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By Ken Wagner 8/28/05

The Manzy Man, Mike Kirby, grabbed his second Valvoline USAC/CRA win of the season to give him 60 lifetime wins in the 410 world putting him ninth on the all time list behind Bob Hogle and Richard Griffin’s total of 63. To say Mike has struggled some this season after winning at Manzanita early in the year, and then destroying that favored car, would be an understatement. When the door of opportunity opens, like it did this week for Kirby when the two leaders ahead of him, who had battled the first 19 laps for the lead faltered, you have to take advantage, and he did. Driving the Silver Bullet L.A. Prep–La Villa Restaurant/Stinger /RC Performance # 4, Mike practically carried the Demon on his back the last 11 laps and still held him at bay for the big win.

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This car was not the same one the team normally uses for Perris, but Mike said he would definitely be using it this week in the 50 lap Labor day event after this success. Mike qualified fifth quick and ran fourth in his heat to start fifth in the main. He powered to third and was reeling in the two leaders when lady luck smiled on him and he was leading on the next restart after the “Oh nooooooo” crash. Mike’s win shut down a seven race period when the Kruser or the Demon won each time. Streaks are part of racing, so don’t be surprised if Kirby gets on one now, because when he is extra focused, watch out!

Damion Gardner continues to be sensational at times and merely human at others. This week started off with his 17th quick qualifying time out of 23 qualifying events this year. The Demon has set fast time at least once at every track the club has run at this season. He leads Earl’s fast time deal with more FT’s than anyone in the country and continues to learn how to use his fast car and his moxie to pull closer to point leader Rip Williams each week. This week five points was whacked off the Ripper’s lead and the real points race is on! Driving the “little red sucker” Temecula Valley Pipe & Supply – Arizona Race Mart/Eagle/Shaver # 50 this week, the Demon was ultra fast and had victory within his sights, but the quick and narrow groove didn’t give him any opportunity to make his move. He ran second in his heat this week, coming from the back and started in his usual 8th spot on the main event grid.

Rip Williams continues to be that gritty veteran that he is on his way to the hall of fame. His focus is not on the point chase, but winning the next race. Don’t get me wrong, he knows that he is the target each week by the other heroes, but consider what he did this week. With the Demon breathing down his neck, he ran third quick behind him in the John Jory Corporation – Weld Wheels/Stinger/Shaver # 3 car. Then he equaled Gardner’s second place finish in the heats and started sixth in the main. His night had a little lady luck as well when he began blowing oil out the motor in the main event! The lap 19 crash of the leaders allowed him to tighten the loose fitting and add oil. According to the rules, oil can be added during a race only on dirt, but never on pavement. It looks like we will be treated to a real points race chase from here on out with the top four still in the hunt.

Now for the “oh noooooooooo” crash. When we arrived at beautiful Santa Maria Speedway this week, two drivers could have been on the “most probable to get their first win” list. They are Danny “Showtime” Sheridan and “Slick” Mike Spencer. Traditionally, Santa Maria has more first time winners because of several factors. The small oval featuring high banking and short chutes is difficult for the high horsepower guys to get a good run on cars like they can at Perris or Manzanita. This means if the guy in front hits his line every lap, the follower has his work cut out for him. Danny is a local driver with a lot of 360 success here with many wins on his home court. He ran second on the very first 410 race here with the big boys a few years ago, so you know he can do it. His confidence level was up, so when he started second row outside, he was probably drooling over his chances to get that big win and show them the real Showtime.

For Mike Spencer it had been a testy year so far. He started out with a new coil over car that just didn’t work for him no matter how hard they tried to make it better. The switch back to the 4 bar car changed his year dramatically as he has been in the top five in five of the most recent six races with a best of second with some “Slick” driving. So he is on a roll and looking to take advantage of anything this track would give him. When the race started with him starting out side of Cory Kruseman on the front row, he looked like this could be the day, maybe. On the second green flag start, he shot into the lead and pulled dramatically away from Cory, who quickly had a problem and slowed to a stop on the back stretch. Mike was on fire and I know what he was thinking, this could be the day!

