Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Antioch And Merced Playdays, Marysville, Chowchilla, Hardtops And More

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Barona Speedway made it onto TV in a segment that can be viewed HERE

The DCRR Racing Radio Show
We actually recorded a third edition that didn't save, so we're going with the second.  Chowchilla Speedway is rained out this week. Go to the various track pages for updates on weather in the area.

Eventful Practice Day At Antioch Speedway

Antioch, CA...March 18...The 57th consecutive season at Antioch Speedway and 20th under the promotion of John & Donna Soares will kick off this Saturday night.  After last week's practice was canceled due to wet grounds, several drivers took the opportunity to make some practice laps on the fast three-eighth mile clay oval on Saturday afternoon.

The Wingless Spec Sprint division will have some new drivers this year, and we got a chance to watch a few of them practice.  While past feature winner James East was looking fast as usual, Mini Stock graduate Abigail Gonderman was making her first laps.  Grandfather and 1970 Sportsman champion Ken Gonderman was there along with her two time Spec Sprint championship winning father Dan Gonderman.  Dan will be racing a Winged 360 Sprint Car this season, and he was proud of his daughter's effort.

One of the more popular racers in Hobby Stocks and Spec Sprints through the years was "Gentleman" Jimmy Lavell.  When he wasn't working, he was at the races.  Sadly, Jimmy passed away last year.  Josh Floyd and his father Ron Floyd were both officials at Antioch Speedway, and Josh has Lavell's old Spec Sprinter.  Josh was excited about getting a chance to race, and he looked good for his first time behind the wheel.

In the excitement department, Top 3 BCRA Midget Lites racer  Kyle Offill has a Winged 360 Sprint Car for his move into the Sprint Car Challenge Series.  His first time on the track resulted in a rollover, but he got it back together to make some better laps later.  Also joining the rollover club was Rick Foster in the blue #74 Hobby Stock.  The crew thrashed on it and got him back on the track later.

Devan Kammerman is making his move up from Quarter-Midgets to Dwarf Cars, and he joined teammates Mike Corsaro and Charlie Correia for some practice laps.  2016 runnerup Corsaro is anticipated to be one of this year's title contenders in his new car.  You also can't count out Correia, who is the longest active Dwarf Car driver on the West Coast.  Correia has an extensive Open Wheel back ground and could just step up and grab a feature win this season.  Teammates Tim Reeder and Josh Miller were there.  Miller was a feature winner last season, and Reeder is hoping to improve on his fourth place 2016 ranking.

Carl Berendsen II was back to make some laps following his All Star Sport Modified debut last week.  Berendsen may not be a regular, but he's hoping to get some wins when he's there.  Past Street Stock champion Todd Gomez is back in a B Modified, and he was joined by rookie Guy Ahlwardt.  Ahlwardt was last season's Hobby Stock champion.  Reigning B Modified champion Trevor Clymens was also on hand for the practice.  Trevor says his car is ready for this week's opener.

There were also Late Models and Limited Late Models making laps.  Kimo Oreta had his pretty #03 car at the track for more seat time.  He also piloted the Sun Drop Racing #15 car.  The three time Hobby Stock champion was last year's "Rookie Of The Year" and should not be counted out in the Limited Late Model title chase.  Ryan Cherezian and the steady John Evans were also there with Limited Late Models.  Cherezian has finished as high as second at Antioch in the past, but he's hoping this will be the season he gets into the win column.  Two time division champion Mike Gustafson also gave his car a shakedown run.  The Late Models of David Newquist and Mike Hynes were also there.

All of the drivers who made laps are looking forward to the season opener this week.  On the card will be the Wingless Spec Sprints, DIRTcar Late Models, Limited Late Models, B Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars.

Coming Saturday:  The two biggest stars of the DIRTcar Late Model effort these past three seasons have been Richard Papenhausen and Jeff Decker.  Papenhausen is the reigning and 2014 champion, while Decker won the title in 2015.  In addition to that, the two drivers have won the previous two DIRTcar West Region championships.  While Kimo Oreta will be in his rookie season in this class, we also anticipate Mike Hynes, David Newquist, Dennis Souza and Rob Norris will be among this week's competitors.

Oreta is prepared to improve on his runnerup ranking from last year in Limited Late Models, but he can expect stiff competition from Mark Garner.  Garner won five times last season, but bad luck in the finale ended his bid for second.  Neither of these two can ignore crafty veteran Mike Gustafson.  Mike is a two time champion and has won more Main Events in this division than anybody else in track history.  Past champions Lori Brown and Jim Freethy, John Evans, Ryan Cherezian and John Keith will be others to watch.  All of the racers will be driving with a heavy heart after the passing of reigning champion Larry Damitz at 87 years old.

