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MANZANITA HOT Ė HOT Ė HOT!!! WHY DO WE DO THAT?!!!!!

May 22, 2005

Perhaps I can return to the days of the real Wagtimes newsletter with my meandering recount of what we do from soup to nuts on our racing traveling. I havenít felt like doing this in a while for some reason, but a close friend continues to ask why, and I donít know why, just lazy I guess. I think it has a lot to do with the politics of things, the loss of the ďoldí Wagtimes group and the evolution of change for me and all of Wagtimes. I will attempt to perhaps restart my engines and bring back some of the old stuff.

The first thing missing is the old group once led by one time sidekick Norm Bogan. Norm now is off furthering his career as a writer and has retired from the group picking and choosing his races to attend and report on. He is missed. Losing Willie Bandy, Stan Cook, Bud Burchell and many more to the grim reaper hasnít helped our close knit group with all the sadness included there. Other dropouts include the Pettigrewís who came and went somewhat quietly. While there is still a core of good people including Mike Clark, Sonia Bandy and her brood, and many more locally, others have found other things to do. The fact that the Wagsbucks basically ended because of my lack of ability to continue on signaled by the changing times has hurt me some, but the Wagsdash continues on. The political SCRA coming and going also had something to do with it, but in the end, I take all the blame as my plate continues to evolve and my mind is still not clear in my direction. I donít now where it will take us, but I am committed to continue if you are committed to follow.

When you add it all up, the old days are gone, with few lunches at our home track anymore and only the Arizona chapter chiming in with get tog etherís that are missed elsewhere. I am distressed with the state of things, yet the racing has been really special and the friends who remain are also special. My changing hats to help USAC has been fun and the only thing I miss is the fan interaction I no longer have time for. I miss sitting with my group. Once qualifying starts, you can kiss me goodbye, as I am busy up until the winners circle clears later in the evening. I had hoped to make a difference and be a part of something special, but so far I am really not doing anything thatís needed beyond what was already done, but hopefully it should pick up in the future. I miss the grandstands. I must say the purchase of an old Corvette has really lit up my life and put some zest back into my driving. I really enjoy the power and feel of my new red car and donít anybody get any ideas to put polka dots on it, I like it the way it is!

So with that all said, you can come quiz me on my world if you can find me. I will try to be out front when the gate opens and be available to get in some of those old visits. On to the desert:

We knew before we left town that it would be hot in Phoenix. That was a given, but we left mid day on Friday anyway and headed down the freeway. It was a busier traffic day than normal, but the delays were fairly short and our potty break in Blythe was interesting. When I went to take the boys out for their watering jaunt, no leashes were in the car! Hmmmm, I must have forgotten. We drove around town until we found a Rite-Aid drug store and Terry found two red ones inside. Even in the heat, Dusty and Dubya took advantage of some shady area on a grassy knoll and did their business.

Then we continued across the heated desert until we hit Phoenix and the surprise when we hit town was that very little traffic greeted us and we drove 75 on to the Joe & Ellen Ellis Hacienda, setting no records this day on a six hour trip. Before we could pull into the driveway and stop, Ellen was standing in the driveway and Dusty went bananaís trying to get out to greet her. Once we got our stuff inside the cool house, our two and their two, Max & Pepper, were making friends again. It was time to go to dinner.

One of the best steakhouses in Phoenix to me is the Texas Roadhouse and there is one in Tempe if you take the 60 freeway east from the Ellis Hacienda off McClintoch. They have great bread and tasty steaks that are unmatched in this price range and better than Lone Star by far. We were greeted by the Thrashers, Ben, Bethany with her boyfriend Brandon, and father Mark waiting outside. The place is always packed and sometimes we canít even get in, the wait is soooooo long. Ellen called early, so we were ushered in right away. Way to go Ellen! Soon Big Steve & Maggie arrived to join us and we settled into some fun and games. Visitation is always the best and Terry and I enjoy it when we can work it out. The food and company were great as we put away a lot of food. Itís always better with friends. They had a birthday sing for the table next to us and the lucky victim, er... birthday boy, got to get on a saddle and ride? While they sang, wahoo! No thanks, Ellen and I passed on the frivolity this time.

