Positivity - By Bobby Gerould
...So we made our first trip to Skagit Speedway this weekend. I know, I don't believe it either. It's hard to think about all the great racing that has taken place at the track celebrating its 50th anniversary and know that somehow, someway, I waited 36 years to get there. In all honesty, I'm sure that it would have happened sooner if not for the tragic death of Dave Bradway Jr. at the Northwest racetrack in 1987. Junior was my man, and even though I have had countless invitations from Grove Hill of Quality Race Video to go to Skagit, I never made the trip. I just didn't have a strong desire to go. I thought about DBJr. alot this week. Without going into the deep end, I felt the time was right to see the track that Steve Beitler now operates. Beitler too has inquired in the past about me coming up. The USAC / CRA Sprint Cars were racing a two-night event at the Washington track. I am doing some PR work for USAC's Western States office so this was a business trip : ))) ....I always liked Beitler. He got more out his equipment than almost anyone when he was racing winged sprinters. He's the kind of guy that will get dirty, roll up his sleeves, and 'get er done'. He helped save Doug Wolfgang's life in the horrible fire that engulfed Wolfie's car after a vicious practice crash. With Beitler at the helm at Skagit, the track operates to fulfill its motto; "Where families come to have fun". I know I'm not telling you all anything you probably don't already know. All I can do is describe my first impressions of Skagit. ...At first glance it reminds me of Santa Maria a bit. It's bigger. 3/10's of a mile. Pretty good bank to it. 15 degrees. The dirt is soft and not abrasive. Beitler says it barely touches the tires, and never takes rubber. The seating is cool. It carries from turn three all the way down to the end of the front chute. Cars pit in the middle, and park their trailers off the backchute where the pit-gate is located. It's only a couple miles from I-5, about an hour and a half north of Seattle. For some reason my mental picture before this trip had this place being deep in the hills. It is, kind of, but not really. It is so close to a major freeway, that it is easy to get to. I think I was influenced by BF's warnings of toothless festers. The track has a big scoreboard on the back-chute and a lap counter in turn one. The lighting is powered by Musco which means it is GREAT! One of the few dirt tracks in the world with a lighting system HammerDown! can give an unequivical thumbs-up to. ...The USAC / CRA sprinters were well represented and many locals shed their wings. Jesse Whitney, Brock Lemley, John Tharp, Brian Ash, Jeff Bell, and Dave Mead were some of the Skagit cats that showed the desire to race. Peter Murphy drove the stuffing out a local 360 sprinter. Pete is as good as it gets when it comes to being a fan friendly racer. His enthusiasm should be cloned. ...Bud Kaeding and Jason Statler raced the Rudeen Racing #26 cars this weekend. Bud was sore after a snap roll series in the Friday feature. Saturday he suffered a visible stuck throttle in his heat race and tipped over again. Statler finished in the top-five both nights. He is staying up in Washington to run at Skagit the next two weeks. The weekend of the Knoxville Nationals, Skagit is promoting a 360 winged Nationals that pays $60,000 over two nights. ...Rip Williams showed his skill at Skagit. He moved forward every time he hit the track. The 48 year-old is trying to win the USAC / CRA championship. His closest pursuer in the chase is Damion Gardner who was incredible on Saturday. Even with a huge lead, Gardner showed the 'no-hesitation', attack-the-track, style that makes him easily one of the most fun drivers to watch race. He entered the turns hard and high and smoked em Saturday. Friday night, DG made a move to take the lead from Cory Kruseman but ran over a 'lapper' in turn three that cost him a win. Gardner also broke the non-wing track record at Skagit Friday. ...Kruseman is just a joy to watch and talk with. He has learned well from Lealand McSpadden, and many before him, that sincere graciousness is a strong trait. Words are hard to describe how smart a driver I think Kruseman is. From our perch atop the Skagit press box, it was like I could see Kruseman planning out each move on the track. He is patient. Yet he pounces. He is good low. He is good high. He is one of the USA's very best dirt track racers. The two-time Chili Bowl midget winner won Friday. ...Jordan Hermansader was bummed on Saturday after a problem under the hood kept him out of the feature. The former Turkey Night winner was runner-up on Friday. ...Nadine Keller, a police officer / race driver from Azusa, CA. made the long trip to Alger. She brought two cars. One for herself, and the other for Mike Spencer.
