Wagtimes Newsletter text


September 7, 2008

When trips start, you analyze where you’re going and how to get there. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s a problem. Mrs Wags and I took off on a 10 day racing vacation with high hopes of having fun, relaxing a little and having the Wagsdash crown the last few days. We left Las Vegas on Friday before Calistoga and headed up towards Minden, NV where Darleen and Stubby Dils live. Darleen was a onetime photographer at Ascot and her daughter Tina drove a push truck at the track.

Here are the pics of the trip Click here.

We headed from our house with a map quest direction sheet and my GPS locked on. When we got on the 95 going North, Mrs. dummy, the GPS wonder voice, started giving me directions to get off 95 and do something else. I did get off to refer to the map and decided wherever she was taking us was not right. We took one move wrong towards where we thought 95 was, and it was wrong. One more map stop and I realized we had gone west instead of east and eventually were on the way 30 minutes lost due to stupidity on my part.

There are three paths over from the 95 to get to 395 which goes north into Menden, and of course we took the wrong one. It was really scenic, but the mountain curves gave my bride some stomach woes that she said followed her for a few days. I know if she had been driving, I would have had them. Nevertheless, we got on the 395 and headed to Bishop where we stopped at a barbeque place for lunch, we hit the lunch crowd, a local high school sent dozens of kids into the line we wanted before we could get parked and in line. Eventually, we chowed down and were on our way. Terry talked with Stubby on the phone and he said we were about an hour and a half away? We left Bishop at 1 pm and hit their house about 3:30, so he must drive faster than me.

Greeted by Darleen and Stubby, we found out it had been 13 years since we were there, and that was a NARC speedweek trip we took with two other couples back then. We spent the rest of the afternoon catching up and then Stubby cooked pork ribs as Tina arrived to have dinner and visit. It was a long trip for her as she lives an hour North near Sparks. What a nice evening we spent until the sleep lamp was lit and Tina left and we went to bed.

Morning was started at 5:30 as we had a long way to go to Calistoga, so a quick fruity breakfast and some sad goodbyes and we were told it was a fairly long drive interrupted only by a smokey who thought I was coasting down the hill too fast, but I recovered and we hit the road thru the Napa valley. Driving by the many wineries was fun as many we had visited years before on some of our other racing trips up north. The going was slow as the holiday was happening and the touristas were testing their brakes and cranking necks for the last 40 miles.

We arrived and pulled right into the pits and parked. Nellie Stansberry saw me and since Julie wasn’t going to be here until Sunday, I was filling in for her. Nellie got us checked in and we headed out to the infield in her cart to the USAC trailer. My job: check in the midget drivers and do their pill draw. Many of them I had only seen on the track, so it was interesting to realize who I was talking to sometimes. When Jason Statler came by to check in his sprinter with Nellie, I didn’t realize it was him until after I made a crack about how big he was in the sprinter. Oops, he just laughed at me, not with me, and went on his way. I remember a few occasions when he ran with us in the past and he is OK without a wing.

This night would showcase 32 cars plus 18 midgets for the crowd that really packed the house! Qualifying was a little good for some and a little bad for others. Given most of our drivers had never been at the track, and thus never raced there, so they had a lot of learning to do. The crowd loved the action as the night began.

The heats were what you would expect at a big track, pretty strung out with only 8 cars per each heat. Some fast action, but not really all that racy, is what we saw here. The midget main was totally hot as Johnny Rodriguez and Steve Pierovich put on a great show. The literally battled side by side, passing each other many times before J Rod took the checkers at the very end.

Jesse Hockett started on the front row with Blake Miller and took off at the sign of green. In fact he really took off and was way ahead while the rest just battled behind him. Tim Kaeding moved up and passed his way to 2nd, but until a yellow flew with about 12 laps to go, he was far behind. Immediately he and Jesse began the dance of passing. They both had the lead several times before another yellow with two laps to go happened. It was obvious Tim’s tires were gone, and Jesse looked like he had a bit, so it would be a shootout as Tim led the restart and made enough blocking motions to keep Jesse back until the checkered flew. The crowd loved it! Of course a local driver had won, so it wasn’t a surprise. There were four horsepower cars in the field with outlaw power and they were home, so advantage locals. Blake Miller was fifth for the So Cal best, so we had work to do.

