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By Ken Wagner 9/4/05

This week Damion Gardner came loaded for bear after finishing second to Mike Kirby the week before at Santa Maria. He didn’t set fast time this time as the track was already showing it’s black side before his turn to run the two laps. Still when it was all over, the Demon won his 11th race of the Valvoline USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series, and he did it with a light foot. Late in the 50 lap race, he had plenty of rubber on his tires and stretched it out over the Kruser as he weaved his way thru the lap traffic. In the winners circle he said “it was tough in the beginning and we took some chances going to the front early. As soon as it laid rubber down, it was beautiful!”

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The heat of the desert baked the track enough that the only groove available at race time was up top and the leaders were all trying to sort it out up there playing follow the leader. Driving the Temecula Valley Pipe & Supply, Arizona Race Mart, Eagle, Shaver # 50, Damion passed the leader, Cory Kruseman by carefully sliding barely under him coming out of turn four on lap 17 and won going away. It was a surprise move that worked when nobody else could get a grip below the cushion, and it was lights out for the rest of the field!

The night started with Damion and Rip Williams locked in a real points battle for the first time in a long time. The defending champion wasn’t about to give it up without a fight, but his tires would, as he said after the race, “they were show ing their underwear”. They were so bald he lost about three spots the last few laps and that is about the difference where he is now behind the new leader, eight points.

Cory Kruseman remarked the night before at a Ventura race when asked “how many 50 lappers he had won this season”. His answer “I don’t know, but all of them!” He looked like he would continue that string when he started the main with some very racy moves to grab second from seventh in a little more than one lap. He drove the ITI Performance, Sander Engineering, Bullet, Downing Engines # 38 quickly after early leader Josh Ford. He took the lead on lap eight and looked like he would string it out until Gardner emerged from the pack and reeled him in. Cory battled hard with Ford, Kirby and several others before he finally captured second at the end.

After finishing third at Ventura the night before in his 360 car, Josh Ford did the podium again at the PAS, but not without a lot of hard work as he suffered a few and paid back a few slide jobs in his Berry Pack Agricultural Pckg, TemeculeValley Pipe& Supply, Edson, Downing engines # 73. Josh was smart at the end with his tires and after dropping a few spots rallied back to third at the checkers. He looks like he is back in the hunt for his first win and will make things even more fun in the weeks to come.

Danny Sheridan qualified late in the process and suffered with his 28th fast time out of a 42 car effort. He ran second in his heat and started 20th in the main. He was the hard charger of the night finishing 5th. Showtime was hard on the gas going wherever he had to for moving forward. It was one of his best efforts in the Kittle # 18 car.

Steve Ostling had an interesting night. With SteveO in the 0 car, you should expect something extra and this week we got it. He ran second in his heat and started 19th on the grid. He moved up pretty good and was probably midway thru the pack when the pile-up put his car half in the work area and half on the track for repairs. The front end was replaced and they almost didn’t make it back out partly because of the work required and also being forced to move out of the way before continuing as cars began firing back up. He barely made it back to the line-up and from there he went straight to the front to finish 6th. He had two near stops on the track that caused quick yellows, but somehow, got to the checkers with a wild charge from the back.

Bobby Cody crashed so hard a few weeks ago that a total rebuild was in order for his race car. The car is almost ready, but first he jumped into the Moosemobile for at least one race. He ran third in the semi to make the main and finished 15th for a rather smooth start. Bobby hasn’t had a lot of luck, but maybe driving for someone else might give him a different perspective and send him forward to the front where he can easily run.

Several problem children this week with Rick Becker’s crash probably the worst. David Cardey lost a motor after running a strong 2nd in his heat and was done. Jimmy Evans missed making a racing lap for the second straight attempt at starting his racing career. Tony Jones got spun out on the original start and ended up parking it when he wasn’t making any headway on the tricky track. Mike Spencer ran strong early, but pulled off before the end with some malady. It is that way in racing and they will all re-adjust their minds to be ready to go next time out. Cardey, by the way, described his high speed run at nearby Fontana on Friday night prior as one that “going fast was a real kick”! they had motor problems in practice, then put in a tired but running motor for the race and he finished 11th after starting in the back. He said the “butt puckering speed” was really exciting for the first time.

Jeff Christianson is our CRA videographer and this week raised a lot of money for the Red Cross by selling six boxes of his race dvd’s at 4 for $20 with all the proceeds going to the relief fund down south. What a deal and they went really fast, probably too cheap, but for a good cause. In addition all the drivers took their helmets into the grandstands to raise more for the funs at the request of track management.

The WRA brought over a dozen outstanding antique race cars out to show off for the fans tonight. Some awesome iron rolled around the track. I don’t know what it costs them to maintain these beauties, but we all appreciate the effort. Of course they get to drive them again and again and that must pump them up.

Qualifying was good for the early guys and not so good for the last third of the drivers as the track did what happens when extreme heat gets to it, got tricky. The heats were as good as it gets with lots of racing, that means passing not lapping, and drivers taking wild shots to move up. The worst looking incident of the night was probably Eric Severson’s crash in the Consi when he got upside down and beat up his low buck car. Rick Becker was a victim of a slide job in the main, one that bumped him into the wall where he took off and ended up crashing to a stop with five other cars piled up nearby as they tried to avoid him. The main turned into a rubber match as those who saved em’ were running strong at the end and the others just held on. Add to this tire choice, because they all didn’t run the same compound, so the softer compounds suffered more than the hard ones. It was a curfew pushing experience that was well worth the trip for the great crowd that showed up.

