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RACING SCENE (PAS Sprints)

RACING SCENE (PAS Sprints)
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Los Angeles, CA. – The October 15 Amsoil USAC-CRA 410 sprint car race was the 19th race of the season for the series and ninth of 2016 at Perris Auto Speedway. It had a 26-car field. Reigning champion Damion Gardner had his own version of Danny Sullivan's famous “spin and win” in turn one during the 1985 Indy 500. Damion flipped during his heat race. Despite that momentary inconvenience, he started the same car in the 30-lap main event and won his fourth feature of the season.

Damion, the fastest qualifier, started sixth in the first heat and was third on lap 4. Second place Max Adams slowed suddenly exiting turn four after a broken radiator hose sprayed hot water on his feet. Damion could not avoid contact. His No. 4 Alexander Chevy hit Adams' car and flipped. Team members pushed his car to the work area with a slightly bent roll-cage. His crew assessed damage, and made repairs. Damion restarted at the back in P. 8 and raced forward to fourth during the final six laps. He earned his outside row three starting slot for the feature by finishing in the top four positions.

Jeremy Ellertson, 36, rode over a wheel, launching his No. 98 sprint car into a series of wild flips during a USAC-CRA race at the PAS on September 24. His cage punched a hole in a third turn billboard at an estimated 90-110 mph and a rear tire sailed out of the speedway. He momentarily lost consciousness. Rescuers revived him, removed part of the cage, and carefully placed him in an ambulance. He was taken to a local hospital, examined thoroughly and discharged two days later. His injuries included three broken ribs, a punctured lung and a fractured orbital bone.

He later said his hand hit the billboard and the force of his body against his seat collapsed his lung and broke his ribs. He said he also hit his head on the wall. Jeremy credited his helmet and excellent race seat for saving his life. He said he would return and race in the next race on October 15 at the PAS. Despite his injuries, the still sore driver did just that. He started 15th and finished 12th in a 23-car main event field with 15 cars still racing at the finish. He drove his backup No. 98 because the 98 car he flipped was junk.

Jeremy, an ex-UCLA football player and father of two youngsters, auctioned off his helmet from the September 24 flip and raised $500. He contributed all the money to charity. That unselfish act should put Jeremy in line for a post-season award at the USAC banquet. Possibly it could be sportsman of the year or maybe strongman of the year.

On August 27 Mike Smith was standing in the third turn infield at PAS during USAC-CRA hot-lapping. Driver Cal Smith slowed on the backstretch with a broken fuel line and small fire in his engine. He stopped next the the crash-wall and climbed out. Mike (not related to Cal) ran across the track to help Cal exit his car. He was hit by the track fire truck rushing to the scene. The impact (at an estimated 15-20 mph) threw Mike about 20 feet and he landed on the track. He was conscious, but injured.

Mike was transported by ambulance to University Hospital in Riverside where he was treated and discharged after eight hours and advised to see his own doctor. His injuries included: a broken bone in his left wrist, ligament damage in his left leg, and a dislocated right kneecap. Mike, a US Air Force Tech Sgt. at March AFB, has been off work on disability since the third turn incident. He made his first trip back to PAS on October 15 and watched from the third turn infield. He is still wearing a cast on his left wrist. He drove the PAS pace truck and paced the October 15 main event.

Only the $130,480 three night (November 10-12) 21st Budweiser PAS Oval Nationals presented by All Coast Construction remains on the 2016 PAS open-wheel schedule. It is a must-see classic. Grand Marshal is now-retired Rickie Gaunt, the popular 1999 Oval Nationals winner. Entries should top 50 with 12 USAC National Sprint circuit drivers and sprint cars already included in the 48 early entrants. Complete shows all three nights culminate with Saturday's Oval National champion earning $25,000. It pays $1,000 to start the main. Thursday and Friday features pay $5,000 to win and $500 to start.

The two PAS 360 cu. in. sprint car series conducted season-ending races October 15 and both crowned new champions. Senior Sprints (drivers age 45 and older) had eight cars and Young Guns (newer sprint drivers from ages 14 to 25) had five cars on track.

Eight seniors started their 20-lap feature. A championship battle between the two contenders—Eddie Tafoya and Richard McCormick—found Tafoya leading by one point prior to the final night. Points were awarded in their 8-lap heat race; Tafoya won and McCormick finished third. In the 20-lap feature the title-contenders waged an entertaining battle. Tafoya started on pole but never led. McCormick started third. On lap 7 he passed early leader Bill Badger and retained the lead to the finish.

