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A look at schedules as racing season is around the corner. Note that Rocky Hill Speedway announced a limited schedule after this show was recorded.
Oval Motorsports Releases 2017 Antioch Speedway Schedule
Antioch, CA...The 2017 Antioch Speedway schedule has just been released, and it's a good one. All of the divisions the fans enjoyed last season will return along with some big special events. 2017 marks the 57th consecutive season of operation for the Contra Costa Fairgrounds based racing facility. It is also the 20th season under the promotion of John & Donna Soares of Oval Motorsports. The track operated during it's first 20 years under the management of John's parents, John & Gladys Soares.
One of the big things racing fans will notice about the new schedule is the return of the King Of The West/NARC 410 Sprint Car Series and the debut of the new 360 Sprint Car Challenge Series. Soares met with the founders of the Sprint Car Challenge, and the result was the season opener for that tour on April 1st. They are back again on June 24th, a weekend in which NASCAR is at Sonoma and Soares is known for booking big events at Antioch. The schedule that night may include the addition of a second class. The new series boasts a $2500 first prize for the Main Event, and the Top 10 point earners compete for a big point fund, which includes a $10,000 championship.
Meanwhile, the King Of The West Series just announced that they are bringing back the NARC name. NARC was the big sanctioning for Winged Sprint Car racing in Northern California from 1960-2000. The King Of The West Series is as big as it gets in California Sprint Cars with their 410 cubic inch motors making them the fastest Winged Sprint Cars in the state. The first race will take place on June 3rd, and they return on August 5th. The oldest sanctioning body in California, the BCRA, will once again be represented by the Midget Lites on April 1st and August 19th.
Meanwhile, the track's All Star Series roster of divisions will include the Winged 360 Sprint Cars, Late Models, A Modifieds, Wingless Spec Sprints, B Modifieds, Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks, Dwarf Cars and the Bay Area Hardtops. The track has been building up its own Winged 360 Sprint Car class for the past three seasons and had its best season yet last year. It is anticipated that car count will continue to improve this year. Last season's championship battle went down to the wire in favor of Billy Aton ahead of ageless veteran Art McCarthy. Their season kicks off on April 22nd as they are scheduled for 12 races.
Antioch Speedway is the birth place of the Wingless Spec Sprint class, which is basically Sprint Car racing for the Stock Car crowd. These self starting, 360 cast iron motored Sprint Cars are now competing at other places, but it was Soares who scheduled the first races at Antioch in 1999. Jim Perry Jr. won last season's championship and has won more races than anybody in division history. He didn't have an easy path to the championship with Marcus Smith, Roy Fisher and Rick Panfili in the battle. Spec Sprints kick off their 10 race season on April 29th.
Late Models are back for what will be their fourth consecutive championship season. These high powered Stock Cars have an 11 race season that starts with the opener on April 25th and wraps up with a $1500 to win Fall Brawl Race on September 30th. Two weeks before on the 16th will be the John Soares Sr. Memorial Top Dog Challenge. Two of the drivers who have been at the head of the pack are 2015 champion Jeff Decker and reigning champion Richard Papenhausen. A Modifieds won't be left out either as they begin their 28th consecutive season at the track. They kick off an 11 race season on April 8th. They are also scheduled for $750 to win on May 6th, $1000 to win on July 1st and the Second Annual Jerry Hetrick Memorial Race on July 8th. Last season, Carl Berendsen II held off five time champion and division legend Scott Busby to win his second championship in three seasons.
The work horse classes at the speedway this year are the B Modifieds and Hobby Stocks. The B Modifieds check in with a 17 race season, while Hobby Stocks, the track's entry level class, have 19 races. Both divisions are part of the March 25th opener and return on April 8th when B Modifieds race for $500 to win and the Hobbys get a $300 first prize. These two divisions are also part of the Fall Brawl September 30th finale, where the B Modifieds get $1000 to win and the Hobby Stocks race for an $850 prize to the victor. Last year saw Trevor Clymens win a good battle with Al Johnson for the B Modified championship, while Guy Ahlwardt won the Hobby Stock crown in his rookie season. Ahlwardt has a B Modified this year, opening the door for hard chargers like Jordan Swank, Michael Cooper, Chris Long, Frank Furtado, Cameron Swank, Lindey Buirch and Natalie Perry to battle for division supremacy.
