Friday, May 26, 2017

Pit Stops And A Special Looking Back Article

First of all...

On Sale At Reduced Price

Don's California Racing Recollections:  Best Of The Blog And Beyond

Available via print on demand at Lulu in Hard Cover or Paperback

Just A Kid From The Grandstands:  My Time In Auto Racing

Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover


If You Like Reading Our Articles, Feel Free To Leave A Tip In  ---  The Tip Jar

Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion Can Be Heard HERE

The DCRR Racing Radio Show

Pit Stops

After the Memorial Day break, June could almost be considered Sprint Car month at Antioch Speedway with a nice Stock Car twist at the end.  June 3rd will feature the first visit of the season for the King Of The West Series Sprint Cars, presented by NARC.  All Star Series Hobby Stocks are supporting the show.  After the huge car count at the opener, the Sprint Car Challenge Tour will be coming alone on June 17th.  The All Star Series Winged 360 Sprint Cars headline a five division show on June 10th that will also include DIRTcar Late Models. 

Again on June 24th, the All Star Series Sprint Cars and DIRTcar Late Models will be there with A Modifieds and Dwarf Cars. For added significance, this show will include a visit from NASCAR commentator/racer Kenny Wallace.  Kenny will be driving a Late Model and an A Modified that night.  June will be an exciting month at the fast three-eighth mile clay oval.

The King Of The West Series Sprint Cars are the pinnacle of Winged Sprint Car racing.  These high flying machines have 410 cubic inch motors, making them the fastest cars on dirt.  Last year was actually a milestone year for the series.  It was the 30th Anniversary of the founding of the Tour.  Billed as the Golden State Challenge Series back then, this division was still featured at multiple tracks in the 1980's, including the now defunct Baylands Raceway.  The promoters banded together to create big shows for the class, and the NARC Sprint Car Series supported it as well.

What's interesting to note is that after an hiatus of more than 15 years, NARC is back helping promote the series.  Perhaps the biggest name of them all, the legendary Brent Kaeding, should be a part of this show.  Through the years, Brent has racked up championships the way some drivers count feature wins.  He has 13 championships each with NARC and the King Of The West.  These days, his son Bud is the perennial title contender.  Bud finished second last year to three-time series champion Kyle Hirst, but he leads this year's chase by just 13 points ahead of Cory Eliason.  27 points back is rising young star Gio Scelzi, who won the Hanford championship last season.

These Top 3 competitors have all won races on the Tour this season along with Rico Abreu and Hirst.  Car count should be in the 18-24 car range, and the numbers have been up slightly this season.  There have been three B Mains at the first five events.  Other stars to watch for include Michael "Buddy" Kofoid, D.J. Netto, Willie Croft, Carson Macedo, Jarrett Soares and Bobby McMahan.  When NARC got involved with 410 Sprint Car racing again this year, there was immediately talk about reviving Speedweek again, and this popular week long series within a series could return in 2018. 

All Star Series Hobby Stock racing has been on the rise this year at Antioch Speedway.  For all intents and purposes, this is the Street Stock division that raced at the track some 25 years ago under a different name. The racing is just as close and exciting, and it's really hard to tell who might win on any given week.  Chris Long is making his first championship run ever and leads rookie Brent Curran by just six points.  Cameron Swank is within 20 points as 2010 champion Chris Sorensen and Michael Cooper are both in the Top 5.

Of the Top 5 drivers in the standings, only Swank is without a win, but he's been very consistent and is a multi time Top 3 finisher this year.  That win may be just around the corner.  Curran is a two time winner, and the rookie's most recent win came from 14th starting.  Brent isn't the only rookie making waves this season.  Only six points out of fifth is Chris Bennett in the Bob Hansen Tribute car.  Bennett has been fast so far this year, but a few tangles have kept him from getting another Top 5 finish since the season opener.  Fourth generation racer Billy Garner did finish fourth in the most recent race.

The talent level in Hobby Stocks is high this year, and there are a good ten drivers capable of winning on any given week.  Joey Ridgeway has also looked good so far his year, and he impressed with a Trophy Dash win during the Fair.  None of the the classes get dashes very often, so that trophy will look nice on the Ridgeway mantle.  The steady Ricky Foster is looking good in the Top 10 in points so far this year.  The way things are looking, there will be more new winners to come, and the next two opportunities are June 3rd and 10th.

