Thursday, August 10, 2017

Antioch Speedway Preview, Merced Speedway Legends Night Preview

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Antioch Speedway Show This Saturday Night

Antioch, CA...The battles are heating up at Antioch Speedway as we have hit the hot month of August.  Several championship battles remain very close and are looking like they could head to the final checkered flag to determine the ultimate winners.  On Saturday night, the All Star Series lineup includes Wingless Spec Sprints, DIRTcar Late Models, B Modifieds, Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars.

In the most recent Wingless Spec Sprint race, incoming point leader Alan Miranda rolled onto the track for the Main Event.  He was making his pace laps when a mechanical issue sent him to the pits.  He failed to start the race and vacated the lead. The question was, who would be the next point leader?  Division mainstay Rick Panfili came into the night ranked second and drove to his fourth Top 5 finish in fifth.  He did pass Miranda, but it was only good enough for him to hold on for second in points.  Bryan Grier had an even better night as he finished second.  The 2014 Watsonville champion now has two wins, a second and two thirds, which now gives him a slim four point lead over Panfili.  He missed a race, or that lead would be bigger.

Panfili's lead over Miranda is now nine points.  Miranda suffered a setback last week, but he can still get his campaign back on the right track with a good finish this week.  Ten points behind Pafili is rookie Robert Floyd.  Floyd won his heat race last time and seemed headed for a third place finish before mechanical issues sidelined him a few laps from the finish.  It's been such a wide open battle this year, and any of these four could still leave the season as the champion.  Shannon Newton is 18 points behind Floyd and 12 ahead of Bob Newberry.  Newberry is the only three time winner of the group, and he's had three straight Top 3 finishes.  Other stars to watch for this week include Roy Fisher, Brandon Burd, James East and rookie Abigail Gonderman.

Jeff Decker seems to be on his way to his third DIRTcar Late Model championship.  He's won three Main Events in a row and four this year.  Decker now leads David Newquist by 46 points.  He knows he can't get too comfortable.  Two time champion Richard Papenhausen's point effort was derailed with a blown motor suffered in a heat race win, so Decker knows it could happen to him too.  At the moment, the battle is for second between Newquist and Shawn DeForest.  Newquist leads DeForest by just six points.  Both drivers have finished as high as second once this year and may be the best hope of beating Decker for a win.  The steady Joey Olschowka joins these two as a feature runnerup finisher this year and is 20 points behind DeForest

Hopefully, Papenhausen returns this week after skipping a race to run a special A Modified event in Quincy.  Papenhausen has won several Late Model races at Antioch in the past three seasons and has a win and a second this year.  Papenhausen is only 14 points behind fifth ranked Kimo Oreta.  Oreta has a pair of Top 5 finishes and is only 13 points behind Olschowka in the rookie race.  Seven points behind Oreta is Dennis Souza.  Souza also has a pair of Top 5 finishes in the six races held so far.  Other drivers to watch for this week include Chester Kniss, Mike Hynes, Rob Norris and Paul Guglielmoni.

K.C. Keller took advantage of the absence of reigning champion Trevor Clymens last week to increase his point lead.  The B Modifieds ran with the A Modifieds, and Keller finished second in the combined race, while Mark Garner finished fourth.  Keller's lead is now 58 points over Chuck Golden.  Golden has his hands full in the battle for second.  Four points behind him is four time winner Clymens and Garner.  Golden is the only one of the four without a win, though he has one second.  Past Street Stock champion and two time winner Todd Gomez moved into fifth in points last week, but his lead over Randy Brown is just eight points.  Brown had a medical emergency take him out of the action, but he's been recovering.  We hope to see him back soon along with Doff Cooksey, Kevin Brown and Megan Ponciano.

Kimo Oreta and Mark Garner are both doing double duties this week.  Oreta has been doing a great job behind the wheel of the Sun Drop Racing #15 Limited Late Model.  Two time champion Mike Gustafson added a second win to his win totals last week, but Oreta grabbed his third second place finish to go with two wins.  Oreta's lead over Mark Garner increased to 12 points after last week.  Garner picked up a third place finish to keep things close.  He has two thirds and two seconds to go with his one win, but he's in need of another victory.  Jim Freethy is only 14 points out of the lead despite the fact that he has yet to win this season.  Freethy finished fourth last week, and that's his only non Top 3 finish so far this year.  He's trailed by Gustafson by just 14 points.  Rookie Buddy Kniss had his best finish in fifth last time, and he'll be out to improve on that.  Other drivers to watch for this week include the steady John Evans, Chad Hammer and Jeff Kendrick.

