APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. – The first race of the year occurred on New Year’s Day afternoon at Stockton Dirt Track, when four divisions brought 81 cars to the four-tenths-mile fairgrounds oval.
At 3:28 pm the first heat went green, giving Stockton the honor of being California’s first race of the new year.
Two factors led to Stockton hosting a New Year’s Day race, one being their expanded schedule this year. Running additional dates is not particularly easy when Saturday is the preferred day in the state and finding available places to put a race becomes challenging.
Stockton has addressed this issue to some degree by racing twice in January and adding one race in February, two months that are normally devoid of outdoor racing in the Golden State. The Jan. 26 race will be the first sprint car event in the state, when an unsanctioned $2,000 to win show will feature winged 360 sprints.
February’s race also has winged 360s on the 23rd and a week later, the opening KWS-NARC winged 410 event races their season opener at Stockton. That makes four races before most tracks in the state have even had a practice day.
Stockton has also added some stock car events during the season that opened Jan. 1 and closes on Nov. 2. Many of us were surprised how many cars showed for the New Year’s race, but prior years a race on that day was held at Antioch Speedway.
It was unusual circumstances that made the date available this year. Antioch, being a fairgrounds track, has specific procedures to follow when the prior year’s promoter’s contract is expiring.
Aspiring promoters submit proposals and a bid was awarded for Antioch, making it a done deal, but it didn’t stay done.
A protest was filed over the fair board’s actions, the state got involved, and the new year arrives with no promoter at Antioch. The people who were awarded the contract had to submit detailed plans to the state and an answer is to be known by Jan. 21.
One option might be to do the bidding process all over, delaying the decision for weeks. At some point it could become too late to put together a schedule for the year.
Josh Cross captured the honor of winning the first 2019 main event in California when he drove his 4-cylinder car to the win in the 20-lap test.
The IMCA modifieds raced unsanctioned as the top division, and it was Ryan McDaniel who took the $1,500 first place payout.
While some tracks and series have their schedules out, others are still being finalized. We were told that Chico was offered both Sprint Car Challenge Tour and Civil War winged 360 dates and said no to both.
Chico’s usual USAC/CRA date in September is gone, moving to Merced Speedway.
Also the Hunt Magneto Spec Sprint series will also not be racing at Chico this year, according to sources at the Stockton race.
The 14-race series for winged 360s between Hanford and Tulare is a superb deal, something that has been needed for a long time. With the two tracks being only 27 miles apart and a growing number of Central Valley 360 sprint teams popping up, the time was right for creating the Kings of Thunder series.
Micro sprint racing at Visalia and Lemoore tracks serve as training for future sprint car drivers.
Placerville Speedway has made a good move by naming Gary Thomas as the full time announcer at the quarter mile. Now if tracks could just find a race director with the skill set of Mike Andretta they would really be set for a 2019 season.
We’ve only seen one race so far this year and we are already tired of unnecessary yellows and other time wasting moves.