Friday, April 26, 2013

Thoughts On Merced, Antioch and Dwarf Cars At Dixon Speedway

The early numbers are in for Merced Speedway, and they are encouraging.  Car counts are up thanks in part to the move back to Saturday nights AND IMCA sanctioning.  I have to give a pat on the back to all involved for how things are going, but also say don't rest on your laurels, don't get too comfortable and don't get too nit picky about the bad stuff.  Just keep racing.

Saturdays mean Watsonville support is coming, just as I suspected it would.  These two tracks were sister tracks once upon a time, so I'm not too surprised.  However, there was Petaluma support last week, which is rare, and Antioch support.  The Sport Mods even had a B Main, while the Modifieds had a full Main Event.

I'll leave it up to Merced staff to write an article and provide the color, but the results are posted at Late Model Racer.  I will say congratulations to Mike Villanueva (IMCA Modifieds), Matt Sotomayor (IMCA Sport Mods), Kodie Dean (Hobby Stocks) and Jim Freethy (Super Stocks) on your feature wins.  All car counts appear to be up at Merced so far, so here's hoping this trend continues.

Antioch Speedway held a King Of The West Sprint Car Series race, the opener for the tour.  Willie Croft got the win, and there's a write up on the Antioch Speedway site.  Also on the card was the Dwarf Car division, where 15 cars competed in the Main Event.  Looks like it was a good shows from all indications.

I think the Dwarf Cars got a much needed boost of excitement with the return of five time champion Ricardo Rivera.  Ricardo was on the hunt for another win, but he would be denied by David Teves.  The Teves family fields a couple Dwarf Cars at Antioch and have brought those cars to Dwarf Car events at Dixon Speedway as well.

With Teves and Rivera in the 1-2 positions, it was veteran Charlie "The Hammer" Corriea bringing it home in third.  If Charlie is gonna run as well as he has so far this season, I'm wondering if a win is in his near future.  Dwarf Car veteran Duane Jordan and past Petaluma champion Sonny Calkins completed the top five.

I have more on Dwarf Cars, but I'm looking ahead to next week's Antioch race with concern.  Wingless Spec Sprints and Super Stocks open their seasons with Hobby Stocks, Four Bangers and Mini Trucks also on the card, while IMCA Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Mini Stocks and Valley Sportsman are racing at Merced.

I'm confident that Spec Sprints and Hobby Stocks will put on a good show, but I worry what Super Stocks and Mini Trucks will have.  There were only two trucks in the opener, while I think they had about six or eight cars in Super Stocks at most races last year.  I'm skeptical that there will be more Super Stocks this season, but I hope that's the case.  The Mini Trucks are in trouble if the other drivers don't get out there.

This leaves the pressure on Four Bangers to be the third car count for this show.  It's possible there could be a double digit car count for this class, and there should be.  If it doesn't happen, it will be a light car count for the show.  I've already highlighted my worry about what tracks up north are doing to Spec Sprints by starting a winged class, but I don't expected Antioch to be hurt by this move...  yet.  I guess we'll see.

You know, Dixon Speedway was trying to provide a big Four Banger race for the drivers last season on Memorial Day weekend.  I don't think anybody showed for it, possibly because entry fee was a little higher than drivers on that level are willing to pay?  Just an observation.  Could also be that the word wasn't put out properly too.  I still believe they could have a class if they wanted it and promoted it.

One of the problems is they aren't doing enough at Dixon to spread the word when they venture beyond the various micro midget and go kart classes they run.  Dwarf Cars are scheduled there, the word is barely put out there and then we don't know who wins.  It's never released.  If not for a YouTube video from February of 2012, we never would have known who won that seven car Dwarf Car event.

Well, in my search for Hardtop information, I stumbled upon information about Dwarf Car races held later in the year last season at Dixon.  In fact, there was a four car race in which one of the Teves cars flipped.  Fortunately, he wasn't injured in the flip that occurred in December, and the two Teves cars continue to race at Antioch.

There were races there later in December, in September and in October.  At that October event, David Teves, Ryan Winter, Adam Teves, Danny Wagner, Mike "Sparky" Grenert, Travis Dutra and Kurtis Kraig competed.  I'd love to tell you who won that event, but results aren't out there.  Thanks to some very well shot photos, I was able to find out who competed.

I'd also like to give a mention to the photographer at Action Captured Images for their great work at Petaluma, Dixon and wherever they go.  It's thanks to efforts like this that our sport is still chronicled in any form at all.  If you raced at one of these tracks and want a photo or are just a fan, support the cause and buy a picture.

I've seen good photographers come and go because it's expensive to do this and they aren't selling photos.  It's the same as us magazine publishers.  Eventually, you can't afford it and you move on.  There will come a time when nobody steps in to replace the one who leaves.  It's true.  What magazine is out there since Wheels closed shop, and who has stepped up after the passing of Gary Jacob?

Anyway, I'm not trying to be a downer.  I hope you enjoy the show at Antioch, Merced, Petaluma, Watsonville, Bakersfield or wherever you like to go.  Chowchilla is supposed to be doing a playday on Sunday.  Will you be supporting the cause?  If you do, tell the powers that be to at least get a web page and get a little more active in spreading the word.  It shouldn't be the secret that it is right now.

Oh, speaking of secrets, a Dwarf Car race is on the schedule at Dixon Speedway.  Actually, two of them are listed for the end of the year after the regular point racing is done.  They are listed for November 2 and November 23.  My hope is for good turnouts and maybe somebody actually letting us know how things went.  Well, a person can hope anyway.

Looking Back: Andy Archer

I had this ready to post a couple years ago but didn't.  With the Spec Sprint season opener at Antioch this Saturday night, I figured this would be a good time.

Seeing that a #13 Wingless Spec Sprint, driven by Rowdy McClenon, won at Antioch Speedway recently made me think of another #13 car. Back in 1998, when Don O'Keefe Jr. and I were putting together this division for Antioch, we had a game plan. Simple, affordable rules and lots of hype. Don knew the rules and I knew the hype. If a drive sneezed, I wrote about it. Well. maybe not sneezed, but almost every driver to commit early on got a story from me.

Anyway, it was an "interesting" time. The NCMA was there, and people thought we were trying to kill that club. Not at all. In fact, I fought to keep them on Antioch and Petaluma's schedule. They were the ones that blew that deal by double booking elsewhere on top of dates they knew they had scheduled at Antioch and Petaluma.

