By Lance Jennings
PERRIS, CA – MARCH 14, 2011… In dramatic fashion, Temecula’s Mike Spencer, the 3-time defending series champion, won last Saturday’s “Sokola Shootout” at Perris Auto Speedway. Spencer chased “The Demon” Damion Gardner through slower traffic and as the checkered flag waved, he made a bold last lap-last corner pass to take the victory.
Piloting Ron Chaffin’s famed #50 Madera Produce / Grubstake Mini Storage Maxim, Spencer was third quick in time trials and won the DJ Safety Heat Race. Starting seventh in the 30-lap feature, Mike steadily made his way to the front and briefly took the lead on lap twenty from Gardner. A yellow flag for a slowing car handed the lead back to Damion and set the stage for a dramatic finish. Favoring the outside line of the Perris clay oval, Spencer closed the gap between himself and the 2005 Champion down the backstretch of the last lap. Heading into the final corners, all eyes were on the lead pair and the large enthusiastic crowd cheered the finish. In the end, Spencer was claimed the main event win, followed by Gardner, Matt Mitchell, Blake Miller, and Nic Faas.
Driving Dwight Cheney’s #42 Pace Lighting / Sander Engineering Eagle, Concord’s “The Demon” Damion Gardner was eighth fast in time trials and fourth in his heat race. The USAC National Sprint Car Point Leader started on the outside of the front row and took command from “Bullet” Blake Miller on lap seven. Setting a fast pace around the half-mile track, the former series champion was determined to score the victory. It was not to be on this night, as Spencer took the win with Gardner right behind him for second. Damion is currently second in the point standings, trailing by ten points.
Yorba Linda’s Matt Mitchell claimed third after falling back to fifth midway through the main event. Piloting the J.W. Mitchell Motorsports #37 Maxim, sponsored by Mancha Realtors and Sierra Springs, Mitchell was seventh quick in time trials and fourth in his heat race. Starting third in the feature, Matt fell back to fifth but clawed his way forward to pressure the lead duo of Gardner and Spencer. Settling for a third place finish, Mitchell now sits third in the point standings.
“The Bullet” Blake Miller of Yorba Linda scored the fourth place finish in the Sokola Shootout. Driving Mark Priestley’s #7 Roy Miller Freightlines / Sander Engineering Maxim, Miller was ninth fast in time trials and fourth in his heat race. Starting on the pole of the main event, “The Bullet” led the first six circuits before falling to Gardner. Miller battled tough with the front runners and crossed the finish line in fourth. The 2006 USAC/CRA Rookie of the Year is fifth in the point chase, sixteen points behind Spencer.
Making his debut in Mark Alexander’s #4 Spike, backed by Scott Sales Company and VP Racing Fuels, Huntington Beach’s Nic Faas was fifth in the season opener. Qualifying sixth in time trails, Faas won the 10-lap Saldana Racing Products / Circle Track Performance Heat Race. Starting fourth in the feature, the former USAC Western Midget Series Champion fought hard to claim a fifth place finish. Faas is fourth in the point chase as the series heads to Victorville Raceway Park on March 26th.
Gardena’s Greg Alexander set the standard in Sander Engineering Time Trials by clocking in with fast time. Piloting John Bellegante’s #23 Beast, sponsored by Persall Masonry, Alexander was fifth in his heat race and won the 6-lap Competition Suspension Inc. Semi-Main. Also earning transfers to the main event were David Bezio, Ronnie Gardner, Cal Smith, Gavin Matlock, and Jerry Welton. Starting ninth in the feature, Greg rebounded after having a flat left rear tire to claim eleventh at the finish line. Bezio was thirteenth, Gardner scored twentieth, and Smith took sixteenth. Matlock was eighteenth in his first career Sprint Car start, while Welton was nineteenth.
Richard VanderWeerd of Visalia won the night’s first heat race, sponsored by Extreme Mufflers and Huntington Beach Glass & Mirror. Driving the family owned #10 VanderWeerd Construction / Mid Valley Pipe & Supply Maxim, Richard was seventeenth fast on the night and had a fifteenth place finish in the feature.
“The Wildman” Rodney Argo from Gardena won the 10-lap Electro Tech Powder Coating Heat Race. Piloting Don Argo’s #19 Ford powered Stinger, backed by Decore Plating, Rodney was twentieth fast in time trials and scored twenty-first in the feature after an early crash ended his night.
Visalia’s Greg Bragg earned “Hard Charger / Best Passing Job” honors on the night. Driving Tom and Laurie Sertich’s #92 Moose Racing Buckley, sponsored by Huntington Beach Glass & Mirror and Pacific Business Machine, Bragg started nineteenth in the feature and finished ninth. Earlier in the night, Greg was twenty-first quick in time trials and second in his heat race. The former California Lightning Sprint Car Champion sits ninth in the point chase.
The Amsoil USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series would like to thank Hoosier Tire, Circle Track Performance, Competition Suspension Inc., DJ Safety, Donovan Engineering, Electro Tech Powder Coating, Extreme Mufflers, Hilborn Fuel Injection, Huntington Beach Glass & Mirror, Saldana Racing Products, and Sander Engineering for their support. For more information, visit usacracing.com or follow the series on facebook.
