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Modified Racing Continues To Be Key Part
Of Antioch Speedway Schedule
There has been lots of talk about Antioch Speedway and sanctioning for the Modified and Sport Mod divisions. Regardless of all of that, Modified racing has been an important part to this race track since 1990. In fact, this will be the 27th championship season for the Modified division at Antioch Speedway, making it the second longest run for any division at the track behind only the Street Stocks.
But, the Modifieds aren't the only division that will be there. The Sport Mod division returns for what will be its fifth championship season at the track. The Sport Mods are billed as the division that gives the drivers a cheaper alternative to getting into this style of racing. With 25 dates on the schedule, it will be the hardest working division at the track as well.
The Modifieds are running a more sensible schedule with just over a dozen races. This should help the track have a solid car count for the division this year. When you look at that roster back in 1990, there's one driver who was on it then and will probably be there at least some this year. That driver would be none other than the one who has won more Modified races than anybody in the track's history, five time champion Scott Busby.
Busby won his 5th division championship last year, and he didn't set out to do that. The fact was, he was just going to run a little bit, but he realized that the schedule worked with him enough that he could make every race. When you have Busby able to make every race, it's difficult to keep him out of the championship, and he won it again. He also picked up four of his all time division best 62 Modified feature wins last year, including the opening night of the Summer Nationals.
Weather Busby wants to go for a 6th championship or not remains to be seen, but there are some drivers to keep an eye on. With Troy Foulger, Kellen Chadwick and Nick DeCarlo lurking around in the area, you have to consider them a threat if they go for it. However, two time Petaluma champion DeCarlo and one time Antioch champion Chadwick are likely only to run occasionally as they chase the money races this year. The Bowers Racing team indicated that the four time champion Foulger will probably go after the money races as well.
Three drivers who could throw their hats in the ring are Aaron Crowell, Bobby Motts Jr. and Carl Berendsen II. Berendsen's credentials include the 2014 track championship and feature finishes as high as second last year. Crowell has won a track championship and he did it by defeating the track's greatest driver, in some people's opinions, J.D. Willis. He also impressed with two feature wins last season. Motts, a past Street Stock champion at Antioch, offered Busby his strongest challenge for the title before settling for a still career best 2nd last year.
Three other drivers we wouldn't bet against are Ed Daviess, Mike Salazar and Shawn DeForest. Late Model veteran DeForest and well respected car owner Jim Reed teamed up last season for a top five point season and a feature victory along the way. Daviess has finished as high as second in this division on multiple occasions and would definitely be a threat if he raced full time. Salazar has also been a top 5 driver in points and a feature winner, and he's another person who could make his presence known.
Another trio to keep an eye on are Chester Kniss, John McDougall and Jeff Thomas. Kniss is coming off of a respectable top 5 season in the Late Models last year, but his Modified ran very strong in his late season starts. He's also won features in this division and Limited Late Models in the past. McDougall shot out of the gate like a cannonball at Merced Speedway and led nearly the first half of the season in Modified points last year before a crash at Petaluma took him out. He'll be coming back to focus on Antioch this year. Thomas is a star at both Petaluma and Antioch, and was a top 5 driver in the Modified in the past at Antioch as well as a main event winner last year.
Others to keep an eye on this year include last year's top rookie Nick Viscusi III, who was one of the top Hobby Stock drivers at Antioch in the past. Josh Combs, Terry Kaiser, past top 3 Modified driver Sean O'Gara, past top 10 Street Stock driver and past Modified feature winter Bill Wallace, second generation racer Gary Hetrick, Trent Wentworth, Brian Cass, the father son duo of Chris and Adam Elby, Clay Twigg and more. We even heard a rumor that second generation racer Keith Brown Sr. may be coming out of retirement to race.
It will be very interesting to see how the Sport Mod division handles the workload being thrown at them this year. This division is still being established at Antioch Speedway and had car counts in the double digits for most of the season last year. It was only when some dates were added later in the season that car count got a little bit shaky.
At the top of the heap is Fred Ryland, the defending Antioch champion and 2015 IMCA State titlist. Fred has been a force in every division in which he has competed at Antioch Speedway, and he won many main events at Antioch last season in his dominant performance. Not to be forgotten in the Ryland Racing stables is Fred's wife, Patti Ryland, who was last year's top rookie and ranked third in the standings with a feature win along the way.