With Guy Ahlwardt moving up in divisions, it appears as if we will get another new champion in Hobby Stocks.  That is, of course, unless we see the husband and wife team of Brad and Melissa Myers.  New Years Bash winner Chris Long will be one driver to watch, along with Stock Car veteran Danny Jones.  Several of last season's stars, including Michael Cooper, Top 3 competitor Jordan Swank, Cameron Swank, Frank Furtado and Natalie Perry, are anticipated this week.  There are some new racers in the field.  We only saw Mini Stock champion Brent Curran a few times in 2015, but he's set to race this year along with fourth generation racer Billy Garner, Sid Smith, Rick Foster and Chris Bennett.

On the open wheel side of things, engine rule clarifications have left the status of reigning Wingless Spec Sprint champion Jim Perry Jr. and Jimmy Perry III in question for the opener, though we wouldn't rule out an appearance.  Long time Spec Sprint racer Rick Panfili's appearance may be in doubt as he is recovering from knee surgery.  2016 Top 5 point runner Brandon Burd has a new car, and last year's "Rookie Of The Year" Adam Teves has a new motor.  Alan Miranda also has a new motor this season from the shops of DeLucca Racing Engines.  The division will welcome a few newcomers as well.

The B Modified champion, Trever Clymens, is ready to go, and young Alfred Johnson will be taking the wheel of one of his father's cars.  K.C. Keller is ready to see if he can move up the point ladder a bit more after his fourth place season.  There seems too be a stream of new drivers joining this class, and that will keep things very competitive. 

There's plenty to watch for in Dwarf Cars as they begin their 20th season.  If Kevin Miraglio is back for a run at a second straight championship, we know Mike Corsaro will give him a run, but we also know David Rosa appeared to have his Dwarf Car dialed in down the stretch last year.  The same can be said for Jenna Frazier, who will also run a Winged Sprint car this season.  The Dwarf Cars will round out an exciting six division show on Saturday.

For further information, go to

Merced Drivers Get One More Shakedown Run 
Before The Opener

Merced, CA...March 18...The weather cooperated once again, allowing Promoter Ed Parker to open the gates of Merced Speedway for one more playday.  Past Street Stock champion Tim Ragsale is handling track prep these days, and the quarter-mile clay oval was in good shape for practice.

With the IMCA Modified season opener around the corner, brothers Ramie Stone and Troy Stone made some good laps together. Troy has been away for a few seasons, but he looked like he hadn't missed a week.  Ramie is coming off of second in points last season and is a multi time champion in the class.  In fact, he's won championships in three different divisions.  He'll be gunning for defending champion Randy Brown this season.  Speaking of Brown, he was putting his car through its shakedown run as he prepares to defend his championship.  Also getting in some good laps was Bruce "Bubba" Nelson, who had a great rookie season last year.  Nelson will be looking to make this the third different division he's won a Main Event in at Merced.

Meanwhile, John McDougall towed in from the Antioch area as he intends to race here as often as possible.  John was trying different things to get his setup where he needs it to be.  He was a feature winner and title contender in 2015 before a crash in a race at Petaluma sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

Several IMCA Sport Modified racers also did more testing before next week's scheduled West Coast Sport Mod Tour comes to town.  Among the drivers on hand were Dwayne Short, Garrett Jernagan, Josh Hensley and George Medeiros.  Hensley is the 2015 champion.  Also making good practice laps were Sport Modified veteran Anthony Giuliani, Joe Salvi and 16 year old Gavin Espino.  A good field of Sport Modifieds is anticipated for this week's West Coast Sport Mod Tour opener.

The same can be said for the Hobby Stocks.  2015 champion Kevin Joaquin was making some good laps with Sport Modified racer Chris Falkenberg riding shotgun and doing a live feed.  2015 Mini Stock champion Darren Miguel was also taking advantage of practice as he hopes to make it back to the winner's circle once again.  Jeff Lacy was back and making good laps in his Miami Dolphins tribute #13 car.  Steven Rogers was also there in his yellow Ford Mustang, along with James Stockton, Mike Germait and newcomer Dustin Donathan.

There are new drivers in the Mini Stock class as well.  Cody Keldsen is the latest generation of the famous Keldsen family to get behind the wheel as he made laps in the D.J. Keldsen Watsonville championship car.  Devin Belton also made his first laps in the former Danny Wagner Mini Truck.  Corder Racing brought three cars, including the new car for reigning champion Chris Corder.  Destiny Carter is back for her second year with the team.  Last year's third place driver learned a lot with each practice session.  Jennifer Corder, who is a past division championship runnerup, was back making more laps in her new car.  Newcomers Jennifer Rogers and Skip Speed and the truck of Tony Peffer were also there for practice.

