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After spending a few warm days in dryslicksville Ohio, the return to Perris and a full moon show of SCRA style racing, was a crowning choice for this wag. Cory Kruseman didn't bring back any pelts from the woodsy mid America tour, but he was up for the challenge at his home track from the Demon, Damion Gardner, and won his 56th hard earned SCRA victory of his career. This broke the tie with Rip Williams for the lead in all time SCRA wins. Perhaps the Demon has driven the defending champion to a higher level of driving to keep his crown, especially after the packed house viewed this wild finishing barnburner.

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Cory drove the WorldGate Network Systems, Camland, TCR, number 1 car to 4th quick, then was 2nd in his heat and 4th in the dash before making his determined run in the main. First, he had to get by a fast Mike Kirby and Rip Williams, then make up a large lead for a run at the Demon, who was light years ahead looking for his 2nd straight win. When Cory finally caught up to the fast NoCal racer, it was quickly a man-to-man battle all of it's own. Damion doesn't intimidate much, so when the Kruser made one of his usual dynamic passes for the win with several laps to go, the Demon said oh no you don't! They then passed each other high and low several times as each kept setting himself up for the "last pass win" scenario that was about to follow. Cory officially led the last four laps, but Damion grabbed the lead momentarily on every one of them. It was classic as Cory would diamond off the top of the turns down low and Damion flying as high as possible to maintain the speed, an awesome four laps for sure.

Finally, with the white flag flying, and neither driver backing off, the Demon executed a bump and run move into the lead. The last corner heroics by both drivers made hearts jump into throats with their finish line antics. Damion had the lead into turn four but was way high up on the cushion and Cory was cutting down to the low land territory he loves so well. As they approached the checkered flag, they bumped together with Cory squirting ahead and crossing the line first for the win and maintaining his forward motion easily. On the other hand, Damion looked like he was going for a ride after the bump sent him sideways, but somehow managed to rein in his out of control mount and continued on. Cory very "slowly" worked his way around to the winner's circle and was probably taking that time to calm down from what must have been his biggest adrenaline rush in some time. Cory knew he had gone to battle and won what might be the most exciting finish of the 2002 season. The Kruser showed why he is rated number one in the country with his performance! He is only 12 points behind The Gasman as the summer sizzles.

The Demon put his COY Construction, Aldrich Air, C M Excavating, # 20 in the thick of things early with a fast time of 17.379. He followed that with a heat race passing clinic and then a 2nd in the JE Pistons Passing Masters Dash before starting on the front row and blitzing into the lead quickly in the 30 lap main event. He stretched out his lead as the heavy hitters behind him waged war to see if they could catch him. When the Kruser cleared into second place and then hammered the gas more to catch up to him, they put on a show for the fans that was smokin' electric. The Demon has been hot and it took Kruseman's best shot to beat him. Damion is still trying to get his tour money together and put his new t-shirt on sale this week to help make that happen.

John Scott got his Hollywood "tude" on and drove the wheels off the Pace Electronics, Pro Prep, Design Works Custom Graphics, # 83 this week. Hollywood is still looking for his first win of the year. He had a disappointing last race where his team replaced a motor and then had tough luck in the main. The year hasn't been near what he envisioned, but with his outstanding effort this week, it looks like he is ready to challenge for another win in this tough circuit. John went forward, then back a little in the main, then recovered at the end to beat Kirby to the flag for his third podium finish of the year. John wants that next win bad and is ready to pounce on it.

The next four in the finish were all equally capable of winning this week, but had each other to deal with. Mike Kirby, Rip Williams, Steve Ostling and the Gasman were in each other's face trying to make the race theirs, but couldn't quite pull by the others to get into the podium money. Mike Kirby was fast all night and ended up 4th with a strong ride in his Statewide Towing # 5. Rip Williams had a new car out, after his wall banging incident last week, and it was just what the Ripper ordered with a 5th place finish in the main, without the yellow chassis color. One wonders if that bright yellow will return. Steve Ostling was in the hunt all night, moving up several rows to battle the big boys, before finishing 6th and staying only 6 points behind point leader, Richard Griffin. Griffin was right there as well with this group of heavy hitters, who all took their shots this week at each other and put on another great show for the fans.

