Four Winners in Four Races in USAC/CRA, Gardner takes Hanford - By Bobby Gerould, 04/03/04, Hanford, CA. …Non-winged sprint cars with 410 cubic inch motors, and 800 plus horsepower returned to sticky Kings Speedway Saturday night. Marking the first time since 1997 that such an event has run at the Hanford fairgrounds, the United States Auto Club, California Racing Association race was highly anticipated in the Central Valley. At the completion of 30 laps of clay slinging, Concord, California's Damion Gardner became the fourth different Feature winner in as many 2004 races for the Valvoline sponsored series.
Starting sixth in the Ron Chaffin owned JohnBoy/Shaver #50, Gardner took command of the feature just prior to the midway point, and then held off a furious run by Rip Williams. "You try to run smoother laps than everyone else, and I think we did that", said the happy winner. "Our program in the #50 car is coming along. I would like to have won a race before this but we are still working on the lingo between crew and driver."
Gardner is replacing retired champion Richard Griffin this season as driver for the championship caliber Chaffin team. Gardner, a former dwarf-car star, said further, "I was okay as long as I didn't see a nose underneath me. I'm sure he (Williams) was on my butt, but as long as I didn't see a nose I figured I didn't need to be overly aggressive."
Mike Kirby jumped into the lead at the green flag of the Main Event. On lap two as Peter Murphy went to the outside of turn two, contact was made between he and Troy Rutherford. Murphy did a quick flip and came to rest in the middle of turn two in the black painted Tarlton & Son #21T. Mike Spencer's #44, and Kaylene Verville's #01 both hit Murphy as he lay upside down. Despite the heavy contact that broke the frame of the car, Murphy walked away.
Rutherford's right rear wheel was damaged enough to force him to the work area to change tires. Rutherford's #7 Mark Priestly owned entry restarted at the rear of the field.
The lap two restart was unlucky for Dwayne Marcum who stopped in turn one bringing out a caution flag. He did not continue. Kirby led the next 10 laps until a second caution flag reared its head when second place running Charles Davis Jr. suffered a broken front suspension in the Tony Smiley owned #8a. Davis slid into the infield embankment, and was done for night, setting up a restart with Kirby now trying to fend off Gardner. Also on the move was Rutherford, who jammed past sprinters in every possible manner to line-up ninth in the single file procession.
Gardner flew to the top of the track and looked like he might pass Kirby in the first set of turns. Kirby held his ground but Gardner dove low in turn three, and slid comfortably in front of the Crossno #38 to take the lead. At the halfway mark, Williams also moved by Kirby low in turn four. Steve Ostling, making his USAC/CRA debut in Mike Sala's #19 Maxim, opened eyes by driving hard from 14th starting spot to fifth on lap 17. Jordan Hermansader exited the race on lap 19. Hermansader was driving a team Alexander #4x sprinter, as was Cory Kruseman who hopped onto a redeye flight from the East after learning of a USAC National sprint car race rainout. Landing in Los Angeles with one hour of sleep, Kruseman drove to Hanford.
The Sokola Classic winner, Kruseman, grabbed third place on lap 20. With ten to go, Gardner was the leader over Williams, Kruseman, Kirby, and Ostling. Rutherford muscled up to sixth! Ostling gained fourth during lap 22 as Kirby continued to backslide.
Gardner hit traffic on lap 23. He was one half of a straightaway in front of Williams. With three laps remaining, Gardner had a close call in traffic, and momentarily was slowed. By lap 28, Williams, who was hooked-up on the low groove cut Gardner's lead to 3 car lengths. But as the white flag flew, Gardner cleared David Cardey, a lapper, and that provided enough distance between himself and Williams to secure the victory. Third place went to Kruseman, who was followed by Ostling, Kirby, Rutherford, Bobby Cody, Danny Sheridan, Ronnie Case, and Greg Bragg. Rutherford set quick time on the fast 3/8's mile clay oval.
Kirby, Alex Pruett, and Cody were heat race winners. Williams easily won the Last Chance Race.
