Friday, April 14, 2017

Merced Speedway, Chowchilla Speedway, Antioch Pit Stops And M ore

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All Star Series Modifieds Return To Merced Speedway

Merced, CA...For the second time this season, racing was called off thanks to Mother Nature last week.  This Saturday night, Merced Speedway returns with the All Star Series IMCA Modifieds headlining the show along with the IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks.  This is sure to be a show that you won't want to miss as several top teams will be at Merced.

Up in the Pacific Northwest, the IMCA Modified drivers get to compete in a week-long event called the IMCA Modified Wild West Speedweek.  Several top teams come up north from California to compete in that event.  Ocean Speedway promoter John Prentice decided to create something similar in California last season, and the All Star Series IMCA Modified Tour was born.

The series brings together some of the best IMCA Modified drivers in the state of California, including reigning series champion Ryan McDaniel, Ocean Speedway Champion Bobby Hogge IV and four time Antioch Speedway Champion Troy Foulger.  When the tour came to Merced Speedway last season, one of the track's biggest stars of the last 20 years, Ramie Stone, shocked the field by scoring his lone victory of the year in the big event.  Stone ended up second in the track's point race behind reigning champion Randy Brown.

Racers love the good competition, and this series brings out some of the best drivers at whatever venue they are scheduled.  A field of cars possibly in the thirties is anticipated for this event.  Not only is it the All Star Series, it's also the season opener for Merced's regular championship series.

In addition to the big stars coming in from out of town, you can count on the locals to be there to represent the area. Last week in Chowchilla, Bruce "Bubba" Nelson scored an impressive win ahead of Ryan Porter and Brown, two other drivers who have won multiple times at Merced.  Nelson has now won in three different divisions and figures to be a factor in the Merced championship battle.  Past champion Bill Egleston, Ricky Thatcher, Ryan Larimer, Troy Stone, John MacDougall and Chris Shannon will be among the other regulars to watch for.

Past Merced and Hanford champion Paul Stone was also at the All Star Series opener in Chico, and he is anticipated this week along with Chico winner Cody Burke, Wild West Speedweek champion Kellen Chadwick, Antioch champion Carl Berendsen II, Brian Cass, Danny Wagner and Duane Cleveland.  This is expected to be a talent filled field of racers.

Though the opener for the West Coast Sport Modified Tour was rained out, the group has called on its drivers too support this week's IMCA Sport Modified show if possible.  This means an already talented field of racers might be boosted by 2016 champions Brian Cooper and Todd Cooper and past Stock Car champion Jerry Bartlett, among others.  If that happens, the Sport Modified car count might also break into the 30's on Saturday night.

Waiting at the gate will be two time champion and season opening winner Rick Diaz.  The way it has gone down in the last year, if Diaz isn't winning, the winner usually has to get by him for that victory.  2015 IMCA State champion Fred Ryland is anticipated, and he will reportedly be joined by two other Bay Area stars, 2016 Antioch champion Trevor Clymens and 2016 Antioch Hobby Stock champion Guy Ahlwardt.  Ahlwardt was in the hunt for the win in the season opener until the leader spun in front of him.

The fans will enjoy the great competition in the Sport Modifieds on Saturday night as track regulars like Tim Elias, brothers Chase Thomas and Tanner Thomas, Chuck Weir, 2015 champion Josh Hensley, past Antioch champion Jeremy Hoff, Andrew Peckham and Paul Espino will be others to watch for.

Hobby Stocks are ready to kick off their season, and a good turnout is also anticipated for them.  Some of the stars of Merced were in Chowchilla last week, and Kodie Dean led all by but the final straightaway in his second place finish ahead of 2016 Merced champion Michael Shearer.  Both drivers will be in Merced to do battle.  2015 champion Kevin Joaquin is back this season and will be a factor in the battle for wins as well.

The Shearer team has it's four cars ready, and Michael should be joined by wife Kristie, who is a past point runner up and feature winner in the class.  Shannon Nelson should also be wheeling one of the team cars.  Two other Top 5 stars, Austin Van Hoff and Robbie Loquaci, should be in action along with John Hensley, James Stockton, Donnie Shearer, Jeff Lacy, 2016 Ted Stofle Classic winner Phil Vaughn, 2015 Mini Stock champion Darren Miguel and several several other fast competitors.

