Friday, September 30, 2016

Pit Stops

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Pit Stops

Championship point racing is in the rear view mirror at most tacks, and now the drivers can concentrate on running the bigger money races at various venues.  The one exception to the point rule is Antioch Speedway, where two rain out make ups have been booked. The big money John Soares Sr. Memorial Top Dog Race happens on October 8th and will feature DIRTcar Late Models ($1500 to win), A Modifieds ($1500 to win), B Modifieds ($850 to win) and Hobby Stocks ($850 to win).  We'll have more to say on the subject of what we feel is an important race for the track.  On October 22nd, the track is having another "kitchen sink" race with DIRTcar Late Models, A Modifieds, B Modifieds, Wingless Spec Sprints, Limited Late  Models, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars.  We will pass along any important details as we get them.

Here is what we do know about Antioch Speedway at the moment.  Billy Aton is the Winged 360 Sprint Car champion.  Last week was the point season finale, and he won his third Main Event of the season.  Aton was running strong down the stretch, and he needed to be in order to hold off three time winner Art McCarthy.  Both of these drivers ran a great season, and Dan Gonderman wrapped up his best point season yet in third.  We also know that Guy Ahlwardt has clinched the Hobby Stock championship and "Rookie Of The Year" honors.  He could park, not that he will, and still be the champion.  He had a great season.  He had a bad week last time out, and one can't help but wonder what might have been had Danny Jones' car owner Ryan Thomason not pulled the plug on their title effort.  As for Ahlward, be battled through adversity and earned this championship.

We can also tell you that "Jammin" Jim Perry Jr. is the Wingless Spec Sprint champion.  This is his second title, putting him in the elite company of Darrell "The Hammer" Hanestad. "The Piledriver" Dan Gonderman and "Bullet" Billy Macedo.  Will he try for three?  The rumor going around has him putting a wing on the car and giving Aton, McCarthy and the guys a run for the money next year.  But, that's just the rumor.  Kevin Miraglio has clinched the Dwarf Car championship.  He was a consistent Top 3 finisher with two wins, and he definitely earned this one.  Larry Damitz only needs to start the final Limited Late Model Main Event to clinch the championship.  If he doesn't, he could lose it to either Kimo Oreta or Mark Garner.  What's remarkable about Damitz is he now has five championships in the past six seasons and now has over 40 wins in this division alone.  He is approaching two time champion Mike "The Blue Knight" Gustafson for the top spot on the division's all time win list.

Carl Berendsen II has not clinched the A Modified championship just yet, but a decent showing at the John Soares Sr. Memorial Race could clinch his second championship in three years.  With a guy like Scott Busby behind him, Carl knows he has to have a good showing.  Trevor Clymens is likely not thrilled about the idea of two more point races left.  Last week at this time, he thought he just needed to go out there and run some laps, but then came the Thursday announcement that it is not over yet.  Trevor missed a race for a vacation, came back and won a total of seven Main Events and about a dozen heat races as he overtook Al Johnson for the lead.  Last week, Johnson served notice that it's not over yet with his first career Main Event triumph and heat race win.  The Clymens lead is 32 points with two races remaining.

Richard Papenhausen and Jeff Decker are both two time Main Event winners this season in DIRTcar Late Model competition.  Decker, who is the defending champion, got his second win last time to pull to within 16 points of current point leader and 2014 champion Papenhausen.  It's not over yet, and this could get interesting.  Papenhausen hasn't been as dominant as he was last season, and that one got away from him at the end.  As if that isn't enough, Decker is being shown as the UMP DIRTcar West Region point leader by five points over Papenhausen.  Last season, that championship was worth $2000 to Decker.   Who will reach down deep and get the win when it's all on the line?  A win will also be worth $1500 in the John Soares Sr. Memorial Race on October 8th.

There are also a few battles to keep an eye on as racers still want to finish on the podium if the championship slips away.  Starting with Late Models, two die hard supporters are battling fiercely for third.  At the moment, Dennis Souza leads Mike Hynes by just 21 points.  Winning might be difficult for either of them, but a Top 3 in the Main Event may be what tips the scales either way.  Meanwhile, Mark Garner has to be wondering what he has to do to get by rookie Kimo Oreta in the Limited Late Models.  Oreta had consistently finished most of the races, including a season high second last week.  Garner has brought home five Main Event wins so far.  Yet, the third generation racer still trails Oreta by just two points.