...Thanks to Evelyn Pratt for lending a pen to me after I misplaced my marker. ...I met Andrew Kunas. He is a bright young writer that does a terrific job of keeping us updated on what is going on in Washington. We also enjoyed the Skagit announcing team that boomed over the strong public address system. ...We had the pleasure of being introduced to Jim Hayhoe, a longtime car-owner who really helped Jimmy Vasser in his driving career. Hayhoe lives close to Skagit and is lending a hand to a local team. ...I also stopped Jerry Day and said hello. Day was one of the first guys from Washington that I remember coming to West Capital Raceway when I was a kid. ...Bruce Walkup was also in the house. ...Also, Bill and Gaye DesChamps were vacationing and dropped by with their friend Lloyd Armey. ...Danny Sheridan was a strong third place finisher on Friday. "Showtime" is a gasser for sure! The Friday night track was dry and dusty in the feature but Beitler and crew worked hard to present a better surface on Saturday. Sheridan and many other drivers told us the dusty conditions Friday were a serious challenge. ...Bobby Cody had a good weekend overall. He drove to a ninth place result for night one. Saturday netted a fifth. ...Overall we enjoyed the trip to Skagit and applaud the progressive thinking of Tommy Hunt and Beitler in getting this event started. If the 2005 version can avoid conflict with the Belleville Midget Nationals, a better draw of cars seems automatic. Also, I have no idea what his schedule is but selfishly I wanted to see Ricky Fauver race. Maybe he can be talked into a wing removal for 2005.
...Food and lodging for the weekend (July 30, 31, 2004) ...Kim and I stayed in Bellingham, WA. which is about 15 minutes up Interstate 5 from the track. Our arrangements were to fly into Seattle from Sacramento and then rent a car and drive to the Skagit Valley. The countryside was spectacular. Green trees everywhere, and clean air! In fact, Bellingham, WA. was noted to have air that ranks in the top 10% nationally. Can you really tell? Yes. In the Sacramento Valley we have smog. Visible brown-grey-yellow smog. The maritime air in Bellingham was refreshing. Bellingham is way up in Washington. It sits 60 miles from Vancouver British Columbia Canada but the San Juan Islands that are part Canadian, and part USA are very near. Shellfish is a local treat. We hit the Shrimp Shack near Bellingham Bay on Saturday. It was great! A casual local joint that offered a variety of 'fish n chips' type stuff. Their homemade clam chowder was hearty and good. The shrimp and chips deal I ordered was tasty. Big sweet shrimp batter dipped and fried, with French fries cooked perfectly made me smile. The topper? They had Pepsi products, which means they refilled my Mountain Dew! We dig the Shrimp Shack! Kim says her Shrimp Louis salad was good too. After the races both Friday and Saturday, we hit Shari's. A coffee shop, 24-hour place, Shari's was just okay. Their service was great but the food was nothing to call Mom about. We didn't know where else to go for late night eats. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Bellingham which was good. A friendly staff, and clean room made it easy to enjoy our stay. ...We also had takeout lunch on Friday from the sports bar adjacent to the motel. They cooked us up a wood-fired pizza that was excellent. Overall, everyone we dealt with was friendly. More so than usual. Skagit Speedway had a very good concession area with friendly workers. They had a variety of menu choices, and fair pricing.
...In his 16th season of racing a sprint car, Jason Statler is a champion! "Big Jason" won the King of California winged 410 sprint car championship for 2004. The title could not have gone to a better guy. Statler (33) is a living example of perseverance in the sport. He raced micro midgets before getting into sprint cars in 1989. The 6'5" driver always ran hard, and he crashed his share; not easy when you carry 270 lb.. But every time he hit the track he improved. After a couple years as a sold top-ten guy, Statler emerged as a race-win threat in California. His World of Outlaws victory at Santa Maria on 9-11, 1999 was a precursor to his status now as one of the topnotch sprint car pilots to come out of the San Jose area. His desire to race led him out of California in the late 90's to experiment with the All-Stars, and the defunct Gumout Series. With each trip his horizons broadened and he returned to the Golden State armed with the experience and knowledge to contend. In 2003, he won back-to-back weekends at Antioch, and Santa Maria which were remarkably his first two wins in the series. Through his longtime sponsor DF Rios Construction, Statler has had the backing to race at a high level. His accomplishments this season included two wins (Chico and Placerville), and 15 top-fives on his way to winning the title over Andy Forsberg, Blake Robertson, Kevin Pylant, and Sean Becker. Tim Kaeding won 8 of the 17 features he entered in the GSC series.
