Mrs Wags pics are up Click here.
The Demon was hot in his heat as he put his best moves into that 10 lapper to beat point leader Richard Griffin. With a wild track this week, the competitors had two totally different conditions at each end of the oval, so it was a real search for most to find the fastest way around. Damion made two diamond type moves in turns one and two that thrilled the crowd and brought him from the tail of the pack into the lead of his heat. Driving the TCR, Gaerte, Weld, # 45, the Demon later made his way thru lap traffic for the last 28 laps of the 30 lap main in sometimes spectacular fashion. He still cocks the car way too sideways at times, but seems a lot smoother in recovering the wandering missile than last year. Never in trouble, he did what he had to do to, stand on the top of the podium once again.
Damion downplayed his sitting on top of the latest National Hall of Fame Sprint Car Poll for non-wing drivers when interviewed by pit announcer, Chris Holt. He and Griffin are one-two in the spring poll and it says a lot about what this 2nd year driver has done in impressing fans and the racing people of our sport. When you think of it, he has helped to bring more attention to the West Coast and traditional sprint car racing like many before him. Following Cory Kruseman's act in the black # 45 car, the Harlan Willis team hasn't skipped a beat with Cory off in USAC land now. He will be running a midget in Knoxville during our week off after the upcoming holiday. I'll say it again; watch out for the Demon, he could rewrite some records.
Mr runner-up, Steve Ostling did it again! In garnering his third 2nd place finish in nine races this year, he looked like he could have gotten over the top and won this one, if it hadn't been for the Demon. He had seven-second place finishes last year, but I expect he will put a win in the bank for this team very soon. Driving the Fischer Motorsports, Stress Relief Engineering, Angell & Giroux, Del Mar Wire, # 29, the Mexican National Champion had quick time at 16.908. He then ran 2nd in his heat, 4th in the dash and chased the leader thru traffic for 30 laps this week. Great job in the lapping game as he had the Ripper on his tail most of the later part of the race.
Speaking of Rip Williams, he looks like he has the eye of the tiger this season. He has a second and two thirds in the last four races and seems to be stepping up the fire that burns deep inside him to win. Driving the John Jory Corp, AMA Plastics, Tomarco Fastener's, # 3 Stinger, the Ripper was after them as he was ninth quick, but missed the dash as all eight ahead of him ran the JE Pistons Passing Masters Dash this week, a record perhaps? He won his heat and started in the 5th row, but closed on Ostling quickly and those two had their own dogfight the last half of the race. Rip looked like he was very comfortable in this Stinger car.
Normally here I talk about Troy "Rambo" Rutherford, the guy who has owned 4th place this year. He earned his new nickname this week, again, as he was bumped on the opening green and suffered some front end damage that forced him to the work area, along with Adam Mitchell and eventually, Mike Kirby. All three made it back in at the rear, due to a graciously long three lap wait rule, but both Adam and Kirby dropped out soon after the restart. Rambo, on the other hand, was a lightning bolt as he flew thru the pack to get 7th, and that was with only one other yellow to help him close the gap on his targets. It was the hard charger move of the night! Still second in championship points, The young father had his newborn daughter, Logan, cheering him on from the grandstands nearby us this night and I was sure I heard her complain on the opening start shunt that dad suffered, and cheer him on later in the race.
The main had several others do very well as action was non stop for the last 28 laps. Mike Spencer put in a lot of laps on the gas going forward this week as he continues to impress. In his heat he ran fifth, but battled like there was no tomorrow as he read the track and tried to find the fast way around. He won the 12 lap Semi, blowing away the field, finishing a straightaway ahead of Ron Didonato. In the main he moved from the sixth row to finish sixth and was showing his moves to all who dared to challenge him.
Bobby Graham got a week in a car he drove last year, Glenn Crossno's # 38, and had a pretty good showing. It could have been better if the car hadn't almost tipped over in the main with him running second at the time. He was 4th quick, proving he hadn't lost his driving touch, then ran 4th in his heat and 2nd in the dash to start on the front row of the main event. He was fighting with the Demon for the lead when the car bounced into turn one and tried it's best to dump it's rider, but he held on, only to spin out in the next corner and go to the back. He had his hands full as something on the car didn't seem right, but he managed a 15th. His car owner was at Terre Haute with Levi Jones, his regular driver. Good to see Bobby back and I hope this gets him another shot or two on a permanent ride.
If you thought Grandma Rosie was excited this week, you should have seen son, Buster Venard, and his antics on top of the trailer in the pits as his son Brian put on a show. This team has been struggling ever since Brian rode the concrete wall at Granite City two tours ago. Time and time again, they thought they had the set-up, but something would happen in the drive train, the electrical system, or something! Brian qualified 12th on the tricky track and entered his heat with the usual eagerness, hoping for the best and a transfer to the main. On his last trip here he was running strong, but the feature was postponed.
The heat started with him near the back of the 9-car field where he began moving forward at the drop of the green flag. He had the dive move out of turn one down pat, and used it several times to make passes. He was using the same move on Rodney Argo, but somehow missed his line and banged into the rear of a slowing Argo, and they locked together, coming to a stop on the track. I am sure Buster thought to himself there were still 7 laps to go to move up, so he wasn't worried. The restart moved out and he quickly cleared two-cars. It didn't stop there as he put on his best ever passing display as he drove by everyone, capturing the lead and pulling away. I happened to be watching Buster and the crew on top of their trailer in the pits during his darting moves. After every good move by Brian, I could see Buster throwing his hands up and pointing down the next long straight, as if Brian could follow his directions. It was a joyful group coming off the trailer to greet the winner as he pulled back to the trailer with big smiles everywhere, I could see the smiles from all the way up in the grandstands.