Valvoline USAC / CRA Sprint Cars - Hanford, CA. - 04/03/04 - Time trials: 1. Troy Rutherford - Ojai, CA. Priestley #7, 15.771. 2. Cory Kruseman - Ventura, CA. Alexander #4. 3. Rickie Gaunt - Torrence, CA. Smiley #2a 15.805. 4. Rip Williams - Yorba Linda, CA. Jory #3. 15.838. 5. Damion Gardner - Concord, CA. Chaffin #50. 15.913. 6. Mike Spencer - Temecula, CA. - Engstrom #44, 16.008. 7. Danny Sheridan - Santa Maria, CA. Dorothy #21a, 16.087. 8. Jordan Hermansader - Long Beach, CA. -Alexander #4, 16.090. 9. Charles Davis Jr. - Buckeye, AZ., Smiley 8a, 16.155. 10. Alan Ballard - Bakersfield, CA. - Ballard #97, 16.228. 11. Brian Venard - Tustin, CA. Venard #47, 16.285. 12. Peter Murphy - Sydney, NSW, Australia, Tarlton #21T, 16.338. 13. Mike Kirby - Lomita, CA. - Crossno #58, 16.362. 14. Dwayne Marcum - Fresno, CA. - Ruth #25, 16.368. 15. Bobby Cody - Costa Mesa, CA., Cody #41, 16.370. 16. Steve Ostling - Corona, CA. Sala #19, 16.590. 17. Greg Bragg - Visalia, CA. - Pratt #12, 16.742. 18. Jimmy Crawford, Ventura, CA. Crawford #18, 16.903. 19. Kaylene Verville, Avondale, AZ. - Verville #01, 16.918. 20. Alex Pruett - Carefree, AZ. - Pruett #56, 16.928. 21. Ronnie Case - Camerillo, CA. - Blair #33, 16.930. 22. Mike Martin, Yuma, AZ. - Martin #57, 17.125. 23. Dwight Cheney - Glendora, CA. Cheney #42, 17.218. 24. J. Hicks, - Lomita, CA, Hicks #66 - 17.242. 25. David Cardey - Riverside, CA., Giardina #59, 17.275. 26. Bruce St, James - Phoenix, AZ. - St James #7K, 18.175. 27. Nadine Keller - Azusa, CA. - Keller #6z, 18.855. 28. A.J. Burgin - Kingsburg, CA. - Burgin #2. No Time.
Heat One - 1. Kirby, 2. Rutherford, 3. Vervelle, 4. Ostling, 5. Murphy, 6. Martin, 7. Ballard, 8. Williams, 9. Cardey.
Heat Two - 1. Pruett, 2. Bragg, 3. Kruseman, 4. Chaney, 5. Gardner, 6. Marcum, 7. Venard, 8. Hermansader, 9. St. James
Heat Three - 1. Cody, 2. Case, 3. Murphy, 4. Davis Jr., 5. J. Hicks, 6. Gaunt, 7. Spencer, 8. Crawford, 9. Burgin, 10. Keller.
Last Chance Race - 1. Williams, 2. Spencer, 3. Davis Jr., 4. Marcum, 5. Cardey, 6. Ballard, 7. St. James, 8. Keller, 9. Burgin, 10. Gaunt. ·
- Gaunt lost a muffler in the race, and was disqualified.
Feature - 30 Laps - 1. Gardner, 2. Williams, 3. Kruseman, 4. Ostling, 5. Kirby, 6. Rutherford, 7. Cody, 8. Sheridan, 9. Case, 10. Bragg, 11. 11. Alex Pruett, 12. David Cardey, 13. J.Hicks, 14. Dwight Cheney, 15. Jordan Hermansader, 16. Charles Davis, Jr., Pete Murphy, 18. Dwayne Marcum, 19. Mike Spencer, 20. Kaylene Verville. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-11 Kirby Laps 12-30 Gardner.
NEW USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR STANDINGS: 1-Kruseman-242; 2-Gardner-223; 3-Williams-204; 4-Rutherford-191; 5-Kirby-173; 6-Hermansader-153; 7-Tony Jones-138; 8-Jeremy Sherman-111; 9-York-108; 10-Gaunt-101.
NEXT USAC / CRA Sprint Car Race: Perris Auto Speedway - April 10, 2004.