As we near the end of another outstanding racing season, several things are certain. Richard Griffin will win another SCRA championship, J J Yeley has already won the USAC Silver Crown Championship with hopes for more, Damion Gardner is the most talked about non-wing driver in the country, Perris will remain the home track of SCRA, and money is tight!
Richard "The Gasman" Griffin is soooooo far in front in SCRA points, he only has to show up at the banquet to receive another SCRA championship for himself, his team and car owner, Ron Chaffin. Richard has six victories this year and a near 400 point lead as we head toward the final race, the Kindoll Classic on November 23rd. The Wagsdash starts it off in less than two weeks, then the three day Oval Nationals, then three day Manzanita event and the finali at Perris. Hats off to Bruce Bromme Jr and the whole crew as Ron Chaffin's band of winners continue to show how to get the job done over the long season.
Right now the battle for second place is the one to watch as Damion Gardner, Tony Jones, Cory Kruseman and Rip Williams are blanketed within 86 points, in that order, and all four want that spot. Mike Kirby has an outside chance, as he is another 100 points back, but he would have to practically win all four mains to have a fighting chance. It could prove very interesting as a side bar, but the traditional last night championship battles we have enjoyed in the past will not be there.
J J Yeley sewed up his USAC Silver Crown championship and is still in the running for the Midget title. He barely defended his sprint car title by a few points, but has had a good year badgering the USAC bunch all year. He will be out West to run a little with the SCRA as the season closes. Great job by him in his ABC Sand & Rock Special in hostile territory!
The successful season in the SCRA wars for Damion Gardner has made a name for himself around the country. He is doing exceptionally well for his first year without a wing and should be a big factor in the big money races coming up. He has had a number of guest appearances in other cars this season, including one in Keith Kunz fast ride at Terre Haute last week, and should be writing his own ticket for next season instead of chasing sponsorship in his own ride. Hopefully, that will be with the SCRA as his fans will not be happy if he goes off to Indiana, or any other opportunity that might arise, as they have come to look for the silver and green bullet on the track with their other SCRA heroes.
My friend Willie Bandy made his final journey this week as a large crowd of family and friends sent him off with a symbolic dove ceremony after a warm celebration in his church on Saturday. Pastor Dave gave a moving story about the life and times of our Willie that included some of his favorite music and testimonials. Willie's love for sprint car racing occupied his thoughts the last months as he gave his all to battle the cancer that would finally take him from us last Monday. Willie never gave up until the very end and we will miss the strong man who supported his family and enjoyed racing. Rest in peace my friend!
This weekend a happy crowd of friends of Kenzo Okubo surprised him at a nice restaurant in Seal Beach. Kenzo thought he was just out for a Sunday drive and meal when he walked into a noisy reception in honor of his 60th birthday. Many humorous gifts, cards and a brilliant collage of pics of him and the sprint cars he has worked on. It was a great afternoon of fun and plenty of "roasting" of the popular crewman for Verne Sweeney. Most of Verne's crew, some of Kenzo's church friends and family came to have fun with him. Kenzo started his racing career on Kim Craft's crew and has moved on to be with Verne in his cherished times at the racetrack.
Look for me at the Trophy Cup this weekend as I go to check on my friend Trophy Dave's annual event for the Make a Wish Foundation. The two-day event is at Hanford and many of the top 360 drivers in the land will be there for the huge $80,000 purse. This is the first time I have been able to attend in five years because it has always been on Wagsdash weekend and I was busy. Not this year, as Trophy Dave is hosting this one over two hundred miles from his home in San Jose a week before the Wagsdash. Since the San Jose track closed, the race has been at Watsonville and now Hanford, but not the same without the annual cookout he was famous for.
Wagsdash 2002 is coming closer each week as we begin the countdown at 12 days. It is not too late to get involved with the purse by donating money or buying a spot on the event T-shirt. All the money, and not as they say on TV, "a portion of it", will go into the purse. It is the 12th annual edition and should be a fun night. In addition to everything that goes on from the free Mrs Wags Chili Feed at noon until the exiting 30 lap inverted Wagsdash, there will be a best two out of three match race between the two-seaters of Cory Kruseman and Tony Jones. How lucky or brave will the riders be? We know they will be $100 lighter for the fun they get, but who will win, the Kruser or the Cowboy? Eddie Wirth is gearing up to sign his Wagsdash poster for you. Be there! So much to experience as the festive fun family day ends the Ventura racing season and brings us near the end of the season in 2002. Long weekend ends, as I am pooped.
SCRA points as of 10/5/02
1. Richard Griffin 2136, 2. Damion Gardner 1752, 3. Tony Jones 1732, 4. Cory Kruseman 1675, 5. Rip Williams 1666, 6. Mike Kirby 1564, 7. Rickie Gaunt 1539, 8. Steve Ostling 1521, 9. John Scott 1502, 10. Mike English 1452, 11. Bobby Graham 1103, 12. Troy Rutherford 1064, 13. Jeremy Sherman 1032, 14. Charles Davis, Jr 913, 15. Mike Spencer 773, 16. Levi Jones 758, 17. Rodney Argo 687, 18. Adam Mitchell 678, 19. Gary W. Howard 655, 20. Bobby Cody 628.