Positivity - By Bobby Gerould
The Calistoga Speedway Scarborough Trophy will go to the track champion of 2004. Sparky Howard is the points leader by a commanding 41 markers over Jason Statler. Calistoga's own Mike Benson sits in third place, followed by Andy Forsberg, and Kevin Pylant. The Scarborough Trophy is named after the late Jim Scarborough who died in a Calistoga crash. The points champion of the small seven race series doesn't receive any money but does get to have their name listed in a very elite group of racers that have been able to accomplish a great season at the legendary half-mile dirt track. Recent champions include Dennis Moore Jr. (2003), Jason Meyers (2002), and Steve Kent, who in 2001 wrapped up his sixth track title. The first Scarborough Trophy was awarded to Mike McCreary in 1968. Since then, the names of the champions reads like a who's who of Northern California sprint car racing. LeRoy Van Conett, the Hall of Fame driver from Galt won seven track championships. Billy Anderson won the Scarborough Trophy three times before suffering a career ending injury at the track. Lem Tolliver, Johnny Anderson, Mike Andreetta, Brent Kaeding, Rick Hirst, Shane Scott, Paul McMahan, Randy Tiner, and Randy Hannagan all have one Calistoga track championship on their resume. Because of the specialized schedule at the track in 2004, only seven races comprise the schedule. Six of those races are winged 410 sprint car events, and one is a winged 360 sprint race. 75 points per night are at stake. Howard and Benson are the only two drivers that have run all four races so far this year. Can a traveling World of Outlaws driver win it in just three races? No. If a driver was perfect all three WoO nights he could score 225 total points. Howard already has 209; meaning he needs just a decent B-Main finish on one night to hold back any outlaws. ...Again we ask for help in obtaining history from Calistoga Speedway. We still do not know or have not been able to determine a champion from 1981-1983, 1988, 1990-91, 1996, and 1999. If you have specific information or race results from any night during those seasons please seek me out at the track this weekend or better yet - drop me an e-mail. I'm pretty sure Chuck Gurney has one of those trophies. (Hey Lil Rim check his trophy case for me). ...Add another quality team to the USAC Western States pavement series! Mark Priestly is making plans for a pavement assault with Troy Rutherford. If I was a chassis manufacturer I'd be looking into building something to compete with the Eagles, and Beasts that make up 90% of the paved market on the West Coast. ...Photos from Madera! ...Madera Speedway hosted the fourth annual Trigueiro Classic Saturday night. The entertaining 100-lap feature included a long stretch of 70 caution-free laps of hectic action on the 1/3-mile paved oval. Again Michael Lewis and Tony Hunt impressed us. These two guys can flat get around Madera; even in deep traffic. We also really liked the Rick Hendrix performance. He stayed with Lewis in traffic for roughly 60 laps, looking as racy as his championship years. Rookie Greg Anderson finished fifth. There may be more trumpeted sprint car rooks in the USA but I don't think I've seen one better than Anderson. ...Greg Taylor of Ventura will drive the Mike Sala #19 sprinter at the upcoming big non-wing shows in California. ...Congrats to Jason York on his USAC / CRA win at Perris. York loves sprint car racing and over the years, he has improved as much as any driver I can think of. The former Chico winged sprint car champion is also as nice a guy as you can find in the pits. ...Jesse Hockett continues to ascend in the sprint car world. After making the A-Main at the Knoxville Nationals, Hockett top the $10,000 top prize at the Non-Wing World Championship event at Lakeside Speedway. ...As the days pass, time is running out on the inaugural Racers Racing Series. Our points system that will determine the 2004 All-HammerDown! Team is headed down the homestretch. Donations to the 'kitty' which will be spilt among the top four drivers have been slow. But keeping the points is fun and the reaction from some of the drivers has been positive. Terry McCarl mentioned the All-HammerDown! team the first time I saw him at Knoxville. He was in a hurry to get to the media room after learning he was on the pole for Saturday's race. ...Finishing in the top 40 in the RRS points is no easy task. We hope that all drivers with any aspirations of National stardom will use HammerDown!'s accumulated knowledge by following the somewhat fictional series. Basically what we did was make up a 60-race schedule that could actually be traveled. It runs from March through the end of October, which we think is plenty. (Imagine a Thanksgiving at home with family!). All the biggest races are on the schedule, and if a driver wants to be nationally known, these are the races they should run. Our series points can also be an ego check. If you think you are hot stuff you might want to view your national ranking in the RRS points to get an idea of how many 'future stars' there are in the USA.
