Larry Damitz Memorial Race On The Schedule At Antioch Speedway

By Don Martin II

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Chester Kniss #28 finished third in the most recent DIRTcar Late Model Main Event. He will be battling some tough competition for a run at a $3,000 payday in the Larry Damitz Memorial race this week. Photo By Beverly Kniss

Antioch, CA — There’s news at Antioch Speedway.  The big news this week is the Larry Damitz Memorial for the DIRTcar Late Models.

Larry has won over a dozen Late Model races at Antioch Speedway through the years and was second in points in 1986.  Larry’s division of choice in recent years, the Limited Late Models, are also on the schedule.

The All Star Series Winged 360 Sprint Cars, A Modifieds and Dwarf Cars will also compete this week, and Promoter John M. Soares just announced that NASCAR racer/commentator Kenny Wallace will be competing on June 24th in both a Late Model and an A Modified.

Two time Petaluma champion Paul Guglielmoni got together with Soares to discuss the purse for Saturday’s big DIRTcar Late Model race.  Guglielmoni was another of those drivers that Damitz took under his wing and would often help.  Damitz was there for Paul the night he scored an impressive victory at Antioch in 2015.  Soares dedicated Damitz’s pit area to him with a special memorial marker before the season started.  Guglilmoni brought in the sponsorship of Vaca Valley Excavating And Trucking, Henner Tank Lines and the Matt Micheli family.  Soares added to the purse as well, and it’s now $3,000 to win and $300 to start.  There will also be a special $200 to win Dash For Cash.

Antioch’s two two-time Late Model champions, Richard Papenhausen and “The Hit Man” Jeff Decker, are both chomping at the bit to make a run for what may be the biggest payday for the division in the state this year.  Decker won the season opener a couple of weeks ago.  However, there’s a hitch in this duo’s plans in the form of Bobby Hogge IV.  Bobby has a tendency to come to town when there’s a big race and leave with the prize money.  He’s won a few Late Model races at Antioch in recent years and ranks a close third behind J.D. Willis and Scott Busby on the track’s All Time Winner’s List.  Hogge may be the driver to beat on Saturday.

However, past Antioch champion Andy Obertello is also coming to town to make a run at the payoff.  Obertello has won a couple of Main Events in his few visits in the past two seasons.  From Willamette Speedway comes news that 2016 point runnerup Joey Tanner will be making the trip thanks to tow sponsorship from Daren Campbell.  We received late word that multi time Willamette champion Darren Coffell will be there as well.  Many drivers from out of town are talking, and rumors abound as to who might be coming from Bakersfield, Placerville and out of state.  Guglielmoni has been racing in Placerville and spreading the word.  Placervlle is also the home track of long time Late Model racer Matt Micheli, who is anticipated for this race.  Guglielmoni won a heat race and placed fourth there last week.

Chester Kniss had an impressive third place finish last time out as he continues to dial in his Late Model ride.  Chester also won the A Modified feature last week.  Could he make his first win in this division the biggest win of them all?  There are some dedicated local racers who are anticipated this week, led by Shawn DeForest, rookie Kimo Oreta, Mike Hynes, David Newquist, Dennis Souza, Rob Norris and Danny Malfatti.  Speculation is that there will be at least 12-16 competitors, and possibly more for a race that will likely be an annual event.

If you got a win in Limited Late Models in recent seasons, often times you had to go through Damitz to get it.  “The Sun Drop Kid” won over 40 of them with five championships and two second place seasons in the last seven years.  Only Mitch Machado in 2010 and Jim Freethy in 2013 beat him for the title.  Damitz didn’t rank at the top of the division’s All Time Win List, although he was closing in on that leader.  Two time division champion Mike Gustafson is the man with the most wins in the class, and he added another victory to that advantage last week as he served a reminder to the rest of the field that there’s another “old man” in the class that they will have to beat to win the championship.

Jim Freethy clearly had his new car dialed in last season as he won a Main Event, and he was the one who chased Gustafson across the line in second last week.  Freethy may be a contender this year, and that is also the goal of the driver who finished third and won his heat race last week, Mark Garner.  Even if the extra money isn’t on the line in this class, getting a win in the Larry Damitz Memorial is something most of the drivers are looking to do.  Plus, Pete Paulsen has sponsored a special trophy for this event.

Kimo Oreta will be driving the Sun Drop Racing #15 car, and the steady John Evans, Jeff Kendrick, Chad Hammer, past champion Lori Brown and rookie Buddy Kniss are other drivers to watch for.  Petaluma Speedway is dark to the class this week, so a visitor or two from there is possible.  We’ve seen racers like Machado, Steve Studebaker and Shawn McCoy in recent years.  Could they make an appearance this week?

