VIP Sponsors


Racing Scene: PAS Sprints

Racing Scene: PAS Sprints

 Round six of the 24-event AMSOIL USAC-CRA 410 sprint car season was the fourth 2017 race for the series at Perris Auto Speedway. The addition of five Arizona cars made the 27 cars field the season-high car count for the series. Prior car counts on March 4, April 1 and May 27 were: 22, 22 and 21. The series road trips had 23 cars at Bakersfield on April 15 and 25 cars at Ventura on May 6.
With sizzling temperatures of 118 to 122 degrees in Phoenix Friday and Saturday it is just too hot to race in Arizona, even at night. The USAC Southwest 360 Sprint series has no races scheduled from mid-June to mid-August. Four Arizona teams towed across the desert to relatively cool Perris, where the high temp just topped 100. It was still 97 degrees at “The PAS” when I arrived at 5:00 pm. It was a balmy, shirt-sleeve evening for fans, with a light breeze making it ideal racing weather. It was still 79 degrees at 10:00 pm when I departed the track.
Despite hot weather, the PAS, track crew did a commendable job keeping the track dust-free and racy all night. To check how they accomplished that feat I checked with the track water truck driver. He said the water truck holds 2,000 gallons of water and he put 13 truck loads (26,000 gallons) on the track Friday. He made additional watering trips around the track Saturday and kept the track soaked later in the afternoon to avoid evaporation. He hooked up to the Perris city water outlet in the infield and added more water during Saturday at appropriate times. The result was a clay surface that met everyone's expectations for a racy track all evening.
I asked driver Kyle Edwards, of Fountain Valley, about his Ventura 310 cu. in. sprint and Perris 410 No. 39E rides. He said he has two chassis and uses his Stinger chassis and 360 motor in VRA races in Ventura. His PAS chassis is a Glenn Crossno ITI chassis coupled with his family-owned 410. His dad Gordon's Orange County-based security system firm sponsors both cars.
No. 42 car owner Dwight Cheney, of Glendora, owns multiple (four) Maxim sprint cars. He said the two No. 42 Maxims flipped by Carson Macedo last November during the first two nights of the PAS Oval Nationals were replaced by his current 2017 Maxim. Chad Boespflug was the first driver of the 2017 model on March 4 at Perris and finished ninth in the feature in it prior to his departure for the Midwest and his USAC National Sprint season.
Dwight then installed No. 5m Adams Chevy driver Max Adams, from Loomis, as driver of his No. 42. The pair jelled and Max, the 2016 USAC-CRA rookie of the year, now ranks near the top ten in driver points. He started tenth and finished eighth Saturday. Dwight has Racing Optics of Las Vegas as sponsor on his white, light blue and gold numeral car. He said Racing Optics owner Seth Wilson, a former sprint car owner/driver, has a wall full of Arai helmets on one of his lobby walls. They came from Arai western states distributor Sammy Tanner, of Fontana.
Stevie Sussex, of Tempe, AZ, is Steve III, but he goes by Stevie. His dad and grandfather also are named Steve and raced sprint cars at Manzanita Speedway (Phoenix) and elsewhere. Born on 2/28/91, Stevie has raced with the World of Outlaws winged 410 series this season in the Buffalo Wild Wings No. 82 Maxim out of South Dakota. That car employs multiple drivers each year. Stevie drove it to P. 18 (on the lead lap) in a 24-car Perris feature on April 1 this season.
Stevie, 26, has a USAC National sprint ride (No. 17GP Mike Dutcher Chevy) and is 18th in 2017 USAC National Sprint Series points as of June 27. He is the leading 2017 USAC National Sprint rookie with 344 points. The next highest rookie in points is 32nd with 59 points. Stevie had a Friday, June 23 USAC National Sprints race in Terre Haute, IN, but that was rained out. So he returned to Arizona and arranged a ride in owner/driver Andy Reinbold's No. 19.
Stevie was in P. 6 on lap 5 of the 12-lap semi-main that advanced P. 1-10 to the main. A problem sent the No. 19 to the pits, so he missed the main event. A USAC release on June 29 indicated that Ryan Bernal, from Hollister, CA, will be in the No. 17GP car for the seven Indiana Sprint Week races in July. However, Stevie is still in Dutcher's plans as his USAC driver.
Other Arizona cars that raced at PAS June 24 included the No. 7K of owner/driver Bruce St. James, who started 18th and finished 13th. Charles Davis, Jr drove his usual No. 50 Massey Chevy ride from 12th starting slot to ninth finishing position. Ronnie Gardner, from Corona, again hitched a ride in the Arizona-based No. 12 owned by Robbie and Gaye Allen. He started ninth and finished a strong third. Of course, R. J. Johnson drove his usual Bobby Martin No. 51 mount. R.J started first, led all 30 laps and won by about 35-yards. Not bad for the visitors from Arizona--P. 1, 3, 9 and 13 in the 22 car PAS main.
The Arizona-based USAC Southwest Sprint Series (360s) will be idle from June 10 to August 16 when it travels to out-of-state events in Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico before returning to an Arizona track on September 9. Chances are good that Arizona teams will make more visits to The PAS this summer to escape oppressive heat in Arizona. They also want to log racing laps in preparation for the 22nd annual PAS All-Coast Construction Oval Nationals on November 9, 10 and 11.
Retired CRA sprint car driver Tom Roa (No. 38 Roa Chevy) made it to the June 24 PAS race for the first time since March 4. The ex-Long Beach resident said he has lived in Palos Verdes for decades. Tom, now 77, looked good and watched from the infield as his distant cousin Brody raced. Jimmy Oskie, the five-time CRA driving champion, talked to Tom and was happy to see a fellow CRA driver from 50-years ago. Jimmy said, “Now someone is here who who can verify all the stories I've been telling.”
