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December 8, 2012

By Ken Wagner

We will remember 2012 as the continuing age of the little red sucker after Mike Spencer drove the Ron Chaffin owned, Bruce Bromme Jr crewed red # 50 to itís 5th straight CRA championship. He was so dominating, there was no one in sight to test him towards the end of the season and he tasted the fruit of an Oval Nationals victory on top of everything else. Mike was so good at the PAS this season, what with 7 of his 9 wins there, it reminds me of the stranglehold another little red sucker held over the racers at Ascot with Dean Thompson at the wheel. Same crew chief but different ownership and yet nothingís changed, Bruce Bromme Jr just keeps on winning. Mikeís mild manner is so understated that unless you are looking for him, you donít even notice him on the track until he passes for the win. He doesnít drive out of control or bump and run anyone, he just smoothly moves up a spot at a time and strikes like an assassin! Even in the winners circle that great smile doesnít get braggadocios as he gives thanks for another win and beams for all to see, he is a champion, a 5 time Champion!

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With 33 wins in his CRA career, he now is tied for 15th on the all time So Cal winnerís list with Mike Sweeney and Eddie Wirth, two very notable CRA drivers of the past, and is looking for more. He is in position to move up two more positions next year as he is just behind Nick Valenta, 3 time CRA Champion, and The Cowboy Tony Jones who have 36 and 35 victories ahead of him. This past year was a monster for him with 13 fast times, 9 wins and 20 of 22 top five finishes, man, talk about consistency, this team has done it in spades! He tied Richard Griffin and Jimmy Oskie for second in all time Championships with 5, but is still behind Ron Shumanís 7. Can he do 6 in a row and get closer to the Shoe? I wouldnít bet against it unless the little red sucker retires! A note here that Bubby Jones has the most wins in one year at 18 in 1983 in our So Cal folklore from CRA, SCRA and USAC.

Nic Faas had another good strong year finishing second in points with some high flying antics. He was hot early in the season and came back strong towards the end to win two times, had 3 fast times and 13 top 5 finishes on the year. Driving the Alexander # 4 silver bullet car, the team was strong and fun to watch and had his battles with th $ 50 car all year. They had more than their share of equipment malfunctions to sink a battleship, but were in the battle in all the races they finished. The Ovals was heartbreaking for Quick Nic when he was running up front and met a cushion he didnít like, rolled over and finished 20th. I think he will be a strong challenger for the crown in 2013. When the track is heavy, he is a real handful more than usual.

What can I say about Brody Roa that hasnít already been made obvious by his driving. The one time shorter than me driver (when he was just a little kid), has come up thru the ranks with his father, former CRA driver Brett, leading him thru the various types of race cars and classes. With total support from his family, he has come a long way baby! Starting the sprints in a 360 powered car, he moved into competing with the CRA boys and did very well. When he got a 410 motor late in 2011, I said lookout, this boy has talent! His lone CRA win was at Yuma last year when he started on the pole and didnít wilt with the hot dogs chasing him for 30 laps. He won the very last Wagsdash in 2010 at Ventura Raceway and also won the special crazy formatted WAG$CA$H event the next year. He has some 360 wins at Ventura and along the way is showing very well as he was 3rd in points this season, good job Team Roa!

The Old Master Rip Williams continues to make you forget heís over the speed limit 55 as he is still very competitive in the black # 3. Not only was he 4th in points this year, but beat his two talented sons along the way as they finished 5th (Austin) and 8th (Cody) on the year. Although Rip didnít win this year, he was on the podium several times and raced hard every time the black # 3 of Jack and Sharon Joryís hit the track. I donít think there is another competitive driver of his age in the country driving sprint cars, and that makes it all the more amazing to me! I think he likes racing and running with his boys must be pretty special for him.

Young high school graduate and Rascal Ryan Bernal had an agreesive rookie year with CRA. He won twice and was in the top 5 8 times during the year that included a lot of travel back east to run in Indiana and a full 360 slate that netted him some other wins. I knew he was good when he ran a carbureted 360 against the CRA at Ocean Speedway a few years ago and was running up front until mechanical woes set him back. The talented driver has much more to give as he drove the Josh Ford # 73 most of the year. Look for even better results in the future, but expect him to move up just like Kyle Larson at some point too soon for me.

Up until he crashed at Terre Haute in July, Matt Mitchell was establishing himself as one of the CRA ďhot dogsĒ with his driving ability. Running only a half dozen races, he was always in the mix to win and fun to watch. His goal, as he explained to me when we went to Yuma in June, was to run sprint cars! The girls love him and his quick smile is evident when you talk with him, but we will have to wait for his eyeís to tell us if he racing anymore. I hope so because I thought he was about to bust out and challenge the little red sucker!