Al Johnson, Chuck Golden and Paul Mulder are coming off of top 5 efforts from last season. In fact, Johnson ranks second in the standings and had a few top 5 feature finishes along my\\the way. He'll be hoping to finally get a feature victory this year, and it's a good bet that he could. Mulder was a feature winner last year and ranked as high as second before bad luck dropped him down to 5th. Dwarf Car graduate Golden finished as high as second, but he too had some problems down the stretch and fell back to forth with the surge of Patti Ryland.
Two family names that you've heard at Antioch Speedway for several years will be represented as Trevor Clemens, Ron Brown and Keith Brown Jr. will all be racing. Clymens was a feature winner and ranked top 10 in the points last year after taking several seasons off. Ron Brown had three second place finishes in his beautiful #3 car, and he too was in the top 10 though he took some races off due to health reasons. No relation to Ron, Keith Brown Jr. was ranked as high as second before a blown motor at Chowchilla sidelined him late in the season. He hopes to come back strong this year.
Three other drivers we'll be keeping an eye on our Anthony Giuliani, K.C. Keller and Tim Hammett. Hammett struggled mightily in his rookie season last year, but with a new car, he's hoping for better results this year. Giuliani had several feature wins last year and crept up into the top 10 in the points late in the season. Keller was given the overall "Rookie Of The Year" award at the banquet as he kind of struggled at the start but ended strong with some top 5 feature finishes.
Other drivers we could see this year include top 10 driver from last year Al Sotamayor, past Hobby Stock champion and Sport Mod point runner up Megan Ponciano, the Kenny Swank car and more. We've heard that there are cars being built for this division, but we haven't been hearing who they are being built for.
The bottom line is that there will be plenty of Modified racing on tap at Antioch Speedway this year. That means plenty of exciting racing for the fans to enjoy. Promoter John M. Soares has been known to book special races for these divisions during the season, and that's not likely to change this year. For more information on these and other divisions, check the official Antioch Speedway page at www.antiochspeedway.com.
Sprint Cars? Antioch Speedway Has Them In 2016
When the 2016 schedule was released for Antioch Speedway last month, one big question was answered. There will be Sprint Car racing at Antioch Speedway, and fans will get both Winged & Wingless Sprint Car racing several times during the course of the season.
It's a tale of two different Sprint Car divisions at Antioch Speedway. It was back in 1999 when the Wingless Spec Sprint division began in California at Antioch. As the years went by, several race tracks got involved with this division. Wingless Spec Sprints will begin their 18th consecutive season at Antioch Speedway this year.
For years, promoter John M. Soares wanted to start his own Winged 360 class in Antioch. Because he was working closely with his father at Petaluma Speedway, John couldn't just start his own class. He basically had to share the cars with Petaluma. After the race track was expanded prior to the 2009 season, John had the goal in mind of starting his own Sprint Car division.
The biggest challenge in starting this class is building your own car count. Petaluma Speedway has an established class that goes back to 1989. So, many of the drivers in the Bay Area head to Petaluma. However, there have always been several drivers sprinkled throughout Contra Costa County who had cars. A budding effort began in the mid 1990's to start the Sprint Cars, but NASCAR management abandoned the idea after one season.
Though there are critics saying that Antioch shouldn't start their own class, Soares has been committed to starting this thing up. 2016 is the third consecutive year in which Antioch will be crowning a Winged 360 Sprint Car champion. In fact, the track is beginning its most ambitious schedule yet for this division with 13 race dates.
The big question on everybody's mind is who will run this division? The core of drivers committed to running this class is still growing, but dedicated. Included are three drivers who have won Winged 360 Sprint Car championships at Antioch, Art McCarthy, Chris Magoon and defending champion Shawn Arriaga. This trio is anticipated for the coming season.
Having had a successful Wingless Spec Sprint career, and he will be driving a Spec Sprint some this year, Dan Gonderman will return with his Winged 360 Sprint Car. He came very close to winning his first Winged Sprint Car main event last year, but he had trouble with lapped traffic down the backstretch midway through the race while leading.
Young up and comer Jake Haulot picked up two feature wins in ranking third in the point standings last season behind Arriaga and McCarthy. Late last year, we heard that Jake would be joined by his brother as the team fields two cars this season. However, we didn't hear if the team was going to commit to a full season at Antioch Speedway as Jake likes to travel and gain experience against other racers.
