by Ken & Terry Wagner
KIRBY/CROSSNO TEAM START NEW USAC/CRA ERA WITH A BANG!
GOOD OPENING EFFORT FOR NEW SERIES IN GREAT WEATHER.
The 2004 season is underway and Mike “King Kong” Kirby sits atop the leader board of the new USAC/CRA club in his new ride. Sunshine and clear skies greeted racers and fans alike as the Perris Auto Speedway hosted the first ever race of the new alliance between USAC and the west coast racers. A great start for the new club as the crimson clad USAC National team members arrived to help Chief Steward Russell Bliss and So Cal Coordinator Chris Morgan get started. In addition, the USAC 360 pavement series staff was in the house to help. Russell will be building the west coast staff in the coming weeks.
Mrs Wags pics are up now!!! She got a new camera and took way too many pics, so screening is very tedious at best.
Kirby, a former CRA champion, driving the ITI Performance, Sander Engineering, Snap-On, TCR, # 38, was fifth quick, third in his heat and started on the third row in the main event. Jason York took the initial lead and Kirby jousted with several cars before chasing him down and taking the lead on lap three. Then Kirby did what Kirby does; he ran lapped traffic perfectly and checked out! He led the rest of the way and won by a straightaway over a closing Cory Kruseman. It was Mike's 50th sprint car win spanning over CRA, SCRA and now USAC/CRA races. It gave his new car owners, Carol and Glen Crossno, their first sprint car win and they were certainly happy in victory circle. When Mike is mentally in the game, he is tough and this season might see him return to the lofty position of number one, if you witnessed his dominating win this race.
The podium after the race includes Mike Kirby the winner, Cory Kruseman, right, 2nd place and Rip Williams, left, 3rd place.
Cory Kruseman is still out west before his busy schedule starts this season with USAC “back there”, so he dropped in to run the Alexander Trucking # 4 that he ran several times last year. The "Kruser" drove the shiny silver car to 2nd quick on the night, was fifth in his heat to transfer to the Main, where he ran hard to come from the 4th row to get 2nd place. He and Rip Williams put on a scintillating side by side duel that lasted over half the race. Each driver passed the other several times and the crowd loved it! They were so close on many occasions, it looked like they were glued together, but no sparks! It doesn’t get much better, as they worked each other over lap after lap, until Cory finally took charge.
Rip Williams was 3rd quick and started in the fourth row next to Cory and was on the gas all night to get a third place podium finish to start the year off right. Neither the Ripper nor Cory cleared traffic soon enough to reel in the winner. Troy “Rambo” Rutherford set fast time at 17.115. Keith Kunz was in his pit this week to help out on the yellow Priestly owned beauty. Late in the race Troy was on the move as he pulled into 4th, and was getting faster each lap.
Damion “The Demon” Gardner began his seat time in the famous “little red sucker” with a 4th quick time. He won his heat and drove a hard race, ending up in 5th place on the night. He had the familiar smile as fans came by to check out the new driver in the Chaffin owned hot rod. Jason York came down from No Cal to get 6th, his best wingless finish after three tries. He had Steve Williby, Steve Ostling’s main man, helping set-up as Ostling’s ride wasn’t ready yet. Great job for Jason, as he plans to run the Golden State series and then about 10 races back down here after their season ends in July. He and wife Julie are expecting their first child near the end of summer.
Mike Spencer receives the 2003 Wagtimes most popular driver award voted on by Wagbucks donators thruout the year.
The Cowboy, Tony Jones, opened the year in a basic black # 2 and was the first car on the clock. He ended up 6th quick and drove a calmer race than normal, but finished 7th. He and long time girlfriend, Tammy, are expecting in September, so another generation of Jones is heading our way. Tony looks focused to improve on last year.
The Venard Family sprinter hit the track going fast tonight after a so so qualifying time. A few laps into his heat, Flyin’ Brian Venard was running great when he entered turn one. You could see sparks under the car as he quickly set the car and slowed to a stop near turn two. He was banged lightly by another car who couldn’t avoid him. The car looked fine, but the rear-end was busted, and they loaded up for the night.
Two VRA stars appeared in "new to them" cars. The Don Blair owned green # 33, that missing Rickie Gaunt drove a few years back, is a former Mike Kirby chassis and motor combination driven by Ronnie Case this week. He looked pretty good as he made the feature and finished 18th. Gregg Taylor is now in the Mike Sala # 19 that Josh Wise drove last year. They overcame some malady in the heat to make the main and run 11th in the main for his debut in the car. Another VRA driver, and former champion of that club, Jimmy Crawford, made the main to start on the pole, only to not fire and ended up last in the feature when he went to the pits before the green flag. Perhaps an alternate could be fired up for each feature just in case this happens again. I know Allan Ballard, who just missed transferring from the semi, would have loved the opportunity to get in.
A few notes as I went through the pits this nice warm day/night and greeted many who looked ready to go racing. The first thing noted was every car had to be inspected and a chassis sticker placed on the cars. They were also weighed for the 1200 pound minimum requirement. It is nice to see the safety issues that will be checked on every car that runs with the club. They looked at the side panels as well as checked dates on helmets. Seems like a great routine that should continue. Dwight Cheney’s new big white rig is awesome. He had Tony Elliott in the # 42 seat this week, but they had problems with other cars getting in the way and Tony missed the main. It was good to see Andy Forsburg as he made another trip to wingless land and got 9th in the main having fun. Mark Heidenreich had a birthday cake to end all, and that’s all I am going to say about that!
