Positivity - By Bobby Gerould
...We continue to fill in the blanks on the Calistoga Track Champions list. We can now confirm two more champs! Tim Green unquestionably was the 1991 champion, and Brent Kaeding won his second (at least) championship in 1988. The interesting points race we still are digging into is 1990. If you have any results from the 1990 Calistoga season - please pass it on to us. ...Read about Kevin Swindell's Star Mazda test here.
...Lots of notes from a weekend in Calistoga (May 28-29, 2005) ...Jason Statler told me he would miss a Golden State points race to run without a wing at Calistoga if that were to ever happen. Among the Northern California (and beyond) drivers who would run at Stoga without a wing include Statler, Brent Kaeding, Bud Kaeding, Jason York, Andy Forsberg, Peter Murphy, Rick Williams, and car-owner Duke McMillen. Add to that group, say, the USAC/CRA teams, or better yet - the USAC National sprint cars, and you would have a helluva show! Damion Gardner at Calistoga would be awesome! I would think Kevin Urton would be there. I can envision a feature with the Nor-Cal teams dicing with Josh Wise, Dickie Gaines, Levi Jones, Rip Williams, Brad Sweet, Jeremy Sherman, Rickie Gaunt, Charles Davis Jr., Mike Kirby, Cory Kruseman, Jay Drake, Josh Ford, R.J. Johnson and Tracy Hines. I can dream. ...Murphy was racing for the Duppman Family in their #96. Outfitted with a Kistler engine, Pete said, "The motor runs fine." Murphy told HammerDown! that he was trying to adjust to the 'tall car' - which has a rollcage that sits two inches higher than normal. He never was comfortable Saturday night but was hoping to remedy that Sunday by lowering the top-wing. ...Shain Matthews had two top wings fold up on him in Saturday action. I don't know who the mfg. was. ...Stuart Krum was trying out something new for sprint cars. He had a air/fuel gauge with a l.e.d. readout that told him when he was running lean, rich, or in the desired range. He had a sensor that ran off the left-side header. Krum is a smart cat that used to race on paved road courses. He fixes BMW's for a living at his Schatz & Krum BMW business in Sacramento, CA. ...Those we saw on Sunday night at the Tribute to Gary Patterson included Sam Bailey, Larry Albedi, Theresa Patterson, and Tim Green. Former NARC President Galen Unruh was in the house Saturday night. ...Championship car owner Al Peterson was, and usually is, in the Brent Kaeding pits. ...Duke McMillen told us he still has the old Lovell #71n that Ron Shuman drove to victory in the Vermeil Classic. ...Roger Crockett will run Paul Silva's # 57 in the ASCS Speedweek. Crockett says he has only seen one of the tracks previously. Roger has two wins this season so far. One came at Cottage Grove, OR., and the other in Civil-War racing. ...Steve Kent, the Sunday winner, was driving a new Eagle chassis that Henderson MotorSports will take up to Skagit's Dirt Cup. Kent recalled a great Gary Patterson story where Kent was a 'gofer' on John Shiroonian's showpiece sprinter. They traveled to ASCOT with GP as their driver for the first time. As soon as the car rolled off the trailer with chrome everywhere - Patterson barked to Kent, "Hey kid, take all that shiny crap off the car." Kent did - only to have his car owner tell him to put it back on. GP, as soon as Shiroonian turned his back, said to Kent again, "Kid - get all that shiny crap off the car." Kent, in an early act of diplomacy, decided Patterson and the car-owner needed to discuss it themselves. The shiny crap came off. GP drove the car to a podium finish. ...York told us his Butler seat saved his behind in a Chico crash. The new seats give a much fuller protection to the upper beck- head - neck area. ...Toni Lutar towed 18 hours to race at Calistoga from where his car is kept in Washington. ...Sean Becker has three wins in 2005. His biggest to date was a Petaluma 410 victory. ...Forsberg is now a home owner. He has a four-acre spread in Auburn complete with two donkeys. ...Stephen Allard runs one of the few J&J Chassis' on the west coast. Allard is a three-time winner this year with big nights at