RACING SCENE Column – (WoO Sprints @ PAS) MARCH 2012
Los Angeles, CA.,- The World of Outlaws winged 410 cu. in. sprint car national touring series made its first visit to Perris Auto Speedway since 2007 on Saturday March 10. The “NAPA Know How So Cal Showdown” was WoO round five of the 2012 season and there are now five different winners after five main events in three states—Florida, Nevada and California. WoO teams have 75 race dates scheduled this season in 22 states (CA., FL, IA, IL, IN , KS, KY, MD, MI, MO, MN, NC, ND, NE, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, SD, WA & WI) and three Canadian provinces (Alberta, Ontario & Quebec). WoO teams will race at 43 different dirt tracks in the USA and five tracks in Canada. To win a WoO championship drivers and teams have to be versatile, resilient and have an abundance of stamina.
The March 10 WoO race at the PAS had 27 WoO sprint cars in the pits, up by one car from 26 cars at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway half-mile dirt track on Thursday, March 8 during NASCAR week at the big 1.5-mile track. Californian Tim Kaeding won that WoO race on a night when his brother Bud won the 360 cu. in. companion feature. Their dad Brent was in the pits to enjoy the Kaeding clan LVMS sweep. At Perris all WoO teams pitted their 18-wheelers at the paved parking lot beyond the first turn. The California Lightning Sprints pitted at their trailers in the infield. I hear USAC-CRA teams in the future might pit beyond the first turn as WoO teams did on March 10.
WoO drivers came from 11 different states as follows: CA-9, IN-4, two each IA, OH, PA, TN and WA, and one each from MN, MO, ND and TX. There were five different chassis builders represented in the 27 car field. Maxim led with 17 cars (65%). Other manufacturers were: A.R.T-5, KPC (Steve Kent)-3, and one each Eagle and J & J. ... WoO booked eight races for its March 2012 western swing. March 8-Las Vegas, 10-Perris, 16-17-Tulare, 23-24-Chico, 20 Merced and 31-Calistoga. ... Chris Morgan, Director, Western Operations for WoO and World Racing Group, was the key person in setting up the 2012 expanded western swing for WoO teams with two tracks not on the 2011 WoO schedule.
The PAS temperature was 76 degrees at 4:35 pm and 50 degrees at 10:12 pm when WoO racing concluded. Wind was not a factor, with turn two flags limp all night, so it was not chilly for fans. The crowd appeared to be even larger than the USAC-CRA sprint event two weeks earlier. Attendance appeared to be 80-85% of grandstand capacity. The only WoO entrant who did not hot-lap or qualify was occasional USAC-CRA owner-driver Randy Waitman, of Ramona. He said a bolt broke at the back of the camshaft and it cut off the fuel supply and power steering of his No. 69 Maxim. ... There were no printed programs for the PAS WoO event.
PITS: It was informative visiting the pits before WoO teams hot-lapped. Teenage drivers were: Trey Sparks, 16, (son of driver John Starks) from Puyallup, WA; Elk Grove, CA resident Sean McMahan, 17, (son of driver Bobby McMahan and nephew of WoO driver Paul McMahan), and Tyler Wolf, 19, from Redding, CA. ... Personable Cody Darrah, 22, from Red Lion, PA, is the second Kasey Kahne/Mike Curb Maxim driver again this year. Cody said his goal is to race in a NASCAR national series as his predecessor Brad Sweet has done. Cole Whitt and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. are other recent open-wheel stars who are excelling in NASCAR national series currently. Darrah missed the 2010 season after a highway auto accident en-route to the season opener in Florida. Last year he drove Kahne's No. 91 Maxim, which Kahne has renumbered No. 4 for 2012 after he won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Phoenix race last November in the No. 4 Red Bull Toyota.
Seen in the pits were: Past CRA drivers Danny Lewis and owner/driver Jim Watson; Sally (Sweeney) Hogle and her daughter Suzie who came to see Sally's son-in-law Jac Haudenschild race the No. 83SR Dennis Roth Maxim. Jac's wife Patti was home in Ohio with their two children, ages 18 and 19. Two-time CRA champion Bob Hogle did not attend the PAS race. USAC-CRA timer/scorer Dick Hindman also watched the WoO event from the pits and grandstand. PAS timer/scorer Freddie Sachs handled those duties in the officials tower. ... WoO announcer Johnny Gibson has been with WoO for 16 years. ... Kerry Madsen, from St. Marys New South Wales, Australia, is based out of Knoxville, IA while racing in the USA. He won the last WoO feature in Perris during 2007.
NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne keep the faith with their racing roots by operating their two car WoO teams again in 2012. Stewart's drivers are No. 11 Steve Kinser and No. 15 Donny Schatz). Kahne's drivers are No. 9 Joey Saldana and No. 4 Cody Darrah. ... Steve has won features at just about every track on which he has raced. However, he has never won a main event in Perris. He came close this year (P. 7 to P. 3). Over the PA he told Chris Holt prior to the race, “I have a couple of seconds here. I would like to win one here soon.” ... Las Vegas WoO feature winner Tim Kaeding said, “I won a little money in Vegas also.” ... Two-time WoO champion (2010-11) Jason Meyers, of Clovis, said he will race in WoO races to April 1 and then leave the WoO tour to be a stay at home dad now that he has children of school age. He said he will race his No. 14 Elite Racing KPC at the prestigious, high-dollar Knoxville (IA) Nationals four-day event in August.
WoO drivers racing at Perris for the first time included Starks, S. McMahan, T. Wolf, Darrah, personable Lucas Wolfe (son of driver Randy Wolfe), Brian Brown, Rico Abreu and Evan Suggs. ... Ageless Steve Kinser, 57, and Sammy Swindell, 56, have not lost their appetites and skills for racing. They rank 1-2 in WoO career feature victories since WoO began sanctioning races in 1978. Steve has 570 wins to 276 for Sammy. Third place in WoO feature victories is non-active Mark Kinser with 153. Sammy was the third driver to qualify and only ran a 15.119 before pulling into the pits on lap 2 after slowing in turn one with a problem. His time was only 21st fastest. He had to start 19th and passed five cars in one lap after the lap 8 restart ( from 12th to P. 7). Sammy was still in P. 7 and traded that spot with Kaeding on laps 14 and 16. Sammy told me on the lap 23 restart two cars (Kaeding & Kemenah) moved him up the track. He re-passed Kemenah, but he finished in P. 8 and was clearly upset about losing P. 7.
Swindell was signing autographs for fans at his hauler after the feature. He said his son Kevin, 23, was present in the PAS pits helping. “He just doesn't have a ride yet.” Kevin raced a stock car successfully on the NASCAR K & N Pro-East circuit last year but sponsorship deals are vital. Kevin won the 2012 Tulsa (OK) Chili Bowl Midget Racing Classic A-main in January for the third consecutive year in a field of 230+ drivers. Sammy finished second to his son for the second year in a row. Clearly, Kevin deserves a solid stock car and or open-wheel series ride and soon.
After 7 pm WoO drivers ran three hot-lap sessions with nine cars in each and then one more session for group one cars after the clay track worked into shape. WoO time trials for 26 cars ran from 7:39 to 7:59 pm. Six drivers ran their faster qualifying lap on the first of two laps and 20 drivers were quicker on their second timed lap. The existing PAS WoO one-lap track record of 13.875 was set in 2002. The fastest qualifying time March 10 was 14.532 (123.865 mph) by Chad Kemenah, of Findlay, OH in the No. 63 Maxim. He was the 20th driver to qualify and turned his quickest lap on his second lap. He attributed the speed to recent engine improvement work by his father-in-law Bob Hampshire, who used No. 63 on his sprint cars when Jack Hewitt, of Troy, OH, drove his sprint car.
WoO FORMAT: The 12 fastest qualifying times were inverted for the three 8-lap heat races. That put qualifiers 10-11-12 (Bill Rose, Brian Brown and Steve Kinser) on the pole for heats 1-2-3 respectively. Drivers finishing in the first six positions in the heat races moved directly to the A-main, with P. 1-2 in each heat moving to the 6-lap trophy dash. They were joined in the dash by the four fastest qualifiers who finished the heats in P. 3-6 to make a ten-car trophy dash field. The qualifying order of the trophy dash cars set the starting order for the dash. The possible inversion numbers were 4, 6 or 8. A young girl from the grandstand drew number 6 for the dash lineup, so FQ Kemenah started sixth with second FQ Kraig Kinser alongside. The all-important row one pole went to Jason Meyers with second generation driver Joey Saldana alongside. Meyers led the first two laps before a stalled car caused a lap 3 caution. WoO uses double-file restarts and Meyers chose the pole. On the lap 3 restart Saldana passed Meyers for the lead entering the first turn and won the dash by 30 yards over Meyers.
WoO heat winners in order came from positions 2-1-2. The final (P. 6) A-main qualifiers came from positions 7-5-7. ... The PAS grader reworked a hole at the first turn low groove entrance prior to the trophy dash. ... The “Last Chance Showdown” or B-main ran 8-laps. Third quickest qualifier Bobby McMahan, 45, was on the pole and his son Sean, 17, started at the back (P. 8). They finished in those positions as the top six finishers advanced to the 30-lap feature. The P 1-4 B-main drivers received their qualifying times back for the feature lineup. Tres Starks passed Austen Wheatley for the important P. 4 on lap 2 and held off Wheatley to the checkers. Wheatley and Iowan Terry McCarl occupied row12 in the 24-car feature lineup.
