Friday, September 9, 2016

Racing Returns From One Week Break At Antioch Speedway

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Racing Returns From One Week Break At Antioch Speedway

Antioch, CA...After the one week hiatus for Labor Day weekend, Antioch Speedway will once again roar to life with the sound of engines as six divisions will take their turn on the fast three-eighth mile clay oval. On the card for this event will be the Winged 360 Sprint Cars, A Modifieds, B Modifieds, Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks and Chet Thompson Memorial race for the Hardtops.

The Winged 360 Sprint Car division has had a few great story lines during the course of the year. The first is the fact that there have been nine different winners in 12 races. Most of the winners have been drivers visiting from week to week for a shot at the big prize money. The two repeat winners are the drivers battling closely for the track championship. Last time, Billy Aton won his second Main Event. He continues to be the point leader.

In recent races, Aton has been running strong, despite the fact that his closest rival, Art McCarthy, had won two of his three Main Events during the 5 week stretch. Aton picked up three second place finishes and a third during that time. Two races ago, Aton looked like he might be headed for a victory when he lost a wheel in Turns 1 and 2. It was such a bad night for him that he only carried a 3 point lead into the most recent race. Knowing what needed to be done, Aton went out there and scored an impressive victory.

McCarthy has been in a few of these battles during his time, and he did what he needed to do last time by finishing fourth in the Main Event. The battle remains very close, and McCarthy is the measuring stick at Antioch Speedway. If he's not winning the championship, you have to go through him to get it. Last season he was second in the standings and he is a past champion at the track. McCarthy has won two Petaluma Speedway championships as well.

Speaking of champions, reigning champion Shawn Arriaga returned last time out in the Brett Lay owned car and came from last to an impressive second place finish. Not wanting to stress too much about points this year, Shawn has taken a few weeks off to spend time with his family, and this was his best showing of the season. You never know who might show up and run Sprint Cars at Antioch on any given week, but usually Dan Gonderman and Burt Foland Jr. are there. Gonderman holds on to third in the standings and finished fifth last time out. Foland, meanwhile, had a heat race win and third place finish for his best effort of the season. Don't be surprised if he takes it up a notch with a win this week.

The A Modified division continues to be a wide open race. Through consistency, Carl Berendsen II maintains the point lead over five time champion Scott Busby. Busby meanwhile, has his hands full trying to hold off the onslaught of Sean O'Gara, Trent Wentworth and Bobby Montalvo. Busby finished third behind the season best second place finish of second generation racer O'Gara last time out. O'Gara is currently ranked third in the standings, but he hasn't given up on a career best second just yet.

Meanwhile, Berendsen put his car through its paces last time out and ended up fifth, which was better than the rollover he had in the previous race. Carl continues to race hard in the hopes of grabbing his first win. He has already indicated that if he does win the championship, which would be his second in the last three years, he intends to take it easy next year and not launch another point effort. Another new winner visited the Winner's Circle last time in past Chico champion in Duane Cleveland. Cleveland became the tenth different winner of the season.

Meanwhile, Trevor Clymens continues his quest to win the B Modified championship. With seven feature wins to his credit so far, he is well on his way to doing it. He finished second last time ahead of the persistent Al Johnson, but Trevor knows that he can't let up just yet. He had his sights set on winning number eight last time, but those plans were thwarted by surprise Marysville visitor Philip Shelby. Shelby had a show at his regular track, but the three time Stock Car champion decided to race at Antioch instead. After picking up the victory, he was happy that he did.

Following up on a disappointing non finish, rookie Shane DeVolder came back strong with a Top 5 effort last week. Actually, it was another double Top 5 weekend for Shane as he had finished fourth at Chico the night before. A look at the IMCA Sport Modified State points finds Shane ranked inside the Top 10. Last time out, Shane was chased across the line by a season best fifth place finish for Kevin Brown.

It has been a very busy season for the B Modified division as they are on the card just about every week. Despite the heavy schedule and the concern people had that the car count would not hold up, they've been putting fields of 10 or more cars on the track just about every week. Also, the division is very competitive, despite all the winning Clymens has been doing. Other drivers to watch for this week include K.C. Keller, Brian Pearce, Randy Brown, Paul Mulder, Lloyd Cline and Megan Ponciano. After taking a nasty tumble in the Main Event last time, it's uncertain whether Chuck Golden will have his car ready to go this week.

