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Gardner bounces back, takes USAC/CRA at Skagit

Andrew Kunas


One night earlier, Damion Gardner had just made a pass for the lead, only to get bitten by a slower car and spin out. Saturday night at Skagit Speedway Gardner bounced back, leading all 40 laps to win the second night of the United States Auto Club / California Racing Association double-header at the Washington state clay oval.


Gardner, out of Concord, California started on the pole as a result of an eight-car invert. Gardner was so dominate, however, it seemed to not matter if he had started eighth.


Gardner roared to the initial lead with Friday night feature winner Cory Kruseman of Ventura, Calif. and Mike Kirby or Torrance, Calif. following. On lap two, Australian Peter Murphy moved around new Golden State "King of California" champion Jason Statler of Los Gatos for the fourth position.


Following a lap three caution, Murphy and Statler both passed Kirby for third and fourth place, respectively. On lap six Murphy bobbled badly, allowing Statler to take the third position.


The second caution flag of the race came out on lap nine for Tony Jones, who also spun out on lap three. Rip Williams, one of the best wingless sprint car racers ever to come out of California, restarted in the fifth position and on lap ten passed Murphy for fourth. Two laps later, Williams made a move on Statler to take third place, and immediately went after Kruseman.


Marysville's Jeff Bell, the top local finisher on Friday, brought out another caution on lap 16 when he cut his right rear tire and was unable to move down around the other cars to reach the pit area.


Kirby moved into the fourth position on lap 27, making it Gardner, Kruseman, Williams, Kirby, and Statler the top five. Kruseman's night came to an end on lap 28 when he made contact with the turn two wall and came to a stop entering the back stretch of the 3/10-mile, high-banked, clay oval. Williams inherited the second place position as a result of Kruseman's misfortune.


The ensuing restart saw Bobby Cody pass Murphy for fifth, as the only foreign driver in the field starting struggling and fell back through the field quickly. Murphy would come to a stop on lap 30 to bring out another caution.


As strong as Williams looked, Gardner was better. Gardner never faltered on any restarts, not allowing Williams any chances at making a pass for the lead. Gardner would take the checkered flag over Williams, Kirby, Statler, and Cody.


John Tharp of Snohomish was the highest finishing local driving, taking sixth place. Danny Sheridan, Bud Kaeding, Greg Bragg, and local racer Brock Lemley rounded out the top ten. Murphy and Kruseman were credited with 17th and 18th place finishes, respectively.


Rick Ziehl, who finished 13th in the feature, set fast time in qualifying with a time of 13.722 seconds around the track.


Four ten-lap heat races were run, each sending its top four finishers to the A-Main. Murphy, Gardner, Kirby, and Statler all claimed checkered flags, while the likes of Jones, Kaeding, Sheridan, and Bragg all had to run the 12-lap B-Main.


Jones finished first in the 12-lap semi-feature, which sent the top eight finishers to the A-Main. Taking the other seven transfer positions were Sheridan, Lemley, Kaeding, Tharp, Bragg, Idaho's Michael Harris, and Jimmy Dietz.


Wingless sprint car races at Skagit Speedway are rare, and it showed on Friday as most of the local racers struggled without the wings. Bell's 14th place finish Friday was the highest by any local. Saturday's race saw significant improvement by Skagit's regular races as two locals finished in the top ten.


Twenty-nine cars were on hand for the second night of the debut of USAC dirt sprint cars in the Evergreen State. Skagit Speedway's next event is a weekly show featuring winged 410, 360, and sportsman sprints. The following week is the Skagit 360 Nationals presented by Bob's Burgers and Brew.


United States Auto Club / California Racing Association (USAC/CRA)

Skagit Speedway

Alger, WA

July 31, 2004




29 cars


Fast qualifier: 7s Rick Ziehl, 13.722 seconds


Heat 1 (10 laps): 1. 0K Peter Murphy, 2. 88 Jesse Whitney, 3. 4 Cory Kruseman, 4. 7s Rick Ziehl, 5. 5 Mike Spencer, 6. 44h Michael Harris, 7. 7o Roger Oudman. Top four finishers transfer to A-Main.


Heat 2 (10 laps): 1. 50 Damion Gardner, 2. 41 Bobby Cody, 3. 3 Rip Williams, 4. 8 Clint Houston, 5. 21 Danny Sheridan, 6. 12 Greg Bragg, 7. 1 Jimmy Dietz. Top four finishers transfer to A-Main.


Heat 3 (10 laps): 1. 38 Mike Kirby, 2. 62 Axel Walker, 3. 8a Brian Ash, 4. 33 Ronnie Case, 5. 3v Dave Mead, 6. 26 Bud Kaeding, 7. 4x Jorden Hermansader. Top four finishers transfer to A-Main.


Heat 4 (10 laps): 1. 26R Jason Statler, 2. 9 Jeff Bell, 3. 75 Roy Blumenhagen, 4. 6 Nadine Keller, 5. 7K Tony Jones, 6. 10 Brock Lemley, 7. 69T John Tharp. Top four finishers transfer to A-Main.


B-Main (12 laps): 1. 7K Tony Jones, 2. 21 Danny Sheridan, 3. 10 Brock Lemley, 4. 26 Bud Kaeding, 5. 69T John Tharp, 6. 12 Greg Bragg, 7. 44h Michael Harris, 8. 1 Jimmy Dietz, 9. 3v Dave Mead, 10. 7o Roger Oudman, DNS - 4x Jordan Hermansader. Top eight finishers transfer to A-Main.


A-Main (40 laps): 1. 50 Damion Gardner, 2. 3 Rip Williams, 3. 38 Mike Kirby, 4. 26R Jason Statler, 5. 41 Bobby Cody, 6. 69T John Tharp, 7. 21 Danny Sheridan, 8. 26 Bud Kaeding, 9. 12 Greg Bragg, 10. 10 Brock Lemley, 11. 88 Jesse Whitney, 12. 6 Mike Spencer, 13. 7s Rick Ziehl, 14. 33 Ronnie Case, 15. 75 Roy Blumenhagen, 16. 9 Jeff Bell, 17. 0K Peter Murphy, 18. 3 Cory Kruseman, 19. 8A Brian Ash, 20. 62 Axel Walker, 21. 8 Clint Houston, 22. 44h Michael Harris, 23. 7K Tony Jones, 24. 1 Jimmy Dietz.


NOTE: Mike Spencer substituted for Nadine Keller in the #6 car.

NEW VALVOLINE USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR STANDINGS: 1-Williams-873; 2-Gardner-847; 3-Kirby-801; 4-Troy Rutherford-675; 5-Jones-573; 6-Steve Ostling-476; 7-Bragg-472; 8-Kruseman-470; 9-Brian Venard-461; 10-Hermansader-439.



Skagit Speedway - Alger, WA - www.skagitspeedway.com

USAC/CRA - www.usacracing.com