Perris Auto Speedway Sprint Car Triple Header

Photo: www.woosprint.com
Photo: www.woosprint.com

Los Angeles, CA. – The second annual Perris Auto Speedway (PAS) sprint car triple-header on April 18 was titled the “So-Cal Showdown”; it lived up to that billing. Three sprint car series—the national touring World of Outlaws (WoO) winged 410 cu. in. sprinters were joined by USAC-CRA non-wing 410s, plus PAS senior sprint non-wing 360 cu. in. sprints for drivers age 45+. The event replicated the 2014 identical sprint cars triple-header that replaced the 2013 WoO event coupling only with California Lightning Sprints winged cars powered by motorcycle engines. PAS grandstands were full of sprint car fans for this year’s WoO stop than for the WoO event last April. WoO had 21 cars at PAS in 2013. Last year WoO had 16 cars, USAC-CRA had 28 and there were a record 19 senior sprints. This year the sprint car triple-header had 17 WoO cars, 27 USAC-CRA sprints, and a new senior sprint record 20 cars for a total of 64 cars. That topped the 63 total cars at the same fan-popular event last season. WoO is in its 37th consecutive season since it launched in March 1978 at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Texas. The WoO race at PAS, this year was its 15th since PAS opened in March 1996.

The World Racing Group run WoO outlaw sprint car series ran the 17th race of its 90 race date 2015 season from February 13 to November 7. No rain-outs have occurred through the Perris race. WoO sprint car teams this season will compete at 56 different speedways in 23 states and three provinces in Canada (Alberta, Ontario and Quebec). US states on the tour this season are: Ariz., Calif., Fla., Iowa, Ind., Kan., Neb., Nev., N. C., N. D, N. J., N. Y, Mich., Mo, Minn., Ohio, Okla., Ore., Penn., S. D, Tex., Wash., and Wisconsin.

Eight California speedways have hosted 2015 WoO sprint car races. They’re located in Antioch, Calistoga, Chico, Hanford, Perris, Placerville, Stockton and Tulare. Fourteen WoO teams agreed to chase WoO driver and car owner points all season. They were joined at PAS by three non-WoO regulars from California. Randy Waitman, from Ramona, drove his own No. 69 and Shane Golobic, from Fremont, drove Keith Ford’s No. 73 out of Ventura. Owner/driver Jo. Jo Helberg, from Santa Rosa, participated in the WoO California swing to gain dirt track experience. He is the 2014 King of the Wing Series 410 winged sprints on paved tracks champion. He won the KotW November 2014 feature at Irwindale Speedway.
The WoO car count of 17 at PAS was the lowest for WoO on its 2015 tour so far. The lowest prior car count in 2015 was 26 at Tucson on March 7. A night prior to PAS, WoO had 27 cars in Hanford, including the 14 WoO traveling cars plus 13 central and northern California cars. Bud Kaeding, Kyle Hirst, Tommy Tarlton, Dominic Scelzi, Landon Hurst, D. J. Netto, Mitchell Faccinto, Shawn Wright, and several others did not travel south to Perris for the final WoO spring race in Cali.

On April 18 at PAS Paul McMahan became the ninth different WoO main event winner in 17 features this season. That shows a competitive series this season, the first year with WoO past champions Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell not chasing WoO points. Reigning WoO champion Donny Schatz leads all drivers with five 2015 wins. Tied at two victories are Rico Abreu, Daryn Pittman, Shane Stewart and Brad Sweet. Solo winners are: Brian Brown, Tim Kaeding, Terry McCarl and McMahan.
The next WoO races after PAS were set for Fri.-Sat. April 24-25 at Devil’s Bowl in Mesquite, Texas, near Dallas. That requires a 740-mile tow by WoO haulers on I-10 east and south to the birthplace of WoO by its founder, the late Ted Johnson. Nearly all WoO 18-wheelers pulled out of the PAS pits within 40-minutes following the WoO 30-lap feature, which concluded at 10:59 pm. They left stacks of worn-out Hoosier tires in the PAS pits. Some teams planned to remain overnight in Riverside County. Others planned to drive to Phoenix and beyond if the truck driver had enough sleep. Most WoO teams hauled south from Hanford right after the Friday night race directly to Perris. A few stopped at Bakersfield overnight. All made it to PAS before noon to avoid dreaded delays because of notorious heavy traffic in So Cal.

