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Antioch Speedway Stays The Course So Far In 2016
Antioch, CA...The 2016 season is a bit of a transitional year for Oval Motorsports at Antioch Speedway. As John and Donna Soares entered their 19th season as promoters of the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds based racing facilities, there were still some questions. They also decided to move on from promoting Merced Speedway and Chowchilla Speedway.
There were other factors that led to a slow start for John and Donna this year, and the 2015 awards banquet nearly didn't happen. Had it not been for the efforts of Ron and Lori Brown, there would have been no banquet. Shortly after the banquet, the new All Star Series schedule was released, leading to more questions about the season. Could they pull it off? The results so far would indicate that nobody should have doubted them in the first place.
One of the big questions centered around the IMCA sanctioning being dropped from the A Modifieds and B Modifieds. There were further doubts going into the season when the B Modified division was given a 25 race schedule. However, the show has gone on.
The B Modified division suffered more from too many booked race dates than from the lack of sanctioning. When drivers got a look at the big schedule, many of them said that they wouldn't run for points. In this day and age, it's hard to get any racer to commit to a 25 race schedule in any division, even the most economically minded divisions.
So far, it looks like two drivers have stepped forward to try and run for points in the B Modified division. That would be Al Johnson and Shane DeVolder. Johnson is the current point leader and has finished second in three Main Events so far this year. Though he has yet to win, indications are that that moment may be just around the corner for him. The rookie DeVolder has also had his moments as he has finished as high as second and won a heat race. He hasn't missed a race, but he is currently third in the standings..
With two feature wins so far this year, Trevor Clymens would seem to be a guy who could win the championship, but he has missed one race to put him behind Johnson. Should Trevor continue to race the rest of the season, it seems likely that he has a good chance of overtaking Johnson. Reigning champion Fred Ryland has opted not to pursue points at Antioch Speedway. He and his wife Patti have both raced at other places. When Fred has come out to Antioch, he is a multi time feature winner. Another multi feature winner is Watsonville competitor Anthony Giuliani.
What has aided this B Modified division so far this year is the fact that there have been new cars debuting. Given the busy nature of the schedule this year, however, it seems likely that car count will dip under ten on occasion and have good moments as well. The championship would seem to be Johnson's to lose unless Clymens decides to take up the chase.
The lack of IMCA sanctioning in the A Modified division has not really affected the class, but what has had a big impact on the track's point race is the new John Prentice Motorsports promoted All Star Modified Series. For whatever reason, Soares and Prentice didn't sit down at the table and negotiate any dates for this group or any of Prentice's Sprint Car classes. Antioch would seem to be a natural fit, but at this moment there are no talks.
When the first race was to be held at Tulare a few weeks ago, Antioch's point race took a major hit. Drivers opting to skip Antioch to run the series included incoming point leader Aaron Crowell, four time champion Troy Foulger, two time Petaluma Champion Nick DeCarlo, past champion Kellen Chadwick, three time champion Bobby Hogge IV and Josh Combs. Like Hogge, Combs is also a feature winner at Antioch this year, but Hogge has done it in Late Models and Modifieds.
When all of those drivers ducked out on the point race, it opened the door for 5 time champion Scott Busby to move into the point lead. Taking up the chase on Busby was 2014 champion Carl Berendsen II, still hungry for his first career win in this division. Busby gave it a valiant effort to win the race two visits ago, but he came up just short to the flying Jeff Decker, the 2015 Late Model champion. When Busby scratched after his heat race last time out, that opened the door for Berendsen to take the point lead going into the break. The winner that night was another Petaluma champion, Oresete Gonella.
Because there are still so many Modifieds out there these days, the class has still maintained a double digit car average for the races this year. The Prentice promoted All Star Series doesn't run every week, so you'll see some of the big names come back to Antioch on occasion. The only remaining question at this point would be will Busby continue to try to pursue the championship after having his bad night?
