First of all...
Just A Kid From The Grandstands: My Time In Auto Racing
Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover
On Sale At Reduced Price
Don's California Racing Recollections: Best Of The Blog And Beyond
Available via print on demand at Lulu in Hard Cover or Paperback
Also, what could be a series of informative books...
Short Track History Project at Go Fund Me
Additional info on the Short Track History Project HERE
DCRR Racing Media And PR Consulting HERE
It's a special day me today. You know, one of the things that my sister Jackie and I enjoyed was the music of Queen. We used to hang out in front of the house back in the day playing music on her tape recorder, and Queen's The Game was one tape that got a lot of play. Well, it was 14 years ago today that the talented Freddie Mercury died. I believe he may have been the greatest rock & roll singer ever. I have books about Freddie and Queen, plus I still have the Queen Box Set Jackie gave me one year for Christmas.
Jackie and I were visiting a cousin when the news came on TV that Freddie had died. I knew he was ill, and during that time he recorded maybe the best Queen album in my opinion, Innuendo. Freddie could have called it a life at that point and just stayed in bed, but he wanted to record with his band mates until the end. Days Of Our Lives is a video I can't watch without crying. Just looking at Freddie and knowing that he knew his days were numbered. Queen's music was happy music, especially the operatic stuff from the early 1970's. I love it.
As it just so happened, the day we were visiting my cousin was Jackie's birthday. So, today was Jackie's birthday. Jackie would have been 51 today. It's been almost ten years since I lost her, and I miss her still. Jackie had an energy about her that people responded to. People liked her, and she was the kind of person who tried to help others if she could. I had my biggest success in racing because of her. She believed in me, and I believed in her too. I was proud of her and her accomplishments. So, happy birthday Jackie. You and I and dad will meet again one day.
Ron Brown broke the news that there will be an awards banquet for the Oval Motorsports tracks, and he reports that John M. Soares has set a date for January 23rd He also indicated that the January race is still happening, weather permitting. I'm reporting this second hand, because I haven't heard from John concerning anything. Given my personal situation, which I won't get into, I have been a little busy trying to keep from losing everything I own after losing my home.
There have been rumors about my future in racing and all of that stuff, but I can tell you this. I have not officially been offered anything at my home track. I will assume they have people on staff until I hear otherwise. Because my personal work station doesn't exist after losing my home, I'm not currently set up to do much writing. I have been offered an announcing gig at a track I will not name and for a fee that I feel is fair and comparable to my peers. It's simply to announce, but I haven't officially accepted at this time. There are reasons for this that I won't get into here. Bottom line is I am lucky to be able to write anything at the moment.
As I understand it, management ordered the social media pages for Merced and Antioch Speedway to be removed after the final Merced race. A lot of rumors have been flying since then. People want to know what the status is for Merced and Chowchilla. Oval Motorsports has both race tracks as I type this, and Antioch Speedway as well. The rest is speculation based on limited information, but I'll give you what I know.
Merced Speedway reportedly had two interested parties looking to buy out Oval Motorsports. Reality is they were looking to get a good deal. In this racing climate, who wouldn't be? This is not a good time to invest in the sport when you consider economic and environmental issues and the fact that car counts are low at many places. You invest and you better be prepared to lose money. I know who one of the "suitors" was, but I'll leave names out of it. As of now, there is no deal for Merced. My hunch is that John and Oval Motorsports will keep the track and there will be changes. I know what I've heard, but I'll leave it at that.
As for Chowchilla Speedway, I can tell you that the date I've heard is November 30. The fair board wants to hear what Oval Motorsports' intentions are for that track by then and may be entertaining other offers. It is my belief that they have an over inflated sense of the value of that facility. Tom Sagmiller and his crew made that place special in the early days, and nobody has duplicated what he accomplished there since then. I'm not saying that to knock anybody, but facts are facts. Tom oftentimes went above and beyond to make things pop there. People may say things about him, but the bottom line is Tom cared and people knew it.
The only possible way for Chowchilla Speedway to work somewhat consistently is for a promoter to be very hands on with the community. Improvements are needed, and any promoter would have to invest a lot and would need reassurances that they would have time and opportunity to recoup their investment. The fairgrounds believes they can make more money off of that place, so it would not take much to come in there and get the place, in my opinion. Just be prepared to work hard and lose money early on.
I heard an interesting comment from John after we ran the Hobby Stock/Mini Stock show that basically said that those were the only types of shows that could work there for now. I don't disagree with that. If you aren't attracting a big fan base, purse money won't be there for the higher level classes. In fact, there's precedent for that. Promoter Kenny Shepherd dropped Modifieds one season for Sport Mods. Lower level classes are featured at some tracks, including Porterville, Hayfork and Orland. Whatever it takes to keep racing going, I am in favor of.
That still begs the question, will Oval Motorsports offer another season for Chowchilla? I won't put anything past John, but he wasn't sounding favorable to the idea when we spoke back in October. Of course, he could change his mind. If he cuts them a check the way he did this year, even for another ten race season, they are likely to take the money if a better offer isn't there. But, that is just speculation. However, I don't know that it would be a bad idea to attempt a season that featured Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Dwarf Cars and classes like that. It's a safe bet, even if it doesn't do much to grow the Chowchilla Speedway brand.