Afterwards, we went back to the house, less Steve and Maggie, and enjoyed some strawberry shortcake, or lemon pie or ice cream. A little birthday celebration for me as the Mickey items bestowed on me were awesome, with one Iíll share soon. There was a lot of race talk, but soon it was time for bed. Our dogs love the back yard, especially Dusty, so we spent some time out there in the ďcoolĒ evening temps. Dusty is a lizard and bird hunter in their back yard and he spends a lot of time chasing the creatures he hopes to catch. After talking about everything under the sun, we managed to hit the sack for some rest. ZZZZzzzzzzz.

Morning rises at sunlight with my boys, so the three of us hit the back yard at 7 am and I read a book while they played in the grass and the house was quiet with the other sleepers. About 8:30ish the other two dogs come out and then we all begin cleanup for the day. We planned to go to a swap meet because Joe got a shirt I liked there and I wanted to look at them. When we leave the house, the dogs have their own little alcove complete with Ellenís hundreds of racing pictures on the wall, so they are entertained while we are gone?

I took a hat when we left the house because I assumed an outside shopping walk. When we arrived, the building, yes it is inside thank goodness, we entered. A large building stuffed full of booths lined up in rows so it looks like a warehouse sort off, with clothes, gadgets, statues, knick knacks, plants, and objects of every kind imaginable thing for sale here. Even some racing stuff, mostly NASCAR, but still. I found a shirt, Terry found some more bracelet stuff and we got out of there broker than before.

One of the things that always make the trip over more fun is the lunch on race day with our friends. We met at one of the Native New Yorker restaurants that featureís chicken wings with numerous tastes from mild to wild. Jim Fargo, Jim Herdrich and the Thrashers joined us again and we had the back room all to ourselves. We again enjoyed the race talk and everyone always wants to know what I am up to. With the heat going on, I donít even like to think about racing, but it was cool inside and we chowed down with zesto. Jim Fargo has a new hat that is for sale that is really good looking. He is giving one to each winner at Manzy with the words ďmain event winnerĒ on the side! Ten bucks will get you a high quality hat with the JAF logo on it. Cool!!! More fun going on and then it was time to hit the track.

It was getting later, so we all said ďsee ya at the track, JackĒ and headed out. We dropped Joe off at the house for his nap and Ellen, Terry and I went on to the track. It was very warm on the back porch before we left, over 110 degrees, but we thought we were prepared. We parked at the back pit gate and got signed in. The walk in was better than usual as the water truck hadnít begin the drenching yet, so it wasnít as slippery as usual.

I had on a light tan shirt and Terry a red one. She was warm from the get go, yet she took a few pics as we canvassed the ten cars that were already inside at 3:30. By 4 she was so hot, we chose to leave the area and walked back out to the car and drove down the street to the Burger King on the nearby corner for something cool to drink. She got a tea and I added a strawberry shake and we parked back at the track and left the air on to cool down for a while. Finally, we went into the grandstands and settled at the top where we could see a lot of pit action. The breeze could have been from a steel mill, it was so hot, it almost burned you! There were nearly 30 cars in the pits later and most teams had their EZ-UP giving them some shade. Not all, but just getting the sun off you makes it cooler.

When 5 pm came, we went up in the press box and I set up my PC and printer. I got a call from Terri Bliss and since I wasnít going down to the pits, she gave me the qualifying order and I got all my ducks in order. I enter the qualifying times and my spreadsheet gives me the heat line-ups. During the night, I use this data to put together the official finishes to report on. I also post on the Wags Web for live updates that some resort to during the evening. Terry hung out for a while until it started getting busy.

The qualifying order lost one car when Mike Leslie blew an engine before hot laps. It seems they have had some bad luck lately and crashed their car, so the new red one is a replacement for them. Damion got the quick time, as usual at 18.883, his 9th in 11 qualifying races. Josh Wise was the only other car under 19 seconds in the # 7 Priestly car.

