Los Angeles, CA.-- The second 2012 USAC-CRA 410 cu. in. sprint car event at Perris Auto Speedway March 31 was outstanding. In fact, track announcer Scott Daloisio said over the PA system it was one of the best in the 17 year history of the track. I concur. The front grandstand was about 50% occupied. Fans who braved a chilly night and threat of rain after 11 pm were rewarded for their attendance and perseverance. It was 53 degrees when racing concluded, but wind had flags at turn 2 straight-out with wind-chill in the 40s. It was raining in nearby Riverside before 11 pm. The 30-lap battle between four-time & reigning series champion Mike Spencer, 30, and legitimate championship challenger Nic Faas. 22, was amazing. They weaved together through slower cars in tandem and switched from outside to inside to gain an advantage. Faas even led briefly at times. Their driving skills and determination to win are marks of a champion.
Anyone not fortunate to witness the Spencer-Faas thrilling duel in person may still see it on the Internet on the www.scrafan.com forum section via a 4:12 minute video by Loud Pedal. Video Highlights from Perris 3-31-12 (USAC) was posted on April 4 and caught the wild Cody Williams (No. 44) first lap flip in turn 3 plus the captivating first place P 1-2 duel in the closing laps. The next installment of their 2012 championship battle will occur April 28 at PAS. The $5.00 PAS program March 31 had February 25 winner Faas and the No. 4 Alexander Chevy on the color cover and a new feature—a two page color center section featuring David Cardey and his No. 59 Chevy.
The triple-header again featured winged California Lightning Sprints (CLS) and the entertaining PAS Senior Sprints (360 cu. in. cast iron blocks). All drivers have age 45 in the rear view mirror. I'll cover senior sprints here because they deserve to have their exploits covered. CLS had 16 cars, ran two 6-lap heats and a 20-lap main event. Senior sprints again had ten cars, ran a 10-lap heat, with 20-laps for the feature. All three main events were contested hotly and each race had multiple leaders. CLS had four leaders—Darren Hillberg (L 1-6), Dan Hillberg (L 7-14), Alexander Bissett (L 15-17) and Stuart Hielscher, Jr. (L 18-20). Senior sprints followed with two leaders—Bill Badger (L 1-16) and Bruce Douglass (L 17-18). A red flag on lap 19 ended the race two laps short of full distance. USAC-CRA sprints had two leaders—R. J. Johnson (L 1-7) and Spencer (L 8-30). USAC-CRA had a strong car count of 33, ran four 10-lap heats, a 12-lap B and 30-lap A main.
SENIORS: Ten seniors (same as last month) competed in PAS round two of year two for SR SPRINTS. Eric Richard, 46, made his debut with his Dave Ellis chassis, an ex-Jeff Wilson VRA car. Bruce Douglass, 61, led all 8-laps from pole and beat (No. 22) Brian Williams, 52, by a steady 15-yards for most of the heat race. His time of 2:23.90 beat the 2:26.38 time of 2/25 heat winner Victor Davis, 49, who placed third. Wiley Miller, Bill Badger, 61, Bob Alderson, 58, “Hubcap” Mike Collins, 55, Mike Cook, E. Richard and non-finisher Ed Schwarz, 57, followed. Only P. 9 was lapped. Williams won the Feb. 25 main impressively in his new 2012 John Aden Triple 7 chassis. He used it in the heat race, but after a problem switched to the No. 0 yellow/black Bill Perkins car that rookie Jon Kairot, of San Bernardino, qualified and raced March 31 with USAC-CRA 410s.
SR FEATURE: The ten car lineup was: Row 1 – Alderman, of Santa Ynez, in his Ellis (ex-Brent Camarillo car), and Badger, of Santa Clarita, in a brand new (first time out) Triple 7 car he co-owns with his brother Jim. Row 2 – Miller, of Yorba Linda, in his Maxim, and Davis, of Simi Valley, in a Maxim (ex-Vanderweerd car). Row 3 – Collins, of Lake Forest, in his Triple 7, and Douglass, of Ventura, in a 2011 Maxim he used last year. Row 4 – E. Richard, of Carson, in his Ellis, and Cook, of Carson, in his 1990s Gardner-built Sled chassis. Row 5 – B. Williams (No. 0 Perkins), of Newport Beach, and Schwarz, of Santa Fe Springs, in a rebuilt No. 47U Triple 7 (front half) Victory (back half).