Our next trip will be to Ventura Raceway and I am telling you, if you don’t go you can’t ever imagine what you will miss. It is short track racing at it’s finest on the small oval and the best sprint car drivers will put on a show you won’t believe, really! Come on out and get there early so you can check out the hot babes across the street at the beach and so much more at the racy little track by the sea. See you there.

VALVOLINE USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR SERIES RACE RESULTS: September 3, 2005 – Perris, California – Perris Auto Speedway

QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Charles Davis Jr, 8A, Smiley-17.334; 2. Rickie Gaunt, 2A, Smiley-17.460; 3. Cory Kruseman, 38, Crossno-17.580; 4. Mike Spencer, 44, Engstrom-17.639; 5. Ronnie Clark, 33X, Clark-17.662; 6. Tony Jones, 87, Vermeer/Ferreira-17.675; 7. Alan Ballard, 97, Ballard-17.710; 8. Damion Gardner, 50, Chaffin-17.755; 9. Seth Wilson, 17, Racing Optics-17.770; 10. Dan Hillberg, 82, Hillberg-17.833; 11. Mike Kirby, 4, Alexander-17.852; 12. Josh Ford, 73, Ford-17.865; 13. Bill Rose, 11, Wilkerson-17.867; 14. Danny Ebberts, 77, Acosta-17.873; 15. Bobby Cody, 92, Sertich-17.895; 16. Jason York, 25N, York-17.916; 17. Rip Williams, 3, Jory-17.947; 18. Davey Pombo, 3P, Pombo-17.960; 19. Keith Williamson, 95, Williamson-17.977; 20. Tom Stansberry, 48, Bach-18.011; 21. R.J. Johnson, 15AZ, Martin-18.097; 22. Johnny Rodriguez, 7, Priestley-18.120; 23. Greg Bragg, 33, Blair-18.203; 24. Adam Mitchell, 14, Lancaster-18.357; 25. David Cardey, 59, Giardina-18.360; 26. Steve Ostling, 0, Shoemaker-18.399; 27. Jack DeArmond Jr, 24, DeArmond-18.420; 28. Danny Sheridan, 18, Kittle-18.540; 29. Jordan Hermansader, 5, Keller-18.550; 30. Chris D'Arcy, 77C, D'Arcy-18.600; 31. Rick Becker, 67, Becker-18.779; 32. Ryan Devitt, 35R, Blenkarn-18.956; 33. Robert Ellis, 43, Ellis-19.046; 34. Nadine Keller, 16, Keller-19.062; 35. Mark Heidenreich, 22, Heidenreich-19.128; 36. Joshua Williams, 34, Williams-19.177; 37. Matt Stewart, 85, Stewart-19.380; 38. Jim Giardina, 58, Giardina-19.420; 39. Eric Severson, 36, Severson-19.495; 40. Dan Tedrick, 88, Tedrick-20.026; 41. Jeremy Ellerston, 98. Ellerston-25.070; 42. Jimmy Evans, 76, Evans-NT.

CONSOLATION RACE: (8 laps) 1. Keller, 2. J.Williams, 3. Heidenreich, 4. Stewart, 5. Severson, 6. Tedrick, 7. Ellis, 8. Giardina. NT

SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Pombo, 2. Ostling, 3. Jones, 4. Rodriguez, 5. Ebberts, 6. Hillberg, 7. J.Williams, 8. D’Arcy, 9. Gaunt. NT

THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Kruseman, 2. Kirby, 3. Becker, 4. Bragg, 5. Williamson, 6. Heidenreich, 7. Cody, 8. Ballard, 9. DeArmond. NT

FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Gardner, 2. Sheridan, 3. Spencer, 4. Ford, 5. York, 6. Mitchell, 7. Stansberry, 8. Devitt, 9. Stewart. 3:16.77

SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Gaunt, 2. Rose, 3. Cody, 4. Ballard, 5. Stansberry, 6. Mitchell, 7. Williamson, 8. D’Arcy, 9. Johnson, 10. DeArmond, 11. Keller, 12. York, 13. Hillberg, 14. Wilson, 15. Devitt, 16. Ebberts, 17. J.Williams, 18. Stewart, 19. Clark, 20. Heidenreich. NT

FEATURE: (50 laps) 1. Damion Gardner, 2. Cory Kruseman, 3. Josh Ford, 4. Mike Kirby, 5. Danny Sheridan, 6. Steve Ostling, 7. Rip Williams, 8. Rickie Gaunt, 9. Bill Rose, 10. Johnny Rodriguez, 11. Seth Wilson, 12. Charles Davis Jr, 13. Alan Ballard, 14. Davey Pombo, 15. Bobby Cody, 16. Greg Bragg, 17. Jordan Hermansader, 18. Tom Stansberry, 19. Mike Spencer, 20. Tony Jones, 21. Rick Becker, 22 Adam Mitchell, 23. Keith Williamson. NT

**Severson flipped during the consolation race. York and Clark flipped during the semi. Becker flipped during the feature.

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-7 Ford, Laps 8-16 Kruseman, Laps 17-50 Gardner.

NEW USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR STANDINGS: 1-Gardner-1,397; 2-R.Williams-1,389; 3-Kirby-1,295; 4-Kruseman-1,256; 5-Davis-1,034; 6-Gaunt-957; 7-Spencer-870; 8-Ford-819; 9-Tony Jones-693; 10-Wilson-689.

NEXT USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR RACE: September 10 – Ventura (CA) Raceway

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