The racing community was recently shocked by the sad news of the passing of BCRA Hall Of Famer Larry Damitz. At 87 years old, Damitz won the Limited Late Model championship last year, which was his fifth championship in six years. Reports were that Larry was planning his return when he died unexpectedly. The Limited Late Models race 11 times this year, and the May 13th race will be the Larry Damitz Memorial race. Only ageless veteran Mike Gustafson, himself a two time Limited Late Model champion, has more wins in this division's history. The season kicks off for Limited Late Models on March 25th.
The always exciting Dwarf Cars are back for what will be their 20th championship season at the speedway. Kevin Miraglio came through with a strong season last year to beat Mike Corsaro for his first championship. Racers like David Rosa, Josh Miller, Tim Reeder and Jenna Frazier help make this an exciting show for the fans. Dwarf Cars kick their season off on March 25th.
There's a desire amongst some of the drivers in the area to build up their own base of vintage Hardtops. To that end, the new Bay Area Hardtop group was created, and they have a schedule of four races with the possibility of more. Their season kicks off on April 22nd and continues on July 8th, August 19th and September 9th. The September 9th event will be the annual Chet Thomson Memorial Race. Hard chargers such as Dave Mackey, Rob Waldrop, Tommy Thomson, Dan Williams, Ken Retzloff and Steve Cloyes, among others, are anticipated this season. No conflicts exist between this schedule and the California Hardtop Association, which ensures drivers from either group can support the other.
There will be two playday opportunities for racers to test their cars on March 11th and 18th. The season kicks off on March 25th with Spec Sprints, Late Models, Limited Late Models, B Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars. April 1st is the first big open wheel night with the Sprint Car Challenge and BCRA Midget Lites, followed by Wingless Spec Sprints, Late Models, A Modifieds, B Modifieds ($500 to win), Limited Late Models and Hobby Stocks ($300 to win) on April 8th. It all adds up to a season of plenty of All Star Series racing excitement. For further information on scheduling and other things, check out the official track website at www.antiochspeedway.com.
Antioch Speedway 2017 Schedule
March 11 Open practice
March 18 Open practice
March 25 Spec Sprints, Late Models, LLM, B-Mods, Hobby Stocks, Dwarf
April 1 Sprint Car Challenge, BCRA Lights
April 8 Spec Sprints, Late Models, A-Mods, B-Mods ($500 to win), LLM, Hobby Stocks ($300 to win)
April 15 No racing Easter
April 22 All Star 360 Winged Sprints, A-Mods, B-Mods, Dwarf Cars, Hobby Stocks and Hardtops
April 29 Late Models, Spec Sprints, A-Mods, B-Mods, Hobby Stocks
May 6 All Star 360 Winged, A-Mods ($750 to win), LLM, Spec Sprints, B-Mods, Hobby Stocks
May 13 All Star 360 Winged, A-Mods, Dwarf, LLM (Larry Damitz Memorial)
May 19 Contra Costa County Fair – Racing TBA
May 20 Contra Costa County Fair – Racing TBA
May 27 No racing Memorial Day Holiday
June 3 King Of the West Sprint Cars, Hobby Stocks
June 10 All Star 360 Winged Sprints, B-Mods, LLM, Dwarf, Hobby Stocks
June 17 All Star 360 Winged, Late Models, A-Mods, Dwarf
June 24 Sprint Car Challenge, TBA
July 1 A-Mods ($1000 to win), B-Mods, Late Models, Hobby, Dwarf
July 8 "Jerry Hetrick Memorial" All Star 360 Winged, A-Mods, LLM, Hobby, Dwarf Cars, Hard Tops
July 15 Late Models, B-Mods, Spec Sprints, Hobby, Dwarf
July 22 Late Models, Spec Sprints, B-Mods, Hobby, Dwarf
July 29 All Star 360 Winged, Spec Sprints, B-Mods, LLM, Dwarf, Hobby
August 5 King Of The West Sprint Cars, Dwarf Cars
August 12 Spec Sprints, Late Models, LLM, B-Mods, Dwarf, Hobby Stocks
August 19 All Star 360 Winged, BCRA Lights, B-Mods, LLM, Hobby, Hard Tops
August 26 All Star 360 Winged, A-Mods, B-Mods, Spec Sprints, LLM, Hobby Stocks, Dwarf Cars
Sept 2 No racing Labor Day Weekend
Sept 9 All Star 360 Winged Sprints, Late Models, A-Mods, B-Mods, LLM, Hobby Stocks, Hard Tops (Chet Thompson Memorial)
Sept 16 "John Soares Sr. Memorial Top Dog Race" All Star 360 Winged, Late Models, A-Mods, B-Mods, Dwarf, Hobby