Not to be forgotten are the Mini Stocks.  Chris Corder made headlines last week in Chowchilla, but not the way he would have liked.  Corder hit a rut in Turn 1 and rolled spectacularly six times.  At the time, he was chasing sister Jennifer Corder, who won that heat race and proceeded to win the 20 lap Main Event in convincing fashion.  The Merced season opener was won by Watsonville champion D.J. Keldsen, who may be back this week along with Dakota Keldsen.  Dakota debuted in second at Chowchilla last week. 

Destiny Carter should also be ready to race, along with second generation racer Lucy Falkenberg.  The Mini Stocks had a double digit car count at the opener, and several new drivers have gotten into the growing class.

Saturday's program at Merced Speedway should see an increased car count and great racing as the All Star Series IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stock and Mini Stocks will all be in action.  For further information, go to

Thrills And Spills At Chowchilla Speedway

Chowchilla, CA...April 9...A beautiful Sunday afternoon led to over 60 competitors coming to Chowchilla Speedway for the third event of the season.  The fans witnessed three thrilling Main Event finishes and a spectacular crash in one of the Mini Stock heat races.

Winged Sprint Cars headlined the show once again and produced two new winners.  Chowchilla's Steve Jaquith has been racing for eight years, and he won his first heat race on Sunday, followed by Michael Stallings.  Jaquith produced more excitement in the Main Event.  He was leading a three car battle for second with Jarrett Saores and Placerville's Cody Fendley when he was passed by Fendley for second on lap 11.  Jaquith did a complete 360 spin in Turn 4 a lap later and managed to keep the car going.  Fendley, meanwhile, pressured race long leader Stallings until making an outside pass in Turn 2 on the last lap.  Fendley won his first Winged Sprint Car Main Event ahead of Stallings, Jodie Robinson, Jarrett Soares and Chris Masters.

The last time Bruce "Bubba" Nelson was racing at Chowchilla Speedway in 2015, he won two Hobby Stock Main Events.  Now in his second year behind the wheel of an A Modified, Nelson can add a 20 lap Main Event win to his resume.  Ryan Porter was leading on a lap 18 restart as Nelson put the moves on reigning Merced Speedway champion Randy Brown of Chowchilla for second.  Nelson then made a back stretch pass on Porter on lap 18 to gain the lead and brought it home to victory.  Porter just beat Brown back to the line for second as Bill Egleston and Harley Turner rounded out the Top 5.  Egleston won his heat race ahead of Joel Myers, while Porter won the other heat in front of Nelson.

Not to be outdone, the 16 car Hobby Stock Main Event produced an exciting finish.  Chowchilla residents Kodie Dean and Austin Van Hoff led the field to the green flag.  Dean charged into the lead while Van Hoff battled reigning Merced Speedway champion Michael Shearer for second.  However, it was reigning Placerville Speedway champion Nick Baldwin taking third from Van Hoff on lap nine with a Turn 4 pass.  Baldwin made another high pass in Turn 4 on lap 16 to take second from Shearer and repeated that move on the final lap to snatch the victory from Dean.  Shearer settled for third ahead of reigning Chowchilla champion Kevin Joaquin and Wally Kennedy.  Van Hoff won his heat race ahead of Dean, while Joaquin won a heat race ahead of Shearer.

Reigning Chowchilla Mini Stock champion Chris Corder was chasing his sister in their heat race when he hit a rut in Turn 1 and rolled spectacularly six times.  He was a little sore but uninjured.  Jennifer won that race and would also dominate the 20 lap Main Event after closest rival and reigning Watsonville champion D.J. Keldsen broke his steering and clobbered the wall exiting Turn 4 on lap 10.  J. Corder won by a wide margin ahead of rookie Dakota Keldsen.  Devon Belton won a good battle with Tyler Jackson for third.  Jackson had rolled his car in the heat race, but he was able to come back and run the Main Event.  Newcomer Helena Guzman had a bout with the wall in the heat race, but she finished fifth in the Main Event.  J. Corder's heat race win came ahead of D.J. Keldsen.

Rising Wingless Sprint Car star Austin Liggett returned to Chowchilla Speedway and had another big day.  Liggett won the Spec Sprint heat race ahead of past Chowchilla champion Brandon Burd.  Liggett was the winner of the season opener, and he used his pole position start to score another Main Event victory.  Jarrett Soares was doing double duties and battled Burd for the second place finish.  Roy Greer settled for fourth ahead of rookie Benjamin Catron.