The Winged 360 Sprint Cars are continuing the trend of last season when we had 10 different winners in 14 races.  Rookie Kyle Offill won the opener by a wide margin, and Tyler Seavey won the most recent race ahead of 2015 champion Shawn Arriaga.  Drivers are lining up for a shot at the glory, and that figures to be the case this season as various drivers will likely come through town from week to week, many of then newcomers to the class.  As for regulars, we have five drivers with a head start of the man who has finished second in points these past two seasons and figured to be the man to beat, Art McCarthy.

At the head of the pack with a pair of Top 3 finishes this year is open wheel veteran Burt Foland Jr.  Burt leads Offill by just six points.  Marissa Polizzi is eight points back, Aaron Miller is 12 points out and last year’s top rookie, Jenna Frazier, is 14 points back in fifth.  Miller is coming from Grants Pass, Oregon to compete for this championship and is hungry for his second career win.  Frazier and Polizzi are looking for their first wins.  These drivers can count on the fact that McCarthy will be in the hunt for victory this week following a non start and then a fifth last week.  Other drivers to watch for are Jason Paniagua and Bryan Grier.  We’re still looking for the season debut of Dan Gonderman and Tim Burcher.

Chester Kniss was all smiles after his impressive performance in winning last week’s A Modified Main Event by a straightaway ahead of title hopeful and second generation racer Sean O’Gara.  Kniss had a disappointing outing with his Modified in Chowchilla earlier this year, but this win showed what he can do when the car is dialed in.  In the championship battle, Bobby Motts Jr. has all Top 3 finishes to maintain an eight point lead over Mike Salazar.  Salazar was initially declared the winner of the opener, but a review of the race gave the win to Scott Busby.  Busby’s championship hopes seems to be over after crashing in hot laps in the next race, won by Kellen Chadwick, and missing last week.

O’Gara is next in line, 12 points out of the lead.  Next would be rookie Eric Berendsen, who isn’t far behind in his brother Carl’s old car.  Gregg McElhaney’s hopes took a hit when he scratched from the Main Event last time out, but the lead four drivers seem intent on winning this championship.  None of them has won a championship in this division, although Motts has a Street Stock title.  Motts was second in 2015, and O’Gara was third last season.  Salazar also has finished in the Top 3 in the past.  If the racing budgets hold out for these four, we could see a battle that goes down to the wire.  Other drivers to watch for this week include Sean Wilson and Gary Hetrick.  With Bobby Hogge IV coming with his Late Model, it’s possible we could see him with his A Modified as well.

The Dwarf Cars round out the exciting program as they return for their second race.  They gave the fans a thriller last time out as last season’s top two drivers, Kevin Miraglio and Mike Corsaro, battled to a photo finish.  Reigning champion Miraglio won by inches.  They continue their battle this week, but there are others hoping to make a claim on the winner’s prize.  Leading that charge will be two time Street Stock champion David Rosa, open wheel veteran Charlie Correia, Robert Coe, Jenna Frazier, Josh Miller and David Michael Rosa.  Roberto Monroy, Devan Kammerman and Mario Marques are three of the rookies in the field this year.

Saturday night will be a must see event at the Speedway with the Larry Damitz Memorial.  The big money is on the line for the DIRTcar Late Models as All Star Series Winged 360 Sprint Cars, Limited Late Models, A Modifieds and Dwarf Cars are all on the card.  For further information, go to www.antiochspeedway.com.

Antioch Speedway Points
All Star Series
Winged 360 Sprint Cars
Burt Foland Jr.   96
Kyle Offill    94
Marissa Polizzi    88
Aaron Miller    84
Jenna Frazier    82
Tyler Seavey    56
Shawn Arriaga    54
Bryan Grier    53
Art McCarthy    51
Jason Paniagua    36

A Modifieds
Bobby Motts Jr.    148
Mike Salazar    140
Sean O’Gara    136
Gregg McElhaney    132
Eric Berendsen    116
Gary Hetrick    80
Scott Busby    61
Kellen Chadwick    56
Chester Kniss    54
Carl Berendsen II 52

DIRTcar late Models
Jeff Decker    54
Shawn DeForest    54
Chester Kniss    46
Kimo Oreta    44
Mike Hynes    42
Richard Papenhausen 42
Dennis Souza    40
Paul Guglielmoni 38
David Newquist    36
Joey Olschowka    36

Dwarf Car Points
Kevin Miraglio    56
Chuck Connover    52
Mike Corsaro    48
David Rosa    44
Charlie Correia    44
Robert Coe    40
Roberto Monory    40
Chris Becker    38
Ted Pastor    36
Devan Kammerman    32

Limited Late Models
Mike Gustafson    56
Mark Garner    52
Jim Freethy    50
Jeff Kendrick    44
Kimo Oreta    44
John Evans    42
Chad Hammer    40
Buddy Kniss    40
Lori Brown    34

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1 COMMENT

  1. Antioch has become nothing more than a weekly dust bowl. The track is never prepped appropriately and the pits are a junkyard of broken down vehicles. It is a wonder the promoter is still allowed to run this place.

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