Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hardtops, A Modifiieds At Antioch, Ted Sofle Classic At Merced

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Modifieds, Late Models headline Six Division Show 
At Antioch Speedway

The fourth event of the season at Antioch Speedway is set to happen this Saturday night. On the card for this exciting six division show will be the always exciting Late Models, A Modifieds, B Modifieds, Wingless Spec Sprints, Hobby Stocks and California Hardtops.

The Late Models have gotten off to a bit of a slow start, but the two big stars of last year, 2015 champion Jeff Decker and 2014 champion Richard Papenhausen, are both in action. Papenhausen started off the year as strong as he did last year with a second place finish at the opener and a win in the most recent race. Meanwhile, Decker is doing what he did last year, picking up back to back top three finishes.

Having won a heat race at the season opener, Chester Kniss is hoping to take it up a notch and get his first main event win in the division. Kniss has won features in the Limited Late Model and A Modified ranks at the speedway, and he was making laps in his Late Model to get it ready last week.

Meanwhile, David Newquist, Dennis Souza, Danny Malfatti and Mike Hynes are other drivers anticipated for this week. There are still a few cars yet to debut, so we could be seeing some different cars this week as well.

We were anticipating a showdown in the points between defending champion Scott Busby and 2004 titlist Aaron Crowell in the A Modifieds. At this stage in the game, these are the two drivers who have thrown their hats into the ring to go for the championship, and Crowell currently leads the way. Busby was trying to work his way from the back of the pack last week but got mired back in the pack at that the checkered flag. Crowell did get a top five finish last time out on the heels of a season opening victory.

Nick DeCarlo, a two time Petaluma champion, has been a part of both shows, but we're not really sure whether he will be there this week. 2014 champion and title contender Carl Berendsen II is coming off of another good finish last week, and the recent new father should be joined this week by Shawn O'Gara, Mikey Slaney and Anthony Slaney, among others.

The marathon B Modified season has taken a toll on the drivers already. We're only three races into the 25 race schedule, and it appears as if Al Johnson and Danny Jones are emerging as this year's contenders. Johnson grabbed his second top three finish in third last week behind the career best second place performance of Shane DeVolder. Jones, meanwhile, keeps himself busy racing in the B Modifieds and Hobby Stocks.

Anthony Giuliani returned last week for his second main event win of the season. Ron Brown was also a welcome return in his season debut, and he took the checkered flag in fourth place. This time around, however, Ron was joined by his brother Randy Brown, who was making his division debut.

You never really know who's going to show up from week to week, but some of the drivers that we're looking for this week include Trevor Clymens, Brian Pearce, Chuck Golden, K.C. Keller and Tim Hammett. Word is that Hobby Stock ace Jason Jennings has a car now in the works.

With all the talk of the Perry's coming out and racing this year, perhaps nobody saw Dan Gonderman coming in the Marcus Smith owned Spec Sprinter. Gonderman returned to the division, and the two time champion left with the main event winner's purse at the season opener. Meanwhile, Jim Perry Jr. settled for third.

You might have forgotten about Rick Panfili, who like Gonderman and Perry was an original driver in this division back in 1999. The low budget racer reminded everybody that he is still a factor and coming off of back to back top three seasons. In the opener, Panfili led for 12 laps before settling for a career best second place finish.

Some competitive racers make up the field in the Wingless Spec Sprint division, and others we are watching for this week include, Alan Miranda, Marcus Smith, James East, and rookie Adam Teves.

It was not a great night to be a point runner at Antioch Speedway last Saturday night in the Hobby Stock division. It was a good weekend personally for Michael and Tayler Cooper, who just had a baby girl. However, Cooper and cousin Jordan Swank did not have a very good night in the main event and didn't get into the top five.

Cooper was coming off of back to back second place finishes, while rookie Guy Ahlwardt picked up his first main event win last time out. However, Cooper and Danny Jones were battling it out for the point lead coming into the night. As the previous main event at winner, Ahlwardt got stuck in tenth starting and crashed on his way to the front of the pack. However, his night was not nearly as bad as the night that Jones had.

Jones was involved in a crash that ended his night in the heat race.  While the point runners were having their problems, Chris Long picked up his first feature win in several seasons ahead of 2010 champion Chris Sorensen.  Sorensen barely made it to the track after his crash at the season opener.

