Monday, August 30, 2010

Gale Gets Third Win In Four Weeks, Skidmore Wins Again At Orland

Some information was made available on what was probably the best night of the season at Orland Speedway with over 40 cars in action among four divisions. All statistics are unofficial.

The best car count of the season competed in the four division show Saturday night at Orland Speedway as the track continues to gain momentum down the stretch run of the season. Winning features in the track's regular classes were Richard Gale (Mini Trucks), Jason Clayton (Mini Stocks) and Jesse Skidmore (Hobby Stocks). The Pro 4 Sprints paid their first visit to the speedway this season, and Brandon Ternora won the their Main Event. The track also ran Powder Puff Races for the regular divisions.

The Mini Truck division has always had one of the strongest car counts at the track through the years, and it grew to a season high 15 trucks for this event. Double division racer Jake Van Tol, a feature winner earlier in the season, returned to action and won the first heat race ahead of Jeremy Langendater and Ross Vige. Unfortunately for Vige, he ended up last in the feature. The second heat race went to another of this season's feature winners, Tyler Pebley, ahead of Dan Webster and Tony Billotti.

Trophy Dashes weren't run on this night, but one of the nice things about Orland Speedway is they actually hand out trophies, rather than plaques, to those winners. With all the cars and races on this night, it was decided to skip the dashes. All 15 trucks started the Mini Truck feature, which was marred by a late race crash that saw one of the top competitors of this season, Webster, flip his truck and get hit. Fortunately, he was not injured, but his truck took severe damage and may be destroyed at this point.

The hottest driver in the Mini Truck division lately has been Richard Gale, and he continued to impress by winning the Main Event. If not for the second place finish he took behind Webster three races ago, this would be Gale's fourth straight win. Van Tol's bid for another win came up just short as he finished second. Pebley grabbed the third podium position as Langendater and Clinton Earl rounded out the top five. Webster was still scored sixth after the race ending crash as Blevins, Jim Davis, Don McClain and Wendy Miller made up the remainder of the top ten.

The Mini Stocks again had a season high turnout with 11 cars in action. Marysville regulars again ran at the front as fifth ranked Marysville driver Will Robertson won the first heat in front of past Orland Modified Mini Stock champion "Rollin" Olin Crane and Don Runkle. Third ranked Marysville competitor Jason Clayton started a great night off right with a heat race win of his own in front of Eric Hammond and Chris Van Dyke. It was a Marysville 1-2 finish again this week in the Main Event as Clayton scored the win in his first Orland appearance of the season ahead of Robertson and one of Orland's top competitors and a 2010 feature winner, Hammond. Van Dyle and Barbara Brunner were top five finishers as the #33 car of Joe Kniep, the #95 car, Crane, Cheree Smith and Runkle completed the top ten.

There were ten Hobby Stocks, and they ran one heat race with Tony Hobbs picking up the win ahead of Richard Jones and top five ranked Marysville competitor Paul Castaneda. Picking up where he left off last week, Jesse Skidmore collected another feature victory with Kevin Kampschmidt a season best second. A feature winner earlier this season, Jake Van Tol returned with his Hobby Stock and finished third ahead Jones and Karl Brummit. One of this season's top competitors, Rich Hood ended up a disappointing sixth ahead of Hobbs, Castaneda, Steven Joseph and the #66b car.

Partial information appeared from the August 7th Hobby Stock race. Newcomer Anthony Ramirez debuted a new car with a heat win ahead of Brian Compton, but Ramirez missed the dash putting in a new radiator that fellow competitors provided for him to keep him racing. Skidmore may have won the other heat, but that is unofficial. In the Main Event, Earl Adams was leading Skidmore in a good battle through traffic on lap 14. Kampschmidt, Clay Rawls and Compton were top five at that moment as Ramirez pitted his overheating car from fifth on lap 13. Steve Ema was lapped at that point and running sixth, while Jones fell out during the first ten laps. This is all unofficial, but no results were posted for the eight car Hobby Stock field that night.

Eight Pro 4 Sprint Cars made their first Orland appearance of the season. This division has it's origins tracing back to Baylands in 1982 and SORA from 1989 through most of the last decade. Some rules have been changed to allow racers to be able to swap out motors and compete in the 360 Sprint Car class. Two heat races were held with point leader and two time winner P.J. Petersen winning the first heat ahead of John Cardoni. Chad Thompson won the second heat ahead of Mat Beardslee. In the Main Event, it was Brandon Ternora picking up a first win of 2010 ahead of Thompson and Petersen. Cardoni finished fourth ahead of Beardslee, second ranked Pro 4 and Marysville Mini Stock racer Misty Castleberry and veteran Jim Phifer. Third ranked point competitor Gary Eckman was a feature scratch.

They ran two Powder Puff Races, one for Hobby Stocks and one that combined the Mini Trucks and Mini Stocks. Dee Jones won the Hobby Stock Powder Puff Race ahead of Tammy Thurber, Kelly Kampschimdt, Diana Baker and Kim Cook. The Mini Truck/Mini Stock event had ten starters with Joleen Van Tol winning ahead of Megan Tanner, Jennifer Drewry, Kristina Runkle and Lielian Gray.

Pat Bisio and J.D. Hopkins had Wingless Spec Sprints at the track, and there was also a #3 Hardtop making hot laps. Hardtops are scheduled for next Saturday night along with the track's regular divisions in what is shaping up to be another good show on the one fifth mile dirt oval.

These are NOT official points for Orland Speedway. To my knowledge, they are not keeping points this season. Using Antioch Speedway's Main Event point system (50, 48 46...), I took the Main Event finishes I had (a few are missing), just to get an idea how drivers might rank this season. Here's a look at the top five, but remember, they are not official.

Wingless Spec Sprints (9 Races) *

69-Josh Jacobo 418
74-Josh Tucker 278
7x-Brian Kirby 270
4xl-Pat Bisio 218
5-John Hopkins 176

* At least 1 race missing

Mini Trucks (12 Races)*

62-Dan Webster 540
23-Richard Gale 512
97-Ross Vige 490
00t-Tyler Pebley 374
5-Jim Davis 346

*1 race missing

Mini Stocks (12 Races)*

86-Eric Hammond 380
23-Don Runkle 350
93-Ken Johnson 316
46-Sean Perry 284
82x-Olin Crain 214

* 1 race missing

Hobby Stocks (9 Races)*

12-Rich Hood 366
22-Earl Adams 192
2-Jake Van Tol 188
18-Brian Compton 186
4-Richard Jones 178

* At least 1 race missing

A Few Thoughts On Merced's Big Show Last Sunday

Packed grandstands at Merced Speedway for a Sunday night race. The occasion was the $3,5000 to win race that attracted 35 racers to the quarter-mile clay oval. All in all, it was a good night for racing in Merced and it only served to illustrate how big this track can get. The best is yet to come, and kudos should go to John Soares Jr. and his crew for making it happen.
Photo By L&J Photography - please check out the site and support the cause.

Tom Sagmiller is winning rave reviews for his track prep work at Watsonville and now Merced. This is Tom at Merced. I'll let others discuss the significance of this and all the water under the bridge. Fact is, it's a good thing that Tom is involved. He's not well respected by the racers for nothing.

Photo By L&J Photography - please check out the site and support the cause.

Success at Merced Speedway

The show went on as scheduled Sunday night at Merced. I'd been reading updates on the forums and the got a call from my friend Joe Martinez, which was nice. He was thrilled by the turnout of fans for that race. By all accounts a success. I understand they advertised heavily, PLUS, they have Mike Adaskaveg writing and getting published in the Merced Sun-Star every week, and THAT helps tremendously. I'm not going to attempt a story, because Mike already wrote one. The Merced Speedway site already has one written by Mike. Just for the record as this stuff seems to disappear from the web, there were 35 cars. The Top 10 was:

Bobby Hogge IV ($3,500 winner - $8,000 for both nights), Robbie Sawyer, Paul Stone (in brother Steve's car), Troy Foulger, Jimmy Ray (from the back), Alex Stanford (From the back after a wreck), Scott Busby, Chris Shannon, Aaron Barnell, Mitch Enos.


Bobby Hogge IV won both nights, collecting $3,500 each and then the $1,000 bonus for an $8,000 weekend. It's only going to go back into their racing program, and Bobby plans an active open comp season in the weeks ahead. I doubt this is his last big win of the year, but what was nice for him on this occasion was his grandfather Joe Bailey was celebrating his birthday by doing what he usually does on race night, crewing for Bobby. This is truly a family racing effort with three generations represented most nights.

I know they missed 2002's high of 39 cars for the 9/11 Memorial race, but 35 was not bad at all. With the crowd that was there and the racing that took place, it was a good night. I just hope the locals racers realize that when they support shows like this, they are supporting racing and helping make the track bigger. They complained for years about the place, but now things are changing.

The buzz has been huge at this track all season long, and with exception of the second race, car count has been good. Attendance is doing okay, and the track is off to a good start. There is potential for so many good things to happen and a promoter willing to make things happen, so hopefully people get on board with him. I also hope the promoter stays focused and doesn't let a few bad apples ruin it for everybody. I remember when that happened before at the other track.

Merced Speedway is worth the effort. If I didn't believe that, I never would have gone there as much as I did, and now more things are being done. I'm just hoping this vibe continues. I know how good things felt at the other track back in 1998 and how good things got the next couple of years. It can happen again. People want to race and have fun and fans want to see a good show.