..Brent Kaeding broke the Chico track record for GSC with an 11.5 second clocking. ...Brad Furr won the Saturday night feature at Chico. ...Levi Jones emerged as the Indiana Sprint Week points champion. ...J.J. Yeley returned to the dirt to win the finale at Terre Haute. ...Pete Pistone sheds some more light on the World of Outlaws saga. Read it here. ...Sometime recently we delved into a another part of the seasons in North America. I saw my first 'back to school' commercial on TV yesterday. Circuit City gets the jump! The point is that when your hear that signal it means the Knoxville Nationals, Harvest Classic, and Gold Cup are right around the corner. I cannot remember a time when I felt like the Nationals were more wide open than they seem to be this year. Our HammerDown Knoxville Preview will be on the way soon. ...Jason Statler can lock up the King of California title this weekend at Chico. He leads Andy Forsberg by 39 points; a comfy margin in the Golden State series. ...Latest on the World of Outlaws? We reported that Ted Johnson took back the series but now Boundless, the publicly traded company says that is not the case. In fact, they say they have fired Ted, Carlton Reimers, and PR man Richard Day. We wondered what was up when the World of Outlaws website went without update over the weekend. The Kings Royal is way too big a race to have your website sit stagnant so we knew something was wrong. Richard Day has been a constant with winged sprint car racing since 1987. That is a long time. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Richard for his service to fans everywhere. Hopefully Day, who was put in an impossible situation, will soon be back reporting on sprint car racing. ...It sucks for Jason Sides, Jason Meyers, and Dale Blaney who were recent winners overshadowed by the politrix. Sides especially deserves all the bells and whistles that should accompany a big win like the Kings Royal. ...Rob Hart who we told you left the mIn #4 team, has landed a tuning gig with Larry Woodward's #2 team, and driver Joey Saldana. ...We received an e-mail from our friends Gerald and Marcia Phillips of Calistoga. It seems they were at Petaluma Speedway Saturday night and had the unfortunate luck to witness a track worker being run over and killed. I know the Phillips' well and Gerald must have been shaken to write me such a passionate letter. He rightfully asked that all involved in motorsports look at other forms of communicating to drivers than a man standing on the side of the track with a board. We agree. USAC's Western Midgets series is using a one-way radio communication with the drivers that really works well. An official can do an "all-call" to tell drivers of a caution flag, or to get them into position for a restart. ...Also we offer the HammerDown! guide and simple rules to be as safe as possible.
- 1. Don't turn your back on a race car.
- 2. Be alert and aware when in the pits or near the track.
- 3. If a car is coming at you don't freeze and expect the driver to miss you. React quickly and move toward the infield. Do not move toward the track.
- 4. Don't be a thrill seeker. Just because someone else sits in the front row of the pit grandstand, it doesn't mean you have to.
- 5. Cars are hot after they race. Don't get too close. If you have shorts on, watch what you lean against.
We visited two new race tracks (for us) this weekend (July 16-17, 2004). Southwest Airlines brought us to Seattle Washington for USAC Western States Sprint Cars at South Sound Speedway in Tenino, and then Evergreen Speedway in Monroe. We like green. Washington is the evergreen state. Everywhere you can look, trees line the landscape. With Puget Sound, and Lake Washington providing beautiful shades of blue, the Seattle area is easily one of the best-looking metropolitan scenes we've seen. We also noted the cleanliness of the highways and the thoughtful design of downtown Bellevue which was our host. …Tenino was supposedly a 45 minute drive from the hotel in Bellevue. …Unless it is Friday during rush hour; which it was. The trip took two hours and 45 minutes to complete with one stop for a gas and go at Quizno's subs. …A tight little paved three-eighths mile track somehow yielded a non-stop 40 lap feature. The odds of that seemed astronomical considering the sharp turns and narrow lanes of the dimly lit speedway. I've seen some dark racetracks in my days but this was DARK! The frontchute especially. Nevertheless, the drivers of the USAC WS Sprint Series did a good job. Michael Lewis was slicing and dicing like a sharp Ginsu in traffic. He again displayed an ability to get to the front in a hurry. He has thoroughly impressed us this season. …Bad luck struck the Ken Piersen team as they lost an engine (again) in practice forcing Tim Barber to the sidelines for the entire weekend. Barber, and Brad Bumgarner are the only two drivers other than Lewis to win a feature in the series so far this year. …Ryan Flynn was spinning wrenches for Destiney Hays this weekend. Hays was a victim of a sideways Marvin Mitchell at the start of her heat race Friday. Flynn and Mike Murgoitio among others helped to get Destiney back into the running for the features after her #28 had serious front end damage. Although she didn't have a great run due to mechanical trouble at Evergreen, Hays displayed an ability to maneuver at Tenino that was quite good. She started 22nd and drove around or under some veteran drivers in the non-stop 40-lapper on her way to a 13th place finish. The competitor in her wishes she was more competitive on the pavement but as we reminded the 21 year-old, it was (is) only her sixth race on a surface not made of dirt. …Evergreen is a big track. USAC was racing with the NASCAR Grand National stock cars. The crowd was huge. We were impressed with the attention to detail by the staff at Evergreen. The race had the feel of an event which is what all races should strive for. They crowned a Miss Evergreen Speedway, they interviewed the top-three drivers on an actual podium, and they hustled regional television coverage for the taxis. …Don Powell is alive and well. Powell who used to be a regular in NARC races on the dirt at Chico is now running a pavement sprinter in the Northwest. …We felt bad for Greg Anderson who had a good run going at Evergreen but dropped from the race with an overheating problem on his Eagle / Chevy. …Rick Hendrix was driving the Ted Finkenbinder Pontiac powered sprinter. Finkenbinder has a track record of success in Northern California sprint car racing.