The Brophy team fielded two Sprint Cars last year, and young Ricky Brophy won the division's "Rookie Of The Year" honors. Ricky struggled to keep the car running last year, and his college studies could affect how much racing he does this year.
In the two Brophys, Gonderman, Magoon and Roy Fisher, you had drivers with Spec Sprint backgrounds. Soares admitted last year that one of his influences in starting this class was the fact that several Spec Sprint drivers wanted to put the wings on their cars and do this. Fisher had a decent showing in 2014, but word last year was that he actually sold his Winged Sprint Car.
The challenge is building a car count that could maintain ten to a dozen cars per race during the 13 race season. It's uncertain whether Antioch can pull this off. If it is to happen, more support is needed. There are a few drivers who could support Antioch more often, but it's unknown whether they will.
For starters, Shawn Arriaga had put together a car for his father, returning Super Modified racer Fred Arriaga. Fred was scheduled to make his return last season, but Shawn blew the motor up hot lapping the car the week before Fred was to return. Shawn had contemplated possibly switching that car over to a Spec Sprint this year, so it's not known to this writer what will happen with that car.
Two drivers who at one time were competing for the top five in the points last year yet fell off late in the season were Chase Wood Sr. and Brandon Powell. Powell was focusing on his championship effort in the Winged Econo Sprint division up at Chico. After some mechanical problems in his last visit at Antioch, he didn't come back.
Going back to the 1980's, Late Model racer Doug Timmons and his nephew Dave Timmons were supporters of Antioch Speedway. Having had success in Micro Sprints, Dave's son Ryan Timmons moved up to the Sprint Car class last season and made one appearance at Antioch. He lives in the area, but he seems to prefer to travel around to the other tracks. Another driver with family ties in open wheel racing going back years is Robby McMahon. Robby made a few starts last season and seemed to be gradually getting better.
So, who will commit to racing at Antioch Speedway in the track's attempt to establish a show that will rival the division at other tracks? One driver who picked up a pair of victories in Antioch in 2009 and really likes racing at the track is past Marysville champion Jeremy Burt. Might he decide to race more often at Antioch this season?
The one thing that could affect the driver's decision to come out and race this class at Antioch is how much it will pay. There are announcements forthcoming from track management, but we have something to base speculation on. Despite a less than spectacular car count last season, Soares continued to pay $1,200 to win and a minimum of $150 to start the main event. It's obvious that John wants this class to be successful at Antioch, so hopefully more drivers will come on board and support this effort.
The Wingless Spec Sprint division is a different animal. Last year, car count was rocked by rule changes that took place a month and a half before the season began. The changes were designed to make the cars more affordable and competitive, and they seemed to work. At a low point, only 5 cars showed up for a race, but the division was getting 12 to 14 per race for the last few races of the season.
There is no question that there are some good drivers coming in to support the Wingless Spec Sprint effort in Antioch this season. Not the least of which is the father-son duo of Jim Perry Jr. and Jimmy Perry III. They rank first and third, respectively, on the division's all time win list at Antioch, and both are past champions. The Perrys emerge as the obvious favorites to win the track championship this year.
But if they think it is going to be easy, there may be one driver out there who could stop them. This would be two time champion Billy Macedo, who won two main events last season. We hadn't heard whether Billy is planning on running every race, but if he does, it's going to be interesting. Kyle Bakkie might be considered the driver to beat coming off of his stellar championship effort, but indications were that he was going to focus more on his studies this year.
From the Smith Racing Team, young Marcus Smith got a good ride driving for Richard Basden in the #20 Spec Sprinter. Marcus was putting together a new car for the season to back up his second place ranking and "Rookie Of The Year" season. That car is being driven by two time Spec Sprint champion Dan Gonderman, but there has been no word as to whether Gonderman will run every race in this division this year.
From the Dwarf Car ranks, young Adam Teves and Miranda Chappa are both fielding Spec Sprinters in their rookie seasons this year. Adam had a very impressive Dwarf Car season last year that saw him win multiple main events and rank second in the standings behind his father, David Teves.
But, the talent pool doesn't end there. There are several hard chargers expected the wheel Spec Sprinters this season. On the heels of his second straight third place season, division veteran Rick Panfili will return to see if he can do it again. Rick nearly won his first career main event last season, and he'll be hot on the trail of that win this season.