Mike Spencer has had a slow year so far, but a new motor might have changed all that. After qualifying 26th out of 35 cars this week, he stepped it up with some aggressive driving. He made the main thru the semi and started 20th. From there he got it rolling and finished 10th with some great moves earning the hard charger of the week award. Great job by the smooth driving second year driver

Adam "Maverick" Mitchell returned to action with his last of three Avenger chassis cars he ordered for this season. One was destroyed, another battered but repairable, and now he hopes to make this new one dance to a different tune. This week the prristine white "rabbit in the snow" car was fast outa da box as he ran 11th in qualifying, 4th in the semi and a racy 8th in the feature. He showed many why he keeps trying for the brass ring, and could be one more to achieve that first big win this year.

As usual, some didn't get positive results this week. Michael Hinrichsen showed me one connecting rod that was a stark realization that his motor had expelled some parts this week, right out the side of the block! Michael and dad Rick received the $95 of Wagsbucks to buy some fuel for the car, but it won't solve their immediate problem, fixing the grenaded bullet. They are hoping to go on tour and took this setback with calm smiles, but will have to do some hard work to get this one repaired or replaced.

Several others had tough luck this race. Danny Sheridan was a rocket in his heat, holding off the Kruser for a big win. He enjoyed his best action since joining the Ron Didonato, Spintech Motorsports team. The "new" Stinger chassis has made a world of difference, but in the main event he was involved in one of those "incidents" that eliminated him and several others, before he could give us the Showtime Sheridan we all know. Keith Williamson also seemed to have his fastest Ford car ever under him when he passed his way thru the Semi to the main. There, he too was in that "early incident" and retired with a smashed header and maybe more. Jack Dearmond Jr also was eliminated in the same salvo, his car being beat up perhaps the most. Charles Davis Jr , ditto the same pileup, also was eliminated, but only after he re-fired and then pulled back to the work area, done for the night. Rickie Gaunt was eliminated when he made a move he thought better of after the resulting wrecker ride he didn't enjoy. He was fast. Tony Jones had a possible motor problem cause him to pull it in early in the main, that after flying and trying to move to the front from his 8th starting spot.

Rookie Bobby Cody was 2nd quick this week as he continues to impress with his improvement on the track. He was hard on the gas early in his heat, leading the way before fading to 6th, then came back to run 5th in the semi and 14th in the feature. He is doing very well for a new rookie. Bobby Graham had to go to the back twice in Glenn Crossno's # 38, yet still came back from his track encounters to finish 11th.

The Wagtimes Shiny Tire Awards for the week went to Danny Sheridan and Rickie Gaunt as the "Wags Girls" continue to look for the best shiners on the track. Krista Bandy, Mallory Gardner and Emily Jones looked em' over tonight and picked these worthy winners from a big group of sharp looking sprinters. Thanks girls, and thanks to the crews as they spend extra time making the rainbow parade great each week.

My week started at Terre Haute in Indiana, on my way to Ohio and then Perris. Tony Elliott won there on the best track of four I saw in four nights of racing, and it was still black and reflecting in the end. The next three nights were the Ohio Nationals, a non-wing 4-day event in wing country that included the clincher at Eldora that I passed on, choosing to go home to Perris instead. It could have been named the Dust Bowl Nationals because of the dry slick tracks and huge dust trails the sprinters left behind. J J Yeley won two of the four nights plus one 2nd and a 3rd, so he was as hot as he can be, now leading the USAC midget points and 2nd in the sprints. He also won two midget companion shows, one of which his car, and Dave Darland's team car, failed tech, and was 2nd and 4th in the other two. Is he on a roll, absolutely? Perhaps we should change his name to J J The Rocket, that's what he looked like back there on those slick surfaces. For an encore at Limaland on Friday night, he duplicated Super Rickie Gaunt's "tommy tipover in the winner's circle" at Cottage Grove a few years ago when he spun and flipped over on his top, climbing out to stand on top of the car and pose for the crowd. The huge roar from the crowd was the loudest uproar of the night. J J seems to have that slick track stuff down pat. I wonder if he remembers how to run on a tacky track?

