This race had all the right stuff to please the few traveling SCRA fans this week. The only trip to the Tulare Thunderbowl this year was executed well with zest on a racy track. Multiple leaders, dazzling passes, a flip or two and action, action, action. What started out to be a homecoming of sorts for Damion Gardner at the small 3/8 oval, a place he deemed his favorite racetrack, ended with a smashing last four laps. I love this track, and it is a shame we can't go there more often. The crowd looked good, so maybe next year?
Richard "Gasman" Griffin started the year out very slow for him with no victories until Santa Maria just a few weeks ago. Now the Silver City, New Mexico native has won three out of five, all away from the home track of Perris, and is now 70 points ahead of runner-up Steve Ostling. Only a few weeks ago, 40 points separated the top four. Now three of them, Steve, Tony and Cory, have dropped back a ways, but they are only 11 points apart. Things are going the Gasman's way now. Driving the Temecula Pipe & Supply, Arizona Race Mart, Circle C Marketing, # 50, Richard won his 41st SCRA race in his career. His pass for the win, with 4 laps to go, was set up by two earlier "incidents" by Damion and Cory that made the full house stand up and worry. Richard and the whole crew were ready for a break, as early incidents in the year didn't go his way, like this one did. Actually all three victories were "opportunity" wins as each time the leader crashed or changed a tire and moved to the back. It all works out, they say, and several times this year he looked like a winner, but something would derail his chances. The celebration in the pits included a birthday and his car owner passing out some Madera Produce to their close friends! Party on Friday and kick butt on Saturday will be Ron Chaffin's new battle cry.
Mrs Wags got pics, so for Perris click here! and then Tulare click here!
My "Podium Cowboy", Tony Jones, was up there again this race with his 2nd runner-up in two days. Jones is now only one point back of Ostling and third in the SCRA championship points race. Tony made the Ferreira Dairy, Quedow Spring Water, Avenger RaceCars, # 87 run around the top all night putting him in position to win, but came up barely short. He has a two seater now for those who want a little fun in their life! I think all the rides are at The PAS on off days. There is no truth to the rumor that a match race with Tony, Cory and Sills is in the works. None! Nor will they give each other rides! No way? The Jones/Vermeer team reports they are on the bubble as far as going on tour. They need cash to get on the road. If there was a points system for the holiday double header, and you totaled the two race finishes together, Jones would get the overall win with a low net 4. Gaunt would be 2nd with 5 and Griffin third with 7.
Bobby Graham has been around this 410 world for a little while and began his serious SCRA life driving Ben Lancaster's car. When he moved over to the Glenn Crossno, HK Construction, Pace Hallmark, Yucipa Auto & Trailer, # 38, things began to change for him. In recent weeks he gave Glenn and wife Carol their first dash win, and now their first podium. It was his highest finish yet, and he was stoked! What's next for this young man with the biggest smile seen in a while? More of the same and perhaps that elusive first win. Bobby has been in the top five in the last five races, except for an 11th that came after two restarts from the back! He has looked smoother each week in the strong Crossno sprinter and can only get better. His exuberant interview in the winner's circle at the Thunderbowl was refreshing. Perhaps some of the veterans, who have been using "uncalled for" language recently when interviewed in front of the family oriented crowds, could learn a lesson from this youngster.
Steve Ostling set fast time for the second race in a row and was almost on the podium this week, after some great driving that had him all the way up to 3rd before falling back to 5th at the end. He is back into 2nd in points because he and his team have a certain "something" that many teams seem to lack. The Fischer Motorsports team members are all on the same page! Like Bruce Bromme Jr and Harlan Willis, and maybe a few more, it is this cohesiveness that makes champions. Look at the track record of Bruce and Harlan/Mike Nigh with championship years with close nit teams who work together. Bruce and Chris have brought Steve into a great atmosphere and he is shining in their car! Who knows what the rest of the year will bring them, but unless Steve gets a good ride on the tour, his days in the high rent points district are about to end if he stays home.
Damion Gardner dazzled the Tulare crowd this week with his performance from the moment he arrived. He was 2nd quick to Ostling, by just a few hundreds of a second. Then, in his heat he went demonic! A series of "seize the opening" moves brought him from the back to win this one ahead of the Kruser et al. The crowd loved it. He did the same thing in the JE Pistons Passing Masters Dash when he jumped to third as the crowd approved again! In the main event he lined up next to the Kruser and bolted into the lead on the first lap, and then checked out until Cory began to reel him in slowly with 10 laps to go. It didn't look good for the defending champ with four laps to go, but Damion somehow caught the wall on the frontstretch and did a wild end-over thing that rivaled any before it. He was fine, but the car not. Damion was a show and the crew didn't know if something broke on the lap before, or the tire went bad? They said they would be back next week, but that car wouldn't. Cory then had the point, but on the next restart, he and Tony Jones got in a little rubbing match coming out of turn four, with Cory getting upside down with a little help from behind, as they had no where to go. It could have been a lot worse. Jones escaped this melee and would return to restart in front. Cory and Rip Williams, both went to the back, just like at the 4th of July show, and Rip got 12th and Cory 14th.
The bad luck portion of our program this week includes several as usual. Brian Venard got the Wagsbucks of $95 collected after he blew up the drive train for the second week in a row, and in hot laps for cryin' out loud! Danny Sheridan had some kind of an oiling problem that started with breakage with some oil filter "stuff". It was an O ring going bad. Cal Smith spun into the infield in the Semi and it ended his "one of very few nights he has raced" early as well. It also ended Steve Vodden's streak of safe days officiating races. Not since the El Centro flagstand episode has he been injured at work around the dirt tracks. This accident was freaky and ended up with Steve getting a broken wrist while trying to avoid Cal's infield move towards him by jumping over the chalk board to escape. He was never really in danger, and is OK, but still has some broken bones to get over. Gary W Howard broke a rear-end in hot laps, missed qualifying, then went directly to the back of the Semi and made the main. He finished 17th after all the work on the car. Another incident involved Don Blackstone, an WRA driver, who was forced into the wall by another car and bang, he got a ride to the hospital. He was walking around after the races with an arm in a sling. Mike Kirby is still recovering from his bad crash at Vegas and was trying to get off the track in his heat when he got whacked and didn't return from his wrecker ride to his pit. He will have his back checked as it was too painful to drive the small track.
Mike English broke a bad streak of sorts this week as he ran 9th after missing the last several shows with a balky motor. It sounds like maybe itís similar to Lance Gremett's motor shutting off under speed problem. Mike and the crew have worked overtime chasing the "bug" so maybe he can relax and just drive to the front next week. There is one more success story this week. CHARLES DAVIS JR FINISHED AN SCRA RACE!!!!! He ran 8th on the night looking good, and got the hard charger of the week award, making this his best night away from Manzy in a while. This after so many whack's that were suffered by him in recent weeks from all kinds of situations. Troy Rutherford showed up in the Sala 19T car this week and was 5th quick in the car. The brightly colored sprinter was put in the main thru the semi, after just being nosed out of the last transfer in his heat, where Troy ran 20th.
Brian Coelho, Mike Faria and Peter Murphy took the $500 challenge, by a local businessman, to be the highest finishing Golden State wing runner at this race. Only three were able to remove the hardware and take the plunge with SCRA. Surprising? No, that old adage of "do what you do best" keeps them from testing the waters down south without their track grabbing hardware. Peter has done it many times before, but the other two were doing the "wild thang" for the first time. Mike Faria did the best and received the bucks for his 7th place finish. Brian was 16th and Peter was shut out of the main. What, no Kaeding? Many were expecting him.
Jimmy Sills brought out his two-seater to give $ 100 rides. You know how I love that beating the track takes, but some lucky fans got their money's worth! I asked him if he would let Jimmy Oskie give him a ride for the C note? His answer - it'll take a lot more than that! Sills smiled at the thought saying neither would allow the other to chauffeur them. Oskie was ready and he smiled, too. It's what makes both so welcome in the pits with their many fans loving to see them.
Shiny Tires went to Rodney Argo and Jarrett Chaney this race. Jarrett returned for his first run with us in a while. Krista Bandy had pal Malorie Gardner in tow as usual, and with Emily Jones they presented the awards with our two "boys" in tow. It was so great parking in the shade in the pits behind the race haulers and knowing when I got tired later, it would be a quick lights out only a few feet from all the visiting and fun after the pit walk, and it was! I was asleep before the last visitor to our pad was out of the parking lot.
Mrs Wags is starting to think about making one more SCRA T-shirt quilt. The collecting of the shirts from the drivers has begun, so help her out and make sure she has one of yours. Thanks to all the drivers that participate. The raffle tickets will only be sold in the pits this year to give the racers a better chance than ever to get one. The quilts are amazing and I want one, can I buy a ticket?
I had a major disaster this weekend when I dropped my PC and it seems to have killed it. No operating system displays right away and stops movement into the IPL. I have a lot of good stuff on it, so I hope there is still a hard drive when it gets looked at tomorrow. I have backups, but it would be much simpler if it could just come back up. If not, well that's an expensive toy down the drain and will keep me from getting those 4 races at the Indiana Speedweek that I wanted to go to. I hear the new Dells are great! Don't forget the Wagsworld story on Rickie Gaunt's 4th of July victory Click here!
Next week Perris and it's warming up there, both on the track and in the air. See you there!!!
SCRA Point Standings as of: 07/06/02
1. Richard Griffin 1069, 2. Steve Ostling 999, 3. Tony Jones 998, 4. Cory Kruseman 989, 5. John 909, 6. Rip Williams 900, 7. Jeremy Sherman 847, 8. Damion Gardner 806, 9. Mike Kirby 798, 10. Rickie Gaunt 751, 11. Charles Davis, Jr 688, 12. Bobby Graham 615, 3. Troy Rutherford 609, 14. Mike English 601, 15. Gary W. Howard 532, 16. Rodney Argo 432, 17. Danny Sheridan 378, 18. Bobby Cody 326, 19. Mike Spencer 296, 20. Adam Mitchell 282.