Noteworthy in their presence were the new Mini Late Models, who will make several appearances this season.  Past Street Stock champion Robby Jeppesen is dealing these cars on the West Coast, and his son Riley Jeppesen was making his first laps along with young gun Ian Shearer.  Timmy Crews and Kart veteran Timmy Vaught were just a bit faster in their laps, but the youngsters will get faster as they get more seat time.

There is lots of anticipation in the air as Merced Speedway gets ready its 68th continuous season of racing this Saturday night.  An increased car count is anticipated for the the inaugural West Coast IMCA Sport Modified Tour race.  Joining them for an exiting lineup of racing will be the IMCA Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks.  For Further information, go to

California Hardtop association Racers Practice 
At Placerville Speedway

Placerville, CA...March 18...The California Hardtop Association will return for their tenth season of racing, mostly on the dirt this season.  These vintage Coupe and Sedan racers have been entertaining fans at pavement and dirt tracks for ten seasons now, and thanks to another solid schedule from President John Philbert, this tradition will continue.

One of their main tracks will be Placerville, where they race on April 15th, July 22nd and August 25th.  They also make visits to Chico (May 12th and June 30th), Marysville (May 13th and July 1st), Petaluma (June 3rd), Orland (August 12th), Calistoga (September 2nd and 3rd) and Roseville (June 17th, October 7th and October 27th and 28th).

Placerville provided the racers with an opportunity to practice last Saturday, and five CHA competitors took advantage of that opportunity.  This is the time to dial the bugs out of the race cars, and unfortunately those bugs turned into gremlins for both Joseph Shenefield and Ron Ruiz.  Ruiz had motor problems.  Both drivers will hopefully have those issues sorted out before the Placerville opener on April 15th.

Jason Clifford was back again, and he had a passenger.  His girlfriend Kelsey was riding along with him as he ran the quarter-mile clay oval at a rapid pace.  Jason's father, Ken Clifford, was there.  The two enjoyed a few side by side laps together.  Also making laps was Placerville Stock Car veteran Dennis Armstrong, who is a past winner with the group.  Both Jason and Ken were winners last season.  Placerville was an opportunity for these three to make some good laps and dial their cars in.

Most of last year's stars will be back this year, including hard charger Jason Armstrong, who was a winner on multiple occasions.  Joe Hopp, John Turner, Dave Reed and Spenser Nice are among the other CHA stars to watch for.  Reed is in the old Philbert car, and we've heard rumors that Philbert might be back in another car.  Plus, stars from the Bay Area and The Valley are sure to stop in from time to time.

The CHA opens at Placerville on April 15th and has a big double header weekend at Chico May 12th and Marysville on the 13th.  For updates on other happenings with the group, go to

Kofoid, Spencer, Bartlett, Compton Marysville Winners

Marysville, CA...March 18...Michael "Buddy" Kofoid had an impressive drive as he opened the 2017 Marysville Raceway Winged 360 Sprint Car season with a 25 lap Main Event victory Saturday night.  Kofoid led from the drop of the green flag, and the young gun was chased by Tony Gualda and veteran Mason Moore.  There was only one early yellow flag.  During the last half dozen laps, Gualda closed in on Kofoid, but Kofoid prevailed at the checkered flag.  Moore finished third ahead of Billy Wallace, Heath Hall, Tyler Seavy, Jeremy Hawes, Mike Monohan, Korey Lovell and Dustin Freitas.  Lovell won the first heat ahead of Kofoid, Hawes held off Monohan to win the second heat and Hall prevailed in the third heat ahead of Jake Haulot.

February Hunt Wingless Spec Sprint Series winner Cody Spencer impressed with his 20 lap win in the track's regular Spec Sprint program.  Dwarf Car graduate Thomas Leiby set the early pace ahead of Gary Paulson and Brett Youngman.  A lap 3 restart allowed Paulson to make a pass for the lead as Youngman settled into second.  Spencer was the driver making the moves as he settled into fifth on lap seven, and he took fourth on lap eight.  Spencer grabbed third on lap ten and put the moves on Youngman for second on lap 12.  Spencer gained quickly on Paulson and made his winning pass on lap 18.  Spencer brought it home to victory ahead of Paulson. Youngman, Leiby, Tim Sherman Jr., Bruce Morrow, Josh Vieira, Boy Moniz, Leon Olschowka and Paul Vandenberg.  Paulson won his heat race ahead of Vieira, while Leiby got his his win in front of Youngman.

