LOS ANGELES, California — Round 10 of the AMS/Oil USAC-CRA 23 race schedule this season was the sixth race at Perris Auto Speedway. Mike Spencer, 30-year old four-time series champion (2008-09-10-11) and current point leader, made history by winning his fifth 410 cu. in. sprint car PAS feature in a row. He also won the Dean Thompson Award for the fifth time and is shooting for his fifth championship in the series. Mike drove the No. 50 Ron Chaffin Maxim/Shaver wrenched by Bruce Bromme, Jr, a 2011 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame (Knoxville, IA) inductee. As fastest qualifier of 24 drivers, Mike started the 22 car feature from his usual outside row four starting slot. He was bottled up in sixth place behind dicing front runners until lap 5. Spencer was second on lap 7 and had to battle pole starter Danny Sheridan through lap 15.
Then a rare occurrence gave Mike the lead without passing anyone. Leader Sheridan (No. 73 Ford Bros.) had his throttle stick open as he exited turn four under caution. As his car sped rapidly down the front straight, Danny threw it into a long spin in mid-track, almost rolled, and backed to a stop with the LR tire against the outer crash-wall near the first turn. He walked to the pits with his car was sidelined for the night. Spencer led the final 15 laps under green to the checkers. He had a full straightaway lead at the finish and lapped up to tenth position. He opened a solid 88 point lead in what he hopes will be his record fifth consecutive USAC-CRA driving championship. Jimmy Oskie's five championships in the original CRA came in 1969-74-76-77-79.
The July 28 PAS race was the annual California Racers Hall of Fame Classic that saluted past CRA personalities and brought out a larger than normal size crowd on a balmy, shirt-sleeve evening . It was 93 degrees when qualifying started at 5:50 pm and still 71 degrees when racing concluded at 10:37 pm. Additional bonus money contributed by firms and individuals added to the normal USAC-CRA purse that paid the main event winner $2,500. Spencer also earned the $500 from the late Billy Wilkerson's family in honor of the two-time CRA driving champion (1967-70) for posting the quickest qualifying time. He earned more cash for his trophy dash participation, giving him his most lucrative payday this season.
Many sponsors, including families (Agajanian, Wilkerson, Walt James) and companies contributed money in honor of CRA personalities or racing products manufacturers such as Ted Halibrand. Bonus money was contributed in memory of persons they wanted to remember/honor. Dean Thompson Award sponsors were Linda Halibrand, Steve Stroud and Nancy O'Toole. Sponsors also designated extra money to leaders of main event laps to salute drivers or owners by their car numbers. Lap 3 was for Rip Williams, L 15 for Don Blair, 19 for past car owner Danny Pivovaroff, and L 25 for Ted Halibrand. Long-time Ascot and Perris pit announcer Chris Holt deserves credit for his tireless efforts over the past months in organizing the additional $5,000+ bonus cash and prizes for 2012 competitors. One of the prizes donated was the feature trophy from a 1977 CRA race at Don Basile's Speedway 117 in Chula Vista, south of San Diego.
The California Racers Hall of Fame Classic Walt James Last Man Standing Dash (LMSD) format lined up the four fastest qualifiers in reverse order for a nine-lap trophy dash. Row one had Austin Williams and Rickie Gaunt, with Nic Faas and Spencer in the back row. Prize money was $1,000, $600, $300 and $200 for the four drivers. Runs were four laps with the fourth place driver eliminated, three laps with the P. 3 driver sidelined, and then two laps for the last two remaining participants. The first leg finished Gaunt, Williams, Spencer and Faas. Then Gaunt and Williams started from row one with Spencer behind them. Williams led all three laps over Gaunt, sending Spencer to the pits. A five-minute intermission followed for car prep and “graybeard” Gaunt, 43, drank bottled water to race his 21-year old rival. The final two laps for the $1,000 top award had Williams inside and Gaunt alongside. Gaunt led both laps to win the 9-lap dash over Williams. “This will buy some shoes,” he quipped over the PA system. Gaunt told the crowd, “We're (Dave Miller No. 66 team) a low budget team and this bonus money means the world to us. This motor was hurt after the last main event (July 4). It needed rod and main bearings.”
