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 Rich C's SCRA Report

08.08.01 - Indiana Sprint Week
Hello all.  I've returned from Indiana's Sprintweeks and while I was away it seems a fair bit of news has occurred at home.  As you probably already now, George Gervais was seriously injured at Perris.  As of this writing, he seems to be regaining conciousness.  That's great news.  We all hope for a speedy recovery for one of the nice guys in the pit area.  Speaking of nice guys in the pit area, I ran into Rusty McClure in Indiana.  He was trying to arrange a meeting with his employer of 23 years to allow him to go back to work.  I hope that works out for Rusty.  There are a couple of recovery fund accounts for both George and Rusty and you find out about them at and respectively.  When a driver gets injured, the insurance money never seems to go far enough and these guys could use any help you can spare.

On a happier note, I see that Casey Shuman won his first feature at Ventura and Larry Brown won his first midget feature at Bakersfield. Good going guys.

I wish to thank Kevin Eckert of Flat Out Illustrated (plug) for picking me up at the airport and hosting me on a night on the town in Indianapolis.  Kevin is a guy who has slept on numerous couches from coast to coast while race chasing and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to be one of the rare people who turned the tables around on him. Thanks Kev.  Oh, and for you still keeping track, Mr. Eckert is still not welcome at Eldora and couldn't work the King's Royal for TNN.  10 years is a long time.

After waking up and recovering from the Irish flu, I sleazed myself a ride to JJ Yeley's shop on Gasoline Alley where I would spend a good portion of the next week.  Indiana Sprintweek is a brutal week.  7 races in 9 days.  Going to bed at 3am after washing the cars is not uncommon and then getting up and turning the cars around so you can leave at noon or 1pm.  JJ had his chassis builder, Wayne Simmons of Twister with him all week.  Chuck Hobbs came out for AZ after the first couple races and Tracey Pickens also helped out when he wasn't having pig trouble or something.

The west coast cars that came out were Cory Krusemann and the Willis #45.  They were going to run the Silver Crown race at IRP the next week so they brought the sprint car out too.  Mike English ran the whole week in Mark Priestly's #7, Jeremy Sherman also ran the whole week in the Ellis #21.  Jeff Martin came out from Tucson but didn't have much luck and got upside down at Haubstadt.  Troy Rutherford drove the Gorman #18 and couldn't get it to work.  This was a former Kunz car from earlier in the year.  I'd venture to say that if you buy one of their cars in the same year that they have run it, you might have gotten a problem car. Who wants to get beat with their own car if it's really good?  Brad Nofsinger drove the K & D #6 until it broke a rear end and tagged the valves at Haubstaudt.  Rickie Gaunt was going to drive it later in the week.

First night out was Putnamville (Saturday) where we drew a lousy number for qualifying.  If fact, we drew lousy almost every night except North Vernon.  USAC changed their rules and if you "accidentally" drew more than one pill, you had to take the highest numbered pill.  You might want to check with Harlan Willis about that new rule change.  JJ qualified 7th quick at Putnamville.  USAC inverts the quick 6 cars in the main and so JJ was one spot away from the pole.  Kruseman and English were 2nd and 11th quick with Rutherford 29th and everyone else not making it out of the C main.  JJ won his heat with one of those cover your eyes and hope it works out shot through the middle of the pack coming off the 2nd turn.  Those guys make me nervous when they pull that stuff.  3 of the quick 6 couldn't make it through the heat but made it through the B main.  This is where I like the SCRA type of invert where only the guys who transfer through their heat start up front.  It makes the fast guys race in the heats.  Jon Stanbrough and Brian Hayden traded the lead at the start of the main while 3rd through 10th was one big pack.  The top had the usual Putnamville cushion, no make that curb, no make that wall which was tricky to run so most went the huggy pole route.  JJ was up to 4th at one point but eventually got shuffled back to 9th.  Don't ask me how, all I saw was cars appearing out of the dust in turn two, slide through 3 and 4 and disappear back into the dust in turn one.  Whooo Racin! as DO would say.  Cory lead the 3rd through 10th pack at one point and finished 5th.  Dave Darland huggy poled his way from way back to challenge Stanbrough for the win.  It was close but Stanbrough beat Darland to the line.