..The 44th annual Knoxville Nationals bring a flurry of items for Positivity. There is so much bench racing happening at Knoxville that our brain, memory, and notebooks are overloaded. Tony Stewart booed at Oskaloosa. - I heard through the grapevine that Tony Stewart was booed loudly at the Oskaloosa Front Row Challenge on Monday night. That is ridiculous! I wish many of the fans who booed Stewart could walk a mile in his shoes. Yes, he is handsomely rewarded for driving in the highest level of NASCAR but the poor guy can't eat a sandwich without someone asking for an autograph, or a picture, or a conversation. It comes with the territory and Tony has had to rise in front of the world with media outlets overblowing every move he makes on and off the track. Tony is not a kiss ass and that hasn't endeared him to many race fans. But as a grass roots community we should embrace Stewart. Whether you like him as a person or not, Stewart is giving back to sprint car racing in a ton of ways. When Kasey Kahne needed a way to get to a sprint car race a couple years back, it was Stewart who gave him a plane ride. When Dick Berggren was being inducted into the National Sprint car Hall of Fame, Stewart let him use his airplane to get from the NASCAR cup race to Knoxville and back. Stewart owns sprint cars, and midgets, and silver crown cars. There are other 'stars' that have not done a damn thing to propel sprint car racing. Stewart should be applauded loudly for his enthusiasm for our meetings. He loves sprint car racing, and that reason alone should earn him the benefit of any doubt anyone has about him. I'm not saying Tony is an angel. He wouldn't say he is either. But to boo Tony Stewart at a sprint car race is frankly, ignorant. FWIW, it would not surprise us if Tony, after the passing of many moons, will come back to the sprint car game as a driver on a regular basis. ...Shaver Engines and Ford - Ron Shaver, the southern California engine builder is said to be working closely with Ford on a next generation Ford motor for sprint cars. We believe an existing quality team will run Ford's in 2005. …Toyota is also making overtures to the open-wheel dirt community. Their interest is said to be more in the midgets than sprints. ...He thought he would be racing on Thursday but the word came down that Tim Kaeding would actually run his prelim on Wednesday at Knoxville. No worries. Tim, who enjoys life, and a good party, was up late Tuesday night and into Wednesday AM. He promptly went out and won the 20-lap feature on a star-studded night. Tim now has three Knoxville A-Main wins in his career. That is one more win at Knoxville than greats like Donny Schatz, Ron Shuman, Tom Bigelow, Dick Gaines, and Andy Hillenburg. ...Doug Wolfgang, a five-time winner of the Knoxville Nationals, was present Thursday night at the Marion County Fairgrounds. Wolfgang is building cars he calls Wolfweld chassis. Among retired sprint car pilots, Wolfie is the most accomplished man we have. ...With the purchase of the World of Outlaws now complete, the Boundless group will be able to negotiate with tracks that would not deal with Ted Johnson. Chief amongst those tracks is the pristine Dirt Track at Lowes Motor Speedway. Look for the Outlaws to return to Charlotte in 2005.