The Winged Sprint Car division was given a bigger schedule this year of almost twice as many dates from last year. This had many people speculating as to whether or not Soares could pull it off. He struggled to get cars for the division last year with a shorter schedule, and he still goes up against a more established show at Petaluma Speedway. However, John remains firmly committed to having a Winged Sprint Car class.
If the car count from the past two races is any indication, there was no reason to worry. Double digit car counts have filled the pits, and the records will show that feature winners so far this year are current point leader Art McCarthy, second ranked Billy Aton and Koen Shaw. What seems to be happening is drivers are coming to Antioch to get some good laps on a track that is very well suited for Sprint Car racing. 2015 champion Shawn Arriaga has spotted his rival Art McCarthy one race, but he is quickly climbing up the point ladder.
A few more drivers seem to be ready to commit to Antioch Speedway, including Adam McCarthy in father Art's second car, Dan Gonderman, Chris Magoon, the father-son duo of Rick and Ricky Brophy, newcomer Tim Burcher and Sprint Car veteran Burt Foland Jr. If this trend continues, Antioch could end up with a Sprint Car class in the teens before the year is up.
When the Wingless Spec Sprint division filled the pits with 17 Cars two races ago, it seemed obvious. The timing of the Antioch Speedway rule changes last year may not have been very good, but the rules seem to be taking hold this year. The Wingless Spec Sprint division has been strong at Antioch this year, and indications are it will continue to be that way.
It is no surprise at all to find past champion and division all time feature win leader Jim Perry Jr. at the top of the point list. Perry won the most recent Main Event and joins Marcus Smith and two time champion Dan Gonderman as feature winners so far this year. The division continues to be very competitive, and several drivers are in the hunt so far this year.
Among the drivers committing to running for points are division mainstay Rick Panfili, Alan Miranda, 2015 champion Kyle Bakkie and veteran Roy Fisher. There are several new faces in the field this year, including Shannon Newton, past Chowchilla champion Brandon Burd and rookie Adam Teves. The Spec Sprint division is in its 18th year now, and it seems to be doing better this year.
When car count dipped under 10 cars for two races in a row, there had to be concern over the Late Model division. If you know anything about Soares, you know he is a Late Model guy, and that car count wouldn't fly with him. The season opener featured a spirited duel between Bobby Hogge IV and 2014 champion Richard Papenhausen, won by Hogge with a Lap 18 pass. Papenhausen rebounded a race later with a win.
Soares could not have been pleased to see that one of the division's big boosters, Paul Gulielmoni, was supporting the class at Placerville instead of Antioch one night. It is likely that several phone calls were placed leading up to the third race, and the result was a field that included the surprising Clay Daly, who never seems to show up at Antioch, Hogge and Andy Obertello in the track House Car. Gulielmoni was seen with a couple of his race cars as well.
The result was one of the best Late Model shows the track has had in the last three years, won by Daly over Troy Foulger and Hogge. Foulger and Hogge finished second and third that night in the A Modified Main Event as well. What that show was another indication of is the track's commitment to maintaining a Late Model division. You can count on Soares to do what he can to keep a Late Model division going at Antioch Speedway.
Limited Late Model car count came out of the gate with a whimper this year. Results will show that division veterans Mike Gustafson and Larry Damitz were the first two feature winners. Between these two drivers, there are six championships won in this class, and they are also first and second on the division's all time win list with over 80 Main Event wins between them. Damitz just turned 87 and shows no signs of slowing down.
The big concern is car count, which was very low for the first two races. However, rookie Kimo Oreta came out of the gate pretty strong and is second in the points ahead of Mark Garner. Lori Brown has also had some good results. We've been talking about the potential of Jim Freethy to get a Main Event win, and it finally happened in the third race.