I salute the racers who came. Robby Sawyer with a strong second. Looks like Paul Stone is getting his car ready for Iowa, but Steve's car is pretty fast too as that third place finish would indicate. Nice to see Antioch point leader Troy Foulger come out and represent Contra Costa County with a fourth. Jimmy Ray showed why he is a champion in Texas and New Mexico with a drive from the back to fifth. That allowed him to salvage something out of the weekend and probably made the trip back home a little better.

I'm happy Mike is writing so much down there and spreading it around to the other classes. He's doing a great job for just jumping in there, and he will learn about the track's heritage and the names as he goes along. Unfortunately, nobody really keeps records of these tracks anymore, so even things that happened a few seasons ago get forgotten rather quickly, but Merced Speedway now has somebody writing good stories and getting them out there for people to read.

I understand the Merced Modifieds got to "ride into the danger zone" as John Meyers is announcing out there. Doesn't surprise me as many of the people from Antioch are working at Merced to get this thing going. I know John doesn't get recognized along with some of the greats in the game, but he truly loves what he does, and a can respect him for putting so many years into trying to help make it fun for the fans. Plus, I still remember most of his sayings, and let me just say, "I feel the need, the need for speed."

Tom Sagmiller has done a lot for racing, and it still pisses me off the way Chowchilla ended for him. It didn't surprise me that he ended up doing the track prep at Watsonville, because the man loves what he does and cares about the sport. It also didn't surprise me that John brought him into Merced, because having Tom involved only helps this thing get going faster. As I said, people respect Tom. He has built a much deserved reputation for his good track prep work.

Merced Speedway is lucky to have a guy like Tom involved with it, and I know he's happy to be doing his part to make things better there. I know that's all he really ever wanted for that track to begin with.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hogge Beats Old Rival Busby For $3,500 Antioch Victory

Got enough information to put something together now. I may update as I get more information. Looks like a good show and a pretty good crowd for this one.

Forty-eight drivers competed in the opening night of the two night, two track UMP West Coast Nationals Saturday night at Antioch Speedway. Though drivers came from all over the state and even out of the state, it was three drivers who know the track well who would collect the top three finishing positions as two time champion Bobby Hogge IV (1995-96) beat four time champion Scott Busby (1991-92-93 & 1997) and two time champion Kenny Neu (2007-09) for a $3,500 payday. Hogge is now eligible for a $1,000 bonus Sunday at Merced if he wins that $3,500 Main Event, which would give him an $8,000 payoff for two nights of racing if he can pull it off.

The Hogge-Busby battle the fans witnessed Saturday night will bring to mind the many great races the two had against each other at Antioch in the 1990's when both were competing for track and NASCAR Regional honors, and Hogge would follow in his legendary father's footsteps by winning a Regional championship, which he actually did twice (1996-97).

Promoter John Soares Jr. was hoping to make a few statements with the big money weekend at both tracks. He is hoping to make Antioch and Merced big players on the UMP Modified scene both Regionally and Nationally, and it is his desire to make both tracks a destination point for the fans and drivers. In the Main Event alone, Soares will pay $12,000 for each race, and this is the second huge purse paid for the Modifieds at Antioch this season. Soares paid a $20,000 purse back in June for a big race, and New Mexico long tow Stormy Scott won the $5,000 first prize on that occasion.

The 48 drivers each ran two heat races and a system of heat race and passing points was used to determine who would fill the first ten starting spots for the 19 car feature. The first set of heat races was won by Hogge, Busby, Chester Kniss, past Antioch champion Kellen Chadwick, Andy Angelo and three time Petaluma Speedway champion Michael Paul Sr. Neu, past Chico champion Duane Cleveland, Merced point leader Alex Stanford, Chris Sieweke, Chris Shannon and past Chico champion Richard Papenhausen were the winners of the second round of heat races as there were no repeat winners.

After points were tallied, Neu and Busby had earned the front row for the big money race, Chadwick and Hogge were in the second row, Randy McDaniel and Shannon were in the next row, 1993 Antioch Street Stock champion Mickey Hill and Austin Burke were in the fourth row and the fifth row start was earned by Nick Collins and Papenhausen. McDaniel, Hill, Burke and Collins made it without winning a heat race as six heat winners still had to work their way through one of the three B Mains.

There was plenty of talent spread through all of the B Mains, and the first B Main was won by Paul ahead of El Paso and New Mexico star Jimmy Ray and past Hanford champion Brian Cass. In an exciting race, Bakerfield star Robby Sawyer held off top five ranked UMP National racer Stormy Scott and Antioch regular Sean O'Gara to win the second B Main. Sawyer was said to have run a lap faster than the track record. Stanford came back to win the final B Main ahead of past Chowchilla-Antioch series champion Keith Brown Sr. and Cleveland.

With the 19 positions filled, it was time to race for the big bucks, and much of the race was a battle between Hogge and Busby that went back and forth. Hogge would eventually get the lead and go on to score the big victory. Busby settled for second ahead of Neu. Shannon picked up a fourth place finish, while Paul came from 12th starting to finish fifth. Chadwick was sixth ahead of 17th starter Cass, Scott, McDaniel and 18th starter O'Gara.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Random Thoughts

I again contemplated not writing this, but I decide to do it anyway. The big weekend at Merced and Antioch is upon us, and that is a big part of this week's post, along with a few other things. Also, Dennis Daniel offered his preview on the big event. Might as well jump in.

Merced Speedway Ready For Big Show

Well, the West Coast Nationals is set for this Saturday at Antioch and Sunday at Merced. When the race was announced, it was said that they expected 80 cars to be at Merced, but let's be honest here. If they get 40, it's a success. This is not a shot at Merced. I'd love 80 cars to show for this race. As near as I can tell, the record turnout for a Dirt Modified show at Merced is 39 for the 9-11 Memorial race in 2002. With IMCA, they want all the IMCA tracks to be dark so the racers will go to Boone, Iowa for the Nationals. That is a big deal, but again, let's be honest. There is only a small group of drivers towing there from California, and even less from Merced.

As I recall, Rich Firato came to Chuck Griffin with this idea for a $3,500 to win race for Modifieds and $3,500 to win for Street Stocks that year. I believe he had considered Chowchilla at the time, but he went to Merced. Chuck booked it, and the man everybody loved to hate even gave the grandstands for free that night. They already did that for the July 4th races, which attracts a huge crowd for the fireworks show, but then to offer something like this for free too? Hate on Chuck all you want, but sometimes that man did some pretty cool things. And, the 9-11 Memorial Race attracted 39 Modifieds and 49 Street Stocks the first year. I remember how good it felt to see that many racers at Merced.

So, even if 80 cars don't come for the first West Coast Nationals event at Merced, if they hit 40, that may be a track record going back to when they started the class in 1990. This is an example of John Soares Jr. rolling the dice and trying to do something big. He says he wants to put Merced Speedway back on the map and make it a place for big shows. This will do it. I do advise caution, however. Don't read too much into the numbers if they aren't as big as you'd like to see. It may take time. From what I have been hearing, though, things are going well there so far. I give credit to John and the entire team there. The enthusiasm I am seeing there hearkens back to Antioch Speedway in 1998 when John took over there. People are on board and rallying for the cause. Hopefully, the lessons were learned that will help this place sustain that momentum.

Just who is coming and how many cars, I don't know. I hear Top 5 ranked UMP National racer Stormy Scott, who won the $5,000 at Antioch earlier this year, is coming. I hear Jimmy Ray is coming in from New Mexico as well. The usual money chasers, Randy & Ryan McDaniel, Duane Cleveland, Kellen Chadwick, Scott Busby and Bobby Hogge IV are said to be coming. Haven't heard Jim Pettit II mentioned, but he may have a tour race. The key for Merced getting into the 40's is the local support. At least 20 or 25 cars from the area need to be there. The cars are out there, so I hope they come. Certainly, local favorite Alex Stanford, Ryan Porter, Paul Stone and Bob Williamson are anticipated, for starters, and any of the four are capable of winning the big bucks.

This is a big deal for Merced racing, and that can't be overstated. Merced once mattered in the hierarchy of dirt tracks. It was part of the old NASCAR State deal and some of it's drivers won state titles, including legends like Ted Stofle and George Steitz. It was the M in the WAM Series in the late 1980's. With Soares' recent announcement that Merced is joining Antioch as part of the UMP Modified family, Merced drivers again have a shot at Regional and National glory. I know it's not the IMCA that some want and what worked well for Merced for years, but this can work too. Having two tracks not too far apart from each other to earn points from makes good things possible too.

It all starts this weekend. What a statement it would be for a local driver to bag the $3,500 first prize. It could happen. In fact, an Antioch and Merced win by that driver could be possible as well, and it would earn that driver an additional $1,000. Has a Merced area driver ever earned $8.000 for one weekend of racing? The competition should be tough, and whoever does win will have earned it. Sunday will be a big step for the new Merced Speedway, and lots of people will be watching to see how this goes. Events like this can help launch bigger and better success.

And The Winners Were

The first two runnings of the 9-11 Memorial race paid the same purse, though car count dropped in the second year. They ran this race four years with the purse dropping in the third year. It was unfortunate that the drivers didn't stay on board with this race. Having announced the first two races, I can tell you it was a good show.