I've heard a lot of speculation about John's future in the sport, but I know one thing. He loves this sport. He grew up in it, and he still feels he can make a difference. Promoting last season was difficult for him because of the illness of his wife, Donna. Thankfully, reports are that she is doing better. The other thing making last year difficult was the departure of Doug Williams at Merced. People love and respect Doug, and Oval Motorsports spent the year trying to recover from the loss. Indications are that things were looking up at the end of the season, but we'll see how that translates into 2016.
Another thing Oval Motorsports had to overcome was the sluggish start that saw them stumble out of the gate with four ill advised January races. I am flatly against racing in January. Sorry if that offends. It left them in the hole for a few races as they tried to recover. I'm not saying the racing wasn't good, but there were a number of other issues that contributed to the disappointing outcome. To hear that the races will happen again is disappointing to me. John was wanting to cancel them when last I spoke with him.
For starters, the hype machine should be in full gear right now. There should be fliers, articles and all of that. This is last year's event all over again, and I hope I'm wrong about that. In fact, it was my concern over the possible failure of those races that had me doing audio shows and several articles last year as I climbed back into the picture again. The problem was it was so damn cold that there was just no way I was going in person. I still hoped for the best.
Now, all year long, from that first meeting with John back in March, I knew that he was not happy with the outcome of the 2014 season banquets. That day, John showed me the room full of unclaimed trophies. He was not pleased with that. It cost him money. Coupled with the disappointment of the West Coast Nationals, it was not a good start to 2015. Therefore, John was insisting right up through October that there would be no banquet for this season. I was aware that Brad and Andrea were lobbying for banquets, and I was too. This is about building a community, and I believe people will come. Just tell them where, when and how much and they will support it. Thanks to Ron Brown, we know the January 23rd date.
Through sources, I have heard there is an interest in my involvement, but that brings the next problem. The powers that be haven't indicated anything to me. I have heard from one source and good friend that there was a question about how serious and committed I am. Um, excuse me? If me putting racing first when it paid nothing, in the hopes that it would in the long run and then losing my house as a result, is not proof enough that I am serious when it comes to my passion for the sport (and dare I say how much I do care about John and Donna), then nothing I do will ever be good enough. Otherwise, I'll keep the hurt feelings to myself and wish John and Donna nothing but the best. I will always be a Soares supporter.
I will be a racing supporter as well. I was happy to hear that Adam Teves is going Spec Sprint racing in 2016 thanks to the deal the team got on Cameron Beard's car. This kid is a natural from what I have seen. He very nearly could have won the Dwarf Car championship this year, so I think he is ready. With his champion dad, David Teves, and his knowledgeable grandfather, Dana Craig, guiding him, he's going to do just fine.
Spec Sprints are alive and well. The Hunt Series just wrapped up a successful sixth season with a nice awards banquet and plans for another season. I believe Marysville, Chico and Petaluma will keep the class as well. Antioch is where it started, and indications are 2016 should be a better season. When Don O'Keefe Jr. and I started putting this class together for John, we went over the rules line by line. Don was the expert, but he explained each line to me so I could understand. It was about making it so that everybody would understand, and I think it was successful.
One of the keys to Spec Sprint success was easy to understand rules. The Hobby Stocks had to struggle out of the gate this year because of different interpretations of the rules. Whatever the case, I heard from Jim Robbins the other day about how he would like to get a hold of the rules and go over them to clear them up. I suggested a line by line approach would be best. That's my opinion. My main concern is that the drivers have what they have, so I don't want to see dramatic changes to the rule book heading into December. What I want to see is more incentive to get the cars to the track. A few less dates and a slight increase in purse, at least based on car count, would be a start.
Merced Speedway had an amazing season in terms of different winners. I'm not sure how "legal" all of the cars are, but I am sure car count was growing by season's end. I want to see that trend continue. Besides, nobody is dominating. Antioch Speedway featured an incredible season for three time champion Kimo Oreta. He's moving up in 2016 to Limited Late Models. The thought of Jordan Swank, Michael Cooper, Danny Jones, Frank Furtado and Natalie Perry and this talented group of racers battling for a championship interests me. So, I hope nothing drastic is done with the rules. Really, they just need to book a sensible schedule, open the gates and let the good races happen.
Bottom line is there is potential for Antioch and Merced to both have stronger seasons in 2016 if management maintains and doesn't over manage things. The fans want to see more cars and good racing, so concentrating of giving the fans what they want should be the goal. It can be done. While my status for the 2016 season is doubtful, I am hoping for a good season for the sport. Hopefully, my efforts this year have contributed to the positive.
To that end, I wrote most of the reviews for Rocky Hill Speedway and Sacramento Valley Speedway this year. My reason was because I want to see these tracks thrive too. I love that the Porterville track was resurrected after being down for some 15 years. If it takes a Hobby Stock and Mini Stock program to keep it alive, I am all for it. I hope the Thanksgiving program coming up is successful for them. They seem to have done well with these races in the last couple seasons too. As for the Orland track, I just hope Adam Zachary and crew can build on what they did this season. The Hobby Stocks ended strong this season, and I hope something comes from Greg Rayl's Hobby Stock rental idea. He did good things with a similar program for Mini Trucks at Altamont.
At this point, I'm going to end this column. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas as well. I'm not sure where things will go for me next, but for now I am unable to do much writing. I'd like to do a yearbook, but I don't have access to the things I need to make it happen at this time. So, any new books will have to wait. Just A Kid From The Grandstand and Best Of The Blog And Beyond will remain up on Lulu for those who are interested.
Until next time...