The B Modifieds get booked about as much as Hobby Stocks at Antioch, so the fact that they only race once in June (the 10th), may be a relief to some of the racers.  Trevor Clymens is every bit as fast as he was last year, and the reigning champion has two wins to show for it.  However, Trevor is trailing the consistent K.C. Keller by a mere four points in the battle for the point lead.  Keller was the winner during the Fair, but Clymens was the one taking home the trophy in the dash.  The way these two are battling, this could be a battle that goes down to the finale.

After taking a year off from point racing, veteran Chuck Golden is off to a good start.  He leads Randy Brown by eight points and Mark Garner by ten in a good race for third.  Actually, all three of these competitors are still in the championship battle.  They'd all love to get a win this year.  Garner and Brown both have heat victories, and Brown has done it twice.  Both of them just need a few good breaks to go their way as they are running pretty fast this season.  Though the Top 5 point competitors might seem to be the favorites to win, Megan Ponciano, Aaron Crowell, Guy Ahlwardt, Ron Brown and Anthony Giuliani are among the others to watch for.  Past Street Stock champion Todd Gomez is a feature winner this season.

The trademark of the All Star Series Winged 360 Sprint Car division at Antioch Speedway is that this program seems to be the gateway for the Outlaw Kart racers to compete for their first Winged 360 Sprint Car wins.  Kyle Offill has been a star of BCRA Midget Lites racing in recent years, but he now has his first two Sprint Car wins at Antioch.   Tyler Seavey made an appearance and won that night.  What was interesting about Offill's most recent win was that it came only after a last turn pass on rookie Jacob Tuttle.  Another young Kart graduate, Tuttle was making his first start at Antioch, and a second place finish was still a good effort for him.

Marissa Polizzi was nipping at the rear nerf of heat winner Steve Jaquith in the most recent event, but he forced her to settle for a close fourth.  Polizzi is now just 18 points behind Offill in second, but she's being pursued closely by 2016 "Rookie Of The Year" Jenna Frazier, who is just six points back.  It's possible that Grants Pass, Oregon long tow Aaron Miller might be holding down second right now, but a tangle with Offill while running second in the most recent event ended his race early.  As it is, he's still just eight points out of second and 26 out of the lead. 

Burt Foland skipped the most recent race and fell to fifth, seven points ahead of 2007 champion Art McCarthy.  McCarthy is working to overcome a DNS at the opener, and he's 43 points out of second.  With two All Star Series Sprint Car races in June, the month could have a big impact on the point battle.  As always, you never know who might show up for the next race for a shot at a $1200 victory.

The Wingless Spec Sprints are off for the month of June, but after three races, it's a four car battle for the point lead.  This looks like a battle that could very well go down to the final race.  Coming off of his win at the Fair race, past Chowchilla champion Brandon Burd is tied with Alan Miranda for the lead.  Division original Rick Panfili and long time division competitor Roy Fisher are both within eight points of the lead.  It's not out of the realm of possibility that rookie Robert Floyd could make a bid for the championship either.  After his recent Top 5 finish in the old Jimmy Lavell car, Floyd is only 24 points out of the lead himself. 

One of the more compelling storylines in this division is the quest for Miranda and Panfili to get their first wins.  Miranda has been very fast at times, but something always seems to stop him when victory is within his grasp.  He led a race in 2015 for 19 and a half laps until an aggressive move by second place ended the race for both.  Earlier this year, Alan had the lead late in the race before having to pit.  He has finished as high as second as has Panfili.  Panfili has been supporting carbureted Sprint Car racing for over 20 years as a member of the 1999 roster and before that when he competed with the NCMA.  He won his heat race during the Fair.  Could he get that feature win and even a championship this season?

What is nice is this division has some good competitors capable of winning on any given week.  2004 champion Bob Newberry and 2014 Watsonville champion Bryan Grier are other feature winners this season.  Jeremy Newberry, Shannon Newton, Tyler Henriques, James East, Jeff Lee and Abigail Gonderman keep this division exciting to watch in it's 19th season at the speedway.

