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December 14, 2010

By Ken Wagner

It has been two weeks since the last race and I have been off watching basketball and did little to highlight the last cold night at the PAS of the year. Not that I didn’t want to, but more that I didn’t want to see the year end because of my feelings about next season and what we will see. Will it be 410’s as usual, or maybe 360’s with gaskets in the 410’s to make them somewhat equal? Will there be a lessening of 410’s and emergence of 360’s as the subterranean economy continues to force cutbacks in our world of dirt track racing? And why do I keep hearing “410’s are dead!” Is that for real or is the negative side the only opinion in our dirt track racing that escapes mouths? Are we 410 lovers done? Hardly, as we are a sturdy lot and although it has been tough, we will go forward with a lot of guts and determination. We won’t let them die, but we need help! Don Kazarian appears to be part of the help as he has already announced his 2011 CRA schedule so if we could get some sponsor support to help the racers and encourage sprint car fans to travel out to the desert, we can do it!

For my pics 11/27/10 Click here. For Doug Allen's work Click here.

I have spent the last 25 plus years riding the Wagtimes vehicle to help the racers and it was never enough, no matter how much we did and who received it, at least by my standards! Remember it is dominated by the fans who believed they could help thru the Wagtimes, so it really is an amazing story and so under the radar outside of California. I was supported by most track announcers over the years and the money flowed in at about $300 a race. Fans enjoyed seeing their little bit of “extra” money going to someone who crashed, blew a motor or even blew up the hauler and showed up in a rental rig. The magic number is nearly $ 550,000.00 cash that has gone thru my hands unaltered directly to car owners hands who earned Wagsbucks collected by me and my band of Wagtimers, who together followed my mantra of helping out the low buck racers along the road.

We did it in the beginning at Ascot with Cary Agajanian’s support, then when that hallowed ground closed up, we went on the road until Perris was built, and still took it on the road for many years. As it never became a staple at the PAS like other tracks, over time without the airwaves it wore down to where we no longer collect the large chunks of Wagsbucks cash that was normal and passed on at every CRA, SCRA and now CRA/USAC race. There have been over 500 recipients from us over the years and many got significant cash in these presentations. Rodney Argo is the leader at near $10,000 richer (ha, you can’t get rich off Wagsbucks) as the most prolific recipient. Others who did well were Verne Sweeney, Mike English, Jay Drake, Tom Downing, Rickie Gaunt, Gary W Howard, Cal Smith, John Scott, Marc Hart, Bobby Michnowicz, Steve Ostrling, J Hicks and Keith Williamson with all around $5000 over their careers. We raised money for the SCRA benevolent fund, The recovery funds of Rusty McClure, George Gervais and Cory Kruseman, several tours back East including Indiana Sprint weeks a few times, the SCRA Banquet twice, and we even added to the consi purse one time. We had a Big Dog dash to give the drivers who weren’t considered low buck, but supported us with t-shirts and signatures that helped the cause, a chance at some extra money. We even had a drawing for not low buck car owners ($1000) that when John Jory won it, he had no clue to what it was for? So we worked hard to help the racers for many years and it was a lot of fun.

Today, primarily, I work on the Wagsdash, and that may go the way of the Wagsbucks if I can’t make it happen again. I don’t have a track yet and will do some work on that before the season starts. My idea was to just do it at Ventura without CRA on a night they are dark, but we’ll see. It has been a fun run and I will be sad if it’s over, but like the 410’s, it ain’t over till’ it’s over! I want to thank each and every one of you that got involved with the Wagtimes stuff, it wouldn’t have happened without you!!!! Thank you. I look forward to the next chapter!

So what did happen that last night of the year when it was so cold? How cold was it, mid 40’s made heavy coats a must in the grandstands. As usual the message board brought negative opinions about car counts for the last one, but 38 cars pulled in. Yes, I said 38 sprint cars plus a ton of 4 cylinder lookalikes to attack the track with zest. In addition to the majority of local heroes, added were Damion Gardner, Bobby East, Jon Stanbrough, Chris Wakim, Casey Shuman and Tracy Hines as they were still around to test the locals. The weather was forecast wet for late in the evening, but it’s the hand we were dealt and somehow we made it thru it all.

Damion Gardner was the fast qualifier at 16.305 on a track that was wetter than we expected after the 1:30 PM stock car show that made this a double header for fans who paid $ 9 to see their stock cars and stayed free for the sprints under lights. The fans were bundled up as the evening began and some moisture was seen if you looked up in the lights. It never stopped the action, but played into the fast paced evening as the fans worried thru the evening waiting for the rain that was coming.

Truthfully, as good as the track looked, and as fast as it appeared, it didn’t provide the usual two lanes for ultimate passing we like. The heats were cranking away when the second one started and two incidents happened. First Austin Williams and Danny Sheridan got together as Showtime was making a pass on the high side. The net result was Austin getting upside down and the little blue bugger, without steering, banged hard into the K-rail on the inside near the third turn. Both cars looked done, but the Krazy Kittle Krew managed to replace every bolt- on plus front end and rear-end hardware and just barely make the semi. There Danny hung on to qualify for the main with a “not so ready for primetime” racer now sporting coilover shocks on the front end. He went on to finish 7th in his nightmare car and finished the year on a bright note. The second incident was more brain fade than anything as young Jace VanderWeerd bolstered by a very veteran slide job executed earlier in the heat, tried it again and came up a little short, sending him and Stevie Sussex on a wild toad ride. Jace went to the hospital, but was OK later.

