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March 2, 2010

By Ken Wagner

The Demon Damion Gardner continued his string of good racing, this time at Las Vegas Speedway as he started 15th in the USAC/CRA 30 lap main event and worked his way up to the lead on lap 28. Utilizing the slick top groove to grab his third race of four he has run this season, Damion just blazed the right rear on his way to the front. The slick track kept most on the bottom, but with several feathering their throttles up high, only these kept up the momentum on the track and surged forward. Damion was the happy winner in his Pace sponsored # 71.

For Las Vegas pics Click here. For The PAS Click here. For Doug Allen's work Click here.

In between some serious rainstorms on the West coast, Las Vegas hosted the USAC/CRA under cool but sunny skies. The prior few days were dark, windy and rainy as the spring normally goes in Las Vegas, but it turned nice when the gates opened at 9 AM and the long day began. The one day Tucson race, strung out over three days in Arizona, set the stage for rough weather as the 2010 season starts. When 37 sprint cars and 24 Midgets hit the sandy track it all looked like usual here as the slick track appeared and some just fared better than others.

Jerry Coons Jr set fast time over the 34 sprinters that timed in. The track went slick and before the nights racing even started, they took a nearly two hour break to redo it? WOW! When the action got started, it was pretty much the same slick stuff before the 2nd heat ran first, with Damion winning that one from the front. Levi Jones won the scheduled 1st heat next as he cruised ahead of a charging Mike Spencer from the back. Bryan Clauson won the third one and Dave Darland the last one. They all looked pretty much the same with many on the bottom and the few passers on the top with plenty of action.

Brad Sweet won the Midget show after running 13th in the main event and came back the next night to run 7th with the outlaws for a pretty good two days of racing. During the day Rip Williams seriously hurt a finger working on the raced car, bad enough to keep him from driving his sprint car. The doc will examine it this week and see what can be done about saving it. Joey Franklin, AKA Elvis, was wandering around the pits and mentioned he got his motor back in his race car the day before and is looking forward to racing again.

The semi was a little dusty on the back stretch, but didnít bother anybody and watching Seth Wilson work his way forward from the back was fun. He came up to grab a transfer to start in the back of the main. Coons won the 12 lapper as it got cooler with the slight breeze blowing.

The main started with Dave Darland and Robert Ballou on the front row and Dave went low with Robert up high into the lead for a few battle laps before Dave took back the lead on lap 8 and stretched it out from there. From the back came only two cars running the top, as the rest stayed mainly in place on the bottom. First Damion made his high groove moves and then here came Seth Wilson. With about 5 laps to go on the last restart, Damion was in 3rd with Seth right behind him. Both had been running hard around the top of the slick oval and it was paying off. Most others died by running the low groove, or worse the middle, and from here it was obvious very quickly that Damion was going to win as he took the lead after the restart and stretched it out in front of Darland for his third win of the young season.

Darland ran strong in his new ride for the year, one of Keith Kunz red 67ís, and nearly pulled it off. The track never went black, but was slick tricky for all. Wilson did a really good job even though he fell back to 6th at the end; they knew he was there, as he said later. The local CRA boys once again didnít go forward on this track with Mike Spencer at 11th the best, followed by Blake Miller and Danny Sheridan not far behind him. On to Perris for the next chapter.

After watching Sunday nightís 30 lapper, I guess the question of the day is what happened to The Demon at Tucson, he was only 4th? Hah! More to the point, a small Sunday afternoon crowd at The PAS saw the former CRA champ duel with Henry Clarke briefly before taking charge and running away with his 4th National USAC race and 2nd CRA race of 2010. Domination is new tool in the Demonís arsenal as he begins the year with a hot streak. After dominating the Florida 2 race swing, he continued that pattern making it look easy on the West Coast swing.

Henry Clarke looked like his Keith Kunz car was going to be hard to beat as he came out of the box fast running high and passing cars. He didnít officially lead any laps, but had the red # 67 in front on at least one yellow flag stoppage. He ran the best these eyes have seen him do as he held off some hot dogs to take second place in the main event. And to think last year at this time he was just getting started in a local development school. He was very impressive.

Mike Spencer ran the best for the local cars in 5th place, if you donít include Damion as one of ours and I still do, as the little red sucker was coming hard. He also had fast time with a 17.380. David Cardey was 10th with another good effort against the Indiana slick track specialists.Showtime Sheridan had the best passing job of the locals coming from 22nd to 14th with some high flying action. He also came from the back of his heat to get a transfer with some nifty moves. The track was a cowboy affair, but some good racing was seen all night. David Cardey had the Wagtimes Shiny Tire Award this week as several did their tires up shiny. We should bring the award with us for a change.