Jerry Bartlett scored a thrilling victory in the 20 lap IMCA Sport Modified Main Event.  This was a race that appeared to be in he bag for Phillip Shelby.  Shelby led from the start with Mike Merritt second and 2015 champion Howard Law third.  Bartlett made his first appearance in the Top 5 on lap four, and a red flag flew when Willie Horn Jr. and Jim Waller tangled exiting Turn 2, sending Waller through the fence off the back stretch and onto the road.  Nobody was injured, but both drivers were eliminated.  Shelby continued to lead Merritt and Law on the restart, but Hall law took over second on lap 13.  Bartlett made an inside pass a lap later to take third from Merritt.  On a lap 17 restart, Shelby pulled up to the outside and stalled in Turn 3.  Law had the lead and lead until Bartlett pulled inside down the back stretch and made the pass on the last lap.  Bartlett completed his move through Turns 3 and 4 and scored the win.  Law settled for second ahead of Merritt, Larry Ferguson, Shane DeVolder, Jeff Bye Jr., Tom Reynolds, Shelby, Mike Smith and Anthony Doubledee.  Shelby won a heat race ahead of Law, while Horn won the other heat in front of Alan Faruta.

Three time Chico champion Brian Compton made a visit, and several more visitors helped build a respectable field for the Hobby Stock class.  Compton won the Main Event, and despite a few yellow flags, he was never seriously threatened.  Reigning champion and double division racer Anthony Doubleee was an early second ahead of Hayfork Speedway star Russ Newman.  Newman took second from Doubledee on a lap ten restart as fellow Hayfork racer Burl Richardson settled into third.  After a lap 12 yellow flag, Newman had problems, allowing Richardson and young Hayfork star D.J. Case to settle into second and third.  Compton went on to a satisfying victory ahead of Richardson, Case, Davey Stone, Tim Williams, Newman, Doubledee, Matt Magenheimer, George Abella and Cy Cooper.  Newman won his heat race ahead of Doubledee, while Compton prevailed in the other heat ahead of Cooper.

James Castleberry won the Street Stock heat race and led flag to flag to win the 12 lap Main Event ahead of Mike Walko and Rod Oliver.  Ryan McDaniel, Phil Marino and Brent Lawrence were Main Event scratches.

Marysville Raceway Results March 18, 2017

Winged 360 Sprint Cars
Main Event

Michael Kofoid
Tony Gualda
Mason Moore
Billy Wallace
Heath Hall
Tyler Seavey
Jeremy Hawes
Mike Monahan
Korey Lovell
Dustin Freitas
Brad Bumgarner
Jimmy Steward
Daniel Becker
Peter Paulson
Raquel Hall
Jake Haulot
Wyatt Brown

Wingless Spec Sprint
Main Event

Cody Spencer
Gary Paulson
Brett Youngman
Thomas Leiby
Tim Sherman Jr.
Bruce Morrow
Josh Vieira
Boy Moniz
Leon Olschowka
Paul Vandenberg

IMCA Sport Modified
Main Event

Jerry Bartlett
Howard Law
Mike Merritt
Jason Ferguson
Shane Devolder
Jeff Bye Jr.
Thomas Reynolds
Phillip Shelby
Mike Smith
Anthony Doubledee
Willlie Horn Jr.
Jim Waller
Alan Furuta

Hobby Stock
Main Event

Brian Compton
Burl Richardson
D.J. Case
Davey Stone
Tim Williiams
Russ Newman
Anthony Doubledee
Matt Magenheimer
George Abella
Cy Cooper
Mel Byers
Jeremy Langenderfer
Trever Abella

Super Stocks
Main Event
James Castleberry
Mike Walko
Rod Oliver

McDaniel, Diaz and Corder Share 
Chowchilla Speedway Winner's Circle

Chowchilla, CA...March 19...Chowchilla Speedway hosted a Stock Car racing program on the 3/8th mile dirt oval on Sunday Afternoon.  Coming all the way from Marysville, Ryan McDaniel won a duel with Torrence long tow Cody Laney to win the 20 lap A Modified Main Event.  Los Banos leadfoot Rick Diaz was the class of the field in winning the 20 lap B Modified feature, while reigning Mini Stock champion Chris Corder won their 20 lap Main Event.

Ryan McDaniel got started early in winning the eight lap A Modified heat ahead of eighth starter Cody Laney.  This put these two drivers on the front row for the non stop Main Event, and they immediately pulled away in their battle.  Every time McDaniel came up to lap a slower car, he made the right move, and that got him to the winner's circle.  Laney was a close second as Robert Marsh was a lead lap third.

Rick Diaz and Chowchilla's Tim Elias ran 1-2 in the B Modified eight lap heat race.  The drivers got out of their cars for a standing intro for the fans before the Main Event.  There were a couple of local teens competing in this race, and after helping them buckle up, Diaz got into his own car.  As the 2016 Merced champion, Diaz carried the experience advantage and he led flag to flag in victory ahead of Elias.  After hitting the back wall on the first lap, 16 year old Gavin Espino came back to finish third.

Chris Corder raced to victory in the eight lap Mini Stock heat race after taking the lead from Paul Lauretti.  Chris' sister Jennifer Corder hit the back wall in that race and pitted.  For the Main Event, C. Corder drove it hard and got up on two wheels at one point.  The defending Chowchilla Speedway champion went on to victory ahead of Lauretti and Jennifer Corder.