Sept 23 All Star 360 Winged, Spec Sprints, LLM, B-Mods, Dwarf, Hobby
Sept 30 "Fall Brawl" Late Models ($1500 to win), B-Mods ($1000 to win), Hobby Stocks ($850 to win)
Schedule Subject To Change
2016 Merced Speedway Season Review
Merced, CA...Merced Speedway entered the 2016 season under the promotion of Ed Parker. Since 1950, the speedway has operated weekly during the spring and summer months. In 2010, that streak was put in jeopardy when the 20 year promotional run of Chuck & Marylee Griffin ended. However, Oval Motorsports came in and saved the season. They had a six season run before passing the baton to Parker. This move was met with positive response from the racers, which resulted in some of the best car counts the track has seen in recent seasons. Parker excelled in his role as promoter and put together a great staff of officials.
Most of the divisions returned, led by IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks and the Sportsman division. Parker built the schedule around the track's marquee events and doubled down on the concept of honoring track heritage. The Ted Stofle Classic returned. He also put the Matt & Glass Memorial Race back on the schedule, brought back the popular Timmy Post Memorial and added what was a very successful John Fore Jr. Memorial race at the end of the season. The 2016 Legend's Night was the biggest one yet, and Parker has indicated that it will lead to a Hall Of Fame being established at the track.
The IMCA Modifieds were coming off of a season with some low turnouts, but it was about ready to rebound. Only once in 13 races did they have a field with less than ten cars. When Paul Stone won the opener, it appeared as if he might be the driver to beat, but he took himself out of the running to race elsewhere. Two past Merced champions, Ramie Stone and Bill Egleston, and past Chowchilla champion Randy Brown were the three players in the battle. Egleston was also an early winner, and R. Stone stepped up with a big win in the special All Star Series Tour race. Egleston took himself out of the running to race elsewhere, but the battle was about to take a big turn.
Brown got on a roll during the last eight races that saw him get all five of his wins and never fail to finish inside the Top 3. This left little doubt that he would be the champion. In addition to his five wins, Brown also had three seconds and three third place finishes. R. Stone still had some problems during the season, but his one win out of six Top 5's earned him second in the standings. Hard charger Bruce "Bubba" Nelson won "Rookie Of The Year" honors as the third ranked driver. Though without a win in this division, he had two thirds out of six Top 5 finishes. Despite missing races, Egleston's two wins, two seconds and one third enabled him to eek out a tie with Ricky Thatcher for fourth in the final rundown. Thatcher had three Top 5 finishes.
Highlights during the 13 race IMCA Modified season included a win on Ted Stofle Classic night for Bakersfield visitor Ethan Dotson ahead of Egleston. Robby Sawyer came in from Bakersfield to win on Timmy Post Memorial night ahead of Brown. Brown did win the Matt & Glass Memorial Race ahead of R. Stone. Other winners included Jeff Streeter and Mike Villanueva. Ryan Porter had two season high seconds, while Karl Rose and rookies Ryan Larimer and D.J. Shannon each had one. Tim Balding, Austin Burke, Darrell Hughes II and Nick DeCarlo each had one third as their best finishes at Merced.
The IMCA Sport Modified car count exploded during the first half of the season thanks to a big infusion of new and returning racers. Several B Mains were needed during the season. Though there was some drama in the championship race, it wasn't a close battle. Steve Stone shot out of the gate like a cannon ball with a win, a second and a fourth in his first three starts, but the past Chowchilla Street Stock champion took himself out of the running. However, Rick Diaz had three of his wins in the first five races to take control. Diaz was running the season in dedication to his friend, John Fore Jr. Despite losing his ride during the season and being counted out, Diaz found another ride and didn't miss a beat.
