PILL DRAW PLAYS BIG PART IN WINNING ON DRY SLICK TRACK THIS WEEK!
Mrs Wags pcis are here now!
Troy Rutherford followed teammate Tony Elliott for 19 laps, until Elliott's Gardner Motorsports # 96X backup car seemed to stutter, and Yeley moved first to get the lead. Troy set fast time at 17.872, then ran 2nd in his heat, 5th in the dash and started in the third row. Driving the Sander Engineering, Shaver Engines, Barnes Systems, Sled chassis, # 96, Troy worked the track well to get 2nd on the day, and challenge the winner to the end. After shopping for a ride for a short time over the winter, due to the reported Gardner Motorsports sponsor money search, his luck has certainly turned back around, and this performance showed it.
The Gasman, Richard Griffin, looked like a winner this day as he worked the asphalt-like track to perfection, making moves up high where others failed. Only his pill draw kept him back as he qualified before the rubber was down enough and had to work that much harder just to get to the podium. Richard, driving the Arizona Race Mart, Circle C Marketing, Madera Produce # 50, started in the 7th row of the main and methodically moved up in the event that was cut to 25 laps because of expected excessive tire wear. He later said, after finishing 3rd, he might have been right there if it had gone the original 30 laps.
Tony Jones made the move of the day in his heat. The first heat produced some one car passes by the more aggressive drivers moving up around the bottom feeders, while utilizing a lot of throttle control, and diving back low. The "Cowboy" really stepped it up in the 2nd one. On the opening green Tony started outside the fourth row, and charged around the pack down the front stretch. He gassed it by the boys that were positioning themselves to get real low on the track, and slung it into the first turn throwing smoke wildly off his right rear. Somehow, he was able to hold the car down on the track and slip around the corner, and continue on to win going away! Tony, now driving the Ferreira Dairy, Temecula Valley Pipe & Supply, Concept Powder Coating, # 87, was a rocket on that move. Later he was 6th in the dash and finished a strong 4th in the main. They have a new number because Mike Wall Trucking, last year's car owner, is no longer with the team. When things looked bleak for the team recently, Ferreira Dairy stepped up to become the main sponsor for Tony and crew chief, Bubby Jones. Look for Tony and the strong car to visit the podium more often this year.
John Scott started off his championship hopes a little shaky this week. He was an early qualifier and was 27th out of the 45 cars. Unmoved by the poor pill draw, he started in the back of his heat and went forward, only to lose a wheel! He restarted and made the main with a 4th place finish, and started in the ninth row of the main. John never gave up and worked his way to 5th before the checkers fell, and earned a lot of needed points for his goal. Randy "DW" Shiosaki is the crew chief this year and the Pace Electronics, Pro Prep, Design works Custom Graphics, # 83 team looks for a banner year.
I don't know much about Damion Gardner except he is from up north of here, has a dayglow green wing in his trailer and drives a silver # 20 car. He ran 3rd in his heat from the back, then started 19th in the main and moved up to 6th for the hard charger of the week award. He was all over the track as he harnessed his mount, but in between several racing jousts, did a good job to finish well in the wing car.
Glenn Crossno flew Levi Jones out from Indiana to drive his car again and was not disappointed. Levi was 4th quick, ran 3rd in his heat, 7th in the dash and the same in the main. Glenn was smiling. He didn't tell me what his own driving plans are yet, so we will see. Bobby Graham had his best outing in the Ben Lancaster # 14 in a while when he chased Semi winner, Cary Faas, to the flag and then ran 8th in the main from the fifth row. Great job for the young driver after a less than satisfying 2001. Faas returned to the racing wars and did well himself. He was 5th quick, won the Semi and ran strong in the main until he had a problem, dropping out to finish 16th. He plans to wing it up for the WOO in two weeks.
Mike Kirby gets kudos for his passing feats. He had to run the C main, due to his early pill draw and resulting poor qualifying run, and came from the back to get the last transfer. Then, he started at the back of heat four to just miss the transfer in 5th, but moved to the Semi where he ran 4th and started on the back row of the main. He worked it hard up to 7th and then had to change his right rear on a red flag stop for another car. He finished 9th and passed the most cars, the most times! Cory Kruseman, sporting the number one on his car for 2002, (finally a SCRA champion # 1 car on the track!) had similar luck as Mike all night as they seemed to be side by side each event they ran, from the C main, their own separate heats, the semi and the feature. Cory was bumped out of the feature with one lap to go while racing for 6th. Imagine their tire bills!
Tony Elliott just has no luck in the SCRA when he comes to the West Coast. The former USAC champion was here, again, trying to win in a Gardner Sled, again. He was 6th quick, was third in his heat, this after an amazing shunt with several other cars and restarted, and then won the dash to put him in good shape to do good this trip. He led the first 19 laps and was looking like a winner, when on lap 20, something happened, as the car seemed to stumble, and he went back three spots. When he tried to pass back to the front, he got it too high coming around turn three/four and five cars took advantage of him. That was the ball game, as he finished 10th. Tony just gets no luck out West!