What can you say about David Cardey that says he is a talented driver with no luck at all. For his early years he had help along the way from Glenn Crossno before they were on their own and the family sprinter didnít have enough sponsorship to run every race. It might surprise you to know David has won 9 races with CRA and should win a bunch more now that the Sertich and Cardey teams have combined. David drove the new Victory Chassied cars very well the last half of the season and showed he and his new team have plenty of potential to get back in the hunt for wins this coming season.

Cory Kruseman won another CRA race this past season and that keeps him in third all time with 97, following Rip Williams and Dean Thompson in the big So Cal list. The busy Kruser had been driving the yellow Mark Priestley owned # 7, where he has had some success during breaks from spotting for an off road racer and running his own equipment at times.

There are a number of other drivers who jumped into the mix during the year and had some success off and on including Seth Wilson, Greg Alexander, Troy Rutherford, David Bezio, Kenny Perkins, Corey Ballard and many more that make our average 35 cars show off well. These drivers and more are part of the show and are needed to make the thunder and lightning work for the fans.

I have said several times this past year that we donít have the heroes like the old days and that seems to hurt the feelings of some, but think about it! When Bubby Jones, Dean Thompson, Buster Venard, Lealand McSpadden, Ron Shuman, Richard Griffin, Brad Noffsinger and Eddie Wirth were gone and replaced with Damion Gardner, Cory Kruseman, Tony Jones, J J Yeley, Rickie Gaunt, Danny Sheridan, David Cardey and many more good drivers, we were still gold, and we still had significant winning heroes! More recently the youngsters with fathers with money went back East and took our young guns away, so time has shown us a different breed in the west and our pool is not what it once was.

Our younger drivers coming forth now to get on the top level in CRA include Nic Faas, Matt Mitchell, the Vander Weerd twins Richard & Jace, the Williams Brothers Cody & Austin, Ronnie Gardner, Brody Roa, the Bender Brothers Bobby & A J, Ryan Bernal and a few more suspects at the top of their game. Rookie of the year Jake Swanson driving Larry Henryís car with an old motor used by Hall of famer Bubby Jones some time ago, has shown he can drive as one of the real newbies to sprints for us. Give him a top motor and watch out! There are numerous others who have not the pocketbook, nor the sponsorship nor enough $$$$$ to field a car strong enough to challenge those on the top of the ladder. Of course I must tell you some of our potential good drivers are running the 360 circuit, which is no cheaper in my mind than the 410ís, and are not getting the seat time in the baddest of all race cars, the fire breathing CRA 410 sprint cars, so are not a factor yet. May Christmas make some real happiness in our racing community, doesnít Santa love us anymore?

Itís been an interesting year as car counts and fan support continue to be in the forefront of CRA racing history as we are trying to make it. Economy issues, gas prices, rising racing parts cost, travel expense, and is it all worth it when push comes to shove? When a car owner tells you he is ready to go racing, but doesnít have the money to fill the rig with gas to go down the road, that is the crux of the problem for some. Where are they now (fans, car owners, drivers etc.) can be summed up by saying racing is like a leaky submarine, when you spring a leak, that gets all the attention, and you lose sight of the overall picture letting other things suffer. Sometimes the distraction sends you to other places where you never come back from, thus the lower attendance and car counts. Racing must grow itís boundries without killing off what has worked in the past, yet change is coming or we can end up like an old folks home with little activity day in and day out in our venue, and not so patiently waiting for the youngsters to come visit for a few minutes. Is that not true?

The 2013 schedule for CRA is out and no Hanford, Tulare, Chico or Victorville on it. Why am I not surprised? What about the NEW Orange Show dirt track, the ET track in Phoenix, Ventura, Las Vegas and even Bakersfield as possible tracks to increase the racing from once a month to maybe twice a month? Seven tracks within reachable locations in California donít want, or wonít pay for our traveling band of 12 or so racers that bless the road with their appearance. Do our CRA guys and gals even want to go on the road? The PAS can boast of over 34 cars per race for 11 races this season but most of the ďon the road againĒ wingless warriors donít do that well supporting the club by traveling. On the road this past year CRA averaged 12 cars traveling out of an average of 26 cars at those tracks. So you see 34 cars at the home track and 26 on the road, not that bad but it needs to grow! Perris high mark was 44 for the ovals and the travel best was 35 at Victorville and 32 at Canyon. I know you must consider that the list of competitive 410ís around the state is down considerably over 10 years ago and our core CRA 410ís are down the same percent, if not more. What we need is cheaper gas and more fans returning to the races. I wish it were that simple. Traveling is always fun with the different types of tracks and sceneryÖÖÖ. If you can afford it! If everyone out there handed a $20 bill to their favorite car owner, heís the one who pays the bills, or send emí a check, they can all use it!