The numbers Diaz posted were the most impressive at the speedway in 2016. Rick won six Main Events, had four seconds and two other Top 5's. He could have skipped the finale and still won the championship. The second place battle was a nail bitter between Mike Drake, Gary Tucker and Tim Elias. Drake held off Tucker by just four points on the strength of one second, two thirds and two other Top 5's. Tucker had a bit of a rough start, but he recovered with one win, one second, four thirds and two additional Top 5's. Elias and fifth place Josh Hensley each had a season high third. Elias had three additional Top 5's, while Hensley had one.
Tucker's win came in the Matt & Glass Memorial Race ahead of Diaz, who amazingly did not miss a Top 2 finish in the last seven races. Nick Spainhoward won the Ted Stofle Classic for Sport Modifieds ahead of Matt Lewis. Levi Keifer came in from down south and won the Timmy Post Memorial ahead of Fred Ryland. Diaz won on Legend's Night ahead of Chase Thomas and another Bakersfield visitor, Clint Reichenbach, won the John Fore Jr. Memorial Race ahead of Lee Jensen.
During the season, reigning IMCA State champion Fred Ryland made the decision to race mainly at Merced, and he steadily rose up the ladder to seventh in the standings on the strength of four wins and four seconds. Sixth ranked Chase Thomas won his first career Main Event. Other season best finishes included Matt Lewis, Anthony Giuliani, Danny Roe and Lee Jensen with one second each. Season best third place finishes included Dwayne Short twice and Igor Grandzuk, Paul Espino and Mark Odgers each once.
Like the Sport Modifieds, the Hobby Stock car count soared and caused the need for several B Mains during the season. There wasn't much drama in the championship race, thanks to the strong start of Michael Shearer. Even a bit of a slump down the stretch didn't derail him. Kristie Shearer was an early second, but reigning champion Kevin Joaquin began to put it together for a strong finish. By season's end, Joaquin had worked his way into second in points. M. Shearer's numbers included one win, a division leading four seconds and two thirds. Joaquin's absence from two races may have cost him a shot at the championship, and he still finished within 11 points of M. Shearer after winning the double point finale. Kevin had two seconds (in the final three races), one third and an additional two Top 5's. He also grabbed the biggest win in his career by holding off Bruce "Bubba" Nelson to win the John Fore Jr. Memorial race for the Hobby Stocks.
Speaking of big wins, Phillip Vaughn's first win came in the prestigious Ted Stofle Classic ahead of Dexter Long. Vaughn finished third in points with two seconds, a third and two additional Top 5 finishes. Robbie Loquaci was just four points behind Vaughn in the standings with one win, one second, two thirds and two additional Top 5's. Austin Van Hoff struggled at times with just one third and one fifth, but he still managed to rank fifth in the final standings.
Other highlights included Rookie Darren Miguel's win on Tommy Post Memorial night ahead of Robbie Loquaci. One of Bruce "Bubba" Nelson's three wins came ahead of Dexter Long on Legend's Night. Multi time champion Raul Rodriguez Sr. scored three feature wins, while other wins went to Watsonville champion Terry Campion, Ben Lewis II, (three time second place finisher) Dexter Long and rookie Garrett Corn. Other noteworthy finishes included one second place finish each for K. Shearer and Ben Lewis. Past champion Andrew Krumm had two third place finishes, while Ken Winland, John Hensley, Shannon Nelson and Mike Stockton each had one third.
There was absolutely no doubt that Chris Corder would be the Mini Stock champion, nor was there any doubt that the man is a true sportsman who has supported this division faithfully in recent seasons by putting other drivers in his cars. Chris racked up an impressive seven wins and one fourth to win the championship by a wide margin over rookie Paul Lauretti. Lauretti had one second, one third and four additional Top 5 finishes to hold off fellow rookie Destiny Carter for second in the standings. Carter was able to realize her dream of racing thanks to Corder putting her into one of his cars. She had three Top 5 finishes with her best finish coming with a fourth place finish in the finale.
Tony Peffer and Curtis Thornhill rounded out the Top 5 in the standings. Peffer had a season high second, a third and three additional Top 5's. Thornhill joined Watsonville champion D.J. Keldsen and Jason Lewis on the feature winner's list with one each. Other notable finishes included one second place finish each for Jeff Amos, Mike Germait, James Stockton, Brian Widdowson and the returning Jennifer Corder. Joy Alger and Lucy Falkenberg each had two third place finishes, while Bobby Jackson, Andy Boydstun and Dennis Copus each had one third place finish. Copus destroyed his car in a crash to end his season early.
