Thursday, May 4, 2017

Antioch Speedway And Merced Speedway Previews, Larry Damitz Memorial, More

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Sprint Cars Return, $750 To Win Modified Race 
Saturday Night At Antioch Speedway

Antioch, CA...The season is in high gear at Antioch Speedway as the gates open for an exciting racing program this Saturday night on the three-eighth mile clay oval.  The All Star Series Winged 360 Sprint Cars are back this week to provide the fans with some high octane entertainment.  The A Modifieds will race for $750 to win with history in the sights of one of the competitors.  Also on the card this week will be the Wingless Spec Sprints, B Modifieds, Limited Late Models and Hobby Stocks.

The Winged 360 Sprint Car championship season was rocked in the opener when Art McCarthy suffered a mechanical issue that kept him from starting the Main Event.  This happened to the 2016 point runnerup last season, and his come back rally fell just short in the end.  McCarthy is as fast as they come, and he'll be out for redemption this week.  There are some hungry young drivers looking to stop him.  They are led by BCRA Midget Lites graduate Kyle Offill.  Kyle landed a good ride for his rookie season and piloted it to wins in both the heat race and Main Event at the opener.  Looking like that, a "Rookie Of The Year" winning championship season is a possibility.

Grants Pass, Oregon long tow Aaron Miller has confirmed his intentions to race for points at Antioch.  Miller got his first career feature win in this class last season at his home track in Medford, Oregon.  Last time out, he was holding off the threats of Marissa Polizzi before spinning from second.  Miller will be a threat to win, but the same can be said for Polizzi, who finished fourth last time out.  Open wheel veteran Burt Foland Jr. finished second ahead of Bryan Grier.  It could be an exciting battle as Offill, Miller, Polizzi, Grier and Foland all have a head start on McCarthy.  Other drivers to watch for this week include 2016 "Rookie Of The Year" Jenna Frazier, Dan Gonderman, Tim Burcher and 2015 champion Shawn Arriaga.

The A Modified competitors have extra incentive this week.  Their purse has been increased to $750 to win.   We saw Kellen Chadwick put the Brian Pearce car through its paces with an impressive victory last week.  A potential battle between Chadwick and five time champion Scott Busby never materialized after Busby hit the wall in hot laps and was done for the night.  Busby's points took a hit, but he'll try again this week to tie J.D. Willis at the top of the all time win list with 72 Antioch victories.

Bobby Motts Jr. is off to a good start with a pair of Top 3 finishes as he has his sights set on his first division championship.  He has an eight point lead over Gregg McElhaney and a ten point advantage on Mike Salazar.  Motts wheels the former Nick Caughman Jr. Petaluma championship car, and he's driving in memory of another Petaluma champion and family member, Steven "The Hammer" Cunningham.  Like Cunningham, Motts is a Street Stock champion, but he won his championship at Antioch.

McElhaney has been absent from the scene for a few years, but he was a Modified competitor about 15 years ago.  Salazar has looked fast so far this year despite dealing with various mechanical issues.  He's been a Top 3 point competitor in the past, so a championship run is not out of the question for him.  Sean O'Gara, Gary Hetrick and rookie Eric Berendsen are some of the regulars to watch for this week.  With the extra money in the purse, you never know who else might show up.

The Wingless Spec Sprint championship battle will have a different look this season.  Bryan Grier showed up last week and won the Main Event after bad luck stopped Alan Miranda once again.  Grier won his heat race and was running second in the feature when Miranda's race ended four laps from the finish.  Grier is the 2014 champion at Watsonville, but he's only competed in the division occasionally since then.  Making this year even more exciting for Grier is the fact that he also has a Winged Sprint Car.  Miranda is familiar with heartbreak when it comes to races that got away.  He has finished as high as second, but one night in 2015 saw him lead a race for 19 and a half laps before the second place driver made an aggressive move in Turn 3 that ended the race for both drivers.

We didn't see reigning champion Jim Perry Jr. last week, but two of his closest rivals from last year, Roy Fisher and Rick Panfili, finished third and fourth, respectively.  Jeremy Newberry may decide to give the point race a shot after the former NFL All Pro offensive lineman finished second last week.  Robert Floyd and Abigail Gonderman made their first Antioch starts in the class and ended up finishing sixth and seventh, respectively.  Opening night results suggest that Grier, Fisher, Panfili and Miranda may be in the championship hunt this year, but you shouldn't count out past Chowchilla champion Brandon Burd, James East and Tyler Henriques when the division roars back into action this week.