The Dwarf Cars have had three races so far, and the point battle is the spitting image of last year with reigning champion Kevin Miraglio leading Mike Corsaro by 12 points.  Both drivers have two Top 3 finishes with Miraglio winning one of those races. However, the second event was a missed opportunity as both drivers didn't finish,  It's interesting to note that long time Dwarf Car competitor Chuck Connover opened the season with back to back second place finishes before skipping the Fair race.  This opened the door for ageless veteran Charlie "The Hammer" Correia to follow Corsaro into third in the standings.  Charlie is only 14 points out of the lead.  One thing about Charlie is that nobody on the West Coast has more Dwarf Car experience than him.

David Rosa would love to make a move on the championship.   The two time Street Stock champion has won over 50 Main Events at Antioch Speedway through the years, but last year saw him win his first Dwarf Car race.  "Dynamite" David is only 16 points out of second with a pair of rookies in close pursuit of him.  Chris Becker is doing well so far, just four points behind Rosa.  Young Quarter-Midget graduate Devan Kammermann is only eight points out of third.  All of these drivers are hoping to make a visit to the winner's circle in one of the two June races.  You should also keep an eye on Mike's son, David Corsaro, who is just ten points behind Rosa.  David has driven a Dwarf Car from time to time, but he has his own ride this season.

The DIRTcar Late Model battle will kick into high gear in June with a pair of races, and it's already shaping up to be a battle between Jeff Decker and Richard Papenhausen.  Decker's win and third place finishes have him leading Papenhausen by just four points.  Papenhausen finished second in the Larry Damitz Memorial race, but he couldn't beat Bobby Hogge IV for the big payday.  Only 20 points out of the lead is Shawn DeForest, who was second to Decker in the opener.  However, Shawn isn't likely to be racing in the final June race as Kenny Wallace slips behind the wheel of the car.  Wallace is looking forward to going wheel to wheel with the likes of David Newquist, Joey Olschowka, Dennis Souza, Kimo Oreta, Mike Hynes, Paul Guglielmoni and others.

Wallace also gets the opportunity to race with the A Modifieds at the June 24th race.  At this point, the championship battle is between 2015 point runnerup Bobby Motts Jr. and Mike Salazar.  Motts is leading by a mere three points after four races.  Both are looking for their first win of the season.  Salazar had been declared the winner at the checkered and yellow flags in the opener, but official review gave the victory to Scott Busby.  After multiple bad races, Busby's championship bid is over.  At this point, Sean O'Gara is once again in third in the standings and within striking distance at 30 points back.  Rookie Eric Berendsen is fourth ahead of Kellen Chadwick.  Chadwick has won in both of his starts, but he's not expected to continue to be there for every race.  We'll have to see how this battle plays out.

IMCA Sport Modifieds will be racing at Merced Speedway on June 7th during the Merced County Fair.  You knew point leader Fred Ryland was not going to go winless, and he ended the suspense by winning the most recent race ahead of reigning champion Rick Diaz.  With no finishes outside the Top 5, Ryland holds a 38 point lead over Diaz.  Diaz has three wins this season, but he missed a race.  With a one point per position system, Diaz has his work cut out for him in catching Ryland, but if anybody can do it, it's him.  Next in line is Chase Thomas, 47 points out of the lead, but one ahead of Jeremy Hoff and three ahead of Tim Elias.

Tanner Thomas was the Thomas brother getting the attention with an inspired drive in the most recent race.  The talented teen second generation driver battled Mark Odgers throughout the race.  Even after being passed by Ryland and Diaz, Tanner still held off Odgers for a strong third place finish.  One can easily make a case for Merced Speedway having the most competitive IMCA Sport Modified program in California.  Any one of a dozen drivers could get a win on any given week, perhaps on Wednesday during the County Fair.  Chuck Weir and T.J. Etchison are already winners this year, and hard chargers like Paul Espino, Chris Falkenberg, Cody Parker, Anthony Giuliani, Jarred Tickel and Josh Hensley are other drivers to watch this week.