Reigning B Modified champion Fred Ryland returned and won their 20 lap Main Event ahead of Keith Brown Jr.  The duo also ran 1-2 in their heat race, and Ryland held off Brown for the feature win.  Anthony Giuliani finished third ahead of Jack Agular and past Merced Speedway champion Shawn Bryant.

Koen Shaw was a double winner in the Micro Sprint class.  After winning the heat race ahead of Gloria Shaw, Koen Shaw won the Main Event ahead of Tyler Boyd, G. Shaw, Ronnie Evans and Keith Nance.

Chowchilla Speedway races on Sunday afternoons.  For further information on coming events, go to or call the track hotline at 559-223-0558.

Hobby Stocks - A-MAIN
Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Nick Baldwin            17
2            Kodie Dean            7
3            Michael Shearer            4
4            Kevin Joaquin            97
5            William Kennedy            9
6            Devon Sanders            14
7            Billy Nelson            11
8            James Stockton            99
9            Austin Van Hoff            44
10            Troy Tatum            1
11            Robert Jackson            55T
12            Michael Germait            37
13            Kristie Shearer            73J
14            Brent Curran            32
15            Tony Peffer            27
16            Shannon Nelson            4B

    Hobby Stocks - HEAT 1
Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Austin Van Hoff            44
2            Kodie Dean            7
3            James Stockton            99
4            Devon Sanders            14
5            Brent Curran            32
6            Michael Germait            37
7            Troy Tatum            1
8            Nick Baldwin            17

    Hobby Stocks - HEAT 2
Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Kevin Joaquin            97
2            Michael Shearer            4
3            William Kennedy            9
4            Kristie Shearer            73J
5            Robert Jackson            55T
6            Tony Peffer            27
7            Shannon Nelson            4B
8            Billy Nelson            11

Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Bruce Nelson            4B
2            Ryan Porter            14P
3            Randy Brown            16B
4            Bill Egleston            15E
5            Harley Turner            83
6            Joel Myers            18J
7            Jarod Fast            78
8            John MacDougall            68M
9            Ryan Larimer            47M

Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Bill Egleston            15E
2            Joel Myers            18J
3            Harley Turner            83
4            Randy Brown            16B
5            John Osgood III            32

Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Ryan Porter            14P
2            Bruce Nelson            4B
3            Ryan Larimer            47M
4            John MacDougall            68M
5            Jarod Fast            78

    IMCA Sport Mods - A-MAIN
Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Fred Ryland            7
2            Keith Brown Jr.            128
3            Anthony Guilini            15G
4            Jack Aguiar            AR15
5            Shawn Bryant            99
6            Gavin Espino            33G
7            Mark Condell            33GC
8            Kaylin Lopez            16

    IMCA Sport Mods - HEAT
Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Fred Ryland            7
2            Keith Brown Jr.            128
3            Anthony Guilini            15G
4            Shawn Bryant            99
5            Jack Aguiar            AR15
6            Mark Condell            33GC
7            Gavin Espino            33G
8            Kaylin Lopez            16

    Micro Sprint - A-MAIN
Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Koen Shaw            4
2            Tyler Boyd            32
3            Gloria Shaw            61
4            Ronnie Evans            29E
5            Keith Nance            10

    Micro Sprint - HEAT
Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Koen Shaw            4
2            Gloria Shaw            61
3            Ronnie Evans            29E
4            Tyler Boyd            32
5            Keith Nance            10

    Mini Stocks - A-MAIN
Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Jennifer Corder            13C
2            Dakota Keldsen            01K
3            Belton Devon            05
4            Tyler Jackson            T77
5            Helena Guzman            27G
6            DJ Keldsen            01
7            Dwayne Short            4

    Mini Stocks - HEAT
Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Jennifer Corder            13C
2            DJ Keldsen            01
3            Dakota Keldsen            01K
4            Chris Corder            48
5            Dwayne Short            4
6            Tyler Jackson            T77
7            Belton Devon            05
8            Helena Guzman            27G

    Spec Sprint - A-MAIN
Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Austin Liggett            51
2            Jarrett Soares            12
3            Brandon Burd            56
4            Roy Greer            88
5            Benjamin Catron            4
6            Shannon Newton            55
7            Adam Tevis            42
8            Eric Pilson            65

