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February 15, 2012

By Ken Wagner

Perris Auto Speedway is on the minds of all in our sprint car racing world these days because of many things that now include the closing of several tracks in the southland. Will that help them, maybe? It is surprising to this wag that Perris is still operating with all the unrest and economic problems our world has experienced the last few years, we should be thankful. And I do thank Don Kazarian and his staff, but weíre not out of the fire yet. I am not a business man or owner of anything, but your business has to make money, period. I hope improvement in all the important things happen this year at the PAS, or I will be following slot machine theory in the future.

been Over the years since the 911 disaster, most extracurricular things have been cut back and thus changed our entire landscape for the race crowd. Discretionary money is no longer out there as much as it once was, including racing. You see it in attendance, car counts, familyís involvement in racing, pit traffic and everywhere else you look at the race track, things have changed! Gas is higher, people travel less and it all trickles down to our racing world. I use to think it was kinda neat that in England, where the cost of gas then was $7 a gallon, people would have to car pool to races there. My friend George from over there says it is the only way to go racing for him, as he and his friends canít afford to go alone in their sedans. Today I see many fans car-pooling on the long trips it takes to follow the CRA on the road. Perris went from good crowds and plenty of sprint cars in the early years of the track, slowly downward spiraling to last year when the stands didnít burst from the crowds and car counts faltered from time to time. We need to support that race track and watch it grow back to where it once was. People love racing and you see it at Chili Bowl and various special events around the country. CRA has what people want to see so how do we gets their butts in the stands?

Years ago I went to South Dakota for a CRA event back in the 80ís. I have told this story many times, but it is worth repeating. We got there a day early and the track at Husets Speedway in Brandon, SD was having their ďregularĒ weekly show. The cost to get in was $ 6!! Food and drink was $ 1 and the place was packed! They had ďpicnicĒ boxes where families brought their coolers and could relax away from the grandstand. I asked what the CRA ticket would be the next night? $ 14 was the reply, wow, it was a special show. The reason was the promoter said, he knew if he kept the entry price down for the regular shows, they would come, if it went up to $10 or more, they would not! Yes the big crowd did not come for the CRA show, but it was good racing and we had fun and he proved his point.

I wouldnít say the PASís new $25 adult ticket is a bad move, only time will tell, but in todayís world entertainment costs money and we canít let emí in free! The bitch and moan crowd will squawk if you put padding in the seats, but it is what it is, so get over it and letís go racing. I am hoping the fans respond and buy season tickets to get them there more often. I think $ 5 bucks is a small thing when you realize what you see on the track with our thunder and lightning cars. It is soooo much better than TV racing and you can go meet the drivers and sit in their cars to boot and get more intimately involved. If that isnít entertainment, what the heck is? I have been an avid fan of sprint car racing for over 40 years now and I donít regret ever switching from drag racing. More action, less wait time, excitement squared, in my way of thinking! This will be a very important year for us who love our sprint car racing, but I hope history repeats the return of fans and race cars. You can make a difference and there are so many ways to do it. Part of bigger crowds is having people who organize others to go racing, so be one of those and donít come alone. My soap box is bent, but I get so mad when I see real fans stay home because itís easier than making the drive or they might have to spend a few more bucks to get what has always been the best show on dirt in CRA sprint car racing. I could stay home and save $150 it cost to come down from Sin City, but it is well worth it to me to be there and see what I like! Get involved, pick a favorite driver and help him by cheering him on or even handing him a few bucks to help his budget. There used to be a lot of people that had plenty of racing money, now not so much, they can all use the help!

The recent announcements that the Victorville, Orange Show and Irwindale race tracks are closing is sad for all involved. If it is true, and we have lost them I canít but help to think someone is out there to maybe try again at each location. They should at least be looking at Irwindale for itís publicity affect, yet with them gone perhaps Perris will gain from this. People donít travel much these days and the pavement pounders from Irwindale and Orange show are not likely to head over the mountain to the Las Vegas Bull Ring, adding a ton of gas money to their budget to race. nor will their fans on a regular basis. Converting to dirt might be a possibility for some racers, but we will see. I expect someone might want to resurrect Victorville because it is a nice race track and a smart promoter should be able to make it work for their local cars. Take heart, 2012 could be a great year. I got my favorites, how about you! And how about Turkey night, where will it be? Will we at last see it on dirt again, oh I hope so!!! Can't you just see it at the PAS!!!!