JJ built a new Twister to replace the one sold to Levi Jones.  The new car was built to be a "tighter" car than the two previous.  It also had some aero tricks to it, which USAC immediately didn't like.  We ended up shaving about a half inch off the left side sail panel.  That had about the same net aero effect as taping fireflys on the tailtank but they didn't like the look and had to do something about it.  A few others like Bud Kaeding and Jonathon Vennard had to do some bodywork modifications since USAC took a renewed interest in bodywork.  We made a big mistake and brought the new car to Haubstaudt (Sunday) The whole day didn't really go right.  We were really late getting to the track and JJ got a ticket in his car trying to get there on time.  About the only highlight of the day was passing by the place where they nuked Timothy McVeigh.  JJ had won 2 out the last three races at Haubstaudt and finished 3rd the other time so we all felt comfortable in going there and even though we were late, we figured we'd be okay.  Wrong.  We were too tight in qualifying and qualified 37th.  JJ got passed for the last transfer spot on the last lap of the C main.  "And the meek shall inherit the earth" We inherit a lot of something that night.  JJ hadn't even run a "B" main on dirt to that point in the year.  Okay, so we laid an egg and just had to move on making sure not get embarrassed like that  again.  We left early so I can't tell you what happened in the main other than I heard Jay Drake won it.

We had a day off after Haubstadt and as usual, spent it getting the cars ready for the next races.  We had been having hauler problems and dropped it off after the races at Haubstadt.  It took a couple of return trips to get it fixed but those are the type of annoyances you don't need during Sprintweek.

Tuesday was North Vernon.  After the races, I watched tape of the SCRA race that was held here a couple years ago.  At that time I think I said something to the effect that they lost the keys to the water truck.  I don't think they've found them yet as the track looked a lot wetter for the SCRA race.  I still think it could be the raciest of the Indiana short tracks if they ever figured out how to prepare it and to remove some of the reverse banking it has in places.  But alas, we had to deal with dust raining from the skies like ashes from Mt. Pompei. Fortunately, we drew an early qualifying number and JJ timed in 4th quick.  We were using the new car again.  Cory was 20th, English was 23rd, Sherman was 25th and Rutherford was 37th.  Ed Carpenter withdrew one car after timing in and ran even slower with the 2nd car.  He struggled the whole week.  I heard the team had a sit down with Ed later in the week but I don't think it's his entire fault.  The car looked unhappy almost every time I saw it and it had the nose way up in the air.  It had great forward but little else.  Jay Drake spun twice in his heat and couldn't get out of the semi.  English and Rutherford also missed the show.

Rutherford did some great driving to get out of the C main and into a heat.  In his heat he worked his way up from dead last into contention for the last transfer spot.  He got sandwiched against the wall coming off the line and barely missed the spot.  If you come out of the C main, basically your only hope of making the main is through your heat. Otherwise you are buried in the semi.  We were in heat four and that's where our fun started.  JJ was coming through the field when the engine started cutting out.  He dropped back and eventually stopped.  He restarted and it seemed to run fine but started cutting out again just as he got into 4th place.  JJ ran 5th.

