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By Ken Wagner 10/16/05

Here are a few questions to ponder this week for you. Will Rip Williams rebound from motor problems at Tucson and retake the USC/CRA points lead? Will Damion Gardner now slip out of sight in the little red sucker? Will Cory Kruseman leapfrog over Rip and go for the Demon? Will Mike Kirby miss the points from two races he missed while building his new car? Who will win the BIG MONEY at the seasonís two best paying sprint car shows coming up? Will the Ventura Main Event really pay the Big Dog $10,000 to win? Can you believe one of the all time greats of auto racing, Parnelli Jones, will be part of the Wagsdash? Can you believe the clock person at Notre Dame?

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A rare week off from the rigors of a long USAC/CRA season was probably good for most competitors, but when the Wally Pankratz night happens at Ventura Raceway, you just have to go. Not only did Wally drive his midget to third in that main event, but he was midpack in the VRA main when his yellow 360 team car to Kevin Kierce gave up on him and ended his night. Wally was roasted a bit by Kierce, Sleepy Tripp, promoter Jim Naylor and a few more before the night ended as they celebrated his last night to run Ventura after many years competing there. What a career and now he says he and his wife are off to see important things, not racing, for a while.

Jerome Rodela set fast time at 11.787 in his USAC Midget, quicker than the CRA best time of 11.999 this year. He went on to win the 30 lap main ahead of Danny Ebberts. He is only 31 points behind the leader, Robby Flock with at least two races to go. Damion Gardner had another night in the Pedregon #71 midget, but after qualifying third he was spun out by another car early in the main event and returned from the back to finish 9th on a good drive from there.

The VRA champion was announced after Bullet Blake Miller won his heat. The young driver has plans to move on to the 410ís next season. The new 2005 VRA Champion finished third in the main behind the winner Garrett Hanson and Greg Taylor. The race was pretty exciting as usual. After Taylor cleared traffic, he reeled in the eventual winner, but couldnít make the pass for the win. Steve Ostling finished ninth after one stop in the race.

The weather report included no rain at Ventura, but it poured at my house some 120 miles away. Sunday was very wet as unusual showers with loud thunder hit the area and we had a day to relax and you can be sure the Vette never got wet as it didnít leave the garage, but I canít say the same for Mrs Wags van, it got soaked!

OK, letís talk about the coming end of the year. There are five race weekends left with nine points gathering race nights ahead, so even with a 90 point lead, Damion Gardner will still have a challenge on his hand with defending champ Rip Williams and Cory Kruseman coming after him. Damion has more than records on his mind, even more than the points battle, he has wins on his mind. He already has 21 USAC/CRA victories, more than anyone else, and 13 SCRA wins under his belt giving him 34 since he started a few years ago. This puts him 12th on the all time list, can you believe it! His 13 wins this season ties him with the National USAC total held by Tom Bigelow in 1978. His 19 fast times is a USAC record for sprint cars and second only to Jimmy Davies' all-time USAC mark of 25 set in the Midgets in 1962. Gardner leadís the Earlís fast time deal for all drivers ands will be rewarded at the end of the season. To say he is having a great year is just the way it is.

Ripís problems at Tucson cost him dearly as he missed the main and decided not to exercise his provisional because it would be a wasted effort if the motor didnít work again. He took some hot laps at Ventura and the motor sounded just fine! He doesnít give up, so look for him to step it up at Perris this week. It is still a three way battled for the championship with an outside chance for a fourth, but lots of things can happen from here to the Kindoll Classic coming up the last race of the year.

I noticed only 19 cars were at the last USAC National points race before the Oval Nationals this week. Could be the high banks of Winchester are a little too much for some, or are the funds gone for travelers since their season is basically over. The Oval Nationals and the Western World are both National points events, so some of the Indiana clan will come west for the fun, some with their own hardware and some looking for rides.

Wagsdash latest news is here. I have finalized the Wagsdash format and here it is. We will revert back to the former format of having one race for the low buck warriors with some modifications. First it will run last after the regular events of the evening. It will be 16 cars for 15 laps with eight already invited to what is now an invitational race. The invited are R.J. Johnson, Josh Williams, Matt Stewart, Nate Ziegler, Blake Miller, Dan Tedrick, Greg Bragg and Mark Heidenreich. The winner of the VRA main event on Oct 22nd will be invited to join the field with 7 more to be drawn from a list of USAC/CRA competitors who have raced at least five times with the club and are not in the top 12. On Saturday the 22nd at Perris, we will draw from those who are on ďtheĒ list and on race day will add them to the field if they attend and in the order drawn. I will determine the line-up after the field is set. It will pay $2500 to win with Ronnie Case the defending champ.

Wagsdash day will begin at noon with the 18th annual Mrs Wags Chili Feed, and the silent auction beginning, and the sexy driver and pit stop contest run. There will be a bake sale again, so see Julie to tell her what goodies you are bringing. Parnelli Jones will be there as Grand Marshall and will sign a few autographs in the afternoon for fans. The wild new event T-shirt and 2006 Calendar will be on sale during the afternoon. The ďBig Dog PotĒ will be available to help fill towards the bonus to be added to the main event winners share. Right now I have about $4000 and looking to make it $10,000 to win that Saturday night. It is separate money from the Wagsdash purse. The Cherry Street recording artist Travis Nelson and his band will be performing in the afternoon, so enjoy the music brought to us by the Thunderhead racewear man Tom who convinced them to join the fun. Thanks.

Wayne Weiler passed away this past week. He is well known in our racing circles and most recently for his support of Ricky Johnsonís racing career. Here is something written by Donald Davidson of indianapolismotorspeedway.com:

Wayne Weiler, a lifelong cotton farmer from Phoenix who competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 1960 and 1961, passed away Oct. 13 due to an apparent heart attack near his home. He was 70.

Weiler started racing as a teen-ager on Arizona dirt tracks in 1951 and went on to compete in 19 USAC National Championship events before suffering serious head injuries in a USAC Sprint Car race June 11, 1961 at Terre Haute, Ind. While he made a brief comeback on the West Coast in the late 1960s, he never again competed with USAC.

Weiler had 10 finishes of 10th or higher in Championship competition, the best a third placeat the Arizona State Fairgrounds 1-mile dirt track in Phoenix in 1960. He also had one fifth-place and three seventh-place finishes that year, placing 13th in the point standings. An excellent dirt track driver, he ranked sixth in the East Coast Sprint car standings the same season.

He drove several races for current Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chairman of the Board Mari George and won his lone career Championship pole position, in 1959 at Sacramento, Calif., with her famous HOW Special. He also drove for Mari George in his Indianapolis 500 debut in 1960 but was eliminated by an accident after 103 laps with the Ansted-Rotary Special she fielded in partnership with Bill Ansted. In 1961, Weiler completed 147 laps for car owner Lindsey Hopkins and finished 15th. Rest in peace Wayne.

The USAC banquet is January 7th in Buena Park, so put it on your calendar.

We will have a Wagtimes booth at The PAS this week to reintroduce the Wagtimes/Wagsdash to fans since I havenít been very available this year. I will be in the booth all night long so come by and say hi and help me build up the Wagsdash purse.

The Legends of Ascot is coming this Saturday at the PAS!

NEW USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR STANDINGS: 1-Gardner-1,672; 2-R.Williams-1,582; 3-Kruseman-1,578; 4-Kirby-1,444; 5-Davis-1,244; 6-Gaunt-1,181; 7-Spencer-1,115; 8-Ford-975; 9-Wilson-880; 10-Sheridan-876.

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