We've talked about reigning B Modified champion Trevor Clymens and K.C. Keller as drivers to watch this year in the championship battle.  Clymens won their season opener, but he struggled back in seventh last week.  K.C. Keller has a pair of Top 3 finishes to take a 96-92 lead over Clymens in the standings.  Randy Brown is getting closer to his first B Modified feature win.  Following the fourth place finish he had last week ahead of Mike Mates, Randy is only six points behind Keller.  Brown was also a heat race winner last week.  Randy has driven different cars through the years, including Street Stocks and Late Models, and you shouldn't count him out.

The other driver who reminded everybody that he is a contender on race night is Todd Gomez.  Gomez is a past Street Stock champion making his first starts in a B Modified.  He was all smiles after his feature win last week ahead of "Mean" Megan Ponciano.  Ponciano has moved on from the green paint job, and the past B Mod point runner up and Hobby Stock champion is due to get another B Modified win.  Another hard charger, Mark Garner, has a pair of DNF's this season.  Other drivers to watch this week include Kevin Brown, Doff Cooksey, Tim Hammett and Chuck Golden.

The Limited Late Models kick off their first season in several years without Larry Damitz in the field.  2016 "Rookie Of The Year" Kimo Oreta will be piloting the familiar Sundrop Racing Team #15 car this year in a bid for the championship.  Oreta held off Mark Garner for second in points last year, and he can count on some stiff competition from the third generation racer.  Other than Damitz, nobody has had more wins in this division in recent seasons than Garner, who is looking to add his family's name to the list of Antioch Speedway champions.

Mike Gusatfson's name is already on that list three times.  He will be tough to beat when he's there.  Nobody has more Limited Late Model wins at Antioch than Gustason.  Third generation racer Chester "Buddy" Kniss will make his division  debut after finishing third with "Rookie Of The Year" honors in Dwarf Cars last season.  Kniss was at the track last week making practice laps.  The steady John Evans, Jim Freethy, Jeff Kendrick, John Keith and Top 5 Petaluma Speedway competitor Ryan Cherezian are among the others to watch for this week.

The division making everybody take notice so far is the Hobby Stocks as car count approaches 20.  Several new drivers have joined the field.  As a past Mini Stock champion and second generation racer, Brent Curran isn't new, but he is a rookie in Hobby Stocks.  He drove a great race last week to score the feature win.  Brent battled fiercely with Cameron Swank for several laps last week before Swank pulled ahead.  However, Swank nearly spun in Turns 1 and 2 after taking a white flag.  The son of past Street Stock racer Glenn Swank, Cameron has been fast since he started racing, but various little things have kept him out of the winner's circle.  He is due to get a win.

To win at Antioch these days, you have to beat racers like Chris Long and Michael Cooper.  Both drivers have wins this year.  The points show Curran and Long tied for the lead, Cooper eight points back and Swank 14 tallies out of the lead.  Long had an Antioch Figure 8 legend in his car for hot laps last week as "Flyin" Brian Holden took the wheel.  This is the first time Holden has driven a race car at Antioch since a motorcycle accident left him with one arm.  He's raced at Placerville since then, but Long is trying to get Brian back into racing at Antioch.  Holden might have felt at home in #99 since that was is old car number.  Long finished second in the Main Event last week ahead of Cooper.

Lori Brown scored a hard fought heat race win last week ahead of Long.  Once again, she drives the familiar #65 Roses car in memory of past Late Model and Street Stock competitor Kimberly Myers.  Myers, who was a past recipient of the NASCAR "Real Heroes" award, lost her battle with Cystic Fibrosis.  She never let it slow her down or dampen her spirits when she was at the track.  Brown is hoping to put the car in the winner's circle this season.  Other drivers to watch for this week include Jordon Swank, Frank Furtado, Chris Bennett, Russell Shearer, Lindsey Buirch and Joey Ridgeway.

Saturday night is sure to be an exciting night of racing at Antioch Speedway.  All Star Series Winged 360 Sprint Cars, A Modifieds, Wingless Spec Sprints, B Modifieds, Limited Late Models and Hobby Stocks are all part of the lineup.  For further information, go to

Ted Stofle Classic This Saturday Night At Merced Speedway

Merced, CA....We have memorial races to remember great racers of the past, and Merced Speedway has a big event this Saturday night.  This will be the 16th running of the Ted Stofle Classic.  The Hobby Stocks are the featured class for this show with IMCA Modifieds and Sport Mods also on the card, and the event pays tribute to one of the greatest Stock Car drivers in California history, Ted Stofle.