What I recall from the first year's 50 lapper in the Dirt Modified class was not who won, but who finished second. No disrespect to Scott Busby, because the $3,500 first prize may have been his biggest payday ever for a win in this division, and he led all 50 laps. However, IMCA State champion Johnnie Baptista, about as low buck a racer as they come, managed to hold off Southwest Tour champion Jim Pettit II for the $1,500 runner up prize. Pettit won $1,000 for third as Steven Williams and Steve Pemberton rounded out the top five. Williams had to come through the C Main, which he won, and the B Main, won by Bobby Hogge IV.

What else was cool about this show was the $3,500 first prize for the Street Stocks. I don't know if even George's shows at that point paid the division that much, and 49 cars competed. In the end, it was three time Merced champion Darren Thomas who would score the biggest win of his career. Future Chowchilla champion Mike Shepherd won $1,500 for second with veteran Tim Ragsdale a $1,000 third as Chowchilla Hobby Stock champion Red Williams and Watsonville Street Stock champion Doug Hagio II made up the rest of the top five.

When people talk about the previous management at Merced, events like this should also be remembered.

And The Pure Stocks Got Paid Too

It was the policy at Merced that the entry level, non Camaro Pure Stocks not be paid, or they were considered "professional" and forced to move up from this class. This rule ultimately ended the class. The track eventually followed suit with Chowchilla due to drivers asking Merced for the opportunity by adding the Hobby Stocks. But, in 2002, Hobby Stocks and Pure Stocks both were part of the show. In 2003, some drivers in the Pure Stocks ran Hobby Stocks on off nights for their class and were forced to move up since Hobby Stocks got paid. This, in my opinion, was a mistake as those drivers were not that competitive and only wanted to race. The intent of the rule was to keep the "ringers" out, but Chuck generally was an law and order type of guy when it came to rules. By early 2004, the division didn't have enough eligible drivers.

I maintain that the Pure Stocks and Hobby Stocks were two distinct and different classes, and it was disappointing to see them go. Watching them race was a highlight to my visits there as drivers like Raul "Showtime" Rodriquez, "Rockin" Robin Fast, "Mighty" Mike Hamilton, Aaron Widick, Lester Beavers and "Crazy" Deak Sherrell were some of the stars.

It was another star who shined brightly on practice night the Friday before the 9-11 Memorial Race that first year. With $300 being sponsored to the winner, Dan "The Man" Holcomb collected the win over "Cruising" Chris Shelton and Speedy Davis. Watching drivers like Shelton and Joaquin Miranda, the heat winner that night, get their first wins was another highlight for me. As for Holcomb, well, Dan went on to win the Pure Stock championship in 2003.

These days, the Four Bangers fill the void left by the absence of the Pure Stocks, and car count is up in the class this season.

Back At Antioch

The challenge this weekend will be getting through Saturday night in one piece to race at Merced. That $3,500 first prize is enticing, and though car count has dropped off slightly in recent weeks, I can see Antioch getting past the 40 car mark. With $5,000 on the line in June, the track went past the 50 car barrier, and I can see that happening again this week. Antioch has had somewhere between 25-30 "track regulars" compete this season, and I would expect most of them to race. The last driver to win was "Mild" Bill Wallace, and a win by him would be huge. One driver who has been running strong lately is Dan Gonderman. The double division racer has enjoyed back to back top three finishes and was a winner not that long ago. I don't know if Nick DeCarlo and Bobby Motts Jr. will be there to help kick off California's "open show" season, but they would be welcome additions.

Fact is, a list of pre signees hasn't been released, though the names of Hogge, McDaniel, Cleveland, Chadwick, Busby, Scott, Stanford, Porter and DeBeneditti are anticipated for both shows. Odds are pretty good that the winner will come from that list, but that's why they run the races. No matter how fast they are, you never really know who is going to win until the checkered flag flies.

And After The Break...

Following the break on September 4th, three are three more point races to run at Antioch and some close championship battles to decide. Ken Radabaugh and Patty Ryland are in dead heat in the Four Banger race, Nick Squatritto holds a slim lead over Jerry Doty with Ricardo Rivera not too far behind in the Dwarf Cars and the Hobby Stocks and Super Stocks are not that far apart at the top of the point list. In the Wingless Spec Sprints, Tommy LaLiberte added points to his lead over Merced title contender David Press last week, but frankly, I was a little disturbed to see people standing up and cheering on the video when LaLiberte hit the wall head on in Turn 4 trying to take the lead. It's part of what I was talking about as far as people being desensitized to the crashing and how dangerous it can be. Tommy wasn't uninjured, but still...

Anyway, the show will continue at Antioch Speedway, and I'm betting John had to feel pretty good about last week with one of his better car counts and fan turnouts. Maybe not so coincidentally, there was a front page story about the track on the cover of the times the week leading up to the race, and I wonder how many of those fans were in attendance for the first time or the first time this year. It certainly helps to put the word out.

John mentions in that story he has the track for the next three years and he's not planning to go anywhere. Merced has gotten much of the attention this season, and it did need it to give it a fighting chance to get going. I'm sure there are those wondering what John will have in store at Antioch for 2011 on several levels. The only thing I can tell you is he's opened the gates at the track and run 13 consecutive seasons, and the show continues to go on. The fact that the man is still doing this at two tracks at a time in his life when others might slow down a bit shows the passion he still has for the sport. What happens next year will depend on how he wants to do it, but I'm hoping some of that "1998-1999" spirit returns in 2011. It's working wonders for Merced Speedway so far.
Merced Spec Sprints

The two Wingless Spec Sprint races at Merced Speedway have had six and eight cars, beating any point night the class had down the road at Chowchilla Speedway this season. After only David Press was motivated enough by that track's promoting of the class to show up for the second round of the Tri Holiday Classic series, the division was dropped from the schedule. This is where Soares comes in with a four race season at Merced that is asking the area drivers who wants to come race at Merced and keep the division's presence in the area.

After David Pres recovered from a flip in his heat race to win the feature last time out, he chased 2001 Chowchilla Winged Spec Sprint champion Steven Williams across the line last week for a second place finish. Williams was in the car his father, 1982 NASCAR Regional champion Doug Williams, ran in the first race. Dan Gonderman was third ahead of many time NCMA champion Scott Holloway and top Antioch rookie Trevor Press. Last year's Chowchilla champion Kris Koontz, Bill Didion and Doug Gandy were also there to represent the class.

From what I can gather, Holloway won the heat race, which may be the first win this year for the man who has won many races with the NCMA in his career. Holloway is not in the points battle, but Press holds a two point advantage over Gonderman and 16 points over Koontz. Gonderman is driving the #99 entry of Sam Davies, who hails from Tracy these days. It's nice to see people supporting the Spec Sprints at Merced, and hopefully this continues.

Chico Spec Sprints

Actually, the regular show returns Friday night at Chico with Gold Cup Week just around the corner. Jimmy "The Jet" Pettit, Terry Schank Jr. and Jay Youngman only have four points separating them in a close battle, while Randy McDaniel leads Darin Ruley by 12 points in Dirt Modifieds and Heather Bartlet leads Scott Rogers by 19 points in the Street Stocks. Jason York's lead over Brett Miller is the biggest in 410 Sprints at 25, and the top Chico drivers will be joined by Tim Kaeding this a week, which will make that show even more interesting.

A week earlier, the Spec Sprints completed their first Hunt Magneto Series season at Chico with another good turnout. The series ended at 11 races at the August 21st racing program had been canceled at Marysville after the tragic death or Merle Shepherd. Terry Schank Jr. is the first Hunt Series champion by 12 points ahead of Taylor Simas. It would have to be considered a successful first season as only one race failed to generate enough of a car count for a B Main. The Hunt Series will still have a race during the Gold Cup in September for the top 30 drivers who have raced in half of the races, and another special event is scheduled at Petaluma on the 25th of September.

The last two regular Chico shows produced season highs of 19 and 20 cars, showing that the interest has been peaking at the right time. The division has been a nice addition for Chico in recent years and has produced some great non winged Sprint Car racing for a crowd that enjoys this type of racing. I'm still wondering if some sort of series could be worked out between Chico and Orland in the future. The tracks are close enough that it could be a winner, and Orland has had over a dozen cars of their own this season. Plus, the two tracks have worked together with other classes in the past.

In Fact

It was rumored on line that Mini Stocks would be at Chico this week, which is not true. The track's regular four divisions are booked for "Championship Night" and there wouldn't be much room. In past seasons, Chico and Orland had a Street Stock series with a two track championship. Orland even had it's Mini Trucks racing at Chico once or twice a year for a few seasons. In 2003, the last visit of the class, Brad Ray won ahead or Richard Dozier and Ed Dearing.

When you think of it, a Mini Truck class makes sense at Chico in that it has a unique look to it, and they generally produced double digit counts when they appeared there. 410's in a two track series at Orland might not be possible, but Mini Trucks, Street Stocks and Spec Sprints would be a possibility. Who knows at this point. Orland is reestablishing it's program and rumors are beginning to circulate about what the future holds for Chico. However, working together would be win win for both tracks if done right.

