PERRIS, Calif. – When the Amsoil USAC/CRA Series returns to the Perris Auto Speedway on Saturday there is one question on everyone’s mind: Can anyone defeat Damion Gardner?
The Concord, Calif. star has been running roughshod over the competition in a big way thus far.
Saturday’s event on the famous Riverside County half-mile clay oval, will be the seventh USAC/CRA race of the season. Of the first six, Gardner has won five including three of the four staged at The PAS. The only race he did not win saw him caught up in an early tangle that forced him to restart at the back. In a damaged racecar, he spectacularly passed every car in the field, but one and finished second. Many people believe he would have won that one as well had the race been five laps longer.
To put into perspective how dominating the 2013 series champion has been, one only has to look at the numbers. Thus far he has squared off against 124 other cars in the previous six main events and he has finished ahead of 123 of them. Only Visalia’s Richard Vander Weerd has finished ahead of him. Of the first 190 main event laps of the season, Gardner has led 97. Washington’s Gary Taylor is a distant second on that list with 23-laps led and they came in the first 23 laps of the season at Canyon Speedway Park in Arizona. No other driver in the series has even led 20-laps! Gardner has two fast qualifying times, which is only second to Temecula’s Mike Spencer who has three. Gardner leads the series with five heat race wins and is undefeated in heat race action at The PAS.
The only driver to finish ahead of Damion Gardner in a USAC/CRA main event this year is Visalia’s Richard Vander Weerd. Media please feel free to publish this photo and please give photo credit to Doug Allen.
“His numbers are incredible and they certainly do not lie,” Perris Auto Speedway promoter Don Kazarian said.
“Thus far in 2014 he has been the dominant driver. What is more impressive is that he has had to work for it in almost every race. Here at The PAS he has started in the third row in every main event and has had to pass some fast cars to get to the front. On the night he did not win, he had to restart at the back and came through for second. It is not only him, it is the whole Mark Alexander team. They work so well together. They are like a finely tuned machine.”
Gardner’s early-season prowess sees him carrying a hefty 88-point lead in the championship standings over Huntington Beach’s Nic Faas heading into Saturday’s race. That lead would have been smaller, but at the last race at The PAS on Memorial Day weekend, Faas got clobbered on the start of the main by another car and hit the inside crash wall before he reached turn one. The damage was too much to be repaired and he was done for the night.
Five time series champion Spencer, who missed a race in early May due to the birth of his first child, is third in the standings. Brody Roa of Buena Park and Yorba Linda’s Matt Mitchell round out the top five in points.