Joining the IMCA Sport Modifieds for the County Fair program will be the exciting Hobby Stock division.  Though he has certainly had some big moments in the last few seasons, it's likely that few people would have predicted that Kodie Dean would lead the point standings after five races.  Dean now has two feature wins, but his lead over reigning champion Michael Shearer is still just 12 points.  Despite no wins so far, Shearer has multiple Top 5 finishes and leads Robbie Loquaci by just six points in the battle for second.  Loquaci provided a scary moment recently when his car caught fire to end his race.  He did have a strong Top 5 finish in the Ted Stofle Classic.

It was Garrett Corn winning the Stofle Classic for his second win of the season.  Unfortunately, the third generation racer's bad luck has him trailing the leader by 40 points.  It's early enough in the battle that he could make up ground, but the competition for wins will remain tough.  When you have hard chargers like Shannon Nelson, Mike Stockton, Darren Miguel, one time winner Kevin Joaquin, Billy Nelson and James Stockton in the field, it's anybody's guess who will win from week to week.  Hobby Stocks will be a part of Night #2 of the WCDCA Dwarf Car Nationals on June 17th.

If you are a fan of Dwarf Car racing and want to see great competition, the Nationals on June 16-17 is the time to come check them out.  The best of the best on the West Coast will be there representing NCDCA, SBDCA, CDCA, SODCA and other groups.  This means you'll see Ryan Winters, Gene Pires, Buddy Olschowka, Brock Peters, Camden Robustelli, Matt Sargent, Shawn Jones, Cameron Diatte, Danny Wagner, Kevin Miraglio, Mike Corsaro and many other top notch competitors.

IMCA Modified racers get the month of June off, which will enable the competitors to head north and compete in the Wild West Speedweek Series.  It's not known who might go there, but the Oregon competitors would be understood if they were just a bit nervous at the prospects of having to compete with Paul Stone and Randy Brown.  Stone has been on fire with back to back wins.  Paul isn't chasing points this season, and with multiple Top 3 finishes, Randy Brown is the leader by 21 points over Mike Villanueva and 31 ahead of Bill Egleston.  Randy has finished as high as second, but it seems very likely that his first win will come soon.  Randy is the reigning champion, Egleston is the 2012 champion and Villanueva is a past champion at Hanford.

Last time out, the Modifieds joined the Sport Mods in producing a strong 29 car field, and this race was anything but boring.  Ryan Porter was in the hunt for his first win, but a lap 16 restart opened the door for both Stone and Brown to get by for first and second.  Porter settled for third, meaning he'll have to wait for another shot at joining Ethan Dotson and Ryan McDaniel on the Merced winner's list.  Darrell Hughes II, Bruce "Bubba" Nelson, Derek Nance and Jarod Fast are other drivers to watch in the battle for victory when the class returns along with Sport Modifieds and Hobby Stocks on Timmy Post Memorial Night on July 1st.  It's uncertain if four time champion Ramie Stone will be there following his second blown motor of the season.

Mini Stocks will have to wait until July 8th to race.  We've heard clarification that D.J. Keldsen's absence this past week was due to a two week suspension following a back stretch tangle with Jennifer Corder that sent him rolling and may have totaled his race car.  In Keldsen's absence, reigning champion Chris Corder won another feature to push his win total to three.  However, Corder still only leads Lucy Falkenberg by four points and Jennifer Corder by seven in a close battle.  Falkenberg enjoyed another second place finish last time to go with another heat race win, but she's determined to get her first feature win.  It may happen next time the Mini Stocks are at Merced.  As for whether Keldsen Racing will be back, we'll have to wait and see.  But, D.J. Keldsen and Cody Keldsen will both be tough to beat if they are there.  Other stars like Destiny Carter, Jason Womack, Shawn DePriset and Tyler Jackson make the Mini Stocks a fun division to watch.

This is a piece I wrote back in January of 2015.  I always wanted to comment on some things concerning Antioch Speedway's role in the demise of NARC.  Others may agree or disagree with my assessment.  What is interesting is NARC is back this year as part of the King Of The West Series this year, and they are returning to Antioch Speedway on June 3rd.  But, did they have to go away at all?  This is in Best Of The Blog And Beyond, and for the first time, it's on the blog...

Looking Back:  Who Killed NARC?