Cal Smith informed me to have my watchful Wagsbucks eye out for him this week because they already broke a brake something or other, just unloading the # 39 car off the trailer. Later he missed the main, after finishing last in his heat and not making it out for the Semi. Cal is the epitome of the low buck racer who strives to do everything he can to put on a good show and represent himself to fans everywhere. The Wagsbucks ended up in Tom Wilhelm's hands after he suffered a very hard crash in his heat and not only did he tear up everything on the car, but he hurt his back pretty bad. When we gave him the $200 collected, he was in a lot of pain, but said he wanted to see the race before going to see the doc? Go figure!
On the bad news page, it opened with new the driver of Bill Pratt's # 12 car, Greg Bragg, getting on his head in hot laps that I missed. He never returned so the car was too damaged to be ready. Tony Jones got back on the track after last weeks nasty crash, in a repaired Avenger, but even though he looked his racy self up on the berm, the car didn't perform up to his expectations. He was 5th quick, third in his heat, sixth in the dash and started on the third row of the main. He fought it all night, but fell back to ninth, his best finish in several races, holding on to the # 2 Ferreria Dairy wagon. More from him when he gets a new car!
I have to apologize to Mark Heidenreich! It seems that I have been calling him Michael in my reporting on Wags Web. Even the Wagsdash results clearly list him that way and his name is really MARK! Sorry, I guess a brain fade or two isn't too bad, is it. Mark had a pretty good night on the track, even though he missed the main by one spot. For those who thought Tom & Laurie Sertich had given up racing, don't believe it. They are in the process of remodeling there home, before it is time to go back to racing. They still have two cars and probably a motor or two, but are not ready to return just yet. They were in the grandstands watching all the action tonight and having as much fun as you can if you are a car owner not racing. News of their former driver, Rusty McClure, doing well in USAC is good, but more than anything it shows his grit in returning from his very serious crash several seasons ago that almost put him in a wheelchair for life. Good to see the Sertich's and hear about Rusty.
We met Mike Sala, owner of the black # 19s that sports some neat red flames reminiscent of a car that ran at Ascot back in the 80's. Robby Flock drove it on the cars last appearance here, but tonight Josh Wise was in the seat getting used to the 410 power again. Remember last year when he jumped in Rodney Argo's Ford racer to sub for Rodney with an ailing back, and did exceptionally well. He ran in the dash, set fast time at least twice and performed amazingly for a midget driver moving up like that. He ran 4th in his heat and 17th in the main this week, getting use to the new car. Mike lives up in Oakdale, near Modesto, and has a long tow down here, but plans to keep coming.
You know I barely turned around and my ace worker and shiny tire picker, Krista Bandy, has grabbed herself a boyfriend. Chris took her to the school prom recently and now they are an item. It was his first race and he seemed to enjoy it. She came up with the Gasman's car and Jimmy Crawford's # 25 for tonight's winners. The seemingly 200 lap IMCA modified feature after the sprints main, took so long that by the time we could all get in the pits, many of the trailers were already pulling out so we missed the Crawford winner, but will catch him next week.
While we were all snuggled in the grandstands at Perris, some of our former SCRA favorites were back East performing at Terre Haute. J J Yeley won the big USAC race and took over the USAC sprint car points lead away from Tracy Hines. Cory Kruseman started in the back, and hustled up to 2nd for a Tony Stewart one-two car owner finish. Levi Jones was 4th with Glenn Crossno in his pit. John Scott was 15th as he is living within the Indiana plethora of race tracks and is doing what he planned to do, race with the best back there.
The memorial reading before the race for Paul & Helen Bagley by announcer Scott Deloisio was very nice and certainly was tastefully done to honor our missing friends. The track has added some short fencing back away from the K-Rail on the front stretch, primarily to keep pit spectators away from it. There was also a white line in the pits that cars coming off the track had to stop before crossing, so they wouldn't be driving thru the crowded area and would be picked up by the team 4 wheeler and pushed back to the trailer.
The wind wasn't nearly as bad as normal, so it was really nice up in the grandstands, as we all get ready for the 50-lap Memorial race next weekend at the PAS. Hopefully it will be a packed house, so get your tickets and your butt there early next week, we'll see ya then! I will be collecting for the NWWC Tour and the Wagsdash this week. Donate and get a free poster of a CRA legend!
SCRA points as of 5/17/03
1. Richard Griffin 578, 2. Troy Rutherford 559, 3. Damion Gardner 504, 4. Rip Williams 461, 5. Steve 449, 6. Rickie Gaunt 423, 7. Mike English 412, 8. Mike Spencer 368, 9. Tony Jones 281, 10. Adam Mitchell 250, 11. Levi Jones 249, 12. Lance Gremett 21, 13. Cory Kruseman 211, 14. Rodney Argo 194, 15. Brian Venard 187, 16. Verne Sweeney 174, 17. Josh Ford (R) 174, 18. Jeremy Sherman 158, 19. Bob Ream Jr 158, 20. Charles Davis, Jr 153.