KENNEDY: Close Competition At Perris


LOS ANGELES — Round three of the AMSOIL USAC-CRA Sprint Car Series was April 28 at Perris Auto Speedway.

Eight more races remain at PAS for the series. If competition gets any better this season it will be one of the best in 17 years of 410 sprint action at the Riverside County clay half-mile. The addition of 360 c.i. PAS Senior Sprints and winged California Lightning Sprints make each event an open-wheel three-ring circus.

All three series have run exciting main events with lead-changing, action-packed races the norm. Car counts have been respectable despite the struggling economy.

April 28 car counts were: USAC-CRA 31, CLS 18 and Senior Sprints 11. The next PAS sprint race will be the annual Salute to Indy May 26.

I spoke to senior sprint driver Brian Williams in the pits April 28. He said he gave No. 0 Bumble Bee Plastics car owner Bill Perkins a check for $5,500 to replace the borrowed car he destroyed March 31 during his wild first turn flip. A deal is a deal.

Brian, 52, said he briefly experienced some pain behind his eyes and “red-eye” bloodshot eyes a day after his wild ride.

Retiree Brian, of Newport Beach, was back in his own 2012 Triple 7 No. 22 NNJFI Chevy April 28. He started second and led all eight laps to win the first of two senior heats. He finished sixth in the feature.

The $5 PAS program had an outstanding Mike Arthur action photo of Brian Williams launching the No. 0 over Bill Badger’s No. 75 entering the first turn during the March 31 feature. That is the first time the two-year old PAS Senior Sprints have made the PAS program cover. Brian told me his LF tire hit Badger’s RR tire and triggered his wild flip. He watched the video of his flip on the Internet days later. He added, “At the time I thought this is gonna hurt.”

What makes the current season so compelling to watch is the emerging talents of young drivers such as Ryan Bernal, 18, Austin Williams, 21, Brody Roa, 21, and others who are top five main event drivers each race. They currently rank 4th, 6th and 7th respectively in 2012 driver points. Other rising young drivers include: Ronnie Gardner, 24, Cody Williams, 22, Greg Alexander, 23, Jake Swanson, 19, David Bezio, 31, the 21-year old VanderWeerd twins — Richard and Jace, Kenny Perkins, 20, Adam Frith-Smith, 21, Austin Smith, 19, and the Bender brothers — Bobby, 26, and A. J. (Alex), 19. The Bender boys race family-owned No. 11 (a 410) and No. 12 (a 360) and trade off the rides after two consecutive nights in the 410 car.

Throw in recent newcomers to 410 sprint car racing such as Johnny McCall and Gavin Matlock and you have an emerging new generation of 410 sprint car racers.

The high 80s afternoon temperature dropped to 65 by the final checkered flag. The wind-chill factor seemed even lower with flags at turn two blowing straight out. What made it irritating for fans in the grandstand was Perris Fair Board has a “No Re-entry” sign enforced at the main gate.

So chilly spectators could not go to their cars for a jacket by having their hands stamped or receiving a re-entry ticket. The racing promoter (Kazarian’s Oval Entertainment LLC) has nothing to do with the no pass out policy and are victimized by it when angry spectators say they will not return. Other California sports venues allow fans to go to their vehicles for attire or to stow purchased souvenirs. That is called good PR and being fan friendly. PAS fans should start a petition, signed by hundreds if not thousands, and send it to the Perris Fair Board and their boss in Sacramento. Fair board members are appointees of the Governor, so Governor Brown should be made aware of this inane Perris Fair Board policy that is chasing some fans from PAS.

Mike Spencer defeated Matt Mitchell to win the USAC-CRA feature in a battle through lapped traffic.

“Those lapped cars – the 73 likes to wait until he’s down a lap before he starts racing,” said Spencer. “Thanks to Bruce Bromme, Jr. (crew chief) and Ron Chaffin (owner). I turned the wick up the last couple of laps. I got to the front pretty quick. Ron Shaver was here tonight and this motor works pretty good. It was a good race. Matt did a good job. He jumped me there but I crossed under him and got the lead back.”

Mitchell finished third on March 31 and shipped his engine at a cost of $300 to Pennsylvania engine builder Don Ott for a rebuild. The freshened engine showed more power as Mitchell gave Spencer a run for his money.

“Closer this time huh? That long green run was good,” said Mitchell. “Wish I could’ve brought home a winner for our guys, but second is pretty good. This is a better run than last time. Not bad at all in the point battle. Have to keep getting top fives. Just need one more spot. It makes my dad happy.”