Camping Stories
August 8th, 2009
Final Grand Slam
Santa Maria Speedway

We drove up to about four thousand feet, pulled into Yosemite and threw our stuff down next to a river. We swam and slept in the sun all week and weaved that family fabric a little tighter than normal. Had some truck trouble so I slid down to Fresno and found Freedom Ford. Awesome diesel mechanics and the service department is run by Scott who does tech at Kings Speedway. Just wanted to shout out and say thanks for the quick and economical repairs. Sprint fans are everywhere. Back to the river and more peace of mind. Woke up Saturday morning, threw everything back in the truck and headed down the mountain. Took the 41 out of Fresno and skidded across the valley to Paso Robles. Dumped the family at Templeton and picked up my best friend. Turned south and dashed for the cool coastal air of Santa Maria. Pulled into the pits about five fifteen and slithered into the infield just as they were pushing off hot laps. I really like a hot cup of mud while sitting next to a river campfire. But itís hard to beat camping in Turn Three at seven frames per second while Rusty Carlile backs it in like itís his last living actÖ..

All Thrill No Fill
Rusty Carlile Has Hit Every Grand Slam Event

While I was on vacation, Debbie Goddard laid down for her final rest and I was deeply touched. Although I canít say we were close, like everyone I would see Debbie every week at the Pass House and I enjoyed her dry wit. She was one of those people who wore strength like a soft sweater. My thoughts are with her family. I was also racked to hear Jim Scribelito took a bad dwarf crash and is experiencing some paralysis. Those who know the Scribilator from his 2007 Pro Dwarf Championship got to experience his particular intensity. Life force oozes from this human being. I spent some time with him at last yearís Promoterís Workshop in Reno and he was jacked on his new Texas track, Shady Oaks Speedway. He rebuilt that track from scratch. Now heís got some more work in front of him. Cannot imagine him falteringÖ

Jim Scribillito In His Championship Year

Not sure whatís going on with the Grand Slam. This thing was screwed from day one when the deal was made with the Bandits and they imploded and track management changed. Credit to Chris Kearns for respecting the arrangement and rolling with it. Credit to Ventura and Bakersfield for holding up their end of the deal. Credit to freedom riders like Pombo, Henry, Faria and Carlile for bringing it. This killer series, crafted and nurtured by Cliff Morgan, is now in real jeopardy. I think itís going to be harder than the granite I saw in Yosemite convincing the promoters how important this is. Iím barely detecting a pulse. We need to travel and we need to race outside a small circle of friends. Let each track run by their rules and it has to be for points. Without points, too many top drivers are going to sit out. You saw that in Santa Maria. That sucked. Good race thoughÖ.

Chris Kearns Is On Top of His Track

Speaking of top drivers, Jonathan Henry, Davey Pombo and Kevin Kierce were the three top point leaders in the Bandit/VRA Grand Slam going into Saturday nightís third and final race being hosted by Santa Maria Speedway. Two out of three would not survive the main event. Energizer Rick Hendrix was on the pole with Greg Alexander to his outside. Chris Wakim and Jonathan Henry made up row two. The talent sprinkled through and through, with Danny Faria Jr. and Cory Kruseman as far back as the sixth row and Kevin Kierce and Brandon Thomson on the tenth row. Greg Alexander could barely contain his eagerness and fairly flew into the lead, followed by Hendrix, Tyler Edwards and Wakim. Jimmy Crawford was running top five. Track looked tacky and fast. Early on about the sixth lap Kevin Kierce got turned around on the front straightaway, then clipped hard and put into the wall. It capped a perfectly wretched heat race and semi main. Gone. On the restart, Wakim cleared Edwards for fourth and the top three were unchanged. Terrific battle opened up between Hendrix and Henry but the youngster could not get up on the veteran. Josh Ford was on the move through the crowd and first cleared Crawford for the fifth spot. Then he sampled Wakim but after some serious wheel banging could not syncopate. Alexander was easily out front, Hendrix stone faced, Henry third, Wakim and Ford. But all bets are off, the locals start going nuts, here comes Danny Faria, Jr. Starting in the sixth row next to Kruseman (engine failed), Faria is cutting out the herd. Heís up to ninth. Second place Hendrix nicks back marker Bruce Douglas, Henry clears for second and Douglas slows down the back. We are yellow. Hendrix regains his position. Douglas refires. With eighteen laps completed, we have twelve laps left to burn. Alexander gets clean away again as Faria dispatches Ford for fifth place. Hendrix and Henry are giving it hell but cannot catch a perfect Alexander. Coming into turn one, Henry clears Hendrix and is sliding perfectly when something breaks and he heads straight into the wall for a brutal impact and flip. We are red as tough Jonathan scrambles out of the wreckage. This fast driver is going through a tough patch. Everybody check your health insurance. Green and the crowd reacts as Faria drags Wakim for the third spot. Yellow as Albert Pombo takes a hit and limps to the infield. We have six laps to go and the lineup is Alexander, Hendrix, Faria, Wakim and Ford. Alexander is perfect pitch, Faria again whips up the crowd with a dramatic pass on Hendrix. He has Alexander in his sights, things are super fast but itís not even close. White flag comes out and Alexander takes it home. Faria is second (most daring dairy dude on the west coast). Hendrix is third. I donít know who he is, but Chris Ennis passes Wakim on the last lap for fourth (Ennis came all the way from eighteenth, hard charger with most passes)! Chris Wakim continues a recent surge with fifth. Davey Pombo in seventh wins the Grand Slam series. Brent Camarillo is a notable top ten.

Tyler Edwards Is Consistently Improving

I have to think this a pivotal victory for Greg Alexander and the Ray Stansbury #75. Ray Stansbury and Ron Bach have been hosting a rooster of sterling drivers in years past including Tom Stansbury, Bobby Micnowicz, Randy Mooney and Allan Ballard. I have been lamenting the scarcity of Greg Alexander this season and to see him picked up and placed in this car is a righteous thing. Greg needed a shot and Ray was there. If there is a more interesting character in racing than Ray Stansbury I havenít met him. Direct, on occasion contentious and always with wrench, Ray makes cars go fast. I canít even change oil, so mechanics are to me like alchemists, coaxing horsepower out of steel, rubber and methanol. Ray seems to do it better than just about anyone.

Righteous Hook Up

Sunday Iím heading to the Zanzabuku Sports Lounge to support Tony Jones and check in on Tom Collins. I want to tell Tony that while a million kids can say my dad took me camping, just a few kids get to say Ďmy dad is Tony Jones the racecar driverí. Aside from that, I hope we get to trade some camping stories.

The Cowboy