One of the things I considered putting into The DCRR Best Of The Blog And Beyond book was some NARC Sprint Car content.  This was THE Sprint Car group in Northern California for decades.  Oh, they had a good class at Baylands, and Chico was doing their thing.  They even had the Golden State Challenge Series bringing everybody together, but NARC was the king.

The reason I avoided it in the book was NARC really wasn't my thing. Really, I'm a Stock Car guy.  I would rather be at a Stock Car race, and yet I love Spec Sprints.  I helped found the class.  I'm a contradiction, I know.  If it helps, NARC purists were referring to Spec Sprints as a "Bastard Class" and not a REAL Sprint Car when Don O'Keefe Jr. and I were putting that thing together.

Also, NARC was well covered by Jim Allen, and other guys like Ron Albright had columns about this group too.  I did see who wasn't getting covered and would have went right to those drivers.  It was all about "the boys" back then.  They did deserve their ink, but everybody deserved ink.  So, that's where I would have been.  But, the open wheel media handled this group very well.  At times, I stayed home if NARC was racing at Antioch and there was not a Stock Car support class.

I say all of this to clarify where I'm coming from with the opinions I will offer here.  I respected this class.  In 1997 at Antioch, there was absolutely NO sign to the fans that this group was in trouble.  They were packing the fans in.  I had occasion to announce NCMA events when NARC was in town.  The very talented Bobby Gerould felt I knew more about them and could do them justice.  It only lasted a few times before John Myers suddenly got unbusy and started showing up.   I think he felt threatened, but I wasn't gunning for his gig at that time.  I wanted to help the NCMA.

Anyway, NARC had it all.  They had Brent Kaeding, Steve Kent, Paul McMahon, Kevin Pylant, Jason Statler, Jason Lund and so many great racers.  In fact, there is still a lot out there about how great these guys were, and the club has been gone for almost 15 years.  2000 was their last attempt at a season.

In the end, I started to appreciate how truly amazing these guys were.  When they got going under a long green flag period, the leader would catch traffic.  He may have a straightaway lead, but then he had to negotiate traffic.  A few laps later, second might be right on his rear nerf.  I prefer wingless Sprint Cars, but these guys were amazing when they had these lead duels in traffic.  Who is gonna go where?  One wrong move and you lost that lead.

Here's the statement you heard at the time in some circles.  John Soares Jr. killed NARC.  Um, no he didn't.  Now, it didn't help that Jim Allen put his foot in his mouth in his ill fated column or what NARC's Chief Steward had done to insult John Soares Jr. at Petaluma previously, but it was not a lost cause in my opinion.  It's called negotiation.  You are dealing with a new promoter, so sit down at the table and talk.  John knew the numbers at Antioch, but that pie needed to be sliced differently.

At one time, you had Allen hyping both NARC and GSC in press releases, so I believe NARC had a hand in scheduling the GSC.  The GSC was supported by many NARC racers.  At some point, control of that deal slipped to John Padjen and Dave Swindell.  I don't know what happened, but I do know NARC was no longer booked at Chico, Placerville and Hanford.  That hurt, and I don't believe John and Dave were gonna budge.  They had Sprint Car tracks, and they knew they would get support.

It all kind of hit at once, but Soares gets the blame.  I remember when John won the bid and Jim Allen nailed him in his column.  It was brutal.  John had said NARC was off the schedule, but he also indicated to me that he'd be interested in negotiations.  You see, this was the time to sit down and shut up.  Save the anger for when it is all over.

John had just won the bid, Reno came up and it was the season of negotiations.  Let's just see what can be worked out.  With what is around the corner, you need Antioch and Petaluma to save you.  You'll still have San Jose for a couple years, maybe a Watsonville date or two.  A trip to Bakersfield or maybe Tulare.  It's salvageable with Antioch and Petaluma.

Jim Allen torpedoed all of that.  I remember reading the NARC Newsline column in shock.  I don't remember seeing a column like that before.  It ran in Wheels.  I've always wanted to analyze and respond to that with my opinion.  I think now would be a good time for that.  I know they were pretty high on themselves at the time, but this was a little overboard.

