Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Noland Wins Big In Turkey Shoot Out At Rocky Hill, Plus News & Rumors

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

The DCRR Racing Radio Show
Season Review Edition

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Noland Wins Big In Turkey Shoot Out At Rocky Hill, Atchison, Corder Get Big Wins

A successful season at Rocky Hill Speedway in Porterville came to a close with the big money Turkey Shoot Out races on the weekend following Thanksgiving.  The Hobby Stocks competed for a $1500 first prize, and it was not a surprise to see the crafty veteran Karl Noland collecting the big victory.  One of the biggest fields of the year for Super 4 Mini Stocks saw the dominant champion Roy Atchison grab a big $800 dollar paycheck.  Some of the best Mini Stock drivers in the state competed for a $600 first prize with Chowchilla champion Chris Corder grabbing the biggest win of his career.  Enduro ace Rich Denman grabbed the $600 first prize with a win in the American Stock Main Event.  Dwarf Cars ran a pair of Main Events with wins going to Shawn Jones and Dan Zuger.  Street Stock veteran Keith Heaslet returned and won the Central Valley Tanks feature.  The Mini Dwarfs were also added to the program with Kercie Jung winning the Sr. Dwarfs feature and Jaden Butler winning the Jr. Dwarfs Main Event.  Roughly 80 drivers competed in the season finale event, which has become the biggest race of the year for the track.

K. Noland was the dominant driver in Hobby Stocks this season.  He had seven wins and the point lead before missing a couple races and falling to third.  However, Noland showed why he is still one of the best drivers in the state with the rich victory.  Michael Scruggs had won the point season finale this year, and he was a strong second ahead of Rich Denman, who had also won the American Stock Main Event. Kenny Chesterman made his first Porterville start of the year with a fourth place finish ahead of Dave Skyler.  Stefan Davies finished sixth in the 17 car field as two time Merced champion Andrew Krumm was seventh ahead of fellow Merced Speedway racers Gary Hildebrand and George Silva.  Gene Glover rounded out the Top 10.

Atchision won nine Super 4 Mini Stock features during the point season as he cruised to the championship.  His big victory on this occasion came ahead of Bob Davis, who was making his first Porterville start of the year.  Point season finale winner James Tamirez finished a strong third ahead of hard charger Darren Reed and Steve Golden,.  Kit Murphy settled for sixth ahead of Donovan Chilton, William Hughes, 2014 champion Adell Shelton and Robert Hunt.

Merced champion Darren Miguel had his sights set on a third Porterville Mini Stock win, having won the $1000 race earlier this season.  Miguel led most of the first half of the race before his rival, Corder, took over.  While still running in the Top 3, Miguel’s run ended with mechanical failure.  Corder, however, was not to be denied as he cruised to victory ahead of 2015 point runner up Andrew Boydstun and Misty Warren.  Warren had finished third in the race in late October as well.  Third ranked point racer Clinton Massey, who has bought a Hobby Stock for next season, finished fourth as Hanford racer Trisha Mezyk completed the Top 5.  Greg Noah was sixth ahead of late October winner Kylie Conway, Josh Nichols, Raymond Shoemaker and Bill Winchester.

Before placing third in the Hobby Stock feature, Denman turned in an impressive drive in collecting the American Stock feature win.  The Street Stock veteran also won the American Stock Main Event a night earlier in Bakersfield.  Bakersfield racer Dakota Brown finished second with Kevin Johnston grabbing the final podium position.  New champion Jeff Lloyd settled for fourth ahead of Kevin Shields, Mike Waters, Mike Conway, Brian Childress, John Apple and Bob Ellis.

Keith Heaslet returned in a Central Valley Tank (IMCA Stock Car rules) and won their Main Event ahead of 2015 IMCA State champion Troy Patee.  One of the biggest boosters of this division, Street Stock veteran Dave Bauer, finished third ahead of Gina Hendrix.  Bakersfield Hobby Stock ace Rick Childress competed, but he was disqualified.

Several CDCRA drivers competed in the Dwarf Car show, which had full programs on Friday and Saturday.  The Friday turnout was a bit bigger with Dan Zuger winning that Main Event ahead of Johnathan Henry and D.J. Lebow.  Matt Hagerman finished fourth ahead of Brandon Wiley, Tommy Velasquez, Gage Chek, Dan Zuger, Nick Velasquez and Ira Henry.  NCDCA Dwarf  Car star  Shawn Jones won the Saturday feature ahead of Haggerman.  Lebow made it a double third place weekend ahead of J. Henry, Ira Henry and Zuger.

The Mini Dwarf Car divisions were in action on Friday night.  In the Sr. Dwarf class for the older kids, Kercie Jung grabbed the victory ahead of 2015 champion Ryley Millard.  Austin Martin finished third ahead of Seth Wise, Madison Myers and Riley Massey.  Jaiden Butler won the Jr. Dwarf Main Event ahead of Trenton Eurto.  2015 point runner up Mallory Meyers finished third ahead of Tommy Swearingin, Andrew Martin and 2015 champion Allie Jung.

