Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Jerry Hetrick Memorial Race Anounced, Chet Thomson Memorial Hardtop Race

First of all...

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

Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover

On Sale At Reduced Price

Don's California Racing Recollections:  Best Of The Blog And Beyond

Available via print on demand at Lulu in Hard Cover or Paperback


If You Like Reading Our Articles, Visit The Tip Jar at Go Fund Me to support our efforts

DCRR Racing Media And PR Consulting  HERE

DCRR Racing Radio Show

DCRR Racing Radio Show: Episode 85 by GenWhat

Hetrick To Be Remembered With $2500 To Win Modified Race At Antioch Speedway

In the late 1970's, he sped around the quarter-mile clay oval at Antioch Speedway in his fast #9a Gremlin bodied Sportsman.  He wasn't a high dollar competitor, but he was fast.  His name was Jerry Hetrick, and he was a Top 5 point competitor, feature winner and track qualifying record holder in the popular Sportsman division. Anybody who knew him through the years had nothing but good things to say about him.

In the years that followed Jerry's retirement from racing, his son Gary started racing in Street Stocks and A Modifieds.  Jerry got to enjoy watching his son race and pitted for him as well.  The community was saddened by the news of his passing earlier this year.  Promoter John M. Soares raced against him and had respect for what he was able to do with the equipment he had.  John wanted to honor him.

Therefore, Soares and Oval Motorsports has announced the Jerry Hetrick Memorial Race on July 9th.  Throughout the almost 19 seasons that Soares has been promoting Antioch Speedway, he has held some of the biggest paying Modified races on the West Coast.  It has been confirmed that it will be the standard entry fee.  We're still awaiting details on purse breakdown, but the A Modified race will pay $2500 to win and will probably pay in the area of $1000 to $1500 for second. Soares knows how to do these races up right, and a field reaching into the 30's is very possible.

After scoring one of the biggest Antioch victories of his career last week against NASCAR racer Kenny Schrader, Scott Busby is hungry for victory.  Nobody has won more Modified races at Antioch Speedway than the five time champion  Busby.  He is fast approaching another Sportsman legend, J.D. Willis, as the track's all time win leader.  Though he has won some big money races throughout the West Coast, the big win at Antioch has been elusive.  His $1500 triumph on Preliminary Day of last year's Summer Nationals was his biggest paycheck at the track.  Scott has more incentive to win this race.  He raced against Hetrick early in his career as he had just moved up to the Sportsman division in 1980.

Another name people will need to watch for is Bobby Hogge IV.  Everybody knows what a legend Bobby's father is, but only Willis and Busby have more wins than him at Antioch Speedway.  Hogge is also a three time Antioch champion with Late Model and Modified feature wins at the track this year.  The $2,500 first prize is sure to grab Hogge's attention, and he probably won't come alone.

Another talented racer to watch for will be second generation superstar Kellen Chadwick.  Kellen is a past Antioch champion, but he just accomplished an impressive feat of winning four races in seven days to capture the 2016 Wild West Speedweek Series championship.  Like Hogge, Kellen is known for going where they pay the big money, and he's claimed his share of winner's prizes through the years.

It's difficult to say who might show up to make a run for the money, but one local champion who will hopefully have a motor together in time to compete will be Aaron Crowell.  Aaron is a feature winner at Antioch this season.  Point leader Carl Berendsen II is another driver we anticipate as he goes for his first win in the division on the biggest stage of them all.

Third generation racer Darrell Hughes II is developing a reputation for showing up anywhere they pay the big purses and running very competitively.  He had a strong second place showing in the Roger Haudenshild Tribute Race at Southern Oregon Speedway and recently got a win at Antioch.  You can believe that Antioch will be well represented by racers like Raymond Lindeman, Trent Wentworth, Sean O'Gara, Mikey Slaney, Anthony Slaney and John MacDougall, and there is sure to be a host of top talent from other tracks looking to pay Antioch a visit.

