffering a mechanical failure on lap 18.  Paul Hanley won a late race battle with Jeff Kendrick and Donny Richardson for the second place finish.

This race closed the 2015 season with championships being won by Alex Wilson (IMCA Modifieds), Josh Hensley (IMCA Sport Modifieds), Kevin Joaquin (Hobby Stocks), Mark Garner (Limited Late Models), Darren Miguel (Mini Stocks) and Mike Drake (Dwarf Cars).

Race Results
Sunday Night, September 27, 2015

IMCA Modifieds
Heat Winners (8 Laps)-Kellen Chadwick, Kyle Wilson, Ethan Dotson.  Main Event (30 Laps)-Bobby Hogge IV, Dotson, Paul Stone, Alex Wilson, Kyle Wilson.

IMCA Sport Modifieds
Heat Winners (6 Laps)-Jarred Tickel, Fred Ryland, Jimmy Ford, Gary Tucker.  Main Event (15 Laps)-Chris Falkenberg, Rick Diaz, Nick Spainhoward, Kelly Wilkinson, Andy Welch.

Hobby Stocks
Heat Winners (6 Laps)-Robbie Loquaci, Ty Shelton, Wally Kennedy.  Main Event (20 Laps)-Cody Parker, Austin Van Hoff, Phil Vaughn, Dexter Long, Donnie Shearer.

Limited Late Models
Heat Winners (8 Laps)-Roy Hart Jr.  Main Event (20 Laps)-Hart, Paul Hanley, Jeff Kendrick, Donny Richardson, Buddy Thatcher.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Hogge Scores $2000 IMCA Modified Victory At Antioch Speedway

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Hogge Scores $2000 IMCA Modified Victory At Antioch Speedway

Bobby Hogge IV returned to Antioch Speedway Saturday night and impressed with his second straight IMCA Modified Main Event victory,  Hogge’s win in the 30 lap race paid $2000.  Hogge started back in the third row and was quickly up to third.  Hogge followed Brian Cass into second on lap 7 when early leader Shawn DeForest pushed high in Turn 3.  Hogge followed closely behind Cass when his opportunity presented itself on lap 13.

The caution flag had flown, and Cass surprised by choosing the inside on the leader’s restart option.  Hogge raced by for the lead and was not challenged from there.  Cass held second until Paul Stone made an inside pass in Turn 4 on the 20th lap to take the spot.  Cass had a flat tire and pitted.  Hogge led the rest of the way for the impressive victory with Stone a comfortable second.  Ninth row starter Duane Cleveland beat Ryan McDaniel back to the checkered flag for the third place finish.

Larry Damitz won a wild 20 lap Limited Late Model Main Event for his eighth victory of the season.  The win solidified his fourth championship season in the last five years, and he had to come from the fifth row to do it.  Jim Freethy and Merced visitor Roy Hart Jr. battled for the lead for most of the race.  Freethy led the first ten laps before Hart finally made a high move in Turn 4 to grab the lead on lap 11.  Their battle came to an abrupt end when contact between the two sent Hart into the front wall for a lap 16 yellow flag.  Freethy then lost the lead to Damitz on the restart and pitted a lap later.  As Damitz came home with the win, Ryan Cherezian was a career best second ahead of Jay Bryant.

Newly crowned IMCA Sport Modified champion Fred Ryland collected his eighth win of the season in the 25 lap Main Event.  Ryland worked his way up from the fourth row into second by lap eight and took the lead from Anthony Giuliani with an inside pass in Turn 4 of the 16th lap.  Giuliani had led from the start, but his race ended in a hard crash on the back stretch on lap 20.  F. Ryland led the rest of the way for the impressive victory ahead of newly crowned Watsonville champion Matt Hagio and Al Johnson.

Chico star Brian Cooper appeared to win the 20 lap Hobby Stock Main Event, but Jordan Swank was awarded the win after post race tech.  Cooper grabbed the lead on lap three and led through a series of restarts to score the apparent victory.  Danny Jones made a desperation last turn pass attempt, but he came up short as he crossed the line second.  Swank made a last turn pass on Robert Niven to cross the line third.  However, post race tech saw both Cooper and Jones disqualified.  Swank ended up winning ahead of Niven and Tony Jennings Sr.  With eight wins this season, Kimo Oreta had wrapped up the championship prior to this race.

A race has been tentatively scheduled for Saturday, October 24th.  The DIRTcar Late Models will headline the race along with Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars.  You can go to the track’s official website at for further information.

Race Results
Saturday Night, September 26, 2015

IMCA Modifieds
Heat Winners (8 Laps)-Shawn DeForest, Mike Salazar, Brian Cass.  Main Event (30 Laps)-Bobby Hogge IV, Paul Stone, Duane Cleveland, Ryan McDaniel, Troy Foulger.

IMCA Sport Modifieds
Heat Winners (8 Laps)-Patti Ryland, Matt Hagio.  Main Event (25 Laps)-Fred Ryland, Hagio, Al Johnson, Jimmy Ford, Mike Merritt.

Hobby Stocks
Heat Winners (6 Laps)-Joey Ridgeway, Brad Myers, Robert Niven.  Main Event (20 Laps)-Jordan Swank, Niven, Tony Jennings Sr., Lindsey Buirch, Natalie Perry.

Limited Late Models
Heat Winners (6 Laps)-Larry Damitz, Mike Gustafson. Main Event (20 Laps)-Damitz, Ryan Cherezian, Jay Bryant, Mark Garner, Cecil Henry.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pits Stops From Antioch and Merced Speedway And Random Thoughts

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Bako Motorsports Power Hour covers Bakersfield Speedway going into this week's point finale HERE

Foothill TV has coverage of the Al Hinds Memorial race at  Placerville Speedway HERE

Some racing videos from Bakersfield Speedway last week are viewable at HERE

No commentary, but a decent video of last week's Hobby Stock feature at Rocky Hill Speedway HERE

DCRR Racing Radio Show
Weekend Preview Edition


Pit Stops

Two historic dates occurred in the month of September at Antioch Speedway, and both closed the season.  Probably not too many people at the races these days remember them, but we go back to 1985 for the first one.  Ed Sans Jr. was on a roll late in the season, but the man who had won three San Jose Speedway Late Model championships in a row missed the first race or two of the season.  He knew he had to win to catch Bobby Hogge III in points that night, and he did what he had to do.  The pressure was on Hogge not to blow it.

But, Bobby is a hard charger.  This is where his son gets it from.  Bobby was running all out, trying to win, but he spun exiting the final turn.  If he sits there, we have enough cars on the lead lap that he will lose the track championship.  Bobby is aware of the fact that he could lose it all, so he hits reverse and backs across the finish line.  That move saved his first Antioch championship, and it added to his legend.  Bobby was an amazing racer, and some of us still recall the patented “thread the needle” moves he would make between cars on his way to the front.

Ten years later in 1995, it was the Street Stocks.  The moon was full.  We talk a lot about second chances, and David Rosa was a driver who got one.  He also had a 100 point lead about a month earlier that slowly disappeared to the surprising Phil Torres.  Torres had been disqualified earlier that season and had ground to make up.  He also managed to grab the lead from Rosa by three points going into that final race.  It was simple.  Whomever could beat the other driver on double points night would win the championship.

Rosa was in prime form and leading the race.  Torres was racing his heart out trying to catch him.  Torres had built up a reputation as one of the cleanest drivers out there, which made his move a bit surprising.  He misjudged Turn 3 and got into the infield trying to pass Rosa.  He ended up making contact with Rosa and grabbing the lead.  Rosa gathered it back up and made a move on the inside.  It was a drag race back to the checkered flag a couple laps later.

That's when it happened.  Torres beat Rosa back to the line by inches, but it didn’t end there.  Rosa’s foot remained on the accelerator.  The two went crashing out the exit gate and over the fence, right next to the track manager’s office.  Rosa maintained that his throttle had stuck, but officials were not convinced.  They also felt Torres made an overly aggressive move to take the led.  Both drivers were disqualified, and Torres won the championship.  Rosa did get another chance and would go on to win two championships and more Main Events than anybody in Street Stock history.

Back in those days, winning a championship was special.  Being a Top 5 driver was almost like being a champion, being a Top 10 driver was still very good, and you weren’t a Top 20 driver simply because you showed up every week.  You still had to race for your ranking.  There were many, many talented drivers, and even winning the “slow heat” and B Main in one night was a good night for the low dollar guy.  Gradually, those days have faded away.

However, we still have drivers who are racing hard for points, and our best example is from the Mini Stocks at Merced Speedway.  It’s actually a friendly rivalry between Darren Miguel and 2014 champion Chris Corder.  Corder started out the season being very consistent and leading the point race.  It seemed like he could get seconds and thirds, but when it came to winning, he hit a brick wall.

Miguel suddenly hit his stride and seemed to win all the time.  At Chowchilla in a reverse direction race, he won.  In a Hobby Stock at Merced, he won.  Then, he started piling on the Mini Stock wins.  The last count was 12 wins at Merced.  He even won the big $1000 to win Mini Stock race and $200 Dash For Cash at Potrterville.  He returned recently and won there again.  He also had other wins at Chowchilla.  Gradually, even with Corder finishing second all the time, Miguel grabbed the point lead at Merced and built it up to 30 points.

But, Corder wasn’t done yet.  He bought Alex Odishoo’s headache, a fast #48 car that seemed to suffer a motor problem at the end of every race before he could win.  Chris experienced that first hand as Miguel raced by for the win one night.  But, then he started winning.  He grabbed three wins in that car and had pulled into a tie with Miguel for the lead.  It was at the previous race where Miguel won for the 12th time as Corder struggled in fourth.  Miguel carried an eight point lead into Sunday.

It was a tall order to expect that Corder could gain eight points on Miguel.  A tie in points would go in favor of Miguel based on wins, so he needed to gain ten points.  Chris had a surprise for the field as he debuted his red #68c car and won his heat race.  Miguel was in for another surprise as newcomer Jason Womack passed him for second in their heat race.  Womack has only made a few starts at Bakersfield and Santa Maria and actually won at Bakersfield on Saturday.  The lead was now four points for Miguel.