Hanford, Placerville, and Chico. ...Jim Skinner was utilizing MOPAR - Gary Stanton horsepower at Calistoga. ...Johnny Key showed up Sunday night with a 1998 J&J that used to belong to Jason Meyers. ...I was surprised to not see Ronnie Day at Calistoga. ...Travel guide for the weekend. The trip to Calistoga is about two hours and 15 minutes for me from Rocklin. I made a pit stop in Dixon at Popeye's for Cajun Rice to go. That held me until after the races when I had ribs and fries to-go from the Hydro Bar in Downtown Calistoga. The ribs were tasty and the fries were good from one of (if not the only) restaurant in town with a late-night menu. ...I stayed at the Washington Street Lodging which is a cozy group of cottages within walking distance of the track. All the comforts of home were available, and I enjoyed the place very much! A big refrigerator kept my Mountain Dew cold, and cable TV had me watching C-Span because Al Franken was on. ...Sunday I hit the Palisades Market (as usual) for a club sandwich. I was troubled that they changed it a bit. ...Drove home after the races Sunday, and after so many long Bakerfield trips - a 'two-hour and change' journey from Calistoga felt like nothing.
...In World of Outlaws action, Tim Kaeding continues to lead the battle for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of Year Award, but his advantage over Shane Stewart is a slight eight points. Brandon Wimmer is spending this week taking finals in preparation for his high school graduation. ...Read the sad story of how far things have slipped for the Indy 500. ...Dickie Gaines has three feature wins already in 2005. Also hot for DRC chassis is Brandon Petty - a two-time winner. ...In Oklahoma, a 13 year-old named Trey Robb raced in the ASCS sprint car feature last weekend. Lonnie Wheatly reports that Robb drew the pole position for the evening's fifth heat race and, after outgunning 2001 Sooner Region champ J.P. Bailey for the point, led the way until a late caution closed National Tour title contender Darren Stewart to his rear bumper. Robb slid just a bit high exiting turn four with the checkered flag in sight however, allowing Stewart to slip underneath and deny the young shoe his first ASCS win by just a foot or so. That second place heat finish still earned Robb a seventh row inside starting position for the "A" Feature, an accomplishment in itself with a stout 40-car field on hand. Robb made his way into the top ten during the early stages of the feature before settling for 13th at the checkered flag, with a pair of past ASCS Sooner Region champions among those trailing him at the line. ...Casey Shuman's website has been designed and released. It can be found here: ... We continue to re-trace the history of Calistoga Speedway. A 1996 track champion has been a mystery for too long. We calculated the points based on 1996 feature results, and we are listing Ronnie Day as the 1996 champion. Calistoga will open Saturday and Sunday for winged 410 sprint car racing. ...It is often difficult to see the BIG Picture - but consider this if you struggled in the first part of 2005. So what. In the BIG picture sense - only a small portion, (I'd say less than 10%), of the races that define a season have been run. The Copper World and the East Bay Winter Nationals are in the the books. But The Knoxville Nationals, the Kings Royal, the MOPAR Thunder, the Gold Cup, National Open, Perris Oval Nationals, and Lernerville Silver Cup are all still to be contested. Perform well at any of those events - and what you did not do in the first quarter of 2005 doesn't mean squat. Memorial Day Weekend is traditionally when the real racing starts. So forget it - if you stunk it up for January, February, March, April, and the first three weeks of May. ...Damion Gardner conquering Manzanita Speedway for his fourth straight USAC/CRA feature win is a fantastic accomplishment for the Concord, CA. racer. The track had gotten the best of Damion more often than not in the past. Gardner is a driver that moves many racing fans with his style. We get emails every once in awhile from excited fans bragging about what they witnessed. In