Positivity - By Bobby Gerould
...The USAC Western States Banquet took place on Saturday night after Thanksgiving at the Embassy Suites in Buena Park, CA. Kim and I cruised into the 'BP' Friday after a quick one night at the Four Points by Sheraton in Monrovia, CA. Both Buena Park and Monrovia are in the general L.A. area. An unusually cold weather system hit Southern California Saturday which kept us indoors until Banquet time. The banquet was delayed as we waited for the trophies to arrive. The trophy makers were stuck in traffic on their way in from the Sacramento area. Dick Jordan was the host for the evening and he did a great job of providing statistical information that kept things in perspective. For example, Jordan noted that Tony Hunt's Western Sprint Car Championship made Hunt one of only 20 men in USAC's history with four USAC driving titles. …Brad Bumgarner earned USAC's Western Sprint Car honors as the Most Improved Driver. Bobby Cody took the same honor in the USAC/CRA. ...The banquet was very nice due to the hard work of Jeanie Hunt and her fine staff. …Ronnie Case was named USAC / CRA Rookie of the Year. Mike Murgoitio won the Western Sprint Car RoY.
…Also, let me do a bit of preaching to some of the young drivers out there who by no fault of their own may not understand how important it is to attend your series banquet. When you skip the banquet, people by nature, make assumptions about your character. While I admit it doesn't mean a thing what others think of you; you should attend the banquet for your own good. If you aspire to advance in racing, whether it is Cup, IRL, or just a better ride on the National scene in sprints, midgets, or Silver Crown, you can help establish yourself as a professional by attending the banquet. Why is it important? It is matter of respect. The decision makers from the series sponsors usually attend. Fans attend. These folks spend their own hard earned money to support your racing. Obviously without fans and sponsors, you could not make money racing. When you don't attend the banquet you might as well be giving the sponsor and fans the finger. "But the sanctioning body screwed me!" So what. Life isn't fair. Be a pro, sack up, swallow your pride for a night and make the efforts necessary to be there. "But I don't have any clothes that are nice." Weak excuse. In less than a half-hour you can get a pair of slacks and at least a collared shirt from any mall. "But the banquet is expensive, and I'm not getting any awards." Again, lame excuse. The good you do for your perceived character is nothing you can put a dollar amount on. "But I tried to get tickets and they were sold out". Okay, that did happen to some of you but the truth is you should have been on it sooner. As a witness to back-room meetings from executives that can greatly help your career, I can tell you that the benefit of the doubt in any and all situations will go to the good sportsman. I'm not mad at any of you for not attending any banquet. But I do want you to know for your own good that it is more important to attend than you think it is. "But I hate public speaking, and I suck at it." You don't have to say anything other than thank your car-owner, crew, and those that helped your team. If you want to show some class, you can add thank yous to the people who run your series. "But, but, but…" ...With the action fast and furious the past three weeks, I need to catch up on notes from Tucson, Irwindale, and Reno.
...Turkey Night notes: Spotted: "Awesome" Tim Clauson and son Bryan, a 15 year-old Indiana charger who will make his USAC debut at the 2005 Buckeye Nationals. The young Clauson already has many laps under his belt despite being too young to run USAC. He'll do the 16-candles in June. Meanwhile Bryan will race at the Chili Bowl as a teammate to J.J. Yeley. …Levi Jones the dirt hero from Olney, Illinois was in the pits turning wrenches on Darren Hagen's #09. …The first person I recognized at Irwindale Speedway was none other than Northern California Hall of Famer LeRoy VanConett. …Turkey Night winners, not racing, in the house included Danny Oakes (1945), and Tony Simon (1972). …We also saw SCCA Trans-Am champion Tommy Kendoll. …Tom Bigelow, an 81-time winner in USAC racing, was also present as was Eddie Lawson, a two-time AMA Superbike champion ...HammerDown! Race Gear is now available at Hunt's Race World in Fair Oaks, CA. The NASCAR collectible store is the only place in the world other than this website to buy our tees, beanies, and hooded sweatshirts. You can visit Hunt's Race World at 7900 Winding Way (@ Sunrise) in Fair Oaks (Sacramento). ... Tucson 'Old Pueblo Classic' notes: 31 midgets, 23 sprint cars. …Previously in my mind I had selected Bakersfield Speedway in Oildale, CA., as the racetrack with the least scenic surroundings as you approach. After my second trip to Tucson Raceway Park, I have changed my mind. The track itself is nice (other than poor lighting). But the trip to the track gives new meaning to the term 'middle of nowhere'. Located on the Pima County Fairgrounds, and off the I-10 Rita exit, TRP is in a flat desert area. I almost hit a roadrunner on the way in. I could not see the track from the freeway as I crept up on it but I was getting close when I went past an Arizona State Prison. The good news is that once you are at the track, the folks are friendly and the grounds are clean. …I was happy to see Brian Gard travel to Tucson. He, and Eric Mostin represented the BCRA ranks from Northern California. As we always say, you have to have the desire to race and travel if you are ever to make a National name for yourself. Gard, the Kelseyville, CA. driver was BCRA Rookie of the Year.