We jumped in the Barbers car with Baylands Frank and headed to Petaluma to spend the night. We had a quick stop to eat something at Henny Penny’s, “The” Barber’s regular feed place, and then went to the house. The Barber’s house is a four bedroom, two story model and he had an SUV in the garage with Baylands Frank’s Honda rocket parked behind it. There was his 40 ford under the breezeway and we headed upstairs to get some sleep after watching the news for a while. Oh yes, we sorted thru “The” Barbers coins and began loading them into the counter container. Don finished that job while we slept late in the morning, so we added over $93 to the Lafond Jar of Change.

Morning and we headed to where else but Henny Penny’s for breakfast where Tina and Tom joined us. They had come down the day before to the races and left Darleen and Stubby to watch their dogs. Darleen’s cell phone ended up stuck in one of the dogs eating path and she now has a new one.

After breakfast, we went back to the house and I showed Baylands Frank a few things about my web page before it was time to head to the track, Jack. We took the long way and got inside the pit area by I don’t remember what time, but Terry showed off the calendar and Danny’s crew taped one up in the trailer. Talked with Greg Sower for a while about his wine tasting and raffle stuff he organized to make more cash for the racers. I couldn’t go on Saturday, but sent Terry to buy the glasses, they were $8 each and all the wine you could drink free. Mike Clark came to drop off Julie form picking her up at the airport where she came in from a San Diego wedding. We went with him to Dick and Sue’s to eat lunch with them.

It was probably after one when we arrived and settled down. Dinner was not until 5 pm, but I didn’t know that for a long while or I would have headed to the pits to work the Wagsdash some more, but it was getting to near feeding time when I figured it out. Tri-tip and fruit and salad and some other stuff were served and it was very good as we joined a pretty large group of people there to eat also. We met a lot of new people and enjoyed a quiet afternoon until dinner was done and it was time to head to the grandstands.

The grandstands were pretty full when we arrived, but still room for us two who travel. This would not be as good a night of racing, but pretty close. The mystery went away after 4 laps as early leader Bill rose couldn’t hold off Kevin Swindell. Kevin checked out from there and it was all about who would be second. Jesse and Tim were joined by Damion Gardner for this battle royale. On Saturday Damion was on the move going for 2nd when he hit the turn four cushion and flattened his right rear tire, ending his quest for a win. This night he was right there with Tip and Jesse for the rest of the race, but ended up 4th behind the two speedsters. Jesse was in a local Duke McMillan car and it was fast.

The midget race was really hot again as the two from the night before were joined by Garrett Hansen, but in the end it was Steve and J Rod duking it out. The battle was great as Steve took the lead with a couple of laps to go, but ………. he got loose coming out of turn two and got it way sideways, allowing J Rod to assume the lead and that’s the way it finished.

We hung around to visit with Pat & Leeann Normoyle and a few others before jumping back in the Barber limousine and headed back to Petaluma. No food and a tired foursome we were, so off to bed we all went. Morning and we loaded up our stuff and drove to the, yep, Henny Penny’s for a last breakfast with Don and Frank. As we were about finished, Tina and Tom showed, but soon we were on the road south heading to the Lafond home in Campbell.

Over the san something bridge, instead of my planned trip thru Sausalito and across the Golden Gate Bridge, we arrived at the Lafond’s and began a little visit with Korie, and Steve before Kim came home from work. I got online to update the Wags site and soon Kim and Korie were readying dinner while Steve cooked a big tri-tip on the grill outside. Boy was it good later when dinner was served. We finished the evening talking about things as Maya and Calla. There two dogs are an Australian Sheep dog and a Border Collie, both very neat and fun. Calla is a demanding ball chaser, who is relentless in her quest to get you to throw a ball over and over and over. It is never ending, but she’s really great. Maya is more likely to get on your lap, she’s not a lap dog, and kiss you instead of the play cycle her sister demands.

