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April 20, 2013

By Ken Wagner

How does one car and one two car team dominate a weekend against only 17 cars? Simple, the same as the prior 4 races that started this year out. The Alexander team got fast time both days, started on the front row both days and won both days. Damion was pulling away with the Faas team car running second and 4th just like the prior 4 races where 4th was the worst finish of the two silver bullets. So add it up: three wins, 3 fast times, 5 runner-up finishes, one 3rd place spot and three 4th place finishes in 6 races. Can you spell WOW! Winning both nights is just icing on the cake!

My pics from Yuma click here to see. For Doug Allens quality photo's Click here to see.

Damion Gardner was blistering hot in his # 4A Alexander silver bullet with his high flying, up against the boards, on the top of the cushion action that separated him from the rest of the field every time he hit the track. On the first night he won the new dash added because of the low car count and used his pole position in the main to flick off the challengers and win going away with teammate Nic Faas, the fast timer both days, closing in on him at the end. Damion just ran the high line and only came down off his perch to split traffic like he was surgeon on a motorcycle and gave the crowd reason to gasp occasionally.

On the second night he had to work a bit harder as Bud Kaeding gave him a run for his money when Bud won the dash and led the first 6 laps before succumbing to the ďsilver bullet blastĒ right on by him. Damion again did his death defying lap traffic moves that looked risky and exciting as he weaved his way thru the pack. The two wins leave him only two behind 11th place Jimmy Oskie who has 54 on the all-time So Cal list. The two time CRA champion looked invincible in his new ride for the year and we can only guess about this yearís championship chase that he leads the points after 6 of 22 races.

Nic Faas had a great weekend himself as he was quick time both days setting what I think was a new track record on Friday with a 16.451, over 3 tenths quicker than his quick time here last year. He was 2nd in his heat, the dash and the feature on Friday as he chased the Demon. Saturday he was still quick time with 2nd in his heat 6th in the dash and 4th in the main. The ďOtherĒ silver bullet will be in the commentary this season regardless of who leads the other. Nic has had his time in front and now the Demon, so the color silver is the story so far this season, but the little red sucker is not going away.

As for the two 36 lap features, letís talk about that. I am glad they added the dashes to give the fans a few more laps of entertainment, but I hate dashes that reward the drivers in their feature line-up. They need to be just dashes with no change to the feature line-up. Damion was thrilled because he had a chance to put on a great show by winning one dash and getting second in the other, so he was on the front row for both features. Itís like giving candy to a baby, easy money for the fast silver bullet. I wanted him to do it again in the feature coming from his real line-up spot, but it was not to be. The features were really 6 laps run with a break and then the 30 lap finish, not good for me. I object to any dashes like this and since you know the outlaws do it every race, which alone is enough fodder to keep us from doing it, so our fans get better shows.

Bud Kaeding is one of the best non wing drivers in the land, but his recent results with the CRA have been less than satisfying to him! He was really hot in Mike Martinís Maxim car this weekend and nearly took the Saturday night win with his great moves. Bud was 4th and 2nd in the two features after a lone 3rd at Canyon earlier in the year was his best. Bud is one of the drivers who will be in the championship mix this season as he can give the other CRA hot dogs fits. He told me not to worry as he has confidence and knows he will be jumping the podium regularly this season.

Mike Spencer hasnít had a very good start to his year in the Bruce Bromme Jr crewed little red sucker, but donít worry about him, he will still be the car to beat. He was still fast with his 4th and 2nd quick qualifying times, a heat win and 2nd in the other heat and two podium third place finishes this weekend. He was making a run in Saturdayís feature after gaining 2nd place, but the car seem to go a bit high out of turn three allowing Kaeding to regain 2nd from him near the end. Mike still has his 5 time championship moves and the other ďboysĒ will have to be consistent to beat him.

Matt Mitchell was 10th and 7th this weekend as he didnít suffer any obvious maladies. He has some better times coming up as he comes back from a serious crash last season that hurt his vision. The boy can drive and I think you will be seeing more out of him soon. The Williams clan were one down the opening night as the Ripper was ill and just watched. He drove Saturday and was 9th. Cody Williams was 7th and 13th for his efforts and brother Austin was 11th and 8th as they didnít get it going like normal. Young Green Machine driver Brody Roa was 8th and 10th with a broken motor the first night. My young friend A J Bender had nothing to write home about as he flipped both nights, one in the 360 car and one in the 410 car, but only the cars suffered as he was fine and the machines were not. He and his dad work awful hard to keep his cars running and could use a little help here! David Bezio came a long way to run hard both nights, but left probably feeling a little lost, yet didnít ding his car like at Perris a few weeks ago.

Six Arizona cars supported this yearís Yuma efforts. R J Johnson and Charles Davis Jr swapped positions the two nights as Charles got 5th the first night and R J 5th the second night in their own little Arizona battle. R J won his heat on Friday and looked really fast. Mike Martin won a heat on Saturday and ran 9th and 14 in the two features. Bob Ream Jr came away with two 12th place finishes in his sharp looking orange sprinter. He said he hadnít driven a 410 in a while but looked good in his fun weekend run. Matt Rossi was another AZ traveler, but had his problems with 14th and 11th on the two nights. It was nice to see AZ support the CRA, but we obviously needed more from somewhere.