The second round of action for the Amsoil USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series will be held Saturday, March 26th, at the Victorville Raceway Park. Located on the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds in Victorville, more event information can be found at www.victorvilleracewaypark.com.
AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT RACE RESULTS:
March 12, 2011 – Perris, California – Perris Auto Speedway – “Sokola Shootout”
SANDER ENGINEERING TIME TRIALS:
1. Greg Alexander, 23, Bellegante-16.655; 2. Seth Wilson, 1X, Wilson-16.873; 3. Mike Spencer, 50, Chaffin- 16.889, 4. Danny Sheridan, 18, Kittle-16.923; 5. David Cardey, 59, Cardey-16.953; 6. Nic Faas, 4, Alexander-16.996; 7. Matt Mitchell, 37, Mitchell-17.032; 8. Damion Gardner, 42, Cheney-17.129; 9. Blake Miller, 7, Priestley-17.174; 10. Johnny McCall, 77, McCall-17.244; 11. Austin Williams, 2, Jory-17.248; 12. Rickie Gaunt, 66, Miller-17.274; 13. Ronnie Gardner, 93, Gardner-17.420; 14. Cody Williams, 44, Jory-17.431; 15. David Bezio, 37D, Bezio-17.530; 16. Danny Ebberts, 01, Carroll-17.544; 17. Richard VanderWeerd, 10, VanderWeerd-17.593, 18. Stevie Sussex, 21A, Sussex-17.766; 19. Jace VanderWeerd, 88, VanderWeerd-17.798; 20. Rodney Argo, 19, Argo-17.801; 21. Greg Bragg, 92, Sertich-17.813; 22. Johnny Bluntach, 58, Bluntach-17.965; 23. Royal Adderson, 40, Adderson-18.010; 24. Cal Smith, 39, Smith-18.928; 25. Gavin Matlock, 25, Williams-19.144; 26. Gary Potter, 62jr, Welton-20.610; 27. Jerry Welton, 62, Welton-22.030.
EXTREME MUFFLER / HB GLASS & MIRROR HEAT RACE 1: (10 laps)
1. Richard VanderWeerd; 2. Greg Bragg, 3. David Cardey. 4. Blake Miller, 5. Greg Alexander, 6. Ronnie Gardner, 7. Gavin Matlock. 2:52.87.
SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS / CIRCLE TRACK PERFORMANCE HEAT RACE 2: (10 laps)
1. Nic Faas, 2. Cody Williams, 3. Seth Wilson, 4. Stevie Sussex, 5. Johnny McCall, 6. Johnny Bluntach, 7. Gary Potter. 2:50.44.
DJ SAFETY HEAT RACE 3: (10 laps)
1. Mike Spencer, 2. Jace VanderWeerd, 3. Austin Williams, 4. Matt Mitchell, 5. David Bezio, 6. Royal Adderson. 2:53.65.
ELECTRO TECH POWDER COATING HEAT RACE 4: (10 laps)
1. Rodney Argo, 2. Danny Sheridan, 3. Rickie Gaunt, 4. Damion Gardner, 5. Jerry Welton, 6. Cal Smith. 2:55.08.
COMPETITION SUSPENSION INC. SEMI-MAIN: (6 laps)
1. Greg Alexander, 2. David Bezio, 3. Ronnie Gardner, 4. Cal Smith, 5. Gavin Matlock, 6. Jerry Welton, 7. Gary Potter, 8. Johnny McCall, 9. Royal Adderson, 10. Johnny Bluntach. NT.
FEATURE: (30 laps – With Starting Positions)
1. Mike Spencer (7th), 2. Damion Gardner (2nd), 3. Matt Mitchell (3rd), 4. Blake Miller (1st), 5. Nic Faas (4th), 6. David Cardey (5th), 7. Danny Sheridan (6th), 8. Austin Williams (10th), 9. Greg Bragg (19th), 10. Cody Williams (13th), 11. Greg Alexander (9th), 12. Jace VanderWeerd (17th), 13. David Bezio (14th), 14. Richard VanderWeerd (15th), 15. Seth Wilson (8th), 16. Cal Smith (20th), 17. Stevie Sussex (16th), 18. Gavin Matlock (21st), 19. Jerry Welton (22nd), 20. Ronnie Gardner (12th), 21. Rodney Argo (18th), 22. Rickie Gaunt (11th). NT.
**Johnny McCall flipped during the semi-main. Cody Williams flipped during the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS:
Laps 1-6 Blake Miller, Laps 7-29 Damion Gardner, Lap 30 Mike Spencer.
NEW AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT POINTS:
1-Mike Spencer-72; 2-Damion Gardner-62; 3-Matt Mitchell-59; 4-Nic Faas-57; 5-Blake Miller-56; 6-David Cardey-53; 7-Danny Sheridan-52; 8-Austin Williams-45; 9-Greg Bragg-43; 10-Greg Alexander-41.
NEXT AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT RACE:
March 26 – Victorville (CA) Raceway Park