Another top 5 driver from last season, Alan Miranda, should be back in action this year. By all rights, Miranda should have had a win last season, but bad luck struck at the wrong time. James East, a top 10 driver last season, did win a main event last year, and he'll be back to try and do it again this season.
NFL alumni Jeremy Newberry is expected to do some racing this year, and he will be a hard charger. Newberry raced hard last year when he was there and finished as high as second. Speaking of hard chargers, another past top 5 ranked driver, Roy Fisher, still has a car, and he'll be somebody to watch in the battle for victories this season. Fisher won two main events last season.
These are just some of the drivers we anticipate racing Wingless Spec Sprint Cars at Antioch Speedway, and there are other cars in the works as well. It should be a good 18th season for this division in Antioch, where the division began.
So, track management is firmly committed to building a Winged 360 Sprint Car class and making a stronger Wingless Spec Sprints division. Spec Sprints are poised for a strong season, and it will be interesting to see how the winged effort grows in its third consecutive points campaign. For further information, check out the official Antioch Speedway website at www.antiochspeedway.com.
Street Stocks Live On In Hobby Stocks At Antioch Speedway
When the Hobby Stock division started in Antioch Speedway back in 1995, it was viewed as the heir apparent to the Street Stock division. The Street Stock division was still pretty solid at the time, and there were those that wondered if we really needed the Hobby Stocks. It turns out we did.
The Street Stock division was merged into the Limited Late Model division to form one class in 2010, leaving the Hobby Stocks as the only Streets Stock style division. Basically, the Hobby Stock division of 2016 is pretty much the Street Stocks of the early 1990's.
Rule changes with the Hobby Stock division just prior to the 2015 season left the car count in disarray. At one point, car count couldn't even get to 10 cars. However, things began to rebound by season's end. Not helping matters was the fact that the Hobby Stock division was the workhorse division of Antioch Speedway last year with 23 races.
This is a transitional season for the Hobby Stock division as three time champion Kimo Oreta makes his move up to the Limited Late Model division. Oreta moves up as the all time winner in Hobby Stock division history at Antioch Speedway with over 20 wins. With his departure, the big question is who will win the championship this year?
One of the obvious candidates is the Myers Racing team with husband-wife duo of Brad and Melissa Myers. Both drivers are past Hobby Stock division champions, and Melissa is a past Street Stock champ as well. In fact, Melissa was the point leader after three early season wins last year before she opted to bail on the point race. If either or both of these drivers decides that they want to race for points this year, they will be tough to beat.
Two other past champions who could make their presence known are Dan McCown and Chris Sorensen. McCown probably won't race for points, but it's a bet that he'll be a threat to win when he does race. Sorensen appears to be gearing up for a run at points this year, and he was a two time feature winner last year in his top 10 point season.
Then, you have three drivers who ranked in the top 5 last season to keep an eye on. First, there is runner up and "Rookie Of The Year" Jordan Swank. Not to be lost in the shuffle is his brother in law, Michael Cooper. If nothing else, both drivers will be going for their first career feature wins after finishing as high as second last season, and it's a good bet that both of them will be able to win.
Another driver to keep an eye on is Stock Car veteran Danny Jones. Danny ranked second in points last year before his mechanical problem sidelined him for some races. It seemed like every time he was poised for feature victory, something bad happened. He did, however, have six second place feature finishes in his fifth ranked season.
Chris Long returned to his Hobby Stock roots in the former Robert Ackerman car last year and finished as high as second in the main event. He is hoping to make a splash in the point race and be a contender for main event victories.
Two other drivers ranked in the top 10 last season who could be contenders are Natalie Perry and Robert Niven. This duo ranked 6th and 7th, respectively, last season and both drivers were contenders for feature wins and had top 5 feature finishes. If their cars are running strong, it would be foolish to count these two out in the quest for a main event victory.
The steady Frank Furtado surprised everybody last season with a third place point season. He didn't set the track on fire with high finishes, but he was there getting his points each and every week. He will be out to pick up the pace this year and show that his high ranking last year was no fluke.
A pair of feature winning cars from last year that should be back this year are at least one car from the Jennings Racing team and Chase Templeton. It's unclear if either of these teams will be racing for points, but they've already proven that they can win a main event.
