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The SCRA is on the road again and the first stop was very impressive, if you talk about facilities, and disappointing, if you talk about racing. Richard “the Gasman” Griffin gave the track and his competitors all they could handle as he won his 48th SCRA race and this one being in his home state of New Mexico. Too bad the race track couldn’t hold up to provide two grooves, but the excitement was still there for the fans as the bumping made for some interesting conflicts.

My pics from Hollywood Hills are here.

Richard was third quick, 2nd in his heat after spinning out, won the JE Pistons Passing Masters Dash and started on the pole of the main event. His only worry was weathering the one groove, bottom feeding, slick track and all those who went there. It became obvious the racing was going to be very difficult when the outside car of each start couldn’t keep up going to the cone, leaving a mismatch start most of the time. By feature time the top groove starters had to dive to the bottom to keep from losing spots and the winner worked this track to perfection.

The Gasman, driving the Temecula Valley Pipe and Supply, Arizona Race Mart, Circle C Marketing, # 50, won the dash from his 6th starting spot, probably the best exhibition of passing on this night, and basically ran away with the 30 lap feature. Anyone who tried to go up and around him, suffered the spot loss routine and were forced backwards. It wasn’t pretty, but he did what he had to do, and that’s win, baby!

Rip Williams, driving the AMA Plastics, Tomarco Fasteners Systems, Weld Wheels, # 3, is on a fast pace this year and was looking to win this first tour race. He looked like it could be his night when he used the dusty low groove dust clouds to hide him as he launched around the first turn in his heat and ran away from the pack. He created the cloud and left those behind him with no visibility until they moved thru it! He did well in the dash and came up just one short of the preferred groove for the start of the main. There, the Ripper was unable to keep it low on the start and dropped back to third on the unfair start, but fought back to get 2nd and chase the Gasman to the very end. Lap traffic blocking the path for the leader really made it interesting at the end, but Rip couldn’t get close enough to pull the trigger and grab this one.

Damion Gardner has been a pain in the A for all the hot dogs since he came to the SCRA last season. His 7 wins this season speaks for itself as he has made the rest step it up to keep up. He usually has his way with his car on tacky tracks, but tonight was very difficult as the slick track kept him in third most of the race searching for “his” groove. Every time he tried to find another racing path in the Willis Machine, TCR, Gaerte # 45, he slipped back. Only the lowest of grooves was where to keep it when nothing opened up higher than that on the track.

The Hollywood Hills facility is nothing less than superlative. From the large building that greets fans to issue admission tickets, concessions and t-shirts, it just gets better. The large Las Vegas style grandstands is huge and has seatbacks in half the seats. The enclosed air-conditioned press box runs the length of the grandstands and is perched above. The view of the well laid out track is spectacular from high above the dirt surface. The walls and fences are strong and protective looking and the place is well lit. The pits are paved and make track access easy. The transponders on every car gave instant times and could have made qualifying quicker, had they wanted to. Regardless, it is something the club should have. You could qualify multiple cars and speed the show on. Unfortunately the missing ingredient is CLAY, and without it you get the black groove, one lane action that doesn’t serve fans or racers very well. Yes, they all have to deal with it, and they did very well, but the place screams for some mud! I know the effort was there with watering for several days, but it was useless with the results.

The unlucky list of racers was not too long this race, and began with fast timer Josh Ford. The track was extremely muddy early in track packing, with the flying stuff giving a false hope for what was to come and end up the way it did. Griffin was the first car under 15 seconds and then Mike English beat that before Josh lowered the SCRA record to 14.702. Josh went on to start in the back of the 1st heat and spin out. He restarted and passed a few cars using the short time 2nd groove, and then got whacked into the wall when a local car gave him his right rear. He was done for the night.

Alan Ballard looked pretty fast in his heat, but encountered a spinning car and got sideways, then rolled it over on the top. It was a lot of work getting ready for the Semi as they replaced the rear end and much more, but it allowed Alan to win that 12 lapper. When he started the main, things were just not right in the Jacobs ladder area and he became the first car out.

Mike English night was determined by the dusty low groove berm. After a 3rd in his heat, he ran 7th in the dash and was doing well in the main holding on to 6th place. He somehow managed to straddle the offending berm coming out of turn two and it collected him like a spider web would a fly. After the restart at the back, he didn’t stay around long, probably realizing that the track would cost him money to continue, so he pulled off.

Many others caught the darn berm and lost considerable territory, with most relegated near the back at the end. Even Rip and Tony Jones got into it, but both escaped without getting stuck. One long delay, while the cars waited in line circling the track forever, was caused by a push truck that flattened the right rear of Bobby Graham . Thankfully for Bobby, they waited, and waited, and waited until he could be pushed to the work area and replace it. Someone told me they ran over 60 laps including the yellows, so I suspect fuel was going to be a problem if they had another yellow near the end.

Two drivers that were only going to race this one stop, Charles Davis Jr and Mike Kirby, finished 4th and 5th in that order. Both had to really keep the car extremely low in the corners to keep their spot and both had their hands full. The best of the locals was Bobby Seals who really handled running above the line of demarcation where others couldn’t and moved from midpack to 6th at the end. Troy Rutherford got his umpteenth top ten finish with 8th and he fought hard to get there. Troy is on tour with his wife and baby in a new class A motorhome that will surely make this trip much easier on the family.

The road to Iowa was littered with haulers as I moved on after the race. Several teams deciding to go all the way to Oscaloosa and not waste any time. I am looking forward to the next 8 races and hope to add to the tow money cache along the way. Still have a few tickets for the Iowa $30,000 to win race. Next stop $30,000 for some hard charger, and I wonder who that could be? Will Travis Rilat defend, or J J Yeley do it, or can the Gasman use his energized driving to score a big one, and don’t forget Damion, Rip and some other USAC guys like Jay Drake etc. etc.

A FEATURE (30 Laps)
1. Griffin, 2. Williams, 3. Gardner, 4. Davis, 5. Kirby, 6. Seals, 7. Jones, 8. Rutherford, 9. Ball, 10. Nix, 11. Graham, 12. Crawford, 13. Hall, 14. Clark, 15. Larkin, 16. Burns, 17. Mitchell, 18. High, 19. Ream, 20. English, 21. Martin, 22. Ballard Laps Led: Griffin 1-30

SCRA Points as of 8/9/03

1. Richard Griffin 1232 2. T'roy Rutherford 1163 3. Damion Gardner 1129 4. Rip Williams 1025 5. Steve Ostling 859 6. Rickie Gaunt 803 7. Mike Spencer 756 8. Tony Jones 644 9. Adam Mitchell 622 10. Mike English 608 11. Josh Ford 523 12. Alan Ballard 446 13. Verne Sweeney 431 14. Lance Gremett 385 15. Levi Jones 374 16. Jimmy Crawford 342 17. Bobby Cody 342 18. Seth Wilson 339 19. Brian Venard 335 20. Bryan Stanfill 330

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