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March 3, 2013

By Ken Wagner

Before I get too far in my Arizona report, let’s talk about Canyon Speedway Park a little bit. Years ago the “old” CRA raced there in between Manzanita visits occasionally. The biggest obstacle was driving the totally unimproved path to the track and hope the rocks didn’t whack your wheels or paint job too bad. The track was darker than most, but there was some racing going on. I remember the backstretch being moved farther back and temporary lighting brought in and still it was a track a lot of spectators and drivers didn’t like. They had a big Winter WOO deal there back then, but I didn’t trek over for it from LA. All in all it was another track to race at and part of the charm (????) was nothing permanent could live out there. No running water, no electricity and nothing modern from the nearby community of Peoria. Everything had to be brought in, and a big generator supplied the power to lights et al, and there was dirt track racing.

For my pics from Canyon Click here to view. For Doug Allens quality photo's Click here to see.

Canyon, on first glance, doesn’t look much different today, even though there have been plenty of improvements at the facility. Still, they have the same tight grandstands, and everything still comes in on a truck, but the tracks racier, and they have “suites” for a few fans wishing to get out of the elements and the racing can be very, very good. I don’t know what specifically drew the crowds this weekend besides maybe NASCAR being in town, but the grandstands were packed on Friday and overloaded Saturday. They even had some NASCAR stars out to run the “other” classes including Kenny Schrader and Kenny Wallace.

Friday’s track for the Midget and Sprint mains was the best I’ve seen it there. The fact they worked it a little before the finale made a big difference and we saw a lot of passing and excitement during both mains. Bryan Clauson showed why he is deadly here as he worked his way into the lead of the sprint main with his tenacious ability and won his umpteenth victory here in the last few years. He also swept the Midget mains on both nights, what a driver! Saturday was a little different as they didn’t work the surface before the mains, so we had a high grove super highway that allowed not as much passing and the one significant pass on the start, that made all the difference in the world, was made by winner R J Johnson when he slipped between the front row from his second row starting spot, and went by Bruce St James after a lap to grab his 2nd all-time CRA win. Talk about running the high line as he had runner-up Nic Faas glued to him the entire race like a mini freight train circling the raceway.

Seriously, I wasn’t looking forward to another lonely trip across a desert to see my guys run, but after my friend Don Flanders passed away and the Arizona Big Fish Society decided to raise money in his honor, I agreed to be part of that action and headed southeast to Peoria, AZ on Friday morning. A cool 255 miles in less than 5 hours was broken up by a static noisy radio when it was on. Man, I need one of those satellite radios, don’t I? Anyway the nice and sunny and warm, but not hot, weather greeted me and after lunch with Mike Clark at a Logan’s roadhouse, we headed to the track prepared for who knows, at least some good racing.

The last time I was at Canyon, I had trouble with my drag along box, my Mule Jr, of all my camera stuff and more when mud kept clogging up the tiny wheels until they wouldn’t turn and I was dragging it like it was a box without wheels. Where is my mule when I need it? Recently I found a new rolling tote and put the box on it and it worked great. So off I went to do the walk around and see who or what’s new and begin my day. Along with 27 sprint cars there were about 20 or so midgets in the house. I won’t mention the “other” two classes, but they were there too with their fans as well later. There were 15 regular CRA travelers for this one, so maybe 2 day shows are the answer for the travelers, as that was more than we usually get on the road.

First thing I saw after moving by some of the “other” cars was a new Maxim # 1 in blue and white with some red scalloped striping? Seth Wilson’s new ride for 2013 is brand new and a big change for him. No more black paint job or coil over shock’s for this driver as they are trying something new! He missed the main on Friday, but qualified in the middle of the pack on Saturday before finishing 2nd in his heat and 16th in the main. When this team gets use to the changes, look for some front running by the “Mohawk Man”!

Seeing two silver bullets lined up in the pits is not unusual, as The Alexander Racing Team has done that for a while. Having two drivers hit the track to race in them is unusual, as Damion Gardner has joined the team and will be one to watch. The team was consistent this weekend as Nic Faas was 2nd both nights and Damion, someone familiar to us all, was 4th both nights. The additional car for the same small crew seemed to work fine as both cars were fast and running up front. Nic seemed to be driven a little bit and I imagine having Damion there probably lit a little fire under his helmet as his driving was pretty fast and furious. His move up and around Hunter Schuerenberg for the lead was masterful early on Friday night and only the sage veteran Bryan Clauson kept him from his first win of the year. Look out for this team as we start the year off with more “heroes” than past years.

In amongst our regular CRA runners, it was great to see the likes of Charles Davis Jr, R J Johnson, the Magic Man Mike Martin (who whipped the boys last year in a 360 here), Bruce St James, and a few other locals, plus J J Yeley stopping by between his NASCAR duties, it was a fun time.

