Thursday, April 14, 2016

Pit Stops From Antioch And Merced

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Just A Kid From The Grandstands:  My Time In Auto Racing

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Pit Stops

 Late Models, A Modifieds Back At Antioch Speedway

Rain set in last weekend and took a heavy toll on California racing. Only Siskiyou Motor Speedway in the extreme Northern California area managed to get a race in. Antioch Speedway was rained out.  That meant the season debuts of the A Modifieds and Wingless Spec Sprint divisions had to be delayed one week. Both divisions are on a five division card this week along with the B Modifieds, Late Models and the Limited Late Model division.

The Late Model season opened two weeks ago had a thrilling battle between 2014 champion Richard Papenhausen and Bobby Hogge IV. Papenhausen seemed to have things in hand in that race until messing up just a little bit in Turn 2 on lap 18, allowing Hogge to race by on the outside for the lead and victory. Hogge was a surprise entrant in the field, and it remains to be seen if he will be out there for this week's event. He would certainly be a welcome addition. Rumors of 2015 season finale winner Andy Obertello's return to Antioch Speedway this week have been unconfirmed.

2015 champion Jeff Decker was quietly hanging in there and grabbed a third place finish last time out. Decker isn't likely to be talking about points, and he wasn't last year,. However, he quietly crept up and grabbed the point lead late last season. Grabbing a top three finish early in the season won't hurt him this year. David Newquist also grabbed a top five finish as he hopes to improve on last season's fourth place ranking.

Chester Kniss had to be excited after picking up his first Late Model heat race win last time out. Unfortunately, his Main Event ended early. Kniss is anticipated this week along with Danny Malfatti, Dennis Souza and Willie McMillan. Paul Gulielmani has been seen at Placerville, but it remains to be seen whether he'll be at Antioch. There were nine cars at the opener, and it's hoped that they can get past the 10 car mark this week.

There's an excitement in the air when it comes to the A Modified division. Scott Busby and Bobby Motts Jr. we're pretty much the two drivers going for the championship last season. Busby has been confirmed as somebody to expect for the season opener and we anticipate seeing Motts as well. However, these two will have company this year.

Aaron Crowell will be ready from the start of the season, and that could be bad news for the competition. The 2004 Modified champion was a two time winner last year. He won his championship ahead of the legendary JD Willis, so we know he's cool under pressure. Mikey Slaney will be ready for the season opener as well. In fact, we should see Mikey and his son Anthony Slaney both in action in the opener.

It should be a good turnout for the A Modifieds, and other drivers we'll be looking for include Trent Wentworth, Joshua Combs, 2014 Champion Carl Berenson II, Shawn O'Gara, Mike Salazar and John MacDougall.

The B Modifieds are at the beginning of a marathon 25 race season. Any driver who can make every race is truly going to be an Iron Man. At the moment, that would be between Anthony Giuliani, Trevor Clymens, Brian Pearce, Al Johnson and Danny Jones.

Fred Ryland appears to be more interested in racing when he wants to race and not pursuing points. It's a guarantee that Ryland will be a force on the track whenever he's there. The same can be said for his wife Patti, who finished third at the opener to her husband's win. With back to back third place finishes, Pearce is definitely a player in the game. However, four time 2015 feature winner Giuliani may have something to say about that after his win in the most recent race.

Not to be forgotten in the mix is Clymens, who opened the season with a second  place finish and has two heat race wins already. Johnson finished second in points last year and is hungry for his first feature victory. His second place finish last time out would seem to indicate that he's ready. There are several cars out there, so we should see some season debuts this week.

Wingless Spec Sprints begin there 18th season at Antioch Speedway, and there has been a buzz in the air concerning how many racers will be there. The fact that we have already had a sighting of Jim Perry Jr's race car on Facebook would seem to be bad news for the competition. Like his son Jimmy, who is a past champion that will be racing this year, Jim will be one of the major players in the point race. The father son duo ranks first and third, respectively, on the track's All Time win list in this division.

On the heels of their Top 5 seasons, Rick Panfili and Alan Miranda are both ready to go this season. Division original Panflli was contemplating retirement, but fortunately, he got some sponsorship to keep him going this year. Both of these drivers are hungry for their first feature wins, and it wouldn't be wise to count them out.

Still unknown is whether two time champion Billy Macedo will be in the field for the opener. Macedo had two Main Event wins in his three starts last year, and he would be a threat to the Perry reign if he were to race full time. Marcus Smith should have the Richard Basden car back together after his Marysville flip, and teammate Dan Gonderman should be there as well. Also, 2015 Dwarf Car point runner up Adam Teves should be ready to go in the Lloyd Beard Special #42 car.

It seems like the only thing you can count on in racing at Antioch Speedway is that 86 year old veteran Larry Damitz will be a part of the Limited Late Model division. In saying that, this writer does not want to take it for granted that he will be there. We certainly appreciate seeing Larry's fast #15 Limited Late Model at the race track, though the competition probably didn't have as much reason to appreciate him as he won the season opener impressively. The man they still call "The Sundrop Kid" seems poised to win his fifth championship in the last 6 years, but will somebody be able to step up and stop him?

Absent from the season opener was two time division champion and All Time win leader Mike Gustafson. Mark Garner was hoping that he could make a good start, but unfortunately, his fast #76 car was on the sidelines early. At the season opener. 2013 champion Jim Freethy did get to the finish line, but it was a disappointing fourth place finish for him. He knows he must do better if he really hopes to compete with Damitz.