...Paul McMahan took a nasty rocket ship ride Thursday night. After car owner Dave Helm drew pill number one, Pauly ripped off a 15.300 timing. Starting at the rear of the first heat, McMahan rode over the right rear tire of Troy Little at the end of the back chute, the fastest part of the track. The car went vertical and Paul flew until he hit the top of the wall. The vicious impact left our boy dazed and confused but he was conscious enough to shut off the fuel on the car. The Knoxville hospital was ready to release McMahan, telling him he had no broken bones. Family members and crew chief Sonny Kratzer insisted that Paul go to a bigger crash house for further testing. That was a good thing. At Des Moines Mercy Medical Center a CAT scan revealed that Paul had a broken tailbone. The next day when Paul stood up to hit the restroom he almost hit the floor. More tests showed he also had a fractured right heel. …Danny Wood will drive the Selma Shell #11h while Paul heals. Paul is a former wrestler at Elk Grove high school, and his toughness showed this weekend when he returned to the track Saturday to watch the races despite being sore all over. ...Johnny Gibson, the voice of the World of Outlaws hasn't missed a race since 1995 when he was a rookie program seller. 'Gibby' started announcing the races on a regular basis in 1997. Only Steve Kinser has been to more consecutive WoO events. ...Talented Tim Shaffer will be among the travelers making their way West for WoO events at Cottage Grove, Elma, Calistoga and Chico. Davey Whitworth is tuning the Lonnie Parsons #6 that Shaffer now steers. ...Mike Benson recorded the tenth quick time on his prelim night but blew an engine and did not have a spare. ...Don't be surprised when Erin Crocker becomes the next big thing. We are sworn to secrecy on the details but suffice it to say if she performs well in future endeavors (including some pavement racing), she could suddenly find herself in the rarefied air of household names like Kasey Kahne, and Ryan Newman. ...One of the kids that impressed HammerDown! at the Nationals was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The polite youngster showed the ability to mash. ...Here we tell West Coasters that Ohio's Chad Kemenah, the reigning All-Stars champion is the real deal. The folks in Ohio know this already. He is smooth and smart and he finished second to Danny Lasoski in the Saturday night finale. ...Terry McCarl mentioned several times during the week that he intends to run more World of Outlaws races in 2005. McCarl wrapped up his sixth Knoxville track championship this season. ...Troy Renfro is the unofficial PR man for Brooke Tatnell. Renfro pointed out that the Aussie driver is often overlooked when discussions of the great ones wind up. Tatnell was beyond impressive in the C-Main, chasing down Daryn Pittman to earn the final transfer spot into the B-Main on Saturday.
...Food and Lodging for the week. We flew out of Sacramento into Omaha, Nebraska which borders Iowa. The Omaha option is much cheaper than a flight into Des Moines. We came in on Tuesday afternoon and stayed at Harrahs in Council Bluffs Iowa for one night which satisfied Kim's love for slot machines. My wife, Kim, is American of Japanese descent so I have acquired a real feel for good Japanese food over the years. Likewise, Chinese food abounds in our home area. I know many of you will not get it but in California we are spoiled to have great Asian and Mexican food plus tons of fresh produce options. The restaurant competition is fierce in California and that brings out the best in chefs. I am surmising that Iowa is not a hotbed for such fare. We elected to eat at Harrahs buffet Tuesday night. The Market Buffet was wack! This deal we ate at had many choices but the "Asian" section was pseudo. Their version of Fried Rice was more like steamed rice a roni or Uncle Ben's. Yuck. Their Mongolian Beef was more like beef stew. I mean not even close to what it should taste like. It was as if they dumbed down everything to appease the Midwest bland blah eaters. They had a "Bar-B-Q" station that offered nothing that was actually barbecued. Don't tease me. Some obviously Dutch-oven baked ribs were topped with a sticky sauce that I guess was supposed to make it Bar-B-Q. They didn't screw up the sausage with green peppers but the salad bar was limited. The turkey