Orland Powder Puff On Saturday

Last weekend, Orland Speedway had it's best car count of the season with some Marysville visitors in the Mini Stocks lifting the count in that class to 10 cars. The Mini Trucks had 13. Not originally on the schedule for that night, Wingless Spec Sprints still produced seven cars. The Street Stocks had seven with some new drivers in the field, and all four rosters are well into the double digits this season. It's not easy trying to make a race track run these days, and in some places it's more difficult than others. I'm happy they are making it work in Orland, and from the looks of the finishes, lots of different drivers are winning in all classes. Nobody is dominating this thing. That makes it more interesting as well.

Last season at around this time, the track ran a a Powder Puff Race for the Street Stocks and one that combined Mini Stocks and Mini Trucks. If you are keeping track, it was Anne Ladtka winning the Street Stock race ahead of Shelly Martin and Susan Bailey. Meanwhile, Tracy Barbo won the Mini Truck/Stock race in a Mini Truck ahead of the Mini Stocks of Barbara Crain and Brenna Johnson. It's events like these that make it a family affair. Last week, they held a bike race for the kids. The week before, they raced vans.

The Show Will Go On At Marysville

Paul Hawes wanted to meet with all track personnel and the widow of Merle Shepherd before deciding on the future of Marysville Raceway Park. It was decided to run a race for the track's regular divisions on September 18th and one in October, both point races. They will crown champions at the awards banquet as scheduled and they will plan for the 2011 season. The show will go on. Somehow, I think Merle will be looking down on the track and smiling when he sees the racing taking place at the track he loved. And, that's the way to honor the man's memory.

Parting Shots

It's time for the 50th running of the Johnny Key Classic. This race started on the paved San Jose Speedway before moving to the dirt of San Jose Speedway located at the fairgrounds. The race was brought back at Watsonville in the last few years and has become the biggest race at Ocean Speedway. The drivers already locked in for Saturday's race include Tommy Tarlton, Kyle Larson, Tim Kaeding, Ronnie Day, Brent Kaeding and Peter Murphy. Prior to the feature, a six-lap dash for cash will also be held with those six drivers battling it out to decide how they will start the first three rows of the main event...Speaking of Sprint Cars, Kyle Larson won the King Of California Series Championship after his fourth place finish at Placerville last Saturday. Kyle managed to beat his car owner and 13 time series champion Brent Kaeding...Two time Petaluma champion Alissa Geving should end up with the GSC Rookie Of The Year title as the fourth ranked driver this season...It is likely that we will hear the plans for the GSC Tour for next year soon and it sounds like it will be just what the 410 Sprint Car series needs. Dan Simpson will reportedly be the new owner of the series...The rumored revival of the NARC Sprint Car Series appears to be off, but that may be a good thing. Meanwhile, the proposed series of USAC will go by the name Western Classic and have eight races each on dirt and asphalt. I, for one, like it better that day. Let this series make it's own name for itself.

Michael Paul Jr. went into the record books as Petaluma Speedway's first driver to win four consecutive titles. Paul wrapped up #4 in style by beating a season high 18 car field for a $1,000 Dirt Modified feature win. What's next for this division at the track that actually brought the class to California back in 1987 is anybody's guess, but hopefully it continues. It's been a tough year for this division at Petaluma, but it can get better...After hearing the talk about Dirt Late Models running on pavement, Madera Speedway promoter Kenny Shepherd has offered drivers a chance to come test the viability of running the cars there. This comes after a discussion on the Late Model Racer forum. It will be interesting to see what comes of this...Late Model drivers have been told that the purse will be cut slightly at Victorville as track management thought it best to let them know ahead of time to avoid any problems. Speculation is that at least ten drivers may still be ready to race there this Saturday...Chowchilla Speedway returns to action Saturday night with Dirt Modifieds as part of the card along with the Sports Mods, Valley Sportsman, Hobby Stocks and Four Bangers. Interestingly enough, the money show at Antioch may draw point leader Ryan Porter and third ranked Alex Stanford away as was the case back in June. Past Merced Hobby Stock champion Andrew Krumm would seemed poised to take the lead should that be the case.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Increased Car Count For Orland Races Saturday Night

Thought I'd throw something together for Orland Speedway. Looks like another good night for the track.

With the tragedy of Merle Shepherd's death in a big rig race at Marysville and the temporary closing of that track, racers were invited to Orland Speedway Saturday night. Before the start of the show, drivers parked their cars on the front stretch and paid tribute to Shepherd. Four divisions competed on the one-fifth mile dirt oval, and feature wins went to Josh Tucker (Wingless Spec Sprints), Richard Gale (Mini Trucks), Jimmy Ford (Mini Stocks) and Jesse Skidmore (Hobby Stocks). Another highlight for the evening was kids bike races in which free bikes were awarded to the winners.

Seven Wingless Spec Sprints competed, and top ten ranked Chico competitor Braedon Enos won the heat race ahead of four time Orland champion Josh Jacobo. Enos also won the Trophy Dash. Josh Tucker is a feature winner this season, but it's been a while since his last win. The increased field was Tucker's chance to shine, and he collected the win ahead of veteran Dave Ellis, in one of his best finishes in this division. Brian Kirby was back in action and finished third ahead of Enos, Jacobo, J.D. Hopkins and Pat Bisio.

With a season high 13 trucks in action, two heat races were held. Early season feature winner Tyler Pebley returned and won his heat race ahead of Ross Vige. Dan Webster continues to run strong and held off Richard Gale in his heat to prevent a Gale clean sweep., Gale won the Trophy Dash and returned to the Main Event winner's circle by out running another 2010 Main Event winner, Jim Davis. Orland newcomer Clint Coman impressed with a third place finish ahead of Vige and Webster. Steven Woods finished sixth and Mini Stock ace Don Runkle was seventh as John Blevins, Tony Billotti and Dan McClain completed the top ten.

For the first time this season, Marysville Mini Stocks were allowed to race with the Orland Mini Stocks, rather than the Modified 4 Cylinder class. Will Robertson has won races with the other 4 Cylinder class this season in his visits, but he won the first Mini Stock heat race ahead of Kyle Cheney. With ten cars in action, the division ran two heat races with the second heat race win going to Howard Law ahead of Jimmy Ford. Law was the third ranked driver in 2009 points at Marysville, and Ford currently ranks second there this season. Like Robertson, Ford has visited Orland this season and raced with the Modified 4 Cylinder class. Ford would win the Trophy Dash and follow it up with an impressive Main Event victory ahead of Law and Robertson for the Marysville 1-2-3 sweep. Last week's winner, Sean Perry, earned a fourth place finish ahead of Marysville racer Jacob Davis. Chad Arnold returned to action and finished sixth, and a flat tire derailed Olin Crain's bid for a top three finish as he ended up seventh ahead of Derick Grezier, Ken Johnson and Kyle Cheney.

Six Hobby Stocks competed, and Jesse Skidmore started his night off right with a heat race win ahead of Michael Adams in the Earl Adams #22 car. The top diver in the class this season, Rich Hood won the Trophy Dash. Only recently making their season debuts at Orland, Skidmore became the latest new feature winner ahead of newcomer Richard Jones. Hood settled for third as Steven Joseph made his season debut in fourth. Adams and John Dragon completed the finishing order.

All four divisions return to action along with the popular Powder Puff Races next Saturday night. Also, the Pro 4 Sprint Cars, a group that has raced mainly at Marysville this season, has been added to the program for the night.

These are NOT official points for Orland Speedway. To my knowledge, they are not keeping points this season. Using Antioch Speedway's Main Event point system (50, 48 46...), I took the Main Event finishes I had (a few are missing), just to get an idea how drivers might rank this season. Here's a look at the top five, but remember, they are not official.

Wingless Spec Sprints (9 Races) *

69-Josh Jacobo 418
74-Josh Tucker 278
7x-Brian Kirby 270
4xl-Pat Bisio 218
5-John Hopkins 176

* At least 1 race missing

Mini Trucks (11 Races)*

62-Dan Webster 500
97-Ross Vige 468
23-Richard Gale 462
00t-Tyler Pebley 328
5-Jim Davis 310

*1 race missing

Mini Stocks (11 Races)*

86-Eric Hammond 334
23-Don Runkle 318
93-Ken Johnson 316
46-Sean Perry 284
82-Chad Arnold 210

* 1 race missing

Hobby Stocks (8 Races)*

12-Rich Hood 326
22-Earl Adams 192
18-Brian Compton 186
2-Jake Van Tol 142
44-Jimmy O'Reilly 136

* At least 1 race missing

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Damitz, Smith, Ensign Antioch Winners

Again, Jon has come through with some videos from Saturday's races. Thanks for making the effort to spread the word about the track Jon. Looks like a good night for the track. As always, all statistics are unofficial. Just wanted to get the word out.

Racing continued Saturday night at Antioch Speedway with an action packed five division program on John Soares Jr's three-eighth mile clay oval. Holding off the serious challenges of point leader Mitch Machado, Larry Damitz won his third Super Stock feature of the season. Taking advantage of late race mechanical woes for Adam McCarthy, point leader Craig Smith won the Winged 360 Sprint Car Main Event. Petaluma racer Geoff Ensign made a rare Antioch visit and won a brutal Main Event in his first Antioch appearance of the season. Nick Squatritto gave his title hopes a much needed boost with his third Dwarf Car feature win. Making a late move into the lead, runaway point leader Travis Dutra captured his seventh Mini Truck feature win of the season. A good crowd witnessed one of the better car counts of the year for a regular point season event as nearly 70 cars were in action.