At this point, the Hobby Stock division has three different winners in three races, and the Winner's List is expected to grow as the season goes on. One driver to keep an eye on in a bid for her first feature win is Natalie Perry, who finished fourth in last week's feature. Lindsey Buirch, Russell Shearer, Jason Jennings and Calvin Louis Jr., who finished third last week, are other drivers to keep an eye on this week.

The California Hardtop Association is in town for their first of five appearances this week, and a field of from 8 to 12 cars is anticipated for this race. Recent Placerville winner Jason Clifford is anticipated this week along with his father, Ken Clifford. Local Leadfoot Rob Waldrop, Tommy Thomson, Larry Damitz, John Philbert, Dave Mackey, Jason Armstrong and others are anticipated in this nostalgic division.

It all adds up to a great night of racing at Antioch Speedway with six divisions, including, Late Models, A Modifieds, B Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Wingless Spec Sprints and Hardtops. For further information, go to the official website at

89 Laps Of Main Event Racing On Tap 
At Merced Speedway In Ted Stofle Classic

It's time once again for the annual Ted Stofle Classic at Merced Speedway. The event honors five time Stock Car champion, Ted Stofle, who died tragically in a hunting accident back in 1980. Stofle is considered by many to be the greatest Stock Car driver of the seventies in California.

Saturday night's program will feature 89 laps of Main Event racing, with the IMCA Sport Modifieds and Hobby Stocks each running 30 laps and the IMCA Modifieds getting a 29 lap main event. Hobby Stocks will also be running for double points, and 10 drivers have already qualified for this race on the basis of their top ten finishes last week.

Michael Shearer is the defending champion of this race for the Hobby Stocks, winning the 89 lap race last year. Along with Terry Campion and four time champion Raul Rodriguez, Michael is a main event winner this year. Meanwhile, his wife Kristie Shearer is a two time top five finisher this year and had a second place finish in the season opener. Both of these drivers have to be considered favorites to win.

Campion is a two time champion at Watsonville, and there might be some concerns from the racers that he may bring other racers with him in a visit this week. A Watsonville Invasion would be reminiscent of how this race used to be when the Late Models ran it throughout the 1980's.

Perhaps the dark horse in this field, Dexter Long surprised everybody by grabbing his best feature finish in second last week. Might he get his first win on the biggest stage of them all? Another driver to keep an eye on is two time champion Andrew Krumm, who was back in action last weekend in his second third place finish of the year.

Merced Speedway has a competitive field of Hobby Stocks, and there could be any one of a dozen drivers who might win this week. Drivers to keep an eye on this week include Austin Van Hoff, Kodie Dean, Garrett Corn, Cody Parker, Jennifer Corder and Robbie Loquaci.

Rick Diaz reasserted himself in the IMCA Sport Modified division last week by picking up his second feature victory of the year. This time around, Diaz held off surprise visitor and 2015 state champion Fred Ryland, who settled for second. Steve Stone once again grabbed a top five finish as he makes a bid for the track championship. The point standings would seem to indicate that we have a battle between Stone and Diaz, but it is still early yet.

The IMCA Sport Modified division has several talented racers in the field. Any one of them could end up scoring at main event win, and Chris Falkenberg and Gary Tucker are two drivers who seem poised to strike a notch in the win column.  Falkenberg grabbed another top five finish last week. Likewise, Mike Drake has been running well and could be in line for a win. Other competitors, such as Dwayne Short, Alex Odishoo, Paul Espino, Nick Tucker and Josh Hensley, will be drivers to watch.

As with the hobby stock division, the Sport Modified division has needed a B Main these past two weeks. There are several young drivers who have gotten into this class, including Gavin Espino and brothers Tanner Thomas and Chase Thomas. They are getting a crash course in how difficult it was to make main events at Merced Speedway in the 1980's as they try to earn their feature starts through the b main now. One thing is for sure, it's great to see the competition level so high at Merced Speedway.

In the IMCA Modified division, Paul Stone seems to be the man to beat as the only driver with all top three finishes in the first three races. However, after his dominant performance in winning the first race, he's been shut out of the Winner's Circle by Jeff Streeter and Bill Egleston in the last two races. Egleston looked really good in the opener as well with a second place finish, and he may be trying to stake a claim on the track championship this year. His victory last week was his first win at the track in two years.