Morning arrives and Korie goes to school, Kim and Steve to work, so we get up, clean up and head out to find a mall!!!! I had something to send south, so we found a UPS place and took care of that. I sent it next day, but it took two days because I screwed up the address, they said. Any way, we were hungry and the Cheesecake Factory caught our eye. What’s not to like about the great popcorn shrimp and orange chicken and a salad? Topped off with a little cheesecake sharing, we had a very nice time together relaxing and pounding our diets.

The mall trip was for stuff she forgot, what’s new on a trip, and I wandered around looking in some sports shops, scoring a hat, a Dodger baseball, pin and decal for my den. Still a quiet fun time just meandering around, what could be better? She was done shopping and off we went back to Lafondville where Korie arrived pretty soon. It is so amazing that she is growing up before our very eyes and has morphed into a nice young lady very quickly.

Dinner was at Original Joe’s in downtown San Jose with the five of us as Pat & Lee Ann were tied up this day. We would be with them the next night. Dinner at this restaurant is nothing new so when I ordered the Veal Scaloppini, I was told by the waiter it’s the dish that made the place famous. The mushrooms on top really made it delicious. Afterwards we went back to the house and did more visitation and hit the sack, they had to go to work in the morning. We got up and started out trying to find the Trophy City shop so we could visit with Trophy Dave and pick up the Wagsdash trophies. I was a little confused …….. so we went back to the house to run map quest and then I got it. We arrived and walked in the door as I heard Dave say, if Ken Wagner comes in, there is his trophy! He smiled when we walked in and told me he thought we were due in yesterday. No I either screwed that up or …… Anyway, he was on his way to Chico for the Gold Cup and I realized there would be more fans from up North not coming to the Wagsdash. We got in a short visit and he told us Muriel was sick, so we would miss her this trip.

On back to the house where I had more work to do on the website. Korie came home and soon Kim came in to get ready for some meeting. Steve was working on photos for me as Pat and Lee Ann arrived. They took us thru their hometown of Los Gatos and showed us the highlights and we worked our way over to the Crow’s Nest on the beach in Santa Cruz. The sight of boats is always a fine thing for us, so it was really nice being there. The four of us went inside the restaurant and before long, their daughter Alicia came to join us. It was a peaceful meal and some race chatter as we relaxed. After dinner, another little tour of the Santa Cruz wharf showed us the sights there and we pulled out on the wharf and parked. As we walked out towards the end, the Sea Lions were talking, and I mean loud and often. There had to be hundreds as you could see them floating around the harbor and pretty much having fun, I guess. The drive back to the Lafond residence was more looky loo stuff and they deposited us at the door and headed home. Korie was up as we came in, but we would be leaving in the morning and headed off to bed.

Steve was gone when we got up at 6 am, but we filled the car back up with our booty and headed south with cries of see you Friday from Korie and see ya later form Kim, who would stay home for some Dave somebody concert on Saturday. Our trip South was pretty smooth with a stop along the way for gas. We arrived in Ventura at the JN Designs shop where Mr Naylor greeted us with his version of here’s your stuff, that they had created for the Wagsdash. The big check, the hats, the shirts, the banners and some stuff that was shipped there for the auction were all there. All done, we headed to the motel and checked in. Ahhhh, relax a few minutes. I got online and was working on Wagsdash stuff when the phone rang and Jim Fargo and Marilyn Griffith wanted to come on by. We had a visit then it got hungry, so off we went looking for food. Joe’s Crabshack, a favorite of mine for shrimp, was our target. After that, it was back to the hotel and more rest for the wicked.