The track held a pair of races earlier in the month.  On November 7th, 2015 champion Raymond Noland won the Hobby Stock feature ahead of John Collins and Clinton Massey.  Robert Jackson collected his first Mini Stock feature win ahead of Shawn Schwartzenberger and Kit Murphy.  Roy Atchison won the Super 4 Mini Stock feature ahead of Kit Murphy and Adell Shelton.  There was also a Veteran’s Day race held during the week that followed.  Karl Noland won their Hobby Stock Main Event ahead of R. Noland and Gene Glover.  Andy Boydstun won the Mini Stock feature ahead of Clinton Massey and Schwartzenberger.  Atchison grabbed the Super 4 Mini Stock Main Event win ahead of Murphy and Gary Meeks Jr.

News & Rumors

With all due respect to my good friend Don O'Keefe Jr., I decided to borrow his column again.  The laptop is currently working, so I figured I would write something while I could.

The word just came out via Ron Brown on Facebook that the West Coast Nationals at Antioch Speedway is canceled this year.  Considering the race would have taken place on January 1 and there has been no publicity at all, this was the best decision.  The overall event last January was not a financial success.  It had been announced a couple months earlier, though not really hyped like it should have been back then.

There are a lot of rumors and very little news out there, which leads to lots of speculation.  The rumor mill has already circulated a few stories.  We can confirm that there had been negotiations between Oval Motorsports and an interested party to sell their stake in Merced Speedway.  Our own speculation is that no deal has been made, and we question whether the original two interested parties are even at the table any more.
However, a persistent rumor is that Ed Parker, a past Merced racer who's son Cody races Hobby Stocks, has in fact made the deal.  This was said to have taken place in a meeting recently in Reno, where Parker was reportedly also working to secure an IMCA sanctioning for the track.  Again, the continued silence is fuel for speculation and rumors.  Hopefully, the real news will be forthcoming.

While we wait on actual news regarding Merced, we've heard that Chowchilla became available to potential new promoters at the end of November.  There's been lots of speculation as to whether anybody would even take a shot at that track at this point.  It is a track in need of TLC and a leader who would be in it for the long haul.  As luck would have it, we just got the latest hot rumor regarding a promoter at Chowchilla. Like Jack Stanford, he is a local with a racing background.

Rumor has it that Joe Diaz Jr., a racer with an extensive back ground, has thrown his hat into the ring.  We do know that he has expressed an interest in this track in the past.  Does he want it now?  We also know that Joe is a successful racing promoter already as the man who established the successful Chowchilla Barn Burner racing series during the winter.  It is this writer's belief that it will take a local who is committed to the day to day routine and willing to work with the community to make the track pop.  We believe Joe to be a worthy promoter for the big track.

All this talk of Oval Motorsports potentially scaling back may fuel speculation of the retirement of John M. Soares.  While that is always a possibility, we don't expect that to be the case.  Considering the year John has had with the health scare of his wife Donna, it's amazing that he was able to focus on racing at all this past season.  John did good things in The Valley, including keeping Merced Speedway from closing, but there are reasons for him to pull out and let the locals take it from there.  He can concentrate on has track of 18 seasons, Antioch Speedway, while considering the possibility that he may getting another track, which is near and dear to him.

Another rumor, one that has been cleared up, is the cancellation of the West Coast Nationals race at Antioch and Merced.  As there is not currently a publicity person at Antioch and Merced, no word has been put about what would have been the second annual big money event.  Considering that we are a little more than three weeks away from that race, this was the best move.  We've heard the races last year did not make money, and this one had money loser written all over it.

We've been informed via Facebook by Ron Brown that a schedule for the Oval Motorsports tracks(s) will be forthcoming.  With the January race off the schedule, focus can now be placed on the January 23rd banquet and making it a success.  From everything we've been hearing, lots of tickets are being reserved, and we have to give a major assist to Ron Brown.

This will, of course, lead to speculation about rules and divisions and all of that.  It was pointed out by Brown that Soares will make rules announcements at the banquet, but we are hopeful that there won't be a bunch of big changes.  One thing people will be watching for is whether IMCA will be a part of Antioch and Merced (if Merced is still part of Oval Motorsports).  We've heard enough to know that the powers that be felt that they weren't getting enough bang for the buck for that sanctioning.  Plus, they felt that had they had the membership money from the two IMCA classes, the banquet they are having on January 23rd never would have been in doubt in the first place.

Would the lack of IMCA hurt the Modified classes at Antioch?  That is a matter of opinion.  There were a lot of people at Antioch racing for IMCA points, and most of the ones racing for points would have been doing so regardless of the IMCA sanctioning.  Our guess is that car count would not be adversely effected by the lack of an IMCA sanctioning.

