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Awards Banquet Honors Antioch Speedway Champions
Limited Late Model champion Kimo Oreta showing off two of his trophies.
Antioch, CA...John & Donna Soares wrapped up their 20th season of promoting at Antioch Speedway with the awards banquet. Eight champions and "Rookie Of The Year" awards and the Top 10 drivers in all eight divisions were honored. The Top three drivers also received point fund money, and the champions received two championship jackets sponsored by Hoosier Tire and the track.
Soares went to the podium before the awards were handed out. He thanked all of the racers for their support and talked a bit about the state of racing. Soares noted that he feels the track is on the upswing. "At many places, racing is down. We're doing okay and the numbers are coming around, " said Soares.
For those keeping track of the history of the track, John & Gladys Soares, the current promoter's parents, opened the gates and ran the track from 1961-1980. This means a Soares has promoted the track for 40 of its 57 seasons. "Dad built this track, " Soares explained, " and I felt I should keep the family name here."
Marissa Polizzi finished second in Winged 360 Sprint points and certainly would have been Most Improved Driver if there was an award this year.
Art McCarthy made the biggest comeback of the season by making up over 60 points to win the Winged 360 Sprint Car title. McCarthy won three Main Events en route to his second Antioch championship season. Marissa Polizzi had a great season in second, and Burt Foland Jr. was third. Jake Tuttle finished fourth in points and was this year's top rookie.
Second place DIRTcar Late Model point runner David Newquist (left) and third place competitor Shawn DeForest (right).
Jeff Decker skipped the speech, letting his seven wins and his third Antioch Speedway DIRTcar Late Model championship do the talking for him. The battle for second went down to the wire, and David Newquist edged Shawn DeForest to finish there. Kimo Oreta finished fifth in the final standings to win "Rookie Of The Year" honors.
Eric Berendsen finished third in A Modified points and was Rookie Of The Year.
Bobby Motts Jr. set out to win the A Modified championship in dedication to Steven Cunningham, a family member and fellow racer who died prior to the season. Motts, who has teamed with Mike Ferry for years, is a past Antioch Speedway Street Stock champion. One win and four second place finishes helped propel him to the championship. Sean O'Gara had his best season in second, and Eric Berendsen claimed "Rookie Of The Year" honors with his third place point season.
Abigail Gonderman was seventh in Wingless Spec Sprint points and Rookie Of The Year.
Bryan Grier needed his fourth win of he season to wrap up his Wingless Spec Sprint championship. Grier won a very close battle for the Spec Sprint title three years ago at Watsonville. He remarked that it is very difficult to win a points race before thanking his crew for their hard work. Rick Panfili was just two points out of the lead going into the finale, but an opening lap crash ended his race. Second is sill Panfili's best season as he has been a part of the Spec Sprints since they were added to Antioch in 1999. Five time winner Bob Newberry ended up third. Abigail Gonderman finished seventh in points and won the "Rookie Of The Year" award.
Billy Garner (left) and Mark Garner (right) proudly display their trophies.
Kimo Oreta was already set to drive the Sun Drop Racing Late Model for his rookie season. When Larry Damitz died before the season, they picked him to pilot Larry's #15 championship Limited Late Model as well. Oreta responded by winning four Main Events, finishing second five times and giving the team their eighth division championship between Antioch and Merced. Oreta thanked the Sun Drop team for letting him drive their cars. He also recalled how he had switched from racing pavement to dirt and how Damitz was there to help him win his first Hobby Stock championship.
Jim Freethy had a solid season and held off Mark Garner in a close battle for second. Freethy won three Main Events, while Garner won two. Garner maintained an impressive double division effort, and he used three wins to finish second in B Modified points. Chad Hammer finished sixth in Limited Late Model points to win the top rookie award.
K.C. Keller had an amazing B Modified season that saw him only miss the Top 5 once during the year. He scored four feature wins and won the championship. Following Garner was Chuck Golden in third. Two time winner Todd Gomez was seventh in the standings and won "Rookie Of The Year" honors.
