“It’s been a long time – it seems like forever,” Neu said in victory lane. “I’m just glad to be back.”
The Oakley driver is an Antioch Speedway veteran. He’s been competing at the track since 1994.
The surprise ending came when a caution flag flew with three laps to go in the main event. In one of his best all-time efforts, Rob Norris of Pleasanton had led the feature from the green. Chasing him most of the way, also in an impressive showing, was Shawn Deforest. Deforest suffered a broken front end and Norris a rapidly deflating tire after the restart.
When the final green flag flew, it was Neu and Nick Decarlo of Martinez who forged into the top two spots, chased by Troy Foulger. DeCarlo, who has claimed three victories on other tracks, also made his best run of the season at Antioch Speedway.
Jim Freethy of Danville topped a stout field of Limited Late Models for his first win in that division.
“I was praying for a top-five finish, and I got a win,” Freethy said in victory lane. “I never thought I’d get a main event in this division. I’m racing with legends – guys like Freddie Ryland, Larry Damitz, Mike Gustafson – what a great feeling it is to win with them racing against me.”
Jim Rhoades of El Sobrante, 13 years of Antioch racing under his belt, finished second. Ryland and Damitz put the pressure on the top two to the checkered flag.
Rhoades was racing the first time since the season opener when he blew an engine. Ryland, of Brentwood, almost snatched second away from him.
“It was my first race with the new motor. It was running great,” he said. “I saw him (Ryland) coming, I didn’t want to cut him off and I didn’t want to give my position away.”
Ryland came on strong. “I got caught in traffic,” he said. “It took a while to reel in the leaders. I could have used a couple of more laps.”
Freethy thanked friend Ryland and crew man Jack Jonker, who helps both teams, for contributing to his rise to the top. “Fred is always there with advice and to help set up the cars,” Freethy said. “The guys are all about good racing, and half the credit goes to the crews that set up the cars.”
Justin Silveira of Antioch took advantage of traffic to pass all-feature leader Dan Downey of San Jose with two laps to go in the Four-Banger main event. Ken Radabaugh went low to try to pass them both, bringing the fans to their feet.
“I didn’t think I would ever catch Downey,” said Silveira. “Lapped traffic helped me, but also almost cost me when Ken (Radabaugh) took the low groove. That was a fun finish.”
Dwarf car dominator Ricardo Rivera of Hollister was back in victory lane despite division nemesis Nick Squatritto of San Jose trying every trick in the book to pass him at the finish. “I heard him coming,” Rivera said. “He’s an awesome racer. I thought he would beat me. First or second – it’s all good.”
A power loss erased Squatritto’s shot at the checkered flag. “The car was overheating,” he said. “And in the middle of the race we started to lose air in the right rear tire.”
Concord rookie Pat Urdahl’s third-place finish was his best of the year.
Larry Damitz of Vallejo topped Dan Williams in a vintage “hard top” event.
Racing action continues Saturday night at Antioch Speedway. All Star Wingless Sprints, Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks, Mini-Trux and Dwarf cars are on the schedule.
– Contributed by Mike Adaskaveg