Past Chowchilla champion Randy Brown is coming off of back to back top five finishes. Brown may still be a factor in this battle, but Bruce "Bubba" Nelson is one race behind following his disqualification from a top five finish in the previous race. Nelson rebounded nicely with the top five finish last week. One driver struggling so far this year is multi time track champion Ramie Stone, who has just one top five finish in three starts.

Though the car count in this division isn't as strong as the other two, it has done okay in the past two weeks. Past Antioch Speedway Sport Mod champion Jeremy Hoff made his debut in the class last week. Other drivers we'll be watching for this week include Ricky Thatcher, Tim Balding, Harley Turner and Jarod Fast.

Tradition matters at Merced Speedway under the leadership of Ed Parker and Doug Williams, and the Ted Stofle Classic is a prime example of that. There should be a good field of cars as IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds and Hobby Stocks all compete this week. For further information on the coming race and other activities at the speedway, check the official website at

Hardtops Return To Antioch For First Of Five Visits

Saturday night marks the return of the California Hardtop Association to Antioch Speedway. The popular division is a throwback to the days of Vallejo Speedway in the 1960's and 70's with their Coups and Sedans and older cars. Thanks in part to the negotiations between Mike McCann and John Soares last year, the division is back this year. CHA President John Philbert and Soares finalized the deal, and the first race is this Saturday night.

It is anticipated that a field of 8 to 12 cars will be on hand to take their turn on the fast three-eighths mile clay oval, prepared expertly by Soares. When last we saw the Hardtops last season, it was "The Sun Drop Kid" Larry Damitz picking up the victory. Damitz took the lead from Rob Waldrop, who seemed to win most of the dirt track races last year.  A brush with the back wall as he drove the Bill McLaughlin car resulted in sparks shooting from underneath Waldrop's car. Despite that, he refused to pit and would end up second at the finish line. Both Waldrop and Damitz are anticipated this Saturday night.

Another driver anticipated for this event is the man who finished third at Antioch last year, Tommy Thomson. Thomson proudly wheels the car that he drove out at Vallejo Speedway in the late 1970's, and he picked up the two victories at Calistoga Speedway last year. Tommy is the son of Vallejo Speedway legend and past champion Chet Thomson.

New names are emerging in the field for the Hardtops, and one of them picked up the feature victory at Placerville a few weeks ago. Jason Clifford drives the car that he purchased from Steve Lemley. Nostalgia buffs will recognize Lemley as the driver who won the first two Hardtop features in the modern era in 2002 at Sacramento and Orland. For Clifford, it was his first career feature victory, and he's hoping for another one at Antioch this Saturday night.

The Clifford win came ahead of Dennis Armstrong, who is also anticipated for this race. Armstrong's son, Jason Armstrong, should also be in attendance. Jason is a feature winner in the Hardtops at Placerville and he's fast wherever he goes. Jason Clifford's father, "The Rocket Man" Ken Clifford should be out there as well. Dan Williams is a past feature winner in the Hardtops at Antioch and is also anticipated for this race.

A relative newcomer when it comes to driving Hardtops, Dave Mackey was out making some hot laps with his car last week and will be there this week. The steady John Turner, fresh off of his third place feature finish at Placerville, is also anticipated. John Philbert should have his car back together and ready to go this week, and this should be a good showing for the California Hardtops at Antioch Speedway.

You can look for the latest information on the Hardtop division by checking out their Facebook page. Search for the California Hardtop Association. Or, find out the latest happenings at Antioch Speedway by visiting their webpage,

Roster of Known Nor Cal Hardtops

00-Mike Friesen
1-Dave Mackey
2-Chuck Sanford
3-Dan Whitney
3-Zack Frazer
4-Russ Kraft
4-Jason Clifford
5-Mike McClure
6-Dan Williams
7-Jason Armstrong
12-Ron Ruiz
15-John Shefeild
17-Ken Retzloff
25-Steve Cloyes
27-Ken Clifford
27-Dave Shank
36-Rob Waldrop
37-Bill McLaughlin
39-Tom Thomson
44-Carmen Cavallero
57-John Philbert
61-John Turner
66-Pete Paulsen
70-Joe Happ
77-Dennis Armstrong
77m-Charles Mart
88-Doug Bradrick
100-Larry Damitz