Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Blast From The Past

There are two places in racing I'd love to go to if I had a time machine to visit. Antioch in the mid to late 70's (Sportsman division) and Vallejo and Pacheco (Hardtop division). Okay, that's three. I cheated. My dad's stories of Johnny Franklin, Julian "Catchem" Castro, Hugh Purdy, Ted Graitrix, Bob Caswell, Nelson Snow, Leroy "Go Getem" Geving and, okay, you get the picture. A book about Hardtops at these two tracks would kick butt. I have some material, but it's a pity I don't have much.

My time in racing began at Antioch Speedway in the late 70's. The good old days for me. Nothing ever quite compared to those days. The Sportsman division had guys like "Chargin" Marvin Wilson, J.D. "You Betcha" Willis, Dennis "Foot In It" Furia, Gene Millard, Dana "Always On It" Auger, Mike "The Blue Knight" Gustafson and so many others. Len Mello was my favorite. Here are four shots I scanned last night. I remember when Dave Gonderman won his first feature. I liked that white Mustang he ran the next year and won with. Mike Green was my brother's favorite driver, and I remember him being consistent, having a pretty car and not being too aggressive..

But, I also remember the budding Street Stock class we had back then. Keith Shipherd, Scott Busby, Julio Jones, Joey Rodrigues, Debbie Clymens, Chuck Carter, Robbie Waldrop. There were some talented drivers in that group, let me tell ya. Some people were getting up and leaving during the Street Stock main, but that was a highlight of my night back then. I remember Carter in that yellow #66a car. Won several features, but he didn't move up like most of the others did. Clymens gets praised as a pioneer for women, and she should. But, there were others before her. Donna Walton and Dean Cline had a close battle for the 1979 Stock Car crown.

Anyway, just wanted to share this picture. I'll stop here. I have three other posts up today, and I want to keep them on the main page.

Here Comes Trouble

Last night, I was doing some photo scanning from old programs I have from the 70's to get more material ready for the book. I love those old Sportsman cars. It's hard to believe I got here from there and did the things I got to do in racing. I may share some of those pictures here.

This one I will share. One of my proudest accomplishments in racing was putting the Wingless Spec Sprint class together. Never would have happened without Don O'Keefe Jr. Don saw an opportunity to do something that made a difference in the sport. This photo is from 1998 at the Antioch Speedway Awards Banquet.

Interesting that I lobbied John to do points and awards the top NCMA racers that year. Of course, certain people decided to get stupid about things, so John dropped it top ten to top five trophies for the NCMA. I couldn't believe the grief I got over doing points, especially considering I was asked by a top NCMA official to do it.

Anyway, by then the WSS class had been announced to the world and we had a roster of 12 committed drivers. That grew substantially during the off season as Don answered all the rules questions and I did the hype. I intend to share a few of those hype stories here in the future.

Sagmiller Updates & My Comments

Tom Sagmiller posted a couple comments over on his webpage. The first was declaring that his page is now the Unofficial Chowchilla Speedway page.

I have heard some rumblings of what is going on, but I have not spoken publicly about it due to request. Well, that, and personally, I don't know how happy some people will be if what I've heard comes to pass. Well, if the track reopens, that's still a good thing, and secondly, I won't comment until I know more. If what I hear actually happens, I'll have to consider whether saying anything is even worth it at this point.

Anyway, Tom posted this:

I WILL BE POSTING THE TRACK CHAMPIONS AND THE FREEDOM SERIES Champs very soon. We would also like to do some sort of banquet me and Cindy will be doing this out of our own pockets so it might be a pot luck but it will be fun!!!

I say this:

Okay people. What's done is done. Now is one last time to celebrate Chowchilla Speedway and what Tom & Cindy brought to it. Now is the time to end that era in style and respect. The racing under the RACE banner may not have ended as we'd have like it to, but the party and final banquet can be different. Whatever the future holds, just remember:

#1 There would be no Chowchilla Speedway without Tom & Cindy and the investors taking the chance. Seriously. Who would have done something so crazy other than Tom?

#2 Seven full seasons and half of the eighth (2000-2007). All the racing. All of the divisions. The first time champions. The legacy!!!

#3 Right when we lost San Jose, we gained Chowchilla. The Steitz Race was saved, and we had some huge events. I'm lucky to have announced two of those.

#4 Open Wheel Round Up. I remember planning that with Tom. 32 carbureted Sprints that year, and THAT race opened the eyes of many promoters and racers alike.

#5 The laid back, friendly atmosphere. It really was a fun place to be. They kept it affordable, they kept it friendly. It wasn't a place where they would get in your face, unless you really did something really stupid. It was a place where a racer could get a second chance.

#6 Do you need more reasons? I mean, come on. Just opening this track, let alone holding some of the biggest races of the year, was a miracle at a time when we needed one.

So, what's my point? This is a chance to thank Tom & Cindy and get together one last time as supporters of their version of the track. Personally, I think the biggest award ought to go to them in thanks.

Anyway, where the Chowchilla supporter comes in is you can help them put this thing together. Donate $5 (or more) if you can (This is not a crusade I am leading, but most of the people who would donate know the address they send for Chowchilla memberships and that sort of thing. Of course, if somebody wanted to lead this effort, I say go for it).

Sponsor food or whatever. Make this a party nobody will forget. Well, that's my opinion anyway. If you want to make this happen in a bigger and better way than what's being proposed, get involved. Tom & Cindy aren't asking, but it would be a great way to show appreciation.

People are always bitching and complaining about things in racing, but Tom was somebody who had the guts to actually do something about it. I will always respect him for that. Thanks for giving the racers Chowchilla Speedway Tom.

Kokomo Speedway Pictures

I took notes, but I haven't really had the time to get into any of that with the other things happening here. However, I really did want to put something up about these tracks. I'll start with Kokomo Speedway for now. Don and I went on Sunday, the final night of Indiana Midget Week. They had a full field of Midgets and Wingless Sprint Cars, along with two local Stock Car classes, just enough to run 1 main event each. It was a good show. Hope to go over some notes later.

The stands are packed. You know what was really cool? These people stayed for EVERY race. It was past midnight when we left, and people had to work the next day. Nice to be among such die hard racing fans!

Below is the track. I'm no Joe Martinez, but I think the pictures give you a little idea of what they have there. The neat thing about Indiana is that you can find a race there every day of the weekend, and sometimes during the week, if you want it. California could learn a thing or two about how to appreciate the great sport of auto racing. By the way, there were California racers there!

Here's the track from Turns 3-4 to Turns 1&2.

As I said, I took notes and plenty of other picture. I'll try to get around to them when I have more time.