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It has been all quiet on this front since Turkey night and I have caught up on my rest. As the year ends there is a lot to reflect back on, and much to look forward to. The 2004 season passed and will be remembered most for the breakup of the 10 year replacement club for the original 50 year CRA, and then for many a move forward to link with USAC, the 50 year old club that historically is a very high profile racing club throughout the USA. How did it go, why did it happen and what is in store for fans and racers alike in 2005. It was a good year for most and only the principles know for sure why the split, and the year looks great coming this way.

The year started off with a tug-of war that pulled apart the racing community, again, and changed history, again. Nothing new, just heartbreaking for fans and racers, and usually they always get back on the same page later. With these racing club breakups, it hurts the fans the most because they align themselves with certain racers and even club leaders to the point that the pain is felt deep and lasts a long time. Yet they all forget and get back together racing somewhere along the line. Since fans and many racers rarely know the “real story” so the “he said, she said” noise splits up the fans where they are forced to take a stand and the biggest result is attendance suffers. As I went along the USAC trail this past year, many familiar faces were missing as they found other places to go.

The 2004 USAC schedule stayed mostly in California and Arizona, with one trip to Washington, for some 30 race dates and a rousing Rip Williams championship, while the SCRA utilized Barona and Tulare for half the year before finishing up on tour and completing about 15 races with Rickie Gaunt the Champion.

Although the USAC schedule is not quite ready for prime time viewing, it is already known for featuring over 20 races at the home track of Perris, five trips to Manzanita, and multiple trips to Ventura, Hanford, Santa Maria, and a planned 4 race venture to Washington. Nearly 40 races are scheduled as the year starts off at Manzanita on January 29th and follows with a day event at Perris on the following weekend, February 5th. The Sokola Classic is at Manzanita March 18/19. The Oval Nationals will be at Perris on November 3-6 and the Western World at Manzy the following weekend.

Perhaps the most moving story in 2004 is about Rip Willaims winning his first sprint car championship. The Ripper, who came close several times, finally put it all together and made history as the first USAC/CRA champion. With Sharon and Jack Jory’s help, he was consistent with 5 wins, 8 runner-ups, and 18 top five finishes on the year. He made it his quest and succeeded with some hard nose efforts. After 28 years, what else is there for him? He says winning his 100th race is a priority and that could happen any time. Also ahead is to pass the all time leader, Dean Thompson, who is only 4 ahead of him. What Rip did is special and everyone was happy for his success this year.

Runner-up in USAC/CRA points was the Demon, Damion Gardner as he hung in to the very end with Mike Kirby just behind him. Troy Rutherford appears to be headed to the Gardner corner and no word on what Mark Priestley will do beyond the limited schedule he promised this year. An opening in Harlan Willis car hasn’t been filled yet and a few others haven’t decided what to do. With these guys coming back, and the addition of Cory Kruseman to the mix, it should be an exciting year

Dennis Stewart hasn’t raced a sprint car in many years, but was one of those “low buck” racers the Wagsbucks used to go to. When he finally called it quits, his son Matthew rode motorcycles. Then dad rode motorcycles, ouch! Now it appears that Lance Gremett’s loss is Matthew’s gain. Lance grabbed a ride or two last year as he spent more time in the family cabinet building business and no time on the family sprinter. Now he is selling everything but his drivers seat to the Stewarts, and Matt will be a rookie driver in 2005. Plans are to run at least Perris and get the youngster some seat time.

Mike Kirby ended the season in Glenn Crossno’s strong # 38 and had big plans to jump into Larry Woodward’s new USAC/CRA car, but the best laid plans of mice and men! When the race shop for the team appeared to be at the Temechula home of Woodward, it became a hard choice, but Kirby moved on to the Alexander team and will run for Mark Alexander and his band of merry men in 2005. Woodward has penciled in Cary Faas for his driver locally, so the start of the season should prove very interesting.

As for the Wags world, things will be changing. Over the last 15 years I have worked hard collecting money for the little guys to the tune of nearly $400,000. It has been a fun ride and I have enjoyed helping the little guys. I always said as long as people gave me money, I would continue to collect it. But the Wagsbucks period has now ended with only about $800 collected in 2004. There are a number of reasons for this, including 911, and the club splitting up, and probably more. Times change and people are putting their money in other places and we must move on. The future looks bright, but I will only be collecting for the Wagsdash from now on as that race continues to be supported by the Wagtimer’s and many others. If anyone wants to use me to get money to a particular team in the pits, I’ll be happy to pass it along.

The WagsWeb will go on as usual with Mrs Wags pics the highlight of the site as she shows the story of the pit people week after week. I will start the year off as the USAC/CRA publicist and hope to give the proper attention to that position and help the club here in the west. I am excited about being involved and hope it is a fun thing as the year unravels.

As for my winter time off, it has been a mixture of many things. First there is family catch up time and we celebrated Xmas in the Las Vegas retirement home we bought last year. Everyone knows I am not a fan of heat, but when that retirement bell rings, we will be living in the sin city of Vegas near two daughters, a mother-in-law, her brother, her cousin and my cousin. Outnumbered I am, but will do fine as long as the air conditioning keeps working. I have already attended 46 high school basketball games since December 3, but the tournaments are over and I am heading to the chili Bowl for a week, so that number won’t get too crazy until playoff time comes. I will miss two of the winter big time days where they gather teams from all around the country, because of racing dates, so it appears I won’t break last years attendance record of 112. I am coming up on our 30 year anniversary, so that will be a high point in February for us.

Under the stork visits, Adam & Denise Mitchell now have a little boy to go with their daughter Paige. Travis Allen Mitchell arrived at 7 pounds, 6 ounces right after Xmas. Brian and Nicol Venard also welcomed Haley Rose into their family at 8 lbs and 19 inches long. I am sure there are more racer babies coming, as the racing family continues to grow.

Here is hoping everyone had a fine Xmas and happy new year and we are ready to rock and roll 2005 in! Let's see, where did I put my gloves and heavy coat, and the ice scraper, and a warm hat?

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