Thursday, July 6, 2017

Antioch Speedway And Merced Speedway Weeked Previews

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Jerry Hetrick Memorial Race 
At Antioch Speedway Saturday Night

EDITOR'S NOTE:  As of Now, 12:30 PM Friday, the DIRTcar Late Models have been removed from the schedule for Saturday night.  This story was written based on the schedule originally posted.  Please disregard the Late Models on this date.  The next race date for DIRTcar Late Models at Antioch is listed as July 15.

Antioch, CA...The All Star Series A Modifieds are headlining the Jerry Hetrick Memorial Race this Saturday night.  The loaded seven division event, which is sponsored by Sizemore Construction, also includes Wingless Spec Sprints, Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks, Dwarf Cars and Bay Area Hardtops.

Throughout the 1970's, Jerry Hetrick was one of the regulars in the old Sportsman division.  He was a consistent Top 20 point runner who had multiple Top 10 seasons and was fourth in 1975 and fifth in 1980.  At one time, he held the track qualifying record.  He did it all on a shoe strong budget.  Jerry was a true sportsman of the speedway, and when he won races, his fellow competitors were happy for him.  When he passed away, Promoter John M. Soares added this special race to the schedule last year.

Details on the purse were not made available at press time.  The A Modifieds are the closest division resembling the old winged Sportsman class in which Jerry competed, so they are the night's headliners.  It might seem easy to forget about Bobby Motts Jr. despite the fact that he is the point leader.  A past Street Stock champion at the track with over 20 wins in that division, Bobby ranked second in A Modified points in 2015.  On the strength of two seconds and two thirds, Motts carries a 41 point advantage over Mike Salazar into this race.  Since his motor problems on the last lap of the season opener cost him a sure victory, Salazar has had more mechanical problems, but his third and two fifths keeps him just three points ahead of second generation racer Sean O'Gara in the battle for second.

The son of former Vallejo Speedway Stock Car star John O'Gara, Sean has also had his ups and downs, but he has finished second and third once each this year.  Like Motts and Salazar, he's due to win.  Eric Berendsen was rebounding from motor problems of his own last week, but his fourth place finish last week kept him within 29 points of O'Gara for third.  Two time winner Scott Busby has managed to climb back into fifth in points after missing a race.  Busby finished a close second to Nick DeCarlo last week.  The two time Petaluma champion DeCarlo has won twice this year at Antioch, and he could be there with a few other Petaluma competitors as that track is dark to this division this week.  Other drivers to watch for this week include Anthony Slaney, Justin Yaeger, Trent Wentworth, Gary Hetrick and possibly two time champion Carl Berendsen II

We haven't seen the Wingless Spec Sprint division since the Contra Costa County Fair race in May, but we have three different winners.  2014 Watsonville champion Bryan Grier, past Antioch and Chico champion Bob Newberry and past Chowchilla champion Brandon Burd are the three winners.  Burd won the most recent race and denied Alan Miranda his first win in the process.  Miranda nearly won the opener before having to pit late.  Burd and Miranda are tied for the point lead, while Rick Panfili is just four points back in third.  Panfili has been racing in this class since it started in 1999, and he's in the hunt for his first career feature win.  He has a fourth and a fifth so far this season and won his heat race last time.

Ageless veteran Roy Fisher has won his share of races and is as tough as they come.  Fisher has finished as high as third this season to be just eight points out of the lead.  Fisher will certainly be a threat to win this week, as will Shannon Newton, who has a pair of third place finishes.  Rookie Robert Floyd has done a good job of staying out of trouble and getting to the checkered flag.  He finished fifth last time out and is still within 22 points of Burd for the lead.  These stars and others, such as Jeremy Newberry, Abigail Gonderman, James East and Jeff Lee should, make this an interesting show this week.

There is a good battle and the beginnings of a rivalry between Mark Garner and Kimo Oreta in the Limited Late Model division.  This goes back to last season when Garner lost second with mechanical problems in the finale, while Oreta won that race to clinch "Rookie Of The Year" honors and second in points.  Oreta was being mentored by five time division champion Larry Damitz, and he was chosen as the driver of Larry's Sun Drop Racing #15 car this season.  Oreta has certainly made Damitz proud with two wins and a second so far.  With a win, two seconds and a third, however, Garner holds a two point lead over Oreta.  Mark is determined to give his family their first Antioch Speedway championship, but if he gets it, Oreta is going to make him earn it.