Both Corder and Miguel came through the ten car field quickly in the feature as Corder had the lead.  Womack was giving Miguel a challenge, but he was the only one close to him.  Miguel did pass him for second, but Corder won for the fourth time.  A tally of the points found Miguel winning the Merced championship by just two points.  It was still a good race between the two, and Corder ends the season knowing that he did win the Chowchilla championship with three wins along the way. 

These two champions will move up in 2016.  Corder joins fellow Mini Stock graduate Odishoo in Sport Mods, while Miguel will have a Hobby Stock.  Both drivers will still have Mini Stocks and may pop in from time to time to make things interesting in that division.  The Mini Stocks will continue on at Merced next year, and Womack has already indicated that he plans to race at Merced at least some next season.  Is he an early favorite for the championship?

Mike Germait and James Stockton both supported the last four races this season.  Germait had a season best second a couple races ago, and Stockton had a third two races ago.  Last week, Germat couldn’t quite hold off Natalie Waldrop in the battle for fifth.  Waldrop came within five points of third in the standings, but that honor went to Dennis Copus.  Dennis originally hoped to finish third in the standings before work took him out of the action.  Because he managed to make the final two races, he was able to achieve that goal after all.

Two others in the Mini Stocks helped put on a show for the fans.  Steve Johnson ran his neon green glow stick on the back of his car and led the first three laps before mechanical issues again took him out of the action.  Like Germait, Johnson will still be a Top 10 driver in points..  Alisa Caldwell grabbed a checkered flag in seventh, but the night couldn’t start without her.  Alisa sang the National Anthem before the races to get things started.

Earlier in the evening, there was a moment of silence for Dawn Carter, who passed away during the two week break.  She and her daughter Destiny have been going to the races for several seasons, and Destiny has been a positive voice on social media and willing to help racers when she can.  Before the Mini Stock feature, as the drivers circled the track before the green, the fans stood in loud applause in one more remembrance of Dawn Carter.

The Sport Modified division has a couple of things at play, and Fred Ryland is in the middle of one of those story lines.  Ryland has been fading in the National points in recent weeks, but what he did last week could see him climb back into the Top 3.  On Saturday night at Antioch, Ryland went from nearly being lapped to winning his seventh main event there.  Fred never waits for a yellow if he happens to spin, so he had leader Trevor Clymens on his back bumper, trying to put him down a lap.  A series of yellow flags later and Ryland was lined up next to Clynesn on a restart.

Trevor had things in hand, and it may be that he had some rear suspension issues at the end as he spun in the final turn.  Whatever the case, Ryland completed a nice comeback with the victory.  His championships in the State and at Antioch are in hand, but this was helpful to his National effort.  Clymens salvaged a fifth place finish behind four time winner Anthony Giuliani, and he did win his heat race earlier in the evening,  There are rumors that another car is in the works for the talented third generation racer.

Meanwhile, after winning his heat race, Al Johnson finished third in the feature.  This means that unless he has a really bad night, Johnson should end up second at Antioch.  The question is, who is third?  The IMCA site will show likely “Rookie Of The Year” Patti Ryland in the spot following her second straight second place finish.  The track point list still shows that spot belonging to Chuck Golden.

Feeling good about his chances, Fred Ryland loaded up and went to Merced where there were 18 cars in action.  It wasn’t a pretty race, but Ryland’s pass of Chris Falkenberg on lap ten was good enough to get him the victory.  That means two full field victories on the weekend and 27 total wins on the season as he still holds out hopes of improving his status in the Nation.  Ryland is also fourth in points at Merced Speedway, which goes nicely with the Chowchilla Speedway championship he already won.

Josh Hensley’s night came to an abrupt end in a lap three crash in the Main Event.  He had earlier finished fourth in the Mini Stock feature in Chris Corder’s #48 car after winning his heat race.  But, Hensley already knew he was the champion and “Rookie Of The Year” all rolled into one.  The question is, who will finish second?  Dwayne Short’s #27 car seems to be running better, and he started the night off by holding off his chief point rival, Mark Odgers, for another heat race victory.

In the Main Event, Odgers struggled just a bit as Short competed for a Top 5 finish.  In fact, Short seemed to have that fifth place finish in hand before he spun on the back stretch.  Odgers wasn’t far behind him and spun to avoid the crash.  When the race was recapped, Odgers was in eighth and managed to cut Short’s lead down to three points according to the Oval Motorsports website.  It could go either way, but there is sure to be another big field as the finale is also Day 2 of the Delta Valley Classic with $500 on the line.

All Chris Falkenberg could do is wonder what might have happened had the race been restarted once again.  He was a bit of a surprise entrant in his #3 car, which he had driven to a Top 3 finish earlier this year at Chowchilla.  However, Chris recently won a Hobby Stock Main Event at Merced and enjoys racing at the track.  He settled for second, while Hanford regular Kelly Wilkinson managed to drive from 17th to third.  Kelly led several laps at Hanford Friday night before settling for a third place finish as he continues to improve.

New drivers showing up helped the Merced car count.  There was 2000 Chowchilla Street Stock champion Steve Stone, who bought this car to come play around and have some fun.  Cousin Ramie Stone’s old car resurfaced in this race with two time Street Stock champion Tim Ragsdale behind the wheel.  Neither driver had much luck, but it was their first starts in the division.    Matt Zelinsky plans to race more next year as he was making his debut with a respectable sixth place finish behind early leader Jarred Tickel and fifth ranked Gary Tucker.  Despite an early spin, second generation racer Chase Thomas managed to get the #209 car to an eighth place finish.  Honorable mention goes out to two time champion Shawn Bryant, who won his heat race.

Alex Wilson is the Merced Speedway IMCA Modified champion and the State champ as well.  But, if you think he’s content to just rest on those laurels, think again.  You know the smile on the faces of Alex and his brother Kyle Wilson had to be ear to ear as the two started the most recent main event with a side by side battle for several laps.  As 2014 champion Paul Stone raced by for the lead, Alex dropped back a few spots, but he still came back with a late pass on past Hanford and Santa Maria champion Jimmy Reeves to finish second.

Wilson will be after the big money this week, but the two names he knows will be there are Bobby Hogge IV and Paul Stone.  We'll get to Hogge in a moment, but Stone was back in his own #66 car and he looked unstoppable on Sunday.  There was never any doubt that he would win the Main Event, and he appears to have things set up for Sunday’s $2000 to win race.  If Wilson or anybody is going to beat Stone, they'd better do their homework this week.

There is still the matter of who will finish second in points this season.  Three time Street Stock champion Ricky Thatcher is not about to give up without a fight.  A top name to consider for the “Most Improved Driver” award, Thatcher started his night off with a heat race win over Reeves.  Ricky got it to the line in seventh in the Main Event as Kyle Wilson struggled to a tenth.  Thatcher now holds a 12 point advantage in that battle.  With a sixth place finish, Bill Egleston hasn’t completely given up on passing Wilson for third.  He trails Wilson by 12 points.

Harley Turner was involved in an early race crash that took out heat winner Troy Foulger and Ryan Porter.  Porter was heard saying that his season was probably over due to the damage from the crash.  But, the Sport Modified graduate Turner made a charge back through the pack, which ended with his most impressive pass of all.  Turner moved by four time champion Ramie Stone to grab fourth at the checkered flag.  Stone settled for fifth, but he has to be pleased with the way things have gone in his two starts in the former Paul Stone car.

Two Antioch regulars in the field were Josh Combs, who finished ninth, and heat race winner Chester Kniss.  No doubt, Kniss was riding high following his strong run at Antioch.  It started off with Chester leading ten laps, but the mid race restart proved to be his undoing.  The car didn’t respond quickly enough as Brian Cass and Bobby Hogge IV both got by before Kniss recovered in third.  Chester really looked fast last week, and he did salvage a third place finish out of that.  He has a bit of damage to repair from Merced if he’s to race again this week, but it’s a good bet that he’ll be back to try again.

Hogge was a bit of a surprise in the field at Antioch.  In fact, he was offered the ride in the House Late Model upon arrival.  Bobby wanted to get a little practice in for this week’s big races, which he won at both tracks last year for the big payoff.  He may have followed Cass into second, but he didn’t follow him for long before making his winning pass.  Hogge remains third on the all time win list behind just J.D. Willis and Scott Busby, and he may be the driver to beat on Saturday.  Cass shouldn’t be taken lightly.  He finished second last week, and he is a past champion at both Wastonville and Hanford.

Speaking of Busby, he did manage to at least finish fifth in the latest Main Event behind heat race winner and 2014 champion Carl Berendsen II.  Busby is headed for his fifth track championship as he leads Bobby Motts Jr. by 25 points.  It’s not likely that Motts can make a move now.  However, if car count requires a B Main this week, anything is possible.  The Motts team had reason to celebrate.  Joining them in the pits was Bobby’s long time partner in racing, Mike Ferry.  Mike was badly injured in a motorcycle accident back in June, and it was a real morale boost for the team to have him back again.  Motts finished sixth ahead of Stephen Hopf, in his first visit of the season, and Trent Wentworth.

Getting back to Hogge, he had been given the driving opportunity in the House Car last year and promptly won back to back Late Model Main Events.  With the money on the line at the Summer Nationals this season, Hogge collected a $2000 victory that night in his own Late Model.  He had no idea he would be driving a Late Model when he pulled into the pits, but he got comfortable with the #7 car rather quickly.  Also making a surprise appearance was 2008 Antioch champion Andy Obertello, son of past Wastonville Modified and Street Stock competitor Ron Obertello.  This duo figured to throw a monkey wrench in Richard Papenhausen’s plans to go to the front.

Papenhausen was still reeling from what happened at the previous race.  The DNF that night all but ended his championship hopes at Antioch or in the Region.  Truth be told, his absence from the Summer Nationals due to a back injury didn’t help matters as he lost the point lead back to Jeff Decker that night.  Decker came into the night leading the Region and Antioch, and he knew that all he needed to do was stay close to Papenhausen to secure those championships.  Decker finished fourth and is the Antioch Speedway champion for the second time.