The three Agajanian brothers (Cary, Jay and Chris) contributed $98. each in an envelope for a blind draw by the trophy dash winner with all the Agajanian bonus money going to whichever trophy dash finishing position was drawn. The 98 from each Agajanian was in honor of the car number made famous by their late father, J. C. “Aggie”, who passed away in 1984, was a long-time open-wheel car owner and racing promoter, or as he preferred--race organizer. Agajanian 98 cars won the Indianapolis 500 in 1952 and 1963 and again in 2011 as co-entrant of the late Dan Wheldon's No. 98. Dash winner Gaunt drew the envelope containing P. 3, so Spencer received that bonus $294. as well, adding to his haul of hardware and cash. Past LMSD winners in 2011 were Faas (Santa Maria 6/18) and PAS (7/30) and Spencer (8/13). ... Other special monetary awards went to main event finishers who were the hard chargers. John Aden (St. 15 – Fin. 11) and Corey Ballard (St. 16 – Fin 12) both gained four positions. Ballard received the Pratt award $400. Other fans donated $100 each to the bottom six main event drivers in the final order.
The WRA vintage race car group brought eight vintage race cars (three sprint cars and five midgets) to PAS. The cars were on display inside the front entrance as fans arrived. Prior to the main event they all lined up in rows of two and ran a “demo race” for fans. The vintage cars used the front and back-straights as did USAC-CRA cars and the inside quarter-mile turns for the four corners. The No. 5 sprint car edged the No. 55 sprinter in a close contest. Bill Gerard, 89-year old restorer/owner of the No. 777 Miller sprint car, drove in the 6-lap event; he must qualify as the world's oldest person to drive a race car in an event. Gerard held an American flag as he drove his vintage 777 car around the track slowly during the National Anthem.
The PAS $5.00 race program had numerous color photos of CRA sprint cars from past decades and tributes to past CRA drivers. Two-page center section color photos saluted long-time CRA car owner Don Blair and Blair's Speed Shop in Pasadena. Don's No. 1 1974 CRA championship sprint car with Jimmy Oskie as driver was shown prominently. Also shown was Don's No. 1 sprinter on the cover of Hot Rod magazine. The center spread also showed three of Don's earlier race cars and a photo of Don as a young man. Don was a frequent spectator in the grandstand at PAS since it opened in 1996. He died last September, one day short of his 90th birthday. The program cover showed a color photo of late NSCHoF inductee and two-time CRA champion (1967 & 70) Billy Wilkerson in the black No. 2 Ernie Duncan Chevy. A 5 X 7” color photo of two-time (1983-84) CRA champion Bubby Jones in the No. 2 Kazarian Gas Chem Chevy also graced the program on page 7. Photos of four-time CRA mechanic of the year Ray Scheetz and USAC midget car owner/driver Don Weaver, 82, were in the program also as honorees on PAS Hall of Fame Classic Night. Other program photos saluted three-time (1980-82) CRA driving champion Dean Thompson, car owners Bill & Evelyn Pratt, Jack & Wilda Kindoll, Bruce Bromme, Sr and the late 21-years (through 1970) CRA president Walt James.
Past CRA drivers present Saturday at PAS included: past CRA champ Oskie, 65, Mike Sweeney, 54, Steve Howard, 58, John Redican, 67, Alex Grigoreas, Don Melton, 80 (now living in Redlands), and 1977 CRA rookie of the year Kenny Gidney, 65, (now living in Missouri for a decade and driving a tanker). Parnelli Jones' second son Page, 40, was present as well. Current USAC-CRA driver Brody Roa, 21-year old son of ex-CRA driver Brett Roa, is teaching Page's son how to drive a go-kart. Could there be a third generation racer in the Jones family? ... Three of the top ten drivers in 2012 USAC-CRA points were not present July 28. P. 4 Matt Mitchell had a lingering vision problem after his Indiana Sprint Week six-barrel rolls on the front chute at Terre Haute on July 18. Matt ran over the wheel of an out of shape car in the third heat, launching him into a series of violent rolls that SPEED TV shows aired. ... Long-time sprint car pit steward Evelyn Pratt celebrated her 93rd birthday July 24 and has continued her convalescence near her El Monte home. She last performed her PAS pit duties in April and has missed three PAS sprint car events.
SENIOR SPRINTS (360 cu. in.): The always fan-pleasing PAS Senior Sprint drivers (age 45+) ran one 8-lap heat race and a 20-lap main event. It followed the 22-car winged CLS 25-minute feature reduced by six laps by one red and four yellow flags. Steve Limon, the 2011 CLS rookie of the year, won his first CLS feature with nine drivers on the track. With nine senior sprinters present, eight started the heat, won by Victor Davis. He started fifth and led laps 2-8 and won by a straight-away. All eight seniors started the feature and thrilled the crowd in a nine-minute contest with one caution. The feature had four lead changes among three drivers. Bill Badger started fourth and led the first two laps. Wiley Miller started third and paced laps 3-6. Then fifth starter Bruce Douglass, who passed Badger for P. 2 on lap 4, took charge for good on lap 7 with an inside pass through the third and fourth turns. After an Eric Rickard spin on lap 8, the leaders battled closely to the finish with Douglass inside and Miller outside. Davis came from sixth to take second from Miller on lap 14 via an inside pass in the second corner. Davis challenged his long-time friend Douglass for the lead from laps 16-20 and trailed three-time PAS 2012 winner Douglass by two lengths at the checkers. P. 3 Miller was five yards back in the three-way dogfight. Badger, Jesse Denome, “Hubcap” Mike Collins and Ed Schwarz finished in P. 4-7, with Rickard down a lap.