A picture posted on Facebook a few days ago has caused some speculation about two "rival" promoters working together again for the good of racing.  In the picture, John Prentice of Prentice Motorsports Group and John M. Soares of Oval Motorsports are sitting together and clowning around a bit.  The date in which this picture was taken was not mentioned, fueling speculation as to when it was taken and could it be recent.

Let's skip past the the talk about why these two were at odds and get to the good speculation.  We've always made no secret of the fact that we are for track unity and the idea that Antioch, Watsonville, Merced, Petaluma and Chowchilla have a history of accomplishing good things when they have worked together through the years.  Obviously, Prentice is the man to go to as the one who runs the King Of The West, Civil War and Hunt Sprint Car Series.  Soares, meanwhile, has a good reputation of putting on big Modified races and is the last person standing in the Bay Area with a Late Model program.  They both have something to offer each other, and the fans and racers would be the winners.

The black mark against Prentice from his detractors is that he could care less about Stock Car racing.  We don't necessarily believe that, but the cryptic announcement placed on the Ocean Speedway Facebook page during the Pat Pettit Memorial race weekend, announcing an All Star Modified Series, suggests that he is looking to do something for those racers.  The fact that he chose "All Star" as a name in light of the fact that Oval Motorsports uses All Star in the sanctioning of its other classes, raises speculation that Prentice was looking to get the attention of Soares.

If Antioch and Merced have some drivers who might be interested in supporting a Modified series involving Watsonville (and possibly Petaluma and Stockton), Prentice has something Antioch fans want and Soares might be interested in.  That would be the KoW 410 Sprint Cars and Civil War 360 Sprints.  Perhaps the Spec Sprints of Antioch could get a date or two for the Hunt series, which is something we have endorsed all along.  Antioch needs Sprint Car dates after the apparent loss of the World of Outlaws.  The question is, was that really a recent photo, and whether or not it was, could these two promoters work together for the good of racing?

As we near the end of this speculative column, we want to again take a moment to appreciate some people who have been in racing for the long haul.  One division with two long time veterans in it at Antioch is Limited Late Models.  And, at the top of that division's win list you will find Mike Gustafson and Larry Damitz,  Damitz is 86 years old and the reigning champion.  His career started back in 1954, and he's been racing every year since.  Gustafson started racing at Antioch in the mid 1970's and remains a regular.

For that matter, the Limited Late Models chief instigator back in 2000, and the man helping spread the word about the Oval Motorsports banquet, Ron Brown, just reached retirement age this year.  Ron has been a part of the family at Antioch Speedway every year since he started racing back in the 1970's.  Dwarf Car veteran Charlie "The Hammer" Correia is 77 years old and goes back at least through the 1970's.  He was involved in a scary crash at Merced this year.

We don't take it for granted that they are racing.  We appreciate seeing them.  Certainly, Damitz is an inspiration to us all.  And, we can't help but smile when we see a name like Shawn McCoy still on the list at Petaluma, Bob Williamson at Merced, Brent Kaeding with KoC, Floyd Alvis at BCRA, Karl Noland at Porterville and other long time racers.  These are the guys you still see on the roster of your favorite track, even if you are gone for a few years.

It's been mentioned on this site before, but families are a vital part of racing.  There are many second, third and fourth generation families at these tracks, and they are a big reason the sport still lives.  And, that brings us back to the man we've written about many times, John M. Soares.  Now in his 70's, we marvel that he continues to do this promoting thing and has even gotten back behind the wheel again.  At some point, John and the other people of his era will retire.  Some will say good riddance or something negative, but we will just say thank you.

I don't take it for granted when I see Damitz wheeling his #15 car to another win.  I know I am witnessing something special, and I treasure my interactions with him.  I don't take it for granted all of the things Soares and his father and brother did for the sport.  They risk the money, they frequently take the blame for all that goes wrong but not a lot of credit for the good that happens.  Somebody has to take the financial risk to open a track, and the Soares family has been doing that for decades.

As somebody who respects tradition, I do see John as the last of an era.  A new leader will eventually have to emerge to guide things in a sport that has to adapt to a changing world.  I can see a few potential leaders at Antioch that give me hope that it will continue when John steps aside.  I believe they can do it.  Regardless of where I am when that day comes, I will always respect what John and his family have done for racing.  Though I won't ignore the negatives, I will not pretend all of the good things he's done through the years never happened either.

The column itself has been a bit of news and a bit of rumors, but we'll end with a few things and let you decide what they mean.

A past "Promoter Of The Year" award winner has his sights set on a track that he may be taking over in Oregon.

Management at Ocean Speedway will be taking steps to show the Stock Car crowd that that style of racing is important to them too.

The effort to bring racing to the Stadium Oval at Sacramento Raceway may have hit a snag.

The Nor Cal Hardtop effort may have a leadership shakeup.

We've been hearing of a few race tracks going year to year with threats, but we may finally lose one of them within the next two years.

