THE KRUSER MAKES STEWART MOPAR TEAM PROUD WITH OVAL NATIONALS VICTORY!!!!
Bud Kaeding wins NWWC championship at the Temecula Valley Pipe and Supply sponsored event!!!!!
The 2003 Oval Nationals had the good, some bad and even a little ugly. With great racing, bad weather and some ugly crashes on Thursday, you had to be there. It was the best one yet, and the worst one yet, with weather playing a major role interupting the outstanding racing. Cool wet temps and a Saturday night rainout didnít make many happy who had to go home, but mother nature was in control. On a clear cool Sunday night it was Cory Kruseman who was in control. He passed teammate J J Yeley after a spirited battle, and then reeled in the leader, Brent Kaeding, and went on to lead the final 41 laps with his usual diamond pattern routines out of the corners. Jeremy Sherman was awesome finishing second and Bud Kaeding got on the podium for the third straight year.
Here are are some pics from my ride with Skip Creith in his push truck on Thursday night. Click here. Mrs Wags Friday night pics Click here. Saturday night & Sunday pics Click Here.
The 2003 year on the road for Cory Kruseman has been an up and down one. Leaving his home in Ventura, CA to enter the USAC world was traumatic and a lifestyle change for Cory and his family. The frequent flier miles mounted up, the motorhome got moved around a lot, but no USAC major wins resulted. Away from USAC he scored five SCRA victories at five different tracks in three different cars during the season. Cory started with a familiar So Cal chassis and had no luck on the dry slick tracks back East to start the year. He then changed to one of the hot Kunz cars and it was like turning on the traction switch. He proved that no one goes to Indiana and takes over immediately, but they knew he was there. Next year will be a banner year for him on that trail, you can bet. His luck in big races has generally been bad with the old ďclose but no cigarĒ saying the norm, and this after leading some big races and then something bad happening. This time it was all good for the Kruser with none of the bad.
His 62nd SCRA win now gives him the most victories in the club, leading Rip Williams, so he has had major success here. Driving his Tony Stewart, Mopar, Kunz, # 21 sprinter like on a string around the PAS oval, Cory only had one small bobble while cutting thru traffic to slow him down. A late race yellow eliminated that traffic problem that was holding him up and left him with only Sherman to deal with the last 8 laps. It was a 50 lap victory when it was all done. He finished a close 2nd in NWWC points and ran 5th and 13th in the two preliminary nights. The 13th was from the back row and you can just imagine if he had started closer to the front, he would have had a legitimate shot at his second NWWC title. It was perhaps his biggest victory in his career that includes well over 80 sprint car wins. His new eagle trophy is certainly the best looking hardware in his showcase now, but most of all, he beat the best there is in non-wing racing and proved he still belongs in that elite list of top drivers in the country, and he is getting better. Nelson Stewart made his first podium appearance of the year, mainly because he just isnít that type of person, and was thrilled with ďhisĒ driverís success. The Mopar rig leaves for Indiana this week as crew chief Bobby Barth drives it back home, so Cory will probably be in the Alexander Trucking back-up car that he won in recently for the SCRA finale, the Kindoll Classic this coming Saturday.
Jeremy Sherman was a rocket from the back in the main event. One might have thought he closed his eyes and willed the Perris track to be like Manzanita, because he drove like he was on his home track with utter abandone. He started 21st in the Ellis Race Cars, # 21, and drove the wheels off, moving by all the heroes but one. When he got to 2nd he had time to make a move, but Cory was just too strong and he settled for 2nd. The last time he pulled this kind of a drive at Perris, he finished 2nd from the back and was disqualified for being a few pounds too light. This time he said it went thru his mind as they weighed the car on the brand new scales that replaced the wrecker hanging style that were used before. Jeremy was very impressive in this race and one wonders why he doesnít have a full time ride with SCRA or USAC.
Bud Kaeding made a valiant attempt at his third straight Oval Nationals title, but he didnít have the advantage he brought here before. He did win on Friday night, but when the dice rolled out a 6 for the invert to the 50-lap main, he would start on the outside of row three. He earned the first the Dean Thompson award given to the driver who garners the most points going to the main. He had his hands full of Damion Gardner until the later nailed the wall hard enough to damage the Jacobís Ladder late in the race. Bud narrowly beat the black car to the line and finished as the NWWC champion, $16,000 richer for that series.
