Tied in points, Damitz and Ryland continued a season-long battle that’s the talk of the central California racing scene. The two wove through the full field and emerged in front of the pack midway through the feature. Until the last lap, Damitz, 82, appeared to have a slight edge on Ryland as they raced side by side.
Then, Ryland got under Damitz in the third turn, the checkered flag waving. The two slid to the wall, as Mike Gustafson took the low groove in hopes of a win.
Damitz kept his foot on the gas, holding position as Ryland took the checkered flag from him, and Gustafson was inches away from taking second.
“It was a good race until the last lap,” a humble Ryland said in victory lane. “I don’t want to win that way.”
Damitz smiled and shook it off. “He lost traction; he had his left tires down in the gutter and he picked up moisture,” Damitz said. “I saw it coming. I could only ride the wall and hope to get by.”
Gustafson had a bird’s-eye view of the whole thing. “I knew there was going to be a big problem, and I didn’t want to be there when it happened,” he said. “(Damitz) had me by a bumper for second at the finish.”
For Hayward’s Danny Malfatti, victory was sweet in the All Star Wingless Sprint Main Event. The former motorcycle racer began his sprint car career just midway through the last season and was untouchable in the main event.
Perennial Antioch wingless sprint favorite Dan Gonderman tried to chase down Malfatti through the final laps of the race, but was forced to settle for second. “(Gonderman) shook my hand and said it was good to race with me,” Malfatti said. “It was amazing. I’m in shock. I didn’t think I would win. Out there, I kept thinking he was going to pass me any moment.”
Malfatti put together a solid team for the new sprint car season: sponsor Z Gallery, top-notch crew chief Tom Esposito and engine builder Skip Govea. He thanked Brian Matherly of Kaeding Performance and Steve Shaw in victory lane, but proclaimed two people were responsible for his nearly instant success.
“My wife Carole, and Jimmy Sills,” he said. “I wanted to be a sprint car driver so I went to Sills’ school and he encouraged me; he told me I had what it takes.”
From victory lane, Malfatti made a call to legendary sprint car driver Sills. “We were bad fast tonight,” he said. “You’re usually calling me; now I can call you.”
The DIRTcar West modified feature was filled with crashes – one that eliminated Scott Busby and almost sidelined Troy Foulger.
Randy McDaniel of Marysville, in a torn and tattered modified, charged past San Anselmo’s Michael Paul with two laps to go. “Do I have a car left?” was the first thing he asked in victory lane. “Actually, I love racing here. It’s wild, it’s fun, it’s the kind of racing I’m used to, growing up in Marysville.”
Foulger took third in a remarkable comeback. He was able to repair his damaged car well enough during an extended caution.
“It was a demo derby tonight,” he said. “We came back from 20th five times. We broke a brake line, lost a bumper, the doors are hanging off the body, and I went through all 30 tear-offs. But the track was hooked up to the car, so I was able to keep coming back.”
Paul’s impressive run saw him leading most of the feature.
“It came down to the car – my car runs better on a smoother track, less tacky and more dry-slick,” he said. “I’m exhausted from working that hard to try for the win.”
Spanky Grenert from Travis Air Force Base outran Ricardo Rivera in the Dwarf main event. “I’ve been to this track four times, and won four times,” he said in victory lane. “Ricardo and I raced together in the nationals, and I love racing with him here.”
Justin Silveira topped Shawna Vannucchi in the Four-Banger feature.
“She was tough – she kept hitting the middle groove,” Silveira said. “I had to go down to the bottom of the track.”
Dan McCown won the Super Hobby Stock main event, Gene Haney closing the gap late in the race. Natalie Perry and Victory Rosa followed.
Antioch Speedway’s huge DIRTcar double $2,000 feature event takes place next Saturday night. The Western All Star late models and the DIRTcar West Modifieds each race in $2,000-to-win features.
– Contributed by Mike Adaskaveg