The 305 Race Saver Sprint Cars will add at least one new track to the 2016 schedule as division continues to grow,

Two Bay Area tracks will be aligned by 2017.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Pit Stops Column And More

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

The DCRR Racing Radio Show

The Editor's Viewpoint For Thanksgiving Can Be Viewed HERE

Thankful, Not Complacent On Thanksgiving Can Be Viewed HERE  

Saturday night IMCA Modified Main Event From Bakersfield Thanksgiving Thunder can be views at HERE
Saturday Night Main Events From Porterville Turkey Shoot Races Can Be Viewed HERE:

Pit Stops

Two things attempted to derail this particular column.  The first was pretty big.  Since we spent the season using this laptop and carrying it around to hot spots at the track so we could file our articles after the races, it's pretty beat up.  Well, the screen just broke apart.  The part where you put it up or down broke last night, and now I must lean it against something to use it.  The OS has been acting up since the end of the season, so this laptop's days are numbered.  As I have no place to set up my work station, when this computer breaks, I am off line.

Secondly, As I was dealing with the first problem, I managed to lose the article I had written.  This should not have happened as I had saved it on my blog first, but it did.  I won't get into how it happened, but suffice it to say, I was not pleased.  So, I had to start over from scratch.

I am going to repost the link to the Go Fund Me page. 

It's http//

I really hate doing this, but I can use any help I can get.  It will go towards essentials I need as I try to pull myself up back on my feet.  Things could be a lot worse right now, but they also aren't as good as they could be.  It's work in progress.  Anyway, funds will go towards essentials needed for my day to day and possibly replacing this laptop so I can keep writing.

In the meantime, there's a few things to talk about, including banquet news for Oval Motorsports, race track news and a bit regarding my future in racing.  Also, I managed to use my smart phone to successfully do a racing radio show, which is included  in the post along with a second column I had written about a week ago.

Pit Stops

With no publicity team in place at the moment, removal of the social media pages and a myriad of questions regarding next season, Oval Motorsports put the word out through Ron Brown on Facebook that there would indeed be a banquet celebrating this season's accomplishments.  Brown made the announcement that the banquet would take place on January 23rd at the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds and would be an overall banquet that would include Antioch, Merced and Chowchilla drivers.

There have been questions as to why this was the case and some unhappy responses from the Merced area.  One of the biggest reasons was because having it all in one place would be easier to coordinate, plus the fact that last year's banquets were a money loser.  In fact, promoter John M. Soares wasn't planning to have a banquet at all this year but decided to give it a chance due to repeated inquiries from the racers.

Brown indicated that drivers needed to make their reservations by January 1st so that management could determine how much food to order and what awards to purchase.  He added that a low number of reservations could still mean a cancellation.  As of this writing, at least 40 tickets have been reserved so far, and that is probably a low estimation.  Antioch Speedway contact information is still available on the Oval Motorsports Page HERE for those looking to buy tickets to the banquet.

Brown also mentioned that any rules announcements would be made by Soares himself at the banquet.  Not much is anticipated in that area, but the banquet provides Soares with an opportunity to address the racers on the state of Oval Motorsports.

And, that is the big question on people's minds.  What is happening with Oval Motporsports?  It is anticipated that as of this writing Soares has declared his intentions to not return to Chowchilla Speedway.  The fairgrounds had given him until the end of last month to give them official word, and and fair management claimed that there had been interest expressed by others in running the track in 2016.  Whether Chowchilla holds at least some races for the 17th straight year remains to be seen.  If somebody is stepping forward to run the track, we should hear something in the near future.

The next question is about Merced Speedway.  Word is that there are two potential parties interested in buying Oval Motorsports out and taking over the track.  Negotiations have been ongoing with one of these groups since September.  As of this writing, no announcement has been made.  Will a deal even be done, or will Oval Motorsports return to Merced for a seventh season?  Again, if something is going going to happen here, a deal will need to be made soon.  Racing season typically starts in March, and that's not including all of the preparations that are needed to get ready.

There have been rumors concerning Oval Motorsports and an unnamed track.  What will happen there is still unclear, but a move to leave Merced might signal that something could happen in the not too distant future.  All of this is speculation, and that doesn't even address the questions about the schedule for 2016.  Word is that it is still in the works and could be announced at any time, likely before the banquet.  As mentioned before, Oval Motorsports is currently without a Publicity Director, which is effecting the release of information.

Getting back to the banquet announcement, one of the things that Brown suggested was the possibility that the drivers, crews and fans might get a chance to vote on awards for Best Appearing Car and Most Improved Driver.  Including the Rookie Of The Year Awards, that would make three special awards for the divisions.  For years, The DCRR made its announcements on who we thought deserved the awards, and we even sponsored awards at multiple banquets.  It's been a while, but here are our award winners for the Oval Motorsports tracks in 2015.  We'll just have to wait until January 23rd to see who officially wins.

