Kruseman Collects Sokola Classic Cash - By Bobby Gerould - 03/20/04, Phoenix, AZ. …Ventura California driver Cory Kruseman mastered the Manzanita Speedway half-mile Saturday night to score the $3,500 winner's share of the Valvoline, United States Auto Club / California Racing Association, Sokola Classic sprint car feature event. Driving the Alexander Racing #4, Kruseman pressured early leader Tony Jones for the opening 17 of 40 laps. The winning pass on lap 18 came on the low groove of the first set of turns on the heavy, sticky, dirt surface.
"We hit the setup right on the money", said the winner. "This was a big weekend at Manzy with the Sokola Classic, and it was so important to us to have a good showing. Our team is a low-buck deal. Our crew guys pay their own way into the pits, and they buy parts for the car."
While Kruseman was strong at the front of the pack, Phoenix flyer Jeremy Sherman was dazzling the fans with a stellar 17th to second drive in an Ellis chassis #21 powered by a aluminum 360 Ellis/Shaver engine. "It was either drive a 360 or watch", said Sherman. Clearly, he made the right decision. Picking off cars at a steady rate, the "Sherminator" did most of his passing coming off of turn two where he would drift to the cushion and then dart low to grab moisture on the bottom of the track.
Also providing fireworks on a warm night was Campbell California's Bud Kaeding. In Heat Race number one, Kaeding was charging down the backchute on the outside of Mike Kirby. As the two headed to turn three Kirby explained, "My car popped out of gear, and I drifted up the track." That left Kaeding nowhere to go and he launched over the right rear of Kirby's machine into a wild series of flips that seriously damaged the turn three fencing. Despite the wicked looking crash, Kaeding walked away quipping, "My girlfriend has hit me harder than that."
It took nearly 20 minutes to fix the fence that keeps cars in play and out of the adjacent junkyard. Kirby was done for the night after free-winding the engine when it popped out of gear. Kaeding returned for the Semi Main, and made the most of it with a last lap pass of Charles Davis Jr. to win a crowd pleasing 12 lapper.
At the start of fourth annual Sokola Classic feature, Jones jumped into the lead, followed by Kruseman. On lap three, Eric Wilkins took over third spot. Just as Kruseman was pressuring Jones for the lead, and actually nosed in front of him, the caution flag appeared for the first time as Damion Gardner stopped in turn two with a mechanical issue. He returned, and the battle for the lead continued with Jones and Kruseman working opposite lines. Jones was 'pushin' the cushion', and Kruseman was operating on the lower regions of the track. An intense battle for fifth was raging by lap eight as quick qualifier, Rickie Gaunt, teammate Davis, Brian Venard, Kaeding, and Tracy Hines all tussled for position.
Two laps later, in the heat of the battle, Kaeding fell victim to a nasty flip again. This time, Bud cartwheeled into turn one damaging a large portion of the fence that keeps sprint cars off of Phoenix's 35th Avenue. Again, Kaeding was unharmed but this crash ended his night.
On lap 15, Wilkins suddenly dropped from the race while racing in the show spot. Mike Spencer took advantage of the misfortune to Wilkins by picking up third in the #44. At the midway point, Kruseman led over Jones, Spencer, Gaunt, and Davis. The leaders hit traffic on lap 22, and Kruseman started to pull away to a ten car-length advantage. With each move by Sherman, the large crowd responded. On lap 25, the 360-shod pilot moved into third with a pass of Spencer on the low side of turn two.
The red flag reared its ugly head once more on lap 30 when runner-up Jones hopped the cushion in turn three and stuffed his car into the wall. Jones, the son of former CRA champion, Bubby Jones, also was able to escape without harm. The final ten laps were billed as a shootout between Kruseman, and Sherman but as good as Sherman was in the 360, he was no match for the fast running Kruseman who in two laps, had opened up an eight car-length lead.
The best racing at this point was between teammates Troy Rutherford, and Hines. The two nearly touched on the front chute at the completion of lap 35. One final caution occurred on lap 39 as Friday night winner, Dave Darland, came to a halt. The restart proved to be a disaster for Spencer. The smooth driver backed up from third to sixth as Hines, Gaunt, and Rutherford all advanced. Gaunt, Sherman, Josh Ford, and Robert Hall Jr. won heat races.
