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Hogge Out-Duels Papenhausen,
Jones Snaps Winless Streak At Antioch Speedway
The gates opened for the 56th season of racing at Antioch Speedway, and five divisions competed on John Soares's fast three-eighth mile clay oval. When the checkered flag flew on a thrilling Late Model 20 lap Main Event, it was Bobby Hogge IV snatching the victory from Richard Papenhausen. Danny Jones went winless last year, but he opened the Hobby Stock season with an impressive 20 lap victory. Larry Damitz opened the Limited Late Model season the same way he closed the 2015 season as he scored another victory. Likewise, defending B Modified champion Fred Ryland claimed the win in their 20 lapper, while Mike Corsaro sped to a Dwarf Car Main Event win.
Richard Papenhausen and Bobby Hogge IV gave a preview of things to come when Papenhausen got the jump on Hogge to win his Late Model heat race. Chester Kniss grabbed his first heat race win, but his Main Event ended early with mechanical issues. The Main Event featured a classic duel between a pair of champions, Papenhausen and Hogge. Papenhausen never could quite shake Hogge, and when he got sideways exiting Turn 2 of the 18th lap, Hogge drove by on the outside for the lead. Hogge went on to win with Papenhausen a disappointed second ahead of defending champion Jeff Decker, David Newquist, all on the lead lap.
Danny Jones had one recurring theme to his 2015 Hobby Stock season. Every time he got anywhere close to a feature win, something bad happened. He led the class in runner up finishes last year with a half-dozen, but no feature wins to his credit. He started the night off by grabbing a heat race win from Jason Jennings on the last lap. Steven Rogers drove his pretty green and yellow #25 car to a heat win of his own. Unfortunately, the main was a bit rough for Rogers, who was caught up in a tangle. In the Main Event, Jones was determined to finally get that monkey off of his back. The crafty veteran had to contend with Michael Cooper, who was on the heels of his first feature win, but Jones would prevail at the checkered flag ahead of Cooper and 2015 "Rookie Of The Year" Jordan Swank. Swank enjoyed a good battle with rookie Guy Ahlwardt, who held third for several laps before settling for a respectable fourth. Chris Sorensen rounded out the Top five. Ahlwardt's night also included a second place heat race finish. Rough nights for both Natalie Perry and Jennings saw them both sidelined early.
At age 86, Larry Damitz shows no signs of slowing down. The Limited Late Model defending champion and winner of four of the five previous championships got the lead in the Main Event and would not let go as he sped to another checkered flag. Damitz closes in on the Top 5 on the track's All Time feature winner's list with over 50 wins to his credit. Past champion Lori Brown got her season started off well with a second place finish after starting in the back of the pack. Three was not a lucky number for 2015 "Rookie Of The Year" John Keith. While running third in his heat race, he threw three belts. While running third in the feature, he tore a radiator hose to end that effort. It was three time Hobby Stock champion Kimo Oreta starting off his rookie season with a solid third place finish after battling with Keith, Mark Garner and Jim Freethy. Freethy ended up fourth, while Garnder joined Keith on the sidelines.
This year promises to see some new players in the B Modified championship battle, but the man they have to beat is still defending champion Fred Ryland. Ryland collected the season opener and is climbing the All Time win list ladder in tenth with 41 victories. Trevor Clymens is one of the title hopefuls this year, and he drove to a second place finish ahead of 2015 "Rookie Of The Year" Patti Ryland. Making his return to racing after a few years away, Brian Pearce drove his beautiful #15 car to a fourth place finish.
Mike Corsaro served notice to the competition that he will be a player in the Dwarf Car championship battle this season. Corsaro grabbed the lead in the Main Event and put a hurting on the rest of the field for the impressive victory. Josh Miller chased down Kevin Miraglio for a third place finish. For Miraglio, that was his best ever finish at Antioch.
The action continues next Saturday night as Winged 360 Sprint Cars headline the show along with BCRA Midget Lites. B Modifieds, Dwarf Cars and Hobby Stocks. It should be another good show. More information can be found at the track's official website, www.antiochspeedway.com.
Merced Racers Tune Up One More Time
Before April 2nd Opener
With beautiful weather again in the forecast, Merced Speedway opened its gates for the second and final playday to end the month of March. Another strong turnout in the pits seems to indicate that there should be a solid car count for the April 2nd season opener. Set to be a part of the first race of the season will be IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks.
On Saturday, Sport Modified drivers again offered a solid turnout. 2015 Dwarf Car champion Mike Drake was out for some practice. He is back in a Sport Mod after getting the ride in the George Medeiros owned #07 car. He's hopeful for a good season this year, and he was joined in practice by others in his division, including past Pure Stock champion Andy Welch, Mark Squadrito, Dwayne Short, Josh Gish and rookies Matt Zelinsky and Tanner Thomas. The #9d car of the late John Fore Jr. was also at the track.
It seems as if most of the IMCA Modified drivers are ready for the opener and decided to forgo practice. One driver putting his new car through its paces was John MacDougall, who led the standings throughout the first half of last season before a Petaluma crash sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Robert Dias didn't race much last season, but his #07 car was a welcome sight in the pits on Saturday. Derek Colvin had the #3 Hondo Boats sponsored car out there for one more tuneup before the opener. A solid turnout of IMCA Modifieds is anticipated this Saturday.
Some fans took advantage of the free grandstand admittance to watch the practice and get a look at some of the cars. In the Hobby Stocks, this meant that Gary Hildebrand and Kodie Dean were back to make some more laps this week. Both were feature winners in the class last years before suffering late season misfortune. 2015 "Rookie Of The Year" Jennifer Corder also returned. It almost went unnoticed that Dexter Long was fifth in points in his rookie season last year behind second ranked Corder, and he was making laps in his white #911 car. Young Kyle Singleton was making laps in the big #20 car that hearkens back to the days of the Merced Pure Stock class. Kyle had a Top 10 finish in his lone start last year. 2015 Ted Stofle Classic winner Michael Shearer, past champion Ryan Hart and 2015 Mini Stock champion Darren Miguel were others with Hobby Stocks at practice.
Corder Racing had two Mini Stocks at playday as 2014 champion Chris Corder and rookie Destiny Carter were getting practice laps in. It was a learning experience for Carter with a few eventful moments on the track, but she is determined to keep learning and improving. James Stockton and Mike Germait were there along with a #13 Mini Stock. Third ranked 2015 point runner Dennis Copus was making laps in his new car, and indications are that this division will have a stronger year.
Also in the pits were some winged and non winged Sprint Cars and the Bill McLaighlin Hardtop, driven by Rob Waldrop. By all accounts, this was another successful playday for the track under the reign of new promoter Ed Parker and General Manager Doug Williams. The season opener on April 2nd will feature IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks. Mike Adaskaveg is providing some excellent coverage in the local papers this year, and you can read his articles and the latest official word on the track at the official web page, www.racemerced.com.