Now we have Perris, Santa Maria, Watsonville and Calistoga in California running my favorites and two trips to Canyon and one to Yuma in Arizona, wow, that doesnít bode well for the future now does it. Think of it, only 4 tracks in our home state that will schedule us, what is wrong with that picture? Is Victorville too close to Perris that it will take some of their fans away, especially when you look at the cost of the two tracks prices (both the entry ticket, plus food and parking). Add Orange Show to the mix and knowing Scotty Burns like I do, he will run 410ís and midgets in the gaps that might bring out some garaged race cars that we wonít see at CRA races. That could take away some of our ďregularsĒ for the 22 race schedule, or maybe not, that is a good question. There shouldnít be a war here, but I can see one coming, and it didnít need to be that way! Question - Why canít we all just get along? Answer Ė Because the powers that be donít want to! Let me ask this question - How do they do it in Indiana where they have soooooo many dirt tracks and plenty of cars (and even in Pennsylvania where the ratioís are about the same), what is their secret? I am not the answer man, but I see what the problem is here! Could it be ďFailure to communicateĒ and pass me the boiled eggs please?

Start thinking about the new racing season, make some plans, get involved, itís all good. I have for many, many years and I am no worse for the wear (???), and I still keep coming back for more, why? Because itís in my blood and I canít wait to see what happens next on the track, each and every race! Who will be our next hero, what new cars/drivers can we expect, where will we chose to go, etc. etc. and so on. Join me, wonít you!

All good things must end and after 20 plus years the Wagsdash run is over and done! My hats off to all those who supported, or took part in the craziest scheme ever, where the little guyís got their chance at the big money in their own race every year. For years we handed ďyourĒ money (OPM) out to hard luck racers in the form of Wagsbucks. There are so many who made this run possible, a list way too long to put here, but remember it was all for the racers, period! For that success of raising over $600,000 of OPM for them, I thank you all. Thanks to my loyal Wagtimers and most of all my wife Mrs Wags who allowed it. No mention of the future here, because like everything that runs itís course, you canít go backwards and I donít see into the future to well these days, so Iíll let you know if I come up with another hairbrained scheme. In the meantime letís get planning our racing schedule for 2013, the racers need you and keep in mind the 2013 Wagtimes/Lafond Hard Charger Award!

The thought of Orange show going back to dirt is interesting. My friend Mel Allen, who sat in the Ascot grandstands with me in the last years of his life until Cancer took him away in the 90ís, was the promoter at Orange Show who paved the dirt track at the urging of his wife who thought asphalt would be cleaner. Mel is missed by me and he taught me things about racing I never considered. I have never been to Orange Show because of the asphalt surface, yet the history of Midgets there includes a whoís who of legendary racers. When Scott Burns announced he had the track to promote now along with Victorville, it sounds like a lot of work for him and his crew, but we shall see, yet adding another dirt track for our racing seems like a great idea to me. I donít know if Iíll attend the goodbye pavement race, but surely will go to the dirt events next season without a doubt. This is hopefully a step towards strengthening our racing with more tracks and more fans, it should be good for sprint car racing. Too bad it couldnít be under the CRA banner, but it sounds like he will be working hard to bring open wheel cars to his tracks.

What do I remember best about the 2012 season? So many things hit my brain when it goes to work, but let me relive a few here.
I remember Nic Faas opening night win at the PAS was super dominating for the youngster who swept the night with fast time, heat and feature wins looking very fast.
I remember Matt Mitchellís deadly slide jobs, he has become a master of those.
I remember Tony Everhartís bad crash and he still showed up at Yama ďbecause we needed carsĒ he said.
I remember many of Ryan Bernalís races, but the one that stands out is his midget win at Hanford after a crash, a stop and a rush to the front. The little Racal is somebody to see!
I remember a $1000 to win wheelie contest at Santa Maria where Seth Wilson popped a few and the other car was just checking out the track!
I remember Brody Roaís first CRA win when he did what he was supposed to and led wire to wire in the only groove on the race track!
I remember J J Ercseís 360 doing the job against the big bad 410ís from USAC and CRA.
I remember Mike Martin creaming the 410ís with his stout 360 at Canyon. He led all 30 laps and nobody could catch him!
I remember the many trips in the Kittle Hauler, what a way to go down the highway reading, watching TV, bench racing, finding food or just snackiní. It is the only way to go, thanks guys!
I remember with sadness the end of the line for Wagsdash and WAG$CA$H events.
I remember hearing about and watching on the Tube Matt Mitchellís crash at Terre Haute that ended his season and maybe more as he is not well yet!
I remember Danny Sheridan beating Mike Spencer at Santa Maria in what was the best race of the season and maybe even longer. I felt part of that, sort of! It was his last ride in the Kittle Kar.
I remember Ryan Bernalís first CRA win and it was at Victorville! I remember the opening afternoon/night with amazement that it ever happened with CRAís reluctance to let the race go off.
I remember Jake Swanson's drive at Victorville. He was only 9th in the feature, but you had to see him drive just to make it, he looked like a veteran.
I remember Jon Stanbroughís crash at Kokomo, so horrific after contact from another car, it still shakes me.
I remember the rocket ship Artic Cat I was loaned at Calistoga, thanks Jeff, man I gotta get a blower for my Mule!
The $ 8 parking fee at the PAS along with the $25 ticket prices, way too much, but who am I to say.
I remember the new Steve Stroud Arizona sprint car Museum and how outstanding a job he did. So many memories inside the place, it took a long while to see it all. Great job.
I remember a lot of lonely miles on the road heading to and from the races, listening to the radio, or my Vette motor sing, and thinking about the next race.
And my last memory of the year is Mike Spencer getting his own Oval Nationals Eagle trophy to cap off an outstanding year for the entire team.
Yes it was a memorable year, but many of you missed a lot of it with ďother thingsĒ. Try better next year.

