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By Ken Wagner 6/12/05

On a night with a packed house and 32 cars in the race at the PAS Super Rickie Gaunt took the lead on lap 12 of the 30 lap Valvoline USAC/CRA Main Event and held off first Damion Gardner and then Rip Williams for his second win of the season. Rickie had some big leads during the last half of the race, but with a little more than a lap to go, he almost gave it all away with a stuttering move that left the crowd breathless. He recovered and went on to win. In the winners circle he gave us another one liner for history: “I am such a Jackass, I almost didn’t win this “SOB”!

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It was a great win for the “Blues Brothers” team of Tony Smiley’s as Rickie drove the wheels off of the Smiley Crane Service, Extreme Chassis Co., Chargin,Extreme # 2A sprinter. This gives him 18 wins on my all time list and the third with the USAC/CRA bunch. His teammate made it a great night for the team when Charles Davis Jr finished fifth after a few weeks of frustrated finishes for both drivers.

When you talk about Rip Williams, the Ripper continues to bring it every week. The defending champion once again added to his point lead as he came from his seventh starting spot to grab second place and push hard for his 101st win. It didn’t happen this time in his John Jory Corporation, Weld Wheels, Stinger, Shaver, black # 3 car, but how long before he rings the bell for the most victories all time on the west coast. He started the night out with third quick time and won the Snap-on Tools trophy dash. He then overcame an overheating motor in the main event when the red flag flew with a few laps to go and his car spewing liquid. The team had to cool down the power plant so he could continue, and he went on to finish on the podium for the third straight week.

Cory Kruseman dropped out of the feature at Hanford last week when a titanium bolt broke. This week in his heat, the bolt was OK, but the place where it hooked on the chassis broke. He got it fixed and then won the semi to start tenth in the ITI Performance, Sander Engineering, Bullitt, Downing Engines, red # 38. Charging thru the pack as he can, was tough with everyone showing their elbows this week, but he continues to move up. It moved him into second in points as this team is focused on winning a championship.

There were some great driving jobs this week and especially noteworthy were the two youngsters running up front again. R.J. Johnson has put in his rookie time getting himself in position to do better all year. The last three weeks have been exceptional for the young 19 year old recent high school graduate. R. J. was third in the 50 lapper at Perris two weeks ago, then grabbed another podium slot with a third at Hanford last week. Now at Perris he had his best qualifying effort there, a fifth in the order, and started 6th in the Main Event. He worked it hard dicing with the heroes for 4th and continues to make noise with the talented drivers in this club.

David Cardey tried a new coil over car a few weeks ago and after having a little crash in it, switched back to the 4 bar car and is doing a great job. He followed last weeks 5th at Hanford with a sixth this week and did it with a sticking throttle! He had a good night starting with his 11th qualifying spot and transferred from his heat to the main to start on the second row next to the eventual winner. He won a bet last week with “Freddie the fan” who said he would dye his hair blue if David finished in the top 5! Freddie looked great in his new “do”!

Tony “Cowboy ” Jones” finished 9th this week and you might wonder why he was so happy in the pits afterward. His family, including his sister Emily who we all miss out here, was visiting from Indiana, so that should be one reason, but there was more. He was second in his heat after a disappointing qualifying time and started 21st in the main event. Tony said they found something and he rushed forward to about 6th before a restart slash sent him backwards, but he was still the hard charger of the night when it was all over. Maybe we will see him on the top of the podium soon.

Along with the good must come some bad, and the list was long this week. At the top of the “aw shucks” list right now are Damion Gardner, Danny Sheridan and Bobby Cody. All three can’t seem to find the sweet spot on the track right now. After tearing up the troops for four races in a row, the last three have met with disaster for the Demon. Oh he is still setting fast time everywhere he goes, but finishing has turned out to be a hard one for the driver probably feared most in the CRA right now. The talented driver has been caught up in incidents the last two weeks to end his stay in those features, but this week it looked like things would change for him. He won his heat from the back, again, and methodically moved forward from his usual 8th starting spot in the main until he got to second place late in the race. Rickie had a huge lead, but the Demon got on the gas and rode the high cushion around to gobble up the distance between them until there were just a few laps to go, and he was ready to make his move. Unfortunately, the car veered into the third turn wall and he went flying into a wild crash that probably will send this car to the undertakers before the next race.

Danny Sheridan hasn’t had much “Showtime” recently and vowed to change that this week. He ran second in his heat to earn the outside front row spot next to Steve Ostling in the Black Widow racing entry. Steve took the lead early, but Danny led lap one and continued on looking great in the Kittle sponsored entry. On lap 12, the winner got by him, but he still had a good lead on the third place car and was doing a great job of keeping the spot lap after lap. On lap 27 disaster struck when he caught a rut and became the “ridee” instead of the racer on a end over crash that looked worse than it was. Up to that point he showed what he can do very well and was mentally ready for a good finish. Not this week, but next week he is on his home track and look for him to show his stuff!

Bobby Cody is still searching for that elusive first win, but first he has to get some consistency going. The new car for this season still has a mind of its own, yet with Harlan Willis tuning help, things have really improved. He made the transfer to the main and was ready to kick some booty, but a hole appeared in the block before he could complete a lap and the trailer got an early visit from the # 41 car. Tough luck, but he still has his smile, although it isn’t easy from his view. Bobby needs a little fun in his life and that means a win.