Obertello and Hogge raced out the gate in first and second, but Obertello really seemed to have the #29 car dialed in.  Papenhausen was on a rail, and he shot from the back of the pack to third like a cannon ball.  In fact, Papenhausen did manage to get by Hogge and briefly took the lead from Obertello.  That lead didn’t last long, and Hogge got by for second.  Hogge would also briefly take the lead from Obertello, but slower traffic hurt his momentum.  This Main Event was a crowd pleaser, but in the end, it was Obertello winning over Hogge and Papenhausen. 

The other battle we’ve been watching in Late Models was the race between Danny Malfatti and David Newquist for third.  Malfatti was carrying the momentum of back to back Top 5 finishes into this race, including his season best second place finish last time.  His night didn’t go so well, but Newquist failed to finish.  This meant that Malfatti would finish third in the standings as Newquist settled for his second straight fourth place finish.  Malfatti ran fifth for several laps before one time winner Paul Guglielmoni got by,  Making his first Antioch start, Top 5 Merced IMCA Modified racer Bill Egleston would finish a lead lap sixth.

The Hobby Stock battle for second at Antioch had to wait a week.  Another wedding in the Swank family meant that Jordan Swank and brother in law Michael Cooper could not race last Saturday night.  Swank is the likely “Rookie Of The Year” and has a 13 point lead over Cooper, who is making a strong case for “Most Improved Driver” honors, as is the driver behind him, Frank Furtado.  Furtado finished sixth last week to close to within 12 points of Cooper in the race for third.

Danny Jones had second in hand when his motor woes and other mechanical issues started to hit him relentlessly.  Danny was patching it up and coming back, looking good for a bit and then having more problems.  Finally, the Stock Car veteran decided to park until a new motor was ready.  On Saturday, he was back, and he led 14 laps of the Main Event.  It might have been his night, but that familiar grey #97 car from Sonora was back in town, driven by Chowchilla and Merced Speedway champion Kevin Joaquin.  Kevin moved past Jones on the back stretch on lap 15 and went on to his third win in as many appearances.  He now has three wins each at Antioch, Merced and Chowchilla as he prepares for a move up to the BCRA Midget Lites.

Jones lost second to Kimo Oreta, but Oreta had contact with a slower car on the front stretch as they took the checkered flag.  Jones ended up with his sixth second place finish, but that’s not much consolation to the driver still looking for his first win of 2015.  Oreta finished third as he has wrapped up his third straight championship.  He will be moving up to Limited Late Models next season, but can he add to his 21 career wins this week?  Back in fourth was Jim Robbins, who had the car’s regular driver, Lindsey Buirch, in the passenger seat as she learns a little more about the car and how to drive it.  Robbins had driven the car to a second place finish earlier this year.

Russell Shearer cemented his Top 10 status by finishing fifth in the Main Event.  Natalie Perry’s string of strong Main Event efforts ended but, not before she went out and won her first heat race.  Brian Keith hadn’t raced at Antioch since ranking Top 5 in Street Stock points back in 1986.  He got to drive the Mitch Locicere car.  Though he struggled at times, Brian got it to the finish line in seventh.  Not bad for having not driven a race car in 29 years.

Hobby Stocks were off the charts at Merced Speedway as the division flirted with something it hadn't seen in a while, a B Main.  There were 24 cars in action.  The streak of 16 winners in 21 races was on the line, and that has been the underlying story as the Top 5 drivers of new champion Kevin Joaquin, top rookie Jennifer Corder, Austin Van Hoff, Kristie Shearer and Dexter Long appear to have spots in the Top 5 locked up.

A past Hobby Stock champion, Andrew Krumm was the latest to attempt to add his name to the winner’s list, but he had two people there trying to prevent that.  There was 2011 Hobby Stock champion Ryan Hart and 2014 Chowchilla Hobby Stock champion Shane Hausmann.  Hausmann simply put on a driving clinic in his #55 car as he came from the ninth row.  Krumm was doing okay, though he lost the lead to Hart for a couple laps early on following a restart.  When Hausmann finally got to second, Krumm looked to be in trouble.  Unfortunately, Hausmann’s motor let go in Turn 3 on lap 16.

Krumm’s relief turned to disappointment when Hart passed him on the restart.  Fifth place contenders Donnie Shearer and Ty Shelton crashed on the back stretch to force the yellow and checkered flag finish.  Krumm settled for second, while Hart won his second feature of the season.  Hart also races the Loan Mart Late Model Series at Madera and is currently third in the standings.  He was leading the points until a bad night last time out.  His next race there is coming up this weekend.

Young Cody Parker was back in his Hobby Stock, and he drove well all night with a heat race win and third place feature finish.  Another heat winner, Watsonville racer Matt Kile, was making his first Merced start of the season and would finish fourth ahead of Austin Van Hoff.  It actually wasn’t a bad night for Watsonville regulars as Katie Briggs and Charlie Hunter finished sixth and seventh, respectively.   Briggs came up from the ranks of the Mini Stocks and won the 2012 Chowchilla Mini Stock title before moving up.  She is currently fifth in points at Watsonville and only 15 points out of third.

An impromptu addition to the schedule last week at Merced was the Valley Sportsman division.  Kenny Birdsong and Mike Palmberg had organized a meeting, and there were to be six cars on Sunday.  Management placed the stipulation that there must  be four cars to race, and that was in danger.  Mike Friesen needed an answer on this race date by Thursday.  It wasn’t confirmed by then, so he backed out.  A family medical emergency caused Palmberg to miss the race.  He was considering Chris Birdsong as a replacement driver to get the car to the track but Chris was out of town.  Eric Sealy was running late, but he did show up to give them four cars.

Mike Hausmann commented about his concerns with the division and wasn’t ready to bring his car to the track.  Mark Odgers voiced his concern that if the drivers are left waiting outside the fence to get enough cars to come in, he wasn’t prepared to tow from Mariposa in the hopes that he might get to race if there were enough cars.  Management had said before the night that this wasn’t a points race and that there were no points for this season, despite the fact that there is a point total listed on the track's website.  To say the least, this division’s back is against the wall, and it will take effort to save it.  One driver remarked that this was just like 35 years ago when drivers waited outside the gates to see if they could get the Jim Soares mandated ten cars to race.

The four who did show up gave it a good run.  Marcus Lung has been the top competitor this season, and he won the heat race with a last lap pass on the man who’s car has been at every race this year, Kenny Birdstong.  Lung won the Main Event by a straightaway over Legend’s Night feature winner Sealy, Jeff Bristow and K. Birdsong.  What is the future of this division and will there even be an 18th season next year?  Who knows, but this writer hopes they are back again.

The other division that will be in it’s 18th season next year is the Wingless Spec Sprints.  The division limped out of the gates at Antioch Speedway this year due to late rule changes, but it ended with the most cars in any division last Saturday.  One of those cars was driven by Billy Macedo.  The two time champion wasn’t going to race this year at Antioch, but he had people working to convince him to give it a try.  He may be happy that was the case after his second win of the season last week.  Billy was fast and was also a heat race winner.

The competition is on notice.  The Perry Racing Team will be out in force next season as Jim Perry Jr is building a car and he has also bought the car built originally by his uncle, Earl Perry.  That car hadn’t seen the track in a few years, but it was very fast.  The all time winner in this division’s history and a past champion, Perry Jr. won his heat race and managed to finish third in the Main Event ahead of another driver from the 1999 roster, Keith Shipherd.  Shipherd started his career at Antioch in Street Stocks back in 1979 and has indicated that this may be his last season.    His third and fourth place finishes in his last two starts show that he can still drive a Sprint Car.  He held off two time winner Roy Fisher for that fourth place finish

With four time winner Kyle Bakkie having already wrapped up the track championship, the matter of who would finish second in points was still at hand.  Rick Panfili was six points ahead of Marcus Smith, but Panfili’s night was not one to be remembered.  Even if he had finished, it may not have been enough to hold of Smith, who drove to seconds in his heat race and the Main Event.  Smith, who has some experience with the BCRA Midget Lites and has had help getting into Spec Sprints from two time champion Dan Gonderman, had a fantastic first season in this division to rank second.  Panfili can hold his head up high after finishing third in points for the second straight season.

The Limited Late Model championship will belong to Larry Damitz if he just starts the Main Event this week.  The 86 year old, who has been racing since the mid 1950‘s, will then be the champion in four of the last five seasons.  If not for Jim Freethy beating him in 2013, that would be five years in a row.  Damitz didn’t take the checkered flag first last week, but a tech disqualification of the apparent winner gave him his seventh win of the season.  Damitz doesn’t have the winner’s plaque from that race, but it’s doubtful that he even cares at this point.

The driver crossing the finish line first, to the roaring of the crowd, was Eric Berendsen.  Eric has been trying to make his Super Hobby Stock work in this class and knows he probably has the fifth or sixth fastest car at best.  The observant fan knows this as well.  It just so happened that the planets aligned in his favor.  Three time winner Mike Gustafson had a brush with the wall and fell out early.  Mike Hynes spun.  On a restart, Mark Garner’s motor started going away as Berendsen raced into second.  Then, Damitz did something he usually doesn’t do.  He made a mistake in traffic and made contact with a pair of slower cars.

Damitz’s car slowed noticeably, and Berendsen found himself with a chance to win.  With a Turn 4 pass a lap later, Eric was racing into the lead that he would take to the checkered flag.  After tech inspection on his car, the win was taken away.  Berendsen still feels strongly that he won that race and is keeping the plaque.  Either way, it was a good race that gave the fans something they hadn’t seen all season long.

With Damitz on his way to the championship, Hynes suddenly finds himself with a chance to repeat as runner up in points.  The one time winner leads Gustafson by ten points and two time winner Garner by 20.  This week’s race will settle the matter.  Lori Brown had crossed the line with her fourth third place finish of the season, which was elevated to second after the official ruling on Berendsen.  She finished right in front of Garner and Jim Freethy, and she will be somebody to watch in the race to win the final event of the season.

The two Oval Motorsports tracks wrap up their originally scheduled 2015 season this weekend with IMCA Modifieds paying $2000 to win.  Sport Modifieds will pay $500 to win and there will also be Hobby Stocks and Limited Late Modes on the card.  On Saturday, it’s Antioch and on Sunday it’s Merced.  For further information, check out the official Oval Motorsports Website.