With Fred Ryland scratching after the heat races, nine Super Stocks started their Main Event. Looking to gain ground on Ryland for third in points, Eric Berendsen had the pole with Larry Damitz outside the second row and point leader Mitch Machado outside third row. Berendsen charged into the early lead ahead of Mike Calhoun, but Damitz and Machado shuffled Calhoun out of the top three on lap two. Lloyd Cline and Kelly Dauksch both pitted very early. The lead three quickly pulled away from the rest of the pack and had a half-lap lead over fourth by lap five. Berendsen had a tire going down, and it gave up on him and ended his impressive run in the lead on lap seven as Damitz and Machado charged by on the back stretch. Lori Brown was now third ahead of Mike Gustafson and Melissa Hansen. While Damitz and Machado dueled for the lead, Gustafson made a low pass in Turn 4 of the 12th lap for third, but by then he was over a half-lap behind the rapid pace of the leaders. Sixth place Calhoun was lapped by Damitz and Machado, who soon caught Brown and Hansen. Damitz caught Brown in the wrong place exciting Turn 4 of the 16th lap, and Machado raced past for the lead. Moments later, Brown made contact with Damitz and spun on the front stretch for the only caution flag of the race. Damitz was on the outside for this restart and would regain the lead entering Turn 1. From there, Damitz drove to a well earned victory with Machado right behind him in second. Gustafson was third ahead of Hansen and Calhoun. Machado started his night off right by out running Damitz to win his heat race. Ryland won his heat race ahead of Lori Brown.

Adam McCarthy and Mike Monahan shared the front row of the eight car 360 Sprint Car feature, and Adam McCarthy raced into the lead ahead of 2007 Marysville champion Jeremy Burt and Monahan. A caution flag flew with one lap in the books as Art McCarthy spun in Turn 4 and collected Colby Wiesz, eliminating both drivers from the race. Adam McCarthy led Burt and 2009 Antioch Wingless Spec Sprint champion Billy Aton on the restart. A low move in Turn 4 of the third lap gained Aton second from Burt. A lap later, Burt spun in Turn 3 for a caution flag. McCarthy led Aton and Monahan on the restart with point leader Craig Smith now fourth. Aton spun from second in Turn 4 of the sixth lap, and McCarthy continued to lead Monahan and Smith on the restart. McCarthy had a straightaway advantage by lap ten before Ryan Rusconi spun in Turn 3 for a caution flag. A low move in Turn 2 of the 12th lap gained Smith second from Monahan, and Aton spun for the second time to end his race on lap 13. Burt moved past Monahan for third on lap 16. Adam McCarthy's impressive run up front ended when he slowed with mechanical problems on lap 18. Smith went on to score the victory ahead of Burt and Monahan. Rusconi was fourth as Adam McCarthy rounded out the top five. Rusconi impressed with his second straight heat race win ahead of Art McCarthy.

There were 16 drivers in the Wingless Spec Sprint feature, and they endured one of their ugliest races of the season. Zach Lynsky led the pack to the green flag, but when Tommy LaLiberte made contact with Geoff Ensign in Turn 4 trying to complete the lap, he stalled for a yellow flag. The restart saw David Press and Watsonville point leader Ryan Bernal get together and spin on the front stretch. A third restart attempt saw Lynsky spin in Turn 4, resulting in a big crash behind him. The fourth restart saw Ensign lead ahead of Jim Perry Jr. and Roy Fisher. A lap three caution flag flew when Fisher spun in Turn 4, and in his effort to get going, he collected Lynsky and Press. Ensign continued to lead LaLiberte and Chuck Bradshaw on the restart. A low move in Turn 4 of the seventh lap gained Lynsky third from Bradshaw. Bradshaw nearly spun in Turn 3 a lap later, but Perry did spin for a yellow flag. Ensign led LaLiberte, Lynsky and Nick Larsen when the green flag waved again. The leaders caught slower traffic with seven laps to go, but Ensign maintained his lead just ahead of LaLiberte. With five to go, LaLiberte was trying to find a line around Ensign when something went wrong in Turn 4 and he hit the wall hard. The race was over at that point with Ensign winning ahead of Lynsky, Larsen, Scott Dupont and Bradshaw. Two heat races were run with Bernal out dueling LaLiberte to win the first heat. Jim Perry Jr. held off a late charge by David Press to claim the second heat.

Dan Liston had the pole for the 19 car Dwarf Car Main Event with Nick Squatritto and Ricardo Rivera in the third row and Jerry Doty starting back in 11th. Liston paced the opening lap ahead of Ed Johnson and Tony Carmignani. Liston got out of shape exiting Turn 2 of the second lap, and Carmignani made an outside pass to move from third to first ahead of Johnson. A series of three yellow flags slowed the pace. On two of the restarts, Johnson made inside passes to take the lead, only to have the passes negated. Carmignani finally led the single file restart. Squatritto and Rivera moved into second and third moments before Johnson spun in Turn 4. An inside move on the front stretch on lap six gained Squatritto the lead from Carmignani. Doty had settled into fourth by then. Squatritto led through another caution flag, and Rivera made a front stretch pass on Cargminani on lap 12. A caution flag flew moments later, and Rivera pitted from second. Squatritto led Carmignani and Doty on the restart, and the lead trio ran in that order to the checkered flag. Sam Westhorpe finished fourth ahead of Bob Accardo, Sonny Calkins, Alan Heeney, Mike Corsaro, Jim Davis and Chuck Golden. There were actually 23 cars in action, and Carmignani won the first heat ahead of Petaluma racer Sonny Calkins. Ricardo Rivera ran away with the second heat ahead of Ed Johnson. The third heat race went to Carmignani ahead of Liston.

Eight trucks started an exciting Mini Truck feature with 2009 champion Gene Haney setting the early pace ahead of Dan Wagner and Ron Mayberry. A lap two caution flag flew for a tangle between Dean Cline and Mike Harmon in Turn 3. Haney picked the outside and continued to lead Wagner on the restart as Pete Paulsen and Travis Dutra both got past Mayberry for third and fourth. Cline fell out, and a low move in Turn 3 of the sixth lap gained Dutra third. Harmon spun in Turn 4 for a lap nine caution flag. Haney maintained the lead over Wagner and Dutra on the restart, and Mayberry and Greg Williams took a wild ride through the infield off the front stretch. There was no caution flag, and both drivers got back on the track. Working traffic, Dutra made a high pass in Turn 2 of the 13th lap to move from third to first. From there, Dutra went on to post the victory ahead of Haney, Wagner, Paulsen and Williams. Wagner won the heat race with Dutra charging from the back of the pack to finish second.

Four Dirt Modifieds ran some hot laps in a tuneup for Next Saturday's big show that will pay $3,500 to win. A huge field of drivers is anticipated for the event that will pay a minimum of $300 to start the Main Event.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Random Thoughts

It's late, and I'm not sure how much I'll write this week. I can see the finish line for my efforts to put the word out on the current scene. That will be soon. The funny thing with me is once I start getting focused on things, I want to see it to the end. I guess that's why I haven't walked away yet. I started the season and I guess I've been trying to see it through. Not planning on doing that again.

It's kind of funny, as miserable as I was at the end of 2003, I had to finish the season. I needed to get away, and I couldn't let myself because I still had work to finish that wouldn't get done otherwise. Don O'Keefe Jr. had to drag me out of here to go to Disneyland and Universal that year. Yes, he had to drag me out of here, but I'm glad he did. I needed the break. What's funny was I still had them fax me the finishes from Antioch and I sent stories to the publications I wrote for and published the magazine that week. Go figure.

The other thing I notice as I've been doing this blog this year is I keep saying I can do this or that in an hour or so, no problem. It takes longer than that and I put hours into doing what I do here. I still don't know why. I guess it's a way to use my creativity, but I don't know. I know people are reading, and I appreciate the comments I've been getting. I'm not bong paid here, so it does make a difference knowing people like it.

Buy anyway...

How About That Publicity Guy At Merced

I'm really starting to wonder if Mike Adaskaveg might be the guy to help John Soares Jr. fire up Racing Wheels Magazine again. What he's doing for Merced Speedway is just awesome with the stories and photos, and the Merced Sun-Star is totally on board with this. What I really like about Mike's style is that he's covering ALL divisions at the track and spreading it around. That, in my opinion, is how you do it. I know names are being misspelled, but as Mike gets comfortable and more familiar with the racers, that will improve. Hopefully, people are being nice about it when they offer corrections, and knowing the people down there, I'm guessing they are.

While Soares is planning big Modified races, reopening Merced, bringing in UMP to sanction the show and all that other stuff that probably has him asking himself what he's gotten himself into, eventually the attention may turn to Racing Wheels and making it happen again. I believe even in this day and age, a racing newspaper will work if it's done properly and on a reasonable, but not too expensive budget. Back to basics. Why? Even with the internet, hard copy matters. That paper had ads for big races, classifieds and, of course, the news from all of the various tracks with results and pictures. You didn't have to sit at a computer and click this and that. Turn the page, it's all there.

I believe you keep the same style of paper, the folded newspaper. Black and white, no color pictures as it's more expensive for no good reason. If you must, do a color cover once in a great while, but it's not needed. John spoke of biweekly during the season. The thing with me is I like continuity. I want the news to be there without skipping weeks. Years from now, some of us fools like to go back and check the record books, and Wheels is probably the best source out there. So these are archives. Even on the net, things get wiped from the memory, so it's not always a good source. Now, if Wheels married the printed and internet world together, which I believe they could, that's all the better.

