ANTIOCH -- Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas proved again he is the master of the 3/8-mile Antioch Speedway clay oval as he outdueled rival Kellen Chadwick of Oakley in the 20-car Northern All Star Modified Stock Car feature event on April 12. Hogge IV is undefeated this year in the elite series.
With the high-banked oval still seeping moisture from the spring rains, drivers were faced with a choice of riding high on the track for better traction, or staying low where it was smooth. With 12 laps to go, a restart after a caution flag saw Chadwick out-power Hogge IV down the front stretch to steal the lead.
Two laps later, another caution flag gave Hogge IV a chance to take back what was his.
"The track was so rough up on top, I decided to keep the car pinned on the bottom," Hogge IV explained in victory lane. "If you can beat the guy next to you to the first turn, you can choose whatever lane you want."
Hogge IV did just that on the second restart.
"I thought I would have better traction at the top of the track," Chadwick said. "That last caution did me in. I didn't clear him (Hogge IV) enough to get in front of him. He took the bottom of the track away from me."
Duane Cleveland of Plumas Lake was right behind Chadwick, fighting off challenges from four-time track champ Troy Foulger, who finished fourth. Nick DeCarlo of Martinez rounded out the top five.
Jeff Decker of Morgan Hill had the smoothest running car in the Northern All Star Late model feature event, and he easily cruised to victory after his only challenger, Richard Papenhausen of Chico, spun coming out of the second turn early in the race.
Papenhausen was second at the line, but was far behind Decker.
"When I realized it was going to be a rough track, I made changes to 'free-up' the suspension so the car would not have as much forward traction," Decker explained.
Larry Damitz of Vallejo, the oldest driver in the United States continuously racing in a competitive division, proved he's still a force to contend with at age 85. He won his first feature of the 2014 season in the Limited Late Model division. Cecil Henry of Oakley was second place.
Damitz began his racing career in 1952, and credits his daily exercise and workout routine in keeping himself fit.
"I'm happy being here and being able to race," Damitz said in victory lane after topping a field of drivers whose parents were children when he started racing.
Former pavement stock car driver Peggy Sue Jarred of Stockton had her best finish on dirt in taking third. Jarred converted her heavier pavement car to a dirt car, which puts her at a slight disadvantage when competing with the Antioch regulars.
Dan McCown of Oakley fought off Kimo Oreta of Vacaville and Patti Ryland of Brentwood in a closely contested Hobby Stock race. The leaders weaved through lapped traffic at the finish, testing each other's skills.
When Carlos Gonzalez of Bethel Island pulled into victory lane after capturing the Four-Bangers main event, second place Brent Curran of Antioch ran up to him and gave him a big hug.
"He's my mentor. He gave me pointers last year when I was a rookie," Curran explained as he told Gonzalez he was proud of him.
Despite five years of trying, Gonzalez never won a race. Yet, he had helped previous victors, like Curran become winners.
"It's my first first-place," were the only words Gonzalez could utter in the emotional win. "I am so happy."
Two types of modified stock cars sanctioned by the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) will be featured April 19 at Antioch Speedway. Joining the two premier divisions will be Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks, and Dwarf Cars. All five divisions will have qualifying races and a feature event. Racing begins at 6 p.m.