breast was from a turkey roll, not an actual Turkey. They had dry dry dry fried chicken. It was only $12 per person but as an experienced casino buffet diner this was the poorest excuse for a buffet I've encountered since a Mid-Ohio trip several years back. A midnight snack from Ace's Diner inside Harrahs was a better deal. Tenderloin #1 for the week was quite tasty, and the French fries were cooked crisp. Also, no Mountain Dew at Harrahs which is a Coke house. ...We drove a rented Oldsmobile Alero into Des Moines on Wednesday and set up at the Hampton Inn across from the airport. The Hampton Inn room was small but okay. We gassed it up to the track and dined on Tenderloin #2 from the Knoxville infield concession stand. Accompanied by a cold Mtn Dew, we were smiling again. After the races it was back to Des Moines for night one of eating at Perkins. It was the only coffee shop style place that was open 24 hours. That bugged me but oh well. The Denny's down the street was closed down; having morphed into a Italian joint that closed early. We did the club sandwich that was decent. The Fries tasted like they were cooked in old oil. The Hampton Inn did have a vending machine with frigid Mountain Dew in 12 ounce cans. YAHOO! The 'pop', as the Midwesterners call it was great! An icy cold can is the best way to enjoy the green drink that I am hopelessly addicted to. …Thursday we hit the South Ridge Mall in DSM to get some reinforcements because we packed for heat and humidity. The weather was cold on the first two nights. That was refreshing actually. A chain called Taco John's served me up two chicken tacos that were so nasty, I ate half of one and tossed the rest. The chicken and cheese had obviously been sitting awhile. …So …I ate tenderloin #3 at the track. I guess you can figure that those things are good. Thursday after the races, it was back to Perkins for a to-go order of eggs and ham. No worries there. Friday we ate at the track again. Kim digs the chicken poppers from the Knoxville Raceway concession stand. I had…tenderloin #4. …Friday night post race was mess. Perkins for the third night in a row was a challenge. The decision was a French Dip with French Fries. We unpacked the to-go order at the Hampton and discovered they gave me a stack of pancakes. We jumped back into the Alero and went back to Perkins. They knew right away they had screwed up because someone in the place who ordered pancakes received a French Dip. They let me keep the pancakes and gave me my FD. Then I was on my way. I get back to the motel and open up the container. French Dip! But no au jus. Screw it. I ate the sandwich and dipped it in maple syrup. …Saturday we ate excellent Turkey Legs from the real outdoor bar-b-q near the Knoxville Hall of Fame building. The Turkey leg was good good good! …The final 3:30 am trip to Perkins produced a club-melt that was decent. In short, eat at the track.
This weekend Kim and I traveled down Highway 99 to the Madera Fairgrounds for the USAC Western States Sprint Cars, and Ford Focus Midgets. An entertaining race on the tight one-third mile paved track was quite a treat to those in attendance. ...Audra Saselli who has come up through the ranks in Micro's and such was a winner in the Focus feature. Paul Vetter tells me she works at a Harley-Davidson shop, and wins races on the weekend! Don't get too exited fellas, she is married. ...Bradley Galedridge said his Focus Nationals win at Belleville was fun. The Focus cars ran on an inner quarter-mile, not the 1/2 high-banked track that hosted the National midgets. ...Tony Hunt did a great job to win the sprint car main event. His low dart off turn two to pass Tim Barber was really crafty. He made most of his passes 'upstairs' at Madera and took advantage of others fuel miscalculations.. ...Speaking of which; let me, just for kicks, establish my own position on fuel and racing. I hate red flags for fuel. I like longer races. A ton of stuff will change in a race between laps 31 and 50. At the highest level, which is currently NASCAR CUP, the races are long. They are also popular. I am not suggesting 500 lap sprint car races or green flag fuel stops. But I would like to see 50 laps become the norm rather than 25 or 30. The skill, and patience that great drivers possess would come to the forefront more often. Tire conservation which is huge at the highest