 Random Thoughts

The laptop that I use to do my writing at the the tracks is showing wear and tear.  The keys are worn out, and that’s not the worst of it.  On Saturday, moments before the heat races at Antioch were set to begin, I realized that the laptop was not even attempting to find a wifi signal.  I attempted a reboot and it wouldn’t shut off.  Then, it wouldn’t reload the OS.  I thought I had a hard drive crash.  Fortunately, I didn’t, but I know the laptop is in rough shape.  Just another thing that went wrong, but I salvaged it in the end.  This one may be all over the map, but I’m going with it.

There was more confirmation through the grapevine this week that there are people looking to reopen the “Stadium Oval” next to the drag strip at Sacramento Raceway.  It’s a very interesting story about that track through the years, but the current buzz is it could be a Friday night venue.  That would probably be for the best.  For starters, it works with Marysville and Placerville that way, as well as Antioch, Petaluma and Merced.  These were the five main supporting tracks when they ran weekly races there on Fridays back in the mid to late 1990‘s.

The other reason for Friday nights is it works in conjunction with the drag strip, which usually has something going on that night as well.  This way it can all happen at once.  Negotiations are said to be in the early stages, but it is too early to name names.  The main thing is what sort of schedule Dave Smith would prefer and all of that.  Smith brought racing back to that track last decade with the Hardtops and CSRA Spec Sprints, but things sort of fell apart with the Spec Sprint effort as club leadership started looking at other venues and not honoring scheduled dates.  The Hardtops went to the Bay Area under the new leadership (at the time) of Conrad Cavellero.

Interestingly enough, the buzz is that these two divisions could end up with race dates at a reopened Sacramento Raceway oval.  One would speculate that Mini Stocks and 600 Mini Sprints would also be possible, but again, it’s very early in the process.  Anything could happen in the future.  It really seemed like the run the track had in the 1990‘s had a chance to get bigger, but it came to an end with the decade.  At that time, Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Modifieds and various visiting groups were part of the schedule.  Something could be happening here, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Some will say that we have too many tracks, but others will counter by saying that it’s better than not enough tracks.  The reality is we are lucky to have what we have.  When you consider environmental issues, noise issues and all of the things people will use to close tracks, we are lucky.  Petaluma and Wastonville are under constant attacks, and it’s hard to think about our racing community without these two very important racing venues.  We’re lucky to still have them, and both tracks still have a worthwhile program.

When you look at car counts at tracks like Orland and Porterville, you wonder how they manage to hang in there.  Well, they do it because there are promoters there who are still willing to take the risk to keep the race tracks going.  The bills still have to be paid, so if attendance or car count numbers aren’t at a desired level, the promoter is the one who covers the cost.  Both of these tracks aren’t where they could be in car counts, but it can get better with time.  Who even thought we’d get Porterville back after it had been closed for so long?  And, Orland racing still continues despite the changes in promoters that have happened in the last decade.  It can get better.

Track unity is a key in all of this, and it’s a challenge.  Each track has their own needs, and there are only so many cars to go around anyway.  You take a class like Mini Stocks, for instance.  Some of the Northern California drivers are willing to travel, so if something could be worked out between Orland, Chico and Marysville, it might benefit all three tracks.  They all have Hobby Stocks and Spec Sprints as well.  Things can be done.

There are rumors of another series in the works between at least three race tracks.  It could be a good thing.  The real question is what tracks are doing it, and will it truly pop?  Antioch Speedway has ventured into the 360 Sprint Car business.  This was inevitable.  Oval Motorsports has always wanted a class, but John M. Soares wanted to work with his father, John P. Soares.  When his father passed away, John didn’t have the same working relationship with his brother Jim.  Hence you have Spec Sprints and Dwarf Cars at Petaluma when those were Antioch Speedway classes that Antioch shared with them in return for Late Model and 360 Sprint Car dates at Antioch.

That whole rift has not been repaired since Jim passed away, and it’s something that needs to happen.  There were several people who came with Sprint Cars for an April race at Antioch due to a rainout at Petaluma.  They all mentioned that they’d visit more if Antioch and Petaluma would just work out the dates.  It’s a natural fit as these two tracks are close enough that we’ve seen lots of travel back and fourth in several divisions through the years.  Historically, these two tracks shared a connection in a similar way that Merced and Watsonville did.  The problem now is there’s a rift so big between Oval Motorsports and Prentice Motorsports Group, that it looks unfixable at the moment.

But, can the same be said for Glad Enterprises at Petaluma and Oval Motorsports?  Put these two tracks together in Spec Sprints, Winged 360 Sprints, IMCA Modifieds and Dwarf Cars and watch out.  Rules are a bit different between Limited Late Models and Super Stocks, but that can be worked on.  If this were to happen, the building blocks are there for things to happen.  This would be four tracks united as Oval Motorsports currently represents Merced, Chowchilla and Antioch.

If we can’t get Watsonville invited to the party, who is the next best possibility.  Up north, you have Dennis Gage representing Chico and Marysville.  We do see drivers from there coming to Antioch and Petaluma, and vise versa.  With just these three entities, you are representing six race tracks.  Chico has a 410 Sprint car class, but Maryville has 360 Sprints.  Both have Spec Sprints.  So, the possibilities open up.  There could be a Winged 360 Sprint Car Series that would be huge, and six race tracks available for dates.  Chico also has IMCA Modifieds, Marysville has Sport Modifieds and both have Hobby Stocks.

Then, there’s Placerville.  We can’t forget Alan Handy Motorsports.  Handy is having a “Promoter Of The Year” worthy season this year, in case nobody has noticed.  Good car counts in 360 Sprints and Pure Stocks.  They were so good that both have had several B Mains this year.  Plus, there’s a solid Limited Late Model (Crate Late Model) division.  Handy has done many things this year thanks to bringing in good sponsorship.  Were he to meet at the table with Oval Motorsports and Glad Enterprises, the 360 Sprint Car Series would be huge.

The other track in the area is Stockton 99 Dirt Speedway.  Tony Noceti made this thing happen, and I don’t think anybody expected that the dirt track would be used for race cars.  The plus is that the track has held huge Sprint Car, Dirt Modified and Late Model races since opening.  The down side is that this track depends on other tracks and clubs bringing in the cars.  Noceti has done nothing to establish a program of his own for any division.  It seems like it would be a natural, even if it started with Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks and Sport Mods while bringing in touring classes.  The track itself gets good reviews from racers, so that makes it a possible player.

The biggest obstacle to track unity is the fact that you don’t have an overall guiding sanctioning body in the way we had with NASCAR through the 1980‘s.  Though IMCA has a rule book for Modifieds, Sport Mods and other classes, they don’t have the clout NASCAR had back in the day.  They aren't trying to be that either.  They like what they have.  So, in the absence of a dependable sanctioning body, promoters schedule what they do. They make divisions with rules that aren’t always in line with other tracks.  It keeps drivers at one track, which is also the intention.  It’s harder to book a big race for some divisions because of this, and most tracks only try to do it for Sprint Cars and IMCA Modifieds.

The fact that there are said to be some promoters set to sit down and discuss rules and a possible series at all is a good thing.  Where Antioch is concerned, if they are a part of this discussion, it would be even better if Petaluma was in the conversation as well.  It just makes sense.  Antioch means that dates can also be possible at Merced too.  Petaluma is Antioch’s real sister track.  Things can get better from there when you add Placervile or Chico and Marysville to the mix. This means that you can really have a Sprint Car series to be proud of.  Then, all you have to do is book the dates, let the drivers and fans know what’s going on and just make it happen.  It will be interesting to see what comes of this.

As the season comes to a close, it’s time to start thinking about 2016.  Hopefully, if anything is going to be tweaked with rules, it happens very soon.  Let the drivers make their off season plans, budget their money and come into 2016 ready to go.  January or February rule changes will not be conducive to good car counts at any track, and things are starting to look up now.  Unless it’s a safety issue, maybe it should be left alone.  One area that could use improvement is making these divisions attractive enough that drivers are willing to commit to racing more of their schedule and running for points.

You do that by not over booking any division.  There has been some interesting social media conversations about running just three divisions at a track. We’ve coined the phrase “Divisionitis” around here because of the glutton of divisions we have at Antioch.  The problem is, you can’t just drop a division and expect racers to go into the other classes.  You can try to build up what you have and give divisions more nights off as you rotate the divisions.  It might also be a good time to view certain divisions under the microscope to determine who is producing and who isn’t.

There’s a lot here to look at, and an area that is important to consider when it comes to building car count is what is the incentive for a racer to run more often?  What is the purse and what is the point fund?  At Placerville, for instance, they have a $2000 championship for Pure Stocks and have some $500 to win races.  The division also has B Mains often.  They accomplish the money through sponsorships.  Some tracks have title sponsors for divisions, so Mini Stocks might become the McDonald’s Mini Stocks or the Lumberjack’s Restaurant Super Stocks.  Things like that and not booking too many race dates can make for more cars when the races are scheduled.

There has been some talk in recent weeks at Antioch from people wondering about Super Hobby Stocks (Why can’t we call them Street Stocks) and Mini Stocks.  The biggest issue was neither class had a consistent car count.  When Super Hobbys were forced to run with Limited Late Models, that chased the racers off, in much the same way it chased off Street Stock drivers when they were merged with the six car Limited Late Model division of the time.  Too much difference in speed.  But, if it’s only gonna have six or eight cars what do you do?  This is a purse paying division.

Mini Stocks were not, which is what made the decision to drop them at Antioch so confusing.  There was no difference in car count at Antioich or Merced.  It’s understandable why the class was needed at Merced as Antioch has more divisions as it is.  In fact, a goal should be to figure out what it will take to get more driver support at Merced in 2016.  But, that still leaves the matter of should this class be given another chance at Antioch?  A half dozen cars in a heat and feature, but running for no money, isn’t hurting resources.  It’s a class that can get new racers into the sport, which is needed right now.  Will it happen?  Don’t hold your breath.