Rookie Of The Year

These are the drivers who had great debuts in their respective divisions.  At Antioch, we had Marcus Smith (Wingless Spec Sprint), Danny Malfatti (DIRTcar Late Model), Nick Viscusi III (IMCA Modified), Patti Ryland (IMCA Sport Mod), Jordan Swank (Hobby Stock), Miranda Chappa (Dwarf Car), Ricky Brophy (Winged 360 Sprint Car) and Ryan Cherezian (Limited Late Model).

At Merced, we had Harley Turner (IMCA Modified), Josh Hensley (IMCA Sport Mod), Jennifer Corder (Hobby Stock), Natalie Waldrop (Mini Stock) and Chester "Buddy" Kniss (Dwarf Car).

At Chowchilla, Danny Luukkonen (IMCA Modified), Josh Hensley (IMCA Sport Mod), Bobby Williams (Hobby Stock) and Mike Congdon (Mini Stock).

Notably, Malfatti had rookie seasons simultaneously in Late Models and Winged 360 Sprints (at Watsonville) and did well in both classes.  Smith and Swank ranked runner up in their respective divisions, while Ryland ranked third in her division.  Corder followed up her Mini Stock runner up season by finishing second in Hobby Stocks, while Hensley was Merced's top rookie and track champion.  Waldrop came on late to make the Top 5 in points.  Like Hensley, Luukkonen was also a rookie champion.

Most Improved Driver

At Antioch, we had Bobby Motts Jr. (IMCA Modified), Al Johnson (IMCA Sport Mod), Mark Garner (Limited Late Model), Chester Kniss (DIRTcar Late Model), Adam Teves (Dwarf Car), Frank Furtado (Hobby Stock), Jake Haulot (Winged 360 Sprint Car) and Rick Panfili (Wingless Spec Sprint).

At Merced, we had Ricky Thatcher (IMCA Modified), Mark Odgers (IMCA Sport Mod), Austin Van Hoff (Hobby Stock) and Darren Miguel (Mini Stock).  At Chowchilla we had Nastasia Dodd (IMCA Sport Modified).

There were some drivers making really great strides this season, and some of these choices weren't easy ones.  Garner had an amazing season with his best ranking ever at Antioch, and he did it while his father, Jerry Garner, battled Cancer and passed away.  His efforts were dedicated to his dad, who was on hand to celebrate his Merced championship. Teves, Motts and Haulot were so impressive that they all could have won their respective championships.  Though Panfili was third a year earlier, this season saw him win his first heat race and enjoy a career best second place feature finish.

At Merced, Thatcher climbed from 13th to a tie for a second in the Modified standings as he emerged as a threat.  Miguel went from seventh to the most dominant Mini Stock racer at Merced this season, while Van Hoff climbed from 19th to third with a pair of feature wins.  Odgers ranking second was no big surprise, but it was his best Sport Mod season to date.

Hard Luck Driver

At Antioch, we had Danny Jones (Hobby Stock), Mike Salazar  (IMCA Modifed), John Keith (Limited Late Model), Jack Haverty (Dwarf Car), Dennis Souza (DIRTcar Late Model), Tim Hammett (IMCA Sport Mod), Chris Magoon (Winged 360 Sprint Car) and Alan Miranda (Wingless Spec Sprint).

At Merced, we had Scott Van Gelder (Limited Late Model), Tim Prothro (IMCA Sport Mod),Kevin Lockerby (Mini Stock), John MacDougall (IMCA Modified) and Robbie Loquaci (Hobby Stock).

At Chowchilla, we had Randy Brown (IMCA Modified), Keith Brown Jr. (IMCA Sport Mod), Gary Hildebrand (Hobby Stock) and Alisa Caldwell (Mini Stock).

Jones had a fast car and had several second place finishes.  However motor problems always ended his bid for victory and eventually dropped him from second to fifth in the standings.  Haverty had a hard crash and a flip sideline him for several weeks.  Miranda had a flip sideline him for a week and led a race for 19 and a half laps before being taken out by the second place driver.  Souza had all kinds of bad luck but came back most every race even after a rollover.  Hammett was a rookie who never could get a handle on his car.

Prothro probably would have been a regular at Merced, but a hard crash in Turn 4 destroyed the front end of his car.  Van Gelder lost second in points and fell out of the Top 3 after injuries sustained in a heat race crash.  MacDougall dropped out of the point lead after destroying his car in a crash at Petaluma.  At Chowchilla, K. Brown was the only driver with a shot at Fred Ryland, but his season ended when he blew his motor.  R. Brown had a nightmare night that saw him flip his car and take a piece of the pit gate home with him on the way out.  Caldwell was another driver who destroyed her car in a crash.

Best Appearing Car
This was difficult to pick with the beautiful cars we had out there in some classes

At Antioch, we had Natalie Perry (Hobby Stock), Ron Brown/Al Sotomayor (IMCA Sport Mod), Lori Brown/Jim Freethy (Limited Late Model), Billy Macedo/Keith Shipherd (Wingless Spec Sprint), Dan Gonderman (Winged 360 Sprint), Travis Mayerhoff (DIRTcar Late Model) and

At Merced, we had Rick Diaz (IMCA Sport Mod), Jeff Lacy (Hobby Stock), Jennifer Corder (Mini Stock), Bill Egleston (IMCA Modified) and Mark Garner (Limited Late Model).