The Demon, Damion Gardner, was a monster on the track. He started 12th in the Willis Machine, # 45 and put some moves on the heavy hitters he passed up to 2nd place. He ran strong there until late in the race when Sherman arrived on the scene as Damion and Bud had been battling hard for the spot, lap after lap. Their battle allowed Sherman to get by both of them on one pass and then the Demon hit the wall and hung on, although he had a shot at the podium right up to the finish line. He made some of his wild moves out there as he high grooved it to the front. The determination in those eyes tells me watch out next week, the Demon is going to be loaded for bear, Gasman, Rambo, Cowboy or whoever. He was a show as usual on a night of shows that fans will remember for a long time, at least those that came back on Sunday.
Soon to be 5 time SCRA Champion, Richard Griffin, didnít have the best four day event. He was 9th on Thursday, 13th on Friday and started in the 7th row on Sunday night. He ran hard to grab 5th and was very fast at the end. Richard will clinch his latest title on Saturday. The team is breaking in a brand new car and they seem to like it. The ďlittle red suckerĒ is still one to beat as they close the year in first place.
Speaking of the little red sucker, Jimmy Oskie drove the 1982 Bromme # 1 car, in a tribute to Dean Thompson, who passed away very recently. This car is the last in a long line of Bromme cars built by Bruce Jr and his dad. Jimmyís laps in the famous car driven by Dean was very emotional and moving and quieted the crowd in reverence for the man some call Mr Ascot. It was a final goodbye to the driver who still has the most wins in CRA or SCRA history. As Oskie lit the right rear tire coming out of the corners, you just knew Deano was smiling.
The SCRA showing this week was much better than back east this summer as the locals did very well in the prestigious event with home cookiní. The drivers that roared by our heroes there, were not as successful at the PAS without the advantage enjoyed by the locals here. A little moisture sure changed things when the track was wet and tacky. These top drivers included Jac Haudenschild, the Mopar Million winner, who won Thursday nightís opener from the front row, but couldnít back that up with 18th on Friday and 16th on the money night. Boston Reid, the Oskaloosa $30,000 winner, never got it going and left for home early after an 18th in the Semi on Thursday. J J Yeley won at Terre Haute in August against the SCRA, but ran 6th, 2nd and 8th in his three days and dropped to third in the NWWC points. Tony Elliott wasnít on his game after his Western wire to wire victory, running 18th, 24th and 21st. Tracy Hines was 19th, 4th and 19th in the Cory Witherall 2nd car, so he too didnít fare that well. Jon Stambrough, one of the quiet Indiana drivers, had no luck in his borrowed car, even though he drove it hard all three days. He had an 11th on Thursday, then missed the transfer Friday and was 22nd with a broken front end on Saturday.
It just goes to show you, the offset doesnít work as well on strange wet tracks, or maybe it isnít an the offset after all, like many think. Itís hard to compare the Indiana drivers with the west-coast boys without serious traveling and hard competition by both groups head to head on tracks from both areas. The drivers came west to put on a show and they did a good job of it. Others who came in to run were Bill Rose, who is one of my favorite personalities, Matt Neely, a young 19 year old rookie who is very impressive, Troy Cline, former SCRA runner now Busch driver, and Jonathan Vennard.
The PAS crew did an outstanding job making a racy track for the event with mother nature really driving them crazy. After a great week of nice weather, the track was hit late Wednesday night with a storm of gigantic proportions. A hail storm that night literally covered some LA areas that have never seen anything like it. On opening day, the pits were a mess and the grounds crew worked hard to get the haulerís in and parked, even having to resort to a tractor pull to finalize some in position. Then one of the water spigots broke, flooding the area so bad, it didnít look possible to walk the area, let alone work on a racecar. Some hay was scattered on the wettest spots and on they went. Somehow they managed to maintain their cool and we had a good three, no make that 4 days with tacky tracks and some incredible racing. Donít know how they did it, but the outcome was an awesome final and they deserve an attaboy.
There were some great stories of success, including those above, but several others saw success in smaller ways. Mike Spencer really showcased his talents when he ran 3rd, 8th and 7th battling with the best of them and leading for 8 laps in Thursdays main. Super Rickie Gaunt, former Oval Nationals winner, missed the main on the opener, but came back with a 10th and then 6th in the finale. Brian Venard made the main all three nights and was on the move in the finale when he ran out of gas with a lap to go. He finished 15th, but deserved better after running in the top ten for a long time. Josh Wise continues to impress with a 4th, 7th and 11th. Northern California brought a few entries like Brent Kaeding, Jason York and Jason Yount, brother of Dwane Marcum, plus Andy Forsburg and Destiney Hays, the young lady who ran topless for the first time Thursday night. She was pretty racy with her pink boots and black suit! It was a full field starting with 66 cars on Thursday and was a long, but enjoyable weekend.