When they restarted, Danny was hot on Spencer’s tail and looking to get around. For the next 14 laps it was a classic battle with Spencer being dogged by Showtime every corner of the track. They were the show, no matter what was going on behind them. This fairy tale ended for both of them when Alan Ballard lost a tire and spun in front of them. The leader picked the low line and moved down away from the trouble with Danny right on his push bar. Oops, the spinning car moved down, immediately blocking their path. Mike rammed Ballard hard and sent him up into the wall, with Sheridan climbing up piggyback style on Mike’s fuel cell. For a moment Danny stayed on the gas trying to break free, but no go and they came to a stop in a heap. Alan was upside down and crammed in his car, but climbed out Ok after some anxious moments, but very unhappy. Spencer took the wrecker route to his trailer and Danny restarted at the back, eventually finishing eleventh.

Cory Kruseman was the first car out when he experienced a problem right after the start with brake line failure and never recovered from the malady. He stopped on the track and after an adjustment in the work area tried to come back, but pulled right back in and was on the trailer early. Seth Wilson came into this race with a lot of confidence and was thwarted when he pulled off the track with an oil fire that was quickly put out. I don’t know how serious that was. Danny Ebberts pulled into the work area when Cory made his second stop, then had a problem that had him climbing out of the car on the front stretch and storming back to the pits. He was done at that point.

Another driver change this week makes the racing world appear normal. Driver changes are like the weather, you never know when the next change is coming. Jordan Hermansader has moved from the Moosemobile # 92 to the Black Widow Racing # 5 formerly piloted by Steve Ostling. Jordan has been in the seat of this Gardner family wrenched car before and he liked it. When Steveo went back east with Harlan Willis, Jordon subbed, and now it’s permanent. Jordan was third in his heat and 8th in the main for a good start in the black Sled chassis car.

With today’s world it is safe to say sprint car racing seems to be struggling. Why? If I knew that my genius would solve all the problems and things would be great. So what do I mean? First, attendance and car count are both down, yet the racing is as good as usual, of not more exciting. Dave Swindell is out at Hanford, leaving a void in our group of few tracks in So Cal. Tulare has picked up the Trophy Cup, but now my friend’s race is back on Wagsdash night, how can I be so lucky? Nevertheless that won’t affect our race, but attendance does. All tracks are experiencing attendance lows and I don’t know their individual marketing plans, but with all the instant info available on every race, you would expect growth for the most exciting form of racing there is on the planet!

Why can’t we market this fun and pack the tracks because the racing is well worth it? You tell me and I will fix it. Unfortunately it is not simple. In Southern California there are more venues of every imaginable type of sport or entertainment available 12 months out of the year. It is no secret that if you want to do it or watch it, we have it here. We are so lucky, but the rising gas prices can attribute to some of the drop off, yet I always believe people do what they want to, no matter the price or effort required, they just do it! Where are our sprint car fans? Many times I have picked on the hype of NASCAR, and that traveling band of wing cars, as our worst enemy because they make marketing work where we can’t seem to! NASCAR is the only “pastime” that fans don’t have to have any experience in it, can stay at home and watch it on TV, even though many have never been to a race, yet they are die hard fans. Figure it out, we need to find a way to make our racing “big events” like all the good old boys do with the NASCAR mystique that continues to grow and grow with ease. Some believe that will go away with the overexposure, but we still hurt now as those Saturday night 5 pm NASCAR TV races continue to keep people home instead of at the dirt tracks we love. Hmmmm, I think my soap box just broke!

