An emotional night at Ventura overshadowed brain fades, yellow flags and other rowdy moves to entertain an enthusiastic crowd at the best little track by the sea this Saturday. Rip Williams won his club leading 57th race and immediately dedicated it to Wagtimer Willie Bandy who passed away two weeks ago. Danny "Showtime" Sheridan put on his own show in the 12th annual Wagsdash, run in Willie's honor, by coming from the 6th row to win for car owner, Ron Didonato, who won the very first Wagsdash at Bakersfield, for those who remember those days.
Mrs Wags has friday photo activities here. Then the Chili Feed photos here. The the rest of the day here!
Rip was followed across the line by teammate, Mike English as they ran one/two for 30 laps and made car owner Jack Jory a happy man. Both drivers in John Jory Corp, AMA Plastics, Tomarco Fasteners Systems, black cars, the team sweep was a first for them. Rip led the entire race as third place finisher, Cory Kruseman, tried everything on top to catch the bottom riding black cars. It was Rip's 87th combined CRA/SCRA win, only 7 behind 2nd place Ron Shuman on the all time win list. Rip said he really wants to beat Ron's record and get over 100! If he drives like he has since they put this latest car together, he might just do it!
Mike English has had some good nights this year, but if it hadn't been for his teammate, he might have won this one. He chased Rip all night and made life tough on those behind him. The groove must have been narrow as the Kruser never could get around Mike. Cory spent part of his night in a match race between himself and Tony Jones. The Cowboy won two of the three with his 410 to 360 motor horsepower advantage, but the best part was they were in two-seaters. The riders who paid $100 each got an up close and personal view of what it's like to race on the small oval. Both drivers sell rides in their unique sprinters, so check them out at this weeks races to see how to get on board!
Great weather greeted the fans who ignored many other "things to do" like the World Series (ANGELS WIN! Take that, Barry Bonds!) as they arrived to have chili and get involved in this unique day for fans and racers alike. During the Mrs Wags Chili Feed the silent auction began and then two events unlike any other at a sprint car race happened. First the Sexy driver's contest organized by Julie Shiosaki and Terri Bliss, with an assist from the shy Fran Herdrich, got all but one driver to participate. The lone driver who escaped the blockade back to the pits, climbed the fence to get out of the good natured fun. He will be punished!!! Wilda Kindoll, whose season ending SCRA sanctioned race honoring her late husband Jack, got involved by receiving a lap dance from a couple of competitors. The crowd picked the top five that did their shtick in front of the chili eaters. Kevin Kierce collected the most money from the lady fans to win the spirited contest as Damion Gardner, Cory Kruseman, Jimmy Crawford and a few more got outrageous for the crowd. The sexiest driver of the year was also a Wagsdash competitor due to winning the VRA race a week before.
The second crowd pleaser event was the pit stop contest as several cars put on a show of how to change a tire and a shock in the quickest time. Damion Gardner's crew was the fastest of the bunch in under one minute. Damion was later heard to tell his crew they would have to do that good during racing stops as well! So much excitement was had all around the midway until the racing began in earnest. Eddie Wirth, the 2002 Wagsdash Grand Marshall, signed autographs and gave away his cards and posters for fans during the afternoon. Several other legends of Ascot in attendance signed as well. It was a fun atmosphere that kept the crowd involved thruout the afternoon.
The Wagsdash is always unpredictable as it features a bunch of low buck drivers with some veterans and some not so well versed. The 30 lap event is handicapped so the best are at the back and a real race results, with some pauses to realign them like good little boys when they mess up. Defending champ Jarrett Chaney was not able to repeat this year and finished 14th. Dan Tedrick, the lowest of the low buck drivers, and one who almost always works on his car alone, got the front row starting spot next to Mel Murphy. He led the first three yellow filled laps until a spin put him at the back. He was doing so well, and many fans were pulling for him to hang on I front. He is what this race is really about!
During all the extra curricular activity, one car in particular made his moves on the top groove and closed in on the front running Venard Brothers. Danny Sheridan started 11th and was in the lead shortly after Tedrick spun and gave Steve Venard his brief lead. Danny put the "Showtime" back in the Sheridan, and was successful up top where Cory wasn't earlier. The A main made the groove wider and Showtime took advantage. He took the lead on lap 4 and checked out. Gary W Howard had to restart at the back and still came back on the top to get 2nd at the end of the curfew shortened 20 lap finish. The Venard brothers had their own battle going for most of the race as they finished 4th, Brian, and fifth, Steve.
Although the race ended prematurely, it was a good one with plenty of passing. Casey Shuman was one of the last adds, in at the 19th starting spot, and he patiently worked his way into 3rd at the end, earning the Lafond Jar of Change that held $382 this year for the races traditional hard charger. Sean Buckley got into the race by being the hard charger at the last VRA race and got 6th in his 360 powered Priess Movius owned car. This car does double duty as Priess drives it in the over 45 division. Great job by Sean who is a videographer most of his race time. For some reason, he was thrilled to get the start.
Kevin Kierce's good fortune in the sexy driver contest ended there. In the regular main event he crunched up his car and had to repair it for the dash. There, he got crunched again by another car and didn't get to finish that one either. He said he had fun and it was good having the 360 guys in the race again this year. They had a lot to offer.
Showtime drove the wheels off the Spin Tech Performance Mufflers, Picks, Stinger Chassis # 57 to get his win. His car owner now has two Wagsdash wins, one as a driver and now car owner. Danny will be driving a different car for the Oval nationals this week.