Not only did Parker put the Sportsman division back on the schedule, he made them the headliners for double points on Legend's Night. Perhaps it's fitting that the man driving a car in tribute to legend Rod Poor won the championship. One of the loudest cheer leaders for this division, Kenny Birdsong had three wins, one second and three thirds to win this championship. Two time champion Mike Friesen, who is a big supporter of vintage racing, asserted himself into the championship battle by winning the Legend's Night race ahead of another past champion, Mark Odgers, who was wheeling the Vern Willhoite Tribute car. Friesen had two wins, a second and three thirds to rank a close second in the standings.
A broken tow vehicle on that crucial Legend's Night took Jeff Bristow out of action and forced him to settle for third in the standings. He still had one win and three thirds. Odgers did well when he raced, and his two wins and one second assured him of fourth in the final standings ahead of newcomer Shannon Fry. Other notable finishes included Eric Seely and Tim Prothro with one second place finish each. Prothro also had two thirds, but he missed races to make repairs. Word is that a few more cars not seen in a while may return to action in the coming season, including past champion Mike Henault.
2016 Merced Speedway Points
Randy Brown 478
Ramie Stone 446
Bruce Nelson 428
Bill Egleston 415
Ricky Thatcher 415
Jarod Fast 319
Mike Villanueva 278
Harley Turner 236
Ryan Larimer 220
Paul Stone 216
IMCA Sport Modifieds
Rick Diaz 569
Mike Drake 511
Gary Tucker 507
Tim Elias 481
Josh Hensley 457
Chase Thomas 422
Fred Ryland 420
Tanner Thomas 386
Steve Stone 361
Dwayne Short 358
Michael Shearer 237
Kevin Joaquin 226
Phillip Vaughn 205
Robbie Loquaci 201
Austin Van Hoff 186
Dexter Long 185
Garrett Corn 184
Kristie Shearer 182
Kodie Dean 168
John Hensley 153
Chris Corder 205
Paul Lauretti 161
Destiny Carter 148
Tony Peffer 131
Curtis Thornhill 130
Lucy Falkenberg 115
Jennifer Corder 69
Joy Alger 66
James Stockton 59
Mike Germait 57
Kenny Birdsong 183
Mike Friesen 167
Jeff Bristow 143
Mark Odgers 98
Shannon Fry 90
Tim Prothro 88
Jerry Cecil 60
Jeff Amos 59
Jesse James Burks 50
Eric Seely 49
IMCA Modified Top 5's
1 Paul Stone, Bill Egleston, Randy Brown, Bruce Nelson, Ricky Thatcher
2 Jeff Streeter, Paul Stone, Tim Balding, Randy Brown, Ramie Stone.
3 Bill Egleston, Randy Brown, Paul Stone, Streeter, Bruce Nelson.
4 Ethan Dotson, Bill Egleston, Bruce Nelson, Derek Nance, T.J. Etchison.
5 Ramie Stone, Ryan Porter, Austin Burke, Riley Simmons, Jeff Streeter.
6 Randy Brown, Paul Stone, Ramie Stone, Ryan Porter, Jeff Streeter.
7 Robby Sawyer, Randy Brown, Darrell Hughes II, Ryan Porter, Harley Turner.
8 Randy Brown, Ryan Porter, Mike Villanueva, Robert Marsh, Karl Rose.
9 Mike Villanueva , Randy Brown, Ryan Larimer, Josh Combs, Ramie Stone.
10 Randy Brown, Karl Rose, Nick DeCarlo, Bruce Nelson, Ricky Thatcher.
11 Randy Brown, Ryan Larimer, Bruce Nelson, Ramie Stone, Travis White.
12 Bill Egleston, D.J. Shannon, Randy Brown, Mike Villanueva, Jim Pettit II.
13 Randy Brown, Ramie Stone, Bill Egleston, Ricky Thatcher, Bruce Nelson.
IMCA Sport Modified Top 5's
1 Rick Diaz, Steve Stone, Josh Hensley, Gary Tucker, Tim Elias.
2 Steve Stone, Mike Drake, Gary Tucker, Chris Falkenberg, Paul Espino.
3 Rick Diaz, Fred Ryland, Igor Grandzuk, Steve Stone, Chris Falkenberg.
4 Nick Spainhoward, Matt Lewis, Mike Drake, Tim Elias, Gary Tucker.*
5 Rick Diaz, Anthony Giuliani, Gary Tucker, Tim Elias, Chris Falkenberg.