PAS WoO payoffs showed feature winner McMahan’s No. 51 team collected $10,000. Runner-up Saldana’s No. 71m reaped $5,500, P. 3 Schatz left with $3,200, P. 4 Stewart $2,800, and P. 5 Sweet $2,500. Last place (P. 17) paid $800. WoO teams pitted at PAS on the paved parking lot beyond turn one as usual. The WoO trailer was there as well. WoO teams used four-wheel mules to push sprint cars to the infield for qualifying and back to the pits afterward. They repeated that procession for WoO races. The only exception was Keith Ford’s team which pit both its USAC-CRA and WoO No. 73 cars in the infield. Ryan Bernal drove the No. 73 USAC -CRA car and Shane Golobic, 23, drove the No. 73 WoO, car. WoO – The one-lap WoO PAS track record is 13.875. This year 11th qualifier Shane Stewart, 38, turned fast time of 14.506 in the Kyle Larson & Justin Marks No. 2. The team has a crew chief and two crewmen on the road. NASCAR Cup driver Larson follows his WoO car results via electronic devices and telephone updates. WoO traveling announcer Johnny Gibson handled PAS mic duties for all WoO events as usual. He travels from race to race in his own motor-coach. The new WoO yearbook was not yet on sale at the WoO trailer.

WoO drivers ran a pair of 8-lap heats that sent P 1-2 finishers to the 6-lap dash. Schatz (No. 15 Bad Boys Buggies) and David Gravel (No 83 Roth) won heats from row one. Schatz winning speed was 115.536 mph and Gravel’s was 116.503 mph. Later, 13 drivers ran two 8-lap qualifying races that advanced the winners to the six-car dash. Pole starters Pittman and Kerry Madsen won those races with Pittman’s winning speed 113.243 mph. The WoO 8-car, 6-lap dash went to Schatz over Madsen. P. 1-8 finishers earned those positions in the feature. Scharz won by 1.841 (40 yards) and averaged 119.589 mph. His fastest lap was 14.906 (120.757 mph) on lap 2. 30-lap Main – Madsen started second and surprisingly out-jumped pole starter/point leader Schatz and led the first two laps. Third starter Saldana, the 2014 PAS feature winner, led laps 3-28 as lapping began on lap 8. Fourth starter McMahan was second by lap 3, but he trailed by half a straightaway at lap 15. Lapping slowed leader Saldana and McMahan was only ten yards back on lap 28. On lap 29 leaving turn two, McMahan shot past Saldana in traffic as their cars touched lightly. McMahan took command and led the final two laps, winning his first

PAS main by ten yards (0.566 officially) over Saldana.
Schatz (driving for Tony Stewart) was fifth on lap 20 and third five laps later. He was closing rapidly and trailed Saldana by ten yards (0.456) at the checkers. Schatz ran his fastest lap (16.520) on lap 28. Fourth through 11th finishers also completed all 30 laps as follows: S. Stewart, Sweet, Madsen, Pittman, Jason Meyers, Gravel, Jason Sides and Kraig Kinser. It was the most competitive WoO main event ever at PAS. Saldana, as the leader on lap 4, ran the fastest lap of the race at 16.200 (110.974 mph) per WoO electronic scoring. The all-green flag race from 10:51-10:59 pm took only 8:37.878 for an average speed of 104.272 mph. The race had three leaders and lead changes with Madsen on top laps 1-2, Saldana the leader of laps 3-28, and McMahan out front on laps 29-30.

QUOTES: The top three WoO finishers stopped at the finish line for interviews. McMahan said, “We tried things all night long and ran the bottom in the first two turns and the top in turns three and four. Joey (Saldana) got held up in traffic. It’s awesome to win here at Perris. It’s not one of my favorite tracks. Tonight might change that opinion. The middle of the track was dirty. That (lap 28 traffic) was probably my only chance to get by Joey.” He thanked his team and Kistler engines. Saldana told the crowd, “It’s key for us to be on the podium. We’ve been struggling. It’s tough, we had a great car. I gave it away tonight.” Schatz stated, “Yeah, we were pretty decent at the end of the race. It took awhile to get going, but gained ground at the end.”

In the pits I talked to Schatz (ranked third all-time in WoO feature victories and the current Steve Kinser in WoO dominance). He obligingly posed for a photo with two youngsters for a grateful father. Donny was cordial and said he believed he would have won if there were five or ten more laps. I learned that the No. 83 car owners Dennis and Teresa Roth, from the Fresno area, did not come south from Hanford. They do travel to major events such as the Knoxville Nationals in August.

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No. 41 Maxim owner/driver Jason Johnson suffered broken vertebrae in his April 8 flip during the WoO race at Placerville. He spent several days in a local hospital. Johnson, 37, hired 2010-11 WoO champion Jason Meyers to sub-drive his No. 41 in remaining California races. Meyers had two top tens (P. 10 and 8) in those four races. Many-time ASCS sprint car champion Johnson, who has 243 feature wins in about ten organizations (78 in ASCS national events) is competing on the full WoO circuit for the first time in 2015.

Following his back injury, Johnson followed the WoO tour in California by van. Johnson was flown on an eight-passenger prop aircraft from Hanford to Perris. His sponsor is Priority Aviation Services, LLC. Johnson spectated from a van in the pits. He had visited Meyers home in Clovis before the Hanford race and the ride was somewhat painful because of his back injury. After PAS racing concluded, Johnson and Meyers had a lengthy talk in the pits as Johnson sat in his team van. He probably tried to convince Meyers to continue driving his No. 41 Maxim on the WoO tour. Meyers quit WoO traveling to remain at home for family and business reasons. We’ll see who sub-drives for Johnson in upcoming races.