The first heat started things off as we donít run a trophy dash anywhere but Perris. Marty Miller started on the outside of row one and took off into the lead as Matt Rossi dropped back. Damion Gardner started in row four as usual and began moving up quickly. Miller was long gone when ten laps ended and Damion pulling up on him. Brandon Lane and Charles Davis Jr rounded out the transfers. Troy Rutherford was over driving the car Jesse Hockett has been in this year. He dropped out early with what appeared to be motor related.

In the second heat, Josh wise, who was 2nd quick, began to flow thru the 7 car pack and slipped into the lead with Josh Ford right behind him. These two had a weekend off in Indiana and were anxious to make some extra money. Josh has driven the yellow # 7 car a number of times, but this weekend he seemed to have it the way he wanted it and was fast. Josh had his own car come over from Ventura and he was making tracks too. They will both run Anderson, Indiana on Wednesday night. That is an evil pavement track where they run the little 500 each year before the Indy 500. Yes, 33 sprinters, going 3 up on the initial charge. Those who have witnessed it tell me I need to see it with my own eyes. Anyway, Alan Ballard and Seth Wilson transferred also.

Jimmy Drinan and Bobby Boone started on the front row, but the next four behind them roared by and finished in the order they started: Rickie Gaunt, Nathan High, Cory Kruseman and Steve Ostling. The track was fast and passing was harder that way. Ostling had the Gardner Sled flying and very competitive for the first time and he looked more comfortable that he has in the new and wild model.

In the last heat, the back four were the transferring cars, but there was some shuffling between them. Mike Kirby stormed from the back to the front with his King Kong mask on, taking no prisoners. Rip Williams surged up behind him with Jeremy Sherman and Bob Ream Jr taking the other transfer spots.

The semi had 12 cars for 12 laps with Rutherford and Graham on the front row. They finished that way one - two with RJ Johnson and Jason Tanner getting the other two transfers to the main event. I missed most of it, working and all, but the main would be wild.

The line-up for the 30 lapper would be: Sherman and Kruseman, Wilson and Davis, Williams and Ostling, Wise and Gardner, Rutherford and Ford, High and Kirby, Graham and Ballard, Gaunt and Ream, Lane and Johnson, and Miller and Tanner in that order. On the start Cory took the lead that he held going past the end of the first lap, but Jeremy Sherman was on the gas and took it away on the next lap and quickly began to move away. Cory dropped back a little as Seth ďWar DogĒ Wilson was making the Warbird fly in third place. As Sherman lengthened his lead, Gardner was coming along to battle Ostling and Ripper. Josh Wise was really moving and jumped Cory and Wilson to get into second. The War Dog passed Kruseman for third and Wise made an unexpected pass of the leader on lap 17. The home crowd couldnít believe it, not past Jeremy, but he did.

Just before that pass a lap earlier, and so sudden it was much unexpected, a tire came apart on the front stretch and it was like the Warbird throwing a talon. Seth went to the back after replacing the tire and then a strange thing happened. Already Seth lost a perfectly good tire to something on the track they figured and now on the line-up for a restart, he got pinched between two cars and stopped. Two stops youíre out! Unfair, but the rule and on we went without him, but the guy who actually nailed him when those in front of him slowed too much, got back in. Such is life as it ainít always fair.

Josh took the lead after the restart that he held until lap 20 when Jeremy came back around him. Josh faded a little here as the Demon was surging into 2nd with a pass of wildness that was unmistakably a Gardner move. With Wise on the top groove and another car on the bottom, and both racing him for the spot, he cut down between them coming around turn three and slid into 2nd before clearing turn four sliding up to the top and holding it. Yes! Behind him Mike Kirby had been emulating his moves pretty well as the King Kong master was moving forward very well utilizing the low groove for most of his passes. He saw the success of others and began running the top which was getting faster. A few laps of that and shazaam, he got sucked into the turn two wall and up into a helicopter spin he went, crashing down hard on the ground very quickly. He climbed out and walked back to his pit. He was unhappy because the car was working perfectly and he was coming hard!