With five Main Event wins to his credit, it looks like 87 year old Larry Damitz is well on his way to his fifth Limited Late Model championship in the last six seasons. When you look at his numbers during this six year run, you can't help but be impressed.  He finished second the year he didn't win the championship, and he also had two Limited Late Model championships at Merced Speedway during this time period. Mark Garner and rookie Kimo Oreta have given him a good run, but Damitz has remained consistent. Even if Garner wins the Main Event, the ageless wonder continues to finish second behind him.

Damitz was holding down second last time out behind Oreta. Oreta had earlier won a heat race and seemed poised to finally get his first feature win in the division when his motor died on the front straight away. Damitz was there to pick up the pieces and bring it home to his fifth feature win of the year. Oreta still managed to gain more points than Mark Garner as the second place battle between the two is likely to go down to the final checkered flag.

Finishing second in the former Jeff Silva championship car was Jeff Kendrick. It was his best finish of the year and matches his best career finish in this class as he had a second place finish last year at Merced Speedway. To get second, he had to hold off the division's all time win leader and two time champion Mike Gustafson. It looked like second belonged to Lori Brown until her tire went flat in the last couple of laps and dropped her back to fourth.

The division has its ups and downs in car count, but rookie Billy Garner continues to come back and make some laps and the steady John Evans remains one of the Top 5 drivers in the standings. Other driver to stop by from time to time include Paul Hanley, Ryan Cherezian, John Keith and one time feature winner and 2013 champion Jim Freethy.

The Hobby Stock division title race was blown wide open last time with the departure of Danny Jones from the battle. Rookie Guy Ahlwardt had regained the point lead following his fourth win of the season, and then the Jones team parked in protest of an official decision to disqualify him after he had crossed the line in second from a back of the pack start. This opens the door for the battle for third to become the battle for second. The steady Lindsey Buirch, Michael Cooper and Jordan Swank are among the drivers who will be fighting hard for that finish. Cooper might actually be battling for the championship if not for a work schedule that keeps him out of the action on occasion.

The last race was a time for some new drivers to run at the front of the pack. Though he's appeared under the radar this year, Anthony Vigna has steadily improved in his rookie season. Vigna was leading the Main Event with Frank Furtado running a career best second when the unfortunate happened. Vigna's motor let go in a ball of flames on the 17th lap. This put Furtado into the lead with the win hungry Cameron Swank behind him. However, Frank was not to be denied his first career feature win. The win was pretty sweet for Furtado, who has been competing in the Hobby Stocks for the past several seasons. Furtado hasn't been chasing points this year, but he was third in the standings last year.

The Hobby Stock division is always exciting, and the last race highlights the unpredictable things that can happen. Other drivers to watch for this week include 2010 champion Chris Sorensen, Chris Long Robert Niven, Mitchell LoCicero and Natalie Perry.

The California Hardtops return to Antioch Speedway for a special event. Local competitors Dave Mackey and Tommy Thomson have revived the Chet Thomson Memorial race, a special Hardtop race that ran at Valldejo Speedway from 1967-1979. The event honored one of the best Hardtop drivers of Vallejo Speedway in the 1960's, Chet Thompson. Thompson was the 1962 champion, and he passed away after a battle with cancer.

Chet's son Tommy continues his love of Hardtop racing and is competing in the car that he drove at Vallejo Speedway in the late 1970's. In fact, Tommy has won one of these special memorial races among his other victories. The race will also have special meaning as the group will be selling commemorative t-shirts of the event with the proceeds being donated to the Armstrong family. Their young son Tyler recently lost his battle with Leukemia, and the guys wanted to do something to help support one of their fellow racers during this difficult time.

The Hardtops were booked at Antioch on August 20th, but a few of the racers were concerned about keeping their cars together for the special exhibition race at Calistoga that ran last week. However, indications are that there will be big support for this event, and among the racers anticipated this week include Rob Waldrop, Dan Williams, Mike Friesen, Larry Damitz, Steve Cloyes, Ken Clifford and his son Jason Clifford, Dave Mackey and Tommy Thomson.