Tony Jones showed off his Cowboy moves with two crashes in the identical spot coming out of turn three, one in his heat and one in the main. He had the silver bullet moving forward both times as he bounced up on top of the wall in his heat and did not actually flip, but hurt the car scraping along the K-rail. In the main he was lookiní to improve his spot when the car launched into a bounce and suddenly up and over on a quick wild toad ride. On Monday he sounded fine, but had to be sore as he told me he wasnít going to run in place with them on race night, and was going for the win.

The track took about an inch of rain on the original Saturday race date and knowing that was coming, AKA weather.com, the event was pushed off a day with hopes the race could happen the next day. That downpour was nothing like the bath Don Kazarian took on Sunday when the very small crowd that showed up didnít come near paying for the double USAC sanctioned show. He took a chance for the racers and fans, but it didnít work out very well at the box office. My hats off to Don and his crew for the effort it took to put this one on.

Getting this race off took some doing by track officials and USAC as the haulers were staged outside turn one on the pavement where they were staged at an Oval Nationals rain storm had forced that same routine some years ago. Negotiating the two groups of cars to the track for hot laps, qualifying and racing was a real chore, yet it was done very well with few pauses. It still took from qualifying at 3 PM to race end at 10 pm, a long 7 hours to get it all done. Lucky the wind never got really going, yet it was cool during the full moon lit night. The fans got a real bonus as they could sign up for a free pit pass and wander nearby into the pits all night long. That is something they want to do this year, giving the fans a more up close and personal look at what goes on to make the show move from the racers point of view.

With 36 sprint cars running this night, only 18 were home grown, so one might wonder what car counts are going to be this year. Cody Kershaw will switch from 360 motored cars to the mighty 410 monsters this year under the # 38 Glenn Crossno banner. David Cardey is off on his own now, having split with the Crossno help, and is one of several cars that wonít run the whole CRA schedule due to sponsorship needs. Rickie Gaunt returned to driving in the David Miller car and his back is all healed up. He tested it recently doing a nearly 150 mile loop in an off road rally that he said was a blast. Ronnie Gardner is back this year in the ďGardner BrothersĒ # 93 car for his sophomore season. Blake Miller is in Mark Priestleyís awesome Yellow # 7 for now as Garrett Hanson is out with his own back problems. Tony Jones still horses the Alexander rig around the track, but they need some help to do more than the Perris races. Danny Sheridan is about at the end of their yearly budget and unless some healthy financial help comes soon, they will park the 410 and go 360 racing. Donít know how long Rip Williams will be out, but his boys Austin and Cody are going strong. Matthew Sheadarowich is under new colors this year with Prolong as a sponsor. His sponsor had what some would term a caricature looking car unloaded at the track in the Mad Dog pits. An old Metropolitan complete with a blown motor and big rear spoiler made this one look fast. Former Wagsdash winner Austin Merois back in a Kruseman school car this year. And the beat goes on.

Good news for young Dennis Howell Jr and his racing efforts. After running the family Fontana powered Midget on occasion and their 360 motored sprinter against both the 410ís and some 360 shows, Dennis the Menace will bring out a 410 car with a motor purchased from Johnny Herrera at the Las Vegas race last week. The family car should be ready by the next Perris race.

Yes the weather hasnít been good on racer and spectator alike so far, but 2010 is started. The next race is at Perris on March 27 so everyone has a chance to warm up. Damion Gardnerís two wins make him look like a real favorite in Indiana this year after toiling for several years back there with little success. Locally, the little red sucker is going to be hard to beat with Bruce Bromme Jr still turning the wrenches and two time champion Mike Spencer in the seat. I had already penciled in Showtime, The Cowboy, the Bullet and Cardey as the main competition, but so far nobodyís had a good start in the points except Mellow Mike.

I will continue my quest for Wagsbucks and work on the Wagsdash purse in the coming months, so donít forget to get involved. There is over $150 in my change for the Lafond Jar of Change that goes to the hard charger in the Wagsdash this year. Steve Lafond, who started this award years ago sez he guaranteeís we will beat last yearís $1000 payout. If it gets too much (?), some will be split off to the 2nd best passing job or maybe another worthy award to the low buck racers. To all who came out to Perris on Sunday, thanks, it was a fun night. I worried over a low tire on my Vette all day, but my airman Paul Dean took care of that before I left for home. No problems on the ride home as itís a slow leak that I will address this week.

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