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By Ken Wagner – May 8, 2005

Damion Gardner, from Concord, California won his fourth Valvoline USAC/CRA main event win of the season at Ventura Raceway in his Temecula Valley Pipe & Supply, Arizona Race Mart, Eagle, Shaver powered # 50 sprinter. He came from the sixth starting spot riding the high groove and took the lead with two laps to go from Mike Kirby who had led from the start in the 30 lap feature. Damion seemed to be on a mission again as he was very aggressive from his heat thru the main event.

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Kirby had been enjoying a nice lead when a yellow flag flew with five laps to go and Damion strongly moving in second place. In fact, the Demon had slipped by the leader in traffic on a smooth move before the yellow flag flew, but had to go back. The last restart quickly became a pulse raising battle for the lead between the two. Damion passed Kirby twice before it stuck with two laps to go as Kirby didn’t give up easily. The Demon was very patient and said in the winners circle “I was so high up on the cushion, it didn’t look like I was gaining on them at first, but then I started reeling them in and we won this one at the end”. He also said he felt like he was so far away coming out of the corners, but his speed caught him up each time, until he got into a rhythm and began moving to the front. The team dedicated the win to Marge Bromme.

Mike Kirby shot to the lead on the opening lap of the main when he and young Blake Miller started on the front row. Mike, the winningest 410 driver at the Ventura track, took a huge lead as he handled the traffic like normal, very well. Driving the “old” silver bullet car, L.A. Prep, La Villa Restaurant, Stinger, RC Performance # 4, Mike looked like he would add one more to his string here, but a determined Damion slid by at the end. Mike plowed through traffic and put on his own passing clinic that shows how much he loves this track. Mike noted they will bring out a brand new car, one that the team feels is faster than this one, next week at Perris.

Cory Kruseman had a string of sorts end here this week as he finished third in the ITI Performance, Sander Engineering, Bullitt, Downing # 38 owned by Glenn Crossno. He had won several VRA 360 races and one USAC midget event in his last four runs here, but was on the move in the main. He won his heat and started eleventh in the feature, so passed eight along the way. He didn’t get to the front in time to challenge the two in front of him. The new Bullitt chassis is coming along just fine and watch out for this strong veteran as he looks to move up in the points chase.

Point leader, Rip Williams, suffered a flat tire early in the feature and came all the way back to seventh for a great drive. He set fast time at 11.999, a time that was tied by J Hicks later in qualifying, and was third in his heat before the tire change in the main. Rip’s determination to catch Dean Thompson’s all time record of 103 wins is obvious in his driving these days. The 49 year old veteran has more smiles now, but that “dark side” of him yearns for the next win. In addition to the great new t-shirt Rip now has, even a black one that is hot, he now has the special “100 wins” hat for sale in the pits at his trailer. Surely you can find the big black 18 wheeler, can’t you?

Young Alan Ballard missed a transfer to the main when he was a close fifth in the Semi after a shunt in his heat earlier. Not to worry, he took a provisional to start 21st in the main and was on the gas as they lit off. He immediately got on his head on the opening lap, but restarted and got the hard charger award coming back to finish 10th. Great drive by the young lion.

You know I couldn’t miss talking about Blake Miller this week. This young man use to get credit for shining tires on sprint cars just a short time ago. His dad Danny and uncle Wiley have been racing with VRA for some time now. Blake began sharing the # 10 car of his dad’s last year and has quickly begun to make a name for himself. He currently leads the VRA 360 points and has looked very good the few times I have had a chance to see him. This week he got a ride in one of Nadine Keller’s Black Widow Racing back-up cars and did an outstanding job. He was 11th quick, finished third in his heat and started on the pole in the feature. He ran his low line consistently all night, and ran second for the longest time, ignoring the lap cars and other contenders, finally finishing 4th for a very special first time with the CRA heroes. How long before dad get’s him his own car with a 410 in it? Look for him to drive this car one or two more times before the year ends.

Tough luck runners of the week were many as “things happen” and it hits every pit in time. J Hicks got unlucky early in the main as he had a flat on a yellow, went to the work area, but had to wait for the tire to arrive, and they started without him. He had 2nd quick time, ran 2nd in his heat and was seventh on the starting grid. He was moving up when he went to get the new rubber, alas.

Danny Sheridan must be shaking his head after running a strong fifth up until the very last lap and getting shunted back to 13th at the checkered. Danny qualified 6th quick, ran 3rd in his heat and started fifth in the main. He worked hard to maintain that position with some nifty driving, but in racing sometimes you must remain positive when “things happen”! Last week he won the Bandit main at his hometown Santa Maria track, but he wants to beat the CRA heroes in the worst way. He will, but earning your stripes isn’t easy with these guys. He deserved more, but then there is always next week.