    Spec Sprint - HEAT
Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Austin Liggett            51
2            Brandon Burd            56
3            Eric Pilson            65
4            Jarrett Soares            12
5            Benjamin Catron            4
6            Adam Tevis            42
7            Shannon Newton            55

    Wing 360 - A-MAIN
Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Cody Fendley            73C
2            Michael Stallings            83M
3            Jodie Robinson            1R
4            Jarrett Soares            12
5            Chris Masters            98
6            Steve Jaquith            82J
7            Mauro Simone            5

    Wing 360 - HEAT
Pos            Driver                Car #
1            Steve Jaquith            82J
2            Michael Stallings            83M
3            Jodie Robinson            1R
4            Cody Fendley            73C
5            Chris Masters            98
6            Jarrett Soares            12
7            Mauro Simone            5

 Pit Stops

The weather can be a curse, but it can also be a blessing.  It seems like this year we're getting a little bit more rain than usual.  Some people will say that we need all of this rain, but when it's racing season, people want to race.  For those who don't have their race cars ready yet, the rainouts offer them an opportunity to get ready.  Already this week, rain has claimed another race in Chico as well as Watsonville.  As Saturday night approaches, it looks like most of the race tracks might be able to get their races in.  However, forecasts are calling for more rain during next week.  Eventually, all of this rain will go away and the sounds of racing will fill the air at venues up and down the state of California.

Antioch Speedway has already lost two events.  The races surely would happened this week, but Oval Motorsports opted to stay dark this week in observance of Easter Sunday.  The move is nothing new for management.  Antioch has stayed dark during Labor Day, Memorial Day and 4th of July weekend in recent years.  The biggest reason cited for not racing is due to the fact that people are going on vacation, causing attendance and even driver participation to drop on those weekends.  It wasn't too many years ago when these weekends featured some of the biggest races of the year, but the times have changed.  Management has to make the best moves that give them the best chance at success.

In between the two rainouts in Antioch, the Sprint Car Challenge had a highly successful opener that featured 58 Winged 360 Sprint Cars.  This appears to be a record for the division at the 57 year old racing facility.  Expectations were high for the new series, but if anybody told you that 58 cars would be an Antioch, you would've had good reason to be skeptical.  30 cars?  Maybe.  35 cars?  Perhaps.  58 cars had promoter John M. Soares smiling at the end of the night.  It is probably because of the unexpectedly high turnout that the show ran late, but management was willing to pay the price to make sure that the fans got a complete show.

The Sprint Car Challenge was the brainchild of Placerville Speedway Promoter Scott Russell.  Originally, the schedule was to have four races at Placerville, but Russell willingly gave up two of those dates to get other tracks involved.  This Saturday night, the Sprint Car Challenge heads to Placerville.  Management anticipates a Winged Sprint Car count that could reach into the 50's as Antioch did.  As if that wasn't enough, the support group is the Hunt Wingless Spec Sprint Series.  After three races, the average count in that series is 25 cars, meaning there will be lots of Sprint Cars in the pits at Placerville this Saturday night.

The fact that both Sprint Car groups are in Placerville and Merced Speedway has the All Star Series IMCA Modified race might have the caused and the decision of Antioch to stay dark this weekend.  Russell also had a California Hardtop Association race booked for Saturday night.  Seeing that this might be too much, he decided to move that race.  This is where information gets a little bit fuzzy.  Antioch Speedway has the Bay Area Hardtops booked for April 22.  The Bay Area Hardtop group came about because several local drivers approached management about building up a car count that would support Antioch Speedway.  Every effort was made to make sure that the five Antioch Speedway dates booked would not conflict with the California Hardtop Association.  It was hoped that Antioch drivers could support the other group and vice versa.

It's not known who suggested what, but the date the California Hardtop Association event was moved to was April 22, putting it in conflict with Antioch Speedway.  Obviously, this would hurt both track's efforts to give the fans a Hardtop show.  Was April 22 the only data available for the California Hardtop Association to be at Placerville?  That's a question you would have to address to Placerville Speedway management and the leadership of the California Hardtop Association.  Everybody had to know that eventually there would be a race date conflict, but the fact that this happened on the first night for both groups will raise the suspicion of observers.  All we can do is sit back and watch both groups, but it is disappointing.  This reporter can't help but look over at the leadership of the California Hardtop Association and wonder why they made this move.  It was unnecessary, but if you don't want competition, this is the move you make.

