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By Ken Wagner 6/26/05

On a night when you live and die by the slide job, everyone knew it would come down to a big slider before the winner was crowned this week at Perris Auto Speedway. When the track slicked over, and the only way to fly was with a wicked slider, it got very interesting. Damion Gardner threw the last one and it took care of Cory Kruseman in the 17th Valvoline USAC/CRA race of the year. It was his seventh win of the season, leading the CRA in that category.

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The Demon drove the Temecula Valley Pipe & Supply, Arizona Race Mart, Eagle, Shaver # 50 like he owned it as usual and it all came down to who would back off first. Neither he nor Cory did on that 19th lap incident that sent Cory into the wall and done for the night. In victory circle Gardner climbed out of his car with boo’s coming from the crowd and explained. He said “it was going to be slider, slider until one of us gave up, and I wanted to win as much as he did.”

Damion’s penchant for setting fast time was on again as he set the 13th of the season out of 16 qualifying events and won his seventh CRA of the season. This broke a streak of several races where he didn’t fare well at all. He is now only 79 points behind the Ripper and is back in 2nd place in points.

It all started in the heats with several battles settled by slide job exclamation points. Kruseman and Mike Kirby had a good battle for the lead of their heat when WHAM, that race was settled by a door closing slide job. The slickening track forced the movers and shakers to make dramatic decisions if they wanted to move up, and the result was a night of sneaky moves, some clean and some ill fated, but the crowd got to see awesome driving skills at work.

Tony “the Cowboy” Jones, a driver who use to be known often as my “podium man”, made only his second podium of the year coming in second place this week. He was 4th quick and third in his heat in the Ferreira Dairy, Standard Feeding, Maxim, RC Performance # 87 before lining up sixth on the starting grid in the main event. He jumped to second on the second start before a little shuffle pushed him back to 6th and he began coming forward in the middle of the race. He lost a cylinder and wasn’t able to challenge the winner for his first win of the season on the lap 28 restart, but cruised home for his best finish of the year. He has it going his way right now and is looking for his first win very soon.

Mike Kirby has been struggling since he crashed at Manzanita in May. His car owner found an old Stinger that they once owned and bought it back for this week. The results were both fruitful and put him back near the front again. Unfortunately, this race wasn’t without some extreme rebuilding of the car after an opening lap scramble put eleven cars sandwiched together on the front stretch. He actually rolleded up on the top of Steve Ostling’s cage for a bit before crashing back to earth and ruining the front end. There were a bunch of people helping tear the front end off before the wrecker could get to him, so when he got to the work area, they only had to put on a new front end and other assorted pieces. He started 12th on the original start and would eventually work up to third, but had no brakes the last part of the race, so had his hands full. He was very happy with the L.A. Prep–La Villa Restaurant/Stinger /RC Performance # 4 silver bullet they pulled together for this race.

Point leader Rip Williams was running about fifth or so when a yellow flag stopped the action on lap 28. He promptly slowed to a stop out of gas on the front stretch. It was moving towards curfew and the crew had to rush to get him back out, but they did and he ended up 8th.

The good, the bad and the ugly is an apt description of what transpired with this race. The good was watching Tom Stansberry, a VRA champion in his 360 car, come of age. The Mopar power has been unleashed in the Ron Bach owned # 48 and it was loose this week. He was extremely fast coming out of turn two and made a lot of passes there coming from his 21st starting spot in the Main Event to grab the hard charger award of the week and finish 4th for his best ever finish with the 410 heroes. Great job by the young lion.

The bad was obviously the winning pass to some as no one wants to see anyone get crashed out in our racing. It was the will of two drivers, neither one wanting to back off, and both going for the win and gathering points for their championship aspirations. Winners have to go for it or they aren’t our heroes. On many of the wicked slide jobs during the night, most getting the deed done to them, backed off. This incident is what happens when you don’t and they know the ramifications if they don’t. Two strong drivers going for it is a race and that is what we want, isn’t it?

The ugly was watching the early “scramble” eliminate Steve Ostling, Jordan Hermansader, Seth Wilson and R.J. Johnson. It all happened when the pole sitter came from the bottom to the top coming to the starters green flag and the second row outside starting Ostling couldn’t avoid his right rear as he was on the move to the front and he popped up over it. Then the reverberations from his trying to get control of his mount,as he slowed, were felt by the other ten unlucky cars as they all seemed to be going for the same spot on the track. It was a nasty looking mess with no one hurt and a lot of broken parts, so buy the video, Jeff got all of it!