Anyway, Andy and his wife (Tami) at the time were heavily into the NCMA at that time, and though he pretty much knew what he would be doing in 1999, he had to time things just right, politics being what they were. At the right time, Andy decided to make his announcement that he was switching to the Spec Sprints after his top three point earning and feature winning season. He was definitely the biggest up and coming star the NCMA had, and he continued to run strong in Spec Sprints in 1999, ranking inside the top three as a feature winner again.

I did run a story in the magazine based on this interview, but here is the entire interview.  Andy is AA and DM is me.

A Raw Interview With Andy Archer in late 1998

Andy Archer #13 was a top competitor in the NCMA and in a Wingless Spec Sprint.

DM: What got you into racing?

AA: I've always been involved, in one form or another, with customizing and working on cars. Believe it or not, when I was 19 or 20 years old, still living with my parents, a friend of mind had a car. His dad was a fire chief, and they had an old Dodge, which at that time was a retired Highway Patrol car. We bought it for $10. The fair was coming up in a couple of months, so we took it and welded the doors shut, took all the windows out of it and put together a Destruction Derby car. The adrenaline rush was something that I hadn't experienced since I played football in college.

In one for or another, I've always competed at something. Really, what got me involved is it's just another step in the cycle. My dad, we competed with horses, we competed with football, we competed with wrestling, we competed with livestock animals like sheep and pigs and that kind of stuff. There was always some sort of competition from the time I was six years old until now. I started racing when I was 30. I really, really missed the competitive aspects.

A friend of mine asked me to go out to the track, because we used to go to Antioch, like all these other guys, when I was a kid. We'd go out there and watch them guys. I remember Darryl Shirk. I remember Dana Auger. His car was #101. It was a real beautiful blue car #101. A neighbor kid of our's dad used to crew for him, and we used to be fans. We'd go out there and watch Dana. Dana always went out there and whooped him. So, we loved that.

When I finally moved back into this area, a friend of mine says, "Hey, a friend of mine has a car. They run these old Modified things." It was Bill Hopkins. I went out there and crewed for him. All we did, what we were allowed to do, was wipe the car off. That was the year before Tami was a rookie (1995). He was running the full schedule. I don't know how competitive he was, but he was always in the pack. We went out there and cleaned his car.

I got to know "Hoppy". He's a real nice guy. The next year, I saw him at the track, was talking to him. I went out there and watched the races. Then, Beattie happened to win at Antioch that night. "Hoppy" was crewing for him, and I was talking to him about why he didn't have his car out. Well, he had pneumonia during the off season and was having some health problems. So, I told him, "Heck, I'll be over tomorrow and we'll put you're car back together again."

He had taken it down but didn't get it back together again. "No problem Andy, you can come over and do it." He was probably thinking, "Uh huh, sure you'll show up."

I was there at nine o'clock on the button. We put his car together. It was actually a roller that Beattie had sold him. That #37 that Mark Smith drives, I helped Bill build that car. It had been Beattie's car for a couple years, and we just kind of pieced it back together. We went out that season, 1996. While I was out there, I knew it was something I had to do. I like the competition. I always loved the mechanical aspect. I was very mechanically inclined.

Then, the biggest thing that sold me on it and that I was able to sell my dad on it, was we were reading a program insert on it. We were sitting in the stands and they had that thing in the program. It said, what is an NCMA car? Blah, blah, blah. A car where you can still spend $4,000 or whatever and still be competitive. I showed that to my dad and I said, "Look dad, we can do this for nothing. $4,000 and we can go compete. Let's find a car for $4,000 and we'll go out and race." Little did I know...

I was already into it with "Hoppy". I thought I knew everything, didn't know anything. I sat back and told my dad how we were gonna whip them as soon as we bought a car. We started looking for a car, and I was crewing for "Hoppy". We went down to Merced one night and I was crewing for him. I saw this yellow and orange Sprint Car going around the track, and it was Tim Porter. It wasn't his car, it was Scott Blakeman's car, he was trying to sell it.

So, I saw it going around the track, and I thought, "Hey, that's a neat looking car and a neat looking trailer. I wonder how much he wants for it. $4,000. $5,000 with the trailer and spares!" So, we picked it up Sunday.

My dad said I wasn't going to race this without any practice. I heard about Jimmy Sills. So, we went to Jimmy Sills' School. Jimmy Sills said to buy this, that and the other thing. It was the perfect setup for a sloppy track, like a hot lap track. My car was perfect. I had been watching the NCMA tape that I had, and their best time was a 14.9. That was from Scotty (Holloway). We went out there, and my first time driving it, I turned a 14.3.

My whole thing was, these guys used to go up on the track and I'd see them sitting in their cars. I wanted to be a part of it. I always thought, "How cool." They'd put on their helmets and completely look like a different kind of person out there. Those cars were going so fast, I really held them up high. I never thought that I would be competing with Ed Amador, let alone beating him. Or Scott Holloway. Or any of those guys.

Tami's goal, the year after her rookie year, she wanted to compete with Burt (Siverling). "I want to try to be at Burt's level " that's what she said. One thing that you can learn from Burt, that we accomplished this year, was consistency. He's always there and he always finishes. That's why he's always in the top ten in points. I learned consistency from him. Another one was Bill Wilson.

DM: (We start looking at Andy's photo album of the car when he just bought it and as he transformed it into the Modified. He then shows pictures of his two flips during his rookie season in 1997.) What was your hardest flip?

AA: That was Jim Booth's right rear I went over the second time I flipped. This bent the chassis. The car was never the same after that. I went up over him and landed on the left rear tire. For whatever reason that night, I chose a steel rim, one of my old steel rims, and it completely flattened the steel rim. So, imagine what it did to my chassis, my rear end and everything else. It went up and landed on the left side and then cartwheeled several times. I have the tape somewhere. That was a terrible night.

This (other) one, I took second place. I was behind (Darryl) Shirk the whole race and (Duane) Watson was behind me. This was the best race of my rookie season. And, man, we went to town the whole race. I was doing pretty good ahead of Watson. Shirk took the white flag, and in Turn 1 and 2 he pulled off. I was running second behind Shirk, and when he pulled off the track, being a rookie, I stayed behind him.