This is not the first time the California Hardtop Association has made a move that effectively disrespected Antioch Speedway management.  Antioch Speedway was the very first track that gave the Northern California group race dates.  Just when the door seem like it might have closed on them, they were given the opportunity  to show the track what they could do in 2015.  It was Southern Oregon Speedway Promoter Mike McCann who spearheaded the race date that year, and a field of 14 cars turned out for the event, showing the real power that the Hardtop group actually had.  It was the success of that night that led to the dates in 2016.  The relationship between California Hardtop Association leadership and Antioch Speedway management is strained at best, so the move at Placerville comes as no big surprise.  Unfortunately, moves like this endanger what could become a Hardtop tradition, the Chet Thomson Memorial Race on September 9.

We'll just have to sit back and watch how things develop, but indications are that support at Placerville will be much stronger than Antioch.  Many of the active supporters of the effort are in the Sacramento area, and it's much easier for them to race there if the option is available.  The Bay Area roster is known to be at least 10, but some drivers are not quite ready yet.  Also, news came out this week that Tommy Thomson will be taking time off for health reasons.  Tommy may in fact be out for the season.  There could be enough support to give them a half-dozen cars for Antioch that night, which would be acceptable under the circumstances.  However, one of the top supporters based in Antioch has already indicated that he will be racing at Placerville.  If this holds true, it's not a good sign for the Antioch Speedway effort.

The downtime gives Antioch management an opportunity to focus on last minute details for the upcoming opener.  Indications are that some of the car counts should be good when Antioch opens its gates on April 22.  Without an All Star Modified series race to contend with, the local drivers can come out in support of Antioch.  Without a West Coast Sport Modified Series race, the B Modified race should also do well.  The buzz has been pretty good concerning the Hobby Stock division.  The biggest holdup for B Modified and Hobby Stock car count this year could be the fact that these are the two heaviest booked divisions on the schedule.  Management seems content with both classes as long as they bring 10-12 cars per race, and there's no reason to suspect that this will change this year.  However, if 12-14 dates were on the schedule for both classes, one would have to think that car count might go just a little bit higher.  When you book 5-6 divisions per race, that isn't needed.  It's nice, but 60-70 cars are anticipated either way and at least the fans see a decent show with two heat races and a Main Event for most classes.

The Winged 360 Sprint Car division in Antioch Speedway is now in its fourth consecutive point season.  Management has made a very strong commitment to building this class, and although the local roster hasn't really grown with the increased dates, support has still been strong.  Generally, Antioch can get 10-12 cars, and this is in part due to the fact that several of the younger 600 Micro Sprint and Outlaw Kart drivers are moving up.  As Placerville,  Marysville and Petaluma have more established Winged 360 Sprint Car divisions, Antioch seems like the best bet for these young drivers to get good seat time and have a shot at a $1200 payday.  Down at Chowchilla on Sundays, promoter Joe Diaz Jr. is making a similar gamble.  Four names that we're already hearing in favor of the Antioch effort are longtime supporter or Art McCarthy, Dan Gonderman, Jenna Frazier and Shawn Arriaga.  We don't know if Arriaga will support the point effort, but he did have a good showing at the Sprint Car Challenge race two weeks ago with his heat race win and 10th place feature finish.  Just making that competitive Main Event was impressive enough.

One of the other local racers responsible for helping get this class off the ground, 2014 champion Chris Magoon, has indicated that he is selling his Winged 360 Sprint Car operation.  However, Tim Burcher and Ricky Brophy are two locals we should see some this year.  We're not really sure what young drivers will be coming to town, but it was always interesting to see different racers show up and add their names to the winner's list last season.  It's still an interesting show, and Antioch Speedway fans get a nice taste of Sprint Car racing anytime this All Star Series division is booked.  They headline the April 22 All Star Series race along with the A Modified, B Modified, Hobby Stock, Dwarf Car and Bay Area Hardtop divisions.

News is slowly trickling in regarding other A Modified  drivers.  We have now seen the nice looking race cars of Bobby Montalvo, Brian Pearce and Raymond Lindeman on social media.  Montalvo is particularly excited about coming back after his Top 5 and "Rookie Of The Year" award winning season last year.  He has visions of the Main Event victories in his mind, and as competitive as this division is, we know that anybody can win on any given night in Antioch.  Perhaps this is the same thought Brian Pearce has in mind.  Pearce was Top 10 in the B Modified division and a Main Event winner last year.  Fifteen or so years ago, he was a Top 10 Modified driver, so he's making his return.  We're still trying to figure out who might be the other players in this game, given the fact that Carl Berendsen II is not planning a title defense.  We anticipate five time champion Scott Busby as one of the drivers, but there is usually somebody else who is out there to try to make their claim on the title.

