Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Antioch Speedway And Merced Speedway Weekend Previews

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Sprint Cars, Modifieds Headline Six
Division Show At Antioch Speedway

Two weeks ago, the Winged 360 Sprint Car division was set to headline the show at Antioch Speedway when the rains came and washed away the program. They are set to try again this week along with the A Modifieds, B Modifieds, Limited Late Models, Dwarf Cars and California Hardtop Association.

At this point, it's veteran Art McCarthy leading the Winged Sprint Car charge after two races. McCarthy certainly has the experience edge over the rest of the competition having won two Sprint Car championships at Petaluma and one at Antioch. His feature win in the season opener served notice to everybody that to get to the championship they will have to go through him.

Billy Aton has been absent from the field for a couple of years, and his return signals that he may be the driver to challenge the old veteran. The past Wingless Spec Sprint champion won the last time. Another driver within striking distance of McCarthy is 2014 champion Chris Magoon. Magoon struggled at times last year, and the team is still trying to get the #77 car up to speed again.

2015 champion Shawn Arriaga was not ready for the season opener. The third generation racer didn't have the motor in his car until a few days before the most recent race. When he returned, he renewed his battle with rival McCarthy, finishing fourth ahead of McCarthy in that Main Event. Despite the one race advantage he gave McCarthy, Arriaga should not be counted out if he does run every race from here on in.

It appears as if there are more drivers looking to come race at Antioch this year, and others we will be looking for this week include Top 5 ranked Dan Gonderman, Rick Brophy and his son Ricky Brophy, veteran Bert Foland Jr., Adam McCarthy and Fred Arriaga.  From week to week, you never know who might show up and run at Antioch.

The A Modified division was affected by the All Star Modified Series race at Tulare last week. Four of the top competitors at Antioch Speedway headed down south. This opened the door for five time division champion Scott Busby to walk on through and grab the point lead. Busby led for most of the way last week before being passed late by hard charger Jeff Decker. If you know Busby, he wasn't happy with second, and he'll be out to try and get a win this week.

The big question is, will any of those competitors who headed south be back this week? At this point, we'll just have to wait to see, but we do expect Carl Berendsen II to be out there racing this week. The 2014 champion won his heat race last week and then raced to a solid fourth behind third place finisher and heat race winner Trent Wentworth. Both of these drivers should be contenders to win this week.

Who might also be in the field seems to change with every week, but Raymond Lindeman, Shawn O'Gara and Mikey Slaney could be there. However, the Slaney car had a lot of damage in a crash last week, so he could be questionable. And, whether we might see Aaron Crowell, Bobby Hogge IV, Nick DeCarlo or Troy Fougler remains to be seen. Clay Twigg is a good possibility following his seventh place finish, and whoever does show up will put on a good show for the fans.

Despite missing a race this year, Trevor Clymens remains a factor in the B Modified point race. Clymens won his second straight Main Event last week. In this race, he made a charge from the fifth row to battle Brian Pearce for the lead in lapped traffic.  Moments after surrendering the lead, Pearce ended up hitting the front wall hard after contact with a slower car. Word was that the Pearce car was severely damaged, but he was okay.

The steady Al Johnson continues to be the point leader, but the two time Main Event runner up is looking for his first Main Event win. Another driver with two second place finishes that is looking for a win is Shane DeVolder.  DeVolder is currently second in the standings in what is his rookie season.

Affecting the car count in this division is the fact that they have been scheduled 25 times at the speedway this season. Some of the drivers weren't interested in that and decided to just walk away from point racing. You never know how many cars might show up, and last week saw about a dozen cars compete. Drivers who could be out there this week include K.C. Keller, Randy Brown, 2015 champion Fred Ryland, Danny Jones and Ron Brown.

In the Limited Late Model division, Larry Damitz continues to be the man to beat. Approaching 87 years of age, the 60 year veteran of racing shows no signs of slowing down. The records will show that the division's top two feature winners in its history, Damitz and Mike Gustafson, are the two winners so far this year. Ranked second in the standings, Kimo Oreta has two top 3 finishes and seems poised to get a win soon.

Third ranked Mark Garner is anxiously awaiting his opportunity to get out there and get another win. Jim Freethy has had nothing but bad luck so far, but he's hoping to turn things around in the #99 car. Other drivers to watch for this week include Lori Brown, John Evans and John Keith. Reports are that recent Hobby Stock feature winner Chris Long is close to making his return to this division.  No word on what is going on with the Calvin Louis car, which was turn key ready when it left the RPM Racing shop last year.

Mike Corsaro and Kevin Miraglio were battling for the lead last week in the Dwarf Car division when they got together. These are the two drivers currently battling for the track championship, and they had to come from the back of the pack after the tangle. While Corsaro got up to 5th, Miraglio managed to get up to second. He is still looking for his first win, but he is certainly fast enough to do it.

These two drivers may be happy that South Bay Dwarf Car Association competitor Mark Biscordi is not running for points. Biscardi returned two races ago and he's won both races since. Will he be back to try for three in a row? Another driver knocking on the door to victory is Tim Reeder. Reeder has been the hard luck racer over the last year and a half, but he has continued to come back and enthusiastically race. His persistence was rewarded last week with his best finish ever in third.

Among the other drivers that we'll be watching for this week are veteran Charlie Correia, Chuck Weir, Josh Miller, Brian Gray, David Michael Rosa and Tim Ryan. Also not to be forgotten is rookie Buddy Kniss, who pulled out early in the Main Event last week with overheating issues.

