How long does it take to run 100 laps in a sprint car? About 25 minutes past curfew this week, as the pomp and ceremony of the 7th annual Oval Nationals was bright from the start. Bud Kaeding was the hard charger on both Thursday and Friday nights behind prelim winners Steve Ostling and Rip Williams. Then the USAC star took his front row starting spot in the 100 lap main event, after the heavy die thrown by Ostling & Yeley rolled a 6, to out run the best of the SCRA and many more for $30,000! Damion Gardner set a new track record at 15.954 on Friday, but never really had a good look at this one when he went in the pits on lap 13 Saturday, then didn't come back out for about 30 laps, much to his unhappiness.
Mrs Wags pics are up!
Over 60 cars ran three days to set-up the final that left only the winner in the spotlight. Bud didn't qualify as well as his crew chief Davey Jones would have liked, but the car was faster when it counted. He ran 7th both prelim nights, coming from near the back each time, but hung around in the fast high groove on Saturday night until all his challengers ran out of steam, and then he pulled away from them on every restart at the end. Bud ran the top groove all night and carried more speed out of the corners than his pursuers. Bud is making a habit out of beating the SCRA warriors, as he and Davey are a potent combination. Bud was passed twice for the lead, but he recovered each time using his patience and the fast # 29 car.
Troy Rutherford, in Mark Priestly's yellow # 7, started 16th in the main event as the top 12 earned their seeded spots by points accumulated over the two prelim nights. The rest who weren't locked in, lined up in either the C main or B main, dictated by their point totals, and worked hard to get one of the 12 transfers from the Semi. Troy was 4th in the semi Saturday and then put some awesome moves on the hot dogs, that normally don't work, to slip into 2nd near the end of the marathon.
J J Yeley looked like he had a good shot at the big money when he led 21 laps, but after Bud passed him on lap 66, it was all over but the shouting in victory circle. The ABC Sand & Rock, Twister chassis sprint car was nosed out by Rutherford for 2nd as the last few laps, cars swapped many positions. J J was pressing hard but he too didn't have anything for Bud K the last laps.
Several things stand out in my mind, besides the fact that it was cold sitting in the grandstands. First, the 3 lap yellow rule seemed to take too much time, but it made sure all the heroes who could repair got back in. Second, there were too many hot dogs that weren't part of the final outcome. The list went from Damion Gardner who dropped out on lap 13 and came back 30 laps later, to Tony Jones who was taken out on lap 48 and couldn't repair his car. Add Rickie Gaunt who led 36 laps before his car went sour, Rip Williams who fought many problems to restart and still get 6th. Steve Ostling, who looked like he destroyed his car on a crash, yet came back briefly, but was done in 16th. There were plenty more who didn't get any breaks. Did BK really pull up to the wall and slow to bring out the yellow to keep from being lapped?
It is racing and anything can happen, but the expected top dogs I figured to battle the visitors all faded or were victims of one malady or another. The Cowboy, Kirby, Damion, Super Rickie, Ostling and a few more were done way too early to make this a classic. The wait to "make a move at the right time" attitude seemed to be the "stragedy" most top drivers used, not really going all out like in a normal sprint car race, but 100 laps takes patience because you have to be there at the end to score!
Mike Spencer surely had patience this night as he surprised us all, but not himself. He won the C main and then qualified for the A main thru the semi, where he then lined up 22nd in the big show! He methodically moved forward and finished 5th at the end. What a great job by the young driver who surely wasn't on anybody's scorecards to do this well!!! He's really stepped it up lately.
I like the spotlight routine with tuxedo clad Scott Deloisio doing his ringside type intros in the dark. I like the presentation of lining up all three races on the front stretch Saturday. I like the promoter's option, both Friday with Charles Davis Jr and Saturday with the adding of John Scott and Mike Kirby to the back of the main. Davis was lined up wrong on a restart in his semi on Friday and missed the transfer because of it. They made it right for him! Kirby and Scott just missed out Saturday, as both had "things" happen out of their control in the semi. I like the fact that the track didn't go away, and the feared tire and fuel problems didn't appear. I like the star-studded field of champions from the other non-wing clubs competing here in our court. I like the atmosphere of this special race from start to finish. I like the biggest paying sprint car race in the land at Perris! I like Jim Naylor being the first Grand Marshall of the Oval Nationals, a well-deserved honor.
