Ron Didonato Racing donate their earnings to Big George!
Mr Wags plays photog ace for missing Mrs Here!
The Cowboy was on a mission as he qualified 10th in the 41 car field and predicted he would win this one for Big George. Tony looked pretty determined driving the Ferreira Dairies, Avenger Race Cars of El Paso, VGI Graphics, # 87 sprinter. He won his heat, ran 3rd in the JE Pistons Passing Masters Dash and battled Rip Williams most of the 30 lap race for the win. Tony was very happy winning his 11th SCRA race and first of the year. In the process, he took over the point lead by 2 ahead of the Gasman, Richard Griffin. It looks like the Podium man is for real this year, if the money holds out to keep him on the track.
Rip Williams led the two black and silver cars, the 2nd driven by Mike English, to 2nd and 3rd place finishes in the A main this night. Rip was right on the Cowboy every inch of the main event, but couldn't get by in his Vista Paint, John Jory Corp, Crittendon Racing, black, # 3 Gambler. Rip is off to a good start in his quest for a championship that has eluded him in his career. He still can hustle with the best of them and has his sights on finally getting over the hump after many runner-up finishes for CRA and SCRA championships.
Teammate Mike English made the dash for the 3rd straight week, but this time didn't have any gremlin's take him out early. Things like the loose safety belts he stopped to hook up, or maybe running over a drive shaft and even a flat tire while leading the first race. Those are the things that stymied him until now. Mike gave thanks to the fans that came up with money to help him get the motor that he says will work just fine! Mike has shown an extra zest in his driving since parting ways with Mark Priestly, the owner he drove for the last few years. His podium visit may be repeated a lot if he keeps this intensity up.
Steve Ostling was all smiles after the race when they finally figured out what was causing the new Shaver motor to stumble sometimes and run strong others. If I told you what it was I'd have to…. Well anyway, it was a simple fix once found, and the 29 car surged into 4th before the end as he was gleefully hard on the gas. The sound of the strong motor even pleases him, so look for him to be in the mix in the weeks to come. When he passed the Gasman and the Kruser this week, he obviously had his elbows up.
Cory Kruseman again set the fast time this week at 16.475, then started in the main in the 7th slot and settled for 5th. The new car was at TCR getting "replumbed" after last weeks weld and run experience. The team utilized the very first TCR they used when they switched brands years ago, and it proved to be still raceable, but didn't get him to the front like he wanted. Cory is determined to move up to the $$$$ league and will be showing his stuff with USAC soon.
Damion Gardner had a better night after towing from Concord some 400+ miles away this week. It was his third long tow down south and he is picking up this non-wing dirt stuff just fine. He won the dash and started on the pole of the A Main, only to be passed by a few cagey SCRA veterans along the way, and grabbed 7th. Damion runs strong and hasn't had any real problems in converting to the wingless that we can tell. He seems to be enjoying himself.
It was not a great night for the now former point leader, Troy Rutherford, in the Gardner house car. Troy was on a hot qualifying lap when he was caught in a rut and ended up flipping into the wall. The Gardner's had to repair the Sled, but didn't get it done in time to come back out to get at least one timed lap, so he started at the back of the C Main and calmly ran 4th. I am sure he stayed there so he could get into the 4th heat, giving the team longer to work on the car more, if needed. Then he ran 4th in his heat to get the honor of starting last in the main. He pulled up to 11th by the end, right behind teammate Tony Elliott, and received the hard charger award passing 11 cars.
Rusty McClure made an appearance and drove for the first time since his racing accident two years ago. Rusty drove Rickie Gaunt's back-up car and was given a few hot laps on the track alone to see how it went. He then qualified 35th just trying to get the old feelings back, and entered the C main. He was doing well, moving faster each lap and pulling up on Rutherford, but ended up one spot out of a transfer and was done. Later, he told me he is cautiously looking to continue and it felt great back to be back in a racecar. He has a wing ride at Attica back home in a few weeks and is taking it slow. He doesn't know yet if he will be back full time until he is sure he can still drive so he can't give any potential owners a rock solid commitment just yet. He looked good and was very positive with his hopes. I know he will retire if he feels he can't be competitive. He ran too few laps to get much of a look, but was happy with the results and smiling in the pits after the races.
Brian Venard had a second week of no racing after getting to at least qualify this time. Last week a seal blew out ion hot laps, and this week his 10th best qualifying effort was lost when he loaded early with another motor problem. The Mopar is different and is very temperamental at times, but they hope to get it right next week as father Buster continues to get the feel for this different type of motor. The car was fast in his qualifying, but began to smoke a little, signaling the end of the night for the family team.