There were a few more that had “stuff” hold them back, but 34 year old Clark Templeman III was out to take a shot at the visiting CRA boys. He has been very quick in this brand new car and now has Gary G Howard working on his motors, so he had high expectations when the night began. His 360 motor powered him to 4th in his heat and he started 18th in the main. Unfortunately, at the same time Ballard turned over, he was in the front stretch wall hard enough to get a tow back to the pits and finished for the night. As for Gary, we haven’t seen him in a long time and it was fun watching him, his dad Glenn and brother Steve at the races together again. Gary might be best known for driving the # 7car of Jim & Sandra Bartosh back in the Ascot days and one particular story about his “earthquake seat” interview one time.

Hobie Conway is a no nonsense track worker of many years experience at Ventura Raceway. She handles her Kawasaki 4 wheeler with zest, determination and a quick sense of urgency not seen by many in her position. These days you have to check and see if she is working or driving a sprint car as she now does both. This race she tried the 360 motor against the big boys and did pretty good. She didn’t make the main, so was back on her quad for the man event to do her other job. She is a very happy person with her racing and when she wins her first race, watch out.

Rodney Argo has been turning some heads since he brought out his dad’s latest Ford powered sprinter this year in blue. He’s had a few top ten’s but most recently he has been starting up front and running well until problems come for a visit. Last week he was leading when his power steering locked up. This week he got jostled and then quickly on his head for an early end to his night. Rodney has a very strong car and a great car owner, so maybe it’s time for him to get some luck. The Don Argo Special may be putting Rodney on the podium very soon.

Shiny tires continue to dazzle the crowd as teams put sharp looking colorful cars in the main event each week. A toss-up on the best one this week as Mike Kirby and Rip Williams both got a lot of votes. Rodney Argo, Steve Conrad, J Hicks, Cory Kruseman, Tony Jones and Steve Ostling were the best of the rest. It is one of those things that makes the USAC/CRA cars the sharpest in racing. Take a notice next time and see who you think is baby oiled the best.

On a perfect night by the ocean, while other tracks around the state suffered rainouts, the big crowd enjoyed great racing and an early drive home. The 10 o’clock curfew gets everyone in and out early and you just can’t beat the racing on the small quarter mile bullring known as “the best little dirt track by the sea”. What could be better but sitting in the grandstands with a view of the race track, and beyond it the green hillside of Ventura in front of you and the Ocean off to the right with surfers, boaters and swimmers at play? Certainly nothing I can conjure up.

Earlier in the night Damion took two hot laps to honor Marge Bromme, the mother of his crew chief Bruce Bromme Jr, who passed away last Tuesday. Marge, often called “Mom” by all those who loved her, was the heart of the Bromme Racing team from the beginning. She collected and organized albums of racing items like decals, programs, business cards, hat pins and much more to document her love for the sport. She leaves behind her son Bruce, his wife Pam and her pooch Misty. Any donations can be made to: Hospice Partners of Central Coast, 277 South Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 92401. There will be a celebration of her life at her home in Paso Robles on June 5th, the day after the Hanford race. Look for the time and location to be posted soon.

I haven’t had a good soap box rant n’ rave moment in a while, so let me begin. There are two things that get my dander up today that affect our beloved dirt track racing. One is the new Silver Crown big track pavement car that looks like a super-modified car gone wild. No it isn’t at all like the girls gone wild tapes that you have in your library, but it is out of control like them. My opinion is that NASCAR is getting into our business with this venture, and I don’t like it. Not to mention I am not a fan of aerodynamic round track racecars that often look like wedges. I like them to look, well traditional, not modern! It’s all about money, so why am I not surprised? OK it’s really boils down to only one thing that I am heated up about……..NASCAR!

How do YOU like them running on OUR Saturday nights under the lights while we try to grow fans for our racing at the same time? We can’t switch to Sundays and heaven forbid that fans really would prefer to stay home and watch parking lot events on their big screen TV’s instead of venturing out to see the best damn racing on the planet. Do you feel my pain? The all powerful NASCAR seems to be attempting to take over the racing world, where is Darth Vader when you need him? There is no doubt that the hype of NASCAR is huge, but how many NASCAR fans have ever been to a real race? How many have ever been to a sprint car race on dirt? Oh the list of my gripes goes on and on, but is this the beginning of more Saturday night box car specials to ruin our parade or is there something we can do about it?