Chris Sorensen won more Hobby Stock features than anybody this year and was fourth in points.
Another of the close battles took place in Hobby Stocks. It was a four car battle for much of the season before Chris Sorensen and Chris Long faded. Cameron Swank had two wins late in the season after he had four seconds. This resulted in him winning the championship. "Rookie Of The Year" Brent Curran won two races. Though he had four of his five second place finishes in the last five races, Curran settled for second in points ahead of fellow rookie Chris Bennett.
Jenna Frazier ran Dwarf Cars and was also seventh in Winged 360 Sprint points.
Mike Corsaro won his first Dwarf Car championship on the strength of three wins. He was quick to thank long time Dwarf Car racer Charlie Correia for getting him involved in the sport and all of his support. Devan Kammermann was the top rookie and second in points after a close battle with David Michael Rosa.
Soares is already at work planning the 2018 season. You can go to www.antiochspeedway.com for more information.
Promoter John M. Soares addresses the Antioch Speedway awards banquet.
The Pit Stop Reporter returned to Antioch for the 20th Annual Oval Motorsports Antioch Speedway Awards Banquet. This event was well attended by over 200 people. Promoter John M. Soares spoke optimistically of the past season and of the future in his brief address before the banquet. With the weather being very cooperative for late November, the swap meet and playday on Thanksgiving weekend was looking like it would be a go. A visit to thew track on the Wednesday showed the challenges Soares faced.
The front and back straightaways were still under some water, and Soares was working on the grader to get things ready. The pits were ready. The forecast called for possible rain on Saturday, but Soares was rolling the dice in hopes of making it happen. For one thing, drivers would get a chance to make some laps and sell some parts to others in need. Secondly, this was needed to help keep things going for the track. Listening to John and his assistant Jay Banks speaking that afternoon, you not only could hear the optimism about the future. They were working on things to make it happen. Even in the heart of the offseason, things need to be done. To that end, Soares and Banks went to Reno for the RPM Promoters Workshop.
Soares was open about his thoughts on the racing program he offers, the strong points and the things that need improvement. He also spoke openly about overtures he personally made to work with one track. Antioch Speedway has historically worked well with the track in the past. The bottom lime is Soares is one of the few promoters on the west coast who offers Late Models and Winged 360 Sprint Cars, sometimes on the same night. With A Modifieds, Wingless Spec Sprints and B Modifieds among the roster of eight divisions on his All Star Series card, the purse isn't cheap. Soares spoke about that, but he will continue to offer up a packed program with some big events on the schedule.
The rumor was confirmed earlier this week. The New Years Bash will return to Antioch Speedway on January 1st. Soares first ran a January 1st race in 2015. It is a risk as the weather could force cancellation and it is also very cold. The effort will be made to get the program done at a reasonable time. This year will again offer A Modifieds, B Modifieds and Hobby Stocks, and Dwarf Cars will also be on the card. Soares recently commented that he is working on securing sponsorship for A Modifieds, and B Modifieds are set to pay $750 to win and $100 to start. He is high on B Modifieds as they performed well in their busy schedule this year. Car counts reaching 18 cars will receive $500 to win and $75 to start in 2018.
New Years at Antioch will be the only big track offering a race. Traditionally, Marysville runs a playday that night. It is interesting to note that Promoter Dennis Gage has dropped the winged Super Stock division from the program at Marysville for 2018, leaving such notables as Mike Walko, champion James Castleberry, Rod Oliver and Phillip Shelby without a track to run their cars. Whether this could work in Antioch's favor in the Limited Late Models as they return for their 19th season remains to be seen. Marysville's sister track in Chico made a not surprising announcement that they were dropping 410 Sprint Cars in 2018. They were the only remaining regular Winged 410 Sprint Car program on the West Coast.