At the 8:55 pm lap 1 green Badger shot into the lead and led L 1 over Davis, Alderman, Douglass, Miller, Collins, Williams, Cook, Schwarz and Richard. Cook bounced off the wall on lap 2 without flipping. A wrecker towed his car to the pits with front and rear end damage. Douglass took P. 3 on the restart. On lap 5 Miller dropped Alderman to fifth; Collins took P. 5 a lap later. On lap 7 positions 1-2-3 ran in a close pack with leader Badger and P. 3 Douglass using the outside groove and P. 2 Davis working the inside groove. Douglass took P. 2 on lap 8 as Williams simultaneously worked his way past two cars to P. 5. Williams took fourth from Miller on L 12 and quickly gained ground on the front four. On L 15 Badger led by two lengths over Douglass. A lap later Badger came close to the starting line outside crash-wall and wiggled momentarily. Douglass quickly took advantage by shooting past him on the inside into the lead entering turn 1. Badger tried to reclaim the point on the inside exiting turn 2, but he could not do so.
On L 18 fast-moving Williams, who made up a 20-yard deficit in six laps, took P. 3 from Davis. As Williams entered turn 1 on L 19 he came close to tagging the back of P. 2 Badger, caught the cushion and lunched his No. 0 substitute ride high in the air as the car's parts and bodywork flew high in the air. The car flipped several times, landed on the embankment and tumbled back onto the track by the wall. Williams, dazed momentarily, regained his senses, climbed out and checked the extensive damage. “It looks like someone is getting a new race car,” Williams said. He was checked by the ambulance crew and remained in the pits talking to many about his wild ride. Eight cars lined up for the L 19 green at 9:17 with Douglass, Badger, Davis, Miller, Collins, Alderman, Schwarz and Richard nose-to-tail. Collins hit the turn 2 wall and rolled, causing officials to red flag the race and checker it to save time during the clean-up process with the USAC main on deck. Final Standings: Douglass, Badger, Davis, Miller, Alderson, Schwarz, Williams, Collins, Richard and Cook. Douglass stopped at the finish line for his trophy and interview. “Thanks to Don (Kazarian) for giving us a good track and thanks to the announcers and all the fans for coming out on a cool night.”
Douglass, a long-time VRA Seniors 360 driver, said Saturday was only his fourth race at Perris and he now has two PAS Senior Sprints feature victories to show for it. He also won a PAS 2011 Seniors main (worth 60 points). Seniors points after two 2012 races show the top eight drivers as: 1. Douglass (P. 2 & 1) = 117 points; 2. Badger (4 & 2) = 108; 3. Williams (1 & 7) = 102; tie 3. Davis (5 & 3) = 102; 5. Schwarz (3 & 6) = 99; 6. Miller (6 & 4) = 96; 7. Alderman (7 & 5) = 90; 8. Collins (9 & 8) = 75. Senior sprinters race only for trophies, but Douglass received $50 cash (as did the CLS and USAC 410 feature winners) from friends of the late Robert Jones. They made the three $50 cash contributions to honor their friend, an enthusiastic racing fan.
CLS NOTES: A 16-car main event had a pair of middle age brothers (Darren and Dan Hillberg) in the front row. They are sons of WRA vintage midgets owner Ken Hillberg. A pair of father/son drivers also competed. Murrieta's Stuart Hielschier, Jr and Stuart, Sr occupied row 3. Son Kevin Michnowicz, 18, and his dad Bobby, 48, started fourth and seventh. “Family Feud” results were mixed. The Hillbergs both led the race and finished second (Dan) and third (Darren). The Michnowicz clan experienced double trouble. Kevin and Bobby collided in the same three-car crash in turn 4 and were sidelined. The Hielschier duo hit the jackpot in their joint comeback after several years away from CLS. Stuart, Jr won in No. 9 and 2009 CLS champion Stuart, Sr (in Tim Brown's No. 1) finished fourth. Stuart, Jr has been attending Palomar Jr. College and playing football there, so he had no time for racing. When interviewed, winner Stuart, Jr. said, “It's been awhile (three years). It's like old times racing here with my dad. We're not racing for points. We're just racing for fun.”
USAC 410 NOTES: During qualifying (6:06-6:31 pm) 31 of 33 cars qualified. A. J. Bender flipped his No. 11 at turn 1 during hot laps. He started a heat race and DNS the semi. ... 360 driver“Hubcap” Collins DNQ and just raced his car from the back row. ... Eight drivers qualified faster on L 1 of 2 and 23 drivers were quicker on L 2. ... The 1-lap PAS track record set by Faas a month earlier was 15.833. Spencer (No. 50 Chaffin Maxim) came out as 21st to qualify and ran laps of 16.028 and the only 15 second lap—15.871, the second fastest lap ever at The PAS. The 22nd driver to qualify was Faas (No. 4 Alexander Spike). He turned a 16.137 on L 1 and was ever quicker on L 2, but he bicycled in turn 3 and continued to a 17.7 timing. Who said time trials are not exciting?