Interesting that last year some cars didnít come to Yuma becauseÖ. Number 1 reason? Too far for only one night of racing? So with two nights of racing this time, and much cooler weather, why did fewer CRA guys tow? Itís not about THE economy anymore; itís about reality of saving money by doing nothing it seems. There were 6 AZ cars running with one of those having a California driver with his own engine, so the numbers were too few regardless. Supporting your organization is a key reason to its success and we saw little support on the road again. With the progression, or regression, what can we expect from the big Calistoga event this season where last year we had 8 CRA travelers, who came in 5 trailers, to run against 22 local cars. Pretty sad that it has come to this, but hey no one makes money racing. Now with Steve Howard not in a position to raise the extra money for the event like he always had, and with Greg Sower in limbo about his great support for the event, I wonder who could do that to ensure there is more money for the racers. I am thinking about that.

Man what an interesting weekend as I wasnít planning on driving the 300 mile two lane lonely trip alone until I hooked up with the Racing Optics Seth Wilson Racing team who are living in Las Vegas these days. I sold the Vette last week and lamented that trip without my red bomb, but it all worked out. When I called to see if they had an extra seat, success! Steve Wilson made it an easy trip as he treated me like I was one of the family and I didnít have to work on the car! We left on Thursday night and arrived at the Cocopah Casino by 7 am on Friday morning. After a shower, some food and a little fooling around in the casino, we went right to the track. Like all trips in a hauler, things happen. Somehow the batteries took a dump in the trailer and a quick trip to wally world to get new ones was the start. They also noted a trailer tire problem when one of the tires was losing air slowly, but they had a spare.

Their weekend was a bit of a nightmare on Friday night as Seth Wilson was 9th fast and was forced into the wall in his heat, you know no man flinches on the opening lap, and that started a weekend nightmare of rebuilding the car. The front end and Jacobís ladder were the first replacements before he went back out in the main. The night was not to be good after the drive train suffered a massive problem that could have been a problem for Sethís legs, but a spare torque tube wasnít in the extra supplies in the trailer. Until they found out Mike Martin had the parts they needed, it looked like we were loading up to go home early.

Saturday morning the crew including dad Steve were hard at work on the rebuild as a lot of things got bent and broken from the wall encounter and the drive train explosion. I of course was like the good son sleeping late and doing breakfast with friends and some stealing of Indian money at the slots before venturing outside in the heat to watch the last few repairs being completed before they loaded up and we headed to the track to do it again. This time Seth was 12th quick coming out last on a very slick track. He had a flat in his heat and started last in the feature. He had the car in 10th when a red came out with five laps to go and with no open red, the right rear going flat tire, wasnít much help as he slipped back to 15th at the end with 4 lbs. of pressure in the sad tire. Best part of the night, rolling the car on the trailer with no new repair problems. My friends didnít come by to get me for a late night snack like the night before, so I headed back to the casino and went to gamble a little. Then Steve and I visited until about 1:30 and it was time for some sleep so we could get up early and head home. NOT! Seth called to say meet him at the hauler as we were going home now! Thatís how my weekend finished as I was home by 10 AM Sunday and enjoyed my Sunday ritual feed with the family where the two new great grand babies were the highlight of the day.

The grand reopening of the new dirt track in town, Orange Show Stadium, should be a barn burner on this coming Saturday April 27. Scotty Burns of Dirt entertainment has taken over the facility and put clay down on the pavement that was laid down in 1964. New fencing and some paint makes this place a real deal. Add 8000 plus seats with stadium type good ones and you have a home run! You have to come see this historic event as it will give us two top notch race tracks in the riverside area of Southern California. Perris is the leader in the quest for great short track dirt track racing and I think OSS will be added to the mix. With 9 racing weekends at Perris, this leaves us plenty of open dates for other tracks to showcase the finest drivers in the southland.

The opener will feature $4000 to win and $400 to start the feature in honor of Doc Griffin, father of 5 time Champion Richard Griffin. Doc passed away recently and the drivers and fans will honor him in the first annual event. For those who want a teaser, Friday night will be a practice giving the racers a chance to check it out before the big event. Put this one on your calendar as it is a must see event! Oh, and Bob's Dream World will be there with unique sprint car stuff. Click here to view his stuff.

The racing season gets going all out now and the Don Flanders Classic will be May 4th at Perris giving the fans and racers a night to say goodbye to the man who few knew enough to know how good he was for our racing. Don started out racing an AA/Gas Supercharged Willys in the old days at Lions Drag Strip where he was as successful as his limited check book could make him. Later he owned the 911 sprint car that featured a see thru hood and firewall that turned heads and eventually became a street legal sprinter. When that effort ended, he came up with a data base that funded his benevolent cash helping of our race teams. His big heart was felt thru out the pits and now we go on without him. His family will be there at Perris to visit with his friends as we try to raise a little money for his night to give away to the racers just like he would have. Come by our booth and get involved with the silent auction of many of his racing books and memorabilia, buy a raffle ticket for the neat quilt his sister-in-law made out of some of his racing t-shirts and generally just donate to this honoring cause of Don Flanders. There are so many causes these days, but this one is important to many of us.

See ya at the races!

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