I know Mike has some experience writing for racing publications and he has the skills to help John pull this off if he wants to. At this point, I don't even know if John will bring it back, but I do believe it can be done. I also think Mike could be the one to help him make it happen. Then, John will have a racing publication and two race tracks, and who knows what is next.

The Show Should Go On

Merle Shepherd's death at Marysville Raceway was a tragedy. Running that exhibition race with big rigs may have been a mistake and perhaps this could have been avoided, but it happened. Merle died doing something he loved to do, and I don't believe for a second he would want his death to be the end of that race track. If Paul Hawes is indeed done with this track, I can't say I blame him. I understand his decision to leave and respect it. This is something he will be living with for the rest of his life, because it happened on his watch and Merle was a good friend of his.

That not withstanding, we need to grieve and begin the healing process and move on with racing. I am in favor of skipping a race or two, because a man just died there. I know some places where a death occurs and the race goes on the next week. That always bothered me, because it's not going to hurt to take a week and remember that person. However, make no mistake, the show must go on. I would like to see the season finished if legally possible, and if Paul is truly done with it and would prefer not to finish the season before he walks away, hopefully, somebody can come in and finish the season for him. If not, get it going again next year, because in my opinion, the show should go on.

Drew Williams Wins One For His Dad

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Cecil Williams, the father of Drew Williams, after his battle with Cancer. I know he knew the day was coming, but it had to be a difficult day for Drew and his family. As I understand it, Drew spent those last days taking care of his ailing father. When race day came along, he wanted to honor his father by racing in his memory. It was one of the more touching moments at Ocean Speedway last Friday when Drew won his second Four Banger feature of the season and dedicated it to his dad. The out pouring of support from the community towards Drew and his family was nice to see. It's one of the nice things about the racing community, it's all one big family.

Orland Welcomes Marysville Cars

With the news of Marysville Raceway's closure, Orland Speedway management extended an invitation to the track's drivers to come race there. This invitation now allows for Marysville Mini Stocks to race with the Orland Mini Stocks, rather than the Modified 4 Cylinder class. The Stock Car drivers and Wingless Spec Sprints are welcome to race as well. It would be interesting to see if any Pacific 360 Sprints would show up and how well those cars would run there, though it's not likely to happen. As Orland is trying to build car count up, this could be win-win if done right. Orland could see more cars in action, and Marysville racers will have a place to go while they await word on the future of their home track. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Merced-Antioch Go UMP

It was announced on the Merced Speedway Home Page on Thursday that Merced will be UMP sanctioned for their Modified class in 2011, officially joining Antioch under that banner. Currently, Antioch point leader Troy Foulger ranks 12th in the Region, though this is not a widely known fact. Troy has run half the races of the leader. With two tracks within striking distance on different nights in 2011, drivers will have a chance to compete for Regional and National honors. It will be interesting to see if there are any takers and how well they do. Not known at this time is whether the Hobby Stocks or any other division will get UMP sanctioning as well.

Promoter John Soares Jr. said he is hoping to see other tracks follow suit. At this point, the compatible tracks to keep an eye on might be Hanford, Chowchilla and Chico. We'll see what may happen in the future. Skeptics and critics will say that the UMP Modified is more expensive to run than the IMCA Modified. That may be true, but it's worth noting that the only non IMCA track in Califoirnia to run a B Main on a point night this season was Antioch.

One track I don't anticipate joining UMP will be Antioch and Merced's old dancing partner Ocean Speedway. The Watsonville track draws one of the best car counts in the state with IMCA. Whether you are a fan of IMCA or not, the numbers they draw at Watsonville, Santa Maria and Ventura will make you think.

Speaking Of Merced And Antioch

With the BCRA Hall Of Fame in the books, I have given some consideration to who might be on the first Hall Of Fame ballot at both Merced and Antioch. I would think that 6-8 would be a good number of inductees the first year, and I would tend to want to start pre 1980's for the first one, though a couple names from the 80's are there. It's important to remember that there are many worthy drivers, and this would be an ongoing yearly thing. The ones deserving would make it in.

At Merced, the ballot list would include champions from the 1950's, Charlie Brown, Tommy Ashlock and Vern Willhoite as well as Jack Oldenhage, Dennis Moomjean, Rod Poor, George Steitz, Ted Stofle, George Lefler, Doug Williams, Ray Morgan, Duane Noe and Dwayne Blundt. I had a few others listed, but can't find the list at the moment. A non competitor I'd like to see inducted for his years of service to the track is Johnny Sass.

At Antioch, John Soares Sr. would be inducted immediately. He's in as far as I'm concerned. On the first ballot would be Jimmy Stewart, Dave Logan, Gary Pacheco, Bill Brown, Gene Dothage, Ken Gonderman, Richard Johnson, Dean Cline, J.D. Willis, Dennis Furia, John Soares Jr., Buzz Enea, Tom Abreu and Snork Wilson.

Just thinking out loud at this point. I had planned to get the DCRR California Racing Hall Of Fame up, but the current stuff has taken much of my time. I do have Hall Of Fame pages for Watsonville and San Jose I need to put up. Both of these are based on the official inductees at both tracks, and I think it would be nice to acknowledge that.

16 Sport Mods At Victorville

While Chowchilla, Merced and Perris all try to get a Sport Mod division up and running, it's already gaining attention at Victorville. On August 7th, Victorville produced a 16 car field, which has to be the record at this point. If you are keeping track, J.D. Wilson won the race ahead of Vince Porter and point leader Danny Quinn. Quinn had mentioned earlier that he and some of the drivers were interested in coming to Chowchilla and Merced on September 25-26. The sticking point may be starting money as these drivers face a long tow from Victorville to race. At this point, I'm not even sure if it's going to happen, but I know what I'd be doing if I were a driver in the area wanting to make a statement.

I'll say it again that somebody should have stepped up and taken the bull by the horns at Merced or Chowchilla and taken a spokesman role. The focus should have been on that weekend and getting the best car count possible. Help make it possible for the Victorville cars to come, encourage any Bay Area support out there and get as many of the ten drivers who have raced at Chowchilla so far this season to race. If that weekend saw 12 cars race both tracks, good things could come from it, but that's up to the drivers.

The Merced schedule has Sport Mods on the card this week, so we'll see what happens. If all there's going to be is talk about this class, there's no point in even wasting the time and resources on it if you are a promoter. However, I do applaud Victorville and what they are doing. It shows what can happen if effort is made.

Changes On The Horizon For Winged 410 Sprints In California

The Golden State Challenge Series Sprint Cars head to Placerville Saturday, and either way, Brent Kaeding will be a winner. The 13 time King Of California owns the first place car of Kyle Larson and is second in points himself. Less than ten points separate both drivers, and this despite the fact that BK has yet to win a Main Event this season. Is the veteran saving the best for last? It should be a good show, and it's nice to see drivers like Larson, Evan Suggs and fourth ranked third generation star Alissa Geving giving the fans new stars to cheer for.

It has been announced that GSC competitor Dan Simpson is buying the series and has big things planned for it that could even include TV. Handy Promotions took over the series after John Padjen retired. Even after selling the series, Handy is expected to continue running a 410 Sprint series at Chico as well as booking GSC races at his tracks. The idea is that new ownership can bring new life and begin rebuilding the series in California. Getting car counts back into the high 20's will undoubtedly be a priority.

Meanwhile, it was mentioned earlier this year that USAC was looking to revive NARC into a 410 Sprint Series running both dirt and pavement. It's an interesting concept, but I'm not so sure they can pull this off. NASC was more than just the puppet of a bigger organization. Now, if the real NARC were brought back... I just think maybe the ship has sailed on that, but we'll see. The main thing is that racing fans still love the winged and injected 410 Sprint Cars, and they want to see it done right.

Something For BCRA To Think About

ASCS Midgets will be in Chico for the seventh time this week as they attempt to help revive the dirt track Midget effort in California. I see this as a good thing, but I also believe the Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) must cover their butts here. I was told ASCS even has a presence on the BCRA Board, and this is a group that booked a race at Chico the night BCRA was racing at Shasta. I'm not jumping on ASCS, because if they can make it happen, more power to them. I just think BCRA needs to go back to the drawing board and work on producing the kind of Midget shows they are capable of.

They are better than a sub ten car show. If the drivers aren't supporting and still have cars, they need to find out why before a third group pops up and starts booking dates themselves. Don't think for a minute it can't happen if those drivers want it to. But, it should happen under the BCRA banner with leadership that takes the driver's concerns into consideration. Chico and Placerville two weeks ago were huge and showed how big this thing can still be. Petaluma, though in double digits, should have been better. There's a reason ASCS has a presence here in California now, and it's not because they are 100% confident in BCRA, even if an alliance has been formed.

So, I'm just hoping people in power start looking at what is happening out there before it gets out of hand. There may be an alliance now, but ASCS is working towards their own goal. What will happen when they start to out draw BCRA consistently? Don't think it can't happen, because it can and will if ASCS makes the right moves. I want a continued presence for Midget racing in Northern California, but I'd like to see BCRA at the head of the table. They have all the tools, all the history and all of the potential. They should be doing better than they are now. Not trying to upset anybody. Just an observation. I wish the best to both groups.