Darren Hagen, Damion Gardner and Brady Bacon have won Florida races already so the year has started! Smoke Johnson/Stewart won a wing show in Georgia as he continues to have fun driving open wheel cars and show up the regular racers.

Notes I hear from the CRA banquet: Congrats to Mike Spencer (USAC/CRA), Richard VanderWeerd (USAC West Coast 360s), Cory Kruseman (USAC Western Midgets) and their teams for winning their championships. Also kudos to David Bezio (USAC/CRA), and Ryan Bernal (USAC West Coast 360s) on earning Rookie of the Year honors for each club. Way to go Ronnie Gardner for his USAC/CRA Most Improved honors and Rip Williams for the Billy Wilkerson Memorial Award. The awards were all presented at the annual CRA banquet last week. Glad to see the CRA is once again the highlighted group without all the USAC classes on the night! And I would tell you how many Mechanic of the year awards Bruce Bromme Jr has, but I have lost track. It must be a dozen or more as his talent is often overlooked in the success of Ron Chaffinís little red sucker! That genius may never be seen in these parts if he ever retires. Once again nice job Bruce, you are the one!

Danny Sheridan is cutting back on his racing in the little blue bugger, but staying closer to home doesnít mean he is done! He plans to win some more races as he tries to control his home track as much as possible. The Kittle Motorsports Krew will have a new young sensation driving the 410 car for 12 races this season and I am predicting good things for this young driver. Ryan Bernal has driven a sprint car for 4 years and starting out in a 360 carbureted version didnít slow him down as he has 35 wins already. By the time he graduates from high school this year, he should have his first CRA 410 win, he is that good. Ryan will also drive a Josh Ford owned car when he is not in the Kittle Kar and will run for the CRA championship with the rest of them.

Add Jake Swanson to the rookie mix this year in Larry Henryís car with Tony Jones as the crew chief and we should see some good stuff there as well. Donít be surprised if the ďCowboyĒ does some check out runs to make sure everything is up to snuff!

WAG$CA$H 2012 will hit the track at Santa Maria in August this year and I will be pulling teeth, er asking for money for the event as the year goes on. It is a race within a race that gives the fans something to get involved with and should spice up the Wagtimes promotions this year. Look for a return of a chili feed and race auction to help fans and racers get together like at Ventura and itís 12 year run there. The location of the pits and grandstands will make it easier to make happen and I hope all of you put it on your calendar. Any CRA driver with a small number of CRA appearances, and only one CRA win or less, is eligible. To qualify for the race the drivers will be required to have chili with the fans and enter the Sexy Driver contest. These drivers who qualify and meet the requirements will receive the Polka dot ribbon that will signify to the fans in the stands that they are running for the WAG$CA$H that night. The highest finishing Polka dot car wins the big share and a trophy from Trophy City and I hope itís a fun day for all.

This year the Wagtimers will go back to picking the shiney tire award each race and present the special baby oil trophy to the team who shines the best. Also Wagtimes will be sponsoring the best appearing car and most popular driver award this season, an item we sort of forgot to continue a few years ago. Anyone can vote on their favorite driver and best looking car in their eyes either at the track or thru Wagtimes e-mail or even Facebook. There will be nice awards going to the winners at the end of the season. Hopefully we can put some enthusiasm into the crowd along the way. I think I will be utilizing the new phone credit card gizmo for those who are out of cash like normal, but want to put a few bucks into our race when they see me. You can do like some fans and just send me a check made out to Wagtimes, it all works! Please join me and get involved.

Itís been a long winter up here on the hill and I am ready to go sprint car racing very soon! I hope I didnít foprget anything! February 25 opens the year up, so look over the schedule and make your plans, lets get crackiní!!! See ya at Perris.

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