When we talk about contenders, we frequently forget that Lori Brown is a feature winner in this division through the years and a past champion. Lori showed everybody what she could do with her second place finish at the opener ahead of rookie Kimo Oretta. Looking as good as these two did, seeing either of them get a feature win this year will not be a surprise.

Some of the competitors weren't quite ready for the season opener, which left car count a little bit light, but it should pick up this week. Among the racers that we anticipate for this show include John Evans in the former Mike Hynes car, John Keith, who struggled at the season opener with mechanical issues, Calvin Louis,  and hopefully Eric Berendsen. Hobby Stock racer Chris Long has been working on his car to get it ready, and we also know that Jim Robbins is trying to get his race car out there. We hope to see both during the course of the season.

One thing is for sure, the weather is supposed to be in the 80s, and the racing should be good this Saturday night at Antioch Speedway. Once again, watch for the Late Models, A Modifieds, B Modifieds, Limited Late Models and Wingless Spec Sprints this week. For further information on the happenings at Antioch Speedway, check out the official website at

Modifeds, Hobby Stocks Highlight Saturday Night's 
Merced Speedway Program

The Merced racing community is abuzz about what went down two weeks ago. It wasn't just the opening of a racing season, it was a happening. The lines were long waiting to get into the show, the #9d car of Rick Diaz was on display underneath the grandstands and a live band was playing as well. The reality is, everybody in Merced is excited about the season.

This Saturday night, racing continues with IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks all in action. The high car count seen in the Sport Mod and Hobby Stock divisions last time would seem to indicate that we are not far from having B Main events

After his 2014 IMCA Sport Modified championship season, Rick Diaz was an occasional competitor in Sport mods last year. However, he got his share of wins. Running the #9d in honor of his fallen friend John Fore Jr., Rick won the season opener with an impressive effort. It was no gimme as he had veteran Steve Stone on his heels the entire way. Stone still finished a solid second ahead of defending champion Josh Hensley. Veteran Gary Tucker came out of it with a Top 5 finish as well.

The reality is, the Sport Modified division at Merced Speedway is stacked with talent. There are also some young up and comers in the field, including Tanner Thomas and Gavin Espino. Among the drivers to watch for this week are Mike Drake, Tim Elias, Dwayne Short, Nick Tucker, Tim Prothro, Danny Roe and more.

We pretty much knew when we heard that Paul Stone was coming back that he might be the driver to beat in IMCA Modifieds. Paul left little doubt with his impressive flag to flag romp in the Modified opener two weeks ago. The last time Paul ran full time two years ago, he left the season with the championship. It was an entertaining battle behind him for the second through fifth positions, and Bill Egleston, another past champion, came out of it was a strong second place showing.

It was a night to celebrate for popular racer Bruce "Bubba" Nelson. Not only did the two time Hobby Stock champion come out of it with a fourth place finish, later in the evening, his wife Shannon gave birth to their baby boy. Looking as fast as he did on Saturday, it will not be a surprise to see Bubba win a Main Event. The battle between he and third place finisher Randy Brown and fifth place finisher Ricky Thatcher was very entertaining. These two drivers will also be threats for feature wins this year.

Kristie Shearer and her husband Michael Shearer could be a force in the Hobby Stock division this season. Michael, the 2015 Ted Stofle Classic winner, led from the start, while his wife Kristie worked her way up from the back of the pack to a second place finish at the checkered flag. The reality is, Kristie is every bit as good as her husband Michael. Keep an eye on both of them.

Kevin Joaquin returned and was in the hunt for the win when he ended up in the front wall. This came after a tangle with Kodie Dean.  Dean was hoping to put his bad luck from last season behind him. Seeing both of these drivers win at least one Main Event this year will not be a surprise, but their misfortune opened the door for Andrew Krumm to get up there and grab the third place finish. A two time division champion, Krumm is still searching for sponsorship to help him get through the season.

In the early goings of the race, 2015 "Rookie Of The Year: Jennifer Corder had a good Top 3 run going before driving off the track in Turn 2. Jennifer is hoping for her first career feature win. 2015 third ranked driver and two time feature winner Austin Van Hoff was buried at the back of the pack last time out, but that shouldn't be the case this week. Meanwhile, the always exciting George Silva picked up a fifth Place finish last time behind Ben Lewis II.

Two time 2015 feature winner Cody Parker has his car back together for a return this week. A strong turnout is anticipated for this race, including hard chargers like Top 5 2015 point competitor Dexter Long, rookie Darren Miguel, Phil Vaughn and Garrett Corn.

The star of the Mini Stock division continues to be Chris Corder. Corder picked up where he ended his 2015 runner up season by winning the Main Event. It just may be that if Chris wants to win this championship there's nobody out there who can stop him. But, that's why they run the races. You never know what's going to happen on any given race night.

After winning his heat race and then finishing second in the Main Event, an interesting thing happened with Jeff Amos. He ended up trading his car to Corder. It may be Robert Jackson who ends up picking up the chase in the championship battle. Jackson, who sort of raced all over last year on a limited schedule, finished third in the Main Event ahead of newcomer call Paul Lauretti.

Dennis Copus didn't have a bad season debut as he would finish fifth in the Main Event. Dennis was third in points last season, but he's hoping for a feature win this season. All of the racers, such as James Stockton, Joy Alger, Brian Widdowson and Mike Germait, are hoping to win. There's also past Mini Truck champion Kevin Lockerby. Lockerby will be ready to go this week, as well as division newcomer Destiny Carter.

It's sure to be an exciting program of racing at Merced Speedway this Saturday night. IMCA Modifieds headline along with IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks. For further information, check out the official Merced Speedway website at