Rickie Gaunt, the 11th driver to qualify, ran a then fast time (16.613), but slowed in turn 1 and pitted with a blown engine. Afterward, his team said a valve train problem caused a broken piston. “Super” Rickie's first racing of 2012 will have to wait awhile. Rickie said his two sons, USAC Ford Focus Midget veterans, are now heavily involved in desert off-road racing. ... No. 26 Billy Blinn, age 40+, from Costa Mesa, returned to USAC 410 racing after an absence of several years. ... Indiana Bill Rose raced to P. 17 in the Friday, March 30 World of Outlaws winged sprint feature at Merced. With the March 31 WoO race in Calistoga rained out, Bill towed his own No. 6 Maxim south to Perris and raced with USAC-CRA. He was 14th FQ, P. 4 in his heat, and 13th in the feature.
Ryan Bernal, from Hollister, made his second USAC 410 race and for his second team. He raced for Keith Ford (73x) last month at PAS and for Kittle Motor-sports (No. 18) March 31. He finished the mains second for Ford and fourth for Kittle in his first ride in both cars. He also raced on March 23 in the USAC Western Midget event at Chico and won the 30 lap feature driving the No. 9d Dodenhoff midget for the first time. Personable Bernal, 18, is a clone of 2011 open-wheel 20+ feature winner/racing sensation Kyle Larson, 19, from Elk Grove. Both are diminutive in stature with heavy throttle feet and a strong desire to win. The dynamic duo are following closely in the footsteps of also diminutive USAC open-wheel winners Cole Whitt, 20, and Brad Sweet, 26, who are now advancing rapidly in NASCAR trucks and Nationwide stock car ranks. ... USAC champion Bryan Clauson will be racing in the 2012 Toyota Pro/Celebrity street race next weekend in a Toyota Scion.
The 30-lap 410 feature dynamic duo (Spencer-Faas) started alongside in row 4. Spencer passed four cars in one lap and was in P. 2 by lap 7. On L 10 Faas passed Matt Mitchell and R. J. Johnson and shot from P. 4 to P. 2 and trailed leader Spencer by 30-yards. He steadily reeled in Spencer until he trailed by 10-yards at a L 15 yellow flag. Their duel became intense from L 23 to the L 30 checkers. They caught the last place car (P. 14 Verne Sweeney) on L 27 and lapped him in tandem. They lapped Rose a lap later and were amid three cars running in P. 10-12. They lapped P. 12 Jace Vanderweerd (L 29) and on the final lap, with Spencer (outside) and Faas (inside), they lapped P. 11 Seth Wilson and P. 10 Josh Ford near the end of L 30. Both leaders cleared the lappers and finished less than a length apart in a photo finish. Spencer was on the outside and Faas on the inside as they crossed the line. Thrilling is all one car say. After a cool-down lap they pulled to the finish line for interviews. Faas shook Spencer's hand to congratulate him. Austin Williams (18th to 5th) won hard charger honors.
TOP 3 INTERVIEWS: Winner Spencer said, “It was a pretty good night for us. The engine started laying down with ten laps to go. I thought I was a sitting duck. He slid under me one time in traffic. I tried to make him guess where I was going. We just had a good race car all night.” ... Runner-up Faas stated: “We just kept getting yellows, three, when I didn't need them. Thanks to Mark and Steve (Alexander) for giving me great race cars each time out.” He then thanked each of his crewmen by name. “It almost was a photo finish. It couldn't have been much. My car was fast at the beginning and at the end.” ... P. 3 Matt Mitchell said, “I had nothing for them. I'll have to go home to do my homework to keep up. Hats off to those guys, they're great racers. I hope they don't make it a long year. We'll see how it shapes up in October.” ... P. 4 Bernal added, “That was an awesome track to race on tonight with the top and bottom both fast. This is my first year with the 410 guys here. They're fast.”
REASONS FOR A-MAIN DNF: David Cardey was in P. 3 on L 10 when he dropped out “because the throttle stuck open.” ... Josh Pelkey dropped out on L 2 with a broken LR shock. ... Ronnie Gardner was in P. 3 in his first start in Dwight Cheney's No. 42 when his car and P. 2 made contact sending the 42 into the turn 4 wall, bending RF suspension. ... Richard Vanderweerd and P. 5 Rip Williams dropped out in mid-race. ... Rookie Jake Swanson's Henry & Jones No. 41 was in P. 15 on L 19 when he pitted “with an oil leak and smoking engine.” ... Tony Everhart stalled on L 8 and replaced the RF shock under caution. He was in P. 15 on L 22 when he pulled to his pit and parked “because it lost brakes, I was out of tear-offs and wasn't going forward.” The A-main started at 9:37 and restarted at 9:44 after Cody's flip. The checkered flag waved at 10:08 pm after a night of exciting action that whet fans' appetites for more of the same.