At this point, the Wagsdash purse is up to about $14,000 with about $1000 of IOU's still outstanding. This is down nearly $4000 from last year, a sign of the times, but reflects a lot of hard work. The Wagtimers went the extra mile on "their" day and deserve a big thanks from Terry and I for making it all happen. Sonia & Krista Bandy, Mike & Evelyn Clark, Darleen & Tina Dils, Julie Shiosaki, Terri Bliss, Pat & Norm Bogan, Fran & Jim Herdrich, Judy & Stephen Pettegrew, Jennifer Perry, Steve & Kim Lafond, Jim & Jan Fargo, Gary & Tracey Johnson, Leroy & Marie Sweeney, my kids, and their kids, selling cookies, my boys Dubya and Dusty, and many more who make the Wagsdash the event that it is. These people spent Friday cooking the chili and planning the activities. Also to the SCRA officials who worked the race and the track personnel, plus promoter Jim Naylor, we couldn't do it without you, too! Thanks to all who came and enjoyed as well, it was still a happening.
I warned all of you who wanted to stay home to watch the Saturday world series, that there would be a Sunday game, so why didn't you come racing? I am on my soapbox now so back off! Where were all you fans who want to save Ventura Raceway? To busy to show the fairboard we want the track to stay open, to unconcerned about what could happen in Ventura, to much let the other guy do it attitude? Does letting your petition signing be their only support make you feel good? Shame on you! How can we justify having a racetrack in such a beautiful setting if you won't come to support it? If it is gone, you will be the ones bitching the most, won't you! That was a perfect time to pack the place! I'm out!
With the 2 big money three-day races coming up, I was wondering what the cost would be, not for the fans really, but the racer to run these two aggressive events. After realizing that some crews spent around $15,000 to go on tour to PA, this year, I set out to get the answers. I know the average fan will spend plenty on food & drink and motels, just to see the spectacle, but that isn't anything compared to racing expenses. In talking to a number of car owners, I came up with some figures that should be in the ballpark. It is not a cheap date, running three nights, but then regular show costs money, too, and racing is what they do. Car owners are not your regular stiffs, but people who have, or can get their hands on, more money than many others who wanna be racers.
Lets lay it out for you and you might be surprised with the results. Figuring each crew will have 5 to 10 people, lets use 8 for our model, and assume they will stay at a motel and not drive home each night. First we make the trip from say 75 miles or so, and we'll spend $50 for gas to get there and back in the hauler. ($50) Then we check in at the motel where we stay three nights in three rooms at say $65 each. ($485) Lets go racing! Pit sign in is $35 each for three days. ($ 840) Add the entry fee of $50 per car, if you do it early. ($50) Now inside we go and we will need tires and fuel for the three days. Assuming we run all three nights and make the features, we will estimate spending around $2000 on tires and $300 on fuel. ($2300) We are up to about $3700 and we haven't fed anyone. Over the three nights, we will put enough laps on the car to require about $1000 in maintenance on top of everything and if….la da de dah, we don't break anything, it could be a good weekend. Don't mention replacement parts, as that could really put it over the top. Add it up with food and incidentals and the owner is out roughly $5000 to run three days. That is a lot of scratch!
Now lets assume we don't do very well on Thursday, but much better on Friday with a third and finish 5th on Saturday. So Thursday it's $300, Friday $800 and Saturday $2500. The total of $3600 earned first gets split with the driver, so the car owner ends up with $1800 to offset the $5000 he spent. Was it worth it? Now if we use these same figures for a team that does very well, say 5th, 3rd and 3rd in the Saturday main, the $6000 earned and then split will leave $3000. What if it is the worse case as we drop out of each main and get the minimum, it's then maybe a $1000 to split, and it probably wasn't much fun. Granted sprint car owners don't expect to make money, they expect to have fun, but unless you finish in the top two spots on Saturday night, you probably are not going to earn enough to break even. If there are enough cars to have the field run half on Thursday and half on Friday, with at least 64 cars signed up, then the fuel and tire bills go down about $750, the pit entry $280 and the motel $195, making it about a $1500 less for the car owner.
On a regular night, a team that travels and spends the night will spend about $1000 just to race. A good night might bring $2000 to split or more, so not as much is at stake with the weekly race. If you're a car owner, have you saved up for the year-end big races and is it really much different than a regular race? I think that racers will go and work out the best they can do. Some car owners won't bolt on a brand new tire for every race in the three days like some of the better-financed teams might. The bottom line is, they race because they want to and a three-day race won't change the mind of anybody, because it's a race. Maybe if we see what it really costs our heroes to compete and appreciate it more. The key may be the planning of what to buy to be prepared and how to stage everything. Let's face it, they are going to race, so let's sit back and enjoy the next two weekends and see if the SCRA can hold off the invaders from afar.
See you at The PAS this week, but maybe not at Manzy next week. We'll see how it goes. I am very pleased with this years Wagsdash and will be glad to get a little down time with my wife and doggies this winter. Oops, there is the USC - Notre Dame game comng right after Tulare's year ending rainout, then the Xmas rush that I don't think I will survive with 11 grandkids getting older every year, then the Chili Bowl, and before you know it, the season opener. Nite all!
SCRA point standings as of 10/27/02
1. Richard Griffin 2193, 2. Damion Gardner 1793, 3. Tony Jones 1785, 4. Cory Kruseman 1738, 5. Rip Williams 1733, 6. Rickie Gaunt 1594, 7. Mike Kirby 1564, 8. Steve Ostling 1552, 9. Mike English 1519, 10. John Scott 1502, 11. Bobby Graham 1103, 12. Troy Rutherford 1064, 13. Jeremy Sherman 1032, 14. Charles Davis, Jr 913, 15. Mike Spencer 814, 16. Levi Jones 770, 17. Rodney Argo 748, 18. Adam Mitchell 707, 19. Gary W. Howard 679, 20. Bobby Cody 639.