Why Ken And Not Brynda

While I was happy to see the article in The Times this week about Antioch Speedway, I'm somewhat disappointed to see they went to Ken Clapp instead of the woman who ran the day to day at Antioch for ten years before Soares took over. If she didn't want to talk to the paper, I understand, but as far as the weekly racing for those ten years, the lady knew what she was doing, regardless of any disagreements I may have had with her. I'm not a fan of Clapp, and probably never will be. Now Barkhimer, on the other hand, knew what he was doing.

It's not a big deal, I suppose. I mean, the track got front page coverage, and THAT is what should matter. Plus, I'm wondering if archival quotes were used for Clapp's comments, considering his Altamont quotes. I read something similar in an article a year or two earlier. If he did bring it up again, I think that's pretty lame. Whatever problems they had at Altamont, they ran weekly racing seasons for over a decade, so it must not have been a complete failure. Otherwise, it would have been over much sooner.

The biggest thing I could say about that track was they should have found a way to cover those grandstands. Then, day time racing would have been more bearable to watch. I think Sunday afternoons worked better for all involved. As for closing the track, had the person in charge not pushed the issue of drifting events, despite the county's objection, things might be a lot different now. Of course, that's just my opinion.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Point Battles Get Closer, 360 Sprints Return To Antioch

Open wheel fans get two classes of Sprint Cars and the Dwarf Cars as part of the five division program at Antioch Speedway Saturday night. The Dirt Modifieds get a week off to prepare for the big race. Some interesting things happening in the 50th consecutive season of point racing on the three-eighth mile clay oval.

The Over/Under number this week is 54.

Wingless Spec Sprints (14), Dwarf Cars (16), 360 Sprint Cars (8), Super Stocks (10) and Mini Trucks (6).

Keeping Those Dirt Modifieds Together

There has been enough carnage in the Dirt Modifieds this season that promoter John Soares Jr. was faced with two options. He could let it continue and watch the car count fall below ten, or he could try to do something about it. The high, or low, point, came a little over a month ago when crashing got so bad that two cars were destroyed and one driver was injured and will be out for the rest of the season. Unconfirmed reports are that two drivers were in fact suspended that night.

One of the problems was a track rule where no more than three double file restarts occur in the Main Event after yellow flags was not enforced. The Dirt Modifieds had several caution flags and just continued with double file restarts until the end. The fault in that instance lies with track officials for not enforcing this rule. Three of the reasons Soares even brought this rule to the track with all divisions was to prevent crashing right after restarts on particularly rough nights, protect the cars and speed up the race. Sometime conditions simply call for single file restarts.

Well, going into this race, Soares implemented a single file restart rule on all restarts for the Dirt Modifieds. In my opinion, this is a good idea. I know that when I was at Merced in the early part of last decade, they ran single file restarts in all classes, and it actually made the racing better. The fact is, Antioch's Dirt Modified races have had a history of being brutal. It used to amaze me in the mid 90's, during the Regional point era, when there would be 30 plus cars every race, and they almost always had ten or more yellow flags in the Main Event. But, the racers always came back for more. They can do better, and they have to do better before nobody can afford to race. Hence, Soares took action.

The "one and done" rule was also added to get racers to be a little more respectful out there. There were still several yellows last week, and six of 14 starters finished, but some drivers earned a trip to the pits after one yellow flag. The danger of this rule is that it can be applied unevenly. If a drivers spins somebody out, does the driver who spins or the one who contacted that driver get the black flag? Do you try to gauge intent of the contact? Inevitably, it will cause some to complain about the fairness, but if it cleans things up, it can be a good thing.

Respect and unselfishness are a key too, and both are up to the drivers. Is it wise to be overly aggressive for a position early in a race? Is it better to take a third, or crash going for second? The other thing that made me think was Tommy LaLiberte in the Wingless Spec Sprints. He had a problem on the back stretch and started to slow, losing the lead. What a lot of racers will do is park for a yellow, or if they get a flat tire and park, rather than exit safely. When it's safe to leave, it's probably a good idea. A good many racers will not do this. They want the yellow for the chance to fix things.

What irritates me about that is how many times I have seen a driver going for their first win or a rare win, only to get a yellow flag because somebody was selfish. I know you can't always get out of the way, but some can. And why does it matter about getting back out there? Look at the point standings and tell me there are a bunch of people racing hard core for points they way they did 10-15 years ago. These days, it's more about the racing that night than the points. But, I'm drifting here.

The idea of trying to clean up the racing is a good one. I wonder if just the Dirt Modified drivers have been taken aside for a meeting of their owm with track officials to discuss the situation. They can talk about what they are seeing out there and those types of things, and maybe that would help. Crashing will happen regardless, but racing can be better. It's ultimately in the driver's hands.

I'll end this part by recalling a wacky idea Don O'Keefe Jr. had that he was told wouldn't work. When we started Wingless Spec Sprints for John in 1999, most of the drivers in the class pitted together, and it promoted a community within the division, Don was pretty much the "unofficial" official and helped keep things peaceful. The racing was good out there, and the drivers were respectful of each others equipment for the most part.

Don suggested the other divisions should do the same thing and pit together, and he was told it couldn't happen. Eventually, even the Spec Sprint division stopped doing that. Seems to me, Don had it right, but what did he know? Maybe, if you have the guys parking together like that, they think twice about doing something stupid and wrecking somebody they park with? Nah, what the heck am I thinking?

Press Not Going Away Quietly In Spec Sprint Race

In the Wingless Spec Sprint division, Tommy LaLiberte had a reason for getting back on the track last week and trying to finish the race two laps down. Despite all of the winning he has done this season, Tommy's lead is only 20 points over David Press. That lead would be less had he not salvaged a seventh place finish to the second Press earned. In fact, he probably gained ten points by doing that. In the win column, LaLliberte leads all drivers in the class with five feature triumphs to two for Press, but the competitive class has seen four different drivers (Press, LaLiberte, Rowdy McClenon and Jeff Kindt) win in the last four races.

With just two point races remaining on the schedule (this week and September 18th), it's clutch time for for the drivers, and there is a reason Press is still in the hunt. He has won championships at Watsonville, Petaluma and the NCMA Select Series. In fact, his 2008 Petaluma title came just two points ahead of past Antioch and Chico-Placerville champion Bob Newberry. There's a reason Press has won these championships. He knows how to make those points ad up through consistency. Now is the time for the driver who wants it the most to step up and claim it. Odds may still be in LaLiberte's favor, but he will need to shake off the mechanical problems that have hit him these past few weeks.

It was another Press who stepped up big last week and claimed his first podium finish of the season in third. Making a late race pass on Jeff Lee, Trevor Press claimed the third spot and is now within 14 points of Chuck Bradshaw for fourth in the standings. Bradshaw had been running up front early in the Main Event before spinning. T. Press also had a second in his heat race, and that also helped keep him 37 points ahead of Jeff Kindt for fifth in the standings. Kindt was impressive in winning his second feature of the season last week.

Jeff Lee enjoyed a good night as well. The 14th ranked driver matched his season best finish in fourth after battling with the likes of David Press and top ten ranked Dan Gonderman early on. Unfortunately for Gonderman, he had mechanical problems in the Sam Davies #99 car, or he likely would have had a double top five night after grabbing a third in the Dirt Modified Main Event. Roy Fisher continues to get more comfortable behind the wheel of his #21 car, and his fifth place finish moved him into the Top 20 in points. Another pat on the back goes to Jeff Bantum. The Top 20 ranked driver took a checkered flag last week with a lead lap sixth place finish.
It's Clutch Time For The Dwarf Cars

While five time champion Ricardo Rivera and Nick Squatritto may have been a little more flashy and have garnered much of the attention in Dwarf Car competition this season, Jerry Doty has been right there with them, quietly earning his points in the green #55 car. While Squatritto has been slumping a bit and Rivera has been finishing well as usual, Doty had been collecting top five finishes. In fact, his most recent effort resulted in his second win of the season ahead of Rivera, putting him into a two point lead over Squatritto. Rivera in only six point out of the lead.

With three races left counting this one, it is time to step up. Rivera has five feature wins this season and over 40 in his career. Both Squatritto and Doty have two each. Rivera has been fast and consistent this season, and if not for skipping a race. he would be leading now. Doty appears to be peaking at the right time, but can he keep up this pace? Squatritto shot out of the gate like a cannon, collecting both of his wins early in the season. It's definitely gut check time for him. He continues to be one of the faster drivers at the track, but he will need to cut back on the mistakes and get it back up to the front if he's to have any shot. Odds favor Rivera, who has been there and done that, but anything can happen.

One driver who knows how tough Rivera can be in the championship race is Tony Carmignani. It was last season when Tony led the battle foe quite a while, but Rivera got hot late and beat him by just 16 points. Tony has missed some races this year, but he still ranks ninth ahead of rookie Tom Brown. Last time out, Tony picked up a third ahead of Robert Meshoh. Mesloh, a feature winner at Antioch this season, ranks 16th in the standings, while also top ten ranked at both Watsonville and Petaluma.

Getting back to Tom Brown, the rookie keeps getting faster and faster in his short time in the class. Tom was third in the Mini Truck points last season and won the first two features in that class this year before moving up and earning a second place feature finish early on. Tom was the Trophy Dash winner last time out. Earning a top ten finish and heat win last time out, Clayton Dortzback continues to rank 50 points ahead of Dan Liston for fourth in points. Liston actually moved past Mike Corasro by four points in the standings on the strength of his fifth place feature finish last time aboard his pink #12 car.