However, something even better happened in the third race, a car count of over 10 cars. We also finally saw the debut of Calvin Lewis, in a car from from the shop of RPM Racing. Joey Ridgeway made his debut in the class, and teammate Chris Long seems to be about ready to make his return to the division as well. If this continues, an increased Limited Late Model car count will make things more interesting. That is certainly the hope, but we'll have to see.
In the wild and crazy Dwarf Car division, racing has been very exciting. 2015 champion David Teves seems to have put his focus on winning the South Bay Dwarf Car title out at Watsonville. This has opened the door for division veteran Mike Corsaro and Kevin Miraglio to battle for the championship. Corsaro won the opener and came from tenth starting to finish a very close second to Teves in the next race. Miraglio has been a consistent top three finisher and is the current point leader just ahead of Corsaro.
Speaking of South Bay, veteran Mark Biscardi came to Antioch and won back to back Main Events before missing the most recent race, won by Thomas Leiby. The recent race was a bit of a brutal affair, which resulted in Wade Humphrey leaving the track with a leg injury after a flip. Car count has taken a hit this year as some drivers have went to run with the Nor Cal group, but it still keeps having double digit count.
The one thing that the shake up in car count has done is allowed other drivers to shine as new stars, and Tim Reeder is among those who have stepped up this year. It seems likely that you will see new feature winners as the season goes on, and Dwarf Car racing continues to be entertaining at Antioch Speedway. Drivers who could step up and surprise you this year include Buddy Kniss, Brian Gray, Robert Coe and Josh Miller.
The statewide trend at the moment, is a very competitive Hobby Stock division. With five races in the books, we have 5 different Main Event winners. On the list so far are Danny Jones, rookie and current point leader Guy Ahlwardt, two time champion Melissa Myers, reigning champion Kimo Oreta and Chris Long.
The story of Hobby Stock racing is a similar story to that of the Wingless Spec Sprint division. Rules were changed just ahead of the 2015 season, and car count took a hit. Considering there were 17 cars in competition at the most recent race, it looks like the Hobby Stock division is rebounding big time. As competitive as this division is, the Main Event winner's list should reach into double digits by the time the season is over.
There are still some very talented racers who have not won a Main Event, and high on that list is Natalie Perry. Natalie is in the midst of her best season yet, ranking in the top three, and it would be unwise to count her out. Drivers such as Jason Jennings, Jordan Swank, Michael Cooper, Cameron Swank and Steven Rogers are among those you should watch this year. Also keep an eye on rookies Lindsay Buirch and Jessica Jones as they continue to improve with each race.
Not quite a regular at the speedway, but still booked five times is the California Hardtop division. The division seems to be in the midst of some big changes, but they have had two races at the speedway so far. Larry Damitz is pretty much classified as a Modified Hardtop, and he crossed the finish line first at the first race. Official feature winners this year are Jason Clifford and Dave Mackey. Mackey was very impressive in making a couple of passes to get his first career feature win last time out.
Mackey and Jason's father Ken Clifford are big boosters for the division in absence of the club's leader. Clifford actually sponsored top three trophies for the recent race and will sponsor top three trophies for the next race at Antioch. Mackey has taken the bull by the horns and arranged for the September 10th event to become the Chet Thomson Memorial race.
A press release is in the works, but the Chet Thomson race was held at Vallejo Speedway from 1967 to the time the track closed. For those who don't know, Chet was a champion at Vallejo Speedway in Hardtops in the 1960s driving for Bob Thomas. You may also know that Chet's son, Tommy Thomson, drives the #39 Hardtop, a car that he actually drove at Vallejo Speedway and won a Chet Thomson Memorial race with.
The California Hardtop movement is almost 10 years old, and Soares was the first promoter to give this group a home track. Drivers like Robby Waldrop, Dennis Armstrong, Rick Ruiz, Dan Williams, John Turner and Damitz make this a very interesting division.