How this might effect the King Of The West/NARC Sprint Car Series remains to be seen. They did announce that plans to bring back Speedweek will be on hold for another year. It has been announced that NARC will team up with the Sprint Car Challenge Tour for events at Placerville, Stockton and Hanford this season. The Harvest Classic in Hanford will also include the IMCA RaceSaver Sprints. Chico will have a Winged 360 Sprint program in 2018, and there are rumors of another Sprint Car division being added at Marsyville. The Civil War Series isn't going anywhere just yet. They have announced that they will run ten races between Watsonville, Tulare, Calistoga, Chico and Marysville.
NARC/King Of The West 2018 Schedule is HERE
Back at Antioch, about 20 drivers were on hand for playday, which included the eagerly anticipated Hardtop debt of Doug Braudrick. Doug is a former Modified racer who's father was a car owner in Hardtops and Super Modifieds at Vallejo Speedway. His Hardtop is a tribute to his father's car. One of the things that hurt the Bay Area Hardtop effort this year was cars such as Doug's weren't ready. He put a lot of effort into making sure his car was just right, and playday gave him a chance to shake it down before actually racing it. Unfortunately, he never got to make laps at full speed, but he discovered a few problems that he will address before racing season next year. Bay Area Hardtop booster Dave Mackey was there to support Braudrick. Dave is tearing his car down for repairs, but he plans to be ready for the first Antioch race of 2018.
Brent Curran is a proud new father, Hobby Stock point runnerup and Rookie Of The Year.
Brent Curran has had a great year. The second generation racer became a new father this year He came within a few points of a Hobby Stock championship, and he was the Hobby Stock "Rookie Of The Year" with two feature wins. For the first time this year, Keith Brown Jr's #128 car was at the track, and Keith put Curran behind the wheel for his first laps. Brent had lots of fun, and nobody can depute that he has the talent to make the move up when the time comes. Tim Hammett was another racer taking advantage of practice in his B Modified. We've heard discussions about possibly having more practice dates next year during the season, and one of the positive arguments for such a thing is that guys like Tim can get more seat time and get more comfortable in their cars.
Trevor Clymens led the B Modified division in feature wins and was fourth in points.
There were several B Modifieds at the track, which also included Kevin Brown, Trevor Clymens and the Swank Racing car. Clymens has his car so dialed in that he really doesn't need the laps. Nobody has more feature wins over the past two seasons than him. Then again, he's a big supporter of the track and has repeatedly used his Facebook page to get more support for the division. Hobby Stocks included long time competitor Russell Shearer, Anthony Vigna and rookies Haley Gomez and Travis Tabucci. Mario Marquez was one of the Dwarf Car racers making laps, and Top 5 competitor Shannon Newton was there with his Wingless Spec Sprint. Newton fared pretty well with a pair of Top 5 feature finishes outside of Antioch after the point season.
While the Antioch racers have a month to get ready for the New Years Bash, Merced Speedway competitors had their awards banquet on Saturday night. There's much to celebrate this season as the track managed to have some big events this season. Ed Parker is hard at work planning out the next schedule. He puts much consideration into what to run on any given week as the goal remains to have the best car count possible. Parker will work with various promoters to make sure certain race dates don't clash. The business of the night was to crown Randy Brown (IMCA Modifieds), Fred Ryland (IMCA Sport Modifieds), Kodie Dean (Hobby Stocks), Chris Corder (Mini Stocks) and Jeff Bristow (Sportsman) as champions. California Sharp Mini Late Models didn't race for points this year, but word is that will change next season.
They had a rather impressive spread of trophies at the banquet. Champions again received championship rings. This is another of the nice things Parker brought with him as promoter. Joining the Merced racers for the banquet was the West Coast Sport Mod Tour. The special tour races generally produced car counts in the 30's or more, and they actually gave Merced a free preview after multiple rainouts and greatly increased the numbers that night. They produced a more than 40 car field at their scheduled race. They crowned Nick Spainhoward as champion after a good battle with Michael Johnson. We are delighted to see that Daren Ricks Campbell was brought on board to handle publicity for the Tour.
