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The three-day Western World isn’t what it was years ago in tradition and national prominence, but it is improving if you look at the changes in recent years. The reverting back to outstanding non-wing racing has helped. With nearly 100 sprinters in the packed pits, there was plenty of racing for everyone on both the big ˝ mile track and the small one inside it. Those old cowboy hat days of pomp and ceremony got a little flashback with a hayride wagon entrance by all the main event drivers before the 40 lap main event at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Arizona on Saturday night. Tony Elliott won his first title of the storied Western’s long history, even though this wasn’t one of the best races for the fans, mostly due to the narrower than usual track that stayed wet and smooth all three days.

Mrs Wags pics for Friday are here. Saturday night is here.

Two days of preliminaries eliminated some and made favorites of others as Mike Kirby and Bud Kaeding showed the fastest way around the Manzy half mile and took the two 20 lap wins. Kaeding had a little help from a leaking tire of Jeremy Sherman, but was in 2nd place to capitalize on Jeremy’s bad luck. Not only did Jeremy have a flat right rear after leading the first 15 laps, but the left rear went down right after he returned to try and head back to the front on the next restart. Kirby passed the Gasman, Richard Griffin, early on to get his win.

Several had awful luck in the prelims and thus had their work cut out for them on Saturday. Damion Gardner had to restart at the rear on Thursday and got back to 10th, but missed the top eight transfer spot. Jeremt Sherman, J J Yeley and Rip Williams also were out of the preferred transfers. On Friday the favorites list that missed included Bill Rose, Troy Cline and Bonzaii Boston Reid. Tony Jones did another awesome run after his car quit on him in the Friday main. He restarted at the and ran up to 7th on the best drive of the night, moving through traffic on the narrow grooved track. Brian Venard got his best SCRA finish ever in 4th as the family sprinter was fast and smooth under Brian’s direction.

The two time USAC Champion, Tony Elliott, was at the right spot for the feature as the 6 invert was drawn by Bud Kaeding from a Bud can of beer. They numbered the cans with the different inversion possibilities, and his draw put him in the third row and Elliott the front one. Tony took the opening lead and ran forty yellow plagued laps to the win. First Richard Griffin dogged him to the point that it was a good battle for a while. Kaeding worked his way into the mix by passing Richard up high. When have we ever seen that here?

Perhaps the most terrifying crash in a while came next as backflipTyler Walker made a weak attempt at a slide job on Griffin and slammed his front end towards the wall with no chance of return. What followed was one of those stomach turning, wild spinning crashes as Richard helicoptered off the third turn wall and spun to the point where John Scott came along and couldn’t avoid him. They banged together and came to a stop with the crowd gasping Noooooooooooo! Richard was OK, but Ron Chaffin’s number 50 was trash can ready. Tyler, normally a wing driver, made a bad decision, and missed his back flip routine this time.

The night started off with the duel in the desert promised between J J Yeley and local favorite Jeremy Sherman. Jeremy won the 360 event handily ahead of Rickie Gaunt on a small track event that was fun to watch. History has proven to showcase Sherman’s domination at Manzy anytime the money is up or they are racing 360’s or 410’s. J J had to run the semi due to a bad qualifying night, which he won, and he and Jeremy started at the back of the Semi. Tracy Hines, Bill Rose and Troy Cline were also anxious to get to the top 8 transfer spots coming from the back part of the line-up. Jeremy, Cline and Yeley finished 6, 7 and 8th to move on and start at the back of the Main event.

The horse and trailer routine was interesting. Watching the horse water the track was not. The drivers climbed off the hay lined flatbed to be introduced and throw a few footballs into the crowd only took time off the clock as many fizzled their tosses to the fans beyond the front stretch fence. With 24 cars lining up, it would be a war, but the track that was not dry at all, still wasn’t wide enough for the usual Manzy madness we often see here. J J Yeley was done very quickly with a balky motor and would relinquish his NWWC point lead when the night was done. It turned out to be a one leader race that leaves a lot to be desired, but it had it’s moments with Sherman roaring thru the pack.