Not much is expected to change in the Top 5 in B Modifieds as rookie Shane DeVolder is third and K.C. Keller is fourth.  Scott Busby has a 47 point lead in the battle for second in A Modifieds.  A really good battle for third finds second generation racer Sean O'Gara and rookie Bobby Montalvo tied, while Trent Wentworth is 20 points back.  With about a dozen feature winners, one of these three could get the upper hand if they were to get their first win in either of the last two races.  The Spec Sprints, meanwhile, have the October finale left.  Marcus Smith has three wins this season, but he's still just 12 points ahead of Roy Fisher and 20 in front of Rick Panfili.  Fisher has a win this year, while Panfili is still searching.  Last time out, Panfili had to overcome some mechanical issues just to be in the Main Event.

The Dwarf Cars is an interesting situation.  Rookie Buddy Kniss has crept up on one time winner Mike Corsaro.  Corsaro leads Kniss by 22 points, putting second place in play.  Kniss is only 20 points ahead of Tim Reeder for third.  In the Hobby Stocks, Lindsey Buirch has a 28 point lead over Jordan Swank, who is on a mission to earn his second straight runnerup season.  At 29 points ahead of 2010 champion Chris Sorensen, Swank could lose third if he has a bad night.  In fact, Jordan's brother in law, Michael Cooper, is 34 points back despite missing some races.  As you can see, there are still some point positions at play on the podium in most of the All Star Series divisions.

Moving onto the subject of introducing new racers to the track, we can't help but look at two possibilities.  The first is the infield track and running various Outlaw Kart classes, starting with the beginners.  It certainly takes some patience and putting the right people in place to oversee such an endeavor, but it could be a winner.  There's also the covered area at the fairgrounds that runs RC Cars during the winter.  Is an Antioch Barn Burner doable along the lines of what Chowchilla has?  It might not be big enough for some classes.  Could something be done there?  This has been something we've been contemplating for awhile now.  The best way to teach the next generation about cars and racing is to get them started young.

Another question we have is why there are no Hornets at the track.  It's baffling that Antioch sort of started the ball rolling on this class and doesn't have it now.  There's a story on this and the death of Street Stocks.  We certainly weren't happy with the Street Stocks being sacrificed to save a Limited Late Model division that still struggles at 6-7 cars.  And yet, it remains and is a purse paying class.  In 2014, the Hornets had 5-6 cars and weren't even a purse paying division.  Make no mistake, we're not saying anything against Limited Late Models, which we do enjoy.  We just wonder why not keep Hornets around as a gateway into the sport?  Merced has managed to keep it's own class around, which we will get into in a moment.

The other drum we beat that we know upsets certain people when we say it is the fact that Bay Area racing would benefit greatly if John M. Soares and John Prentice could work together again.  We've been vocal about our concern about Prentice having too much power to set schedules for certain tracks if they want to play ball with the series he controls.  What Antioch has going for it is a big enough roster that divisions can be parked for a week to work with the various series.  We've also wondered further if there isn't more potential here.  DIRTcar Late Models, for instance, are still popular with people in Watsonville and Petaluma.  So, Soares has something more to potentially offer.  A race or two at Watsonville at the right time could go over well, and a date at Petaluma could as well.

The Hunt Series needs another track that has its own cars.  Antioch has that.  It was baffling that when Prentice took over the Wingless series, he dropped his regular class at Watsonville, despite the fact that it was a 10-12 car division.  Antioch is a perfect site for a couple of these races.  The Civil War could work as well.  Perhaps even King Of The West.  As for the All Star Modified Series, Antioch can stand toe to toe with any track when it comes to promoting this division.  Soares' record speaks for itself.  A date or two here would be a winner.  There is also the possibility that Prentice could add B Modifieds, and we have an intriguing thought to add?  What about Hobby Stocks?  Antioch, Merced, Watsonville and Chico have them.

The point is, Soares, Prentice, Rick Faeth and Ed Parker all have something to bring to the table.  Parker has been flexible to the point of pulling dates to work with Prentice.  Faeth has as well.  From a business standpoint, this could work.  If nothing else, Soares and Prentice talking would be a good thing, even if only one or two things come out of it at first.  Now, will this happen?  We aren't holding our breath.  We're not pointing a finger.  It takes two to tango, and there is always more than one side to the story.  But, this wouldn't be The DCRR if we didn't put our opinion out there and weren't willing to back it up with any support we could offer.

The thing about being a promoter is it's not easy to do any of this.  You have to be prepared to lose money every week and have something set aside to cover those losses.  People go out of business all the time because they don't have the money to cover the losses.  We have a great appreciation for Soares and all of the promoters who risk their own money so that we have a place to go on Friday and Saturday nights to enjoy ourselves.