Jim begins with this:

The main selling point about the Northern Auto Racing Club Sprint Car schedule is that it's been remarkably consistent.  Over the past decade, it has evolved to a point where open wheel enthusiasts know exactly where NARC is racing, without even looking at a piece of paper.  For instance, the middle of April kicks off the Golden State Challenge Series in Chico.  The first weekend in May and the Memorial Day weekend is all Calistoga.  Of course, Speedweek is based around Independence Day.  And, the Pombo-Sergeant Classic, the middle of July at Kings. The Outlaws in California, September of course.  Get the drift?

My response:

Of course.  It was a very good schedule, and big changes were around the corner, not just with Antioch.  And, yes, NARC always proved they could sell tickets.  So, yeah, I get the drift Jim.

Jim continues:

All that didn't happen by mere chance.  Most of the race promoters in California have realized the benefit of cooperation with their peers, so there are few conflicts between " big " racing events.  The best way to accomplish that was to lock specific racing events on specific weekends for the duration. 

My response:  

Of course.  Having been to Reno for the Promoters Workshop and having worked with clubs before, I know that you generally want all of the dates penciled in before Reno.  Reno is where you ink it all over lunch or dinner and then go hit the slots to celebrate.  I get it, Jim.   Hmm...  I wonder where he might be going with this?

Jim continues:

A decade or so ago, most track promoters operated like lone rangers.  They were isolated in their efforts and it wasn't uncommon to back door, or other word of your choice, other tracks out of their premier shows and racing stars.  However, through venues like the Promoters Workshops and awards banquets, most California promoters make it a point to trade information with their peers and sanctioning bodies.  True, there are still a few renegades in the bunch, but by and large, they all work together.

My response:  

This was 1997.  A decade before, one organization ran three of the tracks you raced at and another one that you may have visited a few times.  Plus, there was Baylands and you had good relationships with other tracks.  So, the only lone ranger I can think of is Mr. Clapp, and you seem to have gotten along well with him.  A decade before, there were even more tracks under control of that person.  Hmmm...  Were things slowly slipping away from him?  I wonder why?  Now, I'm curious.  Wherever can he be going with this?

Jim continues:

Where is this all leading? Well, I'm glad you asked.  A couple of interesting things popped up in November that have a major impact on the NARC-Budweiser Shoot Out Series schedule.  Heading the list was Antioch Speedway, a track that was coming up to bid with the Contra Costa Fairgrounds.  It appeared to be an automatic that Rick Farren and West Coast Speedways would agree to secure the lease.  With track manager Brynda Bockover at the helm, the quarter mile oval ran what this corner regards as one of the most successful weekly programs in Northern California.  After all, the place was always packed with enthusiastic fans, who loved their NASCAR sanctioned Grand American Modifieds and definitely, the NARC Sprint Cars.

My response:  

Good thing I wasn't drinking water.  I might have spit it out in laughter after reading that.  I don't even know where to begin with this.  Let's see...  You know that bid you were talking about?  These fairgrounds are state run and in business to make money.  Sanctioning bodies aren't what are important to them.  Money is.  So, every five years, they have a bid.  This is done to ensure that the fairgrounds is getting the best deal possible.  While I agree with you that NARC did well and NASCAR was just super, this is a business.  If West Coast Speedways was handling things well in the eyes of the fairgrounds, the bid of anybody else would NOT matter.  It's not like others hadn't tried to take the track before, but the fairgrounds stayed with who they had because it was the best deal for them at the time.  You see how that works, right?

Jim continues:

However, little to Farren's knowledge, Petaluma Speedway guru John Soares turned in a proposal for the facility as well.  And, for a substantial more amount of money.  As a result, the fairgrounds awarded the contract to Soares, less the food concessions.  The word cooperation didn't figure into this deal at all.  Off the record, many promoters feel Farren was back doored, or any obscene word you may want to insert.  One story has it that the proposal settled a longstanding 25 year old feud between Soares and Ken Clapp.  Who knows for sure? Better yet, who gives a darn, or word of your choice?