They have the bucks, the TV and the eyes and ears of the racing world. So here’s the plan, get your schedule together, pick out as many USAC/CRA races you can go to, and bring someone new each time. Take a trip to Hanford, Santa Maria, Manzanita or any of the other great venues we race at, and enjoy the racing with some others who are devoted to what we have. What is that? The best damn racing on the planet. Go get it! OK, I am down and calm now.

Mrs Wags and I will miss the next Perris race on May 14, heaven forbid, Wags misses a race on purpose, but don’t read anything into it, just a promise to be somewhere else that is important. We will miss being there, but surely some one will sends us some pics and we can read others view of what will surely be billed as “the Demon against the world” event of all time! Have fun.

VALVOLINE USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR SERIES RACE RESULTS: May 7, 2005 – Ventura, California – Ventura Raceway

QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Rip Williams, 3, Jory-11.999; 2. J.Hicks, 66, Miller-11.999; 3. Tony Jones, 87, Vermeer/Ferreira-12.018; 4. Charles Davis, Jr., 8A, Smiley-12.054; 5. Damion Gardner, 50, Chaffin-12.065; 6. Danny Sheridan, 18, Kittle-12.132; 7. Mike Spencer, 44, Engstrom-12.137; 8. Rodney Argo, 19, Argo-12.203; 9. Alan Ballard, 97, Ballard-12.226; 10. Mike Kirby, 4, Alexander-12.244; 11. Blake Miller, 5x, Keller-12.250; 12. Cory Kruseman, 38, Crossno-12.250; 13. Rickie Gaunt, 2A, Smiley-12.280; 14. R.J. Johnson, 15AZ, Martin-12.326; 15. Seth Wilson, 17, Racing Optics-12.369; 16. Dan Hillberg, 82, Hillberg-12.391; 17. Steve Ostling, 5, Keller-12.399; 18. Jimmy Crawford, 17C, Crawford-12.412; 19. Ronnie Case, 0, Shoemaker-12.431; 20. Clark Templeman III, 18T, Luport-12.457; 21. Bobby Graham, 14, Lancaster-12.489; 22. Nadine Keller, 16, Keller-12.709; 23. Steve Conrad, 91, Ferro-12.795; 24. Ron Bach, 48, Bach-12.916; 25. Joshua Williams, 34, Williams-13.249; 26. Hobie Conway, 29x, Conway-13.273; 27. Dennis Rodriguez, 20, Rowher-13.402; 28. Shawn Kautz, 29, Kautz-13.431; 29. Ron Tjaarda, 0X, Kruseman-14.341.

FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Gardner, 2. Ostling, 3. R.Williams, 4. Gaunt, 5. J.Williams, 6. Tjaarda, 7. Ballard, 8. Graham. NT

SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Kirby, 2. Hicks, 3. Sheridan, 4. Johnson, 5. Conway, 6. Keller, 7. Crawford. NT

THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Conrad, 2. Case, 3. Miller, 4. Spencer, 5. Rodriguez, 6. Wilson, 7. Jones. NT

FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Kruseman, 2. Argo, 3. Bach, 4. Templeman, 5. Kautz, 6. Davis, 7. Hillberg. NT

SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Jones, 2. Davis, 3. Crawford, 4. Wilson, 5. Ballard, 6. J.Williams, 7. Kautz, 8. Keller, 9. Rodriguez, 10.Hillberg, 11. Conway, 12, Tjaarda. NT

FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Damion Gardner, 2. Mike Kirby, 3. Cory Kruseman, 4. Blake Miller, 5. Mike Spencer, 6. Tony Jones, 7. Rip Williams, 8. Charles Davis, Jr., 9. Rickie Gaunt, 10. Alan Ballard, 11. Seth Wilson, 12. Steve Conrad, 13. Danny Sheridan, 14. R.J. Johnson, 15. Steve Ostling, 16. Ron Bach, 17. Ronnie Case, 18. J.Hicks, 19. Rodney Argo, 20. Jimmy Crawford, 21. Clark Templeman III. NT

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-28 Kirby, Laps 29-30 Gardner.

NEW USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR STANDINGS: 1-R.Williams-571; 2-Kirby-541; 3-Davis-537; 4-Gardner-521; 5-Kruseman-503; 6-Gaunt-395; 7-Jones-321; 8-Josh Ford-310; 9-Wilson-299; 10-Spencer-297.

NEXT USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR RACE: May 14 – Perris (CA) Auto Speedway

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