Thursday, April 21, 2016

Antioch And Merced Weekend Previews

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Winged Sprint Cars, A Modifieds Highlight Five Division Show At Antioch Speedway

Racing resumes at Antioch Speedway this Saturday night with another five division show that is sure to entertain the fans.  Taking their turns on the fast three-eighth mile clay oval this week will be the high horse powered Winged 360 Sprint Cars, A Modifieds, B Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars.

When last we saw the Winged Sprint Cars, division mainstay Art McCarthy was collecting the Main Event victory. A multi time champion in Sprint Car racing, Art had his hand full with Jarrett Soares, who was gunning for his first Antioch win after collecting a heat race victory earlier in the evening.  McCarthy was not to be denied as he served notice that he's the man to beat in this year's championship chase.  Art is coming off of back to back Top 3 point seasons.

Back in third was another of this division's past Wingless Spec Sprint champions, Billy Aton.  Aton hasn't been seen at the speedway over the past few seasons, but he won Winged Sprint Car races back in 2011.  An Aton commitment to the 15 race schedule could signal that he is the main challenger to McCarthy's bid for a championship.  Another driver to keep an eye on could be 2014 champion Chris Magoon, who collected a fourth place finish last time out.

Others to keep an eye on will be past Spec Sprint champion Dan Gonderman, who is coming off his best season yet in Winged Sprint Car competition, Ricky Brophy, Brandon Powell and Scott Jaquith.  Word is that 2015 champion Shawn Arriaga is putting the motor in his car.  Could that mean he'll be racing this week?  Stay tuned.

All the talk about Aaron Crowell's chances of being a serious title contender in the A Modifieds was backed up with an impressive feature win in the division's season opener last week. Crowell's win didn't come easily as he had fellow past Antioch champion Kellen Chadwick making a rare appearance with a strong second place showing.  Since holding off track legend J.D. Willis for his 2004 championship, Crowell has his sights set on another legend, five time champion Scott Busby.

Busby's drive trough the pack last week ended in a disappointing eighth place finish.  Meanwhile, 2014 track titlist Carl Berendsen II had a nice start to his season as he finished third.  A past Street Stock feature winner, Carl is aiming for his first A Modified win.  Likewise, Josh Combs has high hopes of winning after his Top 5 run in the full field last week.

As it was last season, you never know who will be seen from week to week, but others we anticipate this week include Mikey Slaney and son Anthony Slaney, Sean O'Gara, Jeff Thomas, Trent Wentworth and others.  It should be another good show for the division.

The B Modified division's championship battle is still taking shape.  The marathon 25 race schedule has some drivers wondering if they can make it that long and others just racing when they can.  Coming off of his amazing 2015 championship run, Fred Ryland has skipped a race, but he won the other two races.  Ryland could still be a player in the point game if he chooses, and he will certainly be a threat to win any time he's there.

The three names at the top of the list are Trevor Clymens, Brain Pearce and Al Johnson.  Pearce has been the most consistent and seems poised to win at any time after three straight Top 5 runs, including two thirds.  Johnson and Clymens both have seconds, but Clymens suffered a disappointing outing last time as he pitted a couple laps into the race.  Johnson is last season's runner up and is gunning for his first career win.

K.C. Keller is another driver hot on the trail of his first win.  He looked good last week in collecting the third place finish behind 2015 "Rookie Of The Year" Patti Ryland.  Other drivers we are watching for this week include Chuck Golden, Tim Hammett, Paul Mulder, newcomer Lonnie Leonard and others.

The Hobby Stock race figures to be a wide open battle all year long.  Long time speedway observers are predicting a multitude of feature winners this season.   There are already two winners so far in long time Stock Car racer Danny Jones and "Rookie Of The Year" Hopeful, Guy Ahlwardt.  Neither win was easy as both had to deal with pressure from Michael Cooper, who is in hot pursuit of his first win after back to back seconds.  In fact, Jones was right behind Cooper in a three car battle, won impressively by Ahlwardt.