My response:  

Um...  Okay first, John Soares Sr. acted as a proxy for his son, who was in Australia racing at the time.  They kept pushing the date back, and John had prior commitments with his successful Australia venture.  So, his dad was there to make sure John was represented.  Nothing more.  Antioch would not be his track.  As for the money comment, well, see my response to the previous comment.  The fairgrounds is in business to make money.

Perhaps Rick should have been a little more aware or listened to his GM, who was there everyday?  Eventually, she figured it out.  It kind of helped that The DCRR finally let the cat out of the bag when the mystery bidder gave the go ahead to do so.  Yeah, I'm bad, but unlike NARC, I was there every week.  Change was needed.

I felt bad for Rick, because I kind of liked the guy.  At the time I didn't, but in hindsight, I feel bad for Brynda, because she really wasn't as bad as some of us thought she was.  She worked hard to maintain things, had to stifle ideas she had because that wasn't what WCS wanted and she knew what was coming.  As for Ken Clapp....  Hmm...  I had some care somewhere around here earmarked just for him.  I must have misplaced it.  Oh, wait.  No, I really don't care.  I would side with Soares any day of the week.  Ah, that felt good to say.  I wonder where this is going?

Jim continues:

That leaves the West Coast Speedway Corporation with San Jose and Watsonville Speedway in their stable.  Speaking of leaving, count on the NASCAR Grand American Modifieds to be shuttled down the road to one or both of those tracks.  Soares, and son John Jr., now support Petaluma and Antioch Speedway check books.

My response:

I'd let this comment pass, but I knew it was BS the moment I read it back then.  You see, for one thing, Rick was not doing well with San Jose to begin with.  Mismanagement?  I just think they didn't change with the times.  When the amphitheater threat hit, they weren't prepared.  As for that fleet of drivers that would leave, yeah, I remember the recruiting.  We made new stars and showed everybody that the track would not die.  One by one, they all came back.  Imagine that?  Antioch lived on without NASCAR, just as it would have in 1987 if somebody had taken it then.  I get the feeling Jim is going somewhere here.  Let's see...

Jim continues:

BUT WAIT, the story doesn't end there.  Within hours, the Soares'es canceled all of their NARC events at both tracks.  You heard me right, they canceled them, 86'ed them, hasta lavista, see ya later, goodbye!

My response:  

Oh dear.  Did they really?  By the way, I'm a fan of The Terminator too, so I loved the reference there.  Also, you can't assume that these exact dates are on the new promoter's schedule.  You have to...  Whats the word I'm looking for?  Oh yeah, negotiate.

Jim continues:  

Soares cited his inability to book "off night" events and races during October on Petaluma gumbo.  However, he wasn't willing to put them anywhere else on the schedule either, so that story doesn't hold water!  Did I mention that Petaluma is also the new "home" of the BCRA Midgets?

My response:  

So, you wanted a big date in October and Pops wasn't giving it to you?  Something tells me there's more to this story than that.  And, as for BCRA, the man won two championships with them and is in their Hall Of Fame, so what did you expect?  This isn't about them.  It makes me think of how Jimmy's mom lets him do it...  Childish.

Jim continues:

Over at Antioch, Soares Jr. stated that sound issues where the persistent problem.  The insinuation was that the NARC Sprint Cars where substantially louder than anybody else and NARC was the only problem.  Can you say scapegoat?  It appears a local lawyer and homeowner are playing the race card on a decibel meter.  This would be the same type of guy who would purchase a home next to an airport and then complain about the jets landing.  Farren stated that the rebel homeowner has been on the legal bandwagon for years.

My response:  

For one thing, I was at some of those fair board meetings.  The threat against the track was very real.  In fact, since Rick walked away, Watsonville nearly closed for such complaints and is ending racing early on race night to make the complainers happy.  So, call it a scapegoat all you want Jim, but these threats are real.  Also, the Sprint Cars were substantially louder.  You know that.  Plus, there was that incident the NARC official had with John Jr. previously at Petaluma over the noise issue that wasn't very respectful.  Can you say arrogance?.  The fact is, John started that first season by running Street Stocks and Pure Stocks last in order to have the quieter cars on the track later in the night.  I agree with your assessment of the kind of person that complainer is.  Those people suck, but they can and do get race tracks closed.