We knew we weren't going to get much time to work on the car before they called for the semi.  Bud Kaeding's crew jumped in and started helping. The problem was a crazy set of circumstances.  One, the fuel flow was restricted from the tank.  Two, while checking the fuel flow we found gasoline in the tank.  Both are very bad things.  It took a while to find it but what had happened was that when they bought the tank they handed us a bolt kit for the tank.  What we didn't know was that there was another bolt kit stuck in the trap door of the bladder.  It wasn't found when they rolled the fuel bladder around on the ground to check for things like loose bolt kits.  That's what was causing the fuel blockage.  The gasoline problem came from the last race at Haubstadt when we sent someone to buy 5 gallons of fuel and they got gas instead. Gas is very bad for alcohol motors.  If the fuel flow hadn't been restricted, it's very likely the motor would have been destroyed.  We barely got out in time for the semi and were helped by someone else's bad luck.  I guess a spectator had fallen out of the stands and the ambulance crew was needed to tend to that person.  That bought us enough time to get the car fixed and for JJ to win the semi.  Mucho thanks to Hoser (take off, eh) and Kevin from Kaeding's bunch and Jim McQueen for jumping in to help.

Jack Hewitt was on the front row with JJ in the 2nd row.  Hewitt took the candy handed to him and lead the entire race.  JJ raced Kevin Briscoe for 3rd behind Levi Jones.  Briscoe got around Jones 1st and then JJ got by both into 2nd.  JJ was diamonding off the turn 4 corner and shooting out onto the straight.  The car was hooked up doing wheelies on a dry slick track.  JJ caught up to Hewitt and tried to pass him on the bottom of turn 1.  About that time the track took rubber and Hewitt found it and rode around in the rubber.  JJ got close but once the lapped car of Critter Malone let Hewitt by but not JJ it was all over.  When tracks take rubber, you'll see more passing on a merry-go-round than a rubber track.  They just keep going faster and faster and you just hope your tire holds out.

So, we got our first good finish of the week and at least had a shot at winning.  Not bad especially after the pit thrash.  Kevin Briscoe ran 3rd with the slickmaster Terry Pletch in 4th.  The man on the move all race was Dickie Gaines who came back from a first turn spin with Kruseman to finish 6th.  By the way, it's kind of humid in Indiana this time of year and when you have to work hard, you tend to sweat a little.  Combine sweat and dust and most of the crew people end up looking like brown snowmen.  It's lots of fun, I highly recommend it to anyone.  The next day (Wednesday) is another day off to work on the cars and run up the mileage on the hauler running it back and forth from the truck repair place.

Thursday brought us to Lawrenceburg.  It had rained the night before and rained some in the morning too.  Coming from the west, I have a hard time figuring out how tracks that received as much rainfall in one night as we do in our rainiest MONTH can be dry slick by the end of qualifying.  Even if it's rolled in tight.  And of course we drew something like 68th out of the 75 qualifying numbers.  JJ ran laps about a second quicker than the cars around him but still ended up 27th quick.  A time 2/10ths quicker would have put him 10th.  I would imagine that quick time came fairly early.  English was 3rd quick, Sherman was 25th, Kruseman was 36th and Rutherford 46th.

Rutherford flipped in his C main and Kruseman ran 2nd.  Neither made it to the main event.  English ran 3rd in the semi and I don't think Sherman made it to the main.  JJ ran a fairly uneventful 2nd in his heat.  JJ started on the 2nd to last row of the main and drove his way up to 8th.  JJ was working on English next but Mike kept running through a water puddle and splashing water up onto the track.  Combine that with a late caution flag and what happened was that the tire we were using sealed over from being heated and cooled repeatedly.  After the late caution, JJ was just holding on and fell back to 14th at the finish. Dave Darland and Jay Drake put on a Jim Dandy show up front with Darland  snatching the win on the last lap.  Good stuff for the fans.

Friday was Bloomington.  I like tracks like that with a natural hillside that the fans can watch from.  It's also green and nice and neat.  The only drawback is that it's kind of narrow coming off the turns.  The track was in good shape and qualifying draw wasn't too important.  JJ qualified 5th quick and Tony Elliott went out last to set fast time.  JJ was running the "old" car that had won 2 features earlier in the year. Kruseman's bunch switched to McCreary/American Racer tires for this race.  They hadn't had much luck since the first night out.  English was 10th quick, Kruseman 12th, Sherman took the last spot in the heats with 32nd and Rutherford was 45th.  Kruseman and Rutherford were flying home after this race and I don't think they felt bad leaving.