Other drivers that we saw last year and should see this year include Mitchell Locicero, Jim Robbins and Russell Shearer. Locicero, who like Robbins ran the Super Hobby Stock division a few years back, kind of struggled to dial the bugs out of his car and will be hoping for better results this year. Robbins will be fielding his own car after driving the Lindsey Buirch car to a second and fourth place feature finish in his two starts last year. Shearer has been a competitor on and off at Antioch through the years, and he enjoyed a top 10 point season last year.
A full field of rookies in the division will include 2014 Mini Stock champion Brent Curren, 4th generation racer Billy Garner, Jessica Jones, Lindsey Buirch and Guy Ahlwardt. Curran looked impressive in the few starts he had last year, and he may be the driver to beat in this race. However, Garner has a good mentor in his corner in his father, Mark Garner. Ahlwardt will be driving a nice new car this year, and we've also heard rumblings of 4th generation racer Austin Brown, the great grandson of the legendary Bill Brown, driving a #92 car in honor of his great grandfather.
Optimism is high as the Hobby Stock division kicks off its 22nd season of racing at Antioch Speedway. All indications are that the car count should grow this year as the controversy over the rules seems to have died down. Who will win the championship? It will be interesting to find out, and the first step towards that championship begins with the season opener on March 26th. For further information, check out the official Antioch Speedway website at www.antiochspeedway.com.
Optimism High As Limited Late Models Begin
17th Season At Antioch Speedway
It's hard to believe that the Limited Late Model division at Antioch Speedway started 17 years ago. Promoter John M. Soares had the desire to reestablish the Late Model division from the late 80's and early 90s. Several old racing chassis were located, cars were rebuilt, and the division began what has been a 17 year run.
The two big names of the Limited Late Model division in Antioch Speedway are Mike Gustafson and Larry Damitz. These two drivers have racked up more feature wins in this division than anybody else in the division's history. Gustafson continues to lead Damitz this category, but Damitz leads Gustafson four championships to two.
As Damitz gets ready to defend his championship, there's only one driver who has managed to stop him from winning the title in the last five seasons. That driver is Jim Freethy. Freethy forced Damitz to settle for second in the 2013 championship battle. In his desire to become more competitive for wins, Freethy built a new car during the season last year and had to work to get it dialed in. It is anticipated that he will have a fast race car this year.
Could Freethy be the driver to dethrone the 86 year old veteran Damitz this year? Time will tell, but it's still going to be hard to keep Damitz out of the winner's circle. Mark Garner is coming off of his best season ever as he finished third in Antioch points and won of the Merced Speedway championship. He'll be going for his best season ever, and he really wants to add his name to the champion's list at Antioch Speedway, the track at which he grew up at watching his father, the legendary Jerry "The Maverick" Garner, compete.
Gustafsson, meanwhile, always seems to be in the hunt, but like Damitz, he really isn't out there racing for points. However, if a few things go Mike's way, he could be in line for his third division championship. Mike Hynes, who is coming off of back to back runner up point seasons, appears to be headed for the Late Model division. Hynes sold his car to John Evans, and we haven't heard confirmation on the rumor that he was going to build a new Limited Late Model.
As for Evans, he made most of the races last year for his sixth place season, but he really wanted to take it up a notch. The Hynes car should help him do just that. Finishing behind Evans in the point race last year was past champion Lori Brown, who finished as high as second in the main event last season. Lori hasn't won a main event in a few years, and she's definitely due. It would be best not to count her out in that quest.
Other drivers returning from last year include Eric Berendsen, Ryan Cherezian, last year's "Rookie Of The Year" John Keith and Gene Haney. Berendsen surprised the field last year with an apparent win in one of the slowest cars in the field, but that was taken away in post race tech. Top 10 ranked Cherezian picked up an impressive second place finish at the end of the season in his truck. Keith opened the season with a third place finish, though he struggled a lot during the season. Haney made a couple of rare appearances at the end of the year, but the two time Super Hobby Stock champion could be a threat if he decides to race more often this year.