In other not so good experiences, some were not as bad, but still painful when they happened. Former local driver, Troy Cline, visiting from Mooresville, North Carolina was out early in the main when he lost a drive line. That malady hit Seth Wilson also, but that was after losing a muffler earlier and he was out. A broken rear end on the Alan Ballard entry sent him packing for Bakersfield early. Mike Kirby had his mount come out of gear, and before they could attempt to fix it, since there was no two lap wait on this one, he was in the work area and done when the green flag flew. Jimmy Crawford pulled in early with an unknown problem and Rodney Argo’s fast Ford broke and he was done as well. Tough night for many, but as they say, that’s racing! Newcomer Robert Walters first time racing a 410 sprint car was very interesting. He managed to stay out of trouble, but flipped the car all the way over and landing on his tires, and drove into the pits unaided!

Josh Ford has decided to stay in town more often and run the local USAC/CRA series the rest of the year. He will still go run the big races back east like Indiana Sprint week and more, but is glad he can stay nearer to home base more. He didn’t have a great night, finishing 12th, but the talented driver will make some noise and wants to win his first race, either here, there or both, very soon. This should spice up things with one more strong weekly car in the mix for victories.

Shiny tires this week were special with the teams of Steve Ostling, Mike Kirby, Rip Williams, David Cardey, Damion Gardner, Jimmy Crawford, Jordan Hermansader and Jason York doing a sparking job. My hats always off to the spectacular displays of speed and beauty at the sprint car races, and these cars are presented to the fans as the best of the lot.

Next week we go back to the tiny 1/3 mile oval at Santa Maria, one of my all time favorite tracks with the scenic view of the track and the surrounding areas. The cool air will make for some great racing, so fans, put it on the road for this one.

VALVOLINE USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR SERIES RACE RESULTS: June 11, 2005 – Perris, California – Perris Auto Speedway

QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Damion Gardner, 50, Chaffin-16.635; 2. Charles Davis, Jr., 8A, Smiley-16.853; 3. Rip Williams, 3, Jory-16.917; 4. Cory Kruseman, 38, Crossno-16.964; 5. R.J. Johnson, 15AZ, Martin-16.986; 6. Mike Kirby, 4, Alexander-17.007; 7. Alan Ballard, 97, Ballard-17.042; 8. Rodney Argo, 19, Argo-17.045; 9. Seth Wilson, 17, Racing Optics-17.074; 10. Mike Spencer, 44, Engstrom-17.115; 11. David Cardey, 59, Giardina-17.155; 12. Rickie Gaunt, 2A, Smiley-17.163; 13. Jason York, 25N, York-17.179; 14. Danny Sheridan, 18, Kittle-17.285; 15. Steve Ostling, 5, Keller-17.295; 16. Josh Ford. 73. Ford-17.359; 17. Jimmy Crawford, 17C, Crawford-17.407; 18. Danny Ebberts, 77, Acosta-17.447; 19. Ronnie Clark, 33x, Clark-17.472; 20. Jordan Hermansader, 92, Sertich-17.473; 21. Johnny Rodriguez, 7, Priestley-17.480; 22. Troy Cline, 11, Cline-17.481; 23. Tony Jones, 87, Vermeer/Ferreira-17.535; 24. Bobby Cody, 41 Cody-17.607; 25. Jimmy Thornell, 25x, Ruth-17.680; 26. Randy Waitman, 64, Waitman-17.838; 27. Bobby Graham, 14, Lancaster-17.875; 28. Joshua Williams, 34, Williams-17.928; 29. Nadine Keller, 16, Keller-18.078; 30. Brandon Springstead, 36, Springstead-18.103; 31. Richard Rose, 8N, Ziegler-18.411; 32. Robert Walters, 65, Walters-20.168.

DASH: (3 laps) 1. R.Williams, 2. Gardner, 3. Davis, 4. Kruseman. :51.98

FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Gardner, 2. Crawford, 3. Rodriguez, 4. Johnson, 5. Thornell, 6. Wilson, 7. York, 8. Keller. NT

SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Cline, 2. Sheridan, 3. Ebberts, 4. Kirby, 5. Davis, 6. Spencer, 7. Springstead, 8. Waitman. 2:56.64

THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Ostling, 2. Jones, 3. R.Williams, 4. Cardey, 5. Clark, 6. Ballard, 7. Rose, 8. Graham. 2:55.90

FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Ford, 2. Hermansader, 3. Gaunt, 4. Cody, 5. Argo, 6. Kruseman, 7. Walters, 8. J.Williams. NT

SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Kruseman, 2. Argo, 3. Davis, 4. Ballard, 5. Spencer, 6. York, 7. Wilson, 8. Waitman, 9. J.Williams, 10. Thornell, 11. Keller, 12. Springstead, 13. Rose, 14. Clark. 3:31.75. 3:31.75

FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Rickie Gaunt, 2. Rip Williams, 3. Cory Kruseman, 4. R.J. Johnson, 5. Charles Davis, Jr., 6. David Cardey, 7. Steve Ostling, 8. Jason York, 9. Tony Jones, 10. Jordan Hermansader, 11. Mike Spencer, 12. Josh Ford, 13. Johnny Rodriguez, 14. Danny Sheridan, 15. Damion Gardner, 16. Rodney Argo, 17. Mike Kirby, 18. Danny Ebberts, 19. Jimmy Crawford, 20. Alan Ballard, 21. Seth Wilson, 22. Troy Cline, 23. Bobby Cody. NT

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-11 Sheridan, Laps 12-30 Gaunt.

NEW USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR STANDINGS: 1-R.Williams-877; 2-Kruseman-787; 3-Gardner-777; 4-Davis-753; 5-Kirby-742; 6-Gaunt-618; 7-Jones-447; 8-Johnson-443; 9-Spencer-430; 10-Wilson-427.

NEXT USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR RACE: June 18 – Santa Maria (CA) Speedway

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