John Scott had a spectacular crash in his heat after he and Mike English banged together on the backstretch. Mike's car was OK and continued on, but John only went on a few feet before the pretty # 83 went into a series of wild rollovers and was pretty much destroyed. John was OK, but loaded and left early, vowing to return the next week with a new car. He said he felt it was his worst pounding crash yet in his career. On the crash, something hit Rick Becker who drove all the way around to the other side of the track and was out cold for a few minutes. After the ambulance was summoned, he was pronounced fit to continue (?) and he finished 5th after the restart. Later he was 14th in the main.
Lance Gremett had trouble in the Semi and was parked for the night after a "friendly" crash that broke his new chassis in a couple of spots. He later received the $90 Wagsbucks collected and was still able to smile. Shiny Tire awards went to Danny Sheridan's crew, big one, and Jarrett Chaney's, he was runner-up, as Tina Dils performed the rituals. Tina, the one time push truck driver at Ascot, moved to Reno not long after the closure of the famed track and went in search of degree's. She now has several and is a registered nurse to boot, but misses her racing fix with SCRA. Tina was thrilled to get to see her favorite drivers in action again. Now that school is over, maybe for a while, she plans on traveling back down here soon with her mother, Darleen, whose photos have graced a lot of scrapbooks in the southland.
Danny Sheridan ran 17th in the main this week as he gets used to the difference of his new ride from the old one of last year in the Moose entry. The Ron Didonato team announced their earnings for the night would go to Big George's fund to help the family. Many changes have been made to Ron's sprinter that has seen very little track action the past few years, so the car is basically almost brand new in track time. Ron loved to race and made random appearances between getting his business going forward and sharing time with his family. After trying several drivers in his # 57, he thinks this deal will work just fine. Danny is young and skilled, so there will be some eye opened when they get the car flying like it should in the weeks to come.
Of the visitors racing this week, Mike Boat returned to try the dirt at Perris again. Mike began running the USAC trail the last few years and made long tows to hit the pavement at Irwindale and points up north many times in recent time, but didn't have the success his dirt track hot times promised. Now, he says, with the cutback from 10 races a year to 1 at nearby Irwindale Raceway, it doesn't seem like as good a deal as it looked. For years he ran a motor built by his dad, Bill, and did well in it winning several races with SCRA, but it finally got tired, so he was not happy with his recent results. He now has a new motor program with RPM Engine Development that he hopes will put him back on track and in the winner's circle. He won the C main, then just missed the main from the Semi, but was positive he was on the right track after the races. His dayglow orange # 74 was easy to spot on and off the track and Mike is still looking to win more races.
Levi Jones made another trip west, but got caught up in a wall banging in the main and was out early with a severely battered front end. Ben Lancaster brought out his recently finished car for Bobby Graham. They were going to hot lap it and decide to run it or their regular battle tested version, but Bobby put it in the main and they used it. They had a problem and dropped out before the end of the race, but learned a lot on this "very different" car built by Ben. Rookie Bobby Cody made another main as he continues to drive fast and get to the big show. He is improving each week and is doing well in his freshman year. Verne Sweeney ran 16th this week as his fast car continues to make the main each week. Verne is on a limited schedule, but still loves to drive and isn't ready to get out of the seat just yet.
On Sunday after the race, many fans and racers joined Big George's family and close friends at a funeral home in Redlands to say goodbye before the likeable racer is buried this week. A last get together to share the joys and heartache of George's life was both moving and emotional. You could feel the pain in the crowd as everyone accepts that Big George has gone to a better place. Now closure for his hopeful fans is sinking in. The memories shared included one he is most famous for, the "bottle rocket bucket bonanza" he put on at Lincoln last June. George touched many lives and his zest for life will be with us from now on. Plans for a memorial in his honor at The PAS is being made at this time and details will be available soon for others to get involved in the fund raiser for the family. Rest in peace George, we will miss your fun loving attitude! For a tribute to George click here.
Don't forget the 2nd Annual Gary Sokola Classic at Manzanita Speedway, March 15 and 16th. You can enjoy a two-day race in Arizona and get involved as well. Lap sponsors are still being accepted for the 40-lap race. Laps are $100 each, so do it now, or find someone to share and split it, it all works. Call Sammy Bahr at 949-764-2263 daytime and 714-536-7300 nights. See you there