A-MAIN: Saldana started and finished first with Meyers second all 30 laps. Joey won $10,000 and Meyers received $5,500. Last place (P. 24) paid $800. Four double-file restarts (laps 3, 8, 13, and 23) gave leader Saldana the choice of inside or outside and he selected the outside for three of the four restarts, after trying the inside on lap 3. Odd number positions took the same row as the leader. On lap 6 Saldana held a half-straightaway lead (-3.2 seconds). It was down to 1.5 seconds at lap 12. As the leaders caught back markers about lap 20 Meyers cut the lead to ten yards. S. Kinser started seventh and used the low groove to move into P. 4 by lap 6. He took P. 3 from Madsen on lap 14. At the lap 23 caution for a two-car accident the top three drivers had a mere ten yards between each of the cars. At the green Saldana shot from the outside lane and quickly opened a 20-yard advantage. He lapped P. 21 (Wheatley) on lap 29 and runner-up Meyers did so on the final lap to trail Saldana by 20-yards at the finish. Kinser beat his son Kraig with Madsen fifth. No. 83JR of T. Kaeding, Wolfe, Swindell, Kemenah and Sam Hafertepe, Jr. completed the top ten, with 21 of 24 starters racing at the end and 20 cars on the lead lap.
Haudenschild rolled in turn three on lap 3, but he continued after the red despite a bent top wing. Bill Rose was in P. 15 on lap 8 when he dropped out with a broken rocker arm in his own No. 6 Maxim. Craig Dollansky was in P. 10 on lap 27 when he dropped out with an engine problem. Swindell's P. 19 to P. 8 earned him the hard charger award for gaining 11 positions. Jason Sides also gained 11 positions by racing from 22nd grid position to 11th. All drivers passed the 1,500 pound minimum weight with the driver in the car as required by WoO rules. ... All the WoO sprint car top wings created so much air turbulence that a large papered billboard advertisement near the end of the backstretch almost peeled off the wooden base. ... A PA announcement advised PAS fans to save their March 10 WoO race ticket stubs because they are good for $5. off the ticket price for the next USAC-CRA sprint car event at the PAS on March 31.
The top three finishers stopped at the finish line for interviews over the PA. Winner Saldana, who turns 40 on March 14, won his 79th WoO feature. He admitted that his trophy dash victory was the key to his main event victory because he was in clean air, picked the right lane on restarts and was able to accelerate first as the leader. Joey told track announcer Ronnie Everhart, “As a team they haven't given-up on me. We didn't give up. We've struggled with our set-ups. Tonight it all came together. It's sprint car racing. Jason Meyers and Steve Kinser are tough competitors. Thanks to Great Clips. They've backed Kasey Kahne a lot of years and this year came over onto our car. I can't thank Kasey Kahne enough and Great Clips. Thanks to my wife and two kids at home probably listening to this. My son likes trophies.”
Runner-up Meyers told infield announcer Chris Holt, “Unfortunately I gave it away in the dash tonight. I gave it away on a restart and gave Joey the lead, which gave him the pole for the start of the feature. I just made a mistake tonight. I chose the wrong line on the restart and gave Joey the opportunity to get past me. Thanks to all my supporters, Tarlton and sons, and my parents. It's great being back to Perris. This is a beautiful facility. Joey is one of the best on top. He didn't make any mistakes. We needed some lapped cars to get by.” ... P. 3 Kinser told Holt, “My right rear tire is beat up. We had a pretty good race car. Hoped for traffic to get by. We just had to start back too far. We were just as fast as anybody out there, maybe even a little quicker at times. I almost could catch them down on the bottom. There just wasn't enough to get off the corner down there. Starting back in the fourth row with the cars that were up front, we just couldn't do it unless we would have stayed in that lapped traffic. It was a pretty good race track, a little moisture in turns three and four, but pretty good.”
After the feature Swindell had retained his 2012 WoO point lead by 15 points over Schatz. Sammy is the only driver to finish in the top ten in all five features this season. He is driving the No. 1 Big Game Tree Stands Maxim team car to Dollansky's No. 7 and has three top five finishes. ... Videographer Dean Mills was on the PAS roof and taped the March 10 event. He had video highlights of the WoO PAS main event on Speed Channel's Speed Center show the next afternoon. ... If you are unable to attend a WoO race in person you are now able to listen to every event live on the Internet at www.DIRTVision.com.
FINAL ADD: The CLS winged cars with 1,000cc motorcycle engines (Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki) ran PAS event two of 2012 and had 22 cars in the pits for CLS event two of 17 scheduled this season at four speedways. Outside front row starter Kevin Michnowicz, 17, led all 20 laps of the March 10 main for his second consecutive feature victory. He drove one of two Henchcraft chassis owned by his family. His dad Bobby, 48, started third and ran a close second to his son from mid-race to lap 17 when a connecting rod went through the black and sent his car to the pits from turn four in a cloud of white smoke. At the February 25 race Bobby pitted from the backstretch with smoke coming from the engine, but that problem--a broken oil line—was less expensive. On March 10 the runner-up was 2011 CLS champion Tim Brown, 51, in a 16-car field.