Reigning Hobby Stock champion Kevin Joaquin won both the eight lap heat race and 20 lap Main Event ahead of local ace Kodie Dean.

The Winged Sprints, Wingless Spec Sprints, 600 Micros and Vintage Sprints and Modifieds are all back on this Sunday. Grandstands open at 10:00 AM with the first race starting at 1:00 PM.  General Admission is $10.00 Seniors and Military Veterans are $7.00.  Children 6-12 are $5.00.  For further information, go to

Race Results
A Modified

Main Event
Ryan McDaniel
Cody Laney
Robert Marsh
John DiGiovanni
Danny Roe
Chester Kniss
Michael Aldrich
Jeff Streeter DNS

Ryan McDaniel
Cody Laney
Robert Marsh
Chester Kniss
Danny Roe
John DiGiovanni
Michael Aldrich
Jeff Streeter

B Modifieds
Main Event

Rick Diaz
Tim Elias
Gavin Espino
Kaylin Lopez
Jeremy Hoff
Jack Agiar

Rick Diaz
Tim Elias
Kaylin Lopez
Gavin Espino
Jack Aguiar
Jeremy Hoff

Mini Stocks
Main Event

Chris Corder
Paul Lauretti
Jennifer Corder
Johnathan Watson
Jason Lawton DNS
Kyle Fortney DNS

Chris Corder
Paul Lauretti
Johnathan Watson
Jason Lawton
Kyle Fortney
Jennifer Corder

Hobby Stocks
Main Event

Kevin Joaquin
Kodie Dean

Heat Winner
Kevin Joaquin
Kodie Dean

 Chowchilla Speedway's Uncertain Future

In November of 2015, I was set to announce at Chowchilla Speedway.  That would have been the tenth and final race of the season there, and it coincided with my worst personal moment.  The rebirth of that track this year made me wonder what might have been for me and my future if that November race would have happened.  Or, what if it had been reopened last year when it might have been possible for me to be there and Merced.

In 2015,  I was traveling with Jim Robbins to John Soares' place just about every week to make a trip to The Valley, and I recall our last conversation after departing Chowchilla.  We had done a Hobby Stock, Mini Stock and Dwarf Car program that week that went better than we expected.  It was no smash hit, but John had an interesting comment to make.  I agree with him.

John said that this type of show was the only way to get this track going again.  I might add Sport Mods to that, but I find no fault in what John said.  John even mentioned E Modifieds, but that would make Chowchilla the only one running that class.  You see, you have a real problem launching this track again with anything big.  Where are you gonna get the money with a poor fan base?  Madera is a happening place now.  Merced is doing well.  It's not that you won't get those fans, but they already have a nice home track.  Plus, it's tough for a fan to spectate twice a week on a family budget.

Because of that, you can't have big purse divisions.  The money at the gate isn't there, AND often times you can't get the deal for this race track without giving up concessions.  All of the top promoters will tell you that you need that or it won't work.  You need every dollar you can get to pay the bills.

I walked the main street a little bit.  We stopped at Pedro's for a burger, and I noticed signs in the windows of several businesses advertising the carnival at the fairgrounds.  I immediately thought how a racing sign was needed in these windows in the future.  You have to work every angle locally to make this happen, because even if that town doesn't have a big population, you ought to be able to get 300-500 of them to come out before getting fans from neighboring Merced, Madera and Los Banos.

Tom Sagmiller was freaking crazy.  Charlie Ruth was crazy.  All of the investors and crew.  Crazy!  How did this place ever work?  Well, let's see...

1-Madera wasn't doing all that well back then.

2-Merced had many racers parked because they weren't happy with management.

3-San Jose Speedway closed.

4-The timing was right.

5-Did I mention Tom was crazy!  Yep, my kind of crazy!

Oh, they laughed at him.  Buddy and the crew worked on the track in December while Tom and Cindy were in Reno.  Chowchilla Speedway?  Get out of here!

NARC was desperate because they burned some bridges and Chowchilla was their last hope.  So, they got behind it.  Tom had a crazy idea.  There's that word again.  $5.00 tickets.  Why? 

Okay, follow me on this one you "traditional" promoters.  If it's $10.00 for most tracks, but nobody knows about Chowchilla, you will probably get 50-100 fans if you charge that if you are lucky.  Make it $5.00 and you'll get curious observers just for the price.  Just like movie goers who only go for the cheaper matinee ticket.  Now, you might get 200-300 fans.  It may start out making the same money either way, but more fans means more word of mouth.  It worked.  Attendance grew.