Once again, six divisions of racing will come back to Antioch Speedway this Saturday night. The All Star Series event will include Winged 360 Sprint Cars, A Modifieds, B Modifieds, Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks and California Hardtops. For further information, go to

Antioch Speedway
All Star Series Points

Winged 360 Sprint Car
Billy Aton 558
Art McCarthy 547
Dan Gonderman 392
Burt Foland 334
Shawn Arriaga 237
Rick Brophy 174
Matt Barber 166
Matt DeMartini 162
Chris Magoon 150
Marissa Polizzi 146

A Modifieds
Carl Berendsen II 482
Scott Busby 417
Sean O'Gara 402
Bobby Montalvo 392
Trent Wentworth 384
Troy Foulger 299
Ray Lindeman 274
Norman Boeck 262
Brian Cass 200
Nick Viscusi III 196

B Modifieds
Trevor Clymens 858
Al Johnson 824
Shane DeVolder 794
Danny Jones 636
K.C. Keller 578
Randy Brown 368
Chuck Golden 322
Brian Pearce 280
Lloyd Cline 271
Anthony Giuliani 269

Limited Late Model
Larry Damitz 622
Kimo Oreta 580
Mark Garner 574
Mike Gustafson 430
John Evans 418
Lori Brown 377
Jim Freethy 272
Jeff Kendrick 132
Billy Garner 120
Paul Hanley 82

Hobby Stock
Guy Ahlwardt 634
Danny Jones 537
Lindsey Buirch 516
Michael Cooper 500
Jordan Swank 490
Chris Sorensen 479
Cameron Swank 456
Frank Furtado 395
Anthony Vigna 380
Natalie Perry 379

Chet Thomson Memorial Race An Important Night 
For Hardtop Racing
Throughout the 1950's and 1960's and even into the 1970’s, Hardtop racing was king at race tracks in Pacheco, Vallejo, Sacramento and other places throughout California. The legend of Vallejo Speedway is so big that it still lives on nearly 40 years after the track was closed.  Photos and stories of "the good old days" are shared on various websites and social media pages.

The cornerstone race for the Hardtops at Vallejo Speedway was the Chet Thompson Memorial race. Chet was a perennial title contender during the 1960's and won the championship in 1962. When he passed away, the first Chet Thompson Memorial Race was held in 1967. It was won by the legendary Julian Castro.

Through the years, the race was won by some of the greatest Hardtop drivers to ever race at Vallejo, including Phil Pedlar, Laney Westbrook, Leroy Geving, Larry Damitz and Jim Kaiser. Even Chet's son Tommy Thomson won the race. Back in June of this year, Hardtop competitors Dave Mackey and Tommy Thomson came up with the idea to bring back the race that had run at Vallejo Speedway from 1967 until it's closure in 1979.

Interestingly enough, the final two races were held for the Super Modified division and won by Augie Fonseca and Skip Brown.  The Hardtop division was fading.  Though it was present in 1978 on the night of Chet's race, only six cars competed. Stan Cargo won that night.  A turnout of about a dozen cars is anticipated this week, which would double the number from that night in 1978.  It's 38 years later and Hardtop racing still lives!

When the Bay Area Hardtop effort was started nearly ten years ago, Tommy Thomson was one of the first drivers in his green #39 Hardtop. In fact, this is the same car he competed with during the final few years of the Hardtop division at Vallejo Speedway, and he won races with it back then too.  A lover of classic cars, perhaps Tommy held onto that car believing that some day the division would return.
The modern Hardtop movement traces its roots back to a pair of Oregonian promoters, Mike McCann and Chuck Prather, who brought several Hardtops to California in September of 2002 to race at Sacramento and Orland. The record will show that Steve Limley when both Main Events that weekend. The car he drove that weekend is now owned by Ken Clifford and driven by his son, Jason Clifford. McCann went back up to Oregon to promote Sunset Speedway, which featured the Cascade Hardtop division. McCann himself owns the Hardtop driven to the 1974 Vallejo Speedway championship and Chet Thomson Memorial Race victory by Larry Hall.