Other drivers of note who put on a show themselves included Mike Faria who has run several non-wing races this year with us. He ran in the top five most of the main event, only to get stopped on the track and restarting to finish 9th. He looked fast enough to go higher before he spun. Travis Rilat came to town from Texas to defend his $30,000 win streak and was stopped in the semi with a crash that I didn't see. The nice young man made the trip to add to his experience without the top hardware. Mike English and Brent Kaeding seemed to be magnetic for each other. After several bumps and grinds between the two, Brent spun out with Mike, but Mike came back to finish 7th and Brent 14th. On Thursday, English ran over a rear-end that had exploded in front of him and injured his foot while tearing the under carriage off. Mike was able to use a jury-rigged hand control gas pedal to gather a few points to help him get to the Saturday night main. It turned out well for the young driver. Did BK really pull up to the wall and slow to bring out the yellow to keep from being lapped? Inquiring minds want to know?
SCRA 2002 Champion, Richard Griffin, and 2001 Champion, Cory Kruseman, both had their chances. They ran near the front, but only Griffin had a look at real success. They finished in the top ten, but not near the front, fading in the traffic late. Josh Wise had some good and bad experiences as he continues to impress in the sprints. The new rookie drove the Ford sprinter very well all weekend, darting in and out of traffic like a veteran, until he made a poor move that put the Cowboy on the trailer. Not a bright move, but the boy has talent and he just made a mistake. Of course, Tony Jones didn't think much of his experience backing into the wall, as he saw his big money chances go away, did he! Tony Elliott's 5th place finish was all patience, as he wasn't going to challenge for the lead, yet he moved forward at the end for the good finish. Teammate Jay Drake crashed hard on Friday and didn't have a car for Saturday. Verne Sweeney drove Ron Didonato's # 57 without pressing and was rewarded with a 13th just behind USAC champion, Tracy Hines in the once famous Tamale Wagon.
Levi Jones was another strong driver in the field as he drove Glenn Crossno's brand new Twister # 38 very well all three days. He was strong in the main on Saturday until he retired after a skirmish. Ed Carpenter proved how aggressive he could be as he battered his way to a hard fought 13th in the semi, but left a few in his wake. Rookie of the year candidate for 2003, Seth Wilson, won his first heat race after only three appearances in a sprint car. The first was a chassis destroyer, and he shows some promise for next year. The father of the young driver invented those thin optic tear off's that are fast becoming "the" tear off of choice.
Many had been asking me how I felt about a 100-lap race, but I wanted to see how it went before I commented. The only ones I have seen up to now were Silver Crown races and I won't go there, they were that bad. I wasn't looking forward to it, based on this years 50 lap history, but was hoping I would be surprised. What I didn't like was it was just too many laps of just going around, and that feeling was driven largely by the many yellows causing long delays! I don't like sprint car races that go on and on, sometimes even a 30 lapper drags out too much. In this one, it was obvious that Bud Kaeding was fast, and many others tried to keep up in vain. The fastest challenger seemed to be Super Rickie Gaunt who passed Bud and then stretched the lead out, until he had some restrictive thing happen to his gas pedal. After that, he dropped back until he pulled off and finished 19th. Only 12 cars were running at the end and that was very disappointing for the fans. It turned into a survival of the fittest with little action for the lead the last 30 laps or so.
Was it a good race? Yes, there were times when it had the makings of a shootout, but too many yellows took away some of the potential excitement that you feel at "special" races. I am too critical, especially after seeing some outstanding races here, but this one didn't measure up to the expectations of the attempt to spice up racing here. If you were a Bud K fan, it was great. If you wanted this to be the best race of all time, you were probably disappointed, not by the format certainly, as there were still some moments to remember. I think 50 laps is enough, but the PAS did everything they could to make 100 laps work.
I think two days is enough from the racers stand point, yet the fans saw some great racing on the prelim nights. I like the old format of inverting a second 20-lap prelim, and the fans certainly remember that very well. The PAS has always looked to create something new and different, and they did for this Oval Nationals, but for my money, go back to two days unless there are 75 to 80 entries, and make it a "sprint race" for the big bucks. I didn't see anything, except for the many racing delays, that would change their mind about the format, because there was no real problem except curfew, but maybe the racers have an opinion different than the fans.
This was a long three days for some and now the SCRA takes off to Manzanita to do another three day event and the final of the SCRA world championship trail. They will only run two of the three days. Half the field will qualify on Thursday and half Friday, before the finals on Saturday. Then it's back to the PAS for the season closer, the annual Jack Kindoll Classic. Wilda Kindoll, Jack's widow, will be there to lead the festivities. There is still time to sponsor a lap and get involved to make this one the highest paying Classics of all time. Call Carol Wolfe at 714-836-6985 to get involved. See you at the PAS as this tired scribe (?) takes a well-deserved weekend off. I wonder what the honey do's will be?
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.