Ryland Racing sponsored the Most Improved Driver awards. In IMCA Modifieds, D.J. Shannon's back to back second's to end the season earned him that honor and tenth in points. Chase Thomas enjoyed a third place point season in IMCA Sport Modifieds to win the award, but we give honorable mention to younger brother Tanner Thomas for finishing fifth with season high second and third place finishes. With four wins, Kodie Dean's Cinderella season not only won him the Hobby Stock championship, it also won him Most Improved honors. Lucy Falkenberg had three second place feature finishes as her third place Mini Stock season earned her the honors.
We never heard who won Rookie Of The Year in the various classes, but Justin Villanueva appears to be the top rookie in 14th in IMCA Modifieds along with a season high second place finish. Chuck Weir moved up from Dwarf Cars and had a feature win in front of one the biggest IMCA Sport Modified fields of the season. He finished eighth in points. Cody Parker was close behind him in ninth and had a season high second. Another close race in Hobby Stocks found James Stockton finishing just ahead of Tony Peffer. Both were up from Mini Stocks. Stockton had a season high second, and Peffer won a race on the Stockton dirt track. With two season high second place finishes, Shawn DePriest appears to be the highest finishing rookie in Mini Stock points, ranked fourth. This, of course, is unofficial.
An interesting proposal has come out of the Falkenberg Racing camp, but then when is Dale Falkenberg ever boring? The track announcer has been buying Mini Stocks at a pace that would make even Chris Corder jealous. Dale wants to see the division grow, and he was hard at work preparing some cars for the Dixon Enduro, which will also see Nathan Corn's son Matthew racing. Dale wants to see Trophy Dashes return to Merced and is proposing a sponsorship for Mini Stocks to help make it happen. Several California tracks have gone the opposite rout of Oregon and have dropped the dashes. Leave it to Falkenberg to make a case to bring them back to Merced. If there is a promoter willing to do it, chances are it's Ed Parker.
It's been a sad year for Sportsman fans. Recently, car builder and sponsor Bill Baker passed away. Baker teamed up with legend Rod Poor when the Sportsman division was brought back to Merced in 1999 and they won some races together. He then teamed up with Keith Van Houten, who won a championship with him. Baker was also a long time sponsor at the track. Earlier this season, Shannon Fry passed away, and 2016 champion Kenny Birdsong lost his battle with Cancer. Of course, the Sportsman division would not be heading into its 20th season at the track if not for Promoter Chuck Griffin adding it to the roster 1999. Griffin also passed away this year. Perhaps the best tribute the racers can give to their fallen friends is to come back with a stronger car count next season.
Dixon Speedway had a 200 lap Mini Stock Enduro and Dwarf Car race scheduled for the week in which Antioch was having their banquet. However, enough rain during the week canceled those plans. Word was that there would be a bigger turnout than a few years ago when 12 cars competed in a 100 lap race. They had rescheduled this race for Saturday night. Unfortunately, Merced's banquet meant some of the drivers who might have come wouldn't make it. They have moved this show again to December 9th. It's been said in recent years that Dixon has potential to be a home track for both Mini Stocks and Dwarf Cars. Both have had several races there, and Dixon has seen Midgets, Modifieds, Hardtops and Sprint Cars turn practice laps on the one-fifth mile dirt oval in the past. Hopefully, the weather cooperates and they get some good support.
Pictures have just circulated showing the racing surface of Chowchilla Speedway being leveled. Sadly, the race track folded a few races into the 2017 season due mostly to poor planning and unrealistic goals. This was the first season for that management, who promised a very ambitious season with open wheel racing on every other weekend. Nobody seemed to consider where they were going to get all of the cars or how the drivers would be paid. No promotional strategy was ever unveiled to entice fans to come watch on a Sunday afternoon. The grandstands remain, which means you can't say racing will never be there again. However, racing is gone from the big track for now as horsing events and a possible end of the year Destruction Derby take over. It's a sad day for those who remember just how special that place once was.