The 2010 and now threepeat USAC/CRA Sprint Car Champion Mike Spencer had to run and won the Semi after missing his transfer in his heat. He pulled in early in the main, the first time he hasn’t finished a main in a long, long time. He won the driver championship by over 300 points this year and his consistency was a key to his third year in a row at the top of the CRA/USAC field. He had 16 top five finishes on the season with 9 quick times and top that off with 5 main event victories for a very good year. Bruce Bromme Jr is the top crew chief for the umpteenth time, more than anyone else ever, and he just continues to make the little red sucker the machine to beat every race. It was another great job by Bruce and all the crew and car owner Ron Chaffin.

Runner-up on the season Danny “Showtime” Sheridan had a year of endurance that tested his and his Krews patience with their too many DNF’s due to some equipment failure and some unlucky incidents over the season. Anytime he looked like he would ring the bell, some unseen force would knock him back down short of his winning goal. When the season started, they had no reason to believe they could finish the year with what was in the race team coffers, let alone get the # 2 spot, and late in the season they had major help from Pace Lighting, and then add some others like Rick’s Car Care who stepped up to get them thru the season. Even though I reported they were out of money midway thru the season, their dedicated sponsors came thru and should get a piece of that # 2 they earned. Imagine what the little blue sucker can do next year without these calamities? IF they get the needed sponsorship for 2011, look for a renewed effort from the Kittle Krew.

Matt Mitchell surprised a lot of people with his third place points finish as his new fast slide job expertise allowed him to pass a lot of cars the last half of the season and be in position to win on more than one occasion. He did win his 2nd CRA main event along the way and was in the hunt for several more. He is my most improved driver of the year and should continue to be a force in 2011. He finished 4th on the night and had Garrett Hanson working on his car all year as Garrett waits for his back to finally heal. Garrett did run the Turkey night event and that was very Bret Favre like in playing in pain.

The light showers started in the Semi and drove me from the stands where I watched the main from the turn two entrance sitting in my covered Mule along with the friendly guard who greets all who enter there. What I saw was somewhat limited, yet very little passing happened as Cory Kruseman took his front row starting spot to winners circle with little worry. Matt Mitchell was next best for the locals in 4th, Danny Sheridan in 7th ahead of Damion Gardner a former “local”.

The next thing I saw was racers loading up right away as the rains were coming and nobody wanted to get stuck in the mud getting out. Several had to take another lap to make the grade out the entrance, but the night and year were done and everyone was ready to go home. As I left I knew the next period would be all basketball as I renewed my interest in the round ball inside where it’s warm and not windy.

It was a tough year for Mark Priestley’s pretty yellow # 7. When Garrett Hanson hurt his back last season, Blake Miller jumped in the seat and was coming on strong when a rock smashed thru his helmet and broke his jaw late in the season knocking him back to 5th in the points. Darren Hagen then jumped in the car for the Ovals and he got slammed into the K-rail and went to the hospital with a broken back. He will recover, but it will take time. Nic Faas finished out the season and did well.

The Williams Brothers, Austin and Cody, finished ahead of their father, Ripper, in the season points chase. Running three cars took it’s toll for the team in black and besides Rip started the year on the injured reserve when he got a finger smashed working on the race car. The boys raced hard all year and had their problems, but they learned a lot. Austin gets bragging rights finishing 6th with a best finish of 6th this season. His brother Cody was 8th and was runner-up at Petaluma for his best run. Greg Bragg ran hard all year and was 7th as the Moosemobile was a presence every race. He won his first CRA race on April 10th at Perris and looked like he had more coming. Cory Kruseman won 3 times this season as he finished 4th in points. Tony Jones Had a rough year as he ran a limited schedule and still was 9th in points. He suffered thru a couple of bad crashes and some motor problems, but was still a show when he appeared. The “Cowboy” can still sling it. David Cardey won 4 races this year on a very limited budget. He ran out of motors at the end and missed the last few races. He is on the list of needing sponsors to keep going.

It has been a long year with me going to a lot of races alone, or occasionally with the Kittle crew when it was available, and who knows how many miles I logged, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Mrs Wags came along when she could and was on the injured reserve with her foot surgery for a long me. My passion has been sprint cars for over 40 years now, and it’s too bad my local Vegas track isn’t a venue for me, it would be a lot closer! I have a very unsettled stomach when it comes to the upcoming year, but I am anxious to get started, even after all these years? What can I do to help?

The schedule is not out but Perris has about 12 races, Hanford, Santa Maria, and probably Tulare will be on it. I am off to more B-ball now, so hang in there.

11/27/10 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Cory Kruseman, 2. Tracy Hines, 3. Bobby East, 4. Matt Mitchell, 5. Casey Shuman, 6. Kyle Larson, 7. Danny Sheridan, 8. Damion Gardner, 9. Cody Williams, 10. Jon Stanbrough, 11. Jimmy Crawford, 12. Austin Williams (#3), 13. Troy Rutherford, 14. R.J. Johnson, 15. Ronnie Gardner, 16. John Aden, 17. Kenny Perkins, 18. Chris Wakim, 19. Richard VanderWeerd, 20. Tony Jones, 21. Mike

FEATURE LAP LEADER: Laps 1-30 Kruseman.

FINAL AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR STANDINGS: 1-Spencer-1,423; 2-Sheridan-1,088; 3-Mitchell-1,021; 4-Kruseman-1,005; 5-Blake Miller-770; 6-A.Williams-670; 7-Bragg-634; 8-C.Williams-630; 9-Jones-629; 10-D,Gardner-619.

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