We got a glimpse of the Hobby Stock of Lori Brown recently as well.  As the Hobby Stock division has become the modern day Street Stock class, this is almost a return to the division of which she was a past Top 10 point runner.  Since then, Lori has won multiple Main Events and won a track championship in the Limited Late Model class.  Lori comments that she's looking forward to racing this car, and it is equipped with a passenger seat, meaning somebody will get to take the ride with her.  It will be a wide open season in Hobby Stocks as well, and a first time champion is almost certain to be crowned.  Just who that driver will be is anybody's guess.  If Danny Jones does return full time, he becomes the driver to beat, but the competition is much more experienced.  Any one of a dozen drivers could step up and make a claim if they intend to run the full schedule.  Chris Long won the New Years Bash, and he could make a run at it if he decides to race for points.

The Perry family is preparing two race cars this season as multiple time Top 5 point competitor Natalie Perry will be back this season, while her husband Steve Perry gets back behind the wheel in another car.  In the Super Hobby Stock division, Perry is a car owner champion with Jim Robbins behind the wheel in 2013.  The Swank cousins, Top 3 ranked Jordan and Cameron, are two drivers to keep an eye on.  Jordan's brother in law Michael Cooper is another driver with the ability.  The only thing keeping him out of that contest could be a busy work schedule that forces him to miss races.  Cooper did step up and get his first Main Event win last year, as did the Frank Furtado.  Furtado's battered race car was reportedly getting a makeover during the off-season.  The car may have needed it, but it had character.  You could tell Furtado drove the heck out of it.

Some of these teams may not have been ready, so the rainouts did them a favor.  We had heard that longtime Spec Sprint supporter Rick Panfili was still recovering from knee surgery and his car wasn't ready.  Perhaps the extra time will give him a chance to make the next race.  When we talk about drivers who have yet to win a Main Event, Panfili is high on the list of racers longtime observers would like to see in the winner's circle.  He has supported the carbureted Sprint Car effort pretty faithfully since his days in the NCMA.  It is because of racers like him that this class got off the ground.  Speaking of longtime supporters of this particular division, we're still waiting on word from reigning champion Jim Perry Jr., who was informed a couple months prior to the season of motor rule changes that would force him to put a new power plant in his race car.  We will be seeing a Gonderman in the Spec Sprint division, but it will be third generation racer Abigail Gonderman wheeling the car owned by her father, two time champion Dan Gonderman.

It's really nice to see Spec Sprint racing alive and well at Antioch speedway and elsewhere in the state.  With Chowchilla and Orland back in the mix, there are six dirt tracks featuring the class, along with the Hunt Series and NCMA on the pavement.  However, the one track that is fighting hard to keep the division's cost down is in Antioch Speedway.  Soares has been vocal about what a Spec Sprint should be.  It's just unfortunate that John never took a seat at the table when a big series was being mapped out years ago.  Given the fact that he was the first promoter to book dates for this class, he has a legitimate stake in Sprint Spec Sprint racing as one of its leaders.  At the moment, the golden promoter, so to speak, of Spec Sprint racing is Rick Faeth.  Faeth has done great things for this class in terms of big payouts at Petaluma, and now he runs the Hunt Series.  If the class is going to survive long-term, promoters need to be thinking along the lines of Soares in keeping costs down.  There's a reason this class is what it is, and 360 Sprints remain the option to move up.  Everybody wants to reinvent the wheel, but when they destroy the wheel with big changes, who gets the blame?

We've gotten word of Limited Late Model racer Mark Garner going back to his father's colors and even running the A on his #76 car.  Mark has indicated that this might be the last year he runs the A on his car, but we feel that he should run the number as long as he feels like it.  We can't help but think Jerry Garner is smiling down his son for keeping the racing tradition alive in his family.  Mark is the third generation of racer in his family, and he is joined by a fourth generation in his son Billy Garner, who will be racing a Hobby Stock.