The other rumor out there that always lurks in the shadows is the Figure 8‘s return.  Well, it’s just a rumor at this point, though racers are starting to chime in by saying they would run the race.  The problem is it raises insurance rates to a point where a promoter isn’t going to look at it unless they see it as a draw for fans and racers.  Six cars in a race won't do, but 12 cars in a race is a possibility.  This might be an idea that needs to be studied more closely to see if a big race or anything is viable, but it’s also another case of don’t hold your breath.  But, never say never either.

Antioch Speedway did two things last year that they continued this year.  Late Models and Winged 360 Sprint Cars are a part of the show.  It was a risky move when you consider the purse involved.  From an attendance standpoint, the numbers should show a bit of a spike in attendance for 360 Sprints, despite car count not really growing.  Then again, more efforts can be made that would grow the car count and attendance numbers with this division.  There is something here to work with, but Winged 360‘s are a division that needs to be handled with care.

As for Late Models, it’s a bit surprising that in a 14 race season, car count only dropped below ten cars twice.  That’s actually pretty good for this day and age. It’s also a bit surprising to consider that attendance numbers didn’t consistently pop with this division.  That’s not to suggest that this division isn’t working.  It simply means it’s time to look into how this division was promoted to the fans.  Was enough word put out about it?  Are the fans familiar enough with the racers?  The bottom line is you book this division to bring in fans.  Late Models are another division that needs to be handled with a little TLC.

One of the things that hurt Antioch this year was the rule changes announced in Late January for the Hobby Stocks and Wingless Spec Sprints.  Car counts in both divisions went down initially as some drivers had illegal motors.  Others raced and took their chances.  At its low point. the Spec Sprints fielded just five cars, while the Hobby Stocks were down to eight. Considering the fact that the Hobby Stocks had over 20 races and rarely had a night off, the fact that they usually had at least ten cars was pretty good.  However, that was still down a half dozen or so cars from where it should have been.  In the case of Spec Sprints, car count started to go up as the season ended.  Indications are that both divisions should start out okay in 2016 as long as rules aren’t adjusted at the last minute again.

The best supported division at Antioch this season was the Dwarf Cars with usually 12-16 cars at the track, and sometimes more.  The thing about this division is that while some people may not go there looking to see them, they leave the track having enjoyed their race.  Also, the potential is there for a big race.  There are lots of Dwarf Cars in Northern California, so a field of 30-40 cars is reachable.  And, there is an occasion that could get racers to the track.  “Dr. Dirt” Jim Soares was a strong supporter and champion of Dwarf Car racing, and a memorial race in his honor could be a winner.

The IMCA Modifieds are 25 years old at Antioch Speedway, and this division has held headline or co-headline status for most of those seasons.  In recent years, the attempt has been made to get older cars back to the track via the Sport Modified division.  Antioch sort of had to get involved in that class or be left behind.  On the heels of success at places like Victorville and Chowchilla, Antioch started the class in 2012.  The good news is that some drivers have moved up to Sport Mods.  The bad news is the Modified car count has dropped and the track’s ability to book a big blowout race for them has been impeded.

Not too many years ago, a big money Modified show at Antioch could bring 50-60 cars.  Those numbers have dropped, and now you pretty much have to have a big Sport Mod show in conjunction with the Modifieds.  Modifieds can still get into the 30‘s, while Sport Mods flirt with the 20‘s.  The real problem with Modifieds hasn’t adequately been addressed, and it’s a problem not unique with Antioch.  It has to deal with cost of the car and the purse money they are racing for.  Sport Modifieds are sort of a band aid fix to the larger problem.  The Sport Mods aren’t just a division with older cars, as was advertised in the beginning.  People are getting newer chassis for this class.  Should the Modfieds fade, those same problems will creep into Sport Modifieds.

In the meantime, Modifieds are usually in the 10-14 car range right now.  It was even lower at times last year, but it has gone up slightly this season.  Sport Mods are an 8-12 car division.  Management added race dates to the schedule for Sport Mods this year, and it hurt car count slightly as some drivers had other commitments.  There are other Sport Modifieds in the works.  Speculation is that this division may surpass the Modifieds in car count next season, but that’s just speculation.  It’s bound to happen sooner or later if trends continue.  Without a little more promoting, the Modified class will struggle.  Also, the Modifieds are Number 1 or Top 3 on many fan’s lists of favorite divisions

This leaves us with the Limited Late Models, which is a division now in it’s 15th year at the track.  The idea behind it was sound.  There are old Stahl and Howe chassis out there that weren’t competitive with the Late Models of the time.  Why not bring them back?  At the time, John M. Soares wanted Late Models at Antioch, but his father, John P. Soares, had the class.  So, John started Limited Late Models, but to get the division past his father, he named them Super Stocks.  One of the reasons this division started taking off was because Ron Brown was active in finding cars for other racers.

It started as most divisions do, with four or five cars showing up.  However, it grew to where there were as many as 20 cars showing up within a few seasons.  But, as always seems to happen, some racers wanted more.  Chowchilla and Watsonville had started classes, and there was a series.  Drivers at the other tracks were pushing the rules a little more.  It faded at Chowchilla.  There were similarities in the evolution at Antioch and Watsonville.  In both cases, Street Stocks were merged with Limited Late Models, and gradually the Street Stock racers parked due to not being competitive.   Both tracks started running Late Models and began running them together at times.  The Limited Late Models died at Watsonville, but Antioch fought for the five or six drivers left.

The Street Stock merger with Limited Late Models happened after that at Antioch, but it was the same result with the Street Stock drivers parking within a year.  Since then, the track has struggled at 6-10 cars most races.  There have been some bigger car counts, and there have been ten cars at the last three Antioch races.  After the strong ending the class had last year, it was hoped it would continue this year.  But most nights have only had seven or eight cars.  So, how will this division perform next year?  There is no question that the racing is good when there are enough good cars at the track.  But there is a question about how many people want to build cars.  There are at least two new cars on the way for next year, and the Limited Late Models will be at Antioch in 2016.

John has attempted to start the class at Merced, but it has thus far not gone over very well.  Not too many years ago, Merced Speedway had a thriving Street Stock division, but the drivers are not building Limited Late Models.  The question is, what is next for this particular form of racing there?  If Limited Late Models aren’t coming, do you give up on the class and try to get Street Stocks back?  Drop it all, or do you just give it another year of wait and see?

The Mini Stock division is the one Oval Motorsports hoped would come around this year with a strong car count.  Antioch’s class was dropped in the hopes that cars would come to Merced, but they didn’t.  Car count still hit double digits early in the season before nosediving.  Interestingly enough, it started coming back around when Merced went to Sunday nights.  Does that mean there is momentum being established that will see this car count rise even higher in 2016?  Hopefully, that is the case as this is a good entry level division.  With the top two drivers in points both moving up, it could be a very competitive season.

Oval Motorsports knows there is need for another division.  The Valley Sportsman class dropped so badly in car count that it is now on the chopping block.  The racers are rallying to try to save the 2016 season for them.  In the meantime, Dwarf Cars were added, and progress has been slow.  There was, however, enough success this season that it should continue for another season.  The thinking is that with a schedule announced at the start of the season, Dwarf Cars may begin to take hold at Merced Speedway.  Enough cars on that track will make a good race.

The Hobby Stocks are the work horse division at Merced with 23 races scheduled.  In the 22 races held so far, there were 16 different winners, and there have been over 50 different cars.  The average has been in the 10-14 car range, but last week popped to 24 cars.  The reality is there is potential for that to be the car count every week in 2016.  But, a heavy schedule makes it harder for some drivers to race every week.  This is a popular and entertaining form of racing, and it looks like things are going to be fine for next year.

Merced Speedway is the first place in California that had the Sport Modified division.  It never started to pop there until Victortville and Chowchilla started having success with it.  Last season, car count was in the high teens and low 20‘s, but this year the average has been 8-12 for most races.  There have been over 50 different cars this season.  This appears to be a case where some racers are holding out for a bigger purse, but there’s also another thing to consider.  Cars are getting torn up on nights where car count does get bigger, so the racing has to be cleaned up a bit.  Sport Mods work at Merced, and there are drivers out there running older cars as the original rules intended.

The Modifieds are the division that has really been hurting.  The first half of the season saw double digits most nights, but it went down from there.  Some drivers just can’t afford to race much and others only want to run special races.  However, car count will have to get better next year.  The racing is good when the cars are there, and we’ve seen some big name drivers re-emerge in recent weeks.  The division will be back next year, and it’s anticipated that car count will rebound.  There’s been some talk about sanctioning, but Merced Speedway has been one of those tracks that seems to have benefited from IMCA through the years.

What we did learn from Merced Speedway last week was the cars are still out there.  There were strong car counts in both Modified classes and Hobby Stocks last week.  In fact, you could have run a traditional program with these three divisions (qualifying and dashes included) and it would have been entertaining.  The question is, can you maintain those kind of numbers (18 Modifieds, 18 Sport Modifieds and 24 Hobby Stocks) on a regular basis?

The sponsorship idea spoken of earlier would be a good place to start.  Establish point funds and special races during the year, including purse increase incetives that drivers know they will get if they start so many cars in the Main Event.  But, you also have to find a way to get fans back to the races again.  Some will say it’s a Sunday thing at Merced.  While it’s true that Sunday may not be the preferred night, attendance wasn’t exactly through the roof on a Saturday night either.  So, things need to be tried to reverse the trend.

In fact, both tracks need this as Antioch isn’t performing as well as it could be either.  It comes down to a combination of things, not just one thing.  The written word in printed form and on the internet is one aspect.   There are other aspects of the internet to explore with regards to social media, audio, video and sales.  But, you also have to get out to the people and make them aware of racing.  Doing things within the community, a possible bill board ad, fliers, having teens holding signs directing people to the races or whatever it takes.  Most race fans know that if you can get people to the track and they enjoy what they see, they will be back.

It’s true that racing isn’t where it once was.  It’s 2015, not 1985. There are other things to do with your entertainment dollar, and racing fans can sit at home and watch the NASCAR race on TV.  So, we either change with the times and adapt or we fade away.  What Antioch and Merced Speedway have going for them is both are great racing venues with lots of potential.  We may not have B Mains in all divisions and the economy may not be great, but as we just saw last week at Merced, we can still get drivers to bring their cars.