Three drivers on the rookie list this year are Calvin Louis, Kimo Oreta and Jim Robbins. Robbins is still trying to put everything together to make his dream of running one of these cars a reality. Once he does get it all together, he'll be a driver to keep an eye on. Louis had his moments in the Hobby Stocks last year, and he does have a good mentor in his father, Calvin Lewis Sr., who raced at Baylands and Petaluma in the past. Considering all he's done in the Hobby Stocks as the division's all time winner and three time champion, Oreta would have to be considered the favorite in the rookie battle.
The division generally hovered at around the 6-8 car mark last year, but car count picked up as the season came to a close. It is anticipated that the car count will be stronger this year, and that bodes well for racing fans. For more information, check out the Antioch Speedway website at www.antiochspeedway.com.
Competitive Season In Store For Dwarf Cars
At Antioch Speedway
The Dwarf Car division is sometimes the overlooked division by people, but when the night is over, they walk away talking about what a great race they put on. Since 1994, there has at least been a few Dwarf Car races on the Antioch Speedway schedule every year, and they are going into their 19th championship point season at the speedway. When promoter John M. Soares took over the track, he made this division a part of his program.
Soares actually won his two most recent main events at Antioch Speedway in his brother Jim's Dwarf Car in the 1990's and in the early 2000's. Brother Jim was also a feature winner in this division in the past, and he was a big reason why this division got dates in 1994 and the next few years after that. Given the family's history with Dwarf Cars at both Antioch and Petaluma, it was never a surprise that John would want to bring this division in house and make it a part of the program.
In recent years, we've had a very interesting rivalry spring up between two time champion Danny Wagner and defending champion David Teves. Teves lost the championship a few seasons ago when he had mechanical problems on the final night night. Last season, he showed how dominant he could be in winning his first championship. However, Wagner had several wins of his own to finish a strong third in the standings. Could this be the continuation of a great rivalry at the speedway?
There are a few drivers to keep an eye on, because they may be the ones to beat this year. Kevin Moraglio ended the season on a strong note last year to finish in the top five in the standings. Though he didn't get a win, he came very close and will probably win at least once this year.
The team of Mike Corsaro and ageless veteran Charlie "The Hammer" Correia should also not be counted out. An open wheel veteran of racing for several decades, Correia has actually been racing in the Dwarf Cars for over 20 seasons. Corsaro had a strong top 5 season of his own last year, which included two wins in Antioch and one a piece at Merced and Chowchilla.
Three other drivers to keep an eye on are 2010 Dwarf Car champion Jerry Doty, Thomas Lieby and Jack Haverty. Lieby had a few strong top 3 finishes last season, though he also had some bad luck. Haverty had some terrible luck, which included a hard flip on the front straight away, but he was also a main event winner. Doty had been away for a couple of years, and he was just getting things dialed in with his car last year.
Others who who could make their presence known include Pat Uhrdahl, Josh Miller, Tim Reeder, Chuck Weir, Kurtis Craig, Jenna Frazier, Brian Gray, past Hobby Stock champion Robert Coe, Travis Dutra, Chester "Buddy" Kniss and others. The fact is, we should see several cars during the course of the year as the Dwarf Cars usually brought the most cars to the track last season.
Dutra would have to be considered a title contender, but he'll likely race regularly at Petaluma Speedway. Reeder was top 10 ranked last year despite some terrible luck, and Miller had his moments last year including some top 5 finishes. Uhrdahl nearly won a Main Event last year, and he is due for a feature victory this year. Craig was a top 5 driver in points a few seasons ago, and if he comes back full time this year, he could do it again. Gray raced Sprint Cars through the years, and with the new power steering unit in his Dwarf Car, he should be more competitive. Third generation racer Kniss was third in the points in his rookie season at Merced Speedway last year.
There are lots of reasons to be excited about the Dwarf Car division at Antioch Speedway. They usually bring several cars, and the racing is good. There's no reason to expect anything different this season. For further information on this division, check out the official Antioch Speedway webpage at www.antiochspeedway.com.
Late Models Return For Third Consecutive Season
At Antioch Speedway
One thing about promoter John M. Soares is that he is a huge fan of Late Model racing. Soares has done some big things in Late Model racing, including winning a championship at Petaluma Speedway in the 1990's along with several features, and ranking top 10 in the Winston West Series and winning a race along the way.
Since assuming control of the Speedway in 1998, John has looked for a way to bring Late Model racing to the track on a more regular basis. That started first with him sharing Late Models from Petaluma Speedway with his father. Nearly ten years later, he had a couple of seasons of Late Model racing at the speedway before giving up on the idea while he figured out what to do to make it stick.