By the time I realized what was going on, I saw Watson go by me. I jumped right back up and got on Watson. We come down the front chute to take the checkered, I try passing Watson and I didn't quite make it. He didn't know I was right up on his side, and as soon as he crossed the finish line, he lifted. I climbed over his hood and flipped it. I finished second. It should have been a win.

DM: You were top ten in points in your rookie year. Was your plan pretty much to be consistent and finish like Burt?

AA: Our plan for my rookie year was to go out there and be a part of it. I didn't go out there with the intentions of being "Rookie Of The Year". In fact, do you know who planted the seeds for "Rookie Of The Year"? You. Because, we went out there, and I had already talked to you and you knew Tami. You said something in your magazine. I was the only (Modified) car that showed up for playday. It was me and (360 Sprint Car racer) David Lindt. It was his first year too. We were out there on the track at the same time.

As the playdays continued, we had more cars. You had something about, "This reporter's choice for "Rookie Of The Year"." That set my goal. Then, here come's Warren (Dorathy) on the last playday with a fast car. We were several thousand dollars behind him, in my opinion. We were running steel everything. The car was bound to be slow. We went out there and learned our lesson.

We went out there and we made trophy dashes. It just kept on getting better and better. With our consistency and Warren missed a couple races and we missed a race and things like that, we won. Me and Warren were the only competitive rookies. When I think "Rookie Of The Year", it was me and Warren as far as I'm concerned. We battled pretty good for a little while. Then, when Mike McCreary took the reigns (Of Warren's car), it kind of messed up his hopes.

The one that means the most to me is the "Most Improved Driver" award. That was a vote from my peers. When I was at the track for one of the last races and Ed Amador walked up to me, somebody I thought I'd never be able to compete with, and slapped me on the back and said "Hey Andy, I voted for you for most improved, " it was something I'll never forget. Pretty soon, all I started hearing was most improved. I didn't even know it existed.

I showed up Saturday night at the banquet and I got it. It was a gas. That's really the one that I hold the most dear. We were eighth place, most improved and rookie. I never expected it. All I wanted to do was go out and drive.

DM: You won the Antioch "Most Improved Driver" award this year. In all honesty, I didn't see anybody in the club who had improved as much as you had.

AA: Well, I appreciate that. That's our goal. Every time I talk to Don (O'Keefe), I learn something new. I beg every day to get to the mailbox and get my Open Wheel Magazine and just get the microscope and look at the pictures. Then, I read what the guys say and the way they act and the way they treat things.

DM: You came into this year looking to be more competitive and be a top five runner.

AA: Last year at this time in November, one of the crew had had a few too many to drink, and he sat right here on the couch and says, "You're gonna be in the top three next year, you watch. We're gonna be in the top three."

I thought it was possible, but all I wanted was to be able to go out there and do better. I didn't really take him too seriously. Me and my dad from October on would work hard on this car at the shop. I want that to go down from here on out that my racing career is dedicated to my father. He dedicated a lot to me and my brother. I'm gonna a dedicate my accomplishments in racing to his memory. My dad and I, he was retired and I had a job where I started work at three o'clock in the morning and was done by noon. So, we were there all afternoon everyday, sometimes until 11 o'clock at night working on this car.

We stripped it down to bare chassis, and replaced everything. There's not a bolt on that car that has seen more than this last season. Dad wanted every nut and bolt to be precise. In Concord, there's a place called The Screw Shop where you can get all your nuts and bolts. My dad spent a lot of time going through screws for an exact fit.

We had that motor down at Mike Loyd's, and that motor that my dad put together was dependable. It lasted for two years. Because of the expertise of my engine builder Mike Loyd of Loyd Engineering and the expertise and guidance from Ron Grose Racing. Ron Grose did the machine work and Mike did all the building and tearing apart.

DM: You had three second place finishes during the first half of the season. That had to feel good and frustrating at the same time, I mean, in that you still hadn't won.

AA: I don't know how many top five finishes we had, but we had more top five finishes than most of them. If I had to nail myself on my biggest weakness, well my inexperience overall was a weakness, but it was my inability to qualify as well as Scott and Ed. I think I had the only top five car to see as few dashes as I saw. I was real confident that when we did qualify I would be in the dash, but when it came to just going out and qualifying, I didn't have the confidence to turn the clocks. That's something I need to work on. Still, my long term goal, I've got to learn how to qualify well and consistently.

DM: The race you won, between you Jeff (Pike) and Ed, that was the race of the year.

AA: When we were sitting in staging and I counted the cars, there were seven cars in front of me. I started eighth, and I thought as I was psyching myself up to race, "Well, my goal is to finish in the top four and not to let Ed creep away from me." At that point, Ed and I were in a see-saw battle. I'd be in front one week in second (in points) and then he'd be in second the next week. It was like it was my turn to be in second that week. At that time, Ed was in second and I started to see him slipping away.

So, I got that overall picture out of my mind and I started looking at the cars in front of me. There were a couple of rookies in front of me. I thought that I would come out real aggressive at the start and try to get by them as quickly as I could. Then, on the start, we passed like three cars. We went around and took a lap. I stayed down low. The Late Models were there that night with their big tires, and they dried the track.

The cars in front of me all went high, and I stayed on the bottom. When they went up high, because the Late Models had been doing it, they hit that slick stuff and slowed way down. In one lap, I passed enough cars to be third behind Jeff (Pike). Then, when (Stan) Cargo flipped, I had already passed Pike, who had gotten up high and got loose. I passed him down low.

I was in second place behind Ed at the time the flip happened. When the flip happened, I was psyched. I was saying, "I'm not gonna let them win Charlie (Kight). Tonight is my night." Charlie is leaning up against the fence with Tamrah. My dad and my brother were watching the flip. Charlie and Tami start whispering amongst themselves. I was psyched, "Let's go racing. Let's go racing. Ed's not gonna beat me."

Charlie says, "Andy, just go out there and keep your head and be real smooth. Your right shock is broken." I don't know how long it had been that way. That scared me. I don't know what was going through my head. I was just out there kind of feeling it out and the car was sticking. It was working, so I just stayed with it. You can feel it and you can see it on the tapes. It was jack rabbiting on the tapes, just sort of bouncing around.

I followed Ed around. There were a couple times that I know my car was handling better than his. I was jumping on the breaks, instead of pushing Ed out of the way and running into the back of him, dirty pool like that. I remember hitting the breaks and thinking, "Come on Ed, Let's go. Let's race."