Drivers wanted an option.  Tom by now realized that Saturday was not a good night, but Friday was.  So he started on Fridays.  Modifieds, Street Stocks and Hobby Stocks were the core three classes.  Tom saw Mini Trucks weren't working, so he made it Mini Stocks.  The Limited Sprints actually were growing until a fateful night in 2001.  Oh, and he bucked Merced by allowing Camaro's and Firebird's in the Hobby Stock class.

I called it a smoke and mirror show.  You might get 12 Mods every week, but it was 5-6 regulars and 5-6 different drivers.  Same type of thing with Street Stocks.  But, so damn what!  Two heats, a Trophy Dash and an A Main.

And Hobby Stocks?  Watsonville guys towed over the hill.  An unlikely group from Stockton.  Antioch guys started coming.  Chowchilla residents actually started building cars.  By 2001, we had B Mains in the Hobby Stocks.

Tom also made it so you didn't have to join an association to race.  Just come race.  Between that and $5.00 entry for fans, promoters were complaining, but what was he supposed to do?  You wanna open a track in a non racing town, you'd better think outside the box.  That's what he did.

Point fund money?  Tom had his head shaved to give his members a point fund that first year.

Rain out during race night, cancellation, rain stops, booing crowd?  No problem.  Tom asked his racers, and they came back out, packed the track back in and the show continued.  Who does stuff like that?

Mechanics and Ladies race to end the season, and then George Steitz brought back The Race.  2000 was magic.

I wasn't officially on staff that year, but I hitch hiked to get there every week,  I had to be a part of this.  I volunteered to do the programs.  I wrote for the newspapers.  Why?  It was fun!  The mood was exactly why I ever wanted to do this in the first place, and I wasn't feeling it anywhere else at the time.

In 2001, I announced there.  It was fun.  We built something, and it was amazing.  It grew. 

Maybe it was the perfect storm?  Maybe Tom just got lucky?  Maybe he was a genius?  Maybe all three combined. Tom and those involved with him put that track on the map.  I didn't agree with everything.  Heck, I walked away.  But he made it from 2000 to August of 2007.  If not for politics, he might still be there.

What have we had since?

Chuck Griffin 2008 - Half a season
Kenny Shepherd 2009-2011 - Best post Sagmiller effort
John Prentce 2012 - Half a season
Jack Stanford 2013 - Late in 2013 and into 2014. A few good moments, but struggled to the end and walked away
John Soares 2015 - Nine of ten races
Sanders Motorsport 2016 - Some Kart races in front of the grandstands

Now, Joe Diaz Jr. and Kris Koontz take their turn.

Amazing the revolving door.  Tom called me occasionally after I left.  Looking back, maybe I should have gone when it was him running the place.  Soares getting the track brought me back.  I thought he was trying to build something. Looking back...

But, John's words are true.  Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks and Dwarf Cars.  I'd add B Modifieds.  Build a show with that first, then look at other things.

Hobby Stocks only had two cars on Sunday.  Really?  So, nobody was curious?  Or did they not know?

Hayfork, Orland, Porterville.  Three tracks trying to establish something.  Three tracks with a core of Mini Stocks and Hobby Stocks.  Three tracks that don't have much money to work with.

Now, if you have money to burn, go ahead.  Burn  away.  You'll find takers, but when you run out?  Don't ask them for help. 

I also don't think you can run weekly using the current "Sprint Cars one week, A Mods the other week" formula.  Even with the smaller purse classes.  Nope.  You can't do it.  The three tracks I just mentioned don't run weekly.

Orland has the right idea.  They have a Fan Appreciation night with a meet and greet with the fans, a fund raiser with a local group to help fight Cancer.  Start locally.

I mean, you have Chowchilla guys with cars, maybe something can be done in town to create race track awareness.  I'd also see about building up a local roster of racers.

You should be able to get 10 Hobby Stocks.  It just should be able to happen for a 10-12 race season.

Mini Stocks should give you 6-10 cars and grow.

Dwarf Cars 4-8 cars is doable on a night when they aren't running a National or Regional event.

Do 600's want to race?  Joe and Kris are looking at that.  Orland is trying.  Maybe something is there?

I think there's enough B Mod interest to get 8-12 drivers who want to race.

I'm not talking a big car count here, but I'm being realistic.  A Mods would be nice to have, but pay them less than $500, and they aren't coming.  Heck, some of them expect $1000 to win, given the investment they have.  I understand that, but the money isn't there.

I think the current management was only thinking about one thing.  They wanted to open the track again.  They probably thought that they would pack the pits, but it takes more than that.  That track has always taken a little bit of thinking outside the box to make it work.

Talk to people now, and they'd say Tom Sagmiller is the only one who can make it work.  They remember how it was.  I doubt Tom wants it.  I even told him before I left to move here that he should call me when he gets the place back and we'll build it up again.  I still wonder why he didn't unfriend me for wishing that on him.