…Destiney Hays was invited to test a truck at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring. However, the trip was a disappointment as the vehicle never could get the bugs out. The lady racer from Oroville, CA. is seeking a ride for 2005, hoping to relieve the stress from her family which is currently footing the bill. …Tracy Hines raced in the NASCAR Truck Series race at Homestead, Florida on Friday and then flew into Tucson to race Saturday afternoon in the USAC National Midget event. …I was impressed with Brad Loyet of Sunset Hills Missouri. In his first ride in a full midget he diced in the top-ten all evening. Loyet is a graduate of the Ford Focus midgets. …Johnny Rodriguez clinched the 2004 USAC Western Midget championship at Tucson. Rodriguez was not feeling well though throughout the weekend. Flu like symptoms had J-Rod fighting to stay hydrated. The skilled and versatile racer passed more cars than any other driver during the title winning campaign. …The Old Pueblo Classic is a tune-up for the 63rd Annual Turkey Night Grand Prix that will be contested on Thanksgiving Day at Irwindale Raceway. …Bobby East has 13 wins in 2004 USAC Racing. …A.J. Russell who won two SRL Super Modified events this season hopped into sprinter for the Old Pueblo Classic. …Michael Trimble will make his midget racing debut in January 2005 at the Chili Bowl. …Spotted at Tucson: Bruce St. James in a 50 Cent hoody. …Food and Lodging for the weekend. …I flew in on Friday on Southwest Airlines, and stayed at the Airport Clarion Friday night for $80. The Courtyard by Marriott was our Saturday host. A USAC racer's rate of $49 was the best deal of the year as far as lodging goes. I ate horribly. In late Friday, it was Carl's Jr. as I tried to digest the NBA fiasco between the Pacers, Pistons, and the fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills. : ((( …Saturday I did Kyoto Bowl on the way to the track. It's no Yoshinoya. …At the track, a cheeseburger from the mesquite grill bar-b-q was very excellent. A half lb. of beef with a grilled bun and fresh tomatoes made it the Burger of the Year! I only eat a burger two or three times in a year but I believe this one would stand up even for those who eat Burgers like I eat rice. …The late night eating spot for Saturday night (Sunday AM) was a joint called The Grill. Apparently the spot in downtown Tucson is legendary for being open 24 hours and for their tater tots. I skipped the tater tots and had a smoked turkey club w/ fries. ...Tucson has more police cars than Circle K's.
The sophomore season for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has been one of many highs and lows for the young Mississippi driver. However, he capped off his 2004 campaign with a monumental high as he picked up the $5,000 payday in the 3rd Annual Competition Cams Memphis Nationals. ...Hank Butcher, winner of 79 BCRA features as well as eight USAC national wins, was inducted into the National Midget Hall of Fame recently. ...Ronnie Gardner, a young writer from Southern California has contributed his take on the Western World Championships. Read it here. ...Fred Rahmer won 34 features in 2004. In the previous year he won only five. Said Fast Freddie, "We certainly knew coming into this season that we should win more than we did last year. "I didn't think we'd be breaking records, but we knew we had a great team, incredible owner, great equipment and a driver ready to compete at the highest level. Everyone worked really hard and we did the best we could every night. We're of course looking forward towards next year and trying to do it again next year." Rahmer beat his own personal record for wins in a season. This year's 34 beat the 33 he notched 1998. From 1998 through this year Rahmer has 140 sprint car wins all in J&J sprint cars. Oh, by the way, Fred also snared 2004 track championships at Williams Grove, Lincoln, Susquehanna and Selinsgrove Speedways along with being the 2004 Thunder on the Hill Champion and 2004 Pennsylvania Speedweek Champion. Bow down! ...Kevin Swindell is off to a good start in his young sprint car driving career. Sammy and Amy's boy finished 12th in the A-Main at the Short Track Nationals, a big 360 event in Little Rock, Arkansas.
...BCRA Midget 2004 champion Thomas Meseraull impressed us as a hard charging young gun. The BCRA owners title went to 3D Racing whose chair was filled by second-place driver and rookie of the year Greg Dennett. ...Tony Hunt's new website is really sharp. Check it out at http://www.tonyhunt.com . ...Donny Schatz finished the year in strong fashion. He said, "Our chassis and engine programs with Jack Elam (J&J Auto Racing) and Ronnie Shaver (Shaver Engines) are the best in the country, and anytime you can get a lethal combination like that, it's fun to go racing. We'll take the way we finished this year and go back home and get ready for 2005, and hopefully we can come back and do this every night."