Carol & Glen Crossno share the podium with their drive at Perris, Mike Kirby, who just won the first ever USAC/CRA race.
Jim & Petie Ruth’s brand new Stinger was very sharply painted with some neat blue graphics that sets it off in a crowd. Dwayne Marcum brought it home in 14th on the night! Greg Bragg made a veteran pass on the last corner of the last lap to win his heat. He went on to run 13th in the main. Ben Lancaster brought his # 14 from Las Vegas this week for Adam Mitchell to drive and they finished 17th. Jon Stanbrough came in from Indiana to run Buzz Shoemaker’s # 0 car and got 12th. This nice guy won a lot of races last year back home in Indiana! Does the name Duane Feduska sound familiar? Maybe you remember a silver # 82 that got hooked on the safety wire in turn two at Ascot a few years back? Well, Duane was driving tonight after some 15 years or so away from the seat. He didn’t make the main, but perhaps will return again?
Several of the cars were on display out front for fans as they came in, including one owned by the “tooth doc” Jim Giardino. His new driver is a Lightning Sprint champion named David Cardey. David and I met when he walked in front of my Mule and I asked for another shot at him, when I missed. Seriously, it was his first sprint car race after three practices, and he was pretty sensational. He was doing exceptionally well in his heat leading and then hanging in there after getting passed, but a little slip put him in the semi, where he transferred with a 5th. He got 16th in the main and I consider it to be a very good start. He was already up to speed and racing more than most rookies do, so look for much more out of this youngster.
A great crowd for opening night, but a late arriving one, included Parnelli Jones of Indy fame and Steve Bietler of Skagit Raceway, to witness the historic race on the Perris track. The stands were not overflowing, but it looked good for this early event. Rollie Helmling, the president of USAC, was pleased with the turnout, the racing and overall startup of the new series. It was his first race at Perris and he was impressed with the facilities.
As we start the year off slowly, we made another presentation that was meant for our annual Wagsbash that didn’t happen. The best appearing car award went to the # 47 Venard Family sprinter last week. Mike Spencer was in the pits this race without his ride as they are not ready yet, either. We presented him with the 2003 Wagtimes Most Popular Driver award. He follows a long line of great drivers who received this popular annual award include the Tempe Tornado, the Gasman, the Shoe, the Kruser and last years winner, the Ripper. All Wagtimes awards courtesy of Trophy City in San Jose, CA. What a nice young man, that Mike Spencer. He plans to run a little back east in the familiar Biddle car and will run a lot here at home before he decides to go back east fulltime, maybe next year.
Wagsbucks have started for the year, and as I did last year, I will carry my clipboard and collect from those who want to help the low buck racers. We will wait until $200 is collected and then award it. We were a little short this week, but I need to get the word out so those of you who support the Wagsbucks can get involved again. Look for me as I motor around the racetracks in my polka dot Mule. The weekly shiny tire award went to the # 33 car after their tires were blazing in the feature line-up. The Jason York car was deemed runner-up.
My hats off to two winners at other opening night events this weekend. Bob Ream Jr won another race at Manzanita as he ended a long dry spell there with the big win. In Ventura, Chris Tramel, one of our former shiny tire worker winners, won his first VRA race at his home speedway. Sorry I missed both, as celebrations are fun when you win!
So, what was the most asked question of the day? What do I think? The USAC/CRA first race was a big success, with 27 cars and some great racing. What will happen, I don’t know, but it looks more and more like USAC/CRA is here to stay. This race looked to the average fan as business as usual because it was the same stars and the same good racing.
The SCRA opener at Tulare has been moved from its Saturday night April 3rd conflicting date to the next day, starting at 1 PM. We all know how I feel about day races, uggggghhhh, but at least there is no conflict now and fans can see both clubs in action in one weekend if they desire. A win-win for all.
My B-ball team won their CIF championship Saturday night without me! Good for them, but I was squirming at the races wishing I could see the game that started at 6:30 pm! The state tournament goes on now and won’t be a conflict for my racing. I bet I see the VRA this weekend, even though the Good Guys drags at Bakersfield is mighty tempting. See you at Manzy and get involved with the Sokola Classic in two weeks. They are still collecting to add to the purse. The lap money is $100 per lap. Mail To: Sammy Bahr, 1819 Alsuna Lane, Huntington Beach, Ca. 92648. Make all checks payable to Manzanita Speedway or call him at Home (714) 536-7300, Cell (714) 642-8311, Work (949) 764-2263 or e-mail: email@example.com.
USAC/CRA FEATURE: (30 laps)
1. Mike Kirby, 2. Cory Kruseman, 3. Rip Williams, 4. Troy Rutherford, 5. Damion Gardner, 6. Jason York, 7. Tony Jones, 8. Rick Ziehl, 9. Andy Forsberg, 10. Jordan Hermansader, 11. Greg Taylor, 12. Jon Stanbrough, 13. Greg Bragg, 14. Dwayne Marcum, 15. Josh Ford, 16. David Cardey, 17. Adam Mitchell, 18. Ronnie Case, 19. Levi Jones, 20. Jimmy Crawford. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-2 York, Laps 3-30 Kirby.
NEW USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR STANDINGS: 1-Kirby-68; 2-Kruseman-66; 3-Williams-62; 4-Rutherford-61; 5-Gardner-59; 6-York-51; 7-T.Jones-50; 8-Ziehl-46; 9-Forsberg-41; 10-Hermansader-36.
NEXT USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR RACE: March 19 Phoenix, AZ Manzanita Speedway “Sokola Classic”