Morning on Friday was a little problem. I had to go help at the golf course and get my midway set up for the next day. What to do, what to do. Luckily Jim and Marilyn offered to help at the golf deal and were there when we arrived. Terry and Marilyn helped check the golfers in while I was off officiating the putting tournament. Any lucky golfer who could putt might win the $ 5000 put up for three straight putts made. The first was only 10 feet to the hole with a slight break right. That seemed to be the problem as only on of all the golfers who tried had the ball go to the left of the hole, all the rest went right, some wide right. Nobody made the first one, so they didn’t get a shot at the 20 footer or the long one that was 50 feet or so.

Done with that Terry and I had to boogey and go back to the track. There I found a few Wagtimers chomping at the bit because their fearless leader wasn’t there to direct the work. Most of it was done and only a few more efforts finished it and it was time to go to the Smart and Final for the food goodies to add to the chili coming from John and Maria Gardner. A walk thru S & F with perhaps 20 of your closest Wagtimers is a sight to behold. We manage to load two carts with drinks and I don’t know how many shopping carts and headed for the register. Tracie Johnson talked her way into a 25% discount on our stuff and we all paid our way thru that exercise and headed back to the track to deposit our goodies.

A quick stop at our room for I don’t remember what, and it was time to return to the golf course for dinner. We took in the Wagsdash work shirts as many Wagtimers in town would be joining us for dinner. It was visitation time for while and then a very good dinner was served. I am always surprised when a large buffet feeding for a group is tasty, but this one was. Beef and chicken and lots of fruit and stuff with a little desert cake of several styles.

Tom Toutz did the emcee job on the awards and auction of some items plus raffle winnings. Fran Herdrich bid on a die cast car and got it. Then she saw a JJ midget up for auction and bid on it, but Jim Fargo out bid her and made a few comments on beating her. Then he gave it to her because it was her birthday. Boy a huggin’ we will go. Lots of raffle items as The Wags table got over crowded with hats, t-shirts and other Thunderhead stuff given away. We can use it all, but it was for a good cause as a third of the money goes into the Wagsdash. Turns out it was an even $1000. Thank you.

After dinner it was late and we went back to the motel. Morning brought anticipation. It also brought the realization I had lost my spare Mule key and my room key??? The van was on the move to the track, but we made a side stop for doughnuts. Little did I know the popularity of these morsels? First a sea gull was seen pecking on the box, really, as he looked hungry. Then when I wanted one, I was told the ants got into two dozen of them and wala, gone! So, the set-up for the auction and other stuff began as my crack work team went to work. We had done this so many times now; it was all natural as they put everything together like they knew what they were doing. In between all this I was visiting with many that came by and noon happened and the chili began to be ladled out and the fun day began. I am blessed to have all the help as the day went normal with no trips to the store for forgotten or run out items. Of course Jim Fargo had a little problem with the rear-end clock as it was damaged in shipment and needed to be repaired, so he went off.

The Pit stop contest went off with Bruce Douglass team doing the job. They were dressed so nice they ended up with the best appearing crew award as well. Julie Shiosaki did her sexy driver deal and Cody Williams was the winner. This is what makes the day special as we have a big feed, sponsored by La Villa, and do things that do entertain the crowd. The drivers are on parade so to speak, and their participation is part of the action. Add in the WRA with Walt James folks and you really get a festive fun day for everyone. The pit work and getting ready to race does take time, so we want to be able to fit it all in.

The night begins and 5 of the Wagsdash intendeds did not show. Right away I am in trouble because we only brought 22 CRA cars and only 11 of them are Wags type cars. One was gone in qualifying so I had 10 cars to pick from and one of those declined as well. I was lucky the 7 I picked locally were happy to run and we did fine, but once again the economy gets the blame, I am not sure that is the truth when cars drive past Perris to run at other venues like Victorville and Barona for substantially less money? I guess being a bigger fish in a smaller pond is preferable to some.