the handful of emails we've received over the years - there have been as many for Gardner as there have been for anyone. ...The independent marketing job of the year so far has to go to Brian Brown. The Missouri driver has a number of sponsors obtained by shear hustle and exposure. ...Shane Stewart's little bro - Darren has some folks in the Oklahoma area touting his as the best young racer to come from that region. ...We are overdue to note the passing of Shig Shimada. Shig battled cancer bravely but as cancer is prone to do it took away one of California's true racetrack characters. A staple of the Trophy Cup, Shig was easily spotted as one of the few Americans of Japanese descent that you see among the palefaces. He blessed my family, and many in the racing community with his cooking talents, and generosity. "Shig-E Sticks", BF called them. Tender pieces of teriyaki beef cooked over an open flame, with good fluffy white rice were served before the races. Shig always made sure that I knew I was welcome. When I took him up on it, which was often, I always appreciated his fellowship. Shig and I shared a love for basketball as well as sprint car racing - and I will miss talking hoops with him. He always had an opinion. Usually his opinion was strong. Shig appreciated true competitors; what today's athlete likes to call, "a warrior". He loved to gamble. He often had several wagers on NBA games, and we would toss around trends and alert each other to what we thought were the smartest plays. Shig was a youth coach affiliated with the San Jose Ninja. His status as the trophy supplier for many tournaments is legendary. This past September, Shig presented Steve Kinser with a beautiful trophy to commemorate his 500th World of Outlaws A-Main win. At the Trophy Cup in October of 2004, Shig gave me a T-shirt and told me of his cancer fight. He lost weight but was as quick as ever. He was checking-in all the drivers and teams in at the pit gate. He shared with me at the drivers meeting that he had made peace with a certain driver over a small quarrel about buying a sweatshirt. Shig felt slighted by the driver who charged him close to full price. Shig claimed he hadn't spoken to the driver for over a year. "I fed that guy and his guys so many times!" he exclaimed. Shig then caught himself in a state of rising blood pressure, and said, "Ahh shit, life's too short. Sweatshirt money doesn't matter. Besides I miss talking to the guy; he's a helluva a racer and smart guy too." And that was the last time I spoke to Shig. His appreciation and love for racers will be deeply missed.
...I am happy for Joey Saldana who enjoyed a prelim win Friday night (May 20, 2005) at Lernerville. Saldana broke the track record at Knoxville a couple weeks back and he says his motor program is improving. The bullet that was used for the Knoxville track record was a Fisher. Saldana was in the third flight of hot laps that night - about the 50th car to qualify. ...The World of Outlaws website has never been stronger.
Here is what went down this weekend. PHOTOS ...I saw a race! An actual, automobile race! After being rained out too many times to count - the USAC Western Midgets at Bakersfield Speedway ended a drought of over one month without seeing a race. Rain is fine in March when college basketball can keep me smiling - but from mid-April to mid-May? Crazy. I think the Weather is really goofy right now. It makes me wonder what the hurricane season will be like. I digress. The midget event was fairly entertaining on my chart with some spectacular moves by Stephen Graves, and Ryan Kaplan highlighting the night. The warm 87 degree sunshine in the southern-central valley felt good after weeks of chilly (for California) temps. Even after the races - it was in the 70's. …Keith Iaia's flip in the Ford Focus feature was a wild one. He went as high as the top of the front chute fence, a good 25'. …30 laps at Bakersfield Speedway have been tough to accomplish for the majority of drivers. Only seven or eight cars finished Saturday night. …2004 Western Midget champion Johnny Rodriguez will have the opportunity to spread his wings a