The lap 24 restart saw Jeremy leave at the cone with Gardner right behind, no, make that right beside him coming past the flagman. Damion dove to the bottom and powered into the 2nd turn side by side with Jeremy and then taking over the lead immediately and taking it on home. The Demon was patient, except for that one pass, and suddenly he was in the lead. Jeremy couldnít real him back in and Cory was now charging after him. Four leaders, five lead changes and the same winner for the 4th race in a row. Damion has come to the top of the heap in more ways than one. He is now only 20 points behind Ripper in the points chase and has the advantage with his quick car gaining 6 points almost every time he qualifies.

Damion climbed out of his seat and stood on the roll cage and roared, winner for the 6th time this season, making it his 14th USAC/CRA win and leave him 15th on the all time main event winner grid with 27 wins, only 73 behind Rip. The little red sucker is back to winning in bunches like Mr Griffin and Mr McSpadden use to do in that car and the Bromme smile is more boisterous than ever.

I got to visit around a bit with many after the race as I hightailed it out of the press box to do it. Mike Kirby was fine, but the car was junk. Luckily it was an old chassis, but still one he loved. The motor was new and obviously strong as it was making horsepower right up until the wall thing. Seth Wilson and his crew kind of figured the tire was punctured rather than just exploded, but it didnít make his early exit any easier.

Nadine had run into the wall in the semi and her only comment was she really liked running the big track and besides it wasnít a hard stop, more of a gliding against the wall to a stop thing, so she was perfectly fine. Keith Williamson was happy his Ford powered car ran strong all night, but noted running so few races keeps him from being as sharp as he likes. He has moved to the Phoenix area, bought a house and is fixing it up and bought a boat and is about to fix it up, and still wants to drive a sprint car. His low buck approach means he will only run a few road races and all of the CRA Manzy visits.

RJ Johnson has been doing very well with the CRA, running almost all the races, and was the hard charger this week when he came from 18th to 9th for a sharp night. He is a nice young man who will be a real tiger in the near future as his motor isnít the high dollar variety, yet.

After the pit walk, and Terry coming to find me, we left and drove back to the Ellis Hacienda. I put together the stats and sent them off to the head office in Indy and we ate a little snack, and then hit the sack, as it was late as usual. Morning comes when the dogs say so, and I was up by 7ish and outside reading to give Mrs Wags a little more sleep time before her nap home in the car. The boys played until we loaded up the van and left Ellen smiling and went to gas up. It was only $2.24, the least we have paid in a long time.

The hot road was the usual as we cruised over the desert, making a few phone calls and talking about the race and plans for the next one. We got home about 2 PM and the naps began. Later my work on the PC extended the evening and we both went to bed pretty exhausted. The next race will be a 50 lapper, so I hope the track is great, the stands are packed and the race is the usual, awesome.

FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Damion Gardner, 2. Jeremy Sherman, 3. Cory Kruseman, 4. Josh Wise, 5. Josh Ford, 6. Steve Ostling, 7. Rip Williams, 8. Charles Davis, Jr., 9. R.J. Johnson, 10. Bobby Graham, 11. Rickie Gaunt, 12. Nathan High, 13. Marty Miller, 14. Alan Ballard, 15. Jason Tanner, 16. Bob Ream, Jr., 17. Mike Kirby, 18. Brandon Lane, 19. Troy Rutherford, 20. Seth Wilson. NT

I donít know if I will try to keep this column up or not, we shall see. Working during the races takes away some of my viewing, thus I find I canít replay each race like I could normally do in the past. I will concentrate of paying more attention when possible and would appreciate any comments on whether this is a column anyone wants to see anymore. I donít get to talk to many of you like the old days, but I will do a better job as often as I can. At Perris look for me to be down in front of the steps up to the press box until qualifying is about to start and maybe we can work on that Wagsdash plan I need to get moving. I plan to make the Wagsdash a special paying event this year and still take car of the low buck cars. Since I donít collect Wagsbucks anymore, I need a new scheme to pick the Wagsdash drivers. Oh, I saw someone has a new idea that they want to pursue. They want to collect money for a new rollover fund! Interesting. Who wants to collect Wagsbucks for me? Till next time, I am Da Wags in the red Vette.

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