USAC-CRA – Jake Swanson, the ninth qualifier, set quick time of 16.607, well off the series15.833 track record set three years ago. Ten-lap heat victories went to Ryan Bernal (from 3rd), Damion Gardner (from 4th), and Cody Williams (from 2nd). Cody arrived in the pits midway through USAC-CRA time trials and qualified last (reduced to one lap for being tardy). He and his wife (who are expecting their first baby in June) had attended the Saturday wedding of a friend. Matt Mitchell returned from his third heat lap 4, turn four flip to lead all 12 laps of the B-main.

A-Main: USAC’s 30-lap main started at 10:07 and concluded at 10:32 after a red flag for Terry Schrank’s lap 24 turn four flip. On lap 25 P. 4 Jake Swanson’s No. 92 jumped the cushion, stalled and collected Logan Williams’ Jory No. 5. for a yellow flag. … The $5.00 printed PAS color program had March 28 A-main winner Richard VanderWeerd on the cover after his second USAC-CRA career feature triumph. It must have inspired him to add another victory trophy to his growing collection. He started fourth (right behind his twin brother Jace in Maxims owned by their father). The twins celebrated their 24th birthday a day earlier.

Mike Spencer started third and led the first seven laps; R. VanderWeerd took P. 2 on lap 2. Richard used an inside backstretch/third turn inside pass on lap 8 to take the lead. He opened half a straightaway lead by lap 15 and began lapping cars at lap 17. Richard led the battling Spencer and P. 3 D. Gardner, but his advantage had shrunk to 20 yards by lap 24 when the red flag flew. It was a three-way battle for the lead on lap 25 when the yellow interrupted racing. The PA system appropriately played the country recording “Dirt Track Cowboys” by country singer Adam Brand during the delay. Richard impressively ran the final six laps and opened a 25-yard lead by lap 28 over P. 2, which Gardner took from Spencer with a turn three inside slide job pass. Richard won by 30-yards over Gardner. Spencer placed third, Bernal fourth and Austin Williams fifth in the Jory No. 2 Spike.

The 22-car main had 18 finishers. The top three drove to the finish line for interviews. Winner VanderWeerd revealed, “This is my 360 car with the 410 engine in it. I ruined my 410 car at Tucson a month ago. I really didn’t want to see that yellow come out. I just stayed on the bottom.” He thanked his dad Ron and crew chief Tommy Horn. Then he thanked the large crowd (an estimated 4,000+) for attending and added he hoped the good show will bring them back. Runner-up Gardner stated, “They made the track really racy. I want to win and not run second. That guy in front was tough to beat tonight.” P. 3 Spencer said, “We were good, but backed up at the end. We’ll take third and go on to the next one. His tire blistered. Maybe he’s gassing it up harder than I am. We’ll watch the World of Outlaws main next.”

PAS SENIORS – The 20 seniors ran a pair of ten-car, 8-lap heats, won by Bill Badger (from 2nd) and Steve Brown (from pole) and 20-lap main event. USAC Western Series veteran Dwayne Marcum, 48, made his PAS senior sprint debut in his No. 25. He started eighth and finished fifth in his heat. Marcum started tenth and was in P. 6 by lap 3, P. 5 on lap 6, and on lap 18 in P. 4, where he finished. He drove home on the 215 and 60 freeways with his No. 25 on an open trailer as teams did in the 1960s-70s.

Seniors ran 20-laps in 14-minutes from 9:40-9:54 pm with a lone yellow flag for a solo spin. Sixteen of 19 starters finished and 14 completed all 20 laps of an entertaining race. Richard McCormick, 56, started second, led the first seven laps and finished third in the black No. 71 he has raced for years in Ventura. Bruce Douglass, 64, came from sixth starting in the No. 13 and led laps 7-20. Fifth starter Chris Wakim,52,a USAC TQ-Midget driver in the 1990s, passed McCormick on the inside in traffic at turn two during lap 16 and trailed the winner by ten yards.

The top three finishers stopped for trophies and interviews on the front straight. Douglass said, “That’s two in a row (he also won the PAS seniors 20-lap season opener on March 7). It’s just like the Mafia. You try to get out of it (racing) and they suck you back in.” He thanked his friend and car owner Victor Davis, also from Ventura, and the large crowd for attending. P. 2 Wakim thanked his car owner and added, “I’m back to having fun racing again.” Seniors race only for trophies among their friends. P. 3 McCormick stated, “It’s been awhile (for a top three finish). I had a good starting position (front row).” Fans leaving the speedway clearly witnessed excellent racing and passing in all three divisions during the sprint car triple-header.

About Tim Kennedy 7 Articles
Tim' Kennedy's RACING SCENE Column has covered motorsports since 1968. His race results stories and weekly column are avidly followed by racing enthusiasts nationwide.
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