bit. "I'm going to run a couple more CRA races for Mark Priestly at Perris, then we are going to run the Indiana Speed week." - said J-Rod. "We are going to stay at Keith Kunz' shop. It also looks like I'm going to be running a team car on pavement to Garrett Hansen the last couple of races of the year including Orlando Speedworld." …Speaking of Hansen, I was impressed with Garrett toughing it out at Oildale. Last week he suffered a concussion and a separated shoulder in (you guessed it) an ATV accident. …Yo! I think it is clear that God doesn't like open-wheel racers on ATV's. Ask Dennis Moore Jr., Lealand McSpadden, Aaron Berryhill, and others who have suffered broken bones in ATV waddage. Hansen raced despite the pain but he admitted he had to "take it easy". …Jimmy Sills was in Oildale Saturday night. He was helping out Bradley Galedridge who was the 2004 Ford Focus California North Champion. Sills plans on running the Masters Classic at Knoxville Raceway Friday night June 3rd, 2005. Sills is among the top-five drivers my eyes have seen. …Food and Lodging for the weekend (May 13-14, 2005). Most folks drive to the track and then spend the night. I am not wired that way. Doctors say that before the age of six - your subconscious mind fixes your deep-seeded traits. If true, it may help explain why I am such a night owl. My Dad worked as a sports caster on the local NBC TV affiliate for the first ten years of my life. He did the 11:00 PM news. He came home near 1:00 am - and was routinely up late. (It is 1:47 AM Monday morning 05/16/2005 as I write this). During and following his career on local TV - he spent many nights announcing at California race tracks. I accompanied him to almost every race, and we spent many a late night on the road. I guess I picked up the night-owl instinct - so I prefer to work late, drive late, and get-up late. : )) …I drive to the destination or halfway there the night before the event. I stay somewhere, and then wake up as they kick me out at check-out time. The rest of the drive to the track on raceday is easy - and I am there, with energy, ready to work. After the races, this is usually 10:30 - 11:00 PM - most folks head to the local hotel. Not me. I drive home. Same difference. Rocklin to Oildale is a four and a half hour deal with a gasoline stop. Could it be done in one day? Of course it COULD. But I am not trying to kill myself with nine hours of driving, Six hours of race watching, and three hours of story writing. I left Friday night and drove to Fresno, which is about three hours away. The Radisson at the Civic Center is a usual choice for me, and it was once again a fine place to stay. Some may say I am finicky about motels and hotels. The truth is I just want the comforts of home. And the truth is I am finicky about motels and hotels. I do this 'ish' for a living. I am grown. I want a clean bed, and a clean bathroom. I want AC, and TV, and wireless internet. I want access to food 24/7. If not at the hotel - then nearby. I don't want my car broken into - so the neighborhood is always a large consideration. I want to be at a place where the maid doesn't pound on the door at 9:00 am - ignoring the Do Not Disturb sign. Generally speaking I'm a three-star guy when it comes to lodging. If I can stay at a four-star joint for a reasonable rate - I will take that up from time-to-time. Between Fresno and Bakersfield lies the Outlet Mall in Tulare. They have a Mark Ecko store there - so I cruised in to pick up a new shirt. I hit Bakersfield about one hour later for a dining experience at Los Hermanos. It wasn't horrible but I won't go back. I had a Chile Verde burrito that was too heavy with refried beans and not filled with enough of the Chile Verde (pork, green chilies, etc…). The chips were good - salsa was so-so. I did not eat at the track but I had some leftover Italian bread just before departing. I picked up some toffee covered peanuts, and two Mountain Dews from the gas station and put the HammerDown! Art Bell kept the ride home interesting with a great guest on Coast-to-Coast AM. I left the track at 11:30 PM and rolled into Rocklin just after 4 AM.