Wagsdash collections are starting as I attempt to hold the 15th annual Wagsdash race for the little guys plus make the regular main event pay $10,000 to win, that’s my goal but I need your help. I will be collecting in various ways. The 2006 sprint car calendar will be out in a week for sale and all proceeds go to the race. Advertising spots on the annual Wagsdash shirt will also go into the event and perhaps it will be a spooky Halloween version. The annual Chili Feed will be on the afternoon of the race free for everyone. The auction will feature some of the best donated pictures from photographers and fans who give up their prize possessions, plus many other items up for bid. The Sexy driver contest will raise more money. There will be a costume contest that will pay cash to the winner with more details later. There might be a golf tournament on Friday before the race, but I have been a bad boy and haven’t inked it properly yet. I have been a bit remiss while off doing my USAC press deal, but I will get busy, so jump aboard, it will be a fun time for racers and fans alike.

See you all at the 50 lapper at Perris on Saturday and maybe Ventura on Friday night.

VALVOLINE USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR SERIES RACE RESULTS: August 27, 2005 – Santa Maria, California – Santa Maria Speedway

QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Damion Gardner, 50, Chaffin-13.992; 2. Josh Ford, 73, Ford-14.143; 3. Rip Williams, 3, Jory-14.150; 4. Rodney Argo, 19, Argo-14.207; 5. Mike Kirby, 4, Alexander-14.238; 6. Davey Pombo, 3P, Pombo-14.277; 7. Danny Sheridan, 18, Kittle-14.410; 8. Rickie Gaunt, 2A, Smiley-14.463; 9. Mike Spencer, 44, Engstrom-14.484; 10. Cory Kruseman, 38, Crossno-14.580; 11. Evan Suggs, 33e, Suggs-14.582; 12. Jordan Hermansader, 5, Keller-14.765; 13. Danny Ebberts, 77, Acosta-14.777; 14. Darren Simas, 12, Simas-14.786; 15. Alan Ballard, 97, Ballard-14.790; 16. Seth Wilson, 17, Racing Optics-14.841; 17. Rusty Carlile, 36X, Carlisle-14.881; 18. Charles Davis Jr, 8A, Smiley-15.143; 19. Nadine Keller, 16, Keller-15.280; 20. Ryan Devitt, 35R, Blenkarn-15.317; 21. Peter Murphy, 21, Tarlton-15.462; 22. R.J. Johnson, 15AZ, Martin-15.462; 23. Matt Stewart, 85, Stewart-15.700; 24. Jeff Fiscus, 90, Dean-15.748.

FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Wilson, 2. Gardner, 3. Kruseman, 4. Johnson, 5. Sheridan, 6. Keller, 7. Argo, 8. Ebberts. 2:35:75

SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Suggs, 2. Gaunt, 3. Ford, 4. Kirby, 5. Carlile, 6. Simas, 7. Devitt, 8. Stewart. 2:33:00

THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Murphy, 2. Williams, 3. Hermansader, 4. Spencer, 5. Davis, 6. Pombo, 7. Ballard, 8. Fiscus. 2:28;97

SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Argo, 2. Pombo, 3. Ebberts, 4. Simas, 5. Ballard, 6. Keller, 7. Stewart, 8. Devitt.

FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Mike Kirby, 2. Damion Gardner, 3. Rip Williams, 4. Rickie Gaunt, 5. Rodney Argo, 6. Josh Ford, 7. Davey Pombo, 8. Jordan Hermansader. 9. Charles Davis Jr. 10. Peter Murphy, 11. Danny Sheridan 12. Evan Suggs, 13. Randy Carlile, 14. R.J. Johnson, 15. Mike Spencer, 16. Alan Ballard, 17. Seth Wilson, 18. Danny Ebberts, 19. Darren Simas, 20. Cory Kruseman. NT

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-19 Spencer, Laps 20-30 Kirby.

NEW USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR STANDINGS: 1-Williams-1,339; 2-Gardner-1,329; 3-Kirby-1,237; 4-Kruseman-1,187; 5-Davis-994; 6-Gaunt-909; 7-Spencer-846; 8-Ford-760; 9-Tony Jones-673; 10-Wilson-658.

NEXT USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR RACE: September 3 – Perris (CA) Auto Speedway

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