Cameron Swank and cousin Jordan Swank are trying to get their cars dialed in for the Main Event.  After his "Rookie Of The Year" and second place point effort last year, Jordan is trying to fight off the sophomore jinx.  Cameron won his heat race last time out, but the Main Event was less than he'd hoped for.  Either of these two could win on any given night.  Other hard chargers to watch out for include Jason Jennings, 2010 champion Chris Sorensen, Chris Long, Natalie Perry, Steven Rogers and others.

The Dwarf Car division might end up being a battle between 2015 champion David Teves and hard charger Mike Corsaro.  The teammate of open wheel veteran Charlie Correia, Corsaro shot out of the gate like a cannon ball at the opener with an impressive victory.  He followed that up by starting tenth and finishing right on the back bumper of Teves for a second place finish last time out. 

There are some racers knocking on the door to victory, and on the top of that list is point leader Kevin Miraglio, who has back to back Top 3 finishes.  Another double Top 5 finisher, Josh Miller, could be set to win at any time.  Also on the list of hard chargers we anticipate this week are Brian Gray, Jack Haverty, Robert Coe, Miranda Chappa and Tim Reeder.  It should be another good race.

It's sure to be another great night at Antioch Speedway with Winged 360 Sprint Cars, A Modifieds, B Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars on the card.  For further information, check out

Hobby Stock Ted Stofle Classic Qualifier Added To 
Saturday's Show At Merced Speedway

The buzz throughout Central California is the resurgence of Merced Speedway.  With Ed Parker stepping in to become the Promoter and the return of Doug Williams as General Manager, good things have been happening at the fast, quarter-mile dirt oval.  A huge turnout for last week's four division show saw 70 cars in the pits and fields of 24 IMCA Sport Modifieds and 22 Hobby Stocks.  These two divisions, along with IMCA Modifieds, Mini Stocks and the Valley Sportsman division, will be in action this week. 

The Hobby Stocks were added as of last Saturday night to make up for the rainout a week earlier.  Because the car count has been so big and a B Main was needed last week, Williams has taken a page out of the old school hand book by automatically qualifying this week's Top 10 finishers for the April 30th Ted Stofle Classic.  This is a race that everybody wants to make, so it's going to be a battle.

Michael Shearer and his wife Kristie are two of the fastest competitors in the class this year.  Michael won the opener ahead of Kristie and finished second last week.  Michael currently leads the pack going into this week and may be feeling the pressure as the defending Stofle Classic champion.  Speaking of champions, four time Hobby Stock titlist Raul Rodriguez was back and as fast as ever last week.  After a heat win, he charged from deep in the pack to collect a second place finish.  That became a win with the disqualification of Ben Lewis II in tech.

The fact is, the Hobby Stock races at Merced are some of the most competitive you will find anywhere in the state, and some of the drivers who could pop off with a win on any given week are two time champion Andrew Krumm, Robbie Loquaci, Cody Parker, Austin Van Hoff, Garrett Corn, George Silva and Kodie Dean.  Van Hoff won twice in his third place season last year, but he's found the going a little bit bumpy so far.  Might this be the week he turns it around?

The IMCA Sport Modifieds at Merced are another show that will rank high on the list for this class anywhere in the state.  Rick Diaz set the tempo at the opener when the 2014 champion drove the John Fore Jr tribute car to a win ahead of the persistent Steve Stone.  Feeling pretty good about his chances after the big article about his family in the Merced Sun-Star, 2000 Chowchilla Street Stock titlist Stone impressed by winning last week's Main Event.

A story that shouldn't be lost in all of this is the drive put on by 2015 Dwarf Car champion Mike Drake.  The second generation racer had a bad heat race and was mired in the B Main.  He proceeded to win that race and come from the back to an impressive career best second place finish.  No position was a gimme in last week's feature, and long time Merced racer Gary Tucker had his hands full holding off Chris Falkenberg for a third place finish.  Falkenberg was one of three drivers last season to win features in two classes, doing it in Hobby Stocks as well.

