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DAMION GARDNER WINS LOUIE VERMEIL PRELIM FROM 7TH ROW AND GRABS FINALE FROM THE POLE.

TIRE WEAR TAKES A GREAT RACE INTO A FRUSTRATING WORLD OF RESTARTS IN USAC RACING AT STOGAí.

September 5, 2010

By Ken Wagner

Itís hard to describe the difference in the two days of the 3rd annual Louie Vermeil classic, but let me try. Saturday the winner came from the 7th row. Sunday the winner came from the pole while 22 drivers tried to avoid the tire smoke and give him a challenge. That about sums it up as the competitive battle of Saturday was between the drivers excellence, while the Sunday event fell from the expected wonderful world of good racing to a yellow light parade of restarts. Damion Gardner gets the emmy for both days and no one will remember the others who gave it their all and came up short.

For my Saturday pics Click here. For my Sunday pics Click here. For Mrs Wags pics Click here. For Doug Allen's work Click here.

It was The Demonís race to win both days in the# 83 Randy Tiner owned car with Kevin Urtonís motor power that was fast out of the box for the USAC visitor from Indiana. On the opening night he used his skill to methodically creep up from his 7th row starting spot, working thru the pack to eventually slip by a fast race long leaderDanny Sheridan near the end of the curfew shortened 20 lapper. He had a lot of tough passes and did it very well without touching a soul. In the $5000 to win Sunday night event, he started on the pole and pulled away after every red and yellow flag stop until he crossed the line ahead of a fast closing Daren Clayton. Daren started 23rd, came forward a bunch, had his flat tire, then restarted and again came from the back of the shortened pack to make it close.

With three laps to go in the30 lapper, there was plenty of drama as the leaders right rear was barren and it looked like Showtime Sheridan had saved his tires and fuel very well as he moved from 5th to 2nd for a late run at the Demon. He was looking to return the favor of a late race pass for a win like he was the victim of the night before. But up jumped the devil when his brand new rear-end broke and the tire and fuel he saved in the little blue sucker was not needed when they pushed him to his pit unable to come back to finish up what he started. There were only 10 cars that finished this one as Z flat tire was Z culprit all night.

This event is a special one in honor of Louie Vermeil who is being honored for his years of dedication to the Calistoga Speedway and community. With USAC coming to town, it gave Greg Sowers and Steve Howard an opportunity to make it one of the highlights of the USAC schedule and a high paying race as well. Greg organizes the weekend fundraisers with wine and beer tasting, complete with music and lots of fund raising ideas to add to the purse. Steve just raised more extra money that was spread out to the racers to make this a memorable two day event. Having 31 cars support the effort in these tough economic times was amazing. With the fairgrounds area packed with campers and race teams everywhere, it has become one of those ďWoodstockĒ kind of events and most canít wait until next yearís version.

The opening night was really the best as 31 cars qualified with Bullet Blake Miller coming in the fastest with a new track record, beating last yearís record setting performance at 19.078. The So Cal bunch brought 12 cars and they did very well thru the weekend. Itís always difficult to get the Midwest USAC drivers out because of their sometimes relentless double scheduling, but five came west to jump in local cars and the rest came from the No Cal area. The track was good, a bit narrow at times, but some great racing thundered on the long half mile oval.

l Behind the winner Damion on the first night was the little blue sucker with Danny Sheridan in the seat like normal. He led the first 17 laps of the 20 lapper and only a determined Demon got by him as he struggled with a broken torsion bar. Nevertheless, he was on the podium for the first time at Calistoga in three visits. Mike Spencer was third after moving up from the 4th row with some tough sledding in the little red sucker.

Naturally, there were a few no noís along the way on both nights as some didnít appear to put their brain in their helmet when they suited up. And so some normally wing only drivers, and a few non wingers too, got on their heads. Sometimes it was with a little help, and sometimes they did it all on their own. Matt Streeter was a victim of a bad slide job and his car was totaled, leaving him in the stands on the second night. A couple of other sliders created havoc for the victims as wild things happen when rubber meets rubber on the track.

The Williams Brothers, Cody and Austin, both struggled with Cody getting some help putting him in the wall the first night. His weekend didnít improve as he found the wall on Sunday as well on his own. Austin was 10th on Sunday as he stayed out of trouble and drove his dadís car. Speaking of dad, Rip Williams didnít fare well either as he hit the wall early on Friday hurting his car and then came back to get 15th. The talented local young driver Kyle Larson was running a strong third when he got ďbacked up onĒ and ended up in the wall when the field then bunched up on him, and was done for the night. He recovered for a strong 4th on Sunday.

