The SCRA is a racing club that didn't really need a shot in the arm this year, what with all the great racers and excellent racing week after week, already. But, Damion Gardner has come to town like a gunslinger and provided new excitement and much more. This former wing driver continues to dig a deeper line in the history books with his 4th SCRA victory on the year. Two local drivers came out to play and got on the podium with the "Demon" on a night that capped three inductions into the Arizona Hall of Fame with some high-speed racing.
Mrs Wags pics are ready now!
The Damion Gardner mystique is pretty simple. He just comes to town each week and shoots down the competition and goes home to Concord satisfied. If anyone drove like Lealand McSpadden at Manzy since the legendary Hall of Famer retired, this Demon is the one. Watching the young "rookie" driver continue to slice and dice his way thru the SCRA's finest has become fun to watch. What does he have? Desire, determination, drive and that one thing that separates the winners from the pack, the ability to go deep in the turns until he gets the lead. Early in the year he showed some of what was in store for the SCRA veterans in a 6-lap dash. He started on the pole and was passed by Kruseman and Griffin, but then did his new to us highflying act and passed them back for the win. On the podium after that surprising finish, the comment was heard from one of the two heroes " he can't do that for 30 laps, can he?" Not that night, but now, he can!
This week driving his own Coy Construction, Aldrich Air, CM Excavating, # 20, Damion started 6th and began to pass his way to the front right away. When a mid race yellow put him on the tail of the early runaway leader, Mike Kirby, it was just a matter of time before he made that winning move. Damion led the last 11 laps pulling away from surprising challengers Davis and Ream, but he was unreachable pulling away. When there are two grooves, the Demon doesn't let up. Make that, he doesn't let up anytime! A great drive by the happy youngster who says the sky's the limit and we know the SCRA heroes will have to step it up to contain this dynamo!
Charles Davis Jr arrived at the track after spending weeks building a new car since the tour. Charlie had one of the worst unlucky trips on the tour anyone could imagine. A destroyed car and both motors fried, finally sent him home early, out of money, equipment and depressed. Charlie worked long hours building the new car and getting ready for his 1st race with the SCRA since that trip from Kansas City. Charlie, driving the Ron's Fuel injection, Arizona Race Mart, JB Chassis, # 94 sprinter, has been winning in Fred Bryan's 360 car while we waited for him to come back. The equipment problems he experienced on the road were expensive and when I talked with him before the race, he was concerned about his night and how it would go. It had to go well so he could get to Perris next week, and for the first time in over two months, he finished an SCRA race. Not only that, he ran 2nd as he came from 7th starting spot to give Damion a run near the end, but had to hold off a fast Bob Ream Jr the last few laps. It was Charlie's highest finish in the SCRA ever! Charlie's car got the big shiny tire award picked by sweet sixteen birthday girl, Bethany Thrasher.
Bob Ream Jr is noted for his fast car that has been colorful and sometimes wild looking in the past. This latest version is a smooth blue color and has Mopar power, and the BRAT Racing, B&R Automotive # 8 is fast. Bob has been winning a lot of 360 races at Manzy over the years, but now has a new power plant and has his sights set on challenging the 410's of SCRA. This week he did very well as he started 11th and worked his way to third giving Charlie a real battle for the spot. It was Bob's first ever podium with the SCRA, and he was a proud driver in the pits after the races. He is looking forward to the three-day race the second weekend in November here! Great job by the young racer and his crew got the small shiny tire award. Only John Scott and Tony Jones were visibly in this award opportunity far from home.
Only 28 cars in the pits as again many of the SCRA regulars aren't traveling, choosing to stay home and save money I guess. You can't really blame the tour this week as most who went on tour were at Manzy, so what is it? Money. As the year comes to an end it is more apparent these racers need more support and those who find more cash for their budget will continue to run. The others, well, they will run as often as the budget allows. The number of cars parked is starting to rival the number of cars traveling now. The shortened Perris Saturday SCRA/USAC event is this coming weekend. An event that two years ago had over 120 racecars will be lucky to have half that this time around. It's a lot of the sign of the times, and the stock market, as the discretionary money is just not available for things like racing.
It wasn't good times for Cory Kruseman and point leader, Richard Griffin, this week. Both ended up in the pits early with problems that hardly ever happen to them in a long season. Cory was running third when he had a problem with a shock that put him in the work area, and then back at the tail on the next restart. He didn't stay out there long as he was the 2nd car out of the feature. Richard was the third car out when he had a tire cut down, and without a yellow, he was done. Rookie point leader, Bobby Cody, had motor problems in hot laps and didn't come out after that. Brian Venard made the long tow over to run hot laps. He never appeared after that. Brother Steve didn't qualify, but ran the Semi and didn't transfer, so the Venard family outing was long.