You'd be hard pressed to find a better driver than Stofle in the 1970's.  From 1975 to 1980, nobody could beat him for the Merced Speedway championship, and he racked up several championships between Watsonville, Madera and the NASCAR Stock Car State point race.  He won over 100 Main Events in a six year span.  When he died in a tragic hunting accident in 1980, the racing community mourned the loss of a true legend.  Ted will be in the Merced Speedway "Hall Of Fame" as soon as it's established.

In those early years of the race, the Late Models ran 89 laps in honor of Ted.  Ray Morgan won the race three times and Jeff Silva won it twice.  After 11 seasons as a Late Model race, the Street Stocks got the race.  It was an exciting send off for the race.  Tom Key won as Dell Humbert spun while going for the lead on the last lap.  The race went away for over 20 years before Doug Williams spoke with the Stofle family about bringing it back.  Doug raced with Ted and felt pretty strongly that the race needed to be brought back as a Merced Speedway tradition.  The Stofle family agreed.  They even brought back Ted's old championship car as the official pace car of the race.

The Hobby Stock portion of the show went 50 laps in 2014, won by Syd Finn.  Last year, it was Phillip Vaughn winning the 30 lapper, while Nick Spainhoward won the 30 lap IMCA Sport Modified portion and Ethan Dotson won the 29 lap IMCA Modified race.  In 2016, the race ran 89 laps as a Hobby Stock race, and Michael Shearer scored the victory.  The format will equal 89 Main Event laps as is tradition.  Hobby Stocks have been taking prequalifers for the race as there is a chance that car count may require a B Main.  Nobody wants to be stuck in the B Main for this event.

Last week, Kodie Dean recorded his second win of the season and earned a starting spot in the big race along with Donnie Shearer, Robbie Loquaci and Mike Stockton.  Garrett Corn, M. Shearer, Shannon Nelson and Marc Key earned their starts with Top 4 finishes the week before.  Things are already getting interesting in points between, Dean, M. Shearer and Nelson, and double points are on the line this time.  There are several drivers capable of picking up the big win, including Darren Miguel, George Silva, Kristie Shearer, Kevin Joaquin and Austin Van Hoff.  It's possible that Bruce "Bubba" Nelson may pull double duty for this race.

The IMCA Sport Modified portion of the Ted Stofle Classic will be huge.  We're already seeing an interesting battle at the top between Fred Ryland, Chuck Weir, Chris Falkenberg, Jeremy Hoff and Rick Diaz.  What makes it even more interesting is that point leader Ryland has thus far been shut out of the win column.  The consistent Hoff is still looking for his first win as well.  The surprising Weir and T.J. Etchison have won features, while Diaz has two wins.  The battle is just getting started, and there are sure to be several more winners before the season ends. 

Past champion Matt Sotomayor is a welcome addition to the roster.  The second generation racer has returned to California and is already getting Top 5 finishes.  When you start talking about who could win this big race, Sotomayor is a driver to consider.  Another second generation racer, Chase Thomas, is one to watch.  He was a feature winner last season, and he grabbed a heat win last week.  Tim Elias, 2015 champion Josh Hensley, Mark Odgers and Cody Parker are a few others to watch for.

As if the local stars aren't enough, the West Coast Sport Mod Tour will kick off their season after three straight rainouts.  The Tour has over 40 signed members, and they are chomping at the bit to get the season started.   Reigning IMCA State champion Brian Cooper will lead the charge after winning two races last week in Chico and Marysville.  Jerry Bartlett, Todd Cooper, Philip Shelby, Alan Faruta, Mike Merritt, Guy Ahlwardt, 2014 State champion Nick Spainhoward and State point leader Shane DeVolder are among those anticipated for the big race.

After losing a good battle with Ethan Dotson last week, reigning IMCA Modified champion Randy Brown will be looking for the winner's circle this week.  Multi time champion Ramie Stone hasn't had a very good start so far, but he is a driver who could turn it around with a win on any given night.  The Shannon Racing Team will also be fast as past champion Chris and son D.J. are running strong enough to win now.  There's also last year's top rookie, Bruce "Bubba" Nelson.  He already has a win at Chowchilla, but he's hungry for his first win at his home track.

Past champion Bill Egleston is another star who we know can win at any time.  Ted Stofle Classic night is a night on which everybody wants to get a win.  You can't count out such hard chargers as Ryan Larimer, fourth generation racer Ryan Porter, Late Model veteran Derek Nance, Tim Cecil, Troy Stone and three time Street Stock champion Ricky Thatcher.  The IMCA Modified stars of Merced Speedway put on a good show any time they are in action.