Details are still being put together, and we will have more information in the days ahead.  You can also keep track of the latest announcements via

On The Subject Of Conflicting Modified Races

The Editior's Viewpoint

It's always interesting to see what will go wrong next when I'm working on something here. The winner again this week, audio show. The word is out on Antioch Speedway's Jerry Hetrick Memorial Race for the A Modifieds. $2500 to win, and no extra fee to get in. Run for some extra money and pay tribute to one of the track's Sportsman greats of the past. Jerry was fast. He set a track qualifying record back in the mid 1970's. I'll have an article up shortly.

Now, I know people will talk about the fact that the man who "borrowed" the All Star Series tag from John has a big Modified race for his tour at Petaluma that night. It's very simple. Go run there if you want. Or come to Antioch. You have two choices. Antioch just happens go pay a little better. Here's he deal. The Modified racers are going to run where the money is. They are looking at their own big picture, which differs from a race track's big picture.

Antioch has taken a dent in car count when the other series has run. Racers went where the money was and chose not to support the regular show. Hey, it happens. When car count goes too far down, you have a situation where the class gets dropped at Chico, might as well be dropped at Yreka and is on life support at Petaluma. It is what it is. The Sport Mods are nipping at the heels of the Modifieds, just as I predicted they would in my rant a few years ago. They didn't solve the problem when they added that class, just avoided solving the problem. It will come full circle as it always does

Now a promoter has to do what they think is best for their track, and in this case, John has gone back to the old reliable well he's drawn from since he took over Antioch Speedway. Offer the money for the A Modifieds. I don't believe he was ever offered a seat at the table by the other guy, and that's fine. So, he has to look out for the best interest of Antioch Speedway. I know what I'd do in this spot. If going to the other guy and working it out is not an option, you can either sit and watch, or you can make something happen.

I see an opportunity for something big to happen, and I'm not spelling it out here. It would be a good thing for racing, and the drivers would love it. I've heard John elude to it in the past, and I'd recommend doing it. Not gonna say what it is though. Time and a place and all of that. John doesn't have a big dealership behind him or any of that. He risks his own money, and falls and rises based on his decisions. the Jerry Hetrick Memorial Race has win written all over it.

It's not just about the money, although money is why many of them will race. It's about honoring the history of that track, and paying tribute to a good man who we lost this year. Antioch Speedway needs more of this. If I were there this year, as nearly happened, this is the kind if thing I'd have been helping John make happen, You think he really doesn't care, but he does. He's a frustrating man at times, but he cares about the sport and keeping things going. I support John just as I did his father.

So, the debate on July 9th is not much different than it was when most of the Top 5 at Antioch abandoned the point race to go chase a little more money in that new series. Go race where you want to race and above all else, have fun. Rather than be upset, be happy you have options. Be happy you have a division to run and a race tack on which to run it. Ultimately, the decisions made by the drivers will shape what happens next, for better or worse.
Hardtop Group To Bring Back 
Chet Thomson Memorial Race At Antioch Speedway

In the 1960's there was a driver who drove a fast Hardtop for BCRA Hall Of Famer Bob Thomas. His name was Chet Thompson. They called him "Charging Chet" and he was one of the best racers out there. When you're winning a championship in a field that has drivers like Phil Pedlar, Leroy Geving, Larry Damitz and Gene Dudley, you have to be good. 

Sadly, Chet passed away not long after his championship season. The racing community mourned the loss of one of its more popular drivers. To keep his memory alive, they started the Chet Thomson Memorial race in 1967. The winner's list reads like a who's who of the best drivers to ever race at Vallejo Speedway.

At 100 laps9inthose early years, these races were marathon runs. The very first win went to Julian "Catch Em" Castro. Jim Kaiser won the next one and then Super Modified legend "Big" John Viel. Phil "Bang Bang" Pedlar won the first of two consecutive races in 1970 and 1971. In 1972, the legendary Leroy Geving came out of retirement and won the race.