Greg Bragg didnít have much fun in the Moosemobile after his 21st and 17th place finish, but he ran hard. One of his crewmembers, Chad Kincaid got in the 2nd car and put in some good laps for an inexperienced driver. He was 6th in his heat and missed the main in his only night of competition. Tyler Schmidt flipped in the opening night feature and then ran 14th on Sunday. David Cardey broke a cam the first night and came back for a 7th in his rental Crossno ride.

Sunday was a different story that will go down in racing annuals as a very tough track night for most. Mike Spencer had fast time with a 19.340 as Deron Clayton surrendered his better time when he was too light. Deron then was forced to start at the back of everything during the night. Only 3 heats this time as a few cars didnít come back for various reasons and Andy Forsbergjoined the night on Sunday. Damion Gardner was 9th quick, so when one car ahead of him didnít transfer, he was on the pole, what luck, and we knew where that was going. He charged right to the lead and held it for 30 laps while all but a few had flat tires or broke. At the end it was Deron Clayton pulling very close, but no cigar, as he needed another lap! In between it was flat tire, restart, flat tire, restart etc. etc. It wasnít among the best races I have seen, but the mystery of the leaders tire lasting kept the crowd on the edge of their seats. Damion came to town and took home to Indiana all the marbles, just like he opened the year in So CAL.

A lot of extra money was passed into the hands of drivers over and above the $5000 to win purse. The scenic Calistoga area saw a lot of fans and racers around the town for a few days and the grandstands was packed for good non wing racing. You may hear some say ďwait tillí next year, but for sure many will make the trek again next time..

We continue the season with the added purses of the Jack Kindoll Classic, The 20th annual Wagsdash and the Glenn Howard classic, so fans and racing folks are being asked to join in the fund raising to help the racers out with more cash. Even the Oval Nationals looks for extra money. It makes the end of the year a little more meaningful to the competitors and you know the racers appreciate the efforts.

A reminder on the Wagsdash golf tourney, get your name on the list as we need more players. Check the front page of Wagtimes.com for link to sign up! Miniature golf has opening as well. Also get your name on the Wagsdash t-shirt, it is wild this year!!!!! We collected about $200 this weekend for the dash, but ÖÖ. much more is needed.

Iíll be at Ventura this weekend checking out the place to see whatís new. Look for me as I will have calendars and an empty fanny pack. Come see me. I'll announce the Wagsdash invitee's on September 18th.

9/04/10 FEATURE: (20 laps) 1. Damion Gardner, 2. Danny Sheridan, 3. Mike Spencer, 4. Keith Bloom, 5. Robert Ballou, 6. Darron Clayton, 7. Shane Golobic 8. Chris Windom, 9. Cory Kruseman, 10. Blake Miller, 11. Geoff Ensign, 12. Matt Mitchell, 13. James Sweeney, 14. Jeff Griffin 15. Rip Williams, 16. Scott Pierovich, 17. Cody Myers, 18. Kyle Larson, 19. David Cardey, 20. Tyler Schmidt, 21. Greg Bragg, 22. Austin Williams. NT

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-16 Sheridan, 17-20 Gardner

9/05/10 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Damion Gardner, 2. Daron Clayton, 3. Mike Spencer, 4. Kyle Larson, 5. Blake Miller, 6. Marty Hawkins, 7. David Cardey, 8. Andy Forsberg, 9. Scott Pierovich, 10. Austin Williams (#3), 11. Danny Sheridan, 12. Keith Bloom, 13. Cory Kruseman, 14. Tyler Schmidt, 15. Geoff Ensign, 16. Jeff Griffin, 17. Greg Bragg, 18. Robert Ballou, 19. Matt Mitchell, 20. Shane Golobic, 21. Josh Ford, 22. Chris Windom, 23. Jim Richardson. NT

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Gardner.

NEW AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR POINTS: 1-Spencer-937; 2-Sheridan-774; 3-Miller-709; 4-Kruseman-709; 5-Mitchell-586; 6-Cardey-470; 7-Bragg-453; 8-A.Williams-437; 9-Jimmy Crawford-422; 10-Tony Jones-421.

NEXT USAC AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR RACE: September 18 Ė Perris (CA) Auto Speedway

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