There is an intriguing concept that perhaps could be tried in a Chowchilla rodeo arena. It's a growing phenomenon that is happening across the country, and a few places on the West Coast. Figure 8 racing in a rodeo arena. The Alameda Fair has done this three years running. The cars aren't going fast enough to hurt anybody, but they are going fast enough to be interesting. The Salinas Fair, like the Turlock Fair, has tried Dwarf Cars in a Rodeo Arena, and now they have a successful Agri-Race with Mini Stocks and more cars than they know what to do with. It's an oval race and certainly very wild and entertaining.
Why bother? It would keep racing going in some form and give Chowchilla something to build on. It could be paired with the one or two Destruction Derbies planned. When you get eight cars, you have a full field. You're not really competing with anybody in the area as Madera and Merced run on bigger tracks. This would be unique to Chowchilla. Your basic Mini Stock car is the cheapest big car to get, and local driver and fan support can be generated quickly. The winner has bragging rights around town. Maybe it eventually becomes a monthly event. If it really takes off, who knows where it can go. As is, it's not too much work going from a Figure 8 arena to a Rodeo Arena. It's something to consider. Local Sprint Car racer Steve Jaquith is so concerned about the future of racing in his home town that he's planning to meet with a local official to see if anything can be done to save the big track.
One long time promoter has offered his opinion on what to do if you ever put a track back at Chowchilla. Mike McCann suggests if they ever cut a big track to do a more meticulous job of measuring the straightaways and the turns to provide for a better racing surface. Since the track has been wiped out, it wouldn't be difficult to look at the dimensions at other tracks and come up with a different layout next time.
In Yreka, rumors are circulating that the association continues to work on raising funds to cover the missing funds from last season. We've heard the total could be anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000, and a recent report suggested it's $23,000. Where that puts 2018 is subject to speculation. However, new board members have been elected and the goal is to keep things going. The Outlaw Kart program separated from the SCMA in an effort to keep that alive if things take a turn for the worse on the big track. Kart racing would still continue on the smaller track in 2018 either way. They are in the midst of an ambitious Fall and Winter season, and things have been going okay for the most part. We're hoping for the best and more racing in Yreka in 2018.
The PSM Sport Modified Series and awards meeting happened in Oregon on Saturday. Group organizer Steve Kerstulovich continues to work hard to promote the effort, and he was surprised to receive an award for all of his efforts. The room was full as several racers came from throughout the state came to discuss 2018 plans. Cottage Grove Speedway, Southern Oregon Speedway and Siskiyou Motor Speedway will continue to be a part of the series. If Sunset Speedway continues to run IMCA Sport Modifieds, they will be included as well. The rumor is that Willamette Speedway will be adding IMCA Sport Mods, and they will be included if that is true. It was suggested that American Valley Speedway and Diamond Mountain Speedway be added to Yreka as Northern California tracks, but as of now this will not happen.
Kerstulovich hopes to have a Tri Holiday Series, and Promoter Mike McCann was there to verify that the R. Charles Snyder Salute will happen in Medford on Labor Day weekend. Cottage Grove and Willamette are the two other tracks being discussed as part of the series, but it was also pointed out that Yreka's Bo Hittson Memorial Race on Memorial Day Weekend is still an important race with a good turnout for Sport Mods. Travis Pruett indicated that he was hoping to get Willamette to book the class as part of the Monster Truck show on Memorial Day Weekend. If this happens, it could make that a possible date for the special series. All of each participating track's dates will be included in the PSM Series from April through the end of September, including any rain makeups.
Several things were discussed before Dot's Trophy Shop In Cottage Grove sponsored impressive trophies for the Top 5 point competitors of this season. Jorddon Braaten successfully defended his championship and received a nice $600 paycheck. IMCA State champion Jayson Nelson finished second ahead of Cottage Grove champion Buddy McHargue, Medford champion Mike Medel and Daniel Ray. All indications are that this coming season will be the best one yet for the Sport Mods. Yreka and Cottage Grove were coming off of strong seasons, and Medford had its best year yet for the class. Bob Thomas and Joby Shields were at the meeting and plan to race next season, while Donald Bandfield and James Anderson hope to join the class as well.