Perhaps one of the most disappointed drivers of all, this week, was Levi Jones. He flew in to Phoenix on Saturday after finishing 2nd two nights in a row back in the mid-west. He was running 2nd in the main event when a fire appeared on his headers. He was black flagged to a stop in turn one where an official put out the fire. He fired up and went on around to the work area where it was deemed the 2nd stop, ending his night. Too bad as the fuel nozzle that came undone was easily fixable for the Illinois native who brought his father out for this one-day trip. He reported the car was getting faster, and didn't want to have to stop, let alone get out of the car!
Under musical chairs of the racing variety this week, Troy Rutherford was in the Mark Priestley # 7 after last week in the Crossno # 38. He started 16th and finished 6th for the hard charger move of the week. Jordan Hermansader was visiting in the JR Ruth # 25 this week ,as normal driver, Gary W Howard, was in Ventura running Buzz Shoemaker's # 0 car. Jordan was 16th. Jeremy Sherman is back in Dave Ellis # 21 car, but I don't know if this is for the rest of the year or not. He dropped out late in the race with a tire problem, or so I heard, finishing 18th.
It looked like it was Mike Kirby's race to win as he had a huge lead from the start until the first yellow came out about halfway into the 30 lapper. When they restarted with Gardner on his tail, Damion made quick work of him with a "Manzy slider" and then Mike fell back to 5th at the end. Mike ran 6th last week at Bakersfield as he is getting set to run some big money stock car events! Steve Ostling got 4th in the Fischer Motorsports # 29, coming from starting 9th. He had to drive home after the races for a family deal with his daughter the next day. Several made that late drive, and I didn't envy them.
John Scott had a real freaky Saturday. His qualifying time was a little off and so he won his heat from the front, easily. In spite of banging the wall in the main event, he managed to get back up to 12th by the end. After the races he joined a bunch of racer types at a nearby hotel to fete Julie Shiosaki's birthday. The cake had a perfect reproduction picture of his racecar on top, courtesy of local Wagtimer's Fran & Jim Herdrich. Julie's hubby Randy, is John's crew chief, so everything is yellow and green around them. The night at the party ended with Hollywood John getting "caked" by someone very close to him, who will no doubt pay dearly for that one. It was like a wedding face plaster deal by a bride and groom, and was fun to watch! Do we get to see the rematch? Doubtful, but hey, why not? Happy birthday to Julie and thanks for the pizza feed until late into the night.
Parnelli Jones was on hand to formally induct Joe Pittman into the Arizona Motorsports Hall of Fame. Pittman, who was Jones' mechanic when he won National Sprint Car titles in 1961 and 1962, became the 50th inductee into the Arizona Motorsports Hall of Fame. Preceding Pittman into the Hall of Fame as fellow "Class of 2002" inductees were long-time driver Art Mankel and former Manzanita Speedway promoter Harry Redkey. The crowd enjoyed the presentations and the WRA old timers cars, too! Billy Shuman looked like he could still race as he made short work of the sprint field in their "main event"!
Next week I will have more time to answer the burning questions I listed in last weeks story. I am mulling over the subjects and need more "think tank time". I know nothing of the rabid rumors, so don't ask. Have faith that things will work out! I do know that the Oval Nationals and Manzy NWWC finals are both three-day events and time off will be required, so take the appropriate action. See you at The PAS this week as we continue the Wagsdash collections that need some adjusting. Photographers, I received the first official entry in the Wagsdash photo contest from Jim Fargo. Get ready to battle, his is very special. Also, get your name on the Wagsdash t-shirt. Thanks to all who help, you are my light!
SCRA Points as of 9/28/02
1. Richard Griffin 2106, 2. Damion Gardner 1752, 3. Tony Jones 1671, 4. Rip Williams 1642, 5. Cory Kruseman 1611, 6. Rickie Gaunt 1509, 7. Mike Kirby 1495, 8. Steve Ostling 1469, 9. John Scott 1451, 10. Mike English 1439, 11. Troy Rutherford 1052, 12. Bobby Graham 1038, 13. Jeremy Sherman 1032, 14. Charles Davis, Jr 870, 15 Levi Jones 758, 16. Mike Spencer 741, 17. Rodney Argo 687, 18. Adam Mitchell 634, 19. Gary W. Howard 622, 20. Bobby Cody 602.