By Don Martin II
The Antioch Speedway roars back into action this Saturday night, April 14 with an exciting six division All Star Series program honoring the late Larry Damitz. Featured divisions this weekend include the Wingless Spec Sprints, A Modified, B Modifieds, Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars.
In recent seasons, the division of choice for Damitz, who was racing well into his 80s, was the Limited Late Models. In his final seven seasons at Antioch, he won five championships and finished second in those other two seasons. He won over 50 Main Events in his illustrious career at Antioch Speedway alone, and he was also recently inducted into the Vallejo Sports Hall Of Fame.
For The Limited Late Model racers, this event is for them. They spent many years trying to beat the orange and blue #15 car, wheeled impressively by Damitz. Last season, it was Kimo Oreta taking the wheel and making sure the Sun Drop Racing team maintained their championship status. Though he was very consistent and won multiple races, he still had to fight off the challenges of 2013 champion Jim Freethy and Mark Garner.
Freethy and Garner are both expected to contend for this year’s championship. Garner was doing double division duty last season, but he has put his B Modified up for sale in order to focus on his Limited Late Model effort. The man who has won more Main Events in this division at Antioch than anybody else, Mike Gustafson, will be another driver to watch out for. He was a two-time feature winner last season. Chris Long is anticipated in the John Keith car, and other drivers to watch for include John Evans, Lori Brown, Chad Hammer and Ryan Cherezian.
The A Modified division kicked off their 2018 season two weeks ago with Nick DeCarlo scoring the impressive victory. DeCarlo tends to bounce from track to track, but he has championships to his credit at Watsonville and Petaluma. A decision on Nick’s behalf to compete for the Antioch crown would certainly make him a top threat. Reigning champion Bobby Motts Jr notched the second place finish at the opener as he attempts a title defense. Five time division champion Scott Busby has his eyes on a track record 73 career feature wins, and other drivers to watch for this week include Sean O’Gara, rookie Buddy Kniss, hard charger Trent Wentworth, Mike Salazar and Bobby Montalvo.
Fred Ryland might have been a surprise entrant at the opener as he was the 2017 Merced Speedway champion. However, he picked up right where he left off with another Antioch win. The 2015 Antioch champion, who also has a Hobby Stock championship to his credit, is rapidly approaching 50 career feature wins. Ryland’s presence in the field makes things very interesting and helps make Antioch one of the most exciting B Modified programs in the state. Other drivers to watch for in the field include 2016 champion Trevor Clymens, 2017 champion KC Keller, past Street Stock champion Todd Gomez, past Hobby Stock champion Guy Ahlwardt and Tommy Fraser.
The Wingless Spec Sprint division enters its 20th season on the roster, and it appears as if 2004 champion Bob Newberry has his sights set on the championship. Newberry won more Main Events than anybody last season before settling for third in the standings. Another driver to keep an eye on is the only driver to have competed in all 20 seasons in this division, 2017 runnerup Rick Panfili. A competitive group of racers in this class includes Alan Miranda, Roy Fisher, Shannon Newton, Brandon Burd, Abigail Gonderman, Adam Teves, James East and Bryan Grier, who hasn’t officially said if he’s attempting a title defense this year.
The Hobby Stock division continues to have a strong presence at the speedway. In the opener, Michael Cooper looked very impressive in scoring the win, leaving the battle for second between reigning champion Cameron Swank and 2010 champion Chris Sorensen. Past Super Hobby Stock and Figure 8 champion Jim Robbins threw his hat into the ring this year and looked very fast in the opener. Likewise, Chris Bennett also figures to be in line for his first career feature win. Other drivers to watch for this week include Jordan Swank, Travis Tabucchi, Ricky Foster, Josh Leach, Russell Shearer and Haley Gomez.
There was plenty of disappointment to go around in the Dwarf Car community after the rain out canceled what was sure to be a big event last week. Regardless, Mike Corsaro enters the season as the reigning champion. Corsaro may very well be the driver to beat this year as he has become very consistent in recent seasons. David Michael Rosa is knocking on the door to his first career feature win and may be another driver to watch in the championship hunt. Other drivers to watch for this week include last season’s top rookie, Devan Kammermann, Brian Gray, David Rosa, Charlie Correia and 2016 champion Kevin Miraglio.
It looks as if the weather will open a window and allow this exciting six division program to unfold. For further information on this and other happenings at Contra Costa County’s only place to watch auto races live and in person, go to www.antiochspeedway.com.