At least two babies were born recently in the racing community. Krista and David Cordova, Wagtimes fans of note, welcomed Mackinzie Danielle into their family on November 5th. She arrived at 7:49 AM at 8 lbs 1 oz and was 20 inches long, and yes, that was the Monday after the Oval Nationals. They planned it that way, and she saw all the racing. Former Kittle Kar driver Danny Sheridan and his wife Kacie had a little boy about that same time, and Danny missed the race to be at the birth. I havenít any details. Congrats to the parents, maybe new fans/drivers are on the way.

Itís been a little quiet up here in Wagsland since the season ended for me at the Ovals as I deal with some family situations that should be resolved soon I hope. So I have not been on the road to LA for my annual B Ball craziness like usual. I normally hang around LA for the opening of high school B Ball in LA and Orange county to see the top teams and a few college games along the way. I always overstay my welcome at my LA family Shiosaki homestead, but I am needed at home now and will miss a lot of great tourneyís that I have attended for years. I hear they have B Ball here in Vegas too, so Iíll see some of that. By now I would have nearly 40 games in my bag, but alas the number is 3 and climbing very slowly for this big B Ball fan.

My next trip is to be to the Chili Bowl in Tulsa in January where too many cars run too many laps on too many nights for this old geezer, but you canít beat it. My son Kevin and I get to be together for our only time each year, so it is special in that way as well. Itís like a racing carnival under the big top with unlimited midget racing on a quarter mile dirt track in the biggest building you can imagine that houses over 250 trailers with cars and parts and crews at one end and over 10,000 fans in the grandstands for 5 nights plus a practice night. Whew, if you havenít been, you canít even begin to imagine it!!!! You can literally OD watching racing and counting the rollovers! The beer flows inside the expo center, including in the pits, yes I said in the pits. Buy a beer and watch the racers work, thatís my motto! In the chill of Tulsa there is plenty of good food away from the raceway and I canít wait for my peach cobbler at Ikeís Chili and some other local food favorites as well. Add in the familiar friendly faces I see but once a year and itís all good for me. Generally we always hit a good college B Ball game during the week, but might pass this year as the dates that were available overlap the racing and thatís not good.

My friend Trophy Dave announced last year he would wind up the Trophy Cup at 20 editions next year. So he added a non wing night for 360ís and paid $21,000 for that one night deal to spice it up. I was proud! He had planned to pay the wing winner $50,000 in his last year, but things have now changed. Next year, not only is he paying the wing cars at least $25,000 to win but the wingless total will go up to $35,000! After much discussion with ďfamily and friendsĒ, he relented on ending the race and will step back in an advisory capacity and let the family members do the majority of the planning and work. If you believe that give me some Wagsbucks! That is good news! Now if I can get some of my CRA boys 360 rides, that will make me happy. If they would only make it a 410 wingless show, wouldnít that be nice?

Yes it is quiet in Las Vegas, but donít let that worry you, the strip is but a mile away and I can watch all the craziness you can imagine by heading over there. I donít do it often, usually when someone comes to town for a visit, but when I do, hot dawg, you canít believe it! I need to use my taping feature of my camera to catch some of it, but probably not! Mrs Wags is actually putting up some of her Dickenís houses this year, so itís more decorative than usual around Wagsland. Looks like the holidays will be fun and special with family stuff.

I am looking forward to 2013 and our racing season with great anticipation with the hopes that we have more great racing and more money for the racers. Santa please bring me 8 more good races to add to the once a month fare, pretty please. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all and to all Cheers!

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