I spoke to Brody Roa, of Garden Grove, about his Friday, June 2 I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb. -Saturday, June 3 Knoxville (IA) Raceway racing trip. He used his No. 91R 2017 Maxim that he has raced in all six USAC-CRA events. With 27 cars at I-80, Brody qualified eighth fastest, finished fourth in the 10-lap second heat, and then an impressive fifth in the 30-lap main. “I really liked the I-80 track because it is really fast.”
At Knoxville Brody qualified 15th fastest in a 35-car field. He placed second in his nine-car 10-lap third heat. In the feature, cars stacked up in the low groove entering a turn on lap 2. Brody's car rode under Jon Stanbrough's No. 81 and knocked off the left front shock tower. He finished 20th in the 22-car field. Dad Brett Roa and crewman Zac picked up and dropped off Brody at the Des Moines (IA) Airport so he could fly home to work. Brett and Zac took turns driving the rig home and arrived at 9 am Monday, June 5.
The early June racing trip to the Midwest was preparation for the Roa team's longer July racing trip to Indiana. They will make the USAC Indiana Sprint Week seven races in nine days from July 7-15. Race sites in order are: July 7-9 Gas City, Kokomo, Lawrenceburg, then July 12-15 Terre Haute, Putnamville, Bloomington and Haubstadt.
PAS Young Gun Gary Marshall, Jr., a 24-year old from Pomona, made his first start with the big boys of USAC-CRA June 24. He did not look overwhelmed. He qualified 26th best at 19.018, only .091 slower than two 410-powered drivers in the 18 second bracket. Gary started ninth in his 10-lap second heat and was not lapped by winner Damion Gardner until lap 10 of the all-green flag race.
The four-car PAS Young Gun field was plagued with blown engines. In the YG heat race, Blade Hildebrand, 18, raced all six laps but his new engine started smoking in turn four on the final lap and he was unable to start the feature. The No. 85 and 08 cars also had engine failures, with point leader Joel Rayborne's fiery engine eruption on lap 14 of 15 spectacular. He was in P. 2, half a lap in back of winner Hannah Mayhew, when the engine or oil line let go. The 14-year old West Covina High midget racing veteran stopped quickly across from the starter's stand and jumped from the car. Firemen extinguished the blaze quickly.
The PAS Senior Sprint field of six also lost the No. 71 Steve Luport car of point leader Richard McCormick, 58, before his heat race. Three seniors started and put on a spirited 20-lap race. Third starter John Aden led all the way after taking the lead with an inside pass entering the third turn. Ed Schwarz and Rick Hendrix exchanged second place on laps 3 and 6 with a pair of inside passes in the second turn. Then Rick solidified the runner-up position.
Jake Swanson received the $100 fastest qualifier award for the fifth time in 2017 from past CRA sprint car No. 86 owner Dick Woodland (who owns Woodland Auto Display in Paso Robles). Jake told pit PA interviewer Chris Holt his No. 92 Moose Racing co-owner Laurie Sertich “lets me keep the fast time $100 for tear offs and hot dogs.” That is a considerate owner.
Jake, a recent college graduate, was in P. 5 on lap 8 entering the first turn when P. 6 Roa made contact and sent both cars into the outer wall. Both cars were towed back to the pits. Only Roa's No. 91R was able to rejoin the field (in P. 20) and he raced forward to P. 7 with 12 of 17 finishers on the lead lap. He actually gained points on the point leader.
Problems for series point leaders tightened the point race, but no top ten drivers changed positions. Non-finisher Damion Gardner had his point lead of 42 cut to 15 points over Roa, who is 19 points ahead of third place Mike Spencer instead of 24 points better before June 24. Swanson (P. 4 in points) dropped from seven points out of third to 41 points back. Austin Williams was a big gainer. He went from 58 points behind Swanson to only 22 points back. The three sons of past champion Rip Williams and wife Becky now rank fifth, sixth (Cody) and seventh (Logan).
Heat races June 24 were fan-pleasing. Heat two had three leaders—Sussex (L 1-2), A. J. Bender (L 3-7), and D. Gardner (L 8-10). Outside runner Bender held off inside-running Gardner from laps 5-7 despite intense pressure. Gardner used a huge slide job entering the third turn on lap 8 to take command.
In heat three A. Williams started second and used the outside groove and led all ten laps. However, inside-running R. J. Johnson challenged intensely for the lead for the final six laps. He trailed Austin by half a length at the checkers. Fans stood and applauded that exciting action.
The 30-lap A-main race started at an early 9:04 pm. Two red flags delayed a “possible” early conclusion to 9:40. On lap 8 in the first turn the Roa-Swanson crash stopped racing. On lap 11 in the fourth turn, P. 4 D. Gardner contacted the crash-wall between turns three/four. A broken pitman arm, lost steering and sudden veer left at the turn four exit put Gardner's car into the path of Chris Gansen, who flipped. He was OK but angry.
PODIUM COMMENTS: Winner Johnson said, “Thanks to my dad, car owner Bobby Martin and to my wife. We've been close and finally got it. (PAS victory). Last time we crashed hard on the main straight. This makes up for it.” ... Runner-up Richard VanderWeerd stated via the pit mic, “Have to figure out how to run the bottom here. My car was too tight. It was better at the end when the track slicked off. The last red flag hurt us (tire pressure).” .. P. 3 Ronnie Gardner said, “Richard and R. J. got through traffic quicker than us. Thanks to Robbie and Gaye Allen for bringing their No. 12 here, and to my girl friend Amber. I hope to have the 12 car here for the rest of the year.”