At Chowchilla, we had Marisa Odgers (IMCA Sport Mod), Josh Vogt (IMCA Sport Modified), Alex Odishoo (Mini Stock) and Robbie Loquaci (Hobby Stock).

Really, there were several drivers who made the effort to have a nice looking car, and it's a shame that the tracks didn't do a Best Appearing Car contest at the start of the season, when the cars were not bent.  Any choices made for winners will upset some who felt there were better looking cars.  The fact is, there were several drivers who deserved this honor, and we gave it our best in making our choices.  A few times we couldn't make a decision and made it a tie.

Team Players
For efforts that helped make the season better

Destiny Carter, Zoe Sandoval, Jim Thompson, Robert Kempf, Carl Johnson, Brad Coelho, Dale Falkenberg, Jim Robbins, DNF Crew, Paul Gould, Sonora Sports Photography, Racing Edge Videos.

There are many people who play a part in making the show happen, and the fact is there are names we are probably forgetting here.  Still, we want to try to acknowledge some of them.  Carter and Sandoval were Merced and Chowchilla's two biggest boosters as these two posted pictures and news to spread the word and create some excitement.  Thompson was a man behind the scenes sponsoring things, often times anonymously, but it's people like him who make this sport successful.

Kempf was not just a popular flag man at Antioch, but he coordinated the candy and Hot Wheels giveaways at the track.  Falkenberg did the giveaways at Merced and is another person who has helped out several racers with sponsorship.  Johnson did more than just flag the races at Merced and Chowchilla, he was the go to guy in The Valley for Oval Motorsports.  Coelho's style as chief steward created a positive environment at all three tracks.  Robbins helped at all three tracks in addition to his work a maintenance man at Antioch and as somebody who lent a hand to help get cars to the track.

The DNF Crew worked hard at Antioch and in visits to Merced and Chowchilla to keep the races moving.  Gould and Sonora Sports Photography did a great job of documenting the action in pictures and video.  Racing Edge Videos was there to to take it up a notch with quality video of the action at Antioch and Watsonville as well.

Honestly, there are many other names that are probably worthy of mentioning, particularly down in The Valley, that we're not remembering.  Without each and every one of them, the show wouldn't have been as good as it was.  It takes a team to make it happen.

Sportsman Of The Year

Chester Kniss, Josh Hensley.

Kniss was one of those guys who stepped in and made a difference when called upon.  In addition to sponsoring a couple races through his Delta Transmission business, Kniss sponsored several race cars and generally brought a positive attitude to the races.  At Merced, Hensley's team fielded multiple cars every week, and he also sponsored several teams through his Main Street Garage business.

DCRR Award Of Excellence

Fred Ryland

Without the people who put the cars together and sell the parts, this sport wouldn't happen.  At Antioch, we have Ryland Racing.  Fred tries to make good deals for the racers to keep them coming back to the track, and he had an amazing season in the Sport Modified division.  The Ryland's have been a positive part of racing at Antioch since they started racing.

Lifetime Achievement

Jerry Garner, Debbie Clymens, Bob Williamson, Doug Williams

Racing lost a legend this year in Jerry Garner.  In addition to all his feature wins in Sportsman and Stock Cars and 1969 State championship, Jerry's legacy in racing continues with his son Mark in Limited Late Models.  Debbie Clymens started racing about the time her husband Tom retired in the late 1970's, and she had a reputation for not backing down to anybody.  A front runner in Street Stocks, Late Models, Dirt Modifieds and Figure 8's, Debbie has since retired, but her son Trevor still races and her grand daughters are just getting started.  As we often say, families are a vital part to keeping the sport alive today.

There's not a lot of fanfare behind Bob Williamson.  He's not really seen as the big star at Merced Speedway, but he's been running up front for years.  He started racing back in the 1970's, and his red and white #19 car is still a fixture in the Modified division, where he has won two championships among several Top 5 seasons. 

Doug Williams is a legend at Merced Speedway.  He's the only Merced Speedway regular to win a NASCAR Regional championship, and to this day, he is one of the most respected people in the area.  Doug's tenure as GM at Merced was very popular as judged by the high Modified and Sport Mod car counts he maintained in his last season.

These are the people high on our list for awards this season.  With the banquet coming up on January 23rd, we'll find out who takes them home.  We had intended to do an Oval Motorsports Yearbook, but we are unable to do so as our editing tools are not readily available at the moment.  In fact, given the state of this laptop computer, our updates on the blog could also come to a halt unless our situation changes.