The Ted Stofle Classic at Merced Speedway is a night you don't want to miss.  With Hobby Stocks, IMCA Sport Modifieds and IMCA Modifieds all competing, there will be great racing from start to finish.  For further information, go to

Purse For Larry Damitz Memorial Race 
At Antioch Speedway Announced

Antioch, CA...Everybody already knows the Larry Damitz Memorial Race is happening at Antioch Speedway on May 13th.  What wasn't known was the purse money.  Promoter John M. Soares and sponsorship from three other sponsors has helped make the DIRTcar Late Model race $3000 to win and a minimum of $300 to start.  Paul & Betty Guglielmoni's Vaca Valley Excavating and Trucking and the Matt Micheli family have contributed to the purse.  Henner Truck Lines will pay $200 for the winner of a special Trophy Dash race.  Furthermore, Soares has announced that the entry fee will be just $50 for the car and driver.

Prior to the start of the season, the racing community was saddened to learn of the passing of Larry Damitz.  The 87 year old veteran of over 60 years of racing had just won his fifth Limited Late Model title in the last six years.  It was also the 17th career championship for the man who had won over 150 Main Events throughout his Hall Of Fame career.  "The race is open to any and all Late Models in the West, " said Guglielmoni.  "We are hoping to build on this first race, and have more special shows for the Late Model division in Larry’s honor."

The week before the playday, Soares had a special memorial marker placed in Damitz's pit stall.  Roughly sixty of his wins came at Antioch Speedway through the years, and it was a track he was fond of.  This year, Kimo Oreta is taking the wheel of Damitz's #15 Limited Late Model and driving the team's Late Model in a quest for "Rookie Of The Year" honors.  Larry saw something special in Oreta and had taken him under his wing in recent years.

The prize money is sure to attract some big names, and most likely to lead that charge is Bobby Hogge IV.  Bobby won two Late Model races at Antioch last year, is a three time Dirt Modified champion at the track and ranks a close third on the track's all time win list.  Another past Antioch champion anticipated is Andy Obertello.  His championship at the track came in the Late Models, and he's always a threat to win when he's there.  Another Late Model champion anticipated is Clay Daly.  Daly has become one of the more respected car builders on the West Coast.  He may not be the only Bakersfield and Santa Maria racer to show as both tracks are dark to Late Models on May 13th.

While we anticipate who might come from other tracks, we know two time Antioch Late Model champions Richard Papenhausen and Jeff Decker will be there.  The two had a good battle throughout the first half of the most recent race before Decker prevailed.  Another driver who is a threat to win when he's there is four time Antioch Dirt Modified champion Troy Foulger.  Foulger has picked up a few Late Model wins aboard the Bowers Racing entry in recent years.  Shawn DeForest was second last time out and should not be counted out in this race.

Another driver to watch for is Chester Kniss.  Kniss is coming off of a third place finish in the opener, while 2016 "Rookie Of The Year" Mike Hynes finished fifth.  Gugliemoni is a two time Petaluma champion who has won races at Antioch.  Teammate Terry Kuntz should be there as well.  Other drivers to watch for include Dennis Souza, David Newquist, Danny Malfatti and Rob Norris.  There may just be a few drivers coming from the Placerville Limited Late Model division as the division is off that night.

Though no extra purse was announced for Larry's division of choice these past seven seasons, the Limited Late Models, drivers may want to be a part of it because it's the Larry Damitz Memorial Race.  The Petaluma and Marysville's divisions are dark on that night.  We do know Oreta, Mark Garner, Mike Gustafson, John Evans, Jim Freethy, Ryan Cherezian, Buddy Kniss and Jeff Kendrick are some of the drivers anticipated.

The Larry Damitz Memorial will be a special race, and it's a race that the track hopes to build on in the years ahead.  For more information, go to

Antioch Speedway
DIRTcar Late Model Schedule

May 13
June 24
July 1
July 15
July 22
August 12
September 9
September 16
September 30

Past Late Model Stock Car Champions
1967-Chuck Choate
1968-Wayne Price
1969-Rich Oagle
1970-J.D. Willis
1971-J.D. Willis
1972-Mitch West
1973-Richard Johnson
1974-Don Robbins
1975-Willie Myatt
1976-Chuck Dyer
1977-Richard Johnson
1978-Bob Meeker
1979-Dean Cline
1981-Bruce Curl Sr.
1982-Dave Byrd
1983-Dave Byrd
1984-J.D. Willis
1985-Bobby Hogge III
1986-Ed Sans Jr.
1987-Jim Pettit II
1988-Jim Pettit II
1989-Bobby Hogge III
1990-Jeff Silva
1991-Jim Pettit II
1992-Steve Hendren
1993-Steve Hendren
1994-No Points
1998-Ed Sans Jr.
2007-Jeff Decker
2008-Andy Obertello
2014-Richard Papenhausen
2015-Jeff Decker
2016-Richard Papenhausen

