LOS ANGELES — The annual USAC-CRA Independence Day sprint car race July 4 at Perris Auto Speedway was a rousing success on and off the track.
Under a full moon, a 15-minute aerial fireworks show staged from the pit parking lot beyond turn two. It lured thousands of additional spectators to the now 17-year old PAS track in Riverside County. The tripleheader racing card featured 410 sprinters with 360 Senior Sprint Cars and winged California Lightning Sprints.
It was one of the best 4th of July shows and crowds in years according to chief announcer Scott Daloisio.
The PAS grandstand was nearly 100 percent full from the bottom to top rows in the main grandstand. The first and fourth turn bleachers were jammed as well. The July 4 Riverside Press-Enterprise Local Section page one story included the PAS fireworks show in its story about 15 Inland Empire sites presenting July 4 fireworks shows.
The story mentioned that Perris residents would be admitted free of charge by showing a driver’s license or other form of photo identification or a utility bill with a Perris address. That brought many likely first-time visitors to the PAS track and many of them arrived after 8 p.m.
The fact they could remain in their seats after the fireworks show to see the USAC-CRA sprint car 30-lap main event was an added bonus for them. Adults brought children of all ages and perhaps many new racing fans were created by the PAS July 4 event. They were invited to return for the July 28 sprint event.
The fact that many spectators departed after the fireworks show had more to do with July 5 being a normal work day for many people who also had children with them.
USAC-CRA had 28 cars qualify from 5:17-5:40 p.m. Absent were the Vanderweerd twins from Visalia. They towed their No. 10 and 88 sprint cars to Indiana for a month of racing in the Midwest. Their schedule includes the seven race dates in nine days during the annual USAC Indiana Sprint Week. The Alexander No. 4 Spike-Nic Faas and Chaffin No. 50 Maxim-Mike Spencer teams will not race this year in Indiana.
Spectators in the grandstands included ex-CRA Aussie driver Peter Nunn, 65. The personable Aussie said he recently returned to his home in Escondido from a six-month visit to his native Australia. He wore a CRA T-shirt with Bob Hogle (Morales Ofy) and Jimmy Oskie (J-Ram No. 91 Chevy) pictured on the front in their 1960s rides. Peter said he still has his Gary Stanton-built sprint car (No. 58 and then No. 33) in his garage at Escondido.
Speaking of sprint car drivers from the Ascot era, Oskie and Steve Howard were seen roaming the infield and talking to friends in the pits July 4.
Two rookie drivers made their first A-feature by finishing fifth and sixth. Jon Kairot and Patrick Clark, a Pro-2 truck Stadium Truck racer were the two. Clark was making his sprint car debut in Cory Kruseman’s No. 71k. .
J. J. Ercse, 41, again made the A-main with the No. 36 John Springstead car, the only 360 ci Chevy racing in USAC-CRA ranks. .
Former CRA 410 sprint car feature winner Bobby Michnowicz won the CLS 20-lap main by leading all but the first lap. It was his second consecutive PAS victory in his Henchcraft car.
First-time PAS winner Davis became the third different Senior Sprint winner in five races this season.
The 22-car USAC-CRA race started at 9:55 with past multi-time July 4 feature winners Rip Williams and Cory Kruseman on the front row. There was a red flag on lap 8 for a wild four to six-time flip down the backstretch by P. 8-running Cody Williams after seventh-place Troy Rutherford (No. 42) moved up the track and made contact. Williams, who turned 23 two days earlier, quickly climbed from his car and hustled to the front straight to confront Rutherford before others intervened. The restarted race ran from 9:44 to the lap-30 checkered flag at 10:02 p.m.
Nic Faas had to start last in heat one and in the feature because he changed to his backup Alexander ride after his primary No. 4 engine broke a valve while qualifying fifth fastest in the 28-car field. After finishing fourth in the first heat, Nic started last (22nd) in the feature. Nic was sensational in the feature.
On lap 29 Faas was a mere five yards back when he dived low entering the first turn and pulled even with leader Spencer as they lapped a slower car. However, an accident at the other end of the track, brought a yellow flag.
Spencer held off Faas in a green-white-checkered finish.
“This is the race to win next to the Oval Nationals (November). We were better the longer we went,” Spencer said.
He posed with the large trophy, victory wreath and a huge wooden $2,500 symbolic check after his fourth PAS triumph in a row.
Runner-up Faas stated: “I think I got by (Spencer) on the white flag lap before the yellow. I hope we put on a good show for you guys. (They did.) Come back often.” Overall, it was a spectacular night of open-wheel racing before the largest PAS crowd of the season and accompanied by a patriotic aerial fireworks show as well.