At this point, most of the tracks are finalizing their schedules for the coming season and should be releasing them within the next few weeks.  The World of Outlaws recently announced their schedule for the new season, and no Antioch dates were listed.   There are also reports that the Gold Cup Race Of Champions could be moving from Chico to Calistoga next year, which could be a contributing factor as to why the September date at Antioch may not happen.  What role Sprint Cars will play at Antioch next year remains to be seen.

Perris Auto Speedway is the second California track to announce a 2016 schedule as Hayfork announced its schedule a few weeks ago.  PR man Mike Adaskaveg had hinted back in October that Oval Motorsports might release its schedule in November.  Negotiations regarding Merced and the Chowchilla decision may have contributed to the slight delay.   Last report was that no major changes in divisions competing at Antioch were forthcoming.  Time will tell.

The West Coast Nationals event also remains a mystery following Brown's Facebook post a couple weeks ago that suggested the January 1 race was still a go, weather permitting.  That is all we currently know about the race as this reporter is not officially involved as of this writing.  Two offers have been made for 2016, and once we get all of the details and make a decision, we will report it here.  Of course, lack of a working computer may prevent that.

For whatever reason, Porterville flew in under the radar in November.  We are still waiting for results from last week, but indications are that they did all right with the Hobby Stock-American Stock-Mini Stock program.  Merced Speedway was represented, and we can tell you that Chowchilla champion Chris Corder scored the big Mini Stock victory, while Merced champion Darren Miguel's race ended early after leading several laps.  The win for Corder, who was also the Merced point runner up, paid $600 and was the biggest win of his career as he prepares for a move up to Sport Mods.

There were several Merced racers in Porterville, but one disappointed racer was Steven Rodgers, who brought his yellow Mustang to the Hobby Stock show.  Rodgers has had his struggles this year and certainly wasn't expecting to set the track on fire.  He just wanted to have a fun weekend, but he was denied the opportunity to race by tech officials, who reportedly claimed his car was too unsafe.  We're all for building the racing program in Porterville, but this was a bid disappointing.  The Rodgers car was legal to race at several tracks this year.  By all accounts, however, the big Turkey Shoot race was once again a success, another bit of news we're happy with.

The Challenges Of Building Things Up 
Can Be Rewarding And Frustrating

One of the opportunities that is opening up for me, should I return for a 2016 season somewhere in racing, is sort of a project.  It's a racing program in need of a little TLC.  I'm hesitant to get too much into the details as of now, but it's a challenge with lots of potential.  I'll be honest with you, I like the challenge.  I know the risks involved.

First is the obvious.  You can fail and fall flat on your face.  People will laugh at you and say, "I told you so."  Some people will put you down every step of the way while you are doing it.  You're doing it wrong, you see.  Or, you screwed up somewhere, so it must have been intentional.  As they say, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."  I love the challenge of building something up, especially if nobody thinks it can happen.

The other thing that happens that I have first hand experience with is that people want to be on the bandwagon when it starts to take off.  It costs nothing to get on board once it's proven to be a good thing.  Some of those very "nay sayers" are the ones who want to enjoy the success.  The bad part is when they start pointing a finger at you as the person who is messing it all up when you were one of the ones in the trenches fighting the hardest to make it special.

I've written about this in Just A Kid From The Grandstands, so I won't go into it too heavily, but I was hooked on the NCMA from the moment Mike Johnson told me what could be.  I liked the rules set, the idea of open wheel racing for the working man and woman.  They only had two cars at the time.  There was no bandwagon then.  People hated Mike.  That's another story, but I admired Mike's tenacity, even if he gave me grief at times.  Mike was a racer and a hustler.  To race where he raced, he had to be.  I did it for no pay, and none was offered either.  I did it for the love of the sport.

What do you do when you have no cars?  How do you build it up?  I wrote a lot about any car, even the ones rumored to be coming.  I wrote about the ideas being proposed for the future.  I wrote about interesting things on the track.  Cars came.  Under the Jim Booth presidency, some of what Mike always talked about happened.  Cars started coming.  Jim's leadership made a difference.  Of course, this is where some of the disrespect started coming.  One of the racers brought a guy in from Nevada to report on the then record 20 car show.  I wasn't happy about it, but I didn't throw a fit about it the way another PR guy in the group would have a few years later.  I was happy knowing I played a part in building it up.

But, the NCMA was never quite what it could be.  Don O'Keefe Jr. had been called upon to start a class for John M. Soares at Antioch, and that, as you know, is the Wingless Spec Sprints.  But, it wasn't as simple as just taking over the NCMA.  It could have been.  There are some who wanted that group destroyed, but not Don and I.  We wanted a new class of Sprint Cars.  So, we started from the ground up.  Line by line, we wrote the rules.  Don and I had specific duties we needed to do from conception of the idea through that first season.  Plus, we had people trying to sabotage us.  I'm convinced that this would have failed had Don or I walked away that first year.

