ANTIOCH -- Antioch Speedway starts its 2014 schedule with a six-division program on March 15.
Champion Troy Foulger, 23, of Martinez returns to competition at his home track, driving the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) Modified Stock Car owned by Oakley's Billy Bowers. Foulger has won four straight track championships, and the Bowers car has seven -- three with its previous driver, Kenny Neu.
The Foulger-Bowers duo returned from a rough season-opening race this past Saturday in Chico. They chased friendly Oakley foe Kellen Chadwick across the finish line. Both are Antioch Speedway regulars.
"Any time you can beat the locals at their home track, it is quite an accomplishment," Bowers explained. "It was a great way to start off the season.
Despite bringing home second in a highly competitive field of modifieds, Foulger and Bowers returned with a heavily damaged car. The damages were not from other drivers, but from the rough track surface in Chico.
"We had to go through every part of the car, checking and straightening each component and tightening bolts," Bowers explained. "We took the body panels off to straighten them, and will make some adjustments to our chassis to prepare for Antioch Speedway."
Rough track or not, Foulger loves racing.
"I always have fun when I am racing," he explains. "If it isn't fun for you to race, then you shouldn't be racing."
Foulger won't commit to racing for another Antioch Speedway championship.
"Like every year, we just race and see where the season takes us," he said. "We work hard. We learn. We make adjustments. The Bowers family puts in a 110 percent effort and that is why we are successful."
Hobby Stock Division "Rookie of the Year" Nick Baldwin has been working on his Camaro stock car. Clean and well polished after a long-off season, Baldwin's car was rolled into the driveway of his suburban home to take advantage of the ability to work in the warm weather.
Baldwin, 31, has lived his entire life in Oakley. He played baseball and football at Freedom High, and is still a major fan of the two sports. It wasn't until last year that he tried a new sport -- stock car racing.
"I have been watching the races at Antioch Speedway since I was a kid, and I decided I'd like to give it a try," Baldwin explained.
He bought a "hobby stock" from Brentwood's Brad and Melissa Myers, two of the best drivers in the division. With the car came their guidance throughout the season. Their racing friends -- like Brentwood racer Fred Ryland -- became Baldwin's friends, and also helped him out.
"Brad and Melissa were there to answer my questions and give me advice. My dad, Ed, helped me a ton -- working on the car every day. My fiancé, Beth, supported and encouraged me, led the cheering, and even cleaned the mud from the car," Baldwin said. "It was a team effort."
The Antioch Speedway season opener will feature IMCA modifieds, Wingless Sprint Cars, Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks, "Four-Bangers" and Dwarf Cars -- each with their own set of qualifying heats and feature events. Gates open at 5 p.m. Racing is underway at 6:30 p.m.
Admission is $14 for adults, $10 for children 6-12, and $8 for senior citizens. A family four-pack of tickets is $40. The Speedway is located in the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, 1201 W. 10th St. in Antioch. The Fairgrounds offers secure parking for $5.