6 Fred Ryland, Gary Tucker, Nick Spainhoward, Patti Ryland, Steve Stone.
7 Levi Keifer, Fred Ryland, Gary Tucker, Rick Diaz, Steve Stone.
8 Fred Ryland, Danny Roe, Paul Espino, Rick Diaz, Chase Thomas.
9 Fred Ryland, Rick Diaz, Dwayne Short, Mark Odgers, Mike Drake.
10 Rick Diaz, Fred Ryland, Chase Thomas, Jordan Hagar, Patti Ryland.
11 Rick Diaz, Chase Thomas, Tim Elias, Fred Ryland, Mike Drake.
12 Chase Thomas, Rick Diaz, Mark Odgers, Gary Tucker, Fred Ryland.
13 Rick Diaz, Fred Ryland, Gary Tucker, Mike Drake, Chase Thomas.
14 Fred Ryland, Rick Diaz, Chase Thomas, Chuck Weir, Josh Hensley.
15 Gary Tucker, Rick Diaz, Dwayne Short, Chase Thomas, Andy Welch.
16 Clint Reichenbach, Lee Jensen, Mike Drake, Tim Elias, Jerry Bartlett.
Hobby Stock Top 5's
1 Michael Shearer, Kristie Shearer, Andrew Krumm, Ben Lewis II, George Silva.
2 Raul Rodriguez Sr., Michael Shearer, Robbie Loquaci, Kevin Joaquin, Garrett Corn.
3 Terry Campion, Dexter Long, Andrew Krumm, Garrett Corn, Kristie Shearer.
4 Phillip Vaughn, Dexter Long, Michael Shearer, Andrew Krumm, Matt Kile. *
5 Bruce Nelson, Phillip Vaughn, Ben Lewis II, Kodie Dean, Garrett Corn.
6 Raul Rodriguez Sr., Michael Shearer, Kevin Joaquin, Dexter Long, Robbie Loquaci.
7 Ben Lewis II, Raul Rodriguez Sr., Robbie Loquaci, Tommy Bostic, Ben Lewis.
8 Bruce Nelson, Ben Lewis, Michael Shearer, Kodie Dean, John Hensley.
9 Darren Miguel, Robbie Loquaci, Ken Winland, Kevin Joaquin, Gary Hildebrand.
10 Raul Rodriguez Sr., Michael Shearer, John Hensley, Kristie Shearer, Jerry Tubbs.
11 Garrett Corn, Michael Shearer, Phillip Vaughn, Kevin Joaquin, Donnie Shearer.
12 Bruce Nelson, Bruce Nelson, Phillip Vaughn, John Hensley, Austin Van Hoff.
13 Dexter Long, Kevin Joaquin, Garrett Corn., Kodie Dean, Robbie Loquaci.
14 Robbie Loquaci, Kevin Joaquin, Austin Van Hoff, Phillip Vaughn, Cody Parker.
15 Kevin Joaquin, Dexter Long, Shannon Nelson, Phillip Vaughn, Donnie Shearer.
16 Kevin Joaquin, Bruce Nelson, Mike Stockton, Nick Baldwin, Andrew Krumm.
Mini Stock Top 5's
1 Chris Corder, Jeff Amos, Robert Jackson, Paul Lauretti, Dennis Copus.
2 Chris Corder, Mike Germait, Dennis Copus, Paul Lauretti, Kevin Lockerby.
3 Chris Corder, Jason Lewis, Joy Alger, Tony Peffer, Curtis Thornhill.
4 Jason Lewis, James Stockton, Joy Alger, Lucy Falkenberg, Destiny Carter.
5 Chris Corder, Jennifer Corder, Andy Boydstun, Clinton Massey, Justin Moore.
6 Curtis Thornhill, Brian Widdowson, Paul Lauretti, Chris Corder, Destiny Carter.
7 Chris Corder, Tony Peffer, Jennifer Corder, Paul Lauretti, Lucy Falkenberg.
8 Chris Corder, D.J. Keldsen, Tony Peffer, Jennifer Corder, Paul Lauretti.
9 D.J. Keldsen, Chris Corder, Lucy Falkenberg, Tony Peffer, Curtis Thornhill.
10 Chris Corder, Paul Lauretti, Lucy Falkenberg, Destiny Carter, Tony Peffer.
1 Jeff Bristow, Kenny Birdsong, Tim Prothro.
2 Kenny Birdsong, Eric Seely, Mike Friesen.
3 Kenny Birdsong, Jeff Bristow, Mike Friesen.
4 Mark Odgers, Mike Friesen, Kenny Birdsong.
5 Mike Friesen, Tim Prothro, Kenny Birdsong.
6 Mike Friesen, Mark Odgers, Tim Prothro.
7 Kenny Birdsong, Jeff Bristow, Mike Friesen.
8 Mark Odgers, Jeff Bristow, Kenny Birdsong.
In Memory Of Larry Damitz
You can never take life for granted. Tomorrow is not promised. Today, our racing community is mourning the passing off Larry Damitz. They called him "The Sundrop Kid" though he was 87 years old. He was also the Antioch Speedway Limited Late Model champion for the third straight year and fifth in the last six years. He had a pair of Merced championships during that time as well.