Two things happened in 2003. Prather stuck around and began his own Hardtop effort at tracks in Sacramento, Roseville and Orland. And, a pair of replica race cars were built up north, eventually to be driven by Conrad Cavallero and Mike McClure. Cavallero wheeled the Johnny Franklin Special, While McClure drove the Leroy Geving replica car  McClure still has that car and was at Calistoga last week. Within a couple of years, the Bay Area Hardtop movement began. Antioch Speedway promoter John M. Soares was the first promoter to give this group race dates. The Hardtops have visited Antioch Speedway at least one time every year since.

Though the division competes at several different venues in California, several drivers consider Antioch Speedway to be their home track. When things looked a little bit doubtful at Antioch Speedway, it was McCann who came in and brokered a deal with Soares a year ago in which 14 drivers came out to compete on short notice. It is interesting just how many cars are out there. There are known to be more than double the 14 cars that were there last year. People love their Hardtops.  In fact, the Bakersfield area also has a thriving Hardtop division.

McCann headed back to Oregon again, knowing that there were at least five dates that would be on the schedule at Antioch Speedway. Seeing that the division needed something special this year, it was Mackay and Thomson who brought back the Chet Thomson Memorial race. For this occasion, they enlisted t-shirt specialist Ted Davis of SlicArt Custom Apparel to make a commemorative shirt, and all of the proceeds will go to the Armstrong family. The Armstrong’s are grieving over the loss of their son Tyler. The brave young 12 year old passed away last weekend after a lengthy battle with Leukemia.

The Armstrong family have been strong supporters of Placerville Speedway for many years, and they were the key to getting the Hardtop division on the schedule at the track. Both Jason Armstrong and his father Dennis Armstrong have cars, and Jason is frequently working on the cars of his fellow competitors to make sure they are ready.

There is a definite hint of Vallejo Speedway in the modern Hardtop movement. In addition to the Tommy Thomson car, you will also see the #1 car of Dave Mackey that was built in tribute to the Dudley family. Gene Dudley is considered to be one of the greatest Hardtop drivers in history. Then, there is Larry Damitz. There is no tribute car necessary as he began his racing career back in 1954 at Contra Costa Speedway in Pacheco and has been racing every year since. Larry drives the #100 car.  Damitz raced Hardtops for the first 20 years of his career and is on his way to his fifth Limited Late Model championship in six seasons at Antioch Speedway.

There are some good competitors in the Hardtop division that are expected for this weekend's race. Among them is 1998 Antioch Street Stock champion Rob Waldrop, who drives a car for Bill McLaughlin. Waldrop nearly had a win earlier this year before mechanical problems dropped him from contention. Mackey won one of his three Main Evens that night. There is also vintage race car enthusiast Mike Friesen, who is a two time Sportsman champion at Merced Speedway. The Friesen team may be bringing two cars with Charles Mart driving one of them.

There is also the black #6 car of past Petaluma Speedway Mini Stock champion Dan Williams. Williams drives the only six cylinder powered car in the field, but he has won races at Antioch Speedway with it in the past. There's also the father and son team of "The Rocket Man" Ken Clifford and Jason Clifford. Both are Main Event winners this season. Steve Cloyes, Ron Ruiz, Joe Hopp, Russ Kraft, Dan Whitney and newcomers Spenser Nice, Joe Shenefield and David Reed are others to watch for. Car count is anticipated to reach into the double digits this Saturday night, and it's all to pay tribute to one of the best Hardtop racers of the 1960’s, Chet Thompson.

Chet Thomson Memorial Race t-shirts will be on sale in the pits.  See Dave Mackey in the #1 car.  Mackey and Tommy Thomson would like to thank Antioch Speedway, Wilbur Avenue Storage, Extreme Motorsports, Pete Paulsen Wheels & Tires, Garry's Towing, Jim Perry Racing Engines and for their support of this race.

Memorial Race Winners
1967 - Julian Castro
1968 - Jim Kaiser
1969 - John Viel
1970 - Phil Pedlar
1971 - Phil Pedlar
1972 - Leroy Geving
1973 - Larry Damitz
1974 - Larry Hall
1975 - Laney Westbrook
1976 - Laney Westbrook
1977 - Tommy Thomson
1978 - Augie Fonseca*
1979 -
Skip Brown*
2016 - ?

