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RACING SCENE: Perris Auto Speedway Hall of Fame Night

RACING SCENE: Perris Auto Speedway Hall of Fame Night


The annual “California Racers Hall of Fame Night” at Perris Auto Speedway was a rousing success Saturday, August 17. The 410 sprint car event awarded USAC-CRA and USAC Southwest Series championship points. Ten cars from Arizona towed to Perris and increased the car count to a season-high 30 sprinters for the 11th USAC-CRA race of 2019 and sixth at PAS. There were four seven car heat races again and a 12-car B-main. Seven Arizona cars made the 22-car feature as did owner/driver Bill Rose, from Indiana. An Arizona car won with a California driver.

NEWCOMERS: Daylin Perreira, from Hilo, Hawaii, now lives in Peoria, AZ He drove his own No. 21x 2013 J & J chassis “because WoO champion Donny Schatz drives J & Js”. ... No. 43 owner/driver Justin Kierce, 28, races out of Phoenix. He is the son of Ventura Raceway 360 sprint car driver Kevin Kierce, from Reseda, and grandson of the late Jim Kierce, the 1963 CRA rookie of the year. ... Chris Bonneau, 36, from Peoria, AZ made his first trip to PAS in ten years, raced his No. 15 Triple X chassis and finished 19th in the main. He said he last raced at PAS when Arizona 360 sprints raced two point races in Perris.

USAC grandstand attendance was the most this season. Having a Southwest Series point race in conjunction with USAC-CRA is a winner. Sprint car fans know this lucrative race is second only to the annual PAS Budweiser Oval Nationals presented by All-Coast Construction. That event will be held for the 24th consecutive year from November 7-9. The Saturday 40-lap feature will pay the top three finishers $7,500, $3,500 and $2,000.

The 36-page PAS $5.00 printed program is a keeper. It contained color photos of many living and deceased sprint car greats. It also contained the entry roster, PAS racing schedule, Scott's column, and 2019 point standings. Other color pages were devoted to Junior Kurtz, top California challengers, Southwest Series stars, and the 20 California drivers already inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, IA. Two pages were used to name all the lap prize cash donors by laps.

What makes the annual California Racers Hall of Fame Night so special is the additional money collected by PAS infield announcer Chris Holt each year from numerous fans and companies. He told me racers this year, in addition to the regular purse, will receive more than $15,000 in Hall of Fame Night donated cash.

Additional money this year came from the following:

   > Bill Simpson - $1,500 to the 30-lap feature winner in honor of the late USAC Silver Crown car owner Ray “Junior” Kurtz, owner of the Plastic Express No. 30 and Plastic Express Trucking. His long-time winning driver Chuck Gurney was in the PAS pits to honor Junior. That donation and lap money added to the regular $2,500 winner's purse and ensured the winner's haul would surpass $4,000.

   > Michele Kurtz, widow of Junior, also attended. She again posted $100 for the feature winner and her usual $2,000 for the unique Junior Kurtz Trophy Dash (four 3-lap races). The four fastest qualifiers started a 3-lap dash from each of the four starting positions. Points were awarded 3-2-1-0 as in AMA speedway bike racing.

The dash winner was the driver with the most points; he received $1,000. Second through fourth received $500, $300 and $200. There were three different winners of the four 3-lap dashes. Jake Swanson won twice (from starting spots three and two) and won the Kurtz Dash with ten points. Richard Vanderweerd and Austin Williams each won one dash after starting from third position and tied with five points. Brody Roa was fourth with four points.

   > The Woodland family awarded $500 to the main event second place finisher in memory of Catherine Woodland. (Winner - R. Vanderweerd).

   > Anne Wilkerson, widow of two-time CRA champion and National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee Billy Wilkerson, added $500 for the tenth annual B.Wilkerson Fastest Qualifier Award. (Winner – R. Vanderweerd).