The top three finishers came to start/finish for trophies and PA interviews. Winner Douglass said, “I'm tired. I'll need oxygen. That's ten wins at three tracks now. Thanks to Victor (Davis) for making this so much fun. I knew what he had in mind. I cut down to block him.” Runner-up Davis added, “He's given me the wheel so many times I can't count. I love him to death. He's my best friend. Racing with Wiley was fun too.” P. 3 finisher Miller stated, “Those are all my friends from Ventura (Raceway). Now they're coming down this way to race. We're having fun. It would be nice to be 30 years younger, but we're doing the best we can.” Track announcer Scott Daloisio told the crowd that long-time CRA driver and Riverside dentist Jim “the tooth doc” Giardina is getting a car ready to race with the seniors. Badger won the initial PAS senior championship last year. Seniors, who race only for trophies, were rewarded with more races this year. They join USAC-CRA 410 and CLS drivers to make it an open-wheel triple-header.
USAC-CRA Notes: Flips by Cal Smith (own No. 39) on his second qualifying lap and J. J. Ercse (No. 36 Springstead 360) while leading heat two on lap 3 resulted in heavy damage for both low budget teams. ... Austin Williams, 21, took P. 2 from his dad Rip, 56, on lap 5 of the main, but he bicycled in the low groove between the first two corners, had nose to the sky, pirouetted on the tail and rolled once. The report was a broken watts linkage and RF shock. Once the car arrived at the work area, the Jory crew discovered a broken rear end, putting the car in the DNF column. ... Sheridan (No. 73 Ford) started the feature from pole position next to his long-time ride—the light blue Kittle No. 18 now driven by Ronnie Gardner. Sheridan took command at the start as the blue 18 dropped to P. 4. Neither car finished. ... A fiery engine eruption by Johnny McCall's No. 44J on the front straight in front of grandstand section C sent flames up near the cockpit and caused a red flag as McCall stopped high in the second corner. ... The feature had five lead changes among three drivers—Rip, Sheridan and Spencer.
Kudos to David Cardey for starting 11th and charging up to P. 2 by lap 18 when he was half a straight in back of leader Spencer. Cardey, in only his second ride aboard the Sertich's new Victory chassis, battled for second with Rip and Faas to the end as the trio weaved through traffic. Cardey, the Ripper, Gaunt (who went from P. 6 grid position down to tenth on lap 3 and back up to P. 4 by the finish) and Faas earned P. 2-5 on the racy surface. Fifteen cars finished with ten drivers on the lead lap. ... Brody Roa won the July 21 Ventura 360 sprint feature in his first race aboard Mike Collins No. 04. Brody raced against Collins in the 04 car at PAS seven days later in his own No. 91 “green machine” powered by a 410. Brody used his 91 sprinter on Wednesday night, July 18 to run demo laps at the Industry Speedway popular weekly speedway motorcycle race in the Grand Arena of the Industry Hills Expo Center.
USAC-CRA TOP THREE: Dominant Spencer now has six of ten series victories this season. Chris Holt interviewed the Temecula driver who said, “Winning the Dean Thompson award is great. He was a hero of mine. Winning on California Hall of Fame Night is special. I tried to run smooth laps and hit my marks. Turn two was different tonight, I almost crashed. I used a new, more comfortable seat tonight. I had a good time” Spencer added it was “a great crowd tonight” and thanked fans for coming out. He seemed very interested in the historic 1977 Speedway 117 trophy he earned and asked won won it originally. ... Runner-up Cardey stated, “I apologize to Cory Kruseman. It was my fault I got into him. We found a little speed in it tonight, but started too far back (qualified 11th). Second on my second night in this new car is good with our combined teams (Nos. 59 and 92). I'm looking forward to the rest of the year.” ... Third place Rip Williams said, “It ran pretty good, but was too tight at first and it was tough to pass. I'm happy with third. Bubby Jones has been helping us a bit. All my kids are doing pretty good too.” ...Miss Perris participated in the presentation of trophies and cash after the three features.