Tafoya jumped the second turn cushion on lap 2 and dropped to fourth. He was third on lap 4 and on McCormick's tail. On lap 9 they ran 1-2 with Tafoya pressing the leader. After a lap 16 yellow for a spin, the title contenders were 1-2. On lap 16, inside-running McCormick was a foot ahead of outside runner Tafoya at the starters' stand. On lap 18 Tafoya went low for the lead entering turn one, but he fell back 30-yards when the move did not succeed. Race winner McCormick, 58, earned $670 and a trophy, but he trailed champion Tafoya by two points (515-513).

PAS Senior Sprints started in 2011 and 11 drivers competed. Bill Badger scored 246 points and won the first title by 58 points. Bruce Douglass scored the series all-time high 546 points and won the 2012 title by 16 points; 19 drivers competed. Rick Hendrix (462 points) won the 2013 championship by 15 points and 22 drivers scored points. In 2014, repeat champion Douglass (541 points) beat second place by 27 points as a still record 29 seniors raced. 2015 – Chris Wakim scored 410 points and beat the runner-up by 22 points; 26 drivers raced. 2016 – Tafoya tallied 515 points and won by two points; 21 drivers scored points.

Courtney Crone, 15, had wrapped up her first Young Guns championship and ran an ad in the printed track program to thank her car owners in three series, her supporters and sponsors. She switched No. 81 Maxim cars with Daniel Anderson, her Steve Watt Racing teammate. She ran off to a half-lap lead by lap 12 of the 15 lap feature. A lap 14 caution for a spinner cut her winning margin to 20-yards. Courtney beat race and series runner-up Hannah Mayhew, 20, by 87 points (551-464).

PAS Young Gun racing started in 2013 and 13 drivers scored points. Logan Williams (driver Rip Williams son) scored 291 points and won the title by three points. 2014 - Trent Williams (unrelated to Rip) scored 348 points and beat the runner-up by 27 points; seven drivers earned points. 2015 – George Morris tallied 372 points and beat second in points by 16; nine drivers scored points. 2016 – Crone scored a series high 551 points and beat second place by 87 as 11 drivers earned points.

IMPRESSIVE DRIVERS: Austin Liggett, from Tracy, came south with his No. 83 for the second race in a row to prep for the Oval Nationals. He qualified fourth fastest, finished third in his heat, started third and finished fourth in the feature. A PAS veteran would happily accept that night. ... Danny Faria, Jr. (No. 17v) won his heat and finished eighth in the main. He went to the work area on a lap 9 yellow flag with a broken RF shock. Danny was waiting to be pushed off when the green flag resumed racing. Another quick caution for a stalled car on the backstretch enabled Danny to rejoin the race at the back (P. 18). He raced forward quickly and finished eighth of 15 finishers after passing two cars on lap 27 of 30.

Jake Swanson (No. 92) qualified third quickest in TT but his time was DQ because of the RR tire he used. He had to start last in all his races. Jake came from 9th in heat one to finish second. He started 22nd and finished 7th in the 30-lap main for “hard charger” honors. ... Jake Vander Weerd missed the October 15 PAS event because he was racing in a winged sprint car race closer to his Visalia home.

HARD LUCK: With 12 cars making the feature from three heats, the first ten finishers in the B-main advanced to the main. Andrew Sweeney, 18, was in P. 9 on the final lap of the B when he had a rollover and stopped upright short of the finish line. He finished 11th and missed the main by one position after Tony Everhart crossed the line tenth.

Logan Williams flipped three times on the opening lap of the B-main and landed upright on the third turn embankment. His car went to the work area so his John Jory team could repair it. Logan started his No. 5 with a battered tail at the back of the main in P. 23 using an available provisional starting spot. He finished 14th, down a lap (on lap 22). Fifteen of 23 starters were running at the end and ten completed all 30 laps.

After the seniors main event a special hard luck award (a large bottle of Jose Cuervo) went to Ascot veteran Jim (“the tooth doc”) Giardina, DDS. At 75 he is still driving a sprint car in competition with the PAS senior sprint division although he is retired from dentistry. He was the dentist for many racers, including Sleepy Tripp and PAS infield announcer Chris Holt, who presented the award to him at the finish line. Via the pit mic Jim told the crowd, “racing is my golf”. He will return in his No.58 next season.

PAS attendance on October 15 might have been impacted a bit by the 5:00 pm start National League Championship Series between the LA Dodgers and Chicago Cubs. The game was on TV in the open booth near the Budweiser beer stand on the PAS main concourse. However, persons at the speedway paid little attention to the game. Attendees were more interested in sprint car racing.

The PAS half-mile clay track was well prepared and racy all night despite near 80 degree afternoon temp and brisk wind. Officials ran the three sprint division quickly all evening. Five heat races, a B-main and three main events started at 7:05. The USAC-CRA 30-lap main started at 9:16 and concluded at 9:38 pm, despite four caution flags. Kudos to everyone involved. People so inclined visited drivers in the pits or were in their cars and on their way home before 10 pm.