I think it can work.  You have to have a game plan, and you need people to invest in the place.  Or, you need sponsors who want that track to work.  Joe Diaz and Kris Koontz are good guys, and Joe has had success in establishing the Barn Burner Series.

Look, when you talk Sprint Cars, you are talking money.  NARC people waved money around in 2000.  Heck, Sprint Car people waved money around to John Prentice, and look at Watsonville now.  Joe is a Sprint Car guy.  So, um, nobody was willing to get on board with him?

To me, it's simple.  B Mods, Hobbys and Minis.  We'll see what other things we can sprinkle in.  Spec Sprints IF the drivers are willing to work with us to build a program and leave the expensive stuff in the garage.  I like what Soares is doing with his class at Antioch in regards to cost.  Gimme Sprint Cars for the working man again!

You want Sprint Cars, A Modifieds, Late Models at Chowchilla?  Bring us a good sponsor, and we'll make it happen.  Have drivers willing to put cars on display in town and help promote that we have a track that features their class.

I don't know the workings of Chowchilla that well, but I know at one time that town caught racing fever with Hobby Stocks.  There are still racers based out of there.  I want to get local fans interested.  We need that.  What else are you gonna do in Chowchilla on a Sunday afternoon?

I'm not sure where Joe and Kris are going from here.  They've already called a rainout for this week, and they are looking for help with sponsorship. You wanna help?  Now's the time to give them a call.  I've been saying that Joe might be the only guy to make it work given his Barn Burner success. 

In the absence of that, maybe Tom Sagmiller really is the only one who can do it.  Heck, I didn't know the man, and I risked and ultimately lost a good situation at Antioch because I wanted to support him when my home track wasn't doing anything.   Ultimately, I'd like to see this track live again.

Note:  We released an article a couple months ago for the Merced Schedule.  This is just a slight touch up of that article heading into the opener.

 Merced Speedway Schedule Released

Merced, CA...Merced Speedway is about ready to kick off a new season of exciting auto racing.  In his second year as promoter of the 67 year old racing facility at the Merced County Fairgrounds, Ed Parker has put together an excellent schedule that runs from March through the first week of October.

After back to back playdays to get the cars tuned up on March 11 and 18, the green flag flies over the season on March 25 with the core four divisions on the schedule, IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks.  The Valley Sportsman division will again make several appearances as it begins the 19th season of it's "Modern Era" run.  The track has also added the 600cc engine Mini Late Models.  But Sportsmans and Mini Late Models aren't the only classes giving the fans more variety.

For starters, Merced Speedway has landed a pair of dates for the IMCA 305 RaceSaver Sprint Cars on April 1 and July 8.  The class is quickly growing into a power house in Hanford and Tulare with 18-20 cars showing up when they are competing there.  Open wheel fans can also take delight in the fact that the over 70 year old BCRA will be in town on multiple occasions.  The BCRA Midgets will race on April 22, while the BCRA Midget Lites make appearances on May 13 and August 12.  The young guns of the USAC Midet2 division visit on May 13 and August 26.  There is also an AMA Flat Track Motorcycle event on June 24.

The week before the Motorcycles come to town, on June 16-17, there will be a WCDCA Dwarf Car Nationals Event.  Mini Late Models join them on Friday, while Hobby Stocks, Sportsmans and the lone Super 4 appearance will be a part of the Saturday night show.  You want big dates that are part of Merced Speedway tradition?  Parker has it covered once again.  This starts on April 15 with the core four classes, headlined by a big All Star IMCA Modified Series race.

The Ted Stofle Classic is back in May 6 to honor future Hall Of Famer Ted Stofle.  This race will feature IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds and a double point Hobby Stock race.  The Timmy Post Memorial Race opens July in a big way on the 1st with IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds and Hobby Stocks.  Legend's Night is back on August 12 with the Sportsman division running for double points.  Legends Of Kearney Bowl Super Modifieds, BCRA Midget Lites and Hobby Stocks are also part of the big event.  This follows a dark night on August 5 to allow Merced racers to support the Mike Cecil Memorial Race at Watsonville that night.

Merced Speedway icon Matt Von Hoecke is remembered again with the Matt & Glass Cancer Fund Raiser season finale on September 23rd, featuring IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds and a double point race for Hobby Stocks.  The track goes dark September 30th to support Watsonville's Pat Pettit Memorial Shoot Out, but it comes back one more time on October 7th with the John Fore Jr. Memorial Race for Sport Modifieds and Hobby Stocks.  It is an exciting season that offers something for everybody.

Pre Season Pit Stops

The two playdays would have to be considered a success.  Drivers from all divisions took advantage of the chance to practice on the Tim Ragdsdale prepared quarter-mile clay oval.  With the IMCA Modified season opener set for this Saturday, brothers Ramie Stone and Troy Stone made some good laps together last week. Troy has been away for a few seasons, but he looked like he hadn't missed a week.  Ramie is coming off of second in points last season and is a multi time champion in the class.  In fact, he's won championships in three different divisions.  He'll be gunning for defending champion Randy Brown this season.