The best way to do that is to do very little tweaking with the rules unless there are safety issues that need addressing.  Let the racers rebuild what they have at a minimal cost and come back next year ready to go.  Let’s establish some momentum and focus on making these tracks places the racers want to be.  And, with an improved car count, lets sell our drivers to the fans and make them want to come watch them.  If some of the “big stars” aren’t there, let’s make new stars, new heroes for the kids to cheer for.

We made it through 2015 and had some good and some bad to take away from it.  Next year is a new opportunity to make it better.  And, as long as the gates continue to open at these race tracks, there’s a chance for good things to happen.  It will just take a little effort from the powers that be to inspire everybody to be a part of something special in 2016.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Full Race Reviews From Merced And Antioch And Weedkend Previews For Both Tracks

First of all...

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Don's California Racing Recollections:  Best Of The Blog And Beyond

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

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Weekend Review Edition


Obertello Battles Hogge For Late Model Win 
At Antioch Speedway

Andy Obertello made his first 2015 visit to Antioch Speedway a winning effort with a victory in the 20 lap DIRTcar Late Model Main Event Saturday night.  Obertello led a three car battle for much of the race and survived a late race challenge from Bobby Hogge IV for the impressive victory.  Obertello is the 2008 Antioch Late Model champion.  Jeff Decker carried a 28 point lead over Richard Papenhausen into the season finale and finished fourth to secure his second division championship at Antioch.

The Late Models ran two six lap heat races with Hogge winning the first one ahead of Decker.  Obertello started his impressive night off with a win ahead of Dennis Souza in his heat race.  Hogge was behind the wheel of the House Car, which he didn’t even know he would be driving until he showed up with his IMCA Modified that night.  He shared the front row of the Main Event with Obertello as Papenhausen started back in the fifth row.  Obertello led a lap before Souza spun in Turn 4 for a yellow flag.  Obertello chose the outside on the restart and continued to lead Hogge and Danny Malfatti.  A low pass in Turn 2 of the third lap gained Papenhausen third from Malfatti on lap three, and the final caution flag flew on lap four for debris on the track.  Obertello stayed with the outside and continued to lead Hogge and Papenhausen on the restart.  Decker slipped past Malfatti for fourth, but the three cars in front of him started to pull away in a crowd pleasing battle.  Paul Guglielmoni took over fifth on lap seven, and Hogge and Papenhausen were both working on a way to pass Obertello.  Papenhausen finally made a low pass in Turn 4 of the 11th lap to take second from Hogge.  Papenhausen was challenging Obertello for the lead, but a hole opened up for Hogge in Turn 2, enabling him to reclaim second on lap 15.  The leaders hit traffic, and Hogge made a strong inside pass for the lead through Turns 1 and 2 on lap 18.  However, a slower car effected Hogge’s momentum.  By the time they came out of Turn 4 to complete the lap, Obertello had the lead.  Obertello drove a flawless race and was rewarded with the victory just ahead of Hogge and Papenhausen.  Decker and Guglielmoni ran strong to make up the rest of the Top 5.  Bill Egleston was the final led lap finisher as Larry Damitz, Malfatti, Travis Meyerhoff and David Newquist rounded out the Top 10.

Racing returns next Saturday night with the first leg of the Delta Valley Classic.  IMCA Modifieds race for $2000 to win and IMCA Sport Modifieds race for a $500 payday.  Hobby Stocks and Limited Late Models are also on the card in the point season finale.  The same four divisions will then race at Merced Speedway on Sunday.  For further information, check out the official Oval Motorsports Website.

Hogge Charges To IMCA Modified Win 
At Antioch Speedway

Making his winning move around Brian Cass late in the race, Bobby Hogge IV won the 20 lap IMCA Modified Main Event Saturday night at Antioch Speedway.  Hogge currently leads the points at Watsonville, and this was the first Antioch win of the season for the three time Antioch champion.   Fred Ryland only led one lap of the IMCA Sport Modified 20 lap Main Event, but it was good enough to get him his seventh win of the season.  Ryland was nearly lapped at one point, but a series of late race restarts enabled him to be there when Trevor Clymens spun from the lead in the final turn.   Larry Damitz lost the lead late in the race, but he gained the win in the 20 lap Limited Late Model feature after Eric Berendsen was disqualified in post race tech.

The IMCA Modifieds ran two six lap heat races, and State of California champion Alex Wilson won his heat race ahead of Cass.  Carl Berendsen II won his heat race over Bobby Motts Jr.  Berendsen and Chester Kniss shared the front row of the Main Event with Hogge starting back in the fourth row.  Kniss impressed by charging into the early lead and running the extreme high groove.  Berendsen was an early second ahead of Shawn DeForest.  A low move in Turn 4 of the fifth lap gained DeForest second from Berendsen, and Cass made an inside pass on the front stretch on lap eight to take third from Berendsen.  DeForest saw his strong run come to an end when something broke in Turn 2 for a lap ten caution flag.  Kniss chose the outside for the restart, but his car was slow to respond as Cass and Hogge both raced by.  Cass and Hogge pulled away, and Hogge was shadowing every move of Cass.  Hogge went low in Turn 3 of the 17th lap and got the bite he needed to take the lead.  Once in front, Hogge sped home to an impressive victory.  Cass settled for second ahead of Kniss, point leader Scott Busby, Berendsen, Bobby Motts Jr., Stephen Hopf, Trent Wentworth, Wilson and Adam Elby

The IMCA Sport Modifieds ran two heat races, and Clymens got what he thought would be a good night started with a heat race win ahead of Anthony Giuliani.  Al Johnson held off K.C. Keller to win his six lap heat race.   Clymens had a front row start for the Main Event with F. Ryland back in the fourth row.  Clymens charged into the early lead ahead of Al Sotomayor and Johnson.  A lap two yellow flag was the only slowdown of the race during the first 15 laps.  F. Ryland was challenging Johnson for third on lap 5, but he spun to avoid taking out Johnson in Turn 3.  Ryland usually won’t wait for a yellow flag, and he once again got going at the back of the pack.  Clymens had a straightaway lead over Sotomayor by lap eight as Keller raced past Johnson for third.   F. Ryland was struggling to pass Chuck Golden, which enabled Clymens to pull up right behind him.  Ryland finally got past Golden, and the yellow flag was out on lap 15 for Anthony Giuliani.  Clymens held command on the restart from the outside.  Only one lap could get completed before Keller attempted a pass on Sotomayor.  There was contact with Keller, Giuliani and Shane DeVolder crashing in Turn 1.  Clymens led Sotomayor with F. Ryland already third on the lap 17 restart.  However, there was another yellow flag for Sotomayor.  There was one more yellow flag on lap 18.  Clymens had the preferred outside line, and F. Ryland didn’t appear to have much for a challenge as Clymens led at the white flag.  In the final turn, Clymens spun in front of F. Ryland.  F. Ryland managed to get by to collect a surprising yet much needed victory.  Patti Ryland finished second ahead of Johnson and Giuliani.  A disappointed Clymens ended up fifth ahead of Merced champion Josh Hensley, Golden, Sotomayor,  Megan Ponciano and Keller.

Before the first Limited Late Model heat race, Mark Garner led a special Memorial Lap for his father, 1969 State Stock Car Champion Jerry Garner.  Jerry last his battle with Cancer two weeks ago.  Garner then went out and won his six lap heat race ahead of point leader Damitz.  Jim Freethy won his heat race ahead of two time Super Hobby Stock champion Gene Haney.  The Main Event probably looked like another win for Damitz as he had the outside front row next to Freethy.  Previous winner Mike Gustafson had problems early on and fell out as Damitz led Garner and Freethy.  A lap ten caution flag flew for Mike Hynes.  Damitz chose the outside on the restart, and Eric Berendsen surprised the field by following him into second.  Garner was starting to have motor issues and fell to fourth behind Lori Brown.  On lap 18, Damitz was attempting to pass two slower cars on the front stretch and they made contact with him.  This slowed Damitz down as Berendsen closed in on him.  A high move in Turn 4 of the 19th lap gained Berendsen the lead from Damitz.  Berendsen would score what appeared to be his first career win, but it was taken away from him in post race tech.  Damitz was awarded his seventh feature victory with Brown a season best second ahead of Garner, Freethy, Hynes, Paul Haney, John Evans, Haney and Gustafson.

Racing returns next Saturday night with the first leg of the Delta Valley Classic.  IMCA Modifieds race for $2000 to win and IMCA Sport Modifieds race for a $500 payday.  Hobby Stocks and Limited Late Models are also on the card in the point season finale.  The same four divisions will then race at Merced Speedway on Sunday.  For further information, check out the official Oval Motorsports Website.

Macedo Ends Season With Second Spec Sprint Win At Antioch Speedway

Billy Macedo won his second 20 lap Wingless Spec Sprint Main Event of the season Saturday night at Antioch Speedway.  The two time division champion made his move around Keith Shipherd during the first half of the race and went on to victory from there.  Four time winner Kyle Bakkie had already wrapped up the division championship in the previous race.  Merced and Chowchilla champion Kevin Joaquin returned for his third appearance of the season and scored his third 20 lap Hobby Stock Main Event win.