...Stephen Allard won Wednesday night's Placerville feature and backed it up with a win Friday night in points racing at Chico. ...If you are not hip to Kevin Eckert's Open Wheel Times web-site, you should be. ...It is May 15, 2005 - and I still have not been paid by SCN for my work as co-host of the web-radio cast of the August 2004 Knoxville Nationals. No positivity there. ...There were a few years where no one really kept track of the Calistoga points. One of those years was as recent as 1999. So we have been tracking down the results so that we could apply points and crown a track champion retroactively. The points are in - and Bud Kaeding can add a Calistoga Track Championship to his resume for 1999. There were eight races held, five NARC, and three World of Outlaws events. Bud was one of five drivers who raced in every event (the others were Brent Kaeding, Tim Kaeding, Jason Meyers, and Randy Hannagan). Bud had two NARC seconds, one third, and one fifth to out-point Hannagan. ...Please mark your calendars for three dates of racing at Stockton 99 Speedway in Northern California. The first date is June 25th - which will feature a 100-lap sprint car feature for the USAC Western States Sprint Cars. Next comes the August 27th double dip of Midgets and Sprints under the same USAC Western banner. Finally, the day after the Gold Cup, Stockton has rescheduled the Fred Gerhardt Open Wheel Classic. Now slated for Sunday September 11th, the BIG RACE will have twin 100-lap features for USAC Western States Sprint Cars and Midgets - plus the California Ford Focus pavement midgets.
...On Saturday May 14, the annual Dave Bradway Jr. Memorial race will run in Chico. Hoserville California will once again donate trophies for each heat race winner to give to a kid in the stands. In turn, the heat race winner will receive a free right rear tire and a box of tear offs, courtesy of Kaeding Performance in San Jose. More than $25,000 in purse money will be up for grabs according to PR man Troy Hennig. New Dave Bradway Jr. Memorial tee shirts will be available at the track for the first time in a few years. Dave and Diane Durica not only handle the tee-shirt details but also are in charge of gathering the bonus lap money for the sprint cars on Saturday night. There are individual lap sponsors for the 40 lap main event. Each lap carries an overall $100.00 per lap giving $50.00 for the leader, $30.00 for second and $20.00 for third. That gives the drivers an extra chance at $4,000 throughout the top three positions of the main event. The same individual lap money will be on the line for the 12-lap B main event. ...Check out EBAY auctions for your chance to get HammerDown! Race Gear at a sale price. ...This week's rainout for me? Calistoga. I cannot believe how crappy the weather is here in Northern California. I will try to see a race May 14th (Saturday) in Oildale - as the USAC Western Midgets return to the 1/3-mile that is perfectly suited for the little whippers.
...Joey Saldana broke the track record at Knoxville Raceway last Saturday (April 30th, 2005). A sub 15 second lap at Knoxville is scary fast. ...Larry Shelton tells us that Paul Silva, the young car owner / mechanic that fields a car for Roger Crockett, is one of the sharpest young wrench turners in the pits these days. If Larry says so - it's true. Shelton has multiple Civil War championships under his belt. ...I can report that Anderson, CA. is still there. Kim and I drove the three hours up to Shasta Raceway Park last Saturday (April 30th) only to find a marquee reading "SPRINT CAR RACES CANECELLED DUE TO UNSAFE TRACK CONDITIONS". We were stunned, mostly because as an employee of USAC, I would think someone would call me. It's not a big deal at all. I understand shit happens. I also am a firm believer that everything in the universe(s) is unfolding as it should (so obviously this was supposed to happen for whatever reason). So at 4:30 PM or so - Kim and I turned around and headed back to Rocklin. We hit a Subway in Red Bluff and I tried the Turkey, Ham, and Bacon 6" on Itailian Herb Cheese Bread. It was so-so. Surely not as good as a place called Checkers Deli (a Nor-cal chain) or even Quizno's for that matter. …What sucks is I've seen like six nights of racing in 2005. California isn't Ohio. We can't race until 3:30 AM like Eldora Speedway will do. Since almost every track in the Golden State lies on state fairgrounds property they are all subject to an 11:00 PM curfew. Thus, the California promoter has a smaller window to complete his program - which sometimes leads to calling the races off before they ever get a chance to start.
Audra Sasselli beat a field of 18 USAC California Ford Ford Dirt Midgets at Ventura Saturday night. She leads the point standings as they head for Watsonville Speedway Friday night (May 6th). ...Joe Ramaker lived up to his own billing by winning the NST season opener in Oregon.