Ed Parker probably didn't seem like much to the racing community when he stepped forward to buy Merced Speedway.  He might have been expected to fail.  The track had its challenges going into the year, and he knew it.  Ed's first step was to bring in people like Doug Williams and Dale Falkenberg to help make it happen.  What's interesting about this guy is his humility.  He will share his thoughts on social media in an almost "Tom Sagmilleresqe" sort of way.  You can see that the man is genuine and feels grateful that he can provide a place for the racers to race.  It wasn't enough to just keep the gates open.  He wanted to do special things all season and to work with other promoters in a way where everybody could benefit.

We talk about promoters who have done pretty well.  Scott Schweitzer's name comes up quite a bit at Bakersfield.  Scott Russell at Placerville in his fist year.  Jim Naylor at Ventura.  The people at Perris Auto Speedway do an amazing job.  Ed has given us races like The Ted Stofle Classic, Matt Van Hoecke Memorial, Joe Fore Jr. Memorial and Legends Of Merced Speedway night.  He's put his heart into it, and the trend of things coming around late last year was more apparent this year.  He had a really good first season.  The DCRR always likes to acknowledge efforts that we see as making a difference, and we would honor Ed with the DCRR Racing News Award Of Excellence.

Randy Brown is Merced's IMCA Modified champion.  Randy had an amazing last eight races that never saw him finish outside of third.  Just to show how good he is, last week Randy beat Bobby Hogge IV for a Wastsonville win and then held off another one of the very best in Ramie Stone to win the Merced finale.  Randy is champion because he earned it.  We really salute Brown and Stone, who won the All Star Series race at Merced this year.  Bruce "Bubba" Nelson had a solid third place season, and two time winner Bill Egleston and Ricky Thatcher also looked good in the Top 5 this year.  Merced had one of the best IMCA Modified shows in the state this year.

Rick Diaz battled his own adversity when he lost a ride.  It might have been over, but he got another car without missing a beat.  If he wasn't winning, you generally had to beat him to get that win.  Diaz was very impressive in wrapping up the championship a week before the season ended.  We also have respect for the job Mike Drake did in piloting the George Medeiros owned car to a second place season.  George made a good choice in putting this talented second generation racer behind the wheel.  The Tucker family has also been a part of Merced Speedway for years, and Gary Tucker reminded everybody just how good he is when he held off Diaz to win the finale and keep third in the standings ahead of Tim Elias and Josh Hensley.

Michael Shearer grabbed a Hobby Stock win right out of the gate and finished second four times during the season.  He had such a point lead that he could have missed the season finale and still won the championship.  The thing about the Shearer team was they were enthusiastic supporters of the track and fielded four cars at times during the season.  2015 champion Kevin Joaquin posted back to back second place finishes before winning his first feature of the season to wrap up second in the standings.  A really strong showing in the finale propelled Ted Stofle Classic winner Phillip Vaughn into third in the final rundown ahead of Robbie Loquaci and Austin Van Hoff.

The Corder Racing Team has been a hard core supporter of Mini Stock racing for the past few seasons.  Chris Corder's record now is three championships in a row as he won the title at Chowchilla last season while finishing a close second at Merced.  Chris won seven Main Events during the season, leaving no doubt who the champion was this year.  Paul Lauretti had a good showing in his fist year and used a second place finish in the finale to hold onto second in the final rundown.  Destiny Carter's dream of racing was made possible because of Chris Corder.  She had a good showing all season long and used her third Top 5 finish to solidify herself in third in the final rankings. Tony Peffer and one time winner Curtis Thornhill rounded out the Top 5 in the standings.

The Valley Sportsman division nearly got dropped last year, but they were recused from the brink because people like Kenny Birdsong and Jeff Bristow would not let it go.  The points were dropped during the season last year (though Marcus Lung earned the most points).  This year, Kenny Birdsong won three times to win his first championship in the Rod Poor tribute car.  Kenny loves the class, but he's talking about having others drive his car too next year and not chasing points.  Two time winner and two time champion Mike Friesen grabbed second in points after Bristow missed double point Legend's Night with a broken down tow vehicle.  One time winner and 2008 champion Mark Odgers and rookie Shannon Fry rounded out the Top 5.

The John Fore Jr. Memorial race is offering up a $1500 first prize on October 15th, which should draw some good racers to Merced Speedway.  After that, there's a November banquet to celebrate an amazing season and then comes the planning by Parker and Williams for the 2017 season.  The one thing people realized after this year is that after over 65 seasons, racing is still alive and well in Merced.