This brings up the interesting anecdote about the Limited Late Model class. In his third year as promoter at Antioch, John introduced the class as Super Stocks rather than Limited Late Models. Though these were essentially the Late Models that raced at Antioch in the late 80's early 90's, he couldn't call them Late Models. The agreement was that Late Models belonged to Petaluma Speedway. So, he cleverly called the division Super Stocks.
In 2016, and for the third straight year, Antioch Speedway will have both Limited Late Models and full Late Models. On the heels of a solid season last year, optimism is high that things are going to get even better this year. Antioch Speedway is the last track standing with Late Models in Northern California.
The big question at the moment is weather 2014 champion Richard Papenhausen will be back to try to reclaim his championship. Papenhausen was a dominant force last season, and if not for missing a race due to a back injury, we might be talking about him as the champion instead of the man who won it.
That man would be "The Hit Man" Jeff Decker. Make no mistake, Decker shadowed Papenhausen for most of the season and finished second about as many times as Papenhausen won. When he needed to win at the end of the season, Decker got it done and ended the season with the Antioch and UMP Regional championships. The Regional title paid $2,500. Decker also has a Modified and will probably show up and race at least a little bit with that car as well.
The driver who would seem poised to make a run at a Late Model championship is the four time Dirt Modified titlist Troy Foulger. The team of Foulger and car owner Billy Bowers set the Modified division on fire with over two dozen feature wins and four championships, and they showed just a glimpse of what they could do last year with two Late Model wins. He may not run Late Models for points, but it's a good bet that he'll be a contender for wins when he races.
One of the most enthusiastic supporters of Late Models is Paul Guglielmoni. Paul owns a stable of Late Models with drivers including Terry Kuntz and Randy Shafer. All three drivers had their moments last season, and Guglielmoni was a main event winner in one of the more entertaining races of the year last year. He's also a two time Petaluma Speedway champion.
Another very enthusiastic Late Model supporter is David Newquist. Newquist has been supporting both Antioch and Chico with a two car effort. Bad luck down the stretch last season cost him 3rd, but he should not be counted out this year as he tries to take it up a notch. As Mike Hynes now has his own Late Model, it will be interesting to see if David brings two cars and who might drive the second one.
Danny Malfati got started in the Wingless Spec Sprint class a few years ago, and last year was a big season for him. Danny competed in a winged 360 Sprint Car at Watsonville as well as a Late Model at Antioch and was top 10 ranked at Watsonville in his rookie year there. He managed to claim third in the standings at Antioch on the strength of a late season second place feature finish.
Another driver who stepped it up a bit last year was Chester Kniss. Kniss was the 2014 "Rookie Of The Year" and last year's "Most Improved Driver" as he ranked 5th in the standings. A feature winner in both a Modified and Limited Late Models through the years, Kniss will be in contention to win races this year.
You can probably expect John Soares himself to show up and race a few times as well. Soares has won nearly two dozen main events in his Antioch Speedway career and is third on the all time Sportsman win list. He has also won a main event in every decade that Antioch Speedway has been open except for this one, but he'd like to change that with a win this year.
Past Modified champion Rob Norris struggled a bit last year in his rookie season, but he should be back to give it a go once again. Other drivers we should be seeing include the enthusiastic Dennis Souza, Duane Cleveland, Mike Hynes, Travis Mayerhoff, Larry Damitz and more.
The Late Models offer an exciting brand of racing, and for little more than a dozen nights this next season, the fans will be getting to watch this fast paced action on the three eight mile clay oval. Who will step it up and win the championship this year is anybody's guess, but the way to find out is to go to the races and see for yourself. For further information on this division and other happenings at Antioch Speedway, check out the official webpage at www.antiochspeedway.com.
California Hardtop Association Returns To
Antioch Speedway For Five Races
It looked like the Hardtops might not be back at Antioch Speedway after a disappointing mid season outing last year. Promoter John M. Soares was not at all happy with the leadership of the group after a couple of booking situations that saw the group go elsewhere instead of Antioch. He felt like he gave this division its first opportunities to race and get established.
In reality, the Soares family has roots with the Hardtop division going back to the 1940's and John's father, John P. Soares. The older Soares was a two time Hardtop champion and a factor in getting the division started with BCRA. When the younger Soares started his career in the 1960s, he was driving a Hardtop.