The California Hardtop Association returns this week.  For clarification, you may see the #100 car of Larry Damitz picking up a victory again, but he is not considered a Hardtop by CHA standards. His car is classified as a Modified Hardtop, and it is not being acknowledged as a car legal according to CHA rules. Damitz, who raced Hardtops for the first 20 years of his career, has been allowed track time with the group out of respect for his time in racing.

Two drivers who have emerged as the unlikely stars of the division are the father and son duo of Ken Clifford and Jason Clifford. Nicknamed affectionately "The Rocket Man" by his fellow competitors last year for his uncanny ability to finish last in the Main Event, Ken Clifford got his first career win at Chico last week. His son Jason has won two Main Events as well.

The odds on favorites to win in their legal Hardtops are Rob Waldrop (in Bill McLaughlin's car) and Tommy Thompson. However, neither of those drivers showed up for the last race at Antioch, won by Jason Clifford. Other competitors to watch for this week are Club President John Philbert, John Turner, Ron Ruiz, Dennis Armstrong, Dan Williams, Dave Mackey, Joe Hopp and Russ Kraft.

So once again, the Winged 360 Sprint Cars headline the six division show at Antioch Speedway this week. Other divisions will be the A Modifieds, B Modifieds, Limited Late Models, Dwarf Cars and the California Hardtop Association. For further information, go to the website at

All Star Modified Series Comes To Merced Speedway

Absent from last week's program at Merced Speedway were the IMCA Modifieds, but they return this week in a big way. It is an event billed as the All Star Modified Series, and it headlines the quarter mile clay oval track's program this week along with Hobby Stocks, USAC Honda HPD Midgets and Valley Sportsman.

As if to answer the concerns of his critics that he is not a Stock Car guy, promoter John Prentice has established the All Star Modified Series this year. Running IMCA rules, the series has booked dates at eight different race track during the course of the season. The goal is to crown a champion that will be the best of the best in the IMCA Modified division in California.

Last week in Tulare, the pits overflowed with enough cars in the division to get it B Main Event, and the feature win went to four time Antioch Speedway champion Troy Foulger. Foulger made a few appearances at Merced last year and was among the Main Event winners. Another hard charger expected this week will be past Merced Speedway and Hanford champion Paul Stone. Stone gave Foulger all he could handle last week before Foulger prevailed.

Promoter Ed Parker was lucky to land one of these dates on late notice, and a full pit of IMCA Modified drivers as anticipated. It really is a who's who of the best IMCA Modified racers. On the list of competitors to watch for this week will be Bobby Hogge IV, Duane Cleveland, who nearly won last week, Randy McDaniel and his son Ryan McDaniel, Kellen Chadwick and Cody Laney. Local leadfoots like Ramie Stone, track point leader Bill Egleston, Bruce "Bubba" Nelson, Jeff Streeter and Randy Brown should be there to defend the hometown honor. This is an event that IMCA Modified fans will not want to miss.

Emerging as an unlikely star in the Hobby Stock division is Dexter long. Though Long was the fifth ranked driver in the point standings in his rookie year last season, he wasn't exactly burning up the speedway. However, things have changed for the driver of the #911 car. Dexter has two second place finishes now. This would have been three, but he lost the third one last week in tech.

The trend of last year continues to be the trend of this year with multiple feature winners. We already have 5 different feature winners in five races in this division, including point leader Michael Shearer, Bruce Nelson, Phillip Vaughn, four time champion Raul Rodriguez and two time Watsonville champion Terry Campion.

Truthfully, there's at least another ten drivers who could be Main Event winners this week. Two of those drivers had to battle to get out of the B Main Event last week, defending track champion Kevin Joaquin and George Silva. Robbie Loquaci is a racer to be reckoned with this week as well. Two time champion Andrew Krumm, Austin Van Hoff, Garrett Corn, Kodie Dean, Cody Parker and hard charger Kristie Shearer are other drivers to watch for this week in the battle for victory.

The USAC Honda HPD Midgets are scheduled to make an appearance. Last season, the group ran mainly on the pavement, but there was a desire to try more dirt track races this year. USAC is always looking for ways to get new drivers into their Sprint Car and Midget ranks. As for who will be out there this week, we really can't tell you.

However, We do know that Ariel Biggs won the recent race for the group at Lemoore ahead Jesse Love IV, Ashley Hazelton and Antonia Boscacci. Hazelton has been racing at Ventura and is a feature winner there. She recently had a second place finish in a Focus Midgets race there. We think four to eight cars may be in action for this race.

We can say the same thing for the Valley Sportsman division. We don't really know who might show up this week, but we could see a half a dozen competitors. Last week saw the return of two time Sportsman champion Mike Friesen in a beautifully painted race car and Eric Seeley, who won the heat race. We also saw a rare sight. Division booster Kenny Birdsong, driving the Rod Poor tribute #25 car, scored his first Main Event victory. Everybody who knows what a supporter Birdsong is of this division was happy for him.

We know that at this point, at least eight drivers are capable of being out there this week, and possibly 10 -12. What we don't know is who is ready to come out and race, so we would put the guesstimate at six cars. Other drivers we will be watching for this week include Jeff Bristow, Mike Palmberg, Marcus Lung and Tim Prothro. This is a neat division that will hearken back to the days of the 1970's and the skinny cars.

To recap, the All Star Modified Series, using IMCA sanctioning, will headline the show along with Hobby Stocks, USAC Honda HPD Midgets and the Valley Sportsman division. For further information, check out the website at