levels would become more of a factor in our sport. Now I also hate 'rubber-down' on dirt race tracks. It makes the event turn into a parade. With today's gummy bear tire compounds many tracks would take rubber in a 50 lap deal. BUT it would not happen as quickly if each team had to run the same compound which would be a harder tire. Who do you think is being better prepared for the next level today? I think it is the USAC drivers who are racing more laps. ...Matt DeMartini will race at Madera on August 21st. The USAC Western States 100 lap Triguero Classic pays $6,500 to-win! ...Lee Brewer Jr. was driving for Ted Finkenbinder. Brewer says his health is better after a long battle with cancer. He smiled wide when talking about going racing with his son. Brewer is making fuel pumps at his Extreme shop in the bay area. He wants your business! ...Say a prayer for Mike McCreary, the two-time NARC champion. Diagnosed with liver cancer, McCreary is hoping for a miracle. Recently Mike has been heading up the CASA series that races at Altamont, CA. In my lifetime I can safely say that McCreary loves to race as much as anyone I've ever been around. He was racing when I was born and I saw him run at Madera earlier this year. Mike won the very first Calistoga Speedway Scarborough Trophy in 1968. ...Greg Anderson was impressive in his heat win, Saturday night. He made a narrow pass on the outside coming off turn two that made me say 'yikers!' ...Greg Taylor raced well in his own #47. I'd have to say this guy is underrated based on the performances I've seen this season. ...Mike Consani's son, Jared was a competitor at Madera. Bob's grandson will be a welcome addition to the USAC Western States series. ...CBS Market Watch was taping footage of Tim Barber Saturday night. They are doing a profile of a young driver trying to gain a corporate sponsor. Barber performed well in front of the camera. ...Cowboy Craig Smith raced as well. Craig is another driver that likes the look of the USAC WS Series. The former Montana champion loves to race which he why he is trying the pavement after years as a dirt shoe. ...Only six points separate Michael Lewis, Hunt and Brad Bumgarner for the 2004 championship just past the halfway point in the season. ...Sammy Swindell raced his own #1 at Eldora in the WoO race Friday night. Sammy put together a car with his son Kevin and promptly won the feature. Sammy has a Maxim with a Kistler engine. The next night Swindell raced a #11J and finished second in the USAC National non-wing sprint car race. The MOPAR Thunder event was won by Kevin Huntley. ......Holy smokes and gee whiz, the Nationals are sneaking up. Our Knoxville preview is coming along. I will have an opportunity to call the races at Knoxville with John Gibson on the Sprint Car Network (SCN). Please tune in Wednesday through Saturday as we cover LIVE the biggest race of the year for winged sprint cars. I missed being involved in the Nationals last year so I thank Gibson and Mike Martin for the chance to return to Knoxville. I really enjoy doing play-by-play for radio broadcasts and I hope that all HammerDown! readers will remind themselves to tune in.
...Our buddy Bill Klingbeil reports that Donny Schatz is going to run a non-wing car for Daryl Saucier at Oskaloosa on Tuesday night. The focus next week for Schatz will be the 44th Knoxville Nationals, but the 26 year-old Fargo, ND racer will spend his 27th birthday competing in the Ultimate Challenge $30,000-to-win non-wing sprint show at Southern Iowa Speedway. "I'm really excited about racing for Daryl," said Schatz, who currently ranks third in the World of Outlaws standings. "He has great equipment and for me to be able to do something else like racing a non-wing car just before the biggest race of the year is pretty exciting. I think it's going to be an absolute blast." The car is a J&J with a Shaver engine. Saucier hasn't been an active car owner since 1991. ...Chuck Gurney Jr. will race at Kings Speedway in Hanford on August 7th. ...Kudos to Craig Dollanksy and his Karavan Racing Team on landing Hawaiian Tropic, and Bosch as sponsors for the Knoxville Nationals. Somebody was hustling! ...P.J. Chesson won the Infiniti Pro Series race last weekend and had some great quotes. Read here (Indy Star). ...It's hard to write Positivity when I have HBO's Def Poetry playing on the television above.