As the pack chased the blue number 11 Twister under Elliott’s skillful hands, the show behind him was all Jeremy as he put the Ellis # 21 anywhere he wanted and made dramatic passes working his way to the front. He had plenty of competition along the way, yet was still in third with a few laps to go. I think even he was now having trouble finding a wide enough path around Kaeding to get to Tony late in the race. Although the race closed with some excitement, because of numerous yellow flags and resulting restarts, neither Bud nor Jeremy could pull off the pass that would earn them the $12,500 first place money. Kaeding finished 2nd and the hard charger Sherman got some extra cash for his hard charger work coming in third. The hard luck award went to Boston Reid who got help in a crash on Friday that battered his chassis, and then he stopped in the C main on Saturday, and was done. Great drives by Damion Gardner , (19th to 4th) Levi Jones, Troy Rutherford and Tony Jones as they all had to come from far back to get 4th thru 7th in that order.

Grandma Rosie’s grandson Brian was really on a good run until late in the race when he got rammed from behind, tearing up his fuel cell and push bar. He was running 6th at the time and faded a little to about 8th when he pulled off with a lap to go as the motor was fuel starved. He didn’t run out, the crash just ruined the fuel pick-up. He was smooth and fast all night until his untimely stop ended with him left in 16th.

Cory Kruseman, running the same car that was DQ’d at Ventura, had a tough night as he never got the Tony Stewart Mopar going forward like he wanted, especially after avoiding a stalled car and nailing the wall, causing a flat. He made the restart , finished 9th and still took over the NWWC points lead by one point over Bud Kaeding. J J, the former leader, is now third not far behind.

Although not a lot of travelers made the trip out West like normal, the few who came put on a show. Tony Elliott, Jon Stanbrough, Jonathan Vennard, Boston Reid, Tracy Hines, Bill Rose, Matt Neely, Tyler Walker, John Scott, Bud Kaeding, Troy Cline and Casey Shuman and the Mopar twins, Cory and J J, made for about a dozen. Noticeably absent was Dave Darland. Only five of those borrowed cars, so they brought some equipment with them. Matt Neely got no press and little attention, but this is one of those youngsters that can drive at 17 years old. He finished 10th in the semi and was parked for the main.

Richard Griffin’s early end to his night means he will have to wait two weeks to clinch his 5th driving title and the umpteenth car owner title for Ron Chaffin. He has a 98 point cushion over Troy Rutherford and it looks like curtains for young Rambo, but never say never! Josh Ford has now clinched the rookie of the year battle with Alan Ballard even though he had a tough weekend. He crashed his dad’s 360 on Thursday in a reported high flying act that injured his back when he landed hard on the track. He was carted off to the hospital for the usual broken bone hunt that failed, and later related he kept telling them he couldn’t take any drugs as he had to race on Friday. They let him out and he did drive his 410 to a Semi win Saturday and followed that with a 14th in the big main. He will need to rest the back that was still hurting him on Saturday night before the next race.

Adam Mitchell got the last transfer in Thursday night’s prelim and flew home to go trick or treating with his daughter Paige on Halloween night. It was partly a ruse because he had planned a surprise birthday party for his wife Denise also, and he was the man! He got 13th on Saturday for all his good work.

Shiny tires are getting fewer and fewer as the local 360’s did a better job this weekend. Still, Tony Jones, Jimmy Crawford, John Scott and Charles Davis Jr had crewperson’s that did a great job for their Wagtimes bottle o’ baby oil. We didn’t get to do the quilt raffle, or anything else, so anyone wanting tickets, you have until the Oval Nationals final night to get in to the drawing.

Wagsdash Champion, Alan Ballard, had a problem on Friday night that put him in the C main on Saturday. He worked into the transfer spot and then ran strong in the Semi, but missed the transfer forward. A good job for the 16 year old rookie as he continues to improve while running with the big boys.

