THIS WEEKEND, Dirtcar Racing Ump Modifieds Took Center Stage In Central California With A Hugely Successful Two — night show at Antioch and Merced Speedway.
The first annual DIRTcar Racing UMP Modified West Coast Nationals packed the grandstands and filled the pits, giving testimony to the fan base for this type or car, the promotional talent of John Soares' Oval Motorsports, and the appeal of DIRTcar Racing in general.
"We were near capacity at both Speedways," said Soares, the promoter of Antioch and Merced. "The large fan turnout proves that modifieds are what the fans want to see."
"Both tracks had all-modified shows, and had the largest crowds of the season. Modifieds are still growing in popularity. The modifieds out-drew the 410 Sprint cars as the major racing attraction at our Central California tracks," Soares continued.
"Working with John is always a great experience because you know he's going to put on a great show and the fans are going to leave happy," said Chris Morgan, Director of Western Operations for DIRTcar, "and to see the fan support in this area shows the potential for what we can do with DIRTcar UMP Modifieds in the region."
"We are looking forward to putting on quite a few more shows of this caliber next year," Morgan continued."
"The modified division is loaded with new talent, has the top experienced drivers, and still draws big-name veterans," said Soares. "The modified division also has the car count that people know will result in a spectacular show."
Soares' comments were proven correct when the checkered flag waved over the A-Main at Merced to conclude the two nights of racing.
Both races had thrilling storylines and showcased just how strong DIRTcar Racing UMP Modified action is in California. A whopping 58 cars showed up the first night at Antioch and 42 were on hand to pack the preliminaries at Merced.
The challenges were different each night, but the outcome was the same in the first annual DIRTcar Racing UMP Modified West Coast Nationals as California's Bobby Hogge IV claimed $8,000 in prize money for winning the two-day show at Antioch and Merced on August 28th and 29th.
"The $8,000 couldn't have come at a better time," Hogge said. "We support our racing with our own money and our winnings, and this will keep us going."
Each race paid $3,500 to win, with Hogge pocketing an additional $1,000 bonus for sweeping the two events.
On the first night of racing at Antioch, Hogge had to contend with Scott Busby and Kenny Neu in a side-by-side battle that was not decided until the 28th circuit of the 35-lap A-Main. Busby and Neu finished second and third, with Chris Shannon and Michael Paul rounding out the top five.
But where raw power decided the Antioch feature, Hogge needed a little luck to sweep the weekend. The decisive pass at Merced was also made in the closing laps when leader Shannon's car suddenly lost power, causing him to swerve out of the racing line.
"A clump of mud hit the emergency power kill switch on the cockpit deck," Shannon said after the race. "It has never happened before - all I could do in a split second is turn the wheel to get the car out of the way. I didn't want to get killed."
"I didn't have the best car," Hogge replied in victory lane. "It was unfortunate for Chris, but I'll have to take it as it is. I would have liked to win by passing him. But, I'd rather be lucky than good any day."
Shannon re-fired his car and rejoined the fray, eventually climbing to eighth.
Hogge's luck wasn't limited to the late-race incident, as he also narrowly avoiding spinning on a lap-12 restart. When Shannon darted into the lead, Hogge and Alex Sanford both dove for the opening behind him. The two made contact and Sanford spun; Hogge continued.
"It was a typical racing scenario," Hogge said. "One guy is fighting for a position and the other one is protecting it. Chris left an opening, and Alex and I were fighting for the same spot."
Rounding out the top five at Antioch were Robby Sawyer in second, Paul Stone in third, Antioch Speedway's Modified point leader Troy Foulger in fourth, and New Mexico's Jimmy Ray in fifth.
While the battles for the win featured California natives, some drivers made long tows to compete in the DIRTcar Racing UMP Modified show in order to gain valuable national points. Stormy Scott and Jimmy Ray, a pair of New Mexico natives, traveled more than 1,100 miles to compete in the first ever West Coast Nationals and swell the car count in an effort to chase those points.
Both Scott and Ray had tire problems at Antioch and finished outside the top five. Scott rebounded to finish eighth in that race, but experienced even more frustration at Merced, where he was 17th.
Ray was not as lucky at Antioch. He had to leave the track to make repairs after his tire troubles, which caused him to finish 15th, but he more than made up for that disappointment the following night at Merced when he chased the leaders across the line in fifth.
"It's only the fourth race on this car, which I built myself," Ray said. "I like to travel, experience new tracks, and learn. If I set up my car like I did tonight, I would have run better at Antioch the night before."
With A-Main features traditionally limited to 18 drivers at Antioch and Merced, the competition to simply make the show was fierce, but a total of 29 different drivers qualified for the pair of A-Mains with eight of them racing into both shows. One car was added to the Antioch feature because there were an odd number of heat races.
Along with the undefeated Hogge, Busby finished second at Antioch and was seventh at Merced, Shannon finished fourth at Antioch and was eighth at Merced, while the remainder of the list had a mixed bag of results.
Sawyer was 14th at Antioch and second at Merced; Ray finished 15th and fifth, Scott finished eighth and 17th, Stanford finished 19th and sixth, while Austin Burke was 16th both nights.
1. Bobby Hogge IV 2. Scott Busby 3. Bobby Neu 4. Chris Shannon 5. Michael Paul 6. Kellen Chadwick 7. Brian Cass 8. Stormy Scott 9. Randy McDaniel 10. Sean O'Gara 11. Nick Collins 12. Micky Hill 13. Keith Brown, Sr. 14. Robby Sawyer 15. Jimmy Ray 16. Austin Burke 17. Dwayne Cleveland 18. Richard Pappenhausen 19. Alex Stanford
1. Bobby Hogge IV 2. Robby Sawyer 3. Paul Stone 4. Troy Foulger 5. Jimmy Ray 6. Alex Stanford 7. Scott Busby 8. Chris Shannon 9. Aaron Barnell 10. Steve Noack 11. Cody Burke 12. Jim DiGiovanni 13. Jerry Reeves 14. Ryan Porter 15. Lance Mari 16. Austin Burke 17. Stormy Scott 18. Jeff Streeter