Hello there, remember me? For those of you who are
unaware of who I am and why I'm writing, I'll provide a little background.
For the last 7 years or so, I've been writing racing columns while working
as a crewman on sprint cars. I've backed off on my crew duties and
writing lately but will write from time to time. I'm most known for
working with JJ Yeley but also work with my friends at Willis racing when
JJ is not around. I try to provide a general coverage of the races
and also the type of stuff that goes on in the pits. Since the pits
are usually the
lousiest view of the races, I may get things wrong from time to time
(okay, maybe a lot) but hopefully you get some enjoyment out of these
Racing season must be here since I can know hear the whining. And
what better venue to provide the whining than to stage a daytime dirt race
as the season opener. Personally, I enjoyed the
"throwback" race to some
degree, as this is the way all races were run in the beginning.
Sure, day races are prime candidates for being stinkers with no passing.
But before lights, day racing was the only thing they had. I'm sure
that the people at the Perris Auto Speedway are catching a lot of flak for
"poor" track prep but I think the track turned out exactly the
way they planned it all along even before the 30 mph Santa Ana winds
The best way to send fans to the exits is to dump loads of dust on
their laps. How do you prevent that? Prepare the track so that
it seals over as quickly as possible. The track sealed over early in
qualifying and the plan worked out. I shudder to think how much dust
would be flying if the track crews tried to keep the track wet and tacky
during the races. If you can't get one extreme you might as well go
to the far opposite extreme. The fans that were most uncomfortable
likely weren't prepared for spending the day with a cold wind blowing in
their faces. If you were down in the pits, it was okay to be in short
sleeves until you walked up near the track where you needed a sweatshirt.
I came away with chapped lips from the dry winds. Save me the
trouble and insert
your own funny comment here.
JJ drove the Dwight Cheney #21j that Troy Cline and Tony Jones drove on a
part time basis last year. Billy Wilkerson takes care of the car and
wrenches it with Gale Forrester. Those guys just have a blast at the
races. Billy, Gale, Paul Bagley and their "antique friend"
Buzz Shoemaker kibbutz away like a bunch of sewing circle ladies.
They crack me up. It was a lot of fun to work with them. Even
though we were making mad changes all day long, everything just flowed
Perceptions are a funny thing. I know that JJ had some
preconceptions of what Billy was going to want with the car and was
thinking he was going to have to fight them a bit to get the car the way
he wanted it. Billy & Gale were equally worried about the same thing.
Guess what? Everyone was on the same page right off the bat and everything
worked out great. I hear people seem to think of me of some kind of
chassis guy who makes all the calls. Hate to burst your bubble folks
but when you have Gale Forrester & Billy Wilkerson taking care of a
car, guys like me are happy to scrape mud and learn. I didn't turn a
wrench on the car all day, only took care of the tires.
Speaking of tires, the tire guys now are fully funded for their Bahama
vacations after this race. As you may know JJ won the race, but
Dwight lost money because of the cost of tires. We burned through
$1600 worth of them.
When I spoke with JJ earlier in the week, he predicted the track would
take rubber during qualifying. I wonder how many people would have
taken him up on that bet. We drew the 2nd to last qualifying spot
and just hoped JJ's prediction would come true. The early qualifying
heavy hitters like Cory Kruseman, Mike Kirby, Rickie Gaunt and Steve
Ostling saw their times hold up favorably early on and then head south as
the track took rubber. Mike Spencer was one of the guys who showed
me that the track was starting to take rubber quickly when he backed it in
to turn one in qualifying just like you would on a heavy track and the car
stuck. That was impressive when you consider if it didn't stick,
he'd be in Temecula before he knew it. JJ ran the same time as Tony
and ended up 3rd quick with Troy Rutherford setting fast time. The
"Man of the Soil" Ben Astenious inherited some in turn one when
his steering wheel came off during qualifying. They took him to the
hospital but at
this point the only thing I know is that he had a badly injured hand. He
wasn't wearing gloves by the way. Guys, wear your equipment!