Ventura Raceway’s final VRA event was rained out on Saturday night leaving Chris Wakim on the outside looking in. He led the points for several months until the last race and had a bad night giving it up to Tom Stansberry, who now is the champion as the event will not be rescheduled. Congrats to the Stansberry team and 2003 is done at the raciest little track by the sea.

I had a chance to visit with Lealand McSpadden and his wife Janet this weekend. He looks great and says he is feeling good and is working hard on staying well. He said it is a day by day exercise and is very focused on what is good for him. He gave me a lecture on what’s good for my body and told me to cut out aluminum (found in most deodorants) and try to find some B-17, a cancer fighting agent found in apricot pits. He also said thanks to all his fans for their cards and phone calls, he has been very thankful for all your interest and prayers, they mean a lot to them both! They were tucked back in that motorhome parking area out near PIR that was described as the 6th largest city in Arizona this week, and had to guide me in by cell phone. It was a great visit and he continues to go to work and is getting stronger every week. Don’t give up on him as he still needs your prayers and words of encouragement. Bye the way, the banner you signed at the Wagsdash, was well received, thanks.

I am very sad to report that race fan Rich Zimmerman passed away late Thursday night after the opening of the Western World. He had enjoyed the day like always going racing and left us in his sleep at the motel late in the night. He worked for American Airlines and traveled to a lot of races over the years. I remember him for his smile, his helping others and his love for the sport. He leaves a lot of sadness behind for the many who knew and enjoyed the man. Damion Gardner, one racer who he sponsored, took a lap for him in remembrance after the National Anthem on Saturday night. Rest in peace “Zim”. He was only 61 years old. There will be a ceremony in his honor planned by his close friends to be at Manzy in the spring.

Oval Nationals laps are still available, but you better hurry as they go to press on Tuesday for the program! I’ll rest up now for the next PAS adventure and see you there.

A-MAIN EVENT (40 Laps)
1. Tony Elliott, 2. Bud Kaeding, 3. Jeremy Sherman, 4. Damion Gardner, 5. Troy Rutherford, 6. Levi Jones, 7. Tony Jones, 8. Steve Ostling, 9. Cory Kruseman 10. Troy Cline, 11. Josh Wise, 12. Mike Spencer, 13. Adam Mitchell, 14. Josh Ford, 15. Tyler Walker, 16. Brian Venard, 17. Rickie Gaunt, 18. Richard Griffin, 19. Charles Davis, Jr. 20. John Scott, 21. Jon Stanbrough, 22. Brandon Lane, 23. Mike Kirby, 24. J.J. Yeley. Laps Led: Elliott 1-40

NWWC Points as of 11/02/03
1 Cory Kruseman 515, 2 Bud Kaeding 514, 3 J.J. Yeley 493, 4 Levi Jones 472, 5 Troy Rutherford 449, 6 Damion Gardner 437, 7 Richard Griffin 389, 8 Mike Spencer 285, 9 Rip Williams 272, 10 Josh Ford 240, 11 Mike English 230, 12 Boston Reid 211, 13 Alan Ballard 156, 14 Jimmy Crawford 150, 15 Charles Davis, Jr. 125, 16 Tony Jones 90, 17 Adam Mitchell 79, 18 Bob Ream, Jr. 69, 19 Rickie Gaunt 61, 20 Jac Haudenschild 58, 21 Seth Wilson 52, 22 Mel Murphy 35, 23 Ronnie Clark 29.

SCRA points as of 11/02/03
1. Richard Griffin 2083, 2. Troy Rutherford 1985, 3. Damion Gardner 1946, 4. Rip Williams 1708, 5. Steve Ostling 1283, 6. Mike Spencer 1263, 7. Tony Jones 1156, B. Rickie Gaunt 1101, 9. Josh Ford 1069, 10. Mike English 1004, 11. Cory Kruseman 967, 12. Levi Jones 946, 13. Adam Mitchell 888, 14. Alan Ballard 805, 15. Charles Davis, Jr 714, 16. Seth Wilson 628, 17. Verne Sweeney 601, 18. J.J. Yeley 592, 19. Brian Venard 588, 20. Mike Kirby 558.

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