Mark will be doing double division duty this year as he also has a B Modified, but he has his sights set on winning the Limited Late Model championship at Antioch.  This was something he wanted to do while his father was alive, and though he fell short, his father did see him win the championship at Merced Speedway.  Making this a challenge is the fact that Kimo Oreta will be wheeling the #15 car driven to five championships by Larry Damitz at Antioch and two at Merced.  The Limited Late Model division could be very interesting with another ageless veteran, Mike Gustafson, still on the roster.  Mike has won more Limited Late Model Main Events than anybody in speedway history, and he is also a two time champion.

Overall, there are many things to be optimistic about regarding Antioch Speedway as Oval Motorsports promotes the track for the 20th season.  Most of the divisions are still performing at a decent level, and the track has several showcase dates on the schedule throughout the season.  All that is needed now is for some dry weather to allow cars on the race track once again.  Though it looks like it will be a little bit wet during the week next week, indications are that the races will still go on.  More information can be found at

Chowchilla Speedway managed to get their race in last Sunday despite the threatening weather.  A field of roughly 60 cars competed in the seven division program, which wasn't a bad afternoon for the track.  Management decided to combine the open wheel and stock car programs into one show, and the result was an exciting afternoon of racing with dramatic finishes in three divisions, as we have highlighted elsewhere.  We had some questions as to how the Winged 360 division would perform.  Management would like to pay them $1200 to win, but a minimum field of 15 cars is required to make that happen.  They have had 11 and seven cars, which is not bad considering the options Sprint Car drivers have elsewhere.  What is happening at Chowchilla is that they are seeing drivers from the RaceSaver Sprint Car class coming in to compete with the Winged 360's.  It's a hungry group of racers who maybe haven't seen the glory elsewhere, and they are stepping forward to race for their first wins.  On Sunday, Cody Fendley made the last lap pass on RaceSaver Sprint Car competitor Mike Stallings.  Both drivers were competing for their first win.  The heat race win went to 8 year veteran Steve Jaquith, who was delighted to get his first career win.

The biggest concern that this reporter has about Chowchilla Speedway is whether there will be enough money to pay the high end divisions.  Chowchilla is still trying to build up a fan base, and management believes that the high end divisions will get the fans into the stands eventually.  This will require a serious media campaign in an effort to promote race track awareness in Chowchilla and surrounding towns.  It will also require the racers to get behind the track and show up on race day.  Will that happen?  The one thing management is doing is engaging its racers on social media and asking them for their thoughts and opinions on things that need to be improved upon.  It's a smart move, and we're optimistic that this will pay off down the road.  Not everybody who has promoted the track in recent years has put the track first in their promotional efforts.  This is exactly what Chowchilla Speedway needs if it is to have any hope of surviving.

When it comes to Sprint Car racing, Petaluma Speedway has a great sponsor in  This is the title sponsor to both their Winged and Wingless classes.  In addition to that, they promote a four race series within the overall series, but the first two events have been rained out.  Both divisions have been rescheduled, and the Winged 360 class will take their wings off on Saturday night for what is sure to be some exciting racing.  As one of the tracks involved in the Sprint Car Challenge Series, they can not run a show that is in conflict with that series, and the Hunt Series requires all participating tracks to stay dark to that division as well.  The only option they had available to give the fans a taste of Sprint Car racing was to run a Wingless 360 Sprint race.  It's also a rare opportunity in Northern California for the injected 360 guys to take a wing off and enjoy wingless excitement.  As usual, management is giving the fans a variety of different things during the course of the season, and that is what keeps Petaluma Speedway going strong in the face of the threats to the track's very existence.  Saturday night should be a great show.

Two other divisions at Petaluma Speedway this Saturday night will be the McLea's Tires IMCA Modifieds and that the Lumberjacks Restaurant Super Stocks.  It appears as if second generation racer and two time reigning champion Oreste Goella will be battling with six time champion Michael Paul Jr. and Michelle Paul once again this season in the Modified class.  Anthony "The Animal" Slaney, an Antioch regular last season, has made plans to race at Petaluma this year.  There's likely to be some Antioch participation again this week.  The Super Stock division still has some old familiar names in the field, including multi time champions Jim "Woody" Woodward, Shawn McCoy and Steve Studebaker.  However, Matt While enters the season as the reigning champion.  The Super Stocks at Petaluma have evolved into a Late Model style of racing similar to Antioch's Limited Late Model class, and the racing is pretty exciting.  You can find addition information at