Brent Curran scraped by for another Top 5 Hobby Stock finish in fifth last week.  Chris Long finished third, so the Curran lead over Long is just 17 points.  2010 champion Chris Sorensen moved back into third in points on the strength of his division leading fourth feature victory.  Sorensen drove a flawless race last time, but now he has to overcome a pair of bad weeks that were plagued with transmission issues.  He's 41 points out of the lead and 24 behind Long for second place.  Rookie Chris Bennett had a Top 3 run going last time before his luck nose dived.  However, Cameron Swank had a bad night as well.  Bennett is seven points behind Sorensen and 15 ahead of Swank in the battle for fourth.  These five should be there battling for the win this week along with Gene Haney, Billy Garner, Jordan Swank, Ricky Foster and Michael Cooper.

Mike Corsaro drove the "Meat Wagon" to his third Dwarf Car feature win in his last five starts as his point lead continues to increase.  His lead over rookie Devan Kammermann is now 58 points.  Corsaro's impressive totals also include three seconds and two thirds.  Kammermann, meanwhile, earned his best finish yet in third last time, just ahead of David Michael Rosa.  This gives him a slim two point lead over Rosa in the battle for second.  David Rosa won his heat last week to help him stay within ten points of Kammermann and four ahead of ageless veteran Charlie Correia in a good battle within the Top 5.  Other drivers to watch for this week include Chris Becker, Chuck Conover, Brandon Anderson, David Corsaro and recent heat winner Brian Gray.

There is plenty of excitement on tap at Antioch Speedway this week.  For further information, go to

Legend's Night Is Back At Merced Speedway 
 This Saturday Night

Merced, CA...Race Director Doug Williams established a special night on the Merced Speedway schedule a few years ago.  It was called Legends Night.  This is the time of year when the racing community looks back on the nearly 70 year history of this race track.  You will see many legends in the stands that night.  This has included four time Sportsman champion Dennis Moomjean, another past Sportsman champ Jerry Holzer, long time promoter and Sportsman racer Chuck Griffin, long time announcer Johnny Sass and perennial title contender and top Sportsman feature winner (from 1968-1979), Rod Poor.  This year's Legends Night is presented by Merced Elk's Bingo.

What makes a legend?  Is it because that driver won races and championships?  Is it because of the way they conducted themselves at the track?  Perhaps it was because that person took the time to talk with their fans and were heroes to those young fans who became life long racing fans.  We just lost a legend.  Kenny Birdsong was a fan who loved watching racers like his hero, Rod Poor.  He even built his 2016 championship Sportsman as a tribute to Poor and got a chance to let him drive the car.   In his brief time as a racer at Merced, Kenny made an impression on young fans and did what he could to promote the Sportsman class.  His absence will be felt this Saturday night as his car will be at the track.

Eventually, the track will have a Hall Of Fame, and there are so many who are deserving of the honor.  If there was a "Mount Rushmore" of Legends overlooking the Speedway, it would be hard to dispute Dennis Moomjean's inclusion.  He is certainly a first ballot inductee.  Dennis just celebrated his birthday and is anticipated this week.  Likewise, "Mr. Dirt" Vern Willhoite would belong there.  He was winning Merced championships in the 1950's.  Nearly 20 years later, he was a champion in the Sportsman class.  Ted Stofle is probably the greatest Stock Car driver of the 1970's and maybe all time.  He won six championships in a row at Merced.  There's also three time Sportsman champion George Steitz.  After all of the winning he did, he eventually became the promoter of the most popular open show in the state.  It's a no brainer that "The Voice Of Merced Speedway" Johnny Sass belongs.

The Sportsman division is a featured class on Legends Night.  Last year, they delivered 10 race cars, and there should be a good turnout this year.  It's likely that two time champion Mike Friesen will come as well as past champion Mark Odgers in his Vern Willhoite Tribute Car.  The Birdsong car should be there along with the Jeanne Canepa-Reveal car, which has been driven by four time Watsonville Sportsman champion and Hall Of Famer Jerry Cecil.  Eric Sealy, Jeff Bristow, Jeff West and Shannon Fry are others anticipated.  From the mid 1960's to the end of the 1970's, Sportsman racing was king at Merced Speedway.