I was waiting for something to open up. By that time, we were in traffic. When I saw him in traffic, I thought there was no was he was gonna beat me. That was it. It was a matter of time and me being patient and not making any mistakes. There were a couple of guys that I showed my nose to, that I knew would jump high and out of my way. It was Mark Smith and Larry Teixeira. They saw my nose coming through and moved up to the outside. I just got ahead of them and that got me ahead of Ed. Those last seven laps were the fastest seven laps I ever ran, mainly because of my adrenalin level. When I saw the white flag, that being my first win and all, I was screaming the entire way around. I wasn't gonna let anybody by. Until I saw the film, I had no idea it was that close.

It's cool being able to compete with these guys. That's one of the things I want to say. Though I am moving on to bigger and better things, I'm still very proud to have been able to race with the NCMA. I'm not taking anything away from them. For a couple of years, those guys were my heroes.

DM: Winning that race and moving into second with your dad there to see it had to be the highlight of the season.

AA: We were second in points and then my dad died the next weekend. That was a complete shock. He was there to see me win. It's really amazing how it worked out with my dad. Having my dad be able to see that meant a lot. I don't want to dwell on that one win, though it was my first win and will always be like a first kiss. You always remember your first kiss.

I never was able, because of the way I was brought up, to call my dad and say, "I love you." I told my mom that I'd give anything to be able to have five minutes with him so I could just tell him just one time, just one time that I love him. My mom tells me, "You know what Andy? You did not need to have told him that you loved him, because in that one race, you were out in the middle. You were in the middle and he was on the sidelines. You raised your hands and said, 'We did it dad. We did it.'" My dad took that as I love you. I love you. My mom saying that to me, that meant a lot.

DM: What is your goal for next season?

AA: My goal for racing in 1999 has nothing to do with points or winning. My big goal for next year, whether it's me sitting at home watching it on TV or out at the track enjoying it, is just that, enjoyment. These last two years, we've had some pressure trying to make points for "Rookie Of The Year" last year and going back and forth between me and Ed Amador and Duane Watson this year. That would be tough for the most experienced racer. Here I was just a shade away from being a rookie.

DM: You had Charlie Kight on your crew this year, and he's been involved with pitting for other Modified teams in the past.

AA: Charlie was a big part of our success this season and we got him a trophy to match ours. There were people asking him questions this year. They wouldn't do that in the past. In the past, the shooshed him away. This year, he pitted with us. We were winning and winning in part because of his commitment. A lot of it was his commitment. People saw that and recognized that and gave him the respect and credit that he has long deserved.

This year, with Don O'Keefe's help, we have learned how to really set up a car. Last year and at the beginning of this year, we were lucky in that the track came to us. This year, Don has taught me and Charlie also, how to make a car go to the track. Of course, that's half of winning the race. You've got to beat the track before you can beat the competition. Don O'Keefe has showed us how to do this.

DM: Who are some of your favorite guys to race with?

AA: I wish that I could say I enjoyed racing with Scotty, and I did last year. I was able to race with him then, because he didn't have the quality equipment that he has this year. We were able to keep track of him and I learned a lot competing with him. He's a good teacher, watching him at track level.

This year, I didn't enjoy racing with Scott at all. Most of the time I couldn't see him, because he was so far in front of all of us or he'd had problems. The man who I enjoyed racing with the most, and certainly I have learned patience in racing and dedication is Ed Amador. Ed Amador and Don Hicks are two people that if I could build the perfect racer, I would take 50% Ed Amador and 50% Don Hicks.

Ed Amador, even with his level headed attitude, which is very important, if he needs to, he can be dangerous. Whereas, Hicks is more dangerous than level headed. Maybe that would be a good goal for me to set, to compete with Hicks. If you can compete with Hicks, I feel I could compete with anybody else. The man has raced for a lot of years. When he puts on that helmet, he's a force. He's aggressive. That's why I picked both of them. Ed is the perfect level-headed speed, while Hicks is aggressive speed.

I also enjoy racing with Jeff Pike. Jeff and I both compare notes. We can go out there, me, Jeff and Ed, and run all out, full-throttle and race wheel to wheel and have the confidence in each other's ability that we aren't going to have any major problems. There are some drivers out there who you've got to give a lot of space to, because you never know where they're gonna be or what they're gonna do. Every lap is different.

DM: You mentioned you came in under your racing budget for this season. How does that effect next season?

AA: Our season last year was so without flaw, knock on wood, that the money that we had set aside to continue to run to buy us whatever parts we needed to repair the car, I now have at my disposal for next year. We're gonna be buying spare parts and stuff like that. Hopefully, things will work out my way with this other car we're looking at. If it doesn't, I have a tried and true car in the garage that is a contender. We have all the parts sitting in the garage. We have the tail tank sitting out in the back yard with the nerf bars. I can go either way. That's another thing I've learned from Don (O'Keefe), take care of your equipment. He's been preaching baby steps, finish races and keep the car in one piece.

DM: What is the five year plan?

AA: My father had a specific plan. We used to have what we called the five year plan. It was two years with the NCMA, a couple years with Petaluma Sprints and the off to San Jose. We didn't want to just go down to San Jose and race their bank account. That's what we felt. The plan has kind of changed, and one of the reasons why is Don O'Keefe has made an incredible, positive impact on our racing program. Instead of taking big steps and throwing away a lot of money, he's calmed us down and taught us to take baby steps.

So, he's changed the five year plan in that now we're gonna be doing wingless stuff. It is a move up and we're gonna be going a lot faster. It's going to be more realistic to what a real Sprint Car is.

DM: Anything else you would like to add before we wrap this up?

AA: We're really excited about this All Pro Series Wingless Spec Sprint class. We sat on the fence and didn't want to burn any bridges or make anybody mad. But, the bottom line is my wife, my mother and I and the rest of my family is gonna do what's best for Archer Racing. That about sums it up.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Some Thoughts On The Recent Race At Antioch Speedway And Writing Stories

I guess writing stories for racing is becoming a lost art.  I know I lived it for several years.  I tried to do my best.  Gary Jacob lived to put the word out about every track he could.  If there was no writer for a track and he could get the results, he wrote a story.  If somebody took notes and faxed them to him, he wrote the story.

Maybe it's the age we live in now.  The wonderful internet.  You can go to the track page and in a matter of moments and get results.  There may be a story, maybe not, but the results are up at most track web sites.  Sometimes there are pictures too.  But the story that conveys the excitement and the passion of the races is gone or fading fast.

