KENNEDY: Spencer Still The Man


LOS ANGELES — Round 10 of the AMSOIL USAC-CRA Sprint Car Series’ 23-race schedule this season was the sixth race at Perris Auto Speedway.

Mike Spencer, 30-year-old four-time series champion and current point leader, made history by winning his fifth 410 sprint car PAS feature in a row. He also won the Dean Thompson Award for the fifth time and is shooting for his fifth championship in the series.

Spencer drove the No. 50 Ron Chaffin Maxim/Shaver wrenched by Bruce Bromme Jr., a 2011 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee. As fast qualifier of 24 drivers, Spencer started the 22 car feature from his usual outside row four starting slot. He was bottled up in sixth place behind dicing front runners until lap five.

Spencer was second on lap 7 and had to battle pole starter Danny Sheridan through lap 15.

Then a rare occurrence gave Mike the lead without passing anyone. Leader Sheridan (No. 73 Ford Bros.) had his throttle stick open as he exited turn four under caution. As his car sped rapidly down the front straight, Sheridan threw it into a long spin in mid-track, almost rolled, and backed to a stop with the LR tire against the outer crash-wall near the first turn. He walked to the pits with his car was sidelined for the night.

Spencer led the final 15 laps under green to the checkers. He had a full straightaway lead at the finish and lapped up to 10th position. He opened a solid 88-point lead in what he hopes will be his record fifth-consecutive USAC-CRA driving championship. Jimmy Oskie’s five championships in the original CRA came in 1969-74-76-77-79.

The July 28 PAS race was the annual California Racers Hall of Fame Classic that saluted past CRA personalities and brought out a larger than normal size crowd on a balmy, shirt-sleeve evening.

Additional bonus money contributed by firms and individuals added to the normal USAC-CRA purse that paid the main event winner $2,500. Spencer also earned the $500 from the late Billy Wilkerson’s family in honor of the two-time CRA driving champion (1967-70) for posting the quickest qualifying time. He earned more cash for his trophy dash participation, giving him his most lucrative payday this season.

The California Racers Hall of Fame Classic Walt James Last Man Standing Dash format lined up the four fastest qualifiers in reverse order for a nine-lap trophy dash. Row one had Austin Williams and Rickie Gaunt with Nic Faas and Spencer in the back row. Prize money was $1,000, $600, $300 and $200 for the four drivers. Runs were four laps with the fourth place driver eliminated, three laps with the P. 3 driver sidelined, and then two laps for the last two remaining participants. The first leg finished Gaunt, Williams, Spencer and Faas. Then Gaunt and Williams started from row one with Spencer behind them. Williams led all three laps over Gaunt, sending Spencer to the pits.

A five-minute intermission followed for car prep and “graybeard” Gaunt, 43, drank bottled water to race his 21-year old rival. The final two laps for the $1,000 top award had Williams inside and Gaunt alongside. Gaunt led both laps to win the 9-lap dash over Williams.

“This will buy some shoes,” he quipped over the PA system. Gaunt told the crowd, “We’re (Dave Miller No. 66 team) a low budget team and this bonus money means the world to us. This motor was hurt after the last main event (July 4). It needed rod and main bearings.”

The three Agajanian brothers (Cary, Jay and Chris) contributed $98 each in an envelope for a blind draw by the trophy dash winner with all the Agajanian bonus money going to whichever trophy dash finishing position was drawn. The 98 from each Agajanian was in honor of the car number made famous by their late father, J. C. “Aggie,” who passed away in 1984. Dash winner Gaunt drew the envelope containing P. 3, so Spencer received that bonus $294 as well, adding to his haul of hardware and cash.

The WRA vintage race car group brought eight vintage race cars (three sprint cars and five midgets) to PAS. The cars were on display inside the front entrance as fans arrived. Prior to the main event they all lined up in rows of two and ran a “demo race” for fans. The vintage cars used the front and back-straights as did USAC-CRA cars and the inside quarter-mile turns for the four corners.

The No. 5 sprint car edged the No. 55 sprinter in a close contest. Bill Gerard, 89-year old restorer/owner of the No. 777 Miller sprint car, drove in the six-lap event; he must qualify as the world’s oldest person to drive a race car in an event. Gerard held an American flag as he drove his vintage 777 car around the track slowly during the national anthem.