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

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

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Also, what could be a series of informative books...

Short Track History Project at Go Fund Me 

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The DCRR Racing Radio Show
Season Review Edition

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="" target="_blank">DCRR Racing Radio Show:  Episode 65 by href="" target="_blank">GenWhat

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.