    > Retired driver Lealand McSpadden and his wife Janet organized the Ellen Ellis Hard Charger Award that more than doubled the announced $1,000 award. (Winner- Austin Liggett received $2,700).

   > Main Event Lap Money ($100 per lap for the race leader) topped $6,000. Some laps paid $200, $250 or $500. Many laps had more than one donor and laps 3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 21, 22, 25 and 30 paid additional money to the race leader. Lap fund donors specified laps to honor living persons or in memory of deceased personThis year lap money donated in memory of deceased persons by family or friends included laps for: Don Thomas, Alex Morales, J. W. Mitchell, Sr & Jr., Glenn, Gary and Steve Howard, Walt James, the Bagleys--Paul, Helen and their racer son Jeff, Bruce Bromme and Ron Chaffin, Ron Kruseman, Bill and Evelyn Pratt, Walt Kennedy, Norm Wiles, Ascot's “Aggie”, Ben Foote, and Don Thomson, Don Blair, Ray and Leanne Scheetz, Bobby Martin, Ted Halibrand, Mark & Gary Sokola, the Bromme family, “Mom” Fischer, and in memory of those who served our country.

Other lap money donated for people still with us was in honor of Donnie Kazarian, Parnelli Jones, Jimmy Oskie, Howard Gardner, Rickie Gaunt, Bubby Jones, Jim “Mac” McCarthy, old guys-turn one gang, and PAS race fans. The big financial winner unofficially was Jake Swanson, who won the Kurtz dash, the 30-lap feature, and $1,050+ in lap prize money for a $4,550+ payday. Racing twin R. Vanderweerd, C. Williams and Roa also did well.

Liggett 's inspired run in his No. 83 from 22nd starting to eighth position (+14 positions) earned the entire $2,700 Hard Charger Award. He was shocked, and told spectators, “That is more money than I get when I win a 360 sprint or midget main event.” Other passing stars were: Danny Faria, Jr.--13th to P. 4 (+9), Stevie Sussex III -- 12th to P. 6 (+ 6), and Trent Williams -- 21st to 15th (+ 6).

FEATURE: The August 17 feature was one of the best since the track opened in 1996. The race had five leaders and five lead changes during a 20-minute event that had three caution flags for two spins and a stall. Racers throughout the race used outside and inside grooves to pass.

Leaders were: second starter Cody Williams (L 1-8), seventh starter Damion Gardner, (L 9), sixth starter R. Vanderweerd (L 10-14), fourth starter B. Roa (L 15-23), and fifth starter Swanson. Winner Swanson became the seventh different USAC-CRA feature winner this season in the 11th race of a scheduled 23 race season.

Pole starter Tommy Malcolm was second on lap 2 in the second turn when he “biked” his car and spun in the low groove. Swanson could not avoid contact, bent some metal on his No. 34az DRC chassis, and spun out. He restarted the second lap in 22nd position and was spectacular during the final 29 laps.

Swanson carved his way forward quickly. On lap 9 he was tenth and at lap 13 ninth using the inside groove while others chose the cushion. He was in P. 7 (L 15), fourth (L 17), third (L 20), second (L 23) and first on lap 24.The feature position-swapping battle among the top four drivers from laps 9-13 was fantastic. Gardner passed leader C. Williams on the outside at start/finish to lead lap 9 over Williams, R. Vanderweerd and Roa. Lap 10 - Vanderweerd led Gardner, Williams and Roa. Lap 11 - Vanderweerd led Williams, Roa and Gardner. Lap 12 – Vanderweerd paced Roa, Gardner, C. Williams with A. Williams a close fifth.

Gardner stalled on lap 13 with a flat LR tire (from contact by another car). He had it changed under caution and restarted at the back. The restart order was Vanderweerd, Roa, C. Williams, A. Williams, Sussex and Faria nose-to-tail. Lap 13 - Vanderweerd led Roa, Faria, A. Williams, C. Williams and Sussex. Lap 14 had A. Williams take third from Faria as drivers passed inside and outside.