Larry was an icon, a role model, an inspiration. Drivers seem to come and go through the years, but he was still there. From the era that gave us Leroy Geving, Johnny Franklin and Gene Dudley to the era of Mike Chisholm, Lee Olibas and Jack Dempsey to the era that gave us Jim Pettit II, Ed Sans Jr. and Bobby Hogge III and into the current era, Larry has been there. He's beaten them all, and he's done it with class.
Larry was not braggadocios. He was one of the nicest guys at the track, but he was reluctant to talk about his accomplishments. His presence at the race track was a testimony to his love for racing. He didn't do it for points and championships. He won a lot, but he didn't do it merely for the wins. He did it because he enjoyed it. He liked being a part of the community. He liked working on race cars. He liked being at the race track with his friends.
I realized over the past few years how we should appreciate what he was doing out there. Most racers would have retired 20 years before he did, and there he was. He was planning to come back again this season. It brought a smile to my face to see him do it and do it so well. There was no decline. He was the champion his last season at the track. He went out a champion.
He ranks in the Top 10 on Antioch's All Time Win List and is second only to Mike Gustafson in Limited Late Model wins. He won an amazing 10 Late Model features in 1986 at Antioch. Going over my notes, he won two Super Stock and four Late Model championships at Petaluma and ranks high on the win list there. He won 11 Super Stock features at Chico one year and won championships at Vallejo. I mean, everybody knows how good the Hardtop racers were in the 1960's, and Larry beat them all for his first championship.
I'll tell you my biggest failure in racing was that I was unable to convince John to start the Hall Of Fame at Antioch Speedway in 2000. I know Larry knew how much he was loved and how important he was to our sport, but it would have been nice if we had acknowledged that officially. Not just him, but other legends who are still with us. People like Larry were the ones who made others want to go racing. He was one of my racing heroes and my dad's as well.
To be honest, one of the reasons I hated coming up here is because I wouldn't be seeing Larry race. And, if I ultimately don't leave the sport when I move my life forward, it's hard for me to imagine I won't be back there at Antioch Speedway one day. If/when that day comes, I won't get to see him race.
To the critics, let's see you wheel a car at 87 years old the way that man did. There may have been a bump here or there, but the man could drive the wheels off of his car. The Limited Late Model division just became a wide open championship, but the racers, even his critics, are still sad. They may win a race, and somebody else will win the championship, but they won't have to earn it by beating the legend himself.
I can't imagine what awaits us beyond this life, but I'm pretty sure that if there's a race track there, that's where Larry will be. He'll be out there racing Del Quinn, Leroy Geving, Phil Pedlar, Gary Pacheco, Mike Chisholm, Vern Willhoite, George Steitz and so many other greats who are no longer with us. And no matter what, win lose or draw, he'll have a smile on his face. He'll be doing what he loves to do. We should all be so fortunate to find that thing we love that makes us happy and be able to enjoy it for as long as he did. For those of us who are still here, racing won't be the same without Larry Damitz.