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May 16, 2009 By Wags

Another opportunity to travel in style with the Kittle Motorsports team this week as the USAC/CRA was off due to a postponement (?) and Mrs Wags headed to Oklahoma for family style fun. The Tulare Thunderbowl has not been on my itinerary in some time because the wings live there more often than not. It was a delight to get to head there for the first time in several years and even though there were three classes running, a sign of the times, it was still a lot of action. One of the best tracks in California, Tulare hasnít run the CRA in a while even though one scheduled event was lost last year due to rain. This time the Bandits were running and it would be 360 sprinters, winged sprinters and some modifieds to entertain the crowd. Danny won the last Bandit race here, so he had his work cut out for him to repeat.

Since my bride was headed out of town on Saturday, I left on Friday to go to the Shiosaki Hotel and arrived late in the afternoon and met Julie at their home as she arrived from her first week of a new job. We grabbed a bite at a Stix restuarant and then hit the local Costco for her race food shopping. She was serving hot dogs and chili this week, so she would be cooking tonight. When we got to the house, Randy called and said meet him at his work, we had more fun to be had.

I managed to find his work, which is really just a few blocks from the once hallowed ground s of Ascot Park. We were heading to the Howell shop to pick up the # 62 car. It would be loaded up and make the trip in the Kittle hauler. It didnít take very long after Randy did some of his magic on the car. Once loaded, we had dinner plans at a place called Ra????? We headed home to pick up Julie and met Dennis Jr and Garrett Hansen at the restaurant. Later Julieís dad Gary arrived and was followed by his friend Howard and his son George. What happened next could only be described as a Sushifest. Randy conferred with several and then ordered up a bunch of Sushi that was devoured by the eight seated at the table. Yellowtail, tuna, Diamond rolls, shrimp rolls, tempura and more were devoured by all to the tune of over 300 well spent dollars. There was some side action as Garrett and Dennis had some favored waitresses that were under discussion and perhaps why they liked Sushi so much. It was delicious and Gary said there are two Ra restaurants here in Las Vegas, so Mrs Wags will get acquainted with the tempura there with me when she comes home.

After last weekís good showing by rookie sprint car driver Dennis Howell at Ventura , with the help of the Kittle crew led by Randy Shiosaki, it was decided they might enjoy running Tulare. On Friday night the big Kittle hauler added the # 62 car to the trailer and Saturday morning the normal traveling Kittle crew (Paul, Steve, Randy and Julie plus Hailey their cute dog) added myself and Dennis Jr to the road show. Steve drove up the 5 Freeway and the 3-1/2 hour ride was spent relaxing and watching the Grand Torino movie as well as some NASCAR stuff. I didnít hear Pluto talking once, so it was comfy.

When we arrived at the track and pulled in the front gate, the pits looked like a lake! They had already put so much water down that when Steve parked the big rig, there was very little dry walking space and some got a little muddy moving around the area. While Randy and most of the crew stayed to do set-up on the two cars, Dennis Sr took, his wife Mary Anne, Julie, Gene Meyer, Steve and myself off across the muddy lake to an authentic Mexican restaurant across the street. To say that English was not used in the dining area would be an understatement. Nevertheless, the food was very authentic looking and tasty and soon we took a doggy bag for those who stayed to work and went back to the pits. The sun had worked itís magic somewhat as much of the standing water had dried up.

The pits filled up with BIG haulers that doled out their machines both wing and traditional. There were 19 winged 410ís, can you believe it???? At one point just a few years ago there were ten times that in NO Cal, but the 360 takeover is nearly complete up there and some say the same thing is coming south. Help somebody, we canít lose our beloved 410ís! About 36 Bandits and I think some 25 modifieds also prepared to race. The temps pushed 100 degrees and unlike the dry Vegas heat, sweating was a competitive event as most experienced the wetness we donít see at Perris when itís this hot.

There was a lot of interest in the ďextraĒ car in the Kittle hauler this race as the crew unloaded and most had no clue to who Dennis was. They would soon find out as this new ďhot shotĒ was on the gas. Although this was a rarity for Randy and his crew, helping out a youngster who he feels his talent warrants it, this is way too much for the brainy DW on a regular basis, but it was pretty much business as usual for them with Dennis, his father and their partner Gene Meyer added to the mix to get all the things needed to race together. I of course am mechanically useless and just watched it all from nearby.