2016 Hardtop Roster

Pl.    Driver
1     Dave Mackey
3x     Dan Whitney
4     Russ Kraft
4x     Jason Clifford
6     Dan Williams
12     Ron Ruiz
15     Joe Shenefield
17     Ken Retzloff
25     Steve Cloyes
27     Ken Clifford
26     Jason Amstrong
36     Rob Waldrop
39     Tommy Thomson
57     David Reed
61     John Turner
66     Pete Paulsen
70     Joe Hopp
77     Dennis Armstrong
77m     Charles Mart
92     Spenser Nice
100     Larry Damitz
121     Mike Friesen

Collins, Davis, Ross Share Orland Raceway Winner's Circle

Orland, CA...September 3...There was plenty of excitement on tap at Orland Raceway with all of the regular divisions and kids bike races all on the card.  Kids in three age groups got to race on the track, and there were also more bikes given away.  In regular racing action, Shannon Collins returned to the winner's circle in the 20 lap Hobby Stock Main Event.  Reigning Mini Truck champion Keith Ross won that division's Main Event, while Tom Davis won the 20 lap Mini Stock race.  The Micro Sprint classes also ran races with Kenny Wanderstadt (600's) and Jackie Whitson Jr. (250's) scoring the wins.

The Hobby Stocks had their best turnout of the season and ran two heat races.  A winner of several Main Events at Orland in the past, three time reigning Chico champion Ryan Compton held off Shannon Collins to win the first heat race.  Though the feature didn't go well for either of them, Todd Hemman held off Leonard Burrows to win their heat race.  Despite a late start, Collins is very much in the hunt for second in the standings.  He was back to go for his third win of the season, but he would have to contend with Compton, who was also running strong.  However, Collins prevailed at the checkered flag, forcing Compton to settle for second.  Two time winner Jeremy Langenderfer finished a solid third to hold onto a four point lead over Collins in the battle for second.  Steve Martin clinched another track championship with his fourth place finish.  Jared Flower finished fifth ahead of Shawn Smith, Earl Adams, Amanda Koop, Burrows and Hemman.

Dan Webster has pretty much wrapped up the Mini Truck championship as long as he starts the final race.  He began this evening with a heat race win over Keith Ross.  However, the Ross hot streak continued as he won his fourth Main Event in his last five starts.  Past champion Ross Vige took a checkered flag in second ahead of Webster, Jeremy Callen and William Fogle.  Two time winner Olin Crane suffered mechanical problems in his heat race and scratched from the Main Event.

Robert Hunt kept his Mini Stock championship hopes alive as he won the eight lap heat race ahead of Donovan Chilton.  Chilton was hoping to grab his third Main Event win of the season, but past champion Tom Davis had other ideas.  Davis hasn't made all of the races this season, but he's been a dominant factor when he's been there.  On this night, Davis held off Chilton to score his fifth feature win of the season.  Hunt held off point leader John Kirkpatrick for the third place finish.  Eric Hammond and Steven Spears completed the finishing order.

The 600's and 250's both had enough cars to run their own races.  Kenny Wanderstadt won the 600's heat race ahead of Skyler Richter.  Wanderstadt carried that momentum into the Main Event by holding off point leader Jeromie Crismon for the impressive victory.  Previous winner Kyra Michelet finished third ahead of Christine Root and Richter.  Jackie Whitson Jr. picked up the win in the 250's heat race ahead of Ronnie Heyer.  Dave McKinnon Jr. sat out the heat race making repairs and came back to run second in the Main Event as Whitson was a double winner on the night.  Heyer settled for third ahead of point leader Andrew Love and reigning champion Jess Garland.

September 17th is the tenth and final scheduled race of the season.  Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Mini Trucks, and 600 and 250 Micro Sprints are all part of the action.  For further information, go to

Aton-McCarthy Sprint Car Battle Heads Down The Stretch 
At Antioch Speedway

Antioch, CA...The All Star Series Winged 360 Sprint Car division heads into the final month of the season with a race this Saturday night at Antioch Speedway, and a good battle has developed between Billy Aton and Art McCarthy for the championship. Aton is vying for his first Winged Sprint Car championship, having won a Wingless Spec Sprint title at the track before. McCarthy is already a three time winged 360 Sprint Car champion and finished second in points last season.