Previous 30 Late Model Feature Winners
April 29, 2017:  Jeff Decker
October 24, 2016:  Bobby Hogge IV
October 10, 2016:  Richard Papenhausen
September 17, 2016:  Jeff Decker
August 13, 2016:  Richard Papenhausen
July 23, 2016  Andy Obertello
July 9, 2016:  Bobby Hogge IV
June 18, 2016:  Jeff Decker
April 30, 2016:  Clay Daly
April 16, 2016:  Richard Papenhausen
March 26, 2016:  Bobby Hogge IV
September 19, 2015:  Andy Obertello
August 22, 2015:  Jeff Decker
August 8, 2015: Richard Papenhausen
July 25, 2015:  Richard Papenhausen
July 11 2015:  Troy Foulger
June 27, 2015:  Bobby Hogge IV
June 20, 2015:  Richard Papenhausen
June 13, 2015:  Richard Papenhausen
May 11, 2015:  Richard Papenhausen
April 25, 2015:  Troy Foulger
April 11, 2015:  Paul Guglielmoni
March 21, 2015:  Richard Papenhausen
March 14, 2015:  Jeff Decker
January 2, 2015:  Richard Papenhausen
August 16, 2014:  Troy Foulger
July 26, 2014:  Bobby Hogge IV
July 19, 2014:  Bobby Hogge IV
June 14, 2014:  A.J. Kirkpatrick
May 10, 2014:  Richard Papenhausen

Garner Has Championship In His Sights At Antioch Speedway

Antioch, CA...Racing is in the blood of Antioch's Mark Garner.  His grandfather raced Midgets at Bay Area tracks in the 1950's.  His father is the legendary Jerry "The Maverick" Garner.  Jerry won a NASCAR California State Stock Car championship in 1969 and continued to race at Antioch Speedway and other venues into the 1990's.  "He was my hero growing up, " said Mark.  "I learned about racing and working on cars from him."

It was in 1996 when Jerry put Mark behind the wheel of his Dirt Modified.  There was a catch.  Mark had to earn the privilege of using the A, which many drivers ran after their numbers at one time to signal that they were Antioch racers.  Garner had to run 76jr until he earned the right to remove the Jr.  "He told me I needed to go out there and show him that I could handle a race car, " Mark recalled.  "I didn't want to let him down, so I did my best.  I listened to what he said, and I got faster."

Afer a year of paying his dues, he became a Top 20 point competitor and climbed even higher up the point ladder.  The Jr was long gone when Mark started winning Main Events and was a Top 5 point competitor in Dirt Modifieds.

Mark had been away for a few years while raising a family when Chester Kniss of Delta Transmission offered him a chassis that was perfect for Limited Late Models at Antioch Speedway.  It was a NASCAR Regional Championship car that was driven by Steve Hendren in the early 1990's.  Mark, his father and crew put it together, and he was back in action again.  It wasn't long before he was winning in this division too.

Mark established himself as a Top 5 competitor in the class when his family got the sad news that his father didn't have long to live.  He motto in 2015 was "All For A Reason" as he set out to win the championship.  He won it at Merced, and his father was there for the special presentation at Antioch Speedway late in the season.

Jerry may not have been feeling well, but he was there for every race at Antioch and proudly watched his son win two Main Events that year.  "It was difficult for all of us, " Garner admitted.  "I cherished every moment I spent with him.  That championship was for him."

Last season saw Garner win five times, but he settled for third is the final standings behind Larry Damitz and Kimo Oreta.  "Larry was one of the best drivers ever, " said Garner.  "He made me earn those wins.  We're proud to have been able to beat him as much as we did last year, because we had to earn it.  If not for a couple of bad nights, we could have won the championship."

He's ready to go this year with a championship in his sights.  In fact, it will be a busy year for the Garner family.  Mark is also competing in a B Modified, and son Billy Garner is in a Hobby Stock.  To pay tribute to his father, Mark is running an A on his car this season.  He will be trying to put it in the winner's circle this Saturday night.  As for the Jr on the number?  It's Billy's turn to earn its removal from his car.  It's a Garner family tradition.

In addition to Limited Late Models, this Saturday night's program includes All Star Series Winged 360 Sprint Cars, A Modifieds, Wingless Spec Sprints, B Modifieds and Hobby Stocks.  For further information, go to