There were enough helpers to get the job done, but keep in mind two things. One, Randy is very focused keeping the blue Kittle Kar up to snuff at each race, leading his competent crew and sharing his decisions, even when itís merely a hunch. Adding a car means he has to split his focus and it becomes and an even more difficult process knowing his decisions will now be double tough. He knew going into this race what it meant, but still wanted to help the young driver and planned ahead to make it work. The second item was Danny hadnít met the Howells or their son Dennis, so some thought tension might hang in the air, but from my perspective, Danny was only focused on his ride and there wasnít any competition going on here. Now later on the track, it was competitive and fun to watch, but basically for one night it all worked! Chances of this happening again, I suspect, is not in the cards, but the Howell/Meyer racing Team learned a lot and Dennis proved he was up to the task and can flat drive. And Randy and his Krack Kittle Krew were their usual hard working, fast acting and quick reacting bunch, and fun to watch.

When they both went out to pack the track and do hot laps it was time to head to the grandstand for qualifying. Dennis went first and had a 15.5 something which was fast time for the moment, then Danny came along and drilled that with a 15.2. Pretty good results for both cars doing so well out of the same trailer. Danny was third in his heat and I think Dennis was the same, so they both transferred to the main. Danny drew the inversion pill, a 10 bless his heart, and would start in the fifth row right behind his temporary team car just ahead of him.

There was a lot of other racing going on, but I tried to relax and wait for my guys to come back. When the feature started, the # 18 and # 62 took off with Dennis leading the way and heading up top to move forward. Danny needed to go low to get around Dennis and the others, but he wasnít totally locked in and only his experience made it possible for him to slowly move into third behind Dennis and Peter Murphy.

Dennis was pressing Peter hard as he rode his push bar into each turn of the track and kept the gas on. Danny did the bottom feeder routine and used traffic better than Dennis to gain second place with a few laps left to go, we thought it was shortened to 20, but when the white didnít fly at 19, I knew it would be a little longer, duh! They announced 25 would be the finish and we were already past curfew. Dennis was throwing rooster tails and his car was becoming a handful, yet he still had third place until Davey Pombo put a nasty slider on him to push him back to 4th. Danny looked like he was ready to pounce, but it ended before he could make a good move for the win. The aftermath of the checkers flying along with the yellow light coming on must have caused the melee that saw Danny and Dennis locked up against the wall in turn one with several others pounding the two cars. Beat up rear end and some bent parts were unnecessary, but it was the way it was.

There were still plenty of smiles all around the Kittle pit area as they reviewed their good and bad fortune in the 25 lap main. It was nice of Danny to share the spotlight for a night, and the Kittle Krew help to make it happen for the youngster, but the future help wonít be so dedicated if he starts running a 410 with us. Congratulations to the Howells for their accomplishments and it is nice to be able to have watched a total newcomer to these eyes prove he has what it takes, and now we will see what happens in his future in time. He sure opened some eyes. The most heard comment was ďwho the hell is that hot shotĒ?

The big group had a few beers and wine as they glowed for an hour or so. It was time to load up and get on the road, so when the trailer ramp closed up and all was loaded, we six got on the road again with Paul driving us back to home, well theirs anyway. It wasnít long until we four in the back were sleeping and thus a quicker trip for us back to the hauler parking spot. When I woke and realized it was 5:30 AM, I made the decision to go on home instead of sleeping for a bit then driving. I bid adieu to Paul, Steve and Dennis at the trailer, drove back to Randy and Julieís. I announced I was on the road and gathered my things and said goodnight.

The trip home was fine until I got a little sleepy past Baker and pulled into the rest area to rest my eyes for 15 minutes, then finished the 3-1/2 hour trip home. The dogs were certainly happy to see me, just like they are when I go to the store for a few minutes. Like do they know the difference? HA!

My hats off to Randy and his crew for what they accomplished this weekend. Next week we run Perris and they will be zoned back in on Danny alone and his quest for a championship. Dennis has plans, but this coming week will be a midget adventure at Ventura for the youngster as he takes his Fontana powered little open wheeler to the beach track. Unfortunately I will be alone at the PAS as Mrs Wags doesnít get home until the holiday Monday, so another long lonely ride in the Vette to a race. Hey, thatís not so bad!!! Iím in, look for me there. I already have Steve Lafonds $26.31 of Wagsbucks for the race and $25 from Frank Uhl. Remember he always messes with me as he picks car numbers to dole out the Wagsbucks. This time Scotty Burns (# 26) and Duane Scott (# 31).

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