I hate being in the first heat.  You don't have a great handle on what the track is doing before and you sit so long afterwards that you still don't know what it's doing.  In any case, JJ somehow worked his way up to 3rd and transferred from the back.  English and Kruseman got bounced around a fair bit in their heats but only Kruseman made the main.  Tight tracks make for tight racing and Bloomington saw one of those nights where the semi couldn't get going much less finished.  There were tons of wrecks.  I guess USAC does not have a 2-stop rule as Darland stopped twice during the semi and got pushed off both times.  At times like these when you aren't in the semi, you wish they had a time rule on the length of time they can go on.

JJ was on the front row of the main with Jay Drake.  JJ got the jump but Drake ended up with the lead.  Drake started to pull away and JJ changed the way he drove.  Drake was running the middle bottom and hanging the back end out in the corners.  JJ started driving the car very straight and reeled Drake back in.  AJ Anderson was in 3rd and driving like Drake but eventually switched to JJ's style.  JJ caught Drake right about the same time Drake caught traffic.  They had a pretty good gap on Anderson.  Drake and JJ were getting held up and coming off the 4th turn JJ got under Drake and appeared headed for the lead.  Meanwhile, I never noticed that Anderson had caught up and shot under JJ.  Anderson hit JJ in the left rear getting JJ sideways and then hit JJ in the left front
to straight him back out.  Anderson went into the lead and JJ gathered it all back in to catch and pass Drake for 2nd.  Time ran out though and JJ ended up 2nd again with Drake 3rd.  AJ Anderson won his 1st USAC feature and I'm sure that JJ would have liked another shot at him. Still, another good run for JJ.  Anderson's bunch celebrated in a big way after the race.

Terre Haute (Saturday) looked gloomy but we liked our chances there.  I was a bit disappointed in the track though.  They no longer water the top half of the track and it's no longer the widest track I think I've seen.  They took away half the racetrack.  What's that all about?  Now the place is kind of ordinary to me.  We were running the new car again and JJ timed in 9th quick.  We were a bit too tight.  English was 8th quick with a motor that seemed to hit the rev limiter halfway down the straight.  Sherman was 22nd quick.  JJ moved around on the track in his heat and found a spot he liked.  He took it to the front and won his heat.  Bud Kaeding was slowly coming on towards the end of the week and he won his heat too.  They jacked around with Vintage cars and modifieds as lightning flashed in the skies.  It was raining lightly when it was time to send the cars out for the main.  JJ said he got pushed off and when he came off the 2nd turn it was raining so hard in turn 3 he couldn't see the corner.  The pit area is behind turns 3 & 4 and we knew full well how hard it was raining.  We got soaked in about 2 seconds.

JJ couldn't find the trailer and we had to go out in the rain and get him.  At least the car was now clean.  They will run that feature as part of the Oct 20th race.  We missed the pole by one spot and maybe between now and then somebody won't show.  Wishful thinking.

Finally, the last race on Sunday at Kokomo.  When we got there the water truck keys evidently were left with the water truck keys from North Vernon.  So, they tried to make up for it by watering the hell out of the track an hour before we were supposed to go onto it.  The track was a mess and the drivers didn't know what to do with it.  When we used to run Bakersfield Speedway, it was like that every time we went there. The procedure was to let the cars wheel pack until it was apparent that the track wouldn't pack in.  Then send the cars out in groups of 4 or so and let them blow the snot off the top of the track.  It comes in pretty quick when you do that.  JJ and English were the only ones trying to blow it off but all they did was piss off the drivers who were getting roosted.  So all the cars came off the track while the track crews jacked around.  The show had to start at least 2 hours late.  That's real good for the fans who come out on a Sunday night.  The sprint car feature finished at 12:30 or so.  I bet coffee was invented at about 7am Monday after a Sunday night race at Kokomo.