While we talk about these two, however, you can't forget the only driver to force Damitz to settle for second in points in his last six years at the speedway, Jim Freethy.  Freethy has yet to get a win this year, but he's been consistent with one second and three thirds in his four starts.  Freethy is just 12 points out of the lead, and that win could come this week.  The division's all time win leader, Mike Gustafson, won the season opener, but he's struggled of late to fall 24 points out of the lead.  Others drivers anticipated this week include the steady John Evans, rookie Buddy Kniss, Jeff Kendrick, past champion Lori Brown and Chad Hammer.  Kendrick has three Top 5 finishes in his three starts.

After his win in the non point New Years Bash, Chris Long began making plans to make a run at his Hobby Stock first championship.  Through the years, he's pretty much been out there having fun on a shoe string budget.  Something has clicked for Long in the black #99 car this season.  Maybe it's the fact that he's riding with Uncle Bob every time he gets behind the wheel of the former Bob Ackerman car, but Chris has three wins and has yet to finish outside the Top 3 in his eight starts this year.  This has Long slowly pulling ahead of top rookie Brent Curran in points.  The two time winner Curran is coming off of back to back third place finishes, but he's trying to make up for his bad Week 5 effort.  There's sill another half of racing season to go.

After breaking his second transmission last week, two time winner Chris Sorensen fell 48 points behind Curran in the standings.  In fact, 2010 champion Sorensen finds himself in a battle to hold onto third as rookie Chris Bennett is eight points behind him and Cameron Swank is nine points back.  With two seconds and a third so far, C. Swank seems poised to get his first feature victory.  Cousin Jordan Swank has been gathering momentum as he comes off of back to back Top 5 finishes.  It was Robert Niven who had everybody talking last week after he won his heat race and followed that up with a career best second place feature finish in the 17 car field.  Could he get his first win this week?  He will be giving it a good effort, but with Billy Garner, Gene Haney, Frank Furtado, Ricky Foster, Michael Cooper and Anthony Vigna in the field, you have to battle to earn every position.

It's way too early to talk championship for Mike Corsaro in the Dwarf Car division, but he has certainly hit his stride.  The popular driver of the #00 car won his first race of the season last week to go with three seconds and a third.  Corsaro now has a 54 point lead over his teammate, Charlie "The Hammer" Correia.  Stalking Correia just six points behind is rookie Devan Kammermann.  Kammermann's fifth place finish last week was his third Top 5 of the season.  With Chris Becker and David Michael Rosa just ten points behind him, Kammermann knows he'll have to keep up the momentum to hold onto that podium position.

Chuck Conover added a fourth place finish and heat win last week to his three Top 3 finishes.  It's probably due to his absence from the third event of the season that Conover isn't in the championship hunt, but the long time Dwarf Car competitor is due to grab a feature victory.  The fact is there are several drivers capable of getting a win, and others to watch include two time Street Stock champion David Rosa, Brandon Anderson, reigning champion Kevin Miraglio and Roberto Monroy.  The Teves team could certainly factor in that battle as young Adam Teves has two victories and his 2015 championship winning father David has one win.

The Bay Area Hardtops are back in action this week, but who might be competing this week is still something we don't know.  Unlike the first race, there is no other event competing for the driver's time.  Dave Mackey and Kimo Oreta are anticipated, and it's been rumored that we may see three time Hardtop winner Jason Armstrong and Ron Ruiz.  These two drivers are California Hardtop regulars.  Other drivers who could show up include Dan Williams, Steve Cloyes and the possible debut of Doug Brauderick.  We'll have to wait and see who is willing to come support the show as the known Hardtop roster in Northern California reaches into the 20's.

This seven division program offers something for everybody, and the Jerry Hetrick Memorial A Modified race will be special to all who compete.  For further information, go to

RaceSaver Sprints, IMCA Modifieds Headline 
Merced Speedway Show

Merced, CA...On the heels of last week's highly successful Timmy Post Memorial race, Merced Speedway has another action packed program lined up for Saturday night.  Back for their second appearance of the season will be the IMCA RaceSaver 305 Sprint Cars along with the IMCA Modifieds, Mini Stocks and California Sharp Mini Late Models.