Promoters watering tracks back in Ohio show evidence of water trucks going around and dumping the wet stuff, but they also compact the surface so much that the water runs off or is left well below the sealed over result. Early sun laced track packing, and the big car count qualifying efforts don't help, like Fremont's 2 hour qualifying window, but smooth flat tracks with the dust clouds just don't cut it for the non-wing racing fan. These cars need the tracks tacky to put on the best shows and allow the racing we all want to see. Having your favorite driver run the top of the glazed track, with a freight train behind him trying to dive and pass can be exciting, sort of, but something is missing. The local wing fans don't seem to notice as the excitement of their favorites racing the top at speed seem to be enough. One fan quipped that putting water on the track makes it dustier? No offense, but it could be so much better if they just dig it up and put the water deep in the track, then work it in with sprinters, not heavy trucks and other track equipment not helping it out. I see how hard they work trying to make it good, but heat, wind, wide tired sprinters and the laps put on make it difficult. Maybe, it's just not possible in that climate or perhaps the "Johnson school of track preparation for wing cars" is the way it is. Perhaps if they went to Haubstadt or Bloomington, some lessons could be learned? I was so dusty on Friday at Limaland that I had to change my shirt before I could even leave the track!

Fremont is a nice facility with the covered grandstands, the grassy shaded area behind it complete with picnic tables, and a nice shaped racetrack. The SCRA probably will like the track itself, but it remains to be seen if the surface will hold up for our boys. Will the moisture be there for the wingless warriors or will I get a rerun of the just completed trip. The track was reasonably racy until the heats were done, then it was slick and one grooved for the feature. Attica was a disaster with the billowing dust from the start of hot laps to the finish. They did have a race, but it was hard to figure if even the racers liked it. Limaland is a great looking facility and could be a real winner, if the water were deeper. It was the best of the three, and they watered it for four days prior to the race. That should be a statement on why that sheepsfoot thing just compacts the track and doesn't allow water to be in there very long. I know they try, but would you shoot a tiger with a BB gun?

What do I really think? You already know, but I still enjoyed the four days of racing on a quick trip to the Midwest with fellow Wagtimer, Mike Clark. It is always fun to travel, especially to tracks I never visited, and the three Ohio tracks were all nicely laid out. Troy Rutherford's 7th and 3rd place finishes were a pleasant surprise as he has moved back to Indiana since there are no rides in California for him. I can't believe there is no car for him here at home, but we seem to lose drivers and race mechanics who go where they can run three nights a week instead of three times a month! Troy is driving a good car and should do well in it. Davey Jones was helping his efforts in his pit this week. Davey is finally moving his family back to Indiana this week, another loss of a talented crew chief, so he hopes the next five weeks hurry along and his driver, Bud Kaeding, can hopefully return to racing after his eye injury. Cory Kruseman had a lackluster trip, but was a factor in the last two races. On all three nights he had trouble with his right rear tire sealing over, or losing it's sticky ability. Each night late in the race, the tires went away after a yellow flag slowdown, and so did he, going backward as others fared better with their rubber choice. Gary A Howard has moved to Indiana too, and was driving one of the Hannig Jay Drake and Derik Davidson team cars during the Ohio races. He didn't have much luck, but cars and tracks are different back there and he will get used to it. I like the idea of a non-wing event like Ohio is doing, but I just wish the tracks were heavier. The fans would love it and so would the drivers.

Las Vegas looms on the horizon this week, so prepare for the heat and sandy beach activity there. Don't know if improvements have been made on the very sandy surface we saw the last time, but if it has, we might see something like the Rip Williams win from the back a few years ago there. If you see me (?) come give me some bucks. Thanks to everyone back there who helped me along my four-day quest and hopefully I'll see you all in August, if not before. To Veronica Frost, thanks for the antique sprint car key chain, it's pretty slick. The Shartlesville hotel is closed, so we will have to find something else to amuse ourselves in PA on Sunday.

Don't forget the two race weekend coming up next week as Perris features another 50 lapper on the 4th of July, complete with the best fireworks show I have ever seen! Then two days later, Tulare gets its only visit from the SCRA this season. That track is great and a little birdie told me it is the Demon's favorite track. See you there! The proposed Barona race, filling the lost Bakersfield date in September, will not happen, according to my sources.

1. Richard Griffin 861, 2. Steve Ostling 855, 3. Cory Kruseman 849, 4. Tony Jones 817, 5. Rip Williams 771, 6. Mike Kirby 754, 7. John Scott 747, 8. Jeremy Sherman 704, 9. Damion Gardner 651, 10. Charles Davis, Jr594, 11. Rickie Gaunt 583, 12. Mike English 538, 13. Troy Rutherford 523, 14. Gary W. Howard 458, 15. Bobby Graham 445, 16. Rodney Argo 315, 17. Danny Sheridan 293, 18. Adam Mitchell 252, 19. Bobby Cody 248, 20. Levi Jones 213. Mike Spencer 213.

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