I'm not going to get into what needs to be done.  If you read my writings here (does anybody?), you know that I feel that more can be done to generate excitement than is currently being done.  I would love to see people start blogs with race reports.  Get the word out there.  Antioch Speedway for a while had no stories and they came calling on me six years later.

I declined, but me being the idiot I am, I wrote stories for every race that season and hyped each race.  Why?  When I get a clear answer as to why I would put the hours in for free that year, I'll be sure to let you know.  I wrote based on statistics and photos, and then I saw videos and spent time viewing and reviewing to put a story together.  I think I did okay for somebody who hasn't attended a race in California since 2003.

We live in a digital age.  Information can come in a moment.  This was the case when Joe Martinez and I started CRO back in 2000.  To this day, nothing in California touches what we had.  I'm not saying that to brag, but rather to point out how sad it is that nobody has made a real effort to have a California racing news site.  The problem is it can be lots of work, and good luck getting compensated for that work.  So, if you don't love the sport, you may not see the point.

Gary Jacob did it for the love of the sport.  I did too.  My problem was I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and would get upset when I thought things weren't right.  I'd try to make a difference and either bring about positive change, piss somebody off or both (at the same time in some cases).  Gary steered away from politics, other than helping a track gain cars for big races by helping spread the word from driver to driver.

In 2013, there is no Gary Jacob.  Nobody is even trying to do what he did.  Well, back in the 90's, we still had several magazines, and that's how people got the information.  Gary wrote for as many as he could.  If he let me know about a magazine needing stories, I would write for them too.  I was nobody special.  Just a kid from the stands who loved the sport.

I picked up a pen and paper and took notes, even learned how to score keep.  A person doesn't have to do that.  In fact, you can take basic notes and report each division's main event in four to eight sentences.  Just a paragraph or two each division.  Who won, what lap did they get the lead, anything interesting from that race you think is noteworthy.

Type it, put it out on a blog, a message board or whatever.  I know it won't happen, because it's work.  In this information age, people only want to post Facebook updates or two or three sentence comments on message boards.  If the net had come to fruition a decade earlier, Gary Jacob could have had a heck of a web page himself.

I got to stay at his place on occasion, and he'd be up a few hours after the race, typing that story and a few others before bed.  That was not unusual for him.  I can only imagine a page of his being updated as the stories were written and how many hits it would have generated.  As it was, his stories are still up at some places like Racing West, but he loved the printed media.

So, I look at Antioch SpeedwayMike Adaskaveg can't be in two places at once, so he covered Merced Speedway last week, and did a nice job I might add.  The raw stats are up at the Antioch Speedway site.  Chris Martin won the Winged 360 Sprints, Troy Foulger won the Dirt Modifieds, returning (how many time?) champion Ricardo Rivera won Dwarf Cars, Kimo Oreta won Hobby Stocks, Jim Robbins won Super Hobby Stocks and the two Mini Truck feature went to Travis Hensley.  There were 63 cars.

I look at that list of IMCA Modifieds, and it has some impressive names.  Scott Busby was there.  Goodness, I remember Scott way back in 1979 racing Street Stocks and winning many races.  He got a Sportsman a year later and within two years, that was it.  He was gone.  His brother "Flip Over" Phil Busby drove the Street Stock for a season too.

There was nobody doing more to get drivers into the Dirt Modified class in Contra Costa County than Scott.  Yeah, he won four championships (three in a row), but there were lots of drivers at Antioch running Harris Modifieds  The West Coast nationals was pretty much his idea, and there were a record 83 cars in that first race in 1993.  I'd love to see Scott try to dethrone the reigning champion Troy Foulger.

You know, there aren't too many drivers who have earned the coveted "threepeat" honors at Antioch.  I remember when Troy Shirk had that painted on the back of his car after his second championship.  The third one never came.  To my knowledge, Only Ricardo Rivera, John Keldsen, Scott Busby and Foulger have done it.  Foulger is attempting to chart unknown territory this season with four in a row.  If anybody can do it, he can, but I hope they don't make it easy for him.

Kellen Chadwick, another past champion, was there.  This kid has talent.  He has won some of the biggest Modified races on the west coast.  I knew he had the talent way back when he started racing at Delta Speedway.  It's a shame he didn't move out to Indiana or some place and follow the dream.  We may he watching him on TV right now.  He was that good.

"Quick" Nick Caughman Jr.  Man, I remember when those "West County" boys started coming out and racing at Antioch in the 90's.  Speaking of which, "The Richmond Rocket" Bobby Motts Jr. was also there.  Bobby won a Street Stock championship at Antioch  I want to say Nick won one at Petaluma, but I'm too lazy to go through my notes.  I remember when Nick won his first Dirt Modified feature.  Nick and Bobby are both tough competitors.

"The Piledriver" Dan Gonderman.  He switches between Modifieds, where's he was once top three ranked, and Spec Sprints, where he's a two time champion at Antioch.  Let's not forget his top five ranking in Street Stocks.  He's won on every level, but it's not surprising.  His father is the legendary Sportsman champion Ken Gonderman, and his brother Dave Gonderman is two time a Sportsman feature winner and top five Street Stock racer.  Lot's of respect for the Gonderman family.

Ed "Crash" Daviess?  I really respect guys like Ed who come out there and run in the B Mains and C Mains before being feature winners.  It shows how hard work pays off.  Ed became one of the top drivers in this division and a feature winner during the last decade.  It's nice to see him back in action.

I saw Jeff Decker's name.  I was wondering why he wasn't in a Late Model last week.  I've been out of the loop, but I know Jeff is a Petaluma Late Model champion.  He's no slouch in a Dirt Modified either.  Mike Meazell?  Yeah, Limited Late  Model and Hobby Stock champion and just a guy who loves racing wherever he can.  I respect Mike because he was one who would go racing and support the races he was asking for.

Jim DiGiovanni?  Another Modified champion.  Trent Wentworth?  I recall him racing Street Stocks and having much potential.  Jake Dewsberry.  Nice to see him in a Modified.  I seem to recall he drove Mini Trucks and Hobby Stocks back in the day.