Orland Raceway is nearly set to start their season, and management moved their April 15 playday to Sunday, April 23.  This will give them an extra week and a day to make sure the track is ready, given the rains that are coming next week.  Orland added the Wingless Gas Sprint Car class to their program, though we haven't seen clarification on the rules just yet.  The track has had a Wingless effort on and off for the last 16 years, so there are racers who could support this class.  We noticed in the Marysville results recently that past Mini Truck champion Keith Ross has a Hobby Stock now and has actually put his truck up for sale.  The Hobby Stock division has had the best support in Orland over the last few seasons, and indications are that the count could go up in this class.  The question is, will the car count go up in the Mini Stock or Mani Truck divisions this year?  The cars are there, but will they get on board this year?  We certainly hope so.  More information can be found at

Much like Antioch speedway, Siskiyou Motor Speedway opted to stay dark for Easter Weekend following a rainout the week before.  The association is throwing everything they can at next week's race, and that includes the IMCA Modifieds, O'Reilly Auto Parts IMCA Sport Modifieds, McDonald's Mani Stocks, Outlaw Pro Stocks, Southern Oregon Dwarf Car Association and the Hornets.  If fans are hungry for racing, this is a night they will want to see.  The Sport Modified division is generating the most buzz with all of the young talent getting on board and the fact that car count could actually allow this division to race for $500 to win.  Management has put them on the same pay scale as the Modifieds, and this division looks like they can be bring the support to get the money.  The real question is what Modified drivers will support the cause to keep that division alive at the track?  This is something we'll have to wait and see on opening day.

The Outlaw Pro Stock division now calls Yreka their home track with eight race dates.  Their coming up on the Billy Geyer Memorial Race on May 6, so this is their tuneup.  There will be heavy Klamath Falls racer support at this event.  Across the border at Southern Oregon Speedway, that track has decided to bring the Pro Stock division back under their own banner and crown their first track champion in this class since 2011.  Pro Stocks have raced at Southern Oregon Speedway every year since the track opened in 1996, but the movement to force the class into the B Modified division in 2012 necessitated the creation of the Outlaw Pro Stock Association.  Given the news that the track wanted them back, the association still feels it's important to keep things going, and Yreka was all too willing to give them as many dates as they wanted.  A double digit car count is anticipated on April 22.

The fans already know that whenever the Dwarf Cars are in town they get an exciting show.  This should be no different next Saturday night as most of last season's top stars will be a part of this race.  The bigger news came on play day when ageless veteran and Fred Hay got back behind the wheel of his car for the first time since a horrific flip at Chico a year earlier that left him with a broken neck.  Hay reported that he felt good behind the wheel and the car was running just fine.  He is a welcome return to the roster that includes such stalwarts as reigning champion Brock Peters, Chad Cardoza, Camden Robustelli, Cody Peters and newcomer Ashleigh Strain.  Not to be forgotten on the roster is the Hornet division, and people are wondering why it took so long for the track to add this division.

During the off-season, management asked drivers in any division not included on the 2016 roster if they wanted to race.  The requirement was that they needed to produce at least four cars.  The Late Model Lites division jumped on this and has been given two dates.  That division was all but dead until Southern Oregon Speedway gave them an opportunity to come back last season.  They had 10 cars at each of the final two races, and indications are that there are more coming.  Yreka wants a piece of the action, and there will be at least six cars when they come to town, or so we've heard.  The Hornet drivers from Southern Oregon Speedway were also responsive, but management only booked the April 22 date.

It appears to be a case of wait and see, but if it goes well, more dates may be added.  Southern Oregon Speedway is seeing strong response this year for the Hornet division due to the fact that the track has shown commitment to the class.  Yreka may have been looking over the border in recent years and not seeing much car count growth in this division, but that was largely due to the non effort of previous management.  The Hornets would seem to be the best bet for any track trying to start a new and affordable entry level class.  We'll be watching Yreka to see how it goes.  The websites for both tra ks are and

In recent years, we've been watching Dixon Speedway with interest.  The track has a good 600 Micro Sprint/Outlaw Kart program, and occasionally, they have had Mini Stocks and Dwarf Cars on the one-fifth mile dirt oval.  There has been talk of Mini Stocks recently, but management has added Dwarf Cars this week after good response on Social Media from Danny Wagner and several others.  In addition to that, the Merced based California Sharp Mini Late Models will bring their 600cc engine machines to town for their first ever race.  We'll be watching to see how this turns out.  As always, the Dixon Speedway website is