Why did we do it?  We wanted to make a positive difference in racing.  We wanted to make a class of Sprint Car that would appeal to Stock Car people too, a division for the budget minded.  I wanted to give Antioch Speedway something that would become a part of the track's great heritage.  I think we accomplished that and then some.  What eventually happened was Spec Sprints caught on at several tracks and are still there.  There have been some big races for this type of racing since then.  I'm very proud of what we did then, and I know the part I played in the PR department and announcing the first two seasons made a difference.

I watched Don pretty much get run out of the deal and have since heard his role in this thing down played by people who really know better.  I've even been told that I should "throw Don under the bus" to get ahead.  Sorry, I don't do that to my friends.  Besides, there would be no Spec Sprints without Don, plain and simple.  Who do you think came up with the name, which is still used in some places?  We didn't do this for ourselves.  We did it for racing.

My venture into The Valley was about making a difference at a time when I knew help was needed.  I knew Merced was in danger in 2001.  I attended the 18 car show in the stands with Tom Sagmiller.  But, I couldn't just laugh at the promoters and let a great tradition die.  I started writing articles then and started doing my audio calls until Matt of Matt & Glass got me the announcing gig with Johnny Sass.  My goal was to help make Merced a fun place to race again.  Car count more than doubled by season's end, attendance was up.  I'd like to think I played a part in that.

The sad part was being told before the 2002 season that my services were no longer needed.  I knew the war going on between the two tracks down there.  I just wanted to help them both and to heck with the feud.  I did it to make a difference in racing, not for the glory.  People wanted Merced to fail.  I didn't.  I wanted to be a part of the comeback.  I still announced there about once a month for the next two years and was to receive the Team Player Award in 2003.  Some people thought the track was inferior.  I heard the talk, and I strongly disagreed.

Chowchilla Speedway was the miracle that came in the wake of the loss of San Jose Speedway.  I took a lot of heat for going down there.  I was somehow betraying certain promoters for going there, even though it was my free time to use as I wanted.  I won't deny that I wanted to go there because it was fun at a time when I wasn't having much fun.  But, the idea that this track needed help to build up its name was my motivating factor.  Most of the surrounding promoters did not like this track or its promoter, but I saw the good in all of it.  Racing needed it.

The Valley was my racing sanctuary.  What undid it all for me was the feud that nobody would let go of.  We needed to get past it and build a working relationship between the two tracks for the good of racing.  That was one of my biggest disappointments in racing, that I couldn't help broker the peace.  I tried.  I wanted to build a two track series that would rival any place in the state.  It could have been big.  It should have been big, but it never happened.  Still, I'm proud to know I was a part in doing something good for racing.

Antioch is my home track, but going to The Valley showed that I could do what I do anywhere in racing and make a difference.  This is why anything is possible if I were to go elsewhere.  But, Antioch is the site of my biggest accomplishments.  Wingless Spec Sprints and the beginning of the Oval Motorsports era are my two proudest accomplishments.  Both didn't come easy and met with a lot of resistance.  Both were worth the effort.

People hated the loss of NASCAR and hated John M. Soares before he ever showed up to promote.  It was my job to show them that it would be alright.  John gave me a lot of good things to work with.  Those three years were the most successful time ever at that race track.  Record car counts, good crowds and even the nay sayers ended up getting on board in the end.  I loved the "us against them" vibe that first season, because we were building something they would become a fan of.  I was taking on more responsibility than ever, and I felt that what I was doing was an important ingredient in the track's success.  It drove me to work harder.

As I mentioned, it is when it becomes successful that others want to come on board and be a part of it.  In this case, people wanted me out of the picture because they had a guy they thought would make it better.  Of course, that didn't happen.  It started going down hill.  They found out two things.  It's not as easy as it looks, and it takes effort and passion to really make it pop.  I could be bitter about how it ended, but I'm not.  If I had it to do over again  (and I decided I was going down the racing path), I'd still do it.

The thing about building something up is that it's up to you to do the things that create the vibe that makes people want to be a part of it.  People aren't just going to come because it's there.  You have to give them a reason.  You have to make the right moves and you have to be ready to do what it takes, even when you may be getting tired or frustrated.  It can be exhausting, but when it's successful, it is an amazing feeling.  It's your reward.  The people that were in the trenches with you all share in that feeling of what you overcame to achieve the success.

There are some racing programs that need the TLC to get bigger and better.  I've been trying to help a few of them.  The offer that may be coming my way very soon is a definite challenge in a place I am not as familiar with.  However, I know what I would do to prepare myself for the challenge.  I've already formed a few ideas in my head, in case this is what I do.  It will take work, but the person I would be working with is good at what they do too.  Like me, this person tends to gravitate toward the challenges that people don't give a chance.  Sure, it could build my name if I am successful, but I look at it this way.  If we succeed, a racing program gets stronger.  Racers and racing fans could benefit from that for years to come.

I remain very proud of the good things I have been a part in helping create during my time involved in racing.  I believe I have more in me if the opportunity presents itself.  We'll just have to see what the future holds.