We drew another high number but the track held up and JJ qualified 4th quick.  Sherman was 3rd quick and English 22nd in his back up car.  JJ was fast in his heat and blew his way up to 2nd on a track where many had a hard time passing.  Sherman also was fast and finished 2nd in his heat too.  English transferred too and I think that made it the only night that all the West Coast boys made the main.  We had high hopes for this race as it was the last chance to win one of the sprintweek races and we were starting in the 2nd row.  We screwed up though and changed the setup just barely enough to make it not quite as fast as it was earlier.  The 2 BWB cars of Tracey Hines and Derek Davidson flipped early in the main.  That was probably as good of an ending as any for the BWB bunch as they struggled all week long.  Bud Kaeding led early then Brian Tyler who wins a lot more on pavement took the lead.  These two swapped the lead while JJ ran behind in 4th with Sherman 3rd   Then some local guy named Tony Elliott who sometimes runs pretty good here got up front.  Sherman wasn't letting him have it though and the two battled hard for the lead.  Sherman led it on the white flag lap but got squeezed into the wall by Elliott who went on to win.  Sherman ran 2nd, Kaeding 3rd and JJ 4th.

My impressions on the week?  Glad it's over.  That's a lot of work. There's a lot more young talent here now than when I was here two years ago.  Guys like Jonathon Vennard, Levi Jones, AJ Anderson and Ande Possman to name a few impressed me.  The equipment is a hell of a lot better now too.  About the only knock I can make on some of those guys is that they run real good at one place but not all of them.  I noticed that about Derek Davidson a few years ago but since then he's gotten pretty good everywhere.  I suppose experience changes that.

Something else that's kind of funny is that you could get away with running one set of quick-change gears at all the tracks except Terre Haute if you wanted to.  But none of the tracks is really the same.

I get more amazed with Keith Kunz as time goes by.  Whenever I watched, it seemed like Keith rarely talks to Jay Drake during the night.  Keith just looks at the track and makes changes to the car without a lot of input from Jay.  And Jay just goes out and drives the hell out of the car.  The guy is amazing.

I think there's a hell of a business opportunity in Gasoline Alley in Indy.  There's a fairly constant stream of visitors driving by all the race shops to stop and shoot the bull.  Since most of the people are the same every day, I propose we set up a little shuttle service to drive people up and down Gasoline Alley.  Make stops at all the usual places. "You're still shooting the bull?, no worries I'll be back in 5 minutes".  The place is only about two blocks long.  Anybody want to fund my little business?  How anything gets done around there is beyond me.

Stopped by the Speedway to get fuel after our little fiasco at North Vernon.  Turns out the Speedway had a similar problem 20 years ago when a tanker accidentally put a couple hundred gallons of gas in their 6000 gallon methanol tank.  The Speedway had to eat the cost of that little boo-boo.  Wonder where all that fuel went?  I also wonder how many sprint cars ran a little hot that summer.

I learned something interesting.  The same Hoosier compounds we run the SCRA are a fair bit cheaper from some Indiana tire dealers than they are out west.  I'm not ripping the Hoosier deal with SCRA at all.  I remember the original proposals from all three tire companies and the Hoosier deal was the best by far.  But maybe somebody should look into the price difference and see where it is that the prices go up.

Dave Darland won sprintweek over Jay Drake, Tony Elliott and JJ. Darland never seemed to qualify well but went like hell in the main events.  I'd be willing to bet he has a real tight car that is too tight in qualifying but is just right come main event time.

I see that I'm now seven pages into this little report and I've probably lost most of the readers by now.  I think we're done.  I thank those of you who periodically send emails wondering where the hell the columns are.  I also thank those of you who remind me of the exact date of my last column.  If any of you want to come work as my personal assistant and free up some time for me to write, I'll listen very closely. Failing that, I will continue to write when I can.

So until the next time I write....

See ya at the races







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