Antioch Speedway is still going strong this year. Though there were some doubts and some questions heading into the year, it seems to be steady as she goes. John's Father, John P. Soares, promoted the track for 20 years, and every indication is that John will attempt to surpass him. As the season goes on, you can expect some more good things to happen at Antioch Speedway as it remains one of the places to be for race fans on Saturday night.
This Saturday night will feature Winged Sprint Cars and Wingless Spec Sprints, along with the A Modifieds, B Modifieds, Limited Late Models and Hobby Stocks. For further information, check out www.antiochspeedway.com.
Sprint Cars, Modifieds On Tap For Speedway
On Saturday Night
After two weeks off, Antioch Speedway returns to life on Saturday night with a six division show. The six division Northern All Stars program will feature Winged 360 Sprint Cars, Wingless Spec Sprints, A Modifieds, B Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Limited Late Models. The show offers a little something for everybody.
The Winged 360 Sprint Car race is a battle between 2007 champion Art McCarthy and past Wingless Spec Sprint champion Billy Aton. Both are feature winners this year, and McCarthy holds a slim 148-146 lead after three races. Dan Gonderman 144, Rick "Doc" Brophy 104 and Koen Shaw 100 are next in line. Shaw is coming off of an impressive feature victory last time out. Amazingly enough, Shawn Arriaga is just 20 points out of third in the standings despite missing the season opener.
If you like your Sprint Cars Wingless, the Spec Sprints may just be for you. Coming off of his win last time out, Jim Perry Jr. leads Roy Fisher by a 148-136 margin. Rick Panfili is a close third with 132 points as Alan Miranda, Marcus Smith and James East are tied for fourth with 124 points. Smith and Dan Gonderman are also feature winners this year, while Miranda and long time racer Panfili are searching for their first wins.
The A Modified division finds 2014 champion Carl Berendsen II leading Ray Lindeman, 208-182 in another close race. Both drivers are on a quest for their first wins. Nobody has more wins in this division than five time champion Scott Busby, who has 171 points. Aaron Crowell 146 and the tied Trent Wentworth and rookie Bobby Montalvo 136 make up the remainder of the Top 5. Feature winners this season include Crowell, Jeff Decker, Bobby Hogge IV, Josh Combs and Oreste Gonella.
With three second place finishes so far, Al Johnson leads two time winner Trevor Clymens, 314-272 in the B Modified point race. Rookie Shane DeVolder is a close third with 266 points as Danny Jones 252 and K.C. Keller 184 make up the remainder of the Top 5. Reigning champion Fred Ryland and Anthony Giuliani are multiple feature winners this season.
When it comes to Limited Late Model wins, four time champion Larry Damitz and two time champion Mike Gustafson combine for over 80 of them. Both have feature wins this year as the 87 year old Damitz leads rookie Kimo Oreta, 154-144 in the standings. Mark Garner is a close third with 142 points on the trail of his first win of the season. Jim Freethy won the most recent race and ranks fourth with 136 points as the steady John Evans is fifth with 126 tallies. Could it be Evans getting his first win this week?
Rookie Guy Ahlwardt has proven that his beautiful #10 Hobby Stock is as fast as it looks. The one time winner holds a 244-179 lead over Natalie Perry. Perry is in the midst of her best season yet and looking for her first win in the division. The battle is close for second as Cameron Swank 178, Danny Jones 173 and the tied Michael Cooper and rookie Lindsey Buirch 170 complete the Top 5. There are five winners in five races as Jones, two time champion Melissa Myers, three time champion Kimo Oreta and Chris Long are the other winners. Will a new winner emerge this week?
Six divisions will make this a must see show on Saturday night. The racing program will continue at the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds based race track all the way through September. Ticket Prices: Family Ticket (2 Adults & 2 Children) $40.00 Adult Ticket (13-64) $15.00 Child Ticket (6-12) $10.00 Senior Ticket (65 and over) $12.00 Children 5 and under FREE NOTE: Parking is $5.00 per car charged by the fairgrounds (not the Speedway). For further information, check www.antiochspeedway.com.