Jim concludes:

The bottom line is Soares knocked the heart out of NARC's Speedweek '98 schedule by canceling a pair of midweek premium events.  It also leaves the loyal Antioch fans high and dry in a big, big way.  No Grand Ams, no NARC, no loyalty?

My response:  

Yeah, so it's all Soares' fault?  Whatever.  The tone of this column was very arrogant and served to kill whatever chance NARC had to salvage anything at Antioch or Petaluma in 1998.  I have to wonder how much of an effort was made to compromise with John.  Since I never heard anything from him on the matter at the time, I'd say nothing was tried.

So, you can't get mid week dates, then why not weekend dates?  Friday night even.  Did you try to ask for anything?  If Speedweek fails or is altered, at least try to get some dates.  Compromise.  Swallow your pride.  Take a slight pay cut or get a sponsor to cover the loss.  Do something other than pointing a finger at Soares and saying it's all his fault.  That was NOT a smart move, and it was the beginning of the dominoes all being toppled for NARC.

Loyal Antioch fans?  People came to the track for racing, not sanctioning bodies.  And, yes Jim, there were Dirt Modifieds that next year, and all of those who left had returned within two seasons.  John offered a better purse than they had in 1997 and the racers appreciated that.  So, yes, there was loyalty.  Can you say over $2000 in point fund money, just for the Pure Stock champion, in 1998?  AND, Pure Stocks finally had a small purse each week.  Can you say Wingless Spec Sprints and eventually every other type of Winged Sprint Car getting race dates at the track?  So, yeah, Sprint Cars came back.

It is my belief, based on what I knew about John, that NARC could have had dates at Antioch in 1998 and even at Petaluma if they shown a little humility.  Yeah, they packed the stands, but the promoters gave them a place to race.  So, maybe you don't have a Speedweek in 1998 or it has a different look.  If you don't throw a public tantrum in the media and can get back in the gates at the two tracks, wouldn't it be worth trying?  Of course not.  They're NARC, and you must bow down to them.

NARC didn't go down because they had a bad show.  They had an amazing show with 30 cars or more showing up at Antioch and other places.  They died for not being willing to compromise. They died from bad leadership.  They never had to die.  It's sad to see what happened to them.  They had a great heritage and tradition.

Look at it this way, Soares wasn't the only John to tell them to hit the road.  Padjen would send them packing next as he and Dave Swindell provided race dates for the GSC Series, which lives today under a new name and the leadership of John Prentice.  NARC should be there with them.

That leader they loved so much let San Jose Speedway go without a fight and made it difficult for anybody else to try to do something there while the bogus amphitheater deal died.  Then, the grandstands were knocked down.  So, there went San Jose.  By 2000, there's no San Jose, Chico, Placerville, Hanford, Antioch or Petaluma dates, and NARC still thinks they are the king of something?  Humble yourselves a little?  Nope.

They came to Chowchilla, a track that probably wasn't ready for them.  Chowchilla was just getting started.  While it might have been a good track for a date or two that first season, it was probably too much to expect it to work as their home track.  NARC people put money into the place in the hopes that they could make it fly.  Then came the attitudes.  They didn't end up running every race they had booked there.  Like I said, the track was not ready for that kind of demand.  NARC leadership had messed up so badly that they had no other choice at the time.  It was over.

It's real convenient to say Soares did it or Padjen did it or maybe even Tom Sagmiller did it.  You know something?  When more than one promoter (and not of the same family) tells you to take a hike, maybe you should look in the mirror and ask yourself if maybe you are just a bit responsible too.

WCS didn't have to lose Antioch.  If they had put something into that track instead of milking it for all it was worth and acting like they were doing the fairgrounds a favor, they might still have the place today.  And, as for NARC, well, I think I made my point.

It's a damn shame there is no longer a NARC.  There should be.  The racing was always good and there was no shortage of cars.  The glory of racing with NARC was always good enough to gain new drivers.  If they needed to adjust and change with the times, they could have easily either added a 360 Sprint Car class or just switched over to that.  In any case, if the leadership had been a little better during the tumultuous years of change, they would probably still be here today.

That's just my opinion.  You know what they say about opinions?  It's funny that it was 15 years ago this year when they ran their last season. Where does the time go?