Anthony Slaney?  Would this be Mikey Slaney's son?  I remember when the Slaney's came to Antioch.  Good racing family.  Mikey had competed in D-Derbies, but he became a top Hobby Stock and Limited Late Model competitor.  Heck, grandpa Slaney competed in Hobby Stocks one season.  Three generations were at the track.  Anthony had a top five season in Modifieds last year.  Not surprising to me.

I was about to say I didn't recognize the rest of the Modified names,  but then I saw Aaron "Crazy Man" Crowell's name.  He was a tough competitor from the start in the Street Stocks, so seeing him run up front in Modifieds was not a surprise.  I don't recognize the names of Jeremy Crebs and Dale Kunz, but it's great that they were out there racing among the 16 competitors.

Let me just say that if this is what the IMCA Modified roster will look like at Antioch, it will be a good show for the fans.  Some good talent out there.  They will have to be to beat Foulger.  You see, Troy won the main event on this night.  Heat winner Chadwick made him work for it in second as Decker, Crowell and Motts rounded out the top five.  I don't believe Busby finished, but he won a heat race.

I suppose it wouldn't be a 360 Sprint Car race at Antioch without veteran Art McCarthy in the mix.  Art is a past Petaluma champion and a tough competitor.  Speaking of past champions, wasn't "Cowboy" Craig Smith the last 360 Sprint champion at Antioch?  He was there again.  2004 Marysville Spec Sprint champion Chris Magoon made his debut, and Spec Sprint graduate Billy Aton was in the mix as well.

I recognized the name of Chase Wood as a 360 Sprint competitor over the last decade or so.  Jake Haulot was there was well, and I believe he's related to former Petaluma Late Model racer Dan Haulot.  His son?  Haulot and Kirk Simpson both have raced at Petaluma in recent years.

On this night, a driver I didn't recognize, Chris Martin, came home with the victory in the nine car field ahead of Smith, Simpson, Magoon and Wood.  Aton and Carson McCarl won heat races.  I'm not sure how management felt about the car count, but I do know that bigger car counts in this class won't happen over night.  You have to put in the time to make it happen.

The only driver I can think of who may have won more Main Events in the last decade than Ricardo Rivera at Antioch is maybe Troy Foulger.  Ricardo is the unstoppable force in Antioch Dwarf Cars.  Start him in the back and he'll still find a way to win.  He came in through another top notch competitor and champion, Jim Barton, who has since retired.  This team is as fast as they come.

I don't know how old Charlie "The Hammer" Correia is, but the man keeps on racing.  He goes back a few decades, and he's won his share of features during that time.  He and Mike Corsaro have been Dwarf Car teammates for several years now.  I will say that a writer looking for exciting stories from the past would do well to talk to Charlie.  Guys like him make it fun to watch.

The Jordan family has been a booster of Dwarf Cars since the class came to California at Delta Speedway in 1991.  I think it may have been Curt Jordan.  I know he won his share of races.  Duane or Curt may have won a Modified Mini Stock championship at Petaluma in the late 80's or early 90's before moving to Dwarf Cars (Need to check my notes.).  Anyway, Duane Jordan was in this 17 car Dwarf Car field.

It's hard not to recognize the name of Danny Wagner since I believe we live nearby.  I used to see him towing his Mini Truck, which he won several races in.  Danny is adapting well to Dwarf Cars, which doesn't surprise me.  Past champion Jerry Doty was also back in action.  Interesting to note Doty raced a Late Model at Baylands back around 1984-85. 

Speaking of Baylands, the Teves family ran Street Stocks there around that time.  I believe there was Ray, George and Johnny if memory serves.  I don't know if they are related, but David and Adam Teves both competed in this event.  Another familiar name I noticed was Sonny Calkins.  Sonny raced Street Stocks at Petaluma going way back and I think has since won a Dwarf Car championship there.

So, with a good field of cars, Rivera, who I don't believe raced last season, won the feature.  After winning this heat race, Wagner was hoping to grab the prize in the feature, but he had to settle for second.  D. Teves was third ahead of Calkins and heat winner Corsaro.  D. Jordan ended up eighth, but he did win the Trophy Dash.

I'm not going to pretend I know who most of the 15 Hobby Stock competitors were.  I know Kimo Oreta has been making some noise up front for the last couple years, but Street Stock and Hobby Stock champion Melissa Myers-Hansen has been the driver to beat.  I'd love to see that lady in a Dirt Modified or a Late Model at some point, because I bet she could hang with the best of them.

Didn't Jim Freethy claim the win in the 100 lapper last year?  I wouldn't be surprised, because he has won his share of races.  Jim has raced both Hobbys and Limited Late Models and is a threat in either class.  I noticed Gary Filpula among the names.  I believe he is related to Bob Filpula, who raced a little at Antioch in the 1980's.  Nick Viscusi I recognize because I was ghost writing Antioch stories when he came out with a car he planned to run in Enduros.

Well, K. Oreta won the race, but not surprisingly Jim Freethy and heat winner Melissa Myers-Hansen were behind him in second and third.  Is this a preview of this season's championship battle?  Kevin Rickner and Dan Smith completed the top five.  Viscusi DNF'ed but did win a heat race.  I would be remiss if I forgot the sixth place finish of Chris Brown, the son of an old friend and one of my favorite drivers to watch back in the day, "Bouncin" Bobby Brown.

Most people would ignore the rest as there were six cars in the other two classes.  I knew the trucks were on hard times, but really, two trucks guys?  You gotta do better than that.  Is this what happens when Pete's trucks aren't there?  I wasn't a huge advocate of trucks at Antioch as we had enough divisions.  Within a couple seasons, there were 14-18 trucks showing up.

I followed as Chuck Griffin added this class at Merced in the 1990's, and this may have been his greatest decision at promoter at that track.  Chuck actually did a few things I liked, like Cal Mods and bringing back the Sportsman division.  Why are Mini Trucks so important there?  You do realize the caliber of driver this added to the pits at Merced, don't you?  Heck, I recall Chuck booking dates at Antioch and Watsonville and hoping to convince NASCAR to add the class.

Well, thanks to that division, you got the Stone family (Ramie, Troy, Steve and Paul).  All four went on to be champions.  Let's not forget Jack Stanford, Marcus Aue, John Clarke, David and Brian Ipock.  We even saw veterans Joe Diaz Jr. and Bob Terry in these trucks.  This division had win written all over it.  You Merced fans may know this.  Imagine what Merced Speedway would have been without Mini Trucks.