Black Widow Racing team’s Nadine Keller seems to have a bulls-eye painted on the back of her # 16 car the last two weeks. At Santa Maria last week in her heat she was gassing it hard around the corners and racing with the Demon, who was trying to go under her to pick up a position, when a car came up too fast on her and launched himself off her fuel cell and also sent her on her head. She came back to run the main event and he didn’t return. This week she was leading her heat handily until the last lap and going down the back stretch, it looked like she got it a little sideways, and before you knew it, another car came up too fast on her, again, and knocked her into a spin and also caused another driver to meet the wall. Nadine has come along way and her improvement is obvious, but she’s not getting any luck as impatient drivers are making her crew pay dearly for the incidents.

Danny Ebberts has been very aggressive the last two weeks giving his front bumper a workout as he runs up front. Last weeks fourth and this weeks fifth place finishes have been his best with the club as he concentrates on going forward. He missed a Silver Crown race, so maybe he plans to stick around more?

Well the big fireworks show at Perris is almost here and a 50 lapper precedes it. It will be a wild time with our American flag flying all over the facility like normal. It will be the last race for CRA until the Indiana Sprint week is done on July 22nd and they return to the PAS on the 23rd. It will be a packed house, so you can get your tickets ahead of time by calling the track, or just get there early as some fun and games will be out in the midway area before hand.

VALVOLINE USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR SERIES RACE RESULTS: June 25, 2005 ¬ Perris, California ¬ Perris Auto Speedway

QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Damion Gardner, 50, Chaffin-17.276; 2. Charles Davis, Jr., 8A, Smiley-17.473; 3. Rip Williams, 3, Jory-17.495; 4. Tony Jones, 87, Vermeer/Ferreria-17.507; 5. Mike Spencer, 44, Engstrom-17.564; 6. Rickie Gaunt, 2A, Smiley-17.593; 7. Steve Ostling, 5, Keller-17.670; 8. Cory Kruseman, 38, Crossno-17.672; 9. Alan Ballard, 97, Ballard-17.679; 10. Bobby Cody, 41 Cody-17.800; 11. Danny Ebberts, 77, Acosta-17.806; 12. Mike Kirby, 4, Alexander-17.808; 13. David Cardey, 59, Giardina-17.969; 14. Seth Wilson, 17, Racing Optics-18.065; 15. Jordan Hermansader, 92, Sertich-18.067; 16. R.J. Johnson, 15AZ, Martin-18.128; 17. Jason York, 25N, York-18.131; 18. Jimmy Crawford, 17C, Crawford-18.154; 19. Bobby Graham, 14, Lancaster-18.198; 20. Jimmy Thornell, 25, Thornell-18.232; 21. Tom Stansberry, 48, Bach-18.245; 22. Ryan Devitt, 35, Blenkarn-18.270; 23. Nadine Keller, 16, Keller-18.440; 24. Ronnie Case, 8, Case-18.686; 25. Randy Waitman, 64, Waitman-18.783; 26. Joshua Williams, 34, Williams-18.822; 27. Shawn Kautz, 29, Kautz-19.002; 28. Richard Rose, 8N, Ziegler-19.174; 29. Brandon Thomson, 24, Thomson-19.192; 30. Jim Giardina, 58, Giardina-19.454; 31. Matt Stewart, 85, Stewart-20.110; 32. Jim Thomson, 91, Thomson-20.305; 33. Josh Ford, 73, Ford-NT.

DASH: (3 laps) 1. Jones, 2. R.Williams, 3. Davis, 4. Gardner. :54.24

FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Cardey, 2. Gardner, 3. Stansberry, 4. York, 5. Spencer, 6. Ballard, 7. Waitman, 8. B.Thomson. NT

SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Cody, 2. Crawford, 3. Gaunt, 4. Davis, 5. Wilson, 6. J.Williams, 7. Devitt, 8. Giardina. 3:06.11

THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Ebberts, 2. Ostling, 3. Graham, 4. Kautz, 5. Keller, 6. Hermansader, 7. R.Williams, 8. Stewart. NT

FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Kruseman, 2. Kirby, 3. Jones, 4. Johnson, 5. Case, 6. Thornell, 7. Rose. 3:06.35

SEMI: (12 laps) 1. R.Williams, 2. Balalrd, 3. Spencer, 4. Wilson, 5. Hermansader, 6. Thornell, 7. Case, 8. J.Williams, 9. Keller, 10. Giardina, 11. Waitman, 12. Stewart, 13. Devitt, 14. Rose, 15. Ford, 16. B.Thomson, 17. J.Thomson.

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

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-5 Cody, Laps 6-18 Kruseman, Laps 19-30 Gardner.

NEW USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR STANDINGS: 1-R.Williams-992; 2-Gardner-913; 3-Kruseman-844; 4-Kirby-842; 5-Davis-828; 6-Gaunt-662; 7-Jones-513; 8-Ballard-502; 9-Spencer-479; 10-Wilson-476.

NEXT USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR RACE: July 2 ¬ Perris (CA) Auto Speedway

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