Kasey Kahne is going to run the Chili Bowl in January. Tony Stewart, and Steve and Kraig Kinser are also lined up for the big indoor event in Tulsa, Oklahoma. ...Manzanita Western World 2004 Notes: Windy McDonald was the Public Address announcer at Manzanita Speedway the first time I visited the Phoenix, AZ. track in 1979. He is still doing it with as much enthusiasm and flavor today as he did 25 years ago. He has recently written a book, Thunder in the Desert, which deserves your support. … I have great memories of the Western World Championship from days gone by. I had to look up the format though in the old programs because the way the deal ran this year (2004 - for most of us), it had no features on the preliminary nights. Say what? They had just qualifying and heat races. The heats were started straight up by qualifying times. The top-three made it to the Saturday A-Main. Starting eight cars on a half-mile dirt track for a 15 lap heat race with a straight up start is not going to produce great racing. Rickie Gaunt showed what an inverted start may have looked like after he spun and had to fall to the back. His drive forward was a highlight of the rather drab heats. Josh Wise spanked the field in his heat. The three USAC / CRA heats contested on the half-mile on Thursday and Friday nights were paired with three heats on the inner track for the 360's. The inner track uses part of the front chute of the half-mile, and encircles the infield pit area. It's a high banked 1/3-mile. The USAC National and CRA aces were all in the house and the stands were overflowing on Saturday night. The NASCAR Busch and Cup Series were running at Phoenix International on this weekend, and as I've witnessed many times, a sprint car race scheduled near a major NASCAR event will draw a huge crowd! I mean huge. …What was the format in 1979? Four nights of racing, with Wed-Fri being prelims with heats and main events! I don't think four nights are necessary, but a good three day event where everyone races each night, (and there are features) would be solid starting ground for a change in 2005. I didn't mind the 360's as an added attraction but it was regrettable to introduce every driver on the front chute all night Saturday until we get to the A-main for the USAC/CRA race, which had to do a rolling start because we were approaching 1 AM. Therefore, the drivers that deserved to be highlighted the most actually received the least shine. …The races should end at 9:30 - 10:00 PM to give the people who have business at PIR the following morning a chance to rest. …Impressions: J.T. Imperial has talent. The 19 year-old racer diced with the heroes in the 360 feature on Saturday. …Parking is not easy at Manzanita. …Bruce St. James is a smooth driver that has improved since I last saw him go. …Levi Jones, in the Scott Benic wrenched #2b was fast each time he hit the track. HammerDown! has heard the word hero associated with Levi. …Jay Drake won the USAC National sprint car championship. …Bob Ream Jr. enjoys sprint cars as much as anyone I know. …Charles Davis Jr. is a charger. He has improved immeasurably since the first time I saw him race several years back. …It was a balmy 65-70 degrees on Saturday night. I never had to put a jacket on. …Terry Schank Jr from Santa Rosa was racing with JohnBoy Sullivan helping. …Bud Kaeding let the fans from NASCAR land hear some flavorful words. What Bud said in the winner's interview at Manzy was something like. "This is the cat's ass! (Expletive). Shit, the Western World is what it's all about. Steve Kinser, Jan Opperman, Ferkel, Shuman, one of my heroes Lealand McSpadden, is on that winner's list." ...Spotted at Manzy: Lealand McSpadden, Arie Luyendyk, Robby Unser, Brent Kaeding, Tony Stewart, Ricky Hood, Greg Stephens, Kevin Eckert, and engine builder Joe Fontana. …Food and lodging for the weekend Nov. 4-6, 2004. ...Flew to Phoenix from Sacramento. National Rental Car. I had a very small and unattractive Toyota Corolla. I can recommend a few things. The Airport Marriott was my host and I enjoyed the place with some exceptions. Overpriced Mountain Dew in the gift shop ($1.75 for a 12 oz. can?), no hot food on the late-night room service menu, and a hot tub that was too hot were my gripes. I would stay there again though as the value was good on a Cup weekend in Phoenix. My room was $99 per night. …I love a Chinese restaurant near the America West Arena called Sing High. My Dad, and buddy Garrett, and the Holtsmans ate fine meals there in the Western World heyday. The food is still great! Their Chinese Green Soup is a chicken broth based soup with bok-choy, egg, scallions, pork, and other greens. The super-good and filling big bowl was a bargain for less than $5. I also sampled some sweet and sour pork which was top-notch. …For lunch on Friday, I made my way to Champps Sports Bar on Camelback. A really good Bruschetta happened to be half-price during my happy hour visit. I was full for under $4. And I had the opportunity to watch the Suns game on one of their many TV screens. I had no choice but Denny's after the races ran late Saturday. Garden salad and club sandwich was good in that Denny's kind of way. …At the track we ate a couple items over the three nights from the Manzy Bar-B-Q Pit in the infield. The bratwurst seemed like a grilled Italian sausage but whatever it was it was good! The Rib plate was pricy at $9 but the portion was big, and it was quite tasty.