1973 saw the win go to "The Sun Drop Kid" Larry Damitz. Think about that one. It's 43 years later, and Damitz is the Limited Late Model champion at Antioch Speedway and also runs a Modified Hardtop with the Hardtop group. Larry just had his 87th birthday. Speaking of Hardtop champions, Larry Hall won the 1974 race. If this writer may make it an observation, I'm staring right at the car that Larry drove to the track championship, currently owned by Mike McCann.

Lanny Westbrook won his first of two in a row in 1975. Then, it was a bittersweet moment for the son of Chet Thompson. "The Green Hornet" Tommy Thomson picked up his win in 1977. It is interesting to note that Tommy competes with the Hardtops these days, and he's driving the car that he won that race with.  Augie Fonseca won the final Chet Thomson Memorial Race as it switched to Super Modifeds, but Stan Cargo won the Hardtop part of the program that night.  Skip Brown won the Super Modified Chet Thomson Memorial race in 1979.

Bringing back the Chet Thomson Memorial was the brainstorm of a man who loves his Hartops, Dave Mackey. With the help of Jim Perry Jr., Mackey has put together a beautiful tribute car to the Dudley Family. He drove that car to the most recent Antioch Speedway win, and he had to make a couple of big passes to get that win. Dave is also co owner of another car and with Pete Paulsen. You know the colors, red white and blue #66, reminiscent of Pete's House of Wheels Special.

But, Dave's not doing this because he expects to win. Dave is doing it because he sees a tradition that needs to be honored. Some forty years ago, he was out at Vallejo Speedway watching these guys race, dreaming about the opportunity he might have to drive one of these cars one day. It wasn't until he hooked up with Perry Racing that he was able to finally live out that dream.

Now, Mackey sees the need for the Hardtop group to be promoted a little bit better. Dave approached Antioch Speedway promoter John M. Soares about the possibility of having a special date for September 10th. The group was already on the schedule. Soares knows the Hardtops well. The first race cars that John ever drove were Hardtops back in the 1960s, and his father, the legendary John "Pops" Soares, won two BCRA Hardtop championships.  When Conrad Cavallero started this group nearly a decade ago, John was the first promoter to give them dates.

So, the date is set for September 10th. It will be that Chet Thompson Memorial race. Mackey is working on securing the trophy and other contingency sponsors. It is likely that he'll find another ally in "The Rocket Man" Ken Clifford. A one time winner himself this year, Ken picked up trophies to hand out to the top three finishers for five races. Ken's first set of trophies went to the top three finishers at Antioch Speedway last time out.

It is likely that you will see him, and his two time feature winning son Jason Clifford competing in this race. Mackey's hopes are that the car count can get brought up well over 10 cars. It is known that the Hardtop roster in the Northern California area reaches into the thirties, but contact will have to be made with some of the racers.

Drivers currently active in the group that we anticipate seeing at this race include both Clifford cars, Mackey, Tommy Thomson, Dan Williams, Rob Waldrop, John Turner, Ron Ruiz, Jason Armstrong, Dennis Armstrong, Ken Ratzloff, Doug Broderick and Damitz.

The key information in all of this is that an effort is being made to promote Hardtop racing once again. It's obvious that there has been a lack of leadership in this group as it has struggled through the last couple of years. Some have said that the car count languishes because no effort has been made to bring the cars back to the race track. No effort has been made to inform the racers of when the races are.

Racers like Mackey and Clifford are people who want to see this division continue to grow and prosper. To do that, the racers have to be included in the process. The Chet Thomson Memorial Race is important first step in building a future for this division. It is also a good idea to link the Hardtops with the legacy of the Vallejo and Pacheco race tracks.

It has been said that these are not Vallejo Speedway Hardtop by certain people. That may be true to an extent, but there are a couple of Hardtops that came from Vallejo that still exist. There are also cars that were built paying tribute to Vallejo Speedway, and many of the people who open their eyes and take notice of this division first are people who were at  Vallejo Speedway in the 1970's. It's not a bad idea for the group to tap into that.

Details are still being finalized about what will be happening next with this race date. When we get more details, will pass them along here. The meantime, the hardtops have a race date coming up at Antioch Speedway on June 25th. The good news is the legacy of Hardtop racing will continue.