Macedo got his night started off right with a win in his six lap Spec Sprint heat race ahead of Roy Fisher.  The division’s all time Main Event win leader, Jim Perry Jr. was behind the wheel of his uncle Earl Perry’s old car, and he won his heat race ahead of Marcus Smith.  A division original and making what may be his final start, Keith Shipherd raced into the early lead in the Main Event ahead of Smith and Macedo.  The lead three cars pulled away a bit.  A low move in Turn 4 of the sixth lap gained Macedo second from Smith, and a caution flag slowed the pace for a Peter Carlotto spin in Turn 4.  Shipherd led the single file restart, but Macedo managed to pass him before the lap was completed.  An inside pass in Turn 4 of the eighth lap put Smith into second.  Jim Perry Jr. led his son, Jimmy Perry III around Roy Fisher for fourth and fifth on lap 12.  The Perry’s were trying to pass Shipherd for third on the back stretch, but Perry III ended up spinning for a yellow flag.  Macedo led Smith and Shipherd on the restart.  As Macedo led the way, Perry Jr. was pressuring Shipherd hard for third.  An inside move on the back stretch of the 17th lap gained Perry Jr. the position.  Macedo, ran a good race to collect another win.  Smith used his season best second place finish to pass Rick Panfili for second in the standings.  Perry Jr. finished third ahead of Shipherd, Fisher, Carlotto, new champion Kyle Bakkie, Brian Grosenheider, Alan Miranda and David Dias.
Racing returns next Saturday night with the first leg of the Delta Valley Classic.  IMCA Modifieds race for $2000 to win and IMCA Sport Modifieds race for a $500 payday.  Hobby Stocks and Limited Late Models are also on the card in the point season finale.  The same four divisions will then race at Merced Speedway on Sunday.  For further information, check out the official Oval Motorsports Website.

Paul Stone Unstoppable At Merced Speedway

Back behind the wheel of his new car, 2014 champion Paul Stone charged past the dueling Wilson brothers and went on to win the IMCA Modified 20 lap feature Sunday night at Merced Speedway.  Stone had won earlier this year in the Jack Mounce car as he has been making occasional starts at his home track this season.

The increased car count on the night was partly due to this being a special memorial night for Dawn Carter, and also because some drivers saw it as a tune up for the Delta Valley Classic $2000 to win race next week.  The IMCA Modifieds had three heat races with Antioch racer Chester Kniss winning the first six lapper ahead of Kyle Wilson.  Troy Foulger won his heat race over Ryan Porter, and Ricky Thatcher got another heat win ahead of past Hanford and Santa Maria champion Jimmy Reeves.   Kniss had the pole for the Main Event, but Kyle Wilson led the opening lap before Kniss spun in Turn 4 for a caution flag.  Kyle Wilson chose the outside on the leader’s restart option and led his brother Alex and four time champion Ramie Stone.  However, Reeves and tenth starter P. Stone had moved into third and fourth by lap three.  The Wilson’s were once again engaged in a side by side battle for the lead, but Alex was scored in the lead after seven laps when a yellow flag waved for crash involving Foulger, Alan Pace, Harley Turner, Bob Williamson and Dereck Colvin in Turn 1.  A. Wilson chose the inside and continued to lead the restart as P. Stone raced past K. Wilson for second.  A low move in Turn 2 of the 11th lap gained P. Stone the lead as Reeves and R. Stone followed into second and third.  Kniss spun in Turn 4 for a lap 12 caution flag.  P. Stone chose the inside and continued to lead Reeves on the restart as A. Wilson grabbed third from R. Stone.  Despite one more caution flag late, P. Stone was not to be denied as he won the race in impressive fashion.  A. Wilson out ran Reeves for the second place finish as Turner, R. Stone, Bill Egleston, Williamson, Thatcher, Josh Combs and K. Wilson rounded out the Top 10 finishers.

Next week will wrap up the 2015 season at Merced Speedway, but it’s a big event, billed as the Delta Valley Classic.  The IMCA Modifieds will race for $2000 to win, the IMCA Sport Modifieds will race for $500 to win and the Hobby Stocks, Limited Late Models and Dwarf Cars will also be in action.  For further information, check out the official Oval Motorsports Website.

Ryland, Hart Share Merced Speedway 
Winner’s Circle

Fred Ryland grabbed the lead from Chris Falkenberg on lap ten and got the win in the time limit shortened 15 lap IMCA Sport Modifed Main Event Sunday night at Merced Speedway.  It was Ryland’s seventh Merced win of the season and 27th win on the circuit as he battles for the National championship and already has clinched the State of California title.  Ryan Hart made a late restart pass on Andrew Krumm to win the 20 lap Hobby Stock Main Event.  It was the second win of the season for the 2011 Hobby Stock champion.

The Sport Mods ran three heat races, and Dwayne Short won his heat race ahead of Mark Odgers.  Ryland won his heat race ahead of Gary Tucker, and past champion Shawn Bryant won the final heat ahead of Jared Tickel.   The Main Event was a bit rough, and Tickel led the opening three rounds.  Falkenberg was second when a lap three red flag flew for a Turn 2 crash.  The wreck eliminated champion Josh Hensley from the action.  His leg was sore, but he was otherwise okay.  Tickel chose the inside for the restart, but Falkenberg beat him back to the line on the outside to lead the lap.  Ryland rode the outside into third.  A lap five caution flag flew for a Chase Thomas spin in Turn 2.  Falkenberg chose the inside and continued to lead the race as Ryland made an inside pass in Turn 2 to take second from Tickel.  Tickel came back with an inside pass in Turn 4 on lap seven.  Ryland beat Tickel back to the line with an outside pass on lap eight before Matt Pedroni spun in Turn 2 for a caution flag.  Falkenberg chose the inside and led one more lap before losing the lead to Ryland with an outside pass on the front stretch.  A lap 11 caution flag flew for Steve Stone in Turn 2.  The call as made to throw a checkerd flag at the next yellow flag due to time.  Ryland led Falkenberg on the restart.   When Short spun from fifth on the back stretch, he collected Odgers and Andy Welch.  The race was called at that point with Ryland winning ahead of Falkenberg.  Kelly Wilkinson made an amazing effort to come from 17th starting to finish third.  Tickel settled for fourth ahead of Gary Tucker, Matt Zelinsky, Thomas, Odgers, Welch and Pedroni.

A season high of 24 Hobby Stocks required four heat races, and Matt Kile won the first heat ahead of Hart.  New champion Kevin Joaquin won his heat race ahead of Katie Briggs.  Donnie Shearer held of Kristie Shearer to win his heat race, and Cody Parker won the last heat race ahead of Andrew Krumm.  Michael Shearer led the opening lap of the Main Event ahead of Krumm, but Krumm made a pass in Turn 2 of the second lap to grab the lead.  Hart and Dexter Long found themselves in second and third as M. Shearer spun in Turn 4.  Krumm chose the inside for the restart, but Hart beat him back to the line on the outside to lead the lap.  An inside move on the front stretch of the fifth lap regained Krumm the lead as Kile was running third.  Jennifer Corder was slowly circling the track when a caution flag flew after 11 laps.  From his starting spot back in the ninth row, Shane Hausmann had already worked his way up to sixth.  Krumn stayed with the inside and continued to lead Hart on the restart as Hausmann moved past Kile for third.  An outside move on the front stretch of the 13th lap gained Hausmann second from Hart, and he began to pressure Krumm hard for the lead.  Entering Turn 3 of the 16th lap, Hausmann’s engine let go on him as Krumm now led Hart and Parker.  Krumm stayed with the inside for the restart, only to watch Hart again race by on the outside.  When D. Shearer and Ty Shelton crashed on the back stretch, that forced a lap 19 yellow and checkered flag finish.  Hart was the happy winner ahead of Krumm, Parker, Kile, Austin Van Hoff, Briggs, Charlie Hunter, Chris Williams, Long and Adam Reed.

Next week will wrap up the 2015 season at Merced Speedway, but it’s a big event, billed as the Delta Valley Classic.  The IMCA Modifieds will race for $2000 to win, the IMCA Sport Modifieds will race for $500 to win and the Hobby Stocks, Limited Late Models and Dwarf Cars will also be in action.  For further information, check out the official Oval Motorsports Website.

Corder Wins Battle, Miguel Wins The War 
In Merced Mini Stock Championship Race

Switching over to a new car for the final point race, 2014 champion Chris Corder won his fourth Mini Stock Main Event Sunday night at Merced Speedway.  Corder gained six points on Darren Miguel, but Miguel will win the track championship by two points.  Corder is the 2015 Chowchilla Speedway champion.  Prior to the Main Event, the division ran a Memorial Lap in honor of Dawn Carter, who passed away during the two week break.  Marcus Lung won an impromptu 12 lap Valley Sportsman Main Event, while Mike Drake wrapped up his championship season with his third 12 lap Dwarf Car Main Event win.

The Mini Stocks entered the final night with Miguel leading Corder by eight points.  Corder gained four points on Miguel as he won the first heat ahead of newcomer Jason Womack and Miguel.  Josh Henley drove Corder’s #48 car to a heat win ahead of Mike Germait.  Corder started back in the fourth row with Miguel in the fifth row for the Main Event.  Running a neon green glow stick in back of his car, Steve Johnson led early.  Womack made a low pass in Turn 4 of the second lap to take second from James Stockton as Corder followed closely into third.  Corder made an inside pass on the front stretch to grab second on lap three and passed Johnson on the back stretch a lap later to take the lead.  Miguel and Stockton were second and third on lap six as a caution flag flew for debris.  Dennis Copus had mechanical issues, but his start ensured that he would accomplish his goal of grabbing third in points.  Corder chose the outside and continued to lead Miguel on the restart.  Womack grabbed third a lap later.  Hensley moved into fourth on lap 14.  Corder began to pull away as Miguel had his hands full battling Womack for second.  Corder grabbed the checkered flag a straightaway ahead of Miguel, but the championship went to Miguel by just two points.  Womack’s impressive debut netted him third ahead of Hensley.  Natalie Waldrop outdueled Mike Germait for the fifth place finish.  Alisa Caldwell took a checkered flag in seventh as Stockton, Copus and Johnson rounded out the Top 10.

The Valley Sportsman drivers approached management about adding a race, and it was granted to them if they could get at least four cars.  Eric Sealy was a late arrival to give them four.  Marcus Lung won the heat race with a last lap pass on Kenny Birdsong.  In the Main Event, Lung grabbed the lead from the start ahead of previous winner Sealy.  Birdsong and Jeff Bristow spun at opposite ends of the track, but both kept going without a yellow flag.  Lung won the race by a straightaway ahead of Sealy, Bristow and Birdsong. 

Mike Drake won the Dwarf Car heat race ahead of Chuck Weir.  Drake raced into the Main Event lead from the start ahead of Weir.  Buddy Kniss was making good laps in third before mechanical problems ended his race.  Drake won ahead of Weir and Kniss.