The last time the RaceSaver Sprints were in town, it was Jesse Mack holding off Blake Robertson and Tanner Boul for the win as 17 drivers competed.  The championship battle has gotten must closer following the group's last three races at Tulare Thunder Bowl, Keller Auto Speedway and Santa Maria Raceway.  While George Tristao leads the battle on the strength of three Top 3 finishes, Monty Ferreira has won the last three events.  Ferreira has trimmed 25 points off of Tristao's lead and now trails by just four points.  Chris Ennis won the season opener and is just ten points out of the lead in a close championship battle.

We are 11 races into the RaceSaver Sprint season, and Grant Duinkerken is also in the hunt, 11 points out of the lead.  Like Tristao, Duinkerken is still looking for his first win of the season.  Other winners so far this year include two time winner Zane Blanchard, Cole Danell, Jared Faria and Boul.  The rules set is such that it keeps this division very competitive.  There are several drivers capable of winning on any given week.  Other drivers to watch for this week include fifth ranked Albert Pombo, Mauro Simone, Scott Meisner, Tony Pombo, Blaine Fagundes and Vaughn Schott.

Randy Brown was leading the way in IMCA Modified points through consistency.  The reigning champion had four Top 3 finishes going into the Timmy Post Memorial last week.  After spending a week in the Pacific Northwest on the Speedweek Tour, he made a long drive back to Merced from Lebanon, Oregon Friday night and early Saturday morning.  The long trip was worth it as Brown pocketed $2,000 for his win and a nice trophy.  Multi time champion Paul Stone was chasing Brown across the line in a second place finish.  The two time winner is fifth in points.  Mike Villanueva had a good run in third last week, which keeps the past Hanford champion 23 points out of the lead in second.

Last year's "Rookie Of The Year" Bruce "Bubba" Nelson had a big night last week as he won the Hobby Stock race and finished in the Top 5 in the Modified feature.  This kept Nelson tied with Darrell Hughes II for third in points and 16 points behind second ranked Villanueva.  However, Bubba is looking for more than points.  He's hungry for his first IMCA sanctioned Modified win after winning a non sanctioned race in Chowchilla.  Four time champion Ramie Stone was back and finishing tenth in the Main Event last week, which is good when you consider the 2016 point runnerup has blown two motors this year.  His brother Troy grabbed a heat win that night.  Ryan Larimer held off multi time Southwest Tour champion Jim Pettit II to finish sixth last week, while recent Medford winner Derek Nance had to win the B Main Event just to get into the feature.  This is how competitive this field is.  Other drivers to watch for this week include 2012 champion Bill Egleston, fourth generation racer Ryan Porter, Jarod Fast and Harley Turner.

With so much off time since the last time the class raced at Merced, point leader and reigning Mini Stock champion Chris Corder decided to go back to Stockton, where he raced Mini Stocks before coming to Merced Speedway.  This time, however, it was the Stockton Dirt Track.  As usual, the driver of the #68c car left town with the winner's trophy.  He has his eyes on the championship trophy at Merced Speedway, but there's a bit of a problem this time.  His sister, Jennifer Corder, is eying the same prize.  Jennifer, who has ranked second in both this division and Hobby Stocks in the past, has been the model of consistency.  Despite Chris winning three times, his lead is only 13 points over Jennifer.  Jennifer does have a win this season at Chowchilla.

When you talk about ladies who are due to win a Main Event at Merced this year, you have to include third ranked Lucy Falkenberg.  Lucy now has a pair of heat race wins and seconds in the Main Event.  This second generation racer has shown much improvement and seems poised to win at any time.  Destiny Carter is lurking back in fifth, just ahead of Jason Womack.  With a start this week, Destiny should take over fourth in points.  There are some new racers in the field this year, and other drivers to watch for this week include Shawn DePriest, Tyler Jackson and David Richards.

Michael Shearer took one look at the California Sharp Mini Late Models and decided it would be a great division to get a new generation of racers onto Merced's quarter-mile clay oval.  Promoter Ed Parker agreed, and this division was added to the schedule.  Tim Vaught, young Riley Jeppesen and Troy Foulger are the winners so far this year.  Foulger won last time out as the Shearer Team fielded an additional two cars to get the count up to six.  Shearer is also the official California Sharp Mini Late Model dealer, and he's hoping to grow the class at Merced with occasional visits to Dixon.  In addition to Vaught and Jeppesen, Ian Shearer and Tim Crews have been racing this class this year.  The other two cars should be there this week, though we don't know who will drive them this time.  Foulger and Tommy Bostic drove them last time.  As this class gains more cars, it's going to become much more exciting to watch.

The four division program with Sprint Cars at the top of the card should be a good one.  For further information, go to