VALVOLINE USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR SERIES RACE RESULTS: March 20, 2004 - Phoenix, Arizona - Manzanita Speedway - 4th Annual "Sokola Classic"
QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Rickie Gaunt, 2A, Smiley-19.106; 2. Tony Elliott, 6z, Keller-19.146; 3. Tracy Hines, 7H, Priestley-19.153; 4. Eric Wilkins, 3w, WWS Racing-19.266; 5. Bud Kaeding, 45, Willis-19.276; 6. Troy Rutherford, 7, Priestley-19.278; 7. Mike Spencer, 44, Engstrom-19.284; 8. Cory Kruseman, 4, Alexander-19.322; 9. Brian Venard, 47, Venard-19.433; 10. Jordan Hermansader, 91, Ferro-19.438; 11. Charles Davis, Jr., 8A, Smiley-19.469; 12. Tony Jones, 2, Vermeer/Ferreria-19.485; 13. Levi Jones, 38J, Crossno-19.537; 14. Rip Williams, 3, Jory-19.601; 15. Josh Ford, 73, Ford-19.621; 16. Darren Hagen, 11, McMinn-19.661; 17. Mike Kirby, 38, Crossno-19.679; 18. Jeff Slinkard, 61, Ratz-19.714; 19. Damion Gardner, 50, Chaffin-19.736; 20. Gary W. Howard, 14H, Lancaster-19.776; 21. Mike Leslie, 76, Montgomery-19.967; 22. Jeremy Sherman, 21, Ellis-19.974; 23. Dave Darland, 14, Lancaster-19.975; 24. Robert Hall, Jr., 16a, Hall-20.058; 25. Alan Ballard, 97, Ballard-20.132; 26. Greg Bragg, 12, Pratt-20.381; 27. David Cardey, 59, Giardina-20.412; 28. Matthew Rossi, 16, Rossi-20.543; 29. Bruce St., James, 7k, St. James-24.745; 30. Jimmy Crawford, 18, Crawford-NT; 31. Seth Wilson, 17, Racing Optics-NT; 32. Bob Ream, Jr., 8, B.R.A.T.-NT.
DASH: (4 laps) 1. Hines, 2. Gaunt, 3. Wilkins, 4. Elliott. 1:19.11
FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Gaunt, 2. L.Jones, 3. Ballard, 4. Venard, 5. Leslie, 6. Kirby, 7. Kaeding. NT
SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Sherman, 2. Williams, 3. Rutherford, 4. Bragg, 5. Slinkard, 6. Hermansader. 3:24.56
THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Ford, 2. Darland, 3. Hines, 4. Spencer, 5. Gardner, 6. Cardey, 7. Davis. NT
FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Hall, 2. Kruseman, 3. Wilkins, 4. T.Jones, 5. Howard, 6. Hagen, 7. Rossi. NT
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Kaeding, 2. Davis, 3. Gardner, 4. Leslie, 5. Slinkard, 6. Howard, 7. Wilson, 8. Cardey, 9. Hagen, 10. Hermansader. 4:11.59
FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Cory Kruseman, 2. Jeremy Sherman, 3. Tracy Hines, 4. Rickie Gaunt, 5. Troy Rutherford, 6. Mike Spencer, 7. Charles Davis, Jr., 8. Rip Williams, 9. Damion Gardner, 10. Levi Jones, 11. Josh Ford, 12. Brian Venard, 13. Jeff Slinkard, 14. Greg Bragg, 15. Dave Darland, 16. Robert Hall, Jr., 17. Tony Jones, 18. Alan Ballard, 19. Mike Leslie, 20. Eric Wilkins, 21. Bud Kaeding. NT FEATURE
LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-17 T. Jones, Laps 18-40 Kruseman.
NEW USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR STANDINGS: 1-Kruseman-177; 2-Gardner-157; 3-Williams-140; 4-Rutherford-138; 5-Gaunt-133; 6-Hines-128; 7-Kirby-117; 8-Sherman-111; 9-T.Jones-108; 10-Ford-98.
NEXT USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR RACE: April 3 - Hanford, CA - Kings Speedway.