Just two races ago, Aton looked like he might have had the car to beat before losing a wheel in Turns 1 and 2 while leading. He knew he needed a good night to counteract the surge McCarthy was going through, and he finished out of the running that night. McCarthy finished in third to move to within four points of the lead. However, Aton served notice last time out that he is not going down easily as he won his second Main Event to claim the $1200 first prize. McCarthy finished fourth to keep the championship battle close. Aton now leads McCarthy by 11 points.

While these two drivers continue their battle, there are several drivers who have come to town from week to week to make a run at the $1,200 first prize. Car owner Brett Lay fielded his fast #24b car last time with reigning champion Shawn Arriaga getting his turn behind the wheel. Arriaga started last in the Main Event and charged to a second place finish. He was closing in on Aton, but he ran out of laps before the race ended.

The August 27th event also featured a season best effort for Burt Foland Jr. Foland picked up a heat race win ahead of Matt DeMartini before holding off McCarthy for his season best third place Main Event finish. Foland continues to hold down fourth in the point standings, but it will take some luck for him to overtake Dan Gonderman for third. Gonderman turned in another good run with his fifth place finish.

It has been a struggle for second generation racer Ricky Brophy to get things dialed in on his #3 Sprinter, but he had one of his better efforts of the season as he managed to take a checkered flag in sixth ahead of another second generation open wheel racer, Matt DeMartini. DeMartini continues to get lap time with several different groups this year and improves with every start. A newcomer by the name of Jason Paniagua finished eighth in the team car of Bobby and Brayden McMahan.

Petaluma Speedway racer Roberto Kirby was hoping for better results this time around. Kirby has risen through the ranks of Mini Stock racing to become a regular in the Sprint Cars at Petaluma. Roberto won his heat race to start the night. Unfortunately, his Main Event didn't go so well as he flipped out of the race early. Also joining him on the sidelines early was 2014 champion Chris Magoon, who was scored tenth. Dwarf Car racer Jenna Frazer was also in action in a McMahon Team Car but had mechanical problems early to scratch from the Main Event.

The All Star Series Winged 360 Sprint Car division runs three more races at Antioch Speedway, and the Aton and McCarthy championship battle is just one of the story lines this year. There are several drivers coming to town from week to week and looking to win the $1,200 first prize, and the win list has nine drivers in 12 races. It should be another great night of racing for the Sprint Cars. For further information on this race and other happenings at the track, go to

2016 Antioch Winged 360 All Star Series Points
Billy Aton 558
Art McCarthy 547
Dan Gonderman 392
Burt Foland 334
Shawn Arriaga 237
Rick Brophy 174
Matt Barber 166
Matt DeMartini 162
Chris Magoon 150
Marissa Polizzi 146

2016 All Star Series Winged 360 Sprint Car Schedule 

September 10
September 17
September 24

Past Champions 

1998-Gary Geving
2007-Art McCarthy
2010-Craig Smith
2013-Chris Magoon
2014-Chris Magoon
2015-Shawn Arriaga

Recent Feature Winners

August 27, 2016;  Billy Aton

August 20, 2016:  Riley Matson
August 13, 2016: Art McCarthy
August 6, 2016:  Seth Nunes
July 30, 2016:  Art McCarthy
July 16, 2016:  Brayden McMahan
June 25, 2016:  Kaleb Montgomery
June 18, 2016:  Bobby McMahan
June 4, 2016: Shawn Conde
May 21, 2016: Koen Shaw
April 23, 2016: Billy Aton
April 2, 2016: Art McCarthy
August 29, 2015: Art McCarthy
August 8, 2015: Shawn Arriaga
July 11, 2015: Jake Haulot
June 20, 2915: Austin Liggett
June 6, 2015: Shawn Arriaga
May 16, 2015: Jake Haulot
April 25, 2015: Alissa Geving
March 7, 2015: Art McCarthy
August 2, 2014: Zack Lynskey
June 21 2014: Bradley Terrell
June 10, 2014: Chris Magoon
April 5, 2014: Kurt Nelson
May 4, 2013: Shawn Arriaga