…Food & Lodging for the weekend. We can finally highly recommend a place! We paid up-front early to get a special Expedia.com rate at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue. For $79 a night, we had a room on the 23rd floor overlooking Lake Washington. The staff at Hyatt Hotels is first class, and the location was ideal. Just 5 blocks from the 405 freeway, and one block from a major shopping center, the Hyatt was great. It took less than 25 minutes to get to Monroe from Bellevue. …P.F. Chang's restaurant was right across the street. The easy lunch choice was perfect. I had a Chicken Lettuce Wrap that was good good good! ...The USAC sprint car races were done by 7:30 pm due to Live-TV for the NASCAR race. I had thoughts of getting grungy in Seattle's Pioneer Square. But I had to eat dinner first. I ordered a Club Sandwich and took a nap waiting for it to arrive. After eating and hearing that the cab ride would be $25 each way, I limited my clubbing to the sandwich and was in deep slumber by 10:30 pm. …The Hunt Family was kind enough to save me a seat on the flight home Sunday. We bumped into Kenny Garcia who was returning from his duties as scorer of the Northern Sprint Tour Speedweek. Brent Kaeding won the points title for the week of Oregon and Washington dirt winged 360 sprint car races. Ricky Fauver continues to turn heads as he won key weekend features at Elma. An NBC televison crew followed Kasey Kahne in his return to his roots and homestate. Kahne raced and signed autographs all week.
Greg Wilson won $16,000 in the Brad Doty Classic. ..."Bakerspatch" was the scene this weekend as we took in the USAC Western States Midgets and Ford Focus Midgets from Bakersfield Speedway. Among our impressions; Garrett Hansen has great potential. He used the cushion to his advantage, passing cars on the outside and keeping his #70 off the wall enroute to a heat win. Hansen also had quick-time. ...Steven Paden won the race. He says he is looking forward to the Belleville Midget Nationals which comes up next month. The curly haired, Californian as we have documented is another topnotch pilot in the USAC WS Midget deal. Johnny Rodriguez, and Jerome Rodela are two others that HammerDown! feels could step into any open-wheel situation and be a factor. ...Of course we are just talking about the young guys. Wally Pankratz still gasses it up too. Wally was getting in on the bottom of the Bakersfield surface deeper than anyone. With a lip about one car length up in turn-one, Pankratz would hammer into the corner and use the lip as a mini-cushion, lifting the left-front as he drove off. I kept thinking he was going to turn over but he never did! ...Steve Graves was faster than I have ever seen him run. He earned a hard-fought third in the A-Main. ...Chris Rahe dominated the Focus feature. See some photos here. ...We drove to Madera on Friday night, and then on into Bakersfield for Saturday. We drove straight back on Saturday night. The new Holiday Inn Express in Madera - just off Highway 99 was our lodge on Friday. We will try somewhere else in the future. ...Bakersfield has a Macaroni Grill on the Rosedale Highway between 99 and I-5. We hit that spot for a late lunch. For those of you who have not tried the Macaroni Grill, you should. Italian food done expertly is a staple of this growing chain of restaurants. The service was and is usually outstanding. They are popping up everywhere. The Chicken Scaloppini is my favorite dish. ...Congrats to Andy Forsberg on his win at Santa Maria Speedway Saturday night. Brent Kaeding broke the track record at the fast 1/3-mile with a wicked-fast 11.2 second clocking. ...Joey Saldana took home $20,000 for his Fargo win. Jason Meyers was a prelim winner on Friday. . ...Car-counts in July can be tough. A quick sample for Saturday night July 10, 2004? Bakersfield: Midgets 16, Focus Midgets 18. Santa Maria: Golden State Winged sprints - 17. Tulare - SCRA non-wing sprints - 20. Placerville BCRA midgets - 20. ...Rob Hart, one of the smartest crew-chiefs in sprint car racing is leaving the Scott Chilcutt #4m team. Hart is opening a shop in Indianapolis, IN.