Just when it looked like it might be hopeless for the Hardtops at Antioch Speedway, a man stepped in to try and broker a solution. That would be Mike McCann, who brought some Hardtops down from Banks, Oregon way back in 2002. Mike's effort some 15 years ago can be credited with sparking the interest in Hardtops in California. There are currently two Hardtop efforts in the state, the other being based in the Bakersfield area.
McCann stepped in with about 3 weeks notice and put together a show at Antioch that saw 14 cars compete in that race at the end of August last season. His effort actually opened the door for the division to return to Antioch Speedway, and group leader John Philbert finalized the deal to give the group 5 dates at the speedway. The Hardtops also get to return to Petaluma Speedway on the night of the prestigious Johnny Soares Classic in honor of John's father.
The reality is that this Hardtop effort in Northern California has kind of been struggling in the last year or two, but indications are that things are rebounding. The Antioch date last year in August produced the biggest Hardtop turnout of the year. In fact, during the off season, there was word of at least a couple of new cars being built for the season.
Last year, we independently kept dirt track points for this group, and your champion would have been Rob Waldrop. Waldrop was a force on the dirt in the Bill McLaughlin owned car, winning several races and finishing second in the races he didn't win. Waldrop earned a second place finish in the Antioch race, won by Larry Damitz, and Antioch has been his home track for several years. He was the Street Stock champion at Antioch in 1998.
One of the drivers who got on board the California Hardtop effort very early on was Tommy Thomson. Thomson is the son of a past Vallejo Speedway champion, Chet Thomson. The familiar green #39 car that he drives was actually driven by Tommy in Vallejo back in the late 1970's. He has won several races in this car in recent years, and Terry DeCarlo has given the car some wins as well.
Dan Williams is a driver who comes with some credentials as a star of both Dwarf Cars and Mini Stock racing at Petaluma and Antioch. As with Thomson, he has won his share of main events in recent years in the Hardtops.
Two new cars are being built by drivers who could be people to keep an eye on this year, Doug Braudrick and Nick DeCarlo. In more recent years, Braudrick has competed in the Dirt Modified division. DeCarlo's father, Terry DeCarlo, goes back to the Hardtop days of Vallejo Speedway. Nick has won Hardtop main events in recent years and is a two time Dirt Modified champion at Petaluma Speedway.
Dave Mackey made his Hardtop debut last year. Mackey has been a fan of Hardtop racing going back many years, and he finally got to live out his dream of driving one of these cars. His car is a tribute car to the Dudley Racing Team that raced at Vallejo Speedway during the 60's and 70's.
Placerville Speedway is well represented by the Armstrongs, Dennis and Jason. Both come with fast race cars and are threats to win on any given night. The Armstrongs do have Hardtop wins at Placerville Speedway, where they have raced for years. Ron Ruiz drove one of the Armstrong cars for several races last year, but he will probably have his own car back together for this season.
You also have to keep an eye on drivers like Dan Whitney and Zack Frazer, both of whom have fast cars and are capable of picking up a win at some point during the year. There is also the father son duo of Ken and Jason Clifford, who both have race cars. Jon Turner is an other driver who has been a good supporter of the Hardtop effort on the dirt.
George Connor started racing at Antioch Speedway in Dwarf Cars and Hobby Stocks before graduating to the Limited Late Models. When the Hardtop effort got started, he was quick to put a car together. Since he has sold that car, he's been working on another car and could be seen at some point this season.
The reality is there are probably over two dozen Hardtops in the Northern California area, though some of those cars weren't seen much last year. One of the drivers who helped start the Northern California effort and competed at some of those early races is Mike McClure. Mike's car is a tribute car to Vallejo Speedway legend Leroy Geving. We also can't forget the CHA leader John Philbert, who is usually among the lead pack in the races. Philbert was also one of the early drivers when this effort got started.
While we don't know all of the names of the drivers in the Hardtop division, we do know that several drivers are saying that they are looking forward to coming back to Antioch Speedway. With five races on their schedule at Antioch, they have gotten their wish. It will be interesting to see how things go with this division, but it's nice to see that the Hardtops continue to live on. You can check out scheduling information for Antioch Speedway at the official webpage, www.antiochspeedway.com.