Eventually, I had 16 cars fixed in the line-up and I got myself ready to see our race. During the intermission we tried to auction off the annual autographed helmet, but nobody would bid and I pulled it. We will internet auction it or maybe do a live deal at the PAS on the Oval Nationals. We’ll see. Regardless, it will be money for next year’s race.

Somehow the Champion’s hat that I gave specific instructions to guard, got away again this year, beats me. I guess I was wasting my breath as somehow it must have been sold. You can hardly tell the difference, but it’s gone. If anyone comes up with it, let me know, Austin might like to have it.

As the feature went off, we were near the entrance to the track and I could only see the top of turn two, so the race I saw was a follow the leader out of that corner each lap. When Kruseman won, we inched down on the track to hide between a couple of the service trucks and waited. The Wagsdash cars came on the track and eventually there were sixteen. When Bobby Michnowicz hit the track in the red # 75, I wondered if the alternate would be called back in. Before I could get to an official to ask, the green flag flew and they were off.

The leader right out of the bag was Tony Everhart as Ludwig did a 360 and kept on going. From the back Jimmy Crawford, Kevin Kierce, J hicks and Bobby were on the gas. Austin took the lead and climbed up top and set sail. He was so fast, nobody could get close enough to challenge. Crawford had a problem and stopped next to Kierce and on it went. J Hicks was coming late and slipped into second place on the last lap passing 10 cars. When the end came Austin was thrilled. The top there pulled in and Chris Holt did some interviews as the Kruseman driver celebrated with his crew. After the Laett Brace $1000 check was presented and pictured, we got in there to present the winner with his $2500 check and the Trophy City trophy. A lot of smiles and happy people here as the 16 year old became the youngest ever to win the 18 year old race.

We headed back to the pits and verified the hard charger was Bobby who passed 11 cars and went to visit. Ray Stansberry, the car owner of his ride after the two Ron Back cars had problems, was thrilled as we walked up. Steve Lafond handed Bobby the two jars of change that equaled over $1000 and he beamed. Pictures all the way around and we had some other visits to make to congratulate many. It is a fun race and I like to touch base and thank as many as I can afterwards as my patient workers let Mike Clark load the van. When all was said and done I heard about a complaint and Mrs Wags and I got in the Van said bye to the Wagtimes workers and said we would meet whoever at Carrows for a bite in a little while. First for the complaint David Miller did not understand the best passing rule. He thought because when J Hicks was late to line-up in the race and started on the tail, they counted from there. If that were true many would be late to get a shot at that extra money. But it is the posted line-up from their starting positions we use, and bobby passed one more than J. David said in that case the numbers don’t lie.

We visited with Jim Naylor for a few moments and he gave us the big Wagtimes sign that welcomed the pit people hung on the back of the pit grandstand. He was happy it was over and we kissed and said bye bye. Carrows was busy, but we got in the back room with Ron Bach’s group and enjoyed a little to eat. It was late and back the motel for some much needed rest. I looked briefly at the numbers I had and it didn’t look very promising.

The morning meeting back at Carrows and the whole group minus one couple, met for a rousing breakfast. Lots of comments, positive and negative, went on until we fixed the world problems. Everyone had something to say as we shared our success. I told them the totals might be somewhere near $14,000, but not more. We prayed together for Steve Lafond’s surgery and left with an uplifting vibe.

At 11:30 AM we left Ventura on the way back to Las Vegas. It was an OK trip with home coming about 5 PM. There we were met with family and some Pizza and later I had a look at the books again when they all went home.

Surprise, I put several figures in the wrong column and presto the number went up to $16,000 plus if all came in. I didn’t catch up with a couple of supporters, but did later and the final total became $16,400 for about $2000 less than last year. I screwed up the auction by putting out too many pictures and it was considerably lower than years past. Whatever it was, it was all good.

It was a great trip from start to finish, we had a lot of fun, the race was as good as can be and friends can make it happen. Until next year, thanks to everyone, it was a fantastic 10 days!

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