So, when two trucks show up, I'm a little disappointed.  I've been thinking that it might be time to consider running the Mini Trucks with Four Bangers together to increase the field  Then, two trucks show up.  One race doesn't make the deal, and it's not like this is a big purse class, but come on guys.  Anyway, a pat on the back to Travis Hensley and Tim Hensley for their 1-2 finish in the heat and main.  They showed.  It's not their fault nobody else did.

I was expecting more than four Super Hobbys to race.  This division was pretty much added as a result of all the parked Street Stocks after John merged them with the Limited Late Models.  There are at least a dozen cars out there, so four is disappointing.   Not too familiar with Mitchell Locicere and Dustin Himes.

Gene Haney is the defending champion and I believe a past Mini Truck champion as well.  Seems like the Haney family has been in at least four different classes at the track (maybe five) during the last decade or so.  It's nice to see Gene supporting the cause, but let's hope he gets more competition this year (not that he didn't have enough this time).

That's because "Wild" Jim Robbins won both the heat and main ahead of Haney this time out.  There have been four generations of Robbins to race at Antioch through the years.  Jim is the third generation and the 2002 Figure 8 champion.  His father Don is the 1974 Stock Car champion at Antioch.  Having spoken with Jim recently, I know how much he loves racing at the track and what it's meant to him.

So, this isn't a story about the show at Antioch last week.  Well, maybe it is a little bit, but I would rather read new reports by somebody on the scene.  I've already spent much longer than I planned to on this article.  Not sure if anybody will even be reading it, and that's okay.  I don't intend to do this every week, but I wanted to comment on last week's races and some memories I have of some of the racers who were there.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Some More Hardtop News From Current Races

I must say I'm digging the bits of nostalgia we have going on at some of these tracks this year.  It's 2013, and we have Hardtops and the Sportsman division racing at tracks in California.  It's a little taste of the 1960's and 1970's happening right now.

If there's a positive to the glut of divisions we have at these tracks, this is it.  At the Merced Speedway point opener Shane Hausmann won the Valley Sportsman division main event.  There were seven cars.  Can you believe this will be the 15th championship season of the revival of this division.  I loved it when Chuck Griffin and Luis Miranda and the boys got the ball rolling on this deal back in 1999.  By the way, the next Sportsman race at Merced race is slated for April 27.

I think we can thank Mike McCann and Chuck Prather for this Hardtop revival.  It was about 11 years ago when McCann brought the Cascade Hardtops to California and started this ball rolling with visits to Sacramento Raceway and Orland Speedway.  Prather continued things a year later.

It was a few years later when the late Kenny Farris, Marc McCaslin, Matt McCaslin and the gang started the Okie Bowl Hardtops effort as a tribute to the good old days at Bakerfsield Speedway.  Since 2006, these guys have had at least a few races every year, and many of them are chronicled on their website.

As a matter of fact, the Okie Bowl Hardtops helped usher in the 2013 season at Santa Maria Speedway as part of the nights featured attraction.  The five division program included an 11 car Hardtop feature, won by Steve Sorensen ahead of David Courtney and James Bradford.  Way to go guys.  You know, a few years ago, NorCal Hardtop ace Tommy Thomson brought his car to an Okie Bowl Hardtop race in Santa Maria and scored the victory.

However, Tommy was in Petaluma that night as NorCal Hardtops competed in their second race of the season.  This time out, it was Terry DeCarlo taking the checkered flag in the 15 lap event. 

 Terry DeCarlo wins at Hardtop race Petaluma Speedway.

George Conner paced the 17 car field for three laps before spinning in front of Terry DeCarlo.  DeCarlo had charged from eighth to second and gained the lead with Conner's spin.  DeCarlo built a commanding lead over Tommy Thomson when he caught four slower cars.  DeCarlo was able to take his time and lap them all without losing significant ground to Thomson. 

Founding NorCal Hardtop member Conrad Cavallero #2 finished fifth.

DeCarlo went on to victory ahead of Thomson.  Recent Stockton winner Mike Friesen came home third ahead of Dan Williams, Conrad Cavallero and John Philbert, all on the lead lap in the non stop 15 lap event (Note: results are unofficial.)

Interestingly enough, this event was said to be a BCRA sanctioned race as well.  I haven't heard any news on what drivers are official BCRA members, but their section of the page does have a place for point standings.  From the late 1940's through the mid 1960's, the BCRA sanctioned Hardtops at several Northern California tracks, so I'd be interested to see who represented BCRA at this particular race and who might be racing soon.

On May 4th (I think it may really be the 3rd as that's what is listed on Chico Speedway's page), the BCRA lists a race at Chico.  This would be the same date as Orland Speedbowl, which lists Hardtops as part of the May 4th opener.  The California Hardtop Association Hardtops are booked for a race on May 11th.  Whatever the case, I hope they continue to gain cars.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Motorcyle Racing Confirmed For Chowchilla Speedway in April and May

Sunday afternoon, watering the track at Chowchilla Speedway from Slideways Racing.

While we wait for word on what auto racing may take place at Chowchilla Speedway this season, we can confoirm that track prep has been ongoing daily.  They have completely reworked the race track there.

I can't confirm what will happen on that end or who will be promoting auto racing there.  However, Slidways Racing will be promoting motorcycle racing there on April 27 as part of the King Of The Valley Pro Flat Track Racing Series.  Another date is set for May 10.

When the Chowchilla Fair comes along from May 16-19, there will be tractor pulls and the annual destruction derby.

As some of the pieces of the puzzle come into place, we still await word on where auto racing fits into the 2013 equation or if it will.  The powers that be will have to step forward and let us know.  However, we can at least confirm work is being done at the track and there will be some racing happening this year.  At least that's a start.

Just as I was about to publish this, the Slideways Racing Facebook page had this interesting post:

Slideways Racing 10 car races and three motorcycle/quad races. See above for the schedule. Car race schedule out soon.

So, that is further confirmation that auto racing is being planned for Chowchilla Speedway this season.  For those of you who loved racing or watching the races there, be on the look out for official announcements in the near future.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Blast From The Past: A Brief Season Recap From Antioch Speedway 1998

Under the new leadership of John Soares Jr., Antioch Speedway ran a successful first season under the All Pro Series banner.  Most of the time, four or five divisions of racing were offered on the quarter-mile clay oval on Saturday nights.  Featured regularly were the Dirt Modifieds, Modified Street Stocks and Pure Stocks.  The Dwarf Cars, Late Models, 360 Sprint Cars and NCMA Modifieds also crowned 1998 Antioch champions, and visits from the BCRA Midgets and Midget Lites proved useful in deciding their respective series titles.  It was not an infrequent sight to see over 100 cars in the pits for an Antioch Speedway show this season.