Jac Haudenschild is back in Guy Forbrook's #5. ...Non-wing sprint car racing will get a fantastic stage when the SCRA, and NWWC run a special 12 lap, $15,000 mini-feature in between the C and B mains on Wednesday night at the Knoxville Nationals. 12 cars wills start. Ten of the cars will be the top ten finishers at the Oskaloosa NWWC race. One at large spot will be chosen by a race fan, and another at large spot will be filled by the highest SCRA runner in points not already qualified. A week prior to the Iowa fun, the NWWC will run at Hollywood Hills in San Felipe, New Mexico. Rickie Gaunt, Charles Davis Jr., Mike Spencer, and Bud Kaeding are entries for Osky. ...Bob Ream Jr. won again at Manzanita on Saturday night. The tall sprint car ambassador from Arizona is having quite a season. He has four A-Main wins at Manzy alone. ...Make sure to notice the $$$$ in the Pikes Peak Silver Crown race over the weekend. Over a $1,000 was paid even if you finished last. ...Troy Hennig dropped us a note that Jason Statler broke the Chico, CA. regular points track record on Sunday. The large man from Los Gatos whipped his Statler Racing Maxim around the 1/4 mile in 11.504 seconds. Jeff Shepard holds the all-time mark at 11.477 (more on that race) ...The past weekend for us included a trip to Perris, CA. for the USAC / CRA Firecracker 50. The show is a mid-season leader for the HammerDown! best of 2004 list. The staff at 'The PAS' deserve the highest kudos for providing entertainment while leaving no stone unturned in their quest to create a 'show'. Examples? Fireworks after the race (more on that later), American flags on each sprint car in competition, a well prepared race track with multiple grooves, an announcing team with knowledge and a plan, a promptly run racing program with no unnecessary delays, ....I could go on. A good singer performed America the Beautiful before the start of the feature. They lined up all the cars on the front chute, and introduced them one by one. Scott Daloisio handled the microphone from the press box while Chris Holt, and Jim Naylor provided roving reporting from trackside. Daloisio is really good. He has notes on all the drivers, and provides background info on them as the night proceeds. Too often I don't learn anything from a track announcer but with Scott on the mic I had tidbits galore to note. After each heat race, the heat winner was quickly interviewed at trackside (without interference and static that often occurs when a wireless unit is around magnetos). Interviews like this should be mandatory at all tracks! It allows the fan a chance to glimpse the driver's competitive spirit and sense of humor or lack there of. The lighting and sound system as a combination at Perris are unrivaled in short track, dirt-track racing. The bottom line is this; do yourself a favor and get to Perris for an upcoming USAC / CRA race.
- August 21 - Perris - USAC/CRA
- August 28 - Perris - USAC/ CRA plus Ford Focus Midgets
- September 11 - Perris - USAC/CRA plus Ford Focus Midgets
- September 18 - Perris - USAC/CRA
- October 9 - Perris - USAC/CRA
- October 28-30 - Perris - Oval Nationals - USAC National Sprints w/ USAC/CRA
- November 20 - Perris - USAC / CRA
My only gripe was the way too country musical soundtrack to the huge fireworks show. I'm pretty sure that the PAS is not to blame here. The pyro pokes probably provided the CD that was played. I know some of 'y'all are country folk. I'm just saying the music is not for me. If we (the sprint car racing community) are ever to truly expand, we need to work to remove the stereotype of our sport as a redneck, backwoods, deal. Dig? In early 2004, for the first time in history, the top ten songs on the Billboard Pop music charts, were hip-hop tunes. A well placed country song here and there is okay. But 20 twangers in a row will screw up a fireworks show. ...Since the response to our travel notes has been overwhelming, we'll continue to provide some insights on hotel-motels, and Holiday Inns. We flew Southwest from Sacramento to Ontario, then rented a car (always National rental car), and drove to Riverside where we stayed at a Courtyard by Marriott. We will look elsewhere nexttime. The staff was nice but the overall room for the expense wasn't worth it. Kim and I hit the Sunset strip in Hollywood after the Saturday races. It was a short stay but always worth the trouble to stand on the pulse of one of the most vital scenes anywhere in the world. The Paris Hilton short frilly skirt is alive and well. The throwback jersey craze appears to be slowing down. It's all about the Jay Z. striped button-up dress shirt. ...We were excited to see a Shakey's Pizza parlor in Riverside. The place originated in Sacramento but there are no more of them here now. ...This weekend, it's off to Bakersfield again for the USAC Western States Midgets. ...See photos from Perris!