The C main had Gaunt, Kruseman, Ostling, Kirby in it. Kirby ended up
outside the transfer early and I thought he'd mail it in early and join
the other early qualifiers giving up and helping dig the tunnel to the
PAS's new sports bar. Instead, he put his elbows up and drove, I
mean drove his way back into 4th. Fun to watch.
The heats had lots of banging and rootin' with guys trying to fit 2 cars
into one groove. Lots of spins and crashes were the result.
The 2nd heat had everyone trying to fight for the bottom as soon as it
started and Tony Jones had the seas part in front of him and drove from
the back to the front by the time they got to turn one. JJ got into
it with Adam Mitchell in his heat with Adam going over. I was
watching it and I'm still not sure whether JJ rooted Adam or whether Adam
tried to close the door on JJ. I was meaning to write last year
about Adam after the Oval Nationals. They use a point system from
two preliminary main events to determine who transfers into the big show.
Adam gained enough points to tie Rodney Argo for the 5th and last
transfer. Because Argo qualified
faster than Adam, Argo got the spot and Adam had to go all the way back to
the D main. That didn't seem fair to me. But, I digress.
We burned off a harder #2 compound in the heat (which I forgot to mention
JJ won) and tried to scrounge something for the dash. We couldn't
come up with anything and had to go with a softer #1 and JJ basically
tiptoed through the tulips in the dash so as to not pop the tire.
Tony Elliott won the dash over Charlie Davis and JJ. You wanted to
finish in an odd number starting spot so that you started on the bottom of
the track. We prepared a rock hard Hoosier F55 to run the main
event. I hate grooving those tires, it's like breaking rocks with
a baseball bat. To the best of my knowledge, that's the first time
anyone has had to run those tires in the 5 years they have been a legal
tire. They are more commonly used on the Silver Crown cars, which
are heavier and run on faster 1 mile tracks.
Kruseman and Kirby made the long march through the alphabet and into the
back of the main. Elliott got the lead over Davis, English, JJ and
Rutherford. Davis crashed in turn 3, not sure if he had help or
what. Rutherford got around JJ. Michael Hinrichsen got upside down
in turn 4 early in the race. It was hard for the drivers to see the
lights in turn 3 and an official almost got run over by the leader and
Danny Sheridan went over a wheel on the backstretch and wrote off Ron
Didonato's car in a nasty flip. Mike English's right front tire was
going flat and he had to hurl Rip's backup car into the turns in order to
get it turned. He burned off the right rear and dropped out of 2nd
when the tire blew. Around lap 20, Elliott's biked it in turn one,
holding up Rutherford and JJ blew past both into the lead. Yahoo!
On all the red flags, people kept telling us how good our tire looked
compared to everyone else with maybe the exception of Richard Griffin and
John Scott. One of the problems we were having was that the 55 tire
stuck a lot better than we thought it would and we needed to loosen the
car up at every chance. I was down in turn 3 giving signals, but
they tell me JJ was carrying the left rear wheel about a foot off the
ground going into turn one every time around. It seemed like there
was a million red and caution flags between lap 20 and the end of the
Finally, it was all over and JJ gave Dwight his first main event win.
I don't even think Dwight even won a bowling trophy before. As to be
expected, everyone was very happy. Billy commented that he's never
won a race with a car that handled nearly as badly as that one did.
All in all, it worked out for everyone. JJ was going to be out here
anyway as was driving the IRL two seater car giving thrill rides at
Fontana during the IRL's Test in the West. It doesn't sound like
he'll get back out west until the Copper Classic races in March but we'll
have to see.
Rutherford held on to 2nd over a charging Richard Griffin Griffin
and Scott took care of their tires early and both made it into the top 5
with Griffin 3rd and Scott 5th. Tony Jones came home 4th. 1
guy who I've never heard of, Damion Gardner came from way back to finish
6th also. Lot's of new young guys out there, going to be fun to
As I said earlier, I'll try to write some from time to time during the
year. I also wish to thank the Harlan Willis team for letting me sit
with them during the banquet. I'm also reminded that it's been a
year since that team's friend and cheerleader, Don Barnes passed away.
Don's email address is still in my address book and it seems like he's
still here to me at times.
I'm not taking it out.
See ya at the races,