With a trip to Australia on the line for the Dirt Modified championship, there was plenty of good racing on tap for the open wheel Stock Car class.  Several talented drivers stepped up to the forefront and became stars in the division.  An early season point struggle developed between seven time winner Don Shelton, three time winner Phil Pedlar, two time winner Dan Gonderman and one time winner Bob Newberry for the lead in the point battle.  Though Newberry and Gonderman both led the point race early on, it was Shelton who would take over by May and remain consistent enough down the stretch in his potent Pro Chassis to bring home his first track championship in his 14 year career.

Newberry's win over up and comer Mark Garner was perhaps the most exciting race of the season and brought the fans to their feet with a standing ovation.  Though Garner lost that night to the division's trophy dash win leader (Newberry with five), Mark eventually brought his family their first main event win at the track since 1982.  Garner wasn't alone in posting a first career win in the division.  The season ended with back to back first career wins for veteran Debi Clymens and Ed Leis.  It was perhaps the most competitive season ever in the division's nine year history.  Antioch wrapped up the season with the running of the $20,000 purse CarQuest 50, and it was Joey Hubbard picking up the surprise $5,000 victory.

The most exciting championship battle occurred in the Modified Street Stock division as Rob Waldrop and Daniel Hodges engaged in a see-saw battle that went down to the final race with several lead changes.  When seven time winner Hodges won the three features leading up to the finale, it gave him a slim lead, but three time winner Waldrop used a top five finish in the final race to win it all.  It was Waldrop's first championship in his 19 year career, and he received a much deserved standing ovation from the crowd after that final race.

Though veterans like David Rosa (once) and Tom Flanary (twice) found the winner's circle, 1998 will go down as a year that saw several drivers win their first feature or emerge as front runners.  In addition to Waldrop and Hodges, three time winner Todd Tadiello, one time winner Mike Walko and one time winner Chester Kniss also found the winner's circle.  Though not a feature winner, Lori Brown's ability to finish consistently in the top ten (17 times), got her ranked third in points, and rookie Billy Fraser, Jim Capoot and Charlie Bryant were also impressive, though not feature winners.  The season ended with the Mel & Sons Mufflers 50 with Chris Lancaster rejoining the division and picking up a victory.

The 1998 Pure Stock season belonged to eight time winner and rookie Donny Babb from the word go.  Even when he wasn't winning, it was a rare night in which Babb wasn't in the top five in the finish.  Three time winner Trevor Clymens and two time winner Lancaster were unable to overcome a couple of bad nights to challenge Babb for the lead, but they still impressed in their battle for second.  Other impressive efforts were turned in by two time winner Fred Baker and one time winners Tobi Madden, Mikey Slaney and Larry Tucker.  It was the first wins for Slaney and Madden.  The Pure Stock division grew by leaps and bounds this season and required semi mains for the first time ever, and they were rewarded by running for money this season and getting a 50 lap feature of their own on Mel & Sons Mufflers night.  That event was dominated by Babb, who is one of several drivers planning a move up from the division next year.

The All Pro Series Dwarf Cars enjoyed their first season at Antioch and put on a good show for the fans.  After visitor Frank Munroe opened the season with a victory, John Anderson rattled off five straight feature wins to take control of the point battle.  Anderson drove smart races and always seemed to be able to make his move when the time called for it.  That left the battle for second between Ray Etherton, Duane Jordan and Jim Barton with State champion Erherton coming out just ahead of Jordan.  Barton was the only driver with all top ten finishes in the division.  Howard Fergerson solidified his top ten status by dominating the finale and lapping most of the field.

The NCMA Modifieds called Antioch their home track with nine of their 18 races taking place at the track that gave them their start back in 1988.  Scott Holloway dominated the early going of the season, and the five time winner was never threatened after that.  It was Holloway's second Antioch title.  Three time winner Duane Watson was Holloway's closest pursuer down the stretch, but a bad night in the finale dropped him to fourth behind the two time dash winning duo of Ed Amador Sr. and Don O'Keefe Jr.  For O'Keefe, it was the first two dash wins of a 24 year racing career, the first coming on the night of the most exciting feature of the season.  Andy Archer won perhaps the race of the year at the track in a three car blanket race with Amador and Jeff Pike.  It was the first win for Archer.  The season also featured veteran Burt Siverling's first career dash win and a "Roland Lokmor Memorial Heat Race" win for Joe Kuderca.  The NCMA cars also got an open comp race under the All Pro Series banner with Henry Mitchell III scoring the rich win.

Elsewhere at the speedway, the Petaluma Late Models came to Antioch six times, and Ed Sans Jr. won five of those to add his second Antioch title to his third Petaluma crown.  Larry Damitz was consistently Sans' chief rival, but Jay Edens had the only other Antioch win.  Four 360 Sprint Car visits produced wins for Petaluma champ David Lindt Jr., Jim Van Lare, David Robinson Jr. and Dennis Binstock, but it was consistent top five finisher Gary Geving who would win the Antioch title.  The BCRA returned to Antioch for several events, including the London Bash Hall Of Fame picnic night.  The Bash was the only night of the year anywhere to feature BCRA's Midgets, Midget Lites and Vintage Midgets on the same card, and Scott Nail won a thriller to beat veteran Floyd Alvis for the feature win that night.  Defending Midget Lite champion Ryan German won his division's feature that night for his third win at the track.  The season at Antioch ended with the Mel & Son's Mufflers sponsored events, and veteran Chris Lancaster won the 200 lap Enduro that night.

1998 would have to be classified as a successful season of All Pro Series racing at Antioch, and 1999 is shaping up to be even better.  Look for the new Wingless Spec Sprint division to join the All Pro lineup of Dirt Modifieds, Modified Street Stocks, Pure Stocks and Dwarf Cars with scheduled visits for the North State Civil War Series, the BCRA Midgets and Midget Lites and the NCMA Modifieds.  SlicArt Screen Printing will continue to do the All Pro Series shirts, hats and other novelties for Antioch and Petaluma in 1999.