Next week will wrap up the 2015 season at Merced Speedway, but it’s a big event, billed as the Delta Valley Classic.  The IMCA Modifieds will race for $2000 to win, the IMCA Sport Modifieds will race for $500 to win and the Hobby Stocks, Limited Late Models and Dwarf Cars will also be in action.  For further information, check out the official Oval Motorsports Website.

 $2000 On The Line In Delta Valley Classic 
At Antioch Speedway 

It’s the final point event of the season this Saturday night at Antioch Speedway, and it’s a big one.  $2000 will be on the line for the winner of the IMCA Modifieds, which should bring some top name drivers to the fast three-eighth mile clay oval.  IMCA Sport Modifieds will race for $500 to win and Limited Late Models and Hobby Stocks are also on the card.  The second round of this big event will take place a night later at Merced Speedway.

One of the drivers to contend with this Saturday will be three time Antioch champion Bobby Hogge IV.  Only two drivers have won more Main Events in Antioch Speedway history than Hogge, and one of them will be racing on Saturday.  That would be Scott Busby.  Busby is leading Bobby Motts Jr. by 25 points in the championship battle as he tries to wrap up his fifth track championship.  Busby is second on the all time win list, and he will be gunning for the $2000 payday.  Hogge, meanwhile, served notice to the competition last week that he is still the man to beat as he won the IMCA Modified feature ahead of Brian Cass, who is also anticipated for this week's race.

Past Antioch champion Kellen Chadwick has also said that he will be racing this week.  Back in January, Kellen opened the season with a Main Event win.  When the money is on the line, Kellen is usually up near the front battling for the win.  After his heat win and Top 5 feature finish last week, Carl Berendsen II will be out to make his presence known, and Top 5 competitor Shawn DeForest should be there as well.  With the State and Merced championships in hand, Alex Wilson should be there to make a run for the money. 

When the money is on the line, drivers tend to come from several different tracks to give it a go.  One of the drivers anticipated this week is current Petaluma point leader and that track’s 2014 champion, Nick DeCarlo.  Nick came from the back to win the Main Event when he was at Antioch back in August.  Six time Petaluma champion Michael Paul Jr. and another Petaluma champion, Oreste Gonella, are two others to watch for.  The field could grow into the 20‘s for this one as Nick Viscusi III, Josh Combs, two time winner and 2004 champion Aaron Crowell, Darrell Hughes II and Trent Wentworth are also anticipated. 

Fred Ryland got the monkey off his back in a big way by winning last week’s feature.  His seventh win broke a six race drought for him at Antioch, and his win a night later at Merced should see him rise in the IMCA Sport Modified National point standings.  Ryland has already clinched the track and State championships, and he very well could be the driver to beat.  Some suspension issues cost one time winner Trevor Clymens a sure win last week, but he’ll be back to try again this week.  Anthony Giuliani has four Antioch wins this year, and he should not be taken lightly this week.

As with the other Modified class, some top drivers are said to be considering a visit, and that means drivers like Merced champion Josh Hensley, Watsonville point leader Matt Hagio, 2013 Antioch champion Jeremy Hoff and Top 3 Marysville racer Jimmy Ford could be among the field.  When they show up, they can expect Antioch regulars such as likely “Rookie Of The Year” Patti Ryland, second ranked Al Johnson, Al Sotomayor and rookie K.C. Keller to be there to try for the big victory.

The Limied Late Models close their 2015 season, and Larry Damitz pretty much only needs to start the Main Event to wrap up his fourth championship in the last five seasons.  Damitz was credited with his seventh win of the season last week.  The question is, who will end up second and third in the standings?  One time winner Mike Hynes leads three time winner Mike Gusfafson by ten points for second.  Only ten points behind Gustafson is two time winner and Merced champion Mark Garner.

Lori Brown has been making her presence known lately and is coming off of third and second place finishes in her most recent two starts.  Another driver with multiple second place finishes to keep an eye on is Jim Freethy.  Like Brown, Freethy is a past division champion who would like to end the season on a winning note.  Other drivers we’ll be watching for this week include the steady John Evans, John Keith, Ryan Cherezian and two time Super Hobby Stock champion Gene Haney.

Speaking of Hobby Stocks, Kimo Oreta has eight wins this year in what will be his third straight championship season.  Oreta will be heading up to Limited Late Models next season, but he would like to get one more win before he does.  The battle for second will return this week after both drivers missed last week due to a wedding.  Rookie Jordan Swank leads his brother in law Michael Cooper by just 13 points, and both are hungry for their first career feature wins.  While they were gone, the steady Frank Furtado moved to within 12 points of Cooper in the race to finish third.

Danny Jones was back after missing some races to put together a motor.  He managed to earn his sixth second place finish after leading for 14 laps last week.  Jones is determined to pull off a victory this week.  Natalie Perry has enjoyed a string of impressive finishes in recent weeks, but she won her first heat race last week.  Top 10 raked Russell Shearer grabbed a season best fifth place finish last week and is another driver we anticipate for this race along with Cameron Swank, Lindsey Buirch and hard charger Robert Niven.

Antioch Speedway Top 5 In Points At A Glance

IMCA Modified

Scott Busby           533
Bobby Motts jr.         508
Carl Berendsen II    418
Shawn DeForest     332
Alex Wilson            323

IMCA Sport Modified

Fred Ryland          600
Al Johnson          537
Patti Ryland          495
Paul Mulder         489
Chuck Golden        469

Limited Late Model

Larry Damitz           670
Mike Hynes           622
Mike Gustafson    612
Mark Garner           602
Jim Freethy         558

Hobby Stocks

Kimo Oreta          1150
Jordan Swank           795
Michael Cooper     782
Frank Furtado           770
Dan Jones         742

Delta Valley Classic Closes 2015 Season 
At Merced Speedway

Last week saw the biggest car count of the season at Merced Speedway with roughly 80 cars.  This Sunday, it’s the Delta Valley Classic that will close the season.  The IMCA Modifieds are competing for $2000 to win, which is sure to draw visitors from several tracks once again.  IMCA Sport Modifieds are competing for $500 to win.  Also in action wlll be the Hobby Stocks and Limited Late Models.  All four divisions are also racing a night earlier at Antioch.  Any Modified or Sport Mod driver to win both Main Events on the weekend will receive a $500 bonus.

Paul Stone sent a loud message to the other 18 competitors who were racing last week.  He wants that big money win. The 2014 IMCA Modified Merced champion won impressively last week in his new car.  He will need to be fast as Bobby Hogge IV is anticipated, and Hogge won last week at Antioch.  Past Hanford third Santa Maria champion Jimmy Reeves was a strong second last week and could be a force this week.  The money is sure to draw a good car count once again.

Four time winner Alex Wilson and his brother Kyle were enjoying another side by side battle last week before P. Stone passed them both.  Alex finished second, and he has clinched the Merced Speedway and State championships.  The only thing left for Alex to do is win the $2000 prize this week.  Meanwhile, Ricky Thatcher is clinging tenaciously to a 12 point lead over three time winner Kyle Wilson in the battle for second in points.  Thatcher had a good night last week with a heat race win and a seventh in the Main Event.

2012 champion Bill Egleston returned with a new body on his car and drove to a solid sixth place finish last week as he tunes up for the big race.   Two time champion Bob Williamson was back last week with another Top 10 finish, and he’s anticipated for this race.  Four time champion Ramie Stone was passed late last week by Harley Turner to finish fifth.  Both drivers should be on hand this week along with several other top competitors.

New IMCA Sport Modified champion Josh Hensley fielded a different car last week, but his night did not go well as he crashed early in the Main Event.  The two time winner should be back to try again, and second place point contenders Dwayne Shot and Mark Odgers are both anticipated.  Short won his heat race last week, but Odgers used a Top 10 feature finish to move to within two points of Short in the standngs.

Last week’s winner, State point leader and National title contender Feed Ryland, will be back to go for an eighth win.  Top five point competitor and two time winner Gary Tucker should be in action along with three time Street Stock champion Darren Thomas, 2014 Merced champion Rick Diaz, Watsonville title contender Anthony Giuliani and last week’s second place finisher, Chris Falkenberg.  Two time Street Stock champion Tim Ragsdale should also be there after making his division debut last week.  Car count hit 18 cars last week and should be high again this week.

The Hobby Stock car count was off the charts last week as 23 drivers came to do battle.  Merced and Chowchilla champion Kevin Joaquin has three wins this year, but he followed his Antioch win a night earlier with a rare DNF last week.   Andrew Krumm came within a couple laps of being the 17th different winner last week, but it was past division champion Ryan Hart impressing with his second win of the season.  The second and third place point positions are secured by rookie Jennifer Corder and two time winner Austin Van Hoff, so it’s all about the bragging rights of winning this race.

Cody Parker ran a great race last week as the teen sensation finished third.  Cody does have a win this year.  Kristie Shearer has three wins, and it’s hoped that the fourth place point competitor will have her car ready after motor issues sidelined her after her heat race last week.  Top 5 rookie Dexter Long, the always exciting George Silva, Ted Stofle Classic winner Michael Shearer, Adam Reed and Ty Shelton are other drivers to watch for.  There are still some talented racers in the field without a win so there is a possibility that we could see our 17th different winner this week.

Limited Late Models are on the card, and 2015 champion Mark Garner plans to be there in a bid for his eighth Main Event win.  There have been rumors of drivers coming in from Antioch this week.  Second ranked Buddy Thatcher and two time champion Roy Hart Jr. are both anticipated for this race, and it’s hoped that this division will end the season on a high note.

Merced Speedway Top 5 in Points At A Glance

IMCA Modified

Alex Wilson          658
Ricky Thatcher    536
Kyle Wilson           524
Bill Egleston           512
Bob Williamson    399

IMCA Sport Modified

Josh Hensley          770
Dwayne Short        609
Mark Odgers           607
Fred Ryland           508
Gary Tucker         493   

Hobby Stock

Kevin Joaquin     952
Jennifer Corder     746
Austin Van Hoff     628
Kristie Shearer    544
Dexter Long           514

Limited Late Model

Mark Garner           442
Buddy Thatcher     252
Roy Hart Jr           194
Scott VanGelder    189
Peggy Sue Jarred     144