Another group committed to honoring the past is the Legends Of Kearney Bowl.  The Vintage Super Modified movement has grown through the years, and drivers are still building cars.  The roster of known cars reaches into the 40's, and they are a welcome addition to the show wherever they go.  These really are some nice looking race cars.  The owners take a lot of pride in these cars, and they show them off at car shows quite often.  Recently, they inducted the legendary Everett Edlund into the Kearney Bowl Hall Of Fame.  The Master Of Ceremonies that night was long time announcer Kenny Takeuchi, who was recently inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall Of Fame.  Kenny is considered by many to be one of the greatest announcers of all time, and it would be a real coup for the track to get microphones in the hands of Takeuchi and Sass if they are in attendance, even for a few minutes.  When those old Super Modifieds get on the race track, you are in for a treat.

Promoter Ed Parker made a decision within the last week to add the IMCA Modifieds and IMCA Sport Modifieds to the schedule due to the fact that he had to cancel the races on July 22nd due to the fire fighting crews using the fairgrounds as a base when they were fighting area fires.  However, after consulting with IMCA officials in Iowa, it was decided that Merced could not have track points due to the fact that the race was added too close to the actual date.  It was decided that it could be a State and Regional point race, though the Merced area racers aren't really competing for either this year.  However, because Parker and his crew have done such a great job with the track these past two seasons, it's likely that there will be strong support in both divisions.

Mike Villanueva will have to wait another week to see if he can get any closer than the 22 points he trails reigning champion Randy Brown in this season's IMCA Modified championship chase.  However, the past Hanford champion is still hoping to get his first win of the season.  Mike has two Top 5's, while Brown has six, including a victory.  Fresh off of his Mike Cecil Memorial win in Michael Shearer's Hobby Stock, third ranked Bruce "Bubba" Nelson is still looking for his first Merced IMCA Modified win.  Like Villanueva, he does have two seconds.  Paul Stone is a multi time champion with two feature wins this year, but hard chargers like Darrell Hughes II, Ryan Porter, Jarod Fast, Troy Stone, Ricky Thatcher and Ramie Stone are still looking for their first wins.

We'll have to wait and see if there's enough time for two time reigning champion Rick Diaz to overtake Fred Ryland in the IMCA Sport Modified championship battle.  Diaz missed a race, but even if he had been there, the Ryland-Diaz battle would be close.  Consistency has led to eight Top 5 finishes for Ryland in nine starts, though he has just one victory.  The red hot Diaz has five wins and is 34 points out of the lead.  Rookie Chuck Weir is the only other Top 10 racer with a victory this season.  Merced has an all star caliber lineup of drivers, and Top 5 ranked Jeremy Hoff, Chase Thomas and Tim Elias lead a group of racers capable of winning a Main Event at any time.   Paul Espino, Cody Parker, Anthony Giuliani, Tanner Thomas and Josh Hensley are other drivers to watch for this week.

Hobby Stocks and BCRA Midget Lites will be there as well.  In the Hobby Stocks, Garrett Corn and Kodie Dean are having amazing seasons so far with three feature wins each.  Dean had an apparent fourth win last time out before being disqualified in post race tech, which also cost him the point lead.  Corn leads Dean by just 2 points.  These two drivers have been enjoying their battles on the track, but there will be others racing them hard this week.  In fact, Robby Loquaci's four Top 5 finishes have him 13 points out of the lead, while Kristie Shearer is only 22 points back in this wide open race.  Both are looking for their first wins of the season.  Other drivers on the verge of victory include Austin Van Hoff, Shannon Nelson, James Stockton, Mike Stockton and Darren Miguel.  2015 champion Kevin Joaquin and reigning champion Michael Shearer do have wins, and they are looking to do it again.  Hobby Stocks are always a highlight on the program as their battles up front are usually close.

Reigning champion Craig Dillard is well on his way to another championship, while Emilee Lindgren and Dakota Albright are battling for second in the BCRA Midget Lites point race.  The division has struggled a bit this season as a few drivers have moved up to other classes and others are getting cars together.  Other drivers to watch for include Scott Kinney, Hunter Kinney, Terry Begstrom and Charlie Carracilo.

History matters in racing.  It shows the great tradition of racing that has led us to this moment.  These are the people who made us want to come watch the races through the years and inspired a whole new generation of racers and racing fans.  What Promoter Ed Parker and Williams are doing at Merced with Legend's Night is something every race track that has been around for a while should be doing.  It will be a fun night at Merced Speedway.  For further information, go to