Best of 2004 by Bobby Gerould
HammerDown!’s yearly review of the best is just one man’s opinion.
Racetrack: Knoxville Raceway, Knoxville, Iowa. ...The home of the Nationals is wide and racy. Virtually every seat in the house is a good one. Concessions are reasonable, and the staff is friendly and efficient. They have a great scoreboard, and announcers who know what is going on.
Race: Perris Oval Nationals. Perris Auto Speedway—Perris, CA. ...The race could not have been scripted to have anymore drama than it did. Cory Kruseman passed Josh Ford on the last lap to win $30,000.
Racer: Steve Kinser. Kinser won the World of Outlaws championship. The Bloomington, Indiana driver also captured his 500th career WoO A-Main.
Most Entertaining Driver: Tim Kaeding. Tim is worth the price of admission more often than any driver we see race on a regular basis.
Most talent untapped: Steven Paden. The midget driver deserves more backing. He was the 2003 USAC Western Midget champion. This season, he won four features; two at Bakersfield, and one each each at Ventura, and Perris.
Best cushion abuser: Tyler Brown. ...Rookie midget racer is on the gas!
Best track food: Knoxville Raceway. I sure like those tenderloins.
Best venue to do other stuff: Phoenix, AZ. If you go to races at Manzanita Speedway or Phoenix International Raceway, there will be no shortage of stuff to do. Great shopping and clubbing can be found in Scottsdale, and the weather is hard to beat. Arizona State University and all it’s college fun lies in nearby Tempe. The NFL, NBA, PGA, MLB, NASCAR, and IRL all have events (teams) in Phoenix.
Best setting: Calistoga Speedway. Yes, I liked Skagit, and Evergreen in Alger and Monroe Washington respectively but I’ll still take Calistoga. The half-mile lies in the heart of the Napa Valley, and is surrounded by mountains, trees, and blue sky. Ventura Raceway also gets love from us.
Hotel of the Year: Hyatt Regency. Bellevue, WA.
Feel good race of the year: Sparky Howard’s first main event win at Calistoga Speedway was a night that will not be soon forgotten. Sparky lives a short distance from the speedway in Santa Rosa, CA. He has raced at Calistoga for 19 years but never won a feature event until he nabbed the Tribute to Gary Patterson in May.
Best group of youthful racers: USAC Western States Sprint Car series. Michael Trimble, Brad Bumgarner, Destiney Hays, Greg Anderson, Mike Murgoitio, Brian McClish, Tim Barber.
Best pavement race of the year: The Copper World for the USAC National and Western Midgets at PIR was a barnburner won by J.J. Yeley.
Best racing ambassador: Johnny Rodriguez. The 2004 USAC Western Midget champion was a symbol of professionalism all season. Veteran officials praise ‘J-Rod’ for his respect of their job.
Best Production: The MOPAR Twin 25’s at Irwindale. From the MOPAR Twins to an armored car, promoter Steve Lewis pulls out all the stops.
Best interviewee: Jeff Shepard. Shepard can explain anything in common sense terms. He is funny and smart.
Most fun to be around: Kevin Pylant. Good times abound when Pyle is hanging out.
Red-eye of the Year: Our buddy BF crashed so hard at Watsonville in a BCRA midget race that he looked like a monster several days later.
Best underdog achievement: Davey Key qualifying for the Gold Cup A-Main. Key gets around Chico very well, and his under-funded team was on point at the September classic.
Comeback of the year: Billy Albini. Brent Kaeding’s right hand man was out with throat cancer. After treatments and serious down time, Billy returned to close the season strongly.
Most enthusiastic drivers— Enthusiasm is a gift from God. HammerDown! loves the raceday demeanor of these guys who love every aspect of their racing experience. Brad Bumgarner, Bruce St. James, Peter Murphy, Mike Benson, Brian Brown, Chuck Gurney Jr., Randy Hannagan, Brandon Wimmer, Brian Paulus, Sparky Howard, Jim Skinner, Steve Kent, Davey Key, Tony Hunt, Greg Anderson, Brooke Tatnell, Daryn Pittman, Charlie Louden, Korey Lovell, David Robinson Jr., Terry McCarl, Dennis Moore Jr., Rickie Gaunt, Danny Smith, Jason Statler, Jason York, Rob Johnson.