Rookie Bobby Cody had an interesting week. On Tuesday he destroyed a brand new TCR Chassis in practice at the PAS. In his backup car on Saturday, the rookie put on a very good showing for one with little open wheel experience. He looked like he was driving over his head at times, but his results were great. He was 2nd in his heat and 12th in the main. This will give him the early rookie points lead.
There were plenty of crashes and "get together's" on the track this week. This halted the action for longer than normal during the long drawn out day race. Ben Astenious, one time regular and remembered as the "Man of the soil" driver, started the day off with a wall banging like no other this week. He came down the front stretch on his qualifying lap and went straight into the wall, HARD. It destroyed the car, to say the least, and it took a long time to get him out of the car and transported to the hospital. He was talking to the safety people as he left, so should be fine in a few days, but sore. Adam Mitchell had a slow turnover that took him out of competition, yet it looked pretty slight to our eye as far as damage goes. You know bolt-on stuff. Just $$$$$
Jarrett Chaney had a tough day. He had to run the semi after a 7th place finish in his heat when he and another car got together. In the semi, on a restart, he clipped the inside wall coming down the front stretch and then nailed the K-rail that protects the photographers in turn one. It looked like the throttle stuck and he had no brakes when he steered away from the opening he could have made back to the infield. Danny Sheridan strapped into Ron Didonato's Spin Tech Muffler special # 57 and was minding his own business, he said, when all of a sudden, he was on his head in the main event. This car will need further repair, as the front end was destroyed! Danny was fine and so was Ron! We collected Wagsbucks to the tune of $127, and it will go to Didonato the next time we see him, as we had to ponder for a while where the money would go.
The rainbow of colors on the track was great viewing for the fans, as several new color combinations appeared. Most notably was Ricky Gaunt's new silver and red numbered theme on his # 4 Mark Alexander racecar. Then, a curious replica of it appeared in the form of the # 82 of Dan Hillberg's. Except for the number and diffeent graphics, these two could be twins. Maybe two guys got the same idea at the same time? Or three as Tony Everhart's # 55 got a new silver look also, but was more two tone that the others. Do we have a "silver streak" fad going? Rip Williams had a yellow painted chassis and some yellow flames on the hood that looked great and set his black # 3 off. Rodney Argo had a "juiced up" paintjob on his red & white # 19 car that really looked sharp. Most others stayed with their old look, just freshened up and looking bright for the new year themes.
The day race made viewing the shiny tires difficult for Krista Bandy, my official "Shiny Tire Picker" from now on. Krista had Bethany Thrasher in town from Phoenix for help as well as local pals, Malory Gardner and Emily Jones. They somehow picked Bobby Graham's # 14 for the big award, done by Ben Lancaster, and Charles Davis Jr # 94, done by Gayle Davis, for the weenie one. Good job girls, but the lights make it happen much better! I screwed up the pics of the winners, I know I wasn't drinking, yet the fuzzy pics were bad! So you can blame me for nothing in Mrs Wags photo's this week.
Several drivers are looking for rides. Mike English drove Rip's back-up car for this race and was in third until a tire exploded. Mike noted if he could just get a motor, he would be able to race every week! That's all he needs, so where are you? Greg DeCaries was in the house looking as well. He actually has a wing ride up North, and hopes he can get them to take it off a few times this year to run at Tulare and Santa Maria at least! For those who remember "Flyin Brian Campbell", the red # 14 that crashed at Manzanita some years ago and disappeared from sight, he was in town this week looking for sponsorship to run more races. He is living in Minden, NV and will be primarily on pavement wing races is season.
The tremendous wind storm that later spread forest fires not far from the track, made dust devils appear in the pits and glazed over the track to make this one tough for fans and racers to endure. The warm day-time hot laps cooked the track as expected so qualifying proved the low line was going to be the fastest way around the rest of the day. The pill draw was more important than usual, especially after you see that 4 top cars were in the C Main! If I had a choice, I wouldn't be anxious to go day racing anytime soon even though it did bring back memories of the El Centro fair days. Where were the Ferris wheel, the peanuts, cotton candy, hot dogs and the ice cream, anyway? Mrs Wags missed most of the main because her contacts were too gritty to open her eyes. She said she tried to listen, but really was going to wait for my newsletter version of the race to see what happened! And, there were no victory circle pics because of it, but Krista went off and got J J to pose in the pits for her later.
Ron Shuman announced Auto Trader has come on board with SCRA as a sponsor. They will kick in $25,000 to the SCRA bank account with the money to go to the points fund and other club needs. He says another sponsor is looking to get on board soon.
Wagtimer Willie Bandy received the Steve Lafond created foto masterpiece, signed by the racers and fans, after the race in his temporary homeroom. He is still in the hospital, but doing very well, he says! His Chemo has started and he is progressing as expected on the way to recovery from this bad stuff. He is hoping to get out of the bedpan ward very soon and get back to the races! Send cards to the house at 29093 Shadow Creek Lane, Highland, CA 92346. We have two weekends off until the next race. We will be celebrating our 27th anniversary on heart day this week, and then I will try to catch some of the high school BB playoffs. Wagso winner was a 3-way tie this week. Try your luck next time. See ya at the PAS again on March 2nd. Remember!!!!