Roa took the lead from Vanderweerd on lap 15 with A. Williams, Faria, Sussex, C. Williams and charging Swanson seventh. Swanson was fourth on lap 17, and third a lap later. On lap 23 Swanson took second from Vanderweerd as Gardner passed two cars to reach P. 11. Swanson used the inside groove and passed Roa on lap 24 for the lead he retained ro the end.

Vanderweerd took second from Roa on lap 29. Faria and A. Williams completed the top five in the action-packed race. Sussex, Jace Vanderweerd, Liggett, R. J. Johnson, and C. Williams completed the top ten. It was Swanson's third USAC-CRA career feature victory and his first at PAS. His first victory was 9/30/16 in Peoria, AZ driving the Moose Racing No. 92. His second USAC-CRA triumph came on 9/28/18 at Arizona Speedway in San Tan Valley aboard the Grau & Underwood No. 34az he drove at PAS Saturday.

USAC-CRA 2019 point leader D. Gardner is a seven-time series champion and winner of 46 PAS main events among his 82 USAC-CRA feature victories. With all the additional money available August 17, Damion experienced his sub-par results on the wrong night. He was the FIFTH fastest qualifier in his silver No. 4 and missed the lucrative trophy dash by .035. He had a flat LR tire on lap 1 of his heat race and DNF. That misfortune forced him to race the B-main, which he won from pole position.

Gardner started seventh in the 30-lap feature and was leading on lap 9 in a four-car pack. Car owner Mark Alexander said the 10 car of Vanderweerd hit Damion's LR tire, causing another flat. Damion stopped on the backstretch and his crew changed tires under the caution. He restarted at the back (22nd) and raced forward to 11th finishing position. His USAC-CRA point lead slipped from 49 to 20 points over Roa with 12 scheduled races remaining.

Two drivers also had forgettable race nights. During time trials, seventh qualifier A. J. Bender jumped the turn one cushion on his first lap and flipped his No. 21 along the wall, landing on its side against the wire fence. He later went to a hospital to check for possibloe concussion symptoms. Joel Rayborne was the 28th qualifier and posted one lap before he also jumped the cushion and flipped his No. 12B along the first turn embankment. He landed back on the track upright and was uninjuredLiggett, from Tracy, started his evening with trouble when his No. 83 broke the rear end during hot laps. He was scheduled to qualify fourth from the end and borrowed a rear end from the No.92 Moose Racing team. The two flips during qualifying lengthened qualifying from 6:19 to 6:55 pm and enabled Liggett to complete repairs. He missed his qualifying spot by three cars so he received only one qualifying lap that came three minutes after the last qualifier.

Liggett ran an unusually slow lap (18.016) that placed him last in his heat. He finished fourth to earn the last feature transfer to the A-main. Then he had to start last in the feature and he turned that into the $2,700 hard charger award bonus. He could thank the generosity Moose Racing extended to a visiting fellow racer.

A preliminary tally of main event lap money showed C. Williams earned $2,800 (including two bonus money laps), Roa took $2,100, Swanson won $1,050, Vanderweerd earned $700, and Gardner received $100. Most popular lap was lap 7 with five cash donors selecting that lap, which paid $900 to C. Williams.

Swanson, 26, has been dating race car driver Jessica Clark, 25, for seven years. She raced a No. 44 USAC Ford Focus midget for two years (2008-09), a NASCAR limited stock car for HPR at Irwindale, Lucas Oil modified, full midgets at Ventura, and dwarf cars. Jake and Jessica wed during February this year.

Jessica was not present for Jake's huge PAS victory. She was in Oregon racing the No. 92N dwarf car at four speedways in Oregon's Dwarf Car (Pro) Nationals. Tracks included Coos Bay, Cottage Grove, Lebanon, and Banks or Medford. Jessica posted she made all four main events and only had to race in one B-main. She finished seventh in points with 45 drivers present. Hopefully, Jessica will get to watch a video of Jake's sensational PAS victory.