The Hobby Stock's two biggest stars of the past few seasons, Michael Shearer and Kevin Joaquin, are back this year.  Joaquin was looking fast last week and had a co pilot, Chris Falkenberg, with him shooting a live video feed at practice.  Joaquin barely lost the championship battle last season to Shearer, but he won both the Merced and Chowchilla titles the year before.  There were several Hobby Stocks making laps, including some new drivers.

Chris Corder continues to make headlines not just for winning three Mini Stock tiles in the last three seasons, but because of his sportsmanship.  Chris is maintaining four cars this year.  In addition to his new car, he's helping get his sister Jennifer back up to speed.  There's also teen racers Destiny Carter and Zoe Sandoval.  Carter finished third in her rookie season, and Sandoval is just getting started.  The Keldsen family is three generations strong at Watsonville Speedway, and young Cody Keldsen made his first laps in the D.J. Keldsen Watsonville championship car.  Second generation racer Devin Belton made his first laps in a Mini Truck.  His father Jason Belton is a past Sportsman driver at the track.

The California Sharp Mini Late Models don't get to race until April 8th, but several of the drivers made some good laps as they attempt to establish this new 600cc motorcycle engine class.  It's a scaled down version of a Late Model, and young drivers Riley Jeppesen and Ian Shearer are making their debuts on the big track.  Chuck Crews and Timmy Vaught have a bit more experience and were looking fast.  Past Merced Street Stock champion Robby Jeppesen has climbed aboard as the car dealer in California, and the hope is that this class will grow at Merced as well as some of the Micro Sprint tracks in the state.

Racing kicks off this Saturday with a West Coast IMCA Sport Modified race along with IMCA Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks.  Reigning champions this year include Randy Brown (IMCA Modifieds), Rick Diaz (IMCA Sport Modifieds), Michael Shearer (Hobby Stocks), Chris Corder (Mini Stocks) and Kenny Birdsong (Valley Sportsman).  For more information, go to

2017 Merced Speedway Schedule
March 25 - IMCA Mod, IMCA SportMods, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks

April 1 - RaceSaver Winged Sprints, IMCA Sport Mods, Valley Sportsman, Mini Stocks

April 8  IMCA Mods, Hobby Stocks, Dwarf Cars, Mini Late Models

April 15 - IMCA All Star Mods, IMCA SportMods, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks

April 22 - BCRA Midgets, IMCA Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks, Valley Sportsman

April 29 - IMCA Mods, IMCA Sport Mods, Mini Stocks, Mini Late Models

May 6 - "Ted Stofle Classic" IMCA Mods, IMCA Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks (Double Points Hobby Stocks)

May 13 - BCRA Midget Lites, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks, Mini Late Models

May 20 - IMCA Mods, IMCA Sport Mods, Mini Stocks, Valley Sportsman

May 27 - No Races In Observance Of Memorial Day

June 3 - No Races Due To Fair Prep

June 7 - Wednesday - "Merced County Fair" IMCA Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks

June 10 - No Races Due To Fair

June 16 - Friday - "Dwarf Car Nationals" Dwarf Cars, Mini Late Models

June 17 - "Dwarf Car Nationals" Dwarf Cars, Hobby Stocks, Super 4 Bangers, Valley Sportsman

June 24 - AMA Flat Track Motorcycles

July 1 "Timmy Post Memorial" IMCA Mods, IMCA Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks

July 8 - RaceSaver Winged Sprints, IMCA Mods, Mini Stocks, JR Box Stock Go Karts

July 15 - IMCA Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks, Valley Sportsman, Mini Late Models

July 22 - IMCA Mods, IMCA Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks (Double Points Mini Stocks)

July 29 - No Races Summer Break

August 5 - No Races Summer Break

August 12 - "Legends Of Merced Speedway" Valley Sportsman, Legends Of Kearney Bowl, BCRA Midget Lites, Hobby Stocks (Double Points Sportsman)

August 19 - IMCA Mods, IMCA Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks

August 26 - IMCA Mods, IMCA Sport Mods, Mini Stocks, Valley Sportsman

September 2 - Dark In Observance Of Labor Day

September 9 - Dark For Boone Super Nationals

September 16 - IMCA Mods, IMCA Sport Mods, Mini Stocks, Mini Late Model (Double Points Mini Stocks)

September 23 - "Matt & Glass Cancer Fund Raiser" IMCA Mods, IMCA Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks (Double Points Hobby Stocks)

October 7 - "John Fore Jr. Sport Mod Nationals" Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks (50 Lap Feature For Sport Mods)

October 21 - 2nd Annual Golden Valley FFA Tractor Pulls