For whatever reason, management at Rocky Hill Speedway has lagged a bit on getting results out there, so we still don't know the finishes in two of the last three races at the track.  They did post the champion's names, and we can congratulate Jason Cook (Mini Stocks), Roy Atchison (Super 4's), Roy Maynard Jr. (Mod Lites), Bob Ellis (American Stocks) and Raymond Noland Jr. (Hobby Stocks) on their respective championships. Sonny Sell and his crew battled through some adversity this year, but they made it happen.  In fact, there are still more races left to go.

Some big races remain on the calendar, such at the Adobe Cup race at Petaluma Speedway on October 8th.  $5000 will be on the line for the winner of the Winged 360 Sprint Car race and $1000 to the winner of the Wingless Spec Sprints.  The Lumberjack's Restaurant Super Stocks run for $800 that night as well.  We congratulate the champions, which include Bradley Terrell ( Winged 360 Sprint Cars)  Klint Simpson, ( Spec Sprints), Oresete Gonella (McLea's Tires IMCA Modifieds), Chad Mathias (General Hydroponics Dwarf Cars), Jim Beck (Santa Rosa Auto Body 600 Mini Sprints), Darien Balestrini (Jake's Performance Hobbies Mini Stocks) and Matt While (Lumberjack's Restaurant Super Stocks).  While beat Steve Studebaker by just three points.  Andy Foreberg (Winged 360 Sprint Cars) and Terry Schank Jr. (Spec Sprints) won their respective Shoot Out Series titles.

A week before, Ocean Speedway has the Sixth Annual Pat Pettit Memorial Shoot Out on September 30 and October 1st.  That event will pay $3003 to win and $203 to start IMCA Modifieds, $1003 to win and $103 to start IMCA Sport Modifieds and $503 to win and $53 to start Hobby Stocks.  Friday's IMCA Modified Main Event will pay $1003 to win.  Naturally, many drivers are planning to complete in all divisions this week, end we also offer our congratulations to Brad Furr (Taco Bravo Sprint Cars), Bobby Hogge IV (IMCA Modifieds), Jim DiGiovanni (IMCA Sport Modifieds), Robert Gallaher (American Stocks) and D.J. Keldsen (Mini Stocks) on their respective track championships.

Naturally, The Pit Stop Reporter wants to go on and on since we rarely get to do one of these columns for The DCRR Blog.  The subject of bringing cars back to Chowchilla Speedway on the bigger track, even for Sport Modified, Hobby Stock and Mini Stock shows seems a good place to start.  The Fairgrounds was said to be getting a new Fair Manager, though we haven't looked at the information there.  We do know that Sanders Motorsports moved outside of "The Barn" for some races on the smaller track in front of the grandstands.  Though they decided to discontinue that, The Chowchilla Barnburner is coming back again during the winter.  There's no reason to expect it won't be successful.  

We've also gotten word that Hillferry Speedway is about ready to start racing Karts and other classes once again .  This has been about a three year process, and we're happy to see that something is finally happening.  Actually, some pretty big names have looked at the possibility of promoting car races on this track in the last 20 years, including John M. Soares, George Steitz and most recently Mike McCann,  The fact that Karts will return is good news, and we wish them success.  We'll be keeping our eyes out for information. Closer to the Antioch area comes the possibility of Kart Racing at Diablo MX (Formerly Sand Hill Raceway), once the legal issues are resolved.  We'll be monitoring this situation as well.

We end by talking about "the granddaddy" of all open shows, The Budweiser Nationals at Bakersfield Speedway.  It's set for October 7th and 8th.  Late Models race both nights for $2000 to win and $250 to start, IMCA Modifieds race both days for $1500 to win.  IMCA Sport Modifieds race both days with $1500 to win on Saturday.  Hobby Stocks race for $1200 to win on Saturday.  There is also a $1000 to win Pro Stock race and $600 to win American Stock and IMCA Stock Car races.  With championship point racing done, we congratulate Ricky Childress Jr. (IMCA Modifieds), Chris McKellar (IMCA Sport Modifieds), Mike Hill Jr. (Hobby Stocks), Steven Johnson (IMCA Stock Cars), Jerry Flippo (Mod Lites), Dakota Brown (American Stocks), Loni Spiller (Mini Stocks), Jett Yantis (Jr. Mini Dwarfs) and Chloie Jones (Sr. Mini Dwarfs) on winning their respective Bakersfield championships.