Tough times visited many pits as the major event drained a few pocketbooks. Even if you didnít hurt any equipment, you still had pit passes, tires and fuel to buy. Tony Jones had several shunts that slowed his goal, then in the main he had a fire break out in the cockpit and had to bail out as he was moving forward in the line-up. Levi Jones had a horrible looking crash on the front stretch Friday and destroyed one of Glenn Crossnoís cars, but they came back on Sunday and finished 18th. Rip Williams, MAN, he had no luck. On Thursday he missed the show, then had an awful crash on Friday that dented his cage. He got in on promoters option at the back of the Semi Saturday night, but he had two stops and was out, just trying to avoid others. Adam Mitchell wounded his mount one night and still retuned to run 23rd in the finale with more troubles. Mike English had his troubles, but wasnít injured in a wild stockpile of racecars on Thursday and didnít return after he was the top of the pile in Buzz Shoemakerís car. Mike Kir could have mailed in this one as he was 20th on Friday and didnít make the other two mains due to a balky motor. There were others, many of whom went home, but three days takes itís toll on man, machine and checkbook.
We did a little extra money raising this week with the final drawing of the latest t-shirt quilt, a silent auction on a Cory Kruseman framed t-shirt won by Jack Miles, and a raffle in the pits to raise money for a special deal this coming Saturday. If you have the winning ďpinkĒ ticket number 451366 from the pits, call me right away or else we will start over Saturday night and add that to the final prize. You can still get Wagsdash t-shirts at the track Saturday night as I will be out front with whatís left. I have some from child sizes up to 2XL and a few XL sweatshirts. Bye the way, Cal Smith, driver of car number 39, won the 2003 T-shirt quilt. And this ought to really get you going. He had just received his Wagsdash pay envelope from me and promptly tore it open and invested $20 in quilt tickets. Maybe I should keep that to myself. The little boy who drew the winning ticket had his hand all the way to the bottom of the barrel. What is unique is that Calís t-shirt is on the quilt!
A big thanks to the Tramel/Fish repair duo that worked my trailer over during the weekend while we were camped out with the Kruseman brigade. I think they should start a Mr Fixit shop after all the things they fixed on my trailer. Rickie Gaunt denied he had anything to do with the loud fireworks that went on late Friday and Saturday nights in the camper area, but he was smiling on Sunday night. Also thanks to Skip Creith, the push truck driver that allowed me the opportunity to see it all up close and personal on Thursday night. It was a blast, but I still like my grandstand seat best.
One more race at the PAS and we can get started on my winter fun, high school basketball. No turkey night for us as the pavement just doesnít sound right. The Wooden Classic at the Pond comes up early December, with Thanksgiving and Xmas gatherings and more B Ball. My Chili Bowl tickets arrived and we need to plan for that trip as January is a tough month. What with our late Xmas with my kids in Missouri, the Chili Bowl, the annual Wagsbash and a few B Ball tournaments, I donít have much time left for anything else. Do you think Cory is thrilled to death to beat those who tabbed his car illegal at Ventura?
A FEATURE (50 Lap)
1. Cory Kruseman, 2. Jeremy Sherman, 3. Bud Kaeding, 4. Damion Gardner, 5. Richard Griffin, 6. Rickie Gaunt, 7. Mike Spencer, 8. J.J. Yeley, 9. Brent Kaeding, 10. Bill Rose, 11. Josh Wise, 12. John Scott, 13. Steve Ostling, 14. Andy Forsberg, 15. Brian Venard, 16. Jac Haudenschild, 17. Troy Rutherford, 18. Levi Jones, 19. Tracy Hines, 20. Cary Faas, 21. Tony Elliott, 22. Jon Stanbrough, 23. Adam Mitchell, 24. Rip Williams, 25. Troy Cline. Laps Led: Brent Kaeding 1-9, Kruseman 10-50
FINAL NWWC Points
1) Bud Kaeding 728, 2) Cory Kruseman 694, 3) J.J. Yeley 658, 4) Damion Gardner 586, 5) Richard Griffin 534, 6) Troy Rutherford 534, 7) Levi Jones 498, 8) Mike Spencer 443, 9) Rip Williams 305, 10) Josh Ford 249, 11) Mike English 230, 12) Boston Reid 219, 13) Rickie Gaunt 185, 14) Alan Ballard 173, 15) Jac Haudenschild 169, 16) Jimmy Crawford 150, 17) Adam Mitchell 134, 18) Charles Davis, Jr. 126, 19) Tony Jones 111, 20) Bob Ream, Jr. 69, 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.