Paul Espino collected the fifth place finish last week and will be hoping to step it up this week along with Dwayne Short, 2015 champion Josh Hensley, Alex Odishoo and Danny Roe.  The young up and comers in the class had to make laps in the B Main last week, but Tanner Thomas and Gavin Espino are getting better with every start.  Tanner's older brother Chase also ran the B Main, but he just managed to eek out a transfer into the feature.

Speaking of Main Event front runners, Paul Stone may very well be the driver to beat in IMCA Modifieds, but he found out last week that there are racers ready to run wheel to wheel with him.  Stone had a dominating performance in the opener, but he lost a good battle with second generation racer Jeff Streeter last week.  Car count grew just a bit last week, to the delight of the crowd.  While Stone leads the standings early on, "Rookie Of The Year" hopeful Bruce "Bubba" Nelson, still basking in the glow of the birth of his son, lost a third place finish for coming in just under the weight rule last week.

It was a pair of drivers with Chowchilla IMCA Modified championships who checked in at third and fourth last week when Tim Balding and Randy Brown were third and fourth, respectively.  Ramie Stone is still dialing things in on his car, but he managed to get a fifth place finish last week.  It's only a matter of time before his #06 car will be battling for a win.  Others to watch for this week include Ricky Thatcher, past champions Bill Egleston, Chris Shannon, Harley Turner and Jarod Fast.

Chris Corder is already a two time winner in Mini Stocks.  After winning the opener in the car he ended last season with, he won in the former Jeff Amos car last week.  Amos had finished second in the opener before trading Corder his car.  The question remains, who will be the first driver to beat the 2014 champion for a win this year?  One driver to watch will be Mike Germait.  Mike enjoyed his best career finish in second last week and was one of the drivers long time observers have tabbed as a front runner this year.

Speaking of front runners, Dennis Copus was pleased with his heat win and third place finish last week, but he came here to win.  His recent effort shows that he is getting closer.  Paul Lauretti was a heat winner last week and finished fourth to cap a good night for him.  Kevin Lockerby was considering going back to the drawing board after a fifth place finish.  Being a past Mini Truck champion, Kevin has higher expectations for himself.

Robert Jackson and James Stockton are two others who could be factors in the battle for wins.  You also shouldn't count out Joy Alger, who is getting her car dialed in.  Young Destiny Carter got another honor from Corder Racing when Chris Corder put her behind the wheel of the beautiful #24 car, which was the last car built by his father, who passed away last year.  Destiny is doing what she needs to do as she learns how to handle one of these cars and makes her laps.

The Valley Sportsman division is finally getting their season opener after a rainout two weeks ago.  Expectations are that 6-8 cars will show up.  We've already seen the cars of 2014 point runner up Tim Prothro and Jeff Bristow at playday, and division booster Kenny Birdsong, who ranked second in points last year, has shown off pictures of his car recently on social media.  Who else will be there is still subject to speculation, but at the top of the list of possibilities are 2015 champion Marcus Lung, Eric Seely and Mike Palmberg.  Might this be the night we see a pair of past champions, Mark Odgers and Mike Hausmann, back in action?  Stay tuned.

From the management comes word that a special board is being put together for underneath the grandstands that will feature many pictures of cars through the years and a championship list.  This reporter has assisted the process.  When asked of the status of a potential Hall Of Fame at Mered Speedway, Promoter Ed Parker responded to our list of proposed inductees, which includes Dennis Moomjean, Vern Willhoite, George Steitz, Ted Stofle, Jack Oldenhage, Rod Poor and Johnny Sass.  He replied, "You can refer to them as future Hall Of Fame members."

In short, a Merced Speedway Hall Of Fame is coming in the future.  It's not surprising.  When it comes to Parker and General Manager Doug Williams, community and history matter at Merced Speedway.

The five division show planned this week could make for an even fuller pit area than last weekend, and it's one you won't want to miss.  On the card will be the IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks and Valley Sportsman division.  For further information, check the official web site at