The 360 Sprint Car Audition Continues

It's well known that Soares would like to establish his own Winged 360 Sprint Car program. There are several good reasons to do this, not the least of which is the fact that Sprint Cars are a popular division with many fans and having a good program of his own can help get him a seat at the Civil War Series table. This is something he would love to have, and it starts by building a car count with some drivers willing to travel to other Civil War tracks. Though other things have taken the focus from Soares, such as getting Merced Speedway up and running and putting on the big Dirt Modified shows, the 360 Sprints are still here on the schedule this week and twice next month.

This is an important time for the division, and drivers wanting a presence at Antioch Speedway should be ready to step up now. Last time out, they delivered ten cars, which was their best of three dates this year. At the top of the list is 360 Sprint veteran Craig Smith, who has been a front runner everywhere he's raced. Smith won the most recent Main Event, beating another open wheel veteran Eric Rossi. These two are welcome additions to any Sprint Car roster. However, it is a newcomer challenging Smith for the point lead after three races.

At the moment, Smith leads rookie Ryan Rusconi by 28 points. A champion at Delta Speedway last season, Rusconi's debut in a 360 Sprint Car at Antioch this year was a feature victory, but a week later he flipped to end his race. Last time out, he was a heat race winner, putting him 16 points ahead of past Antioch and Petaluma champion Art McCarthy. Art would be a little closer if not for the crash in the previous race that eliminated him and Keith Collins.

Collins is no stranger to Antioch Speedway. In fact, some of his biggest success occurred at the track. Keith won a Street Stock feature at Antioch and was top 20 ranked before becoming a founding member of the NCMA and the point runner up for the group in 1988. A tear later, he won his first Main Event in that group before moving up to 360 Sprints. A few years later, Keith won his first 360 Sprint Car Main Event at Antioch, so it wasn't too much of a surprise to see him return to action at Antioch.

2009 Wingless Spec Sprint champion Billy Aton and past Marysville Pacific 360 Sprint champion Jeremy Burt are fourth and fifth in points at the moment. Aton has two second place Civil War Series feature finishes at Petauma Speedway this year in his rookie season. Burt won the two Main Events at Antioch last year that led to more dates being added this season. It is known that there are several drivers with cars in the area, and the track is hoping to attract as many of them as possible. If car count can be built into the 15-20 per race area in the future, good things could happen. Bigger Sprint Car events, such as the Civil War Series, are something many people would love to see at Antioch.

Berendsen Trying To Get To End Of Season In Top Five

It's been a challenging season just keeping his #88 Super Stock on the track every week, but second generation racer Eric Berendsen hasn't missed a race. His goal this year is simple, just maintain his top five point status. He's currently fourth, but his most recent effort offered a mixed bag of results with a heat race win using an old pieced together motor, and a Main Event DNF with a blown rear end. Running on a low budget as it is, Eric's motor problems resulted in him running one of his dad's old motors that had been sitting in the shop. It gotten him back to the track, but what it has left in it remains to be seen.

The Berendsen family has been going to the races for years, starting with Eric's father Carl, who is friends with third generation racer Jim Robbins and has been going to the races for some 40 years now. In the 80's, Carl and Jim bought their first Street Stocks, formerly belonging to Chuck and Bobbi Carter. Carl raced for a few years, and when he wasn't racing, he was helping somebody else when he could. As the 90's came to a close, his son Carl Berendsen II started racing, and soon after, Eric joined the ranks.

Carl II had some top three point success for a few years, while Eric was a top five driver and feature winner in Pure Stocks before moving up to Street Stocks. A few years back, Eric seemed headed for a top five season in Street Stocks, but late season bad luck derailed that. He had hoped to be a feature winner this season, but his motor problems seem to have derailed that and caused him to focus more on hanging on to the top five. His brother Carl's car, meanwhile, remains parked for the time being.

As he did beat Mike Gustafson to win that heat race last time out, Eric would seem to be capable of getting the most out of what he has. He was planning to just get a finish in the feature that night, but his competitive spirit got the better of him as he was battling Larry Damitz for a top five finish when the rear end problems occurred. As the moment, Eric is 46 points ahead of Lloyd Cline for fourth and 54 points behind likely "Rookie Of The Year" Fred Ryland for third.

Cline has been running pretty well lately, but when he missed the start of the last feature and tried to rejoin on the restart, he was black flagged. Cline is trying to hold on to his second straight top five season, and after Gustafson won his third feature of the season last time, Cline's advantage is still 54 points. Unless he stumbles badly with three races remaining, he should be able to maintain that. With drivers like two time Street Stock champion Michael Newman, two time Limited Late Model champion Lori Brown, Jon Haney and Mike Calhoun racing in recent weeks, there is more opportunity for point gains.

Larry Damitz will be counting on that. His deficit to Mitch Machado is at 26 points after finishing third behind Machado at the most recent race. Machado has collected five feature victories so far to two for Damitz. Last week, Damitz made a trip to Merced on the off week and impressed with a heat race and Main Event win. He hopes to carry that momentum with him this week. As two time winner Ryland is only 18 points behinf him for second, he'll need to run strong to stay ahead of him.

One question still remains. As the division's 12 Main Events have been divided up between Machado, Damitz, Ryland and Gustafson, will a new winner emerge this week? If there is a new winner, judging by the way they have fibnished in recent races, perhaps Jon Haney, Michael Newman or Lloyd Cline could be leading candidates. We'll find out Saturday night.

The Old Guys Still Racing And Having Fun In Mini Trucks

They've been there, done that and could write a book about it. Two of the track's most respected veteran drivers are in the Mini Truck division, and they both started racing some 50 years ago. They are Pete Paulsen and Dean "The Blinker" Cline. Paulsen's familiar red, while and blue #66 cars and trucks have been a part of the show for years, and may people consider them to be among the nicest looking machines at the track. For a while, Pete fielded two trucks with familiar paint jobs, and both he and Joe Cambra were top three ranked and feature winners.

Pete's "House Of Wheels Special" #66 Stock Car was driven to a championship at Antioch in 1981 by Bruce "The Phantom" Curl. Of course, he started racing Hardtops at Vallejo and Pacheco, and he built a replica car of one of those cars this year. Pete loves cars and promotes custom hot rod car shows. He also promoted Delta Speedway during the "golden age" of that track when Mini Stocks, Modified Mini Stocks, Dwarf Cars and even Figure 8's were run on the 1/8th mile dirt oval. He won a couple Modified Mini Stock titles along the way. That's just some of what the man has done, and he's truly one of the good people of the sport.

The Cline family name has been a part of Antioch Speedway nearly since it opened. Winning well over 40 Main Events in his career, Dean could have several championship trophies on the mantle if that was what he wanted. Fact is, twice he abandoned a point race while leading, because that's not why he does it. He races for the fun of the competition and being out there among friends. If and when Antioch ever has a Hall of Fame, Dean is one person whole belong in it. He's won Main Events in Sportsman, Stock Cars, Street Stocks, Pure Stocks and Mini Trucks and ranked high in all classes and won the only championship he went after in Stock Cars in 1979.

Dean's son Lance followed him into the sport and became one of the most respected car builders in the track's storied history. Many of Lance's cars won races and even championships, and it's people like him who have helped build the track to what it is today. That Dean is still out there racing after all of these years is a testament to his dedication to the sport. Recently, he came within a whisker of winning another Main Event, finishing second. After hitting a tractor tire last time out, he may not be there this week, but there are many people who hope to see Dean out there with his trademark red light lit on the roof of his truck as he charges down the straightaways.

Somebody needs to step up and beat Travis Dutra. With six feature wins this year in his #99 truck, Dutra is well on his way to the championship at this point. The 2009 point runner up leads one time winner Dan Wagner by 94 points. Wagner's hold on second is nearly as strong as Ray Bunn has been a no show the last two races. While Ron Mayberry has come on strong of late to take over fourth, the battle is for fifth. Cline took over the position with his start in the last race, but that lead is only five ahead of hard luck racer Jerry Carpanello. Jerry was unable to start the feature after problems in his heat race.

This Just In

It was just announced on the Merced Speedway web site that both Merced Speedway and Antioch Speedway will be UMP sanctioned in 2011. Antioch is already sanctioned, but Merced will be it's sister track in California as Yreka went from UMP to IMCA in an attempt to boost car count. Currently, Troy Foulger is 12th in this region with half the starts of the leaders. It is hoped that bringing Merced into the fold will increase the presence of the drivers in this area. Promoter John Soares Jr. also indicated in the news release that he hoped other tracks would follow. Prime candidates to follow this move could (and I emphasize could as this is speculation) be Hanford, Chowchilla or Chico. Time will tell.

It also is an indication that Merced may be considering staying with Sunday racing in 2011, though we will let the track make the official announcement when the time comes. This move was made to strengthen the ties between the two tracks and give the drivers national and regional championships to shoot for, and that should be a positive in the long run. I'm sure UMP would love to have more of a California presence, and it will be interesting to see if any other tracks get on board. In the past, Antioch sanctioned the Hobby Stocks with UMP as well, and Fred Ryland ranked second in the nation in feature wins last season. However, nothing was indicated as to whether other division will be involved at this time.