There was plenty of good racing going on as Bud Kaeding ran 3rd, on a slide job by the Demon, and 6th in the two features. The little rascal Ryan Bernal started his season off with 7th and 5th. Visitor Hunter Scheurenberg ran 9th after leading the opening night and followed that up in Bob Ream’s bright # 8 car with a 7th. Super Rickie Gaunt was trading slide jobs along his path to 12th and 8th after he told me he really enjoyed this racing. Local hot dog Charles Davis Jr ran 6th and 9th as he was on the gas. Brody Roa struggled a little, but 11th and 10th will get his year started. David Cardey had a flat right front tire while running up front on Friday and finished 17th. He improved to 12th on Saturday as the Moosemobile looks ready to do some damage this year. Don’t forget the black three cars of the Williams clan as they all three drove hard but Cody scored the best with 10th and 15th as Austin went 13th and 18th and Ripper 19th and 14th. Cory Kruseman was 14th and 20th to start the year. Matt Mitchell was 8th on Friday and crash out to 22nd on Saturday. Mike Spencer ran a strong 5th on Friday and pulled off to a 23rd place finish on Saturday. Our own NASCAR driver J J Yeley had his troubles with 21st on Friday and an improved 13th on Saturday before he went back to the big paved rack for another good run there on Sunday. It was a good weekend for most and now Perris opens and we get on with it for 2013.

When you add Damion’s return to west coast racing and with the hope that Bud Kaeding runs the whole schedule, things are looking up! It’s good that Matt Mitchell is back in the mix after his eye healed, and Ryan Bernalstaying in the strong Ford Motorsports entry this season, plus a stronger Brody Roa, a ready to rock n’ roll David Cardey, a rejuvenated Rickie Gaunt off the off road trail, plus Cory Kruseman, the ”black line” of Ripper, Cody and Austin Williams, plus David Bezio and Seth Wilson swapping colors, we have a lot to look forward to. Oh, I didn’t forget about the 5 time CRA champion Mike Spencer as he will try to rappel all of them during the year and he has to be unseated before we see a new champion beating out the little red sucker. Will the little blue bugger return to the track and when? Can things look any better for the CRA this year? Maybe with some more visitors like Clauson and the Midwest boys, it will continue to bring more suspense back to CRA main events and give us what we all want, Big Time traditional sprint car racing at its best! When you throw in the new URA adventure that too could make things better as well. I am ready to roll back my odometer and hit the road again this year with the hopes we don’t have our champion set at midyear like last year.

Midget excitement was fun this weekend with Kyle Larson coming by to entertain us was fun. Due to contract Kyle can’t run those vicious non-wing sprinters anymore, but he can jump in the NASCAR pavement pounders where they never crash hard. Even though Bryan Clauson swept the two features, Kyle ran a close second the first night and surprisingly showed up in time to start in the back of Saturday night’s event and run up to 5th. Ronnie Gardner was on the podium Friday night with the two big time drivers and pulled off the track before Saturday’s event even started.

Two Don Flanders Memorial events will happen after his passing recently. One will be at Victorville on March 16 and the “Don Flanders Classic” at Perris on May 4th. The Big Fish Society collections, in honor of Don, was at Canyon this past weekend, and totaled $610 and is rising. This Saturday night at Perris I will be collecting in Don’s honor for the May 4 event as we will keep the cash for both events separate. In both event night’s, Don’s brother Ken and family will attend to meet and greet Don’s racing family and the final payouts will happen. The money will be given in memory of Don and the way he distributed his own money. We will decide as a group on who gets the money with things like first car out of the main, or the first car who misses the main, or a hard luck owner of the night, or a low buck hard charger etc. etc. Don’s friends encourage you to get involved! I will have raffle tickets for the Don Flanders T-shirt Quilt with me. Also a silent auction of memorabilia form his racing collection will be posted later this week and it will begin online and appear at Victorville and Perris with the quilt and all items going to the lucky one at Perris May 4. If you don’t find me, mail me, Ken Wagner, a check to 429 Flores Circle, Las Vegas, NV 89123 and I promise I won’t go gambling with it.

The Orange Show Speedway opener has been moved due to safety concerns. Here is the press release click here to read. The gist of it is the horrendous crash at Daytona made Scotty Burns and his people take a second look at how much fencing was really needed. The planned opener has been moved from March 23rd to April 27 to give them time to plan and implement their findings. The March 23rd event has been moved to Route 66 Motorplex.

Laurie Sertich, the Moose Racing Team leader and holiday design expert, suffered serious injuries at the practice night of Copper on Dirt at Canyon Speedway Park in Arizona when she was hit by a push truck. The injuries are serious as you can imagine, and she will be looking at a long convalescence until she’s good as new. She was in ICU until Sunday afternoon and will be there until she can travel home to recover. You can send her a card or some nice flowers to brighten up her days! Send to Laurie Sertich, in care of John C Lincoln Medical Center, 250 E Dunlap Ave, Room 537-b, Phoenix, AZ 85020. Get well Laurie, everyone is praying for you.

See you at Perris this week as we continue on in what appears to be a great season. Don’t miss out, get in the car on Saturday!

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