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August 10, 2013

By Ken Wagner

What a wild and somewhat entertaining 1200 mile trip for this Wag following the sometimes long CRA trail on my own this weekend. Oh how I remember the Kittle Hauler and the fun I had going with them in the past! And all that I saw totally different results at Ocean Speedway in Watsonville than the next night at Santa Maria Speedway in Santa Maria. All the top point leaders suffered maladies on a yellow infested 60 laps or so for the first night of the two race swing. Saturday night was totally different as racing to the front was the norm and nobody was taken out or had flat tires as the point leaders fought for this victory from the start. Who said low car counts can’t produce great racing. It was a fun night at the little bowl in the middle of California.

For my pics from Santa Maria click here to view. For Doug Allens quality photo's Click here to see. Fotos by Steve Lafond at Ocean Speedway Click here to view. Fotos by Steve Lafond at Santa Maria Speedway Click here to view.

Since I am no longer a welcome working member of the racing press at Ocean Speedway these days, I decided not to work my usual Wagsworld magic for the first time in many, many years. No since paying to work these days, so I became just a fan again for a night, what a thought! I visited a little in the pits before heading to the fans stands and took few pics. So you’ll have to ask me for my views of the action in Watsonville if you really need my view. I did enjoy my time in the grandstands with my friends as it is always fun to just relax and let the fun flow. It’s been so long I forgot how to be just a fan. Traveling alone is not as much fun as it is traveling with others, but I guess that means I still love the thunder and lightning, so do it because it pleases me to be involved.

Santa Maria was the polar opposite of Watsonville as everything went well for most of the 17 cars that came to play. There was no track packing for the first time in my memory at the small bowl as the “other” classes came out early for their hot laps and then when the sprints hit the track, they just hot lapped with mud flying like normal. A full grandstand met the competitors unlike the night before as it still makes me wonder what the secret is to fill the seats with fans? Santa Maria seems to be heads up better than most tracks I venture to except Perris, and I wonder what the mixture of local fans versus the numbers that travel from So Cal or Nor Cal? Whatever, in spite of lower car counts for sprint cars these days, the fans pour in and enjoy the show up there and it helps that the weatehr is so pleasant. For us sprint car fans it can be tedious watching the “other” classes, but the Dwarfs and Lightning Sprints had entertaining shows. There was a time when the pinto stocks were the companion feature to the sprints. Remember when they had a red flag, they all stopped where they were and waited for the green, beginning from that point to begin racing again. No religning up and nobody cheated? In those days the fans, including me, took our beach chairs and dug little trenches to mount the seats in the hillside and boy the view and comfort was unmatched anywhere. Those were the days!

At Santa Maria with but two heats and a 30 lap feature, there wasn’t a lot of content for the sprint car crowd, but that was OK this time! After endless laps by Stockers, Carts, Dwarfs and California Lightning Sprints, the quality was there for our sprint cars as the feature was what it is supposed to be, very racy and highly entertaining. On the start of the main event Austin Williams took the lead from the pole as the boys behind took up the chase. Greg Alexander, who runs as the money is there, ran very hard this race as he was in the top 3 for a long time and ended up 7th. Matt Mitchell was on the gas as he ran down Austin and rolled by him in traffic and set off for the win. Matt is running strong every race and the memory of his eye injury is long gone in his mind and the fans.

Matt was then dealing with lapped traffic as only a small track can provide with action everywhere. When Ryan Bernal found “the sweet spot” up high around turns one and two. While Matt was going low to split traffic, Ryan launched up and around Matt for the lead that he wouldn’t give up this time. Matt tried hard to get back by using lap traffic, but the sweet spot was owned by Bernal, so it was soon realized that this one was over! Ryan led the last 12 laps and won his 3rd all-time CRA victory and first at Santa Maria. I asked Ryan and his crew chief Jimmy May about fuel mileage difference between a restricted 410, that he ran the night before for “classic” points, and the unrestricted one he won in tonight, and Jimmy said he had it set up the same as normal, so their shouldn’t be a difference. Regardless, they got no luck from the yellow flag mania he experienced on Friday, but made up for it at Santa Maria. Ryan looked great and I only hope we’ll see a lot more of him the rest of the year.

The point leader Damion Gardner grabbed the last podium spot using a different car than normal after rearranging the chassis of his old one the night before on a quick snap-roll nasty type crash. Damion had to work hard and was coming forward to end up on the podium with a 130 point lead over Nic Faas who was home sick. He left immediately after the race getting on the road to Bonneville for his 11 AM drivers meeting that he had to make. This is his shot at making the Steve Watt created Green Demon Land speed sprint car set a record this week on the famous salt flats! Good luck to them there!

Several cars were making their first race of the weekend as they helped get the car count over a dirty dozen. Toby Sampson, Marcus Neimela, Bill Jones, Jimmy Thompson, Rickie Gaunt and Greg Alexander came and made the count better than expected. Rip Williams suffered from a motor that was stuttering and not getting the power down both nights, but he kept trying and started both mains but pulled out early. The Okie Toby Sampson came with his ” Frankenstein” creation to try and make a splash, but was the victim of another car too anxious in the main and he became the second car out. We had an Aussie in the field named Aiden Corish and he was 14th and 11th looking pretty good for his limited experience with us. Everyone raced hard at the little bowl and the results was very entertaining keeping up with the action. And the weather for this desert rat was soooooo nice! Ahhhh! We will be heading back to Santa Maria for the URA unlimited Sprint Car show in two weeks, so be ready for one more trip to the neat track.

http://www.sprintcarhof.com/Article/433 this is a link from the Knoxville Hall of fame regarding their rules on induction into the hall of fame. Someone I know very well did read it and was shocked enough to send a letter to the hall of fame questioning their rules for induction into the Hall and particularly this startling rule: "inductees must receive a minimum of 25% of the National Induction Committee members votes to become inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame". His letter pointed out one particular California driver that has no CRA victories, no open show wins, no trophy dash wins or fast times and didn’t stand out rqacing with the hot dogs of the time, yet he is in the Hall of Fame. Is this revered final enshrinement home, we all look to for putting our best drivers on this pedestal, doing their work realistically or is there some fudging going on for the “favorites” in history of our sprint car racing. Read the link and you be the judge!

A final note: I am sure Marty Hawkins was screaming with joy as he went under the checkered flags at Watsonville and getting his first major with CRA in his young history on Friday. What a nice thing for this family race team who is the epitome of being friendly, happy, hard working and determined to have fun racing. They did that this week and the fans were happy because even though he has raced with us over the years off and on, he is from northern California and it was a home win for the local fans. Congrats to Marty and I hope it’s the first of many for him and his dad Chad and mom.

Be seeing everyone at the PAS this week and expecting another barnburner only the PAS can give us. It’s always great racing and a fun time for all. I’ll have a few new Wagtimes Hoodies with me as well as some T’s with Large XL, 2X and 3X shirts.

08/10/13 Santa Maria feature: (30 laps) 1. Ryan Bernal, 2. Matt Mitchell, 3. Damion Gardner, 4. Austin Williams, 5. Mike Spencer, 6. Cody Williams, 7. Greg Alexander, 8. Brody Roa, 9. Markus Niemela, 10. Marty Hawkins, 11. Aiden Corish, 12. Jimmy Thompson, 13. Jay Waugh, 14. Rickie Gaunt, 15. Bill Jones, 16. Toby Sampson, 17. Rip Williams.

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-16 A.Williams, Laps 17-18 Mitchell, Laps 19-30 Bernal.

NEW AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT POINTS: 1-Gardner-889, 2-Nc Faas-759, 3-Spencer-708, 4-Mitchell-613, 5-Bud Kaeding-564, 6-A.Williams-545, 7-C.Williams-538, 8-Roa-505, 9-Bernal-491, 10-Richard Vander Weerd-371.

NEXT AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT RACE: August 17, 2013 – Perris (CA) Auto Speedway

8/09/13 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Marty Hawkins, 2. Richard Vander Weerd, 3. Jace Vander Weerd, 4. Jay Waugh, 5. Ryan Bernal, 6. Tony Hunt, 7. Cody Williams, 8. Nathan Washam, 9. Shauna Hogg, 10. Nick Larson, 11. Brody Roa, 12. Landon Hurst, 13. Geoff Ensign, 14. Aiden Corish, 15. Mike Spencer